Last week I became someone I never wanted to be. The moment snuck up on me without warning but undeniably, there it was. I was crying because a friend was pregnant. And it wasn’t joy causing me to have to blink back the tears at work as I read her happy email, it was envy, pure and simple.
Annie is beautiful, sweet, caring and according to her email had been worried about how long it had taken her to get pregnant. If there’s anyone I think will be a great mother, it’s Annie. If there’s anyone who deserves a happy family life, it’s Annie. But don’t we all?
I’m not struggling against medical infertility. Someone at a dinner party several years ago screechingly described me as ‘socially infertile’. I’m 36 and I just can’t find a man. At least not the right one.
Believe me I’ve been trying. In 2009 I wrote a radio serial for Radio National called “Living With the Man Drought’ . In it I railed at the demographic bad luck that had me female, single and mid 30s in a time and place with plenty of others just like me. I also shared my experiences with speed and online dating: convinced that the fellas would be falling over themselves to want to date me. It had been a hugely dispiriting to find that online dating was akin to being caught in one giant spin cycle of inexplicable rejection. Despite feeling hopeless at times though, I was still reasonably confident that eventually the right person would come along.
Two years on and I’ve declared a six month sabbatical from trying to find a man. In short, the constant disappointments and feelings of being played were doing my head in. 2010 had served up a smorgasboard of losers.
I met one bloke from RSVP for a Sunday afternoon drink. Within 20 minutes he was trying to kiss me and when I told him it was inappropriate he stormed off stating that he’d ‘made more money than anyone else in this bar put together’ and ‘didn’t have to sit here and be judged’ by the likes of me.
One man engaged me in sweet Skype conversations for a week but left me sitting alone waiting for him at the pub where we’d arranged to meet one Saturday afternoon.
Numerous men engaged me in conversations on dating websites but refused to actually meet me.
The year ended with a brief encounter and flirtation with the manager of the local bar who repeatedly stood me up for booty calls and revealed along the way that he thought “Hitler was underrated”. I later discovered he’d lost his job after being caught stealing 3 thousand dollars from the pub’s trivia jackpot fund and putting it through the poker machines.
There are plenty of platitudes from those with partners and children: Don’t worry, one day he’ll just come along. You’ll find him when you’re not looking (try genuinely not looking – he’s going to have to appear in my sleep, while I’m sitting on the toilet, or on a trip to the corner shop in ugg boots). You’re so young, you’ve got plenty of time.
Actually the fertility stats and the constant reminders in the media beg to differ. According to them, I’m exponentially less fertile by the day.
So where is the line? On what day do I wake up and say that’s it, I’m definitely not having children?
There are plenty of ways to rationalise myself into believing that everything will be okay. I’m constantly telling myself that I’m attractive, smart, funny and a good person….. but so too are plenty of 45-year-olds I know who’ve crossed the line from hope to resignation. Life isn’t fair. Life isn’t about getting what you deserve. Ask the victims of the Christchurch earthquake.
And so back to my moment last week. The feelings of happiness for Annie and her family were overshadowed by my feelings of envy, and then by my anger and self hatred at reacting to her news in that way (thank god it was via email – not a good look for a friend). And now my questioning of whether even discussing this issue is just pure self indulgence. Get over it. Find some meaning elsewhere.
Friends with babies inevitably retreat from your life. Annie’s been idly promising to come and visit me from New Zealand for a couple of years now …. odds are that’s now off the agenda entirely. I invited a number of friends with babies to my housewarming party last year – most of them declined in favour of attending one-year-old birthdays.
I understand their priorities, it just makes it harder to maintain a fulfilling social life when in a city I’ve only been living in for three years I’m constantly working to maintain a circle of friends as others disappear into domesticity.
Friends who are over-the-line say this is the toughest few years for the single woman who wants kids. I dread waking up on my fortieth birthday to find that nothing’s changed and that I’m staring down the barrel of a middle and old age without having a family. But at least then resignation and acceptance will be mandatory, rather than being caught in the late 30s limbo of wondering whether it’s better to keep hoping, or to give up.”