what about us?
“What about you?” people have begun asking us ever so often. I still struggle to find an answer. In an ideal world, I would ask them back: What about us? In an ideal world, I would tell them the truth; tell them my hopes and fears.
I liked it better when people didn’t ask so many questions. When life was something you lived, not planned – at least not in the open. When plans were your own. But we’re both reaching an age and have been together so long that people are strangely interested in our plans. Work? Marriage? Children? Housing situation? It’s been a while since my mum assured me that she and my dad would pay for my wedding. And she’s asked more about my gaining or losing weight the past couple of years, than she has since I was a teenager and a bit too chubby come spring.
These past months have seen dozens of wedding invitations and baby announcements. And there’s no denying that the obvious question to ask a long time couple at a wedding is “what about you?” Just as the obvious question to ask the same long time couple when they visit people with a newborn and he or she is passed around is “what about you?”
What about us?
I’m usually very private when it comes to these matters. However happy I’m going to be when we marry and have kids, I feel strange sitting opposite people I know really well and discuss it. I allowed myself to do so with one friend who’s a couple of years younger than me. Why? Because it felt like safe territory. For a long time I really honestly felt that was she was saying was that while she wanted to get married, kids weren’t something she and her boyfriend were thinking of yet.
A couple of months ago she stopped by to share the happy news that they’re expecting. As we sat at the table sipping tea, I knew the question would eventually pop up. What about you? And as if I was delirious or had been woken up from deep, deep sleep, when the question was asked, I started babbling on about work and apartment and J’s PhD and how we needed to be more settled before thinking of kids. It’s a lie and I know it – she knows it as well. After all she was the one person I had been open to about wanting to get married and have kids. In reality I should have said: “I’d love to have kids. My ovaries are screaming to heaven, but it’s not right now. I’m happy for you – really happy, but I don’t know about us.” Or I should have said: “You know what? I know, I’ve been open about wanting kids and all, but I’m superstitious and I have nightmares about not being able to conceive so congratulations to you – when and if something happens to us, we’ll let you know.”
To make matters worse she phoned me a couple of days later because she wanted to let me know that at a party with mutual friends the night before, where J and I were somewhere else, three weddings and two babies had been announced. I struggled to laugh and express my best hopes and wishes for the happy couples.
What about us?
I can’t tell you where we are. Not because I don’t want to, but because I don’t actually know. I shift between desperation and “let’s take it one day at a time” – regarding both marriage and children. This year we’re going to a bunch of weddings; we’re going to be visiting a lot of new parents; we’re going to be asked “what about you?” a million times. And some days I think I’m going to be fine and other days I dread the question in advance. Maybe if I’m really brave, sometime this year when “what about you?” is ringing in my ears, I’ll look at the person asking, smile and say: “You know what? Just because people don’t let you in on their secret hopes and dreams doesn’t mean they don’t have them.”