Three weeks later, her words are still with me, roiling through my gut like pesky, intestinal gnats; not exactly painful but just galling and irritating enough to still sting in the quiet moments when I stop and take their measure: yes ... they are still there.
Yes, they still hurt.
The words were part—just a very small part actually—of a conversation I had with an acquaintance, a dear friend of a very dear friend, I had met briefly a few times before. She is tall, blonde and pretty and works in independent film. She’s thoughtful, interesting ... cool.
We ran into each other at a girls gathering and were chatting about her upcoming wedding (to a member of Canadian music royalty no less) and comparing notes on parenting. She has a one-year-old and is stepmother to a ten-year-old and a twenty-year-old.
She admitted with a grin that she was already thinking about a second child with her soon-to-be husband and I remarked that at least she had a few built-in babysitters. I didn’t mention that I had been thinking about a second child for almost three years now, but I noticed and envied the ease and assurance with which she discussed her plans to add to her family.
I always notice that in other women: I always envy that.
And the conversation turned, as it so often does these days, to plastics and phthalates and chemicals and all this crap that has apparently crept into our children’s food and toys and how it might be affecting them, particularly their future fertility.
Another woman remarked on a documentary she had seen about the decline of fertility, particularly male fertility, and how the phenomenon was something we had all seen around us. I talked about a book I was reading that deals with this very thing.
“Well, maybe it’s not such a bad thing really,” said the first woman, she of the one-year-old and the two step-children and the blithe plans for more. “I mean, the earth can only handle so many children, it’s probably just the earth’s way of self-correcting and saying ‘no more’.”
I didn’t say anything: I didn’t think I could say anything without bursting into tears, so I didn’t say anything.
“I mean, at some point, something has to force people to really stop and look at why this is happening, about whether it’s because we’re overpopulating the earth, right?”
I think I may have just mumbled something or changed the subject, or at least someone did, and the conversation went on. I spent the rest of the evening not thinking about what she said while continuing to chat with her and thoroughly enjoying our conversation. The night ended when I sincerely wished her good weather for the upcoming wedding and headed for my car.
It wasn’t until the way home that I let myself replay the conversation; until I let the hurt and the indignation wash over me.
I cried much of the way home actually, but more out of plain old frustration than any real anger, because I know her words were not meant to be hurtful. I’m quite certain, in fact, that she would have been mortified had I taken her aside and told her how I was feeling.
She probably would have been mortified if I sought to confirm that any plans she had to stop and really look at the issue of overpopulation were meant to be executed after her partner had fathered his fourth child.
She probably would have felt badly if I had gently pointed out that positively glowing with happiness and good fortune whilst that speculating that someone else’s ailment might be the result of a necessary and perhaps even deserved Darwinian correction is, at the very least, staggeringly insensitive.
I probably should have told her how I felt, but I didn’t.
Perhaps I would have if I had known that more than three weeks later her words would still be there, roiling around my gut, gnawing at me and making my eyes sting with tears when I watch my only child try and make a playmate out of our twelve-year-old cat.
Originally published on DonMillsDiva