Monday, August 30, 2004

All you can eat exclusion

One of my all time favourite books is The Magician's Assistant by Ann Patchett. I first read it years ago, when I was involved in an unhappy love triangle. The story of love, loss, exclusion and redemption resonated so strongly for me that, as I was reading it, I had to stop occasionally and put my head down, it was almost too much. It's the book I most wish I had written, and it's a book I re-read every year, each time finding something fresh.

It was the theme of exclusion running through the novel with which I most connected. Of mattering, but not mattering, in all the most important ways. During that awful relationship, I was left out in all the ways that counted to me. It was a time when each day I felt like I was standing outside of happiness, looking in. I could see good things played out in front of me, and I didn't know how to get to a place where I could have those things for myself.

In the end, I decided I was sick to death of staring through the window, kicked a big fucking hole in the glass with my steel toed Doc Marten boots like the bad ass I so essentially am, and walked through.

I never thought I would be back to feeling so excluded in another area of my life, but I hadn't bargained on infertility.

At first, when it became a feature, I didn't feel too lost. I just accepted that it was going to take time, and more time, and still more time. But somewhere during all the waiting, the sense of exclusion arrived.

Part of it is that I am at a funny place in the process. I've never been pregnant, so have no frame of reference there. We haven't started treatment yet, so I can't claim my spot on Team ART. We don't know what's wrong, so I can't move on to making decisions about all the options- to keep trying, to adopt, to live childfree. I can't play along with the happy bouncing optimists newly into the "TTC journey" since I have lost any enthusiasm I ever had for cute acronym filled message board and babydust. (Note: Camp CF members, this does not mean you.)

And obviously, I have no children, so cannot take place in all that this entails. Out there, in a world full of parents, I feel it most keenly- because at least among fellow infertiles, there is a sense of community, of understanding.

But I feel stuck, in a general, overwhelming way. I'm in limbo, with my heart sighing and drooping, with my daemon left behind on shore while I drift off to an unknown fate.

Today I went out to lunch with the people in my office branch. Somebody decided the "all-you-can-eat Chinese lunch buffet" was a good notion, so we ended up there. As soon as I sat down, I realised I had made a grave error. A table full of mothers, five of whom have kids under the age of five. The pregnant colleague next to me. The other two, parents as well.

Along with the first round of wontons, cue endless discussion of more back-to-school adventures, of stern teachers, of playground politics.

I took refuge in my heaping plate of egg fried rice and spring rolls. As the talk progressed, I found myself making repeated trips to the noodle bar. One of my colleagues raised her eyebrows at the prodigious amount of food I was hoovering into my mouth.

"Running a lot," I said weakly, though a gob full of lemon chicken. "Always hungry."

Thing was, the talk. didn't. stop. Who knew there was so much to say about the care and feeding of five year olds. An hour and half later, I was slumped in my chair, distended belly groaning, still reaching for more prawn crackers with both hands. And still they went on and on. And on. And on. And...

Look, I am not saying I have to be the centre of attention. I'm not saying that people with something in common, like kids, shouldn't talk about it. But I have absolutely nothing I can contribute to those conversations right now. And sometimes recently, the sense of being so left out, so left behind- when I so much want to be a part of it- is sickeningly, gut churningly intense. There are downright bad moments, like that lunch, where I actually find myself experiencing an urge to stand up and scream.

But no. I couldn't have screamed, my mouth was too full of spare rib. And they continued on, oblivious

"Well, I guess you'll have all that to look forward to,' exclaimed the Big Boss to Pregnant Colleague. Oh, how they all laughed. Ho ho ho.

Fortunately for him, I was too bloated to reach over and stab him in the eye with my chopstick.



20 Comments:

At 8:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mare honey, I know how you feel. I avoid, like the plague, any outings with co-workers anymore. It's just too painful and I don't know how or where I fit in because as much as it's looking like childfree, it's not by choice and it still hurts.

