Saturday, August 16, 2008
My cousin’s husband is talking about his volleyball league, and how he started his team. How it keeps him in shape because he’s gotta take his shirt off in front of people. The joke doesn’t come off obnoxious; it comes off funny the way he means it to. He says he wants to get my cousin and his daughter playing, start a family team. You should start a family league, I offer.
My cousin leaves the room, and he asks me if we’re planning a family any time soon (Their three kids are also in the room. And they’re pretty adorable. Even the fourteen year old.). It makes me want to crawl under the dirt and curl up in a ball like a roly-poly, this question.
Is sort of an answer? Maybe?
It’s the second time I’ve been asked in one day. An old high school friend says, via internet, I see you’re married, so do you have any kids yet?
The question doesn’t make me mad. It doesn’t offend me. Just makes me want to curl up into a ball. Under the dirt. Because I don’t know the answer, and I’m thirty-three.
I committed to a relationship early in life. Twenty-two. Married the commitment at twenty-seven. I wouldn’t change it. But there are enough compromises and there is enough negotiating of wants, needs, desires, practicalities, without bringing into the bargaining a third and a fourth person’s needs and wants.
I remember my cousin when she was two – not the cousin from last night. One of the cutest kids ever. I need that, she used to say, about everything. Sitting on a stool at our kitchen counter, my mom on the other side asking, Do you want chocolate or vanilla?
I need that, she responds. We all laugh.
Chocolate or vanilla? mom repeats while the ice cream goes soft.
Yes. my little cousin answers definitively. We laugh again.
c. and I need a lot of things. Staring at the choices in front of us, we'd probably answer, Yes. Thirty-three and selfish. But we know it. And we're both too responsible to actually be selfish if there was a kid. Which makes it harder to commit to having one.
I like kids. I never wanted one growing inside my body. I still don’t care for the idea of it. When Angelina Jolie started adopting babies from all over, c. joked, Pretty soon they’re gonna have babies for sale at the World Market.
Are you planning a family soon, or do you not want kids?
Last night it went like this: My cousin leaves the room. Her husband asks, Are you planning a family anytime soon? I fumble over my words. Not just yet. Maybe eventually, as if I don’t know how old I am. As if "maybe eventually" isn't the vaguest answer in the world.
But answering a straight forward yes to this question always feels forced and unnatural. I make a lame joke. I’ve got lots of nieces and nephews. My cousin’s husband and oldest daughter laugh, and my cousin walks back into the laughter.
What are you talking about? she asks.
Volleyball. I tell her wryly.
About starting a volleyball team. Her husband elaborates metaphorically. I decide I like this guy. I have that epiphany at some point every time I meet him, which has only been a handful of times.
But we tell my cousin the truth, the literal truth. I tell her, s. was asking if we’re planning a family.
She lights up. Are you?
The conversation is full circle now. Put a plane or a baby in front of me at this particular moment in time, and I would step on the plane. That’s how I wish I would answer the question. But I don’t know if people really want to hear the truth, or if they might understand that the truth is not static.
SONGS: Maybe, Sparrow, Neko Case; Our Way to Fall-Little Eyes-Take it Baby, Yo La Tengo