Sometimes you just want to stand in line at the grocery store and not have to explain your vaginal history to a total stranger. I’d hazard to say that at least seven times a week for my thirty-five week pregnancy (that’s 245 times), distant acquaintances, well-intentioned friends, and strangers on streets, in cafes, at knitting stores were brazen enough to ask, “Do twins run in the family?”
This would come after an aghast look at my belly, which was big enough to look as if I’d swallowed a submarine and or a small whale. The question continued has haunted me through double-decker stroller walks, preschool double playdates, and even today at skate parks and baseball games, with my now seven year old twin boys.
While I imagine this question is intended as a pleasant conversation starter–what people don’t realize is that the answer for many of us is complicated, fraught with pain or shame, and not as innocuous as commenting on say, the state of the weather, or the state of the Union.
Can you imagine asking someone with singletons, Did you have sex seven hundred times or did you do it doggie style and hit the jackpot on the first try?” Then, just like a frat boy at a football game you’d high-five her and say, “Babe! Way to go!”
If you were more educated you might ask, “Did you adopt from an orphanage in Russia or implant eggs from a curly-haired surrogate with a PHD from Yale and a basketball scholarship?”
You could show off the vastness of your fertility-treatment-knowledge by asking, “Did your partner masturbate into a test tube in the broom closet of the fertility clinic? I heard the porn was really good.” These days, the possibilities are endless.
I can only imagine what gay parents of African-American children must endure. Or suburban blonde parents of adopted Asian children. Or lesbian moms who have to endure the question, “Who carried the babies?” followed by, “So she’s the real mom and you’re the dad?”
Full disclosure: I’m sharing commentary from the liberal bastion of San Francisco. Can you imagine what they say in Texas?
It’s not that I don’t empathize with the natural curiosity of strangers. Twins are adorable (from a distance), triplets are adorable (and triply exhausting), and quadruplets <em>and more</em> are the stuff of reality TV–people like to watch from a safe distance.
I understand that these interviewers are simply curious dolts, who either don’t have children themselves, or they are so wildly fertile that it would never occur to them that anyone else might not be, or they are wanna-be parents doing research. Innocents who believe the mythology that their lives will only be complete if they too procreate and bring more howling, whining, giggling, sniffling, delightful and maddening little creatures into the world.
Still, I’m contemplating have a t-shirt made that reads: <blockquote>What happened? I got fucked! </blockquote>
I’m considering trying out the truth. It should work as a natural conversation ender. It would go something like this,<blockquote> I tried for over 2 years until the tennis-playing fertility specialist told me that I had Endometriosis, a kind of internal menstrual bleeding that leads to abnormal growth of cells outside the uterus, which blocks the sperm from weaving it’s way through the Fallopian tube, and into the egg. I’ve spent 7 days a month since I was fourteen <em>I’m now one hundred and two</em> wracked by death defying menstrual pain–a condition that went undiagnosed by my perfectly-coiffed Manhattan OB who spent more time talking to me about my socialite mother’s latest achievements while my feet were stirruped in fuzzy bear-patterned potholders. One time, Dr. Bloomenthal even said that we looked so much alike–although I believe he was talking about our faces. </blockquote>
My fertility specialist, on the other hand, told me that my eggs were old, my chances of conceiving were next to zero, but that for a mere 25 grand he could increase my chances to 40% and that if I had tried to get pregnant when I was only twenty-five and a total emotional basket-case, I’d have had at least a 50 to 60% chance, so basically, it was my fault for waiting so damned long, while I tried to find myself and tried to find the right-enough man.
Despite the shitty odds and my genetically fucked gene pool, I threw down my inheritance and allowed my ambivalent-about-parenthood stilt-walker husband jab me in the ass 87 times with a needle full of hormones that left welts, bruises, and varicose veins across my ass and thighs. It was like getting shot up in a drive by, every day, on purpose.
What was it you asked? “Do twins run in the family?”
No, actually they don’t -but Manic Depression does- and on both sides of the family. Have a nice day!