Clifford and I were invited to a BBQ this past weekend. Our standard go-to, well, rather Clifford’s standard go-to, when invited to a social gathering of any kind is “no”. So it is usually up to me to determine the two or three things we will actually attend as a couple throughout the year. I can’t get him to commit to more than that. Of course this year, there will be a fourth because of the whole “dinner with the neighbors/new friends” incident several months back. He owes me for that one.
Back to the BBQ – generally I fly solo but this invite came from a former coworker of Cliff’s. He’s rejected every offer to dine at their house for probably two years. They’d had a third kid for crying out loud since the last time we were there (and that’s at least 9 months and some change in the making). It was time to show up.
However, as much as I like to think I’m a people person, I realize that I’m really not. I would have loved to have stayed in on Saturday night with a glass of wine watching Airplane for the 134th time, but sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone and seize the opportunity in front of you – in this instance a BBQ wherein you’re one half of the only couple without kids at a dry house.
Now I’m not an alcoholic by any stretch of the imagination (unless you look at my Tweets and my Friday night Instagram posts), but being 35 and childless while attending a shindig in the burbs surrounded by moms, dads and their young is certainly better enjoyed with a few shots of bourbon under your belt in my book. Or a beer in hand to be sipped while searching for a polite response to all of the inevitably awkward (and somewhat condescending) questions, comments and knowing looks that are thrown your way.
“You don’t have any kids?”
“Don’t you want kids?”
“Everybody wants kids.”
“My kid just did the darndest thing.”
“You don’t know what you’re missing.”
That’s one of my favorites because usually the moment someone shares that wise little gem, their rambunctious sweetheart comes streaking through the kitchen doing this:
And it’s piercing. And you can’t ignore it, because it’s not your kid. You don’t have that built in parent thing where you tune your kids out while carrying on a conversation. Plowing forward as if nothing seems out of the ordinary at all. For the record, it is out of the ordinary. It’s not normal for kids to be running and screaming anywhere other than in a gym or on a playground. For those who don’t have kids, we can’t disregard it and it’s annoying to no end. As are your prompts to get me procreating. I don’t need your sympathetic looks, or your advice on how it will change my life. I need your child to shut up so I can hear the one thing you said in the last 60 minutes that was mildly interesting because it wasn’t related to parenting, thus making you an actual person in my eyes instead of a walking talking advertisement for the advantages of abstinence.
(steps off soap box)
This is one topic about which Cliff and I are in complete agreement. But, despite all of this, we said yes. So it was time to put on our game faces and prepare to party like middle-aged suburban parents do.
When attending a social gathering, there’s always a strategy. An action plan, if you will.
- Park so you can’t get blocked in. You need a quick and easy escape. No waiting for Sally to find her keys and move her car. You need to be swift and able to manage an exit all on your own.
- In a group of people, you need to smile and speak here and there, be seen so they know you came, but don’t engage in lengthy conversations that could keep you longer than necessary. Make the rounds for about 90 minutes (that includes eating) and then duck out unobserved. You want to be invisible but not too invisible. You want to make an impression but not too much of an impression.
- No swearing because there are kids around. Cliff and I swear like sailors. This is always the tough one for us. At least I had the good sense to remind Clifford that some parents consider “crap” a bad word, too (I’ve been chastised for that one by a parent before). So thinking before speaking is definitely the order of the day.
- Have your body language down so you can read each other across a crowded room. You know what I’m talking about. Those wordless signals that say things like “this guy’s a jackass, so come save me from this conversation” or “this lady smells like cigarettes and altoids” or “abort mission and meet me at the car now.”
With a plan like this, you’ll never go wrong. You’ll make the best of a bad situation every time. Clifford said he felt like we were the couple from Four Christmases. I kind of agree. I never realized till this weekend how much energy we put into not being around people. It’s actually quite substantial. But it’s all to avoid situations just like this (because this is 100% us) —
We did have a nice time. Even though I was sober. We watched the space shuttle orbiting the Earth. We sat outside on a warm, but not hot, summer night civilly discussing politics (which you very rarely do with people these days). Though we did walk away still needing to find that other couple to which we can truly connect. That couple that’s just like us. Who knows if they’re even out there? Maybe I should put out an ad.
Wanted: a childless couple that enjoys wine and whiskey, swearing, Euchre, Ronald Reagan, and television. Surely someone could meet those simple standards?