When I was younger, eggs all fresh, even strangers would ask, "Why don't you have kids?" I usually got defensive about it, muttering something smart-alecky back like, "I had one but I forgot where I put it." Then I'd smile sarcastically.
Later, when I became that woman of a certain age—when it was already a quarter past too late to conceive, people would ask me that same question—but in the past tense of outrage, "How come you never had kids?!?"
They'd ask it as if it were a careless mistake, as if I'd forgotten, as if I'd left the house without my pants (which I have done, by the way). Now I'm older and the question has morphed into a statement, although the tone is just as despairing: "You don't have any grandchildren?" No, I don't, so let me do the biology for you.
Yes, very sadly I will never have grandchildren, something I hadn't considered when I opted for career over family. Something that may seem obvious to those of you who planned your life out, down to the rose garden and the huge family Christmas where you will prepare your great-grandmother's eggnog recipe and drink it in front of a roaring fire.
But for people like me, who fly by the seat of their pants, I just hadn't thought it through. Yes, I have forgotten to have grandchildren.
My choice to not have children was intentional. It wasn't just that I never met the right guy (not in time, anyway), because truthfully I wasn't looking for him. I wanted a career from as early as I learned the word. As a child I never played house, I'd play front office. My Barbie would go to her prom alone and leave early to go home and practice her Oscar acceptance speech. My Barbie thought Ken was a dolt; she just used him for rides.
The feminists were touting "having it all" but to me that was a pipe dream. The only women I know who had it all, had the "all" part first and then had the kids. It didn't seem to work in the other direction. I was also always too self-centered and irresponsible to have kids. I know that never stopped many others, but I am a narcissist with a conscience. I am just not a nurturer. I do feel that I could have handled grandchildren, when I was younger, like perhaps part-time children. Maybe someone could drop them off and if I broke one, the parents could come pick them back up.
In fact, I came up with a novel idea in my twenties that you should be allowed to rent children for a week, to see if you really wanted to have them. At the end of the week, the officials would gather the kids up and you'd give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down sign and that would be that.
My mother never encouraged me to procreate. She continually alluded to her meaningless life as a perfect example. She'd point to her three rebellious sons with her cigarette and say, "See?" The truth is that my mother was a very smart, highly educated woman who should have been running a company. Instead, she ended up in the suburbs pregnant for several years in a row. She popped out four kids who turned her hair gray by age 35. She'd have to accept her presidency of the PTA as relevance.
When I was in the years where you start deciding, she used to root me on from the sidelines, "Go get it, Debbie! It's yours. Go! You don't need children to be valid! Go, run, seek!" She stood at the front door with a bullhorn as I drove off to college, yelling, "Pay attention, and don't come back with a husband!"
Apparently, being a grandparent is the greatest high there is. Who knew? I must have missed that day in school. There's a lot of things I was never told: how to balance a checkbook, buy a home as soon as you can and being a grandparent is the greatest thing that will ever happen to you. My friends and relatives are all enjoying their grandchildren, and blasting all over Facebook about how they are the joy of their lives.
I can't help but noticing how gorgeous these children all are. How is it possible that everyone's grandchildren are so damn adorable? One is cuter than the next. It's like everyone is breeding up in the looks department. I find myself slightly jealous. It wouldn't be so bad if everyone were having hideous grandchildren, but no, they are all having movie stars and models.
I do have great nieces and nephews, and I cried when they were all born, flashed their pictures around to my friends but we all know that being a great aunt is a redheaded stepchild to being a grandmother. I recently got a puppy and I post pictures of her. She's movie-star cute too, but it's really not the same thing. We pet owners pretend it is, but when push comes to shove, if you had to throw either a grandchild or a puppy out of a sinking raft, we all know who's going first.
I'll attach a funny quip, "Hey, I just got a puppy, so I'm eating for two, now!" But if you really know me, you can read between the laughs. There's an emptiness in my heart where the rest of you are bragging, sharing photos, and running off to Disneyland with the joys of your life. I'm home wondering who's around to go to a movie with me. Can't someone drop off a grandkid for a week and then come pick them back up?