Years ago I met a guy, let's call him Thomas, who was slender, had smooth brown skin, dark wavy hair and a beautiful smile. He was perfectly, androgynously exquisite. At least to me.
I mentioned my appreciation to a mutual friend, who was supposed to tell Thomas I was interested. I never heard anything after that, so I figured either Thomas wasn't into it or my friend forgot to say anything.
Ever since, my conversations with Thomas--who I sometimes run into at parties--have been distinguished by my looking into his deep brown eyes to try to ascertain the truth. Is he looking at me with repulsion? With pity? With regret over missed opportunities?
It's never clear. He always seems vaguely preoccupied. Sometimes I'm tempted to say, "Did Jon ever tell you I had a crush on you?" But it seems stupid now, years after the fact.
Last week I saw Thomas at an outdoor party. He looked especially pretty, his sunglasses pushed up on his head, his blue shirt creamy and pale against his skin. I walked over and we did the air-kiss thing, followed by a profusion of chipper inquiries. As usual, Thomas talked about business.
I was zoning out a bit when I noticed Thomas' eyes travel the length of my body. He looked at me with a secretive smile. Was he finally going to mention the unmentionable? I giggled in a way I hoped was schoolgirlish but probably seemed demented.
"You look great," he said. "Are you expecting?"
My reaction was not graceful. I shrieked in horror, then grabbed my billowy shirt and held it tightly around my body as though I were a pork roast being wrapped in Saran.
"No!" I answered, dancing around like a liquored-up court jester. "See? I'm still skinny and cute; it's just the shirt!"
Thomas apologized, but I prolonged the agony by saying, "The next time I see you I'm going to be wearing something really sexy, I swear."
There was enough humiliation in that moment to last through 10 life cycles--conception, pregnancy and death included.
It's not Thomas' fault. I was wearing a similarly billowy shirt (gotta get rid of those) at Goodwill not long ago, and the young cashier asked when I was due. I wanted to smack her so hard her chewing gum would fly out of her mouth and boomerang into her weave.
The problem is that people expect me to be expecting. I'm old, as breeders go.
Back in ye olde tymes, women got pregnant much younger. When my mother was my age, she was finding cigarette packets in her daughter's wastebasket and arguing with my dad about money market accounts. She had me, the product of a second marriage, when she was 26. When I was 26 I had barely mastered changing the kitty litter.
Now, at 40, I'm told my time is running thin. These days visits to the gynecologist go beyond the usual terror of being strung up in stirrups while your down-belows are interrogated by a lightbulb. My OB-GYN, a lovely woman, always asks what I'm "thinking." Mainly? I want you to exit my body. But that's not what she means. She wants to know what I'm thinking-thinking.
So does my internist, whose youthful pregnancy I witnessed. The more pregnant she got, the more irritable she was, until she acted like she'd just swallowed a bowling ball coated with motor oil.
My psychiatrist told me I have six months to make up my mind about having a baby biologically. Adoption, obviously, can wait. But if I want to have the baby myself--less cost, more filling--I need to start working it out in my head. Now.