Sunday, May 11, 2008

I really do know better...

...than to ever stop at the Hellmouth 7-11. Home to so many strange episodes in my already strange life, the convenience store of Satan continues to confound me.

Yesterday, after a fruitful run to Big Lots (where, as usual, I was the only native speaker of English seeking bargains among the crap), I decided to run in and grab a gallon of milk and an early Sunday paper at 7-11. What could possibly go wrong, eh?


I grabbed a gallon of 1%, which was only slightly more expensive than gas in Montgomery County, a Sunday WaPo, and, for good measure (and potassium), a banana. The Indian clerk at the check-out counter was a woman roughly my age. She started to ring me up and said, "So, you are going out to dinner now?"

I looked down at my newspaper, banana, and milk. Strange stuff to take along to a restaurant, especially at 3:30 in the afternoon. "Uhhhh... no. I'm going home. Think I'll take a little nap, and then do some housecleaning."

The clerk offered a sad smile. "Ah... your children are not taking you out to dinner?"

I was still confused. "Umm... I have no children."

Again she said, "Ahhh, I see. Then your husband will be taking you out to dinner?"

Ah-ha. I got it. Mother's Day. "Uhhh... I'm not married."

The clerk stopped ringing up my stuff. "Then you will be taking your mother out to dinner?"

This was getting a little obnoxious. "Unfortunately, my mother died in 2001." (More than she needed to know, but I was vexed.)

Putting my paper and banana in a bag, she responded, very sadly. "So, then, you are like me. No one to love and no one loves you."

My jaw just about hit the floor. I wanted to say "Speak for yourself, sister!" but instead I just said, "I hope your weekend improves."


Since Mom passed away, I don't put much mind to Mother's Day. All of my sisters are mothers, as are the vast majority of my female friends. But I'm not a member of that club. It actually offends me when friends tell me that I will never really know love until I have a child. So, because I'm childless, I'm incapable of Real Love? WTF?

I fear I would have made a pretty crappy mother; I can't keep a plant alive. Some of my friends have even said that to me (about children, not plants, that is.) And, while I never necessarily saw myself with children, it still hurts - stings really badly - to have people I love and respect tell me I wouldn't be good at a pretty damn common, central, human, womanly task.

I would love to say that I am a woman without regrets, but that would not be true. In many respects, I feel that have been a failure at the basics of being what 90% of this planet considers a woman. I've never been good enough, beautiful enough, thin enough, educated enough (mostly thin enough, I know) for any of the men I've loved in my life to want to even consider me as a partner. I will never know that apparently transformative experience of being a mother. The truth is, except when there are deadlines at work, no one actually needs me.

I recognize my personal failings -they are legion. And despite them - and the belief that the average American feels it's cool to mock the shit out of me - I don't look for sympathy. I don't want it. I shun it, as a matter of fact. I find it embarrassing.

That said, as my last single friends move forward to marriages and partnerships, though, I do ponder this: as space and time and obligations and commitments put distance between us, will I reach a point where I feel as absolutely empty as that clerk in the 7-11?

I pray not.

About a dozen years ago, I was in a rural market in Uzbekistan - somewhere on the road between Tashkent and Samarkand. The market was filled with old men and women of indeterminate age - their sun-leathered skin and gold teeth masking whatever youth remained. As I left, one of the withered women took my hands in hers. She bowed her head, wrapped in a bright green and pink scarf, and studied my palms. After a minute or two, she lifted her head and spoke to me in Russian. "When you die," she said, her eyes locked on mine, "Many men will mourn you, but no women will."

I found that funny and puzzling, especially considering my innate inability to build an intimate relationship with any man in my more than half a lifetime. And yet, once I was accused of breaking up a relationship because my platonic friendship with the male half of the equation was too solid. (It was a massive cop-out excuse from a woman who had PLANS and a fairly rigid timetable for marriage that her boyfriend didn't care to meet.) After the break-up, she informed me that she had discussed it with her boss - her boss who'd never met me - and they'd determined I was responsible for everything falling apart. Riiiiiight. So sorry, sistah. Not my fault, and I won't apologize for any friendship. Some of my closest friends are men. I can't attract them, can't make them fall in love with me, can't make them want me, but I can talk to them.

Helps to be a geek.


Well, that took a tangent I hadn't expected.

But doesn't every trip to the Hellmouth end up on a very strange path?

Happy Sunday, y'all.


Aileen said...

I can identify with your pain. In church this morning, the minister asked the mothers to stand up and be acknowledged. There I sat with the men and children applauding virtually every other woman in the room.

Last year I went to brunch with a couple friends- it happened to be on Mother's Day and the waiter said to me "Happy Mother's Day". Huh? I'm not a mom- why are you assuming I am?

I think whether we make the conscious decision to not have children or it's just circumstance, I think the grieving process lasts a very long time.

lacochran's evil twin said...

There are people who think they can say any thing to any body. This has to stop! After an incident like this, I often feel like saying to the person "Some thoughts can be left unexpressed."

You really must avoid that 7-11. But you get some great posts out of it!

Sudiegirl said...

I know how you feel, church, they had a big Mother's Day sermon and it was hard to swallow even though they talked about mothers in spirit as well as the regular types of moms.

My heart's with you. As my mom says, "You can't make other people do what you want", and I know I would miss you when you leave this mortal coil.

Mary A Brown said...

You know damn well that I love you and I am not the only one. Considering I'm older than you, I'll probably kick the bucket before you do but if you did, I would mourn the HELL out of you!

Why is it that those of us who have chosen not to have children are considered freaks? I had a friend who said it made no sense that you had to have a license to operate a motorcycle but you could willy-nilly have kids anytime you wanted! (sigh)

Chuck said...

I sometimes wonder what the future holds for me in the parenting regard. I haven't been in any type of a relationship for years, and although I do like kids, I wonder if I'll ever have any of my own. But I like being single also, and I like my time alone. I have good friends (of both sexes) and if I'm destined to stay single, I have no problem with it.

Hey, at least you weren't attacked by a mutant squirrel in the parking lot, right?

Cyn said...

Wow - that was a seriously misguided clerk there. Or something. I want to think it was a language/cultural miscalculation and not as coldly blunt as it came out. Or maybe she was just mourning her own particular situation and dragged you into it in some sort of awful attempt at comradery. Maybe I'm being too kind.

Being a mother changes you...but then again it's not necessarily always in the best way ;-) We all mourn the might-have-been in some sense or another. In my case, children haven't made me feel a better woman, just pointed out how completely I suck at domesticity. If I were a non-parental member of society I might have been able to hide that entire subgroup of flaws.

I'm just aiming for kids that don't turn out to be serial killers or junkies, and I certainly don't need a medal for that. Although breakfast in bed once a year is pretty darn sweet.

Anyway, I can only imagine the ache of missing your mother on a day when that absence is waved in your face repeatedly. And by 7-11 clerks, no less.