Monday, April 13, 2015

'I'm sorry my idiot friends used the birthday party I threw you as an opportunity to announce their pregnancy'

Hallmark apparently does not make this card.  It's all part of the public celebration industry's conspiracy against the childless, the star event of which is coming up in a few weeks.

I have two friends with April birthdays - the friends I mentioned in my post about talking to a new acquaintance about infertility.  They decided they should have a joint birthday party, and asked whether they could throw it at my house.  I love hosting stuff, so I said yes. 

I was mildly apprehensive, because the headline events were to be beer pong and karaoke.  I have seen those things done and could figure out the logistics (though karaoke software is a BEAST that isn't at all apparent until you try it.  To save you the headache: get a stand-alone microphone and amp, and stream YouTube through your TV so everyone can see the words.  This likely means not stripping out the original vocals, but the software that takes care of that part plays so badly with all the other technology you'll need that it isn't really worth it).  But I don't do those things.  So I was afraid they might flounder.  It's always possible that other people will think like me, yes? 

Not in this case.  Both beer pong and karaoke were huge hits.  The party was apparently a great success, and (in my humble opinion) a lot of fun. 

But it wouldn't be a party if it didn't give me at least some cause to be outraged at humanity. 

In this case, as mentioned, one of the birthday girls is infertile (in fact, she and her husband have recently been home study-approved).  Another guest is secondarily infertile and, after years of treatments that (bizarrely) had side effects so bad in her case as to require hospitalization, is now in the process of coming to terms with the fact that her two kids, now both school-aged, will be it.  (She does so with far more grace than I would have.)  Finally, you remember the gal with the ectopic pregnancy?  She's good friends with both birthday girls, so she and her husband were there.  And of course, Mr. and Mrs. Misfit are hurtling toward their tenth anniversary, and able to host all-night parties because - TA DA - no children!  This is easy math for all those attending (especially those who have known us for at least five years), right? 

Yeah, I made that one too easy. 

Also attending the party was another couple whose wedding I attended last summer.  To be entirely honest, they're nice people (a little socially...odd?  Hard to say exactly why), but they're not particular friends (and yes, they invited me to their wedding anyway).  I'll never be close enough to either of them to share the more personal parts of my life.  Not that there's anything wrong with that; we can all have best friends, and very good friends, and good friends, and friends, and sort-of friends, and good acquaintances - it's a big world.  Sometimes, however, I get the idea that other people - not all other people, just some other people whom I have a hard time understanding - think that if they have met me, and it would be cool for me (and 100 or 200 other people, obviously; I'm not that special) to be their best buddies - then automatically, we are. 

Well, OK, not exactly.  What I think I've seen several examples of recently is that people have something interesting happen to them.  To take a random example, let's suppose that they are married, and she gets pregnant.  Some neurons misfire in their heads, fueled no doubt by watching too many pop-lite movies and TV shows, and they conclude that the best way - nay, the only proper way - to experience this positive event is with a live studio audience.  You know - people who say oooh when something cute happens, and laugh when a character gets off a good one-liner, and groan appreciatively when something painful happens?  Like that.  That's how you live a life in Technicolor. 

These people don't realize that they aren't actually characters on a TV show, with a willing audience of millions who want to tune into their lives in 30-minute weekly increments.  Apparently, they don't realize that if you're not a TV character, then people, both individually and collectively, are likely to show exactly as keen an interest in events in your life as you show in theirs.  (So, for android human clones reading, one way to gauge whether you should share something deeply personal with someone else and what kind of reaction you should expect is to think back to the last time that person shared something deeply personal with you, and try to remember what reaction you had and whether it seemed satisfactory to that person.  If the person has never shared something deeply personal with you, then - abort mission.) 

