I am not a bitter person. It truly makes me feel happy to be happy for other people. However…when other people brag, it is tedious. When they don’t know they’re bragging, I want to hit them upside the head. Especially when it comes to certain subjects. Where is this coming from? Here is my story:
A few years ago, during a long construction period, my department was moved to a random building on our campus. My colleague Lisa and I were shuttled off to the opposite side of the building from the rest of our team, in a hallway I equated to the Island of Misfit Toys. The campus construction affected many groups, and this hallway became a temporary home for the displaced. Lisa and I met a few people we wouldn’t normally have crossed paths with, including someone from Engineering named PJ. Nice enough guy, and we would usually just say a passing hello when we saw him in the kitchen.
A few months ago, Lisa and I happened to bump into PJ. He stopped to greet us and we asked how he was. This was the answer we got: “Everything is amazing! I met the love of my life and we’re having a baby in May! And we’re getting married in October!” It’s not the typical answer you expect when you give the cursory greeting, “Hey, how’s it going?”, but PJ (sorry to stereotype) being an engineer and a bit of a nerd, clearly has limited social skills. He was also, quite obviously, so happy and bursting with good news that he couldn’t wait to share with relative strangers. So, good for him. Seriously (I know that sounded sarcastic and I really didn’t mean it to).
Last Friday was PJs last day at the studio. He got a new job at a big tech company, which is closer to where he lives, and it will be “better for his family.” How do I know this? Because he made a point of coming to say good-bye to both me and Lisa on Friday afternoon before he left. The conversation was as out of the blue as his original pronouncement of the happy events that had befallen his life a few months ago. Apparently, he felt compelled to say good-bye to us because of all that time we spent together a few years ago (again, we would say hi to the guy in the kitchen and on the way back from the bathroom). But how can you begrudge someone who’s that happy? I wished him well and off he went.
Lisa and I didn’t have a chance to talk about it until yesterday. That’s when it really occurred to me that this guy needs to tone it down. Here’s the deal – when you are of a certain age – for women, mid to late 30s – there are milestones that society feels you should be hitting. Meeting someone, getting married, settling down, having babies. For those people that hit those milestones, they are validated and society loves them. Everyone else is sort of left out in the cold, whether it was an intentional decision or a series of unfortunate events, or biological circumstances out of your control. I have not felt particularly compelled to hit any of those milestones myself, but I don’t like other people shoving theirs in my face. Do most people want to have a significant other at that point in their lives? Do most people feel behind the eight ball if haven’t started a family by then? Of course! I am willing to bet that, 9 times out of 10, the reason they do not is a sad one.
If you are still single in your mid to late 30s, chances are, things have not gone well for you in the romance department (this is a gross generalization, and of course I speak only of people who actually want to be attached to someone). Do you need to be reminded of that part of your life failing by someone who practically shouts, “I met the love of my life!” Similarly, and more importantly (I think) are the people – probably mostly women – who, at this age, are without children. I remember when my sister and brother-in-law desperately wanted to start a family, and she miscarried her first pregnancy. All of her friends were starting families, and everyone around them was saying stupid things like, “Are you guys trying yet?” “When are you going to have babies?” She was still devastated from the loss, and each question was like a knife in the heart. Of course, no one knew about the miscarriage, because you never talk about those things. But that’s why you should tread carefully with those questions!
When I was married and people would ask me if we were trying to have a baby, it took everything I had not to yell in their faces, “No I am not trying to have a baby! It’s taking all of my energy to stay afloat while married to this ridiculous man child!” It’s such a personal question, and you never know someone else’s circumstances. My good friend from high school had the worst time trying to get pregnant, and even went through IVF treatments, which are invasive and awful. In the end, she still didn’t get pregnant. I can only imagine if she got that question during that time, how painful it must have felt. For me, now, if people ask if I want children, I tell them I can’t, and they look at me with all sorts of pity. Most days I’m not bothered by it, but there are days when it makes me really sad. I’m human, after all (most of the time).
The point of this rant is, think before you brag. Recognize that, especially at a certain age, most people want these things, and you have no idea what their personal circumstances are and if they have them or not. If they don’t have them, they probably feel pretty shitty about it. I’m not saying you have to hide the wonderful moments of your own life, but exercise a little discretion when shouting your happiness from the rooftops in the neighborhoods of the broken-hearted.