Hoping for better days for you soon.

xx00

Emily
scrambledeggs

 
At 9:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugh, so true, sister. I got caught in that trap recently and felt like I would pass out. Instead, I just waited till I got home and bawled like the baby I wanted so achingly badly.

You had an evil love triangle, too?

Your fan,
Susan

PS Definitely buying that book. Thanks.

 
At 9:23 PM, Blogger Jen P said...

Gah Mare. With ya every second there. Earplugs?

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger Orodemniades said...

Isn't it horrible?

Are the Two Cities as laden with babies abd children and pregnant women as Aberdeen is?

 
At 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, that's terrible. Reminds me of one time when some of my co-workers held a baby shower AT WORK and it was strongly intimated that I HAD to attend (and even if I didn't, it was right next to my office). I mean, wtf? They know nothing about my personal life (or about that of the young woman who they were teasingly asking, "So, are you going to be next?" -- she's not even married!), and I didn't even know the woman for whom they were holding the shower -- the amount of Not Thinking involved was breath-taking.

You are a saint for not dumping egg rolls on them.

Rana

 
At 10:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh God.
How did you keep yourself from "accidentally" spilling some sweet and sour sauce on them on one of your trips to the buffet?
How thick can they be?
Those things hurt so much.
You're right - it's not about being the center of attention. It's about a little, just a little consideration, a little space and respect.
Bitches.
I am so sorry you had to endure that (in addition to what you endure at work daily).
GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR.

Menita
(lifesjestbook)

 
At 1:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mare,

I have often said that I feel like everyone is running freely in the wide open air, and I am stuck on a treadmill watching them through a window. I have felt left out and uncomfortable too many times to count. Now, it seems I limit my social outings to one-on-one lunches, otherwise, in large groups majority always rules and the conversation inevitably turns to kids...while I listen in and nod as if I care.

You have every right to be cranky. Bitch your heart away.
Heid http://lostandfinding.typepad.com/

 
At 3:44 AM, Blogger lobster girl said...

Oh Mare. sigh. What is there to say, really, except, yeah, that bites. This whole thing bites. You're part of a club you never wanted to join, and left out of the group you thought you'd be a part of. I'm happy to have you in our gang (yes, indeed, very very happy) but sorry what that means for you. *kiss* *hug* and *my own potent, cranky, bad-ass, "dust 'o babe", concocted just for you in an acronym-free cauldron lined with equal parts bitter and hope, stirred over many days by my very own infertile self* Here's to ya.

 
At 4:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had been there....I would have sat with you eating too many noodles and talking about how we have all the free time in the world to do whatever we want. They would have gone on yapping about kidlets and we would have sneered that we had extra money to spend because we would not have to pay for schooling and such. After we filled out bellies so, we would have left to get into our cars and probably face the truth that parking lots make happen and cried outside. We would have hugged one another. I would have given you a hug knowing that we would like to have been in that conversation. And then we would have trailed off saying one day...the music would have started up as we got into our cars and drove away...some sad melodic song ...

 
At 4:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If I had been there....I would have sat with you eating too many noodles and talking about how we have all the free time in the world to do whatever we want. They would have gone on yapping about kidlets and we would have sneered that we had extra money to spend because we would not have to pay for schooling and such. After we filled out bellies so, we would have left to get into our cars and probably face the truth that parking lots make happen and cried outside. We would have hugged one another. I would have given you a hug knowing that we would like to have been in that conversation. And then we would have trailed off saying one day...the music would have started up as we got into our cars and drove away...some sad melodic song ...

_alexhere from the kitchens of the infertile gourmet

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger Soper said...

I am in a book club. It is populated by doctor's wives. They do not read the books. They also are all either (1) pregnant (2) new moms or (3) drinking in the corner, actively trying NOT to get pregnant and hoping they won't get infected. At least one of them catches it each year, while I sit on the sidelines, practically rubbing myself against the pregnant women, licking their empty glasses, hoping to get infected. I used to cry every time I left, beating the steering wheel in my anger at the universe for it all being so G.D. unfair. Now, though, I listen to their stories and make mental notes, because I AM going to be a mother. Maybe not the way I wanted to, maybe not as soon as my little Aries heart wants it, but I will. And you will, too, Mare. You will be a great mom, and your kid will be a total hellion, and we'll laugh together and forget the pain and say "What the fuck were we thinking?"

 
At 4:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

From now on, only go to Chinese rest. that serve alcohol. That way when you poke his eye out you'll have an excuse.

Marla
themiddleway

 
At 4:31 PM, Blogger la gringa said...

Love Ann Patchett, just finished reading "Truth and Beauty" and "The Patron Saint of Liars" and am now on to "Bel Canto". I'll definitely read "The Magician's Assistant" next.

As for being surrounded by all that baby/child talk, I know how hard that is. My husband and I just turned down his parents' invitation to spend x-mas with them because of all the little ones who will be there running around. It was a hard decision to make, but I think that I'll be better off emotionally not to have to deal.

Hers's hoping that you'll be able to participate in the conversation sooner than later.

la gringa

 
At 5:10 PM, Blogger JJ said...

I feel excluded now with my inlaws. Ever since Frosty had her baby that's all they ever talk about anymore. While MIL, Frosty and my other SIL all talked about how much breast feeding sucks I sat on the floor with my neice and tried not to bother them.

It totally sucks.

I'm taking chopticks with me for Christmas. Just in case I need to stab someone in the eye.

I also felt like this last night at IKEA. Post forthcoming. Do pregnant women all shop at IKEA? Or do women who shop at IKEA all get pregnant? Which came first?

 
At 7:27 PM, Blogger Pazel said...

How awful! I'm a big fan of Chinese food, but I don't know if I could have stomached it with that much talk on kids. I have a kid, but that didn't turn me into a soccer mom unable to find any other topic of conversation.

Actually, what I did find was that even after I became a mother, I still wasn't a true member of their club. They wanted to talk about having the right mix of each sex, of spacing their kids correctly, of the right size family, of birth control. I had nothing to offer and no patience to hear about it.

Next time, spill your water on the table and yourself so you can leave. Must change. So sorry to miss all this kid talk. (And I would have stabbed him regardless!)

 
At 10:39 PM, Blogger Jen said...

I'm so sorry you had to sit through that crap. Too bad you couldn't have "accidentally" tripped and spilled egg foo young down their backs.

 
At 12:05 AM, Blogger littlesambook said...

i would really like to read Ann Pachett's memoir about her best friend - but now I'll add your favorite book to my reading list.

Sorry about the luncheon insanity. At least you got to eat delicious Chinese food, right? And probably hungry two hours later? I thought so.

hugs to you, barren mare

 
At 12:32 PM, Blogger E. said...

How awful, Mare. As usual, you describe this nightmare more vividly than I ever could. I don't know how the courts work in the UK, but if you ever do end up using those chopsticks on your co-workers, I'll be your character witness. I mean, c'mon -- they're clearly driving you to it. Sending you love.

 
At 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Mare,

That sounds really, really awful. I'm so sorry that you had such a hideous lunch!

All I can say is I know, I've been there, it sucks big time. And while all the wonderful women in this particular community help us get through the days, it's still really lonely in our "real" lives. The isolation of IF is... I don't even have words for it. It's really fucked up and sad.

Nevertheless, we are all out here for you...

Anna H.

 
At 2:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My evil twin Maz (not me, I'm sweetness and light personified, you understand) hopes that their wontons were the ones that fell on the floor in the kitchen and were scooped up in the hands of the sweaty chef after he'd been to the loo. Your wontons, lemon chicken, spring rolls.....were lovingly, painstaking made by Ken Hom, I sense. Has to be some justice in this world, right?

 

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