There are those who seem to feel that people without children live in a washed out, black and white world unable to enjoy the vivid palette of emotions and experiences known to those who have spawned. Some biological event takes place when these once-normal folk become parents, rendering them virtually incapable of interacting normally with child-free people.
For instance, you might confide in your friend that things between you and the person you’re dating are getting more serious and that you’ve never felt love like this for anyone else. A person not afflicted with this disorder might tease you by saying, “It’s about time!” “Finally!” or “Dibs on being the maid of honor!”
Hahaha! Just kidding on that last one. Being the maid of honor is a terrible burden that no one in her right mind would ever volunteer for.
But if your friend is a parent stricken by this disorder, what you’re more likely to hear is something along the lines of, “That’s really great! But trust me, you can never really know how much you can love another person until you’ve had children.”
Or perhaps you’ll tell a story about your car breaking down on a dark, deserted road and a sketchy looking character who offered to give you a ride. A story like that would likely end with you saying, “I have never been that scared in my entire life!”
Rather than acknowledging your terrifying experience, an afflicted person is more likely to say, “Oh my God! You think that’s scary? I was in the kitchen doing dishes while the fruit of my loins played on the floor behind me. Then it got quiet and I turned around and he wasn’t there! I had to check almost everywhere in the house before I found him watching cartoons in the living room. You obviously wouldn’t know, but believe me, there is nothing scarier than having your child go missing.”
If you know someone like this, you’re aware of their compulsion to minimize any and every thing in your life, and explain how it pales in comparison to what is experienced by parents. It’s likely you also know, that as a non-parent, you’ve got no business having, much less expressing, opinions and ideas about parenting. And if you learned this one the hard way, you know that the condescension directed at you can rise to dangerously high levels.
I’m telling you all this as a means of establishing some context around an incident that took place at my neighborhood drug store earlier today. I’d gone in to buy hair products and had failed yet again to accurately judge my susceptibility to impulse buys. As a result, my hands were quite full as I stood in line for the cashier. That was when my phone began to ring.
In the parlance of modern communication styles, I’m much more of a texter than a talker, so my phone doesn’t ring terribly often. On this occasion, it took me a minute to even realize that what I was hearing was my phone.
Because I hand no hands free with which to answer the call, I had to let it go until I put my purchases down. Once I reached the cashier, I took the phone from my back pocket to see whose call I’d missed. As I did so, I caught the eye of the woman behind me and gave her a “these phones … can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em” look. She appeared to be in a less that cordial mood and neglected to return the “you’re preachin’ to the choir, sister” expression I was expecting.
Once my items were bought and bagged and I turned to leave, the woman behind me said something that I didn’t quite catch.
“What was that?” I asked.
I was confused. I know the store didn’t specifically ban kids, but neither did I think I was obligated to acknowledge them. I’m bad at determining ages, so I don’t know how old the girl (presumably her daughter) standing with her was. If I had to guess, I’d say older than pre-schooler, but younger than a high school senior. I gave the girl a little smile and looked back to the mother to see if my friendly gesture had appeased her.
“Your phone,” she finally said. “There are children around who can hear it.”
While my ringtone isn’t conventional (which is kind of the point), I’m not worried about it triggering flashbacks and night-terrors in any children who hear it. But you can judge for yourself …
“Oh. Okay,” I said, and looked again at the non-crying, untraumatized girl who seemed oblivious that we were even talking about her. “I think she’ll be alright.”
As I turned again to leave, the woman huffed in disapproval or disagreement, or both and said, “Obviously you don’t have children.”
I looked at the childless area all around me and was about to deliver a killer “no-duh” eye-roll, when Mr. The Baby Jesus once again showed that I’m his favorite and supplied me with a better reply.
I took one more quick look around, then back at the lady and said, “Oh shit! I had some when I came in here!” before hurrying out the door.