These sort-of friends failed to perform that mental exercise.  Within 60 seconds of their arrival in my yard, the husband greeted my husband and another couple - also infertile.  (Oh, another one!)  That couple has been married almost four years and is known to the Pregnant Couple (as I shall henceforth refer to them), so, again, easy math for the Pregnant Couple about whether these folks have been able to have kids.  The Pregnant Husband immediately shared his Good News.  He was met with a polite (which is the most enthusiasm he possibly deserved) response.  My husband moved on from the conversation.  The Pregnant Wife then joined the conversation, and immediately inquired of the other parties whether the Pregnant Husband had yet announced that they were Pregnant.  God forbid she wait for them to say, "I hear congratulations are in order."  My husband then informed me of the Good News (but didn't have a chance to tell me how it had been conveyed - I assumed it was by some normal method). 

The Pregnant Wife then walked up to my husband greeting two young women (friends of one of the birthday girls) whom we did not know (and the Pregnant Couple did not know).  She interrupted the conversation, said hello, and told him she was Pregnant.  He congratulated her and then returned to the conversation with the other two girls (who had no idea how to respond to her interruption/announcement). 

I first encountered the Pregnant Wife in the kitchen, where she immediately said, "You may have heard already, but we're expecting."  I told her that I had heard already, and congratulated her, and she said that she figured I had heard already.  (They continued to have conversations like this all evening.)  My first conversation with the Pregnant Husband was some time thereafter.  I was talking to someone else, and he walked up to us.  He asked how I was, and I (unwisely) asked how he was.  He said that he was well, and then, "I don't know whether you heard, but [Pregnant Wife] and I are Pregnant." 

A little story about me.  I've been resisting the impulse to correct other people's language errors since I could talk - so, over three decades now.  I've gotten pretty good at it.  But it takes consistent energy.  Some of this energy I put in so I can do useful things, like hold down a job.  But most of the time, I do it to avoid hurting other people's feelings.  Not everyone deserves this energy, however. 

"BOTH of you?!"  I responded.  He was momentarily stymied.  The other party in the conversation laughed.  "Congratulations - and my sincere condolences!" I continued.  "But seriously, congratulations.  When are you due?"  He told me, and then began explaining how she had the conception date right and the doctors didn't, and I said that NFP was very impressive, and then I walked away.  I was the hostess - I had a lot of better things to do. 

Not long thereafter, I went upstairs to show another friend a guest room, and found the gal with the ectopic pregnancy there, crying.  She passed it off graciously.  Later, she apologized for being unfairly envious of people.  This makes me angry. 

On Easter, two other friends had an Easter party.  They invited us, but we didn't go.  I later found out that the purpose of the party was to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord - no, no, I'm sorry, to announce their pregnancy.  I think abducting me at work, chaining me in the back of a van, and making me watch a ten-hour reel of Blue's Clues would be a nastier trick, but at least then if I could break free of my shackles, I could beat the hell out of whomever I got my hands on, and the police wouldn't bring charges.  If I had punched the asshole in my yard who told me FOR THE THIRD TIME IN ONE EVENING ABOUT THE SAME ****ING PREGNANCY, there might have been (totally unfair) consequences for me. 

I want to reiterate that these people are not close friends.  I have never invited them to anything when fewer than 70 other people got invitations.  I don't have (or want) their phone numbers.  She has never, ever said to me, "Hey, we should get coffee/go shopping/hang out some time."  (Neither has he.)  This is fine, because we're barely friends.  But by the same token, they do not have a legal obligation to firmly announce their pregnancy to me.  Or to anyone else at the party.  They did this to everyone.  They happen to be due in October, which means (I gather) that she just crossed the first-trimester mark and was now making a public announcement.  At someone else's birthday party.  In my yard. 

A lot of pregnancy announcements have been made at my house - I've lost track of exactly how many.  I see the attraction: they're big parties, and the announcers can do a lot of announcing at once. But they're MY parties. My DH and I spend the money and the time to host them, and we do so with a far different purpose in mind than providing a handy backdrop for others' pregnancy announcements. (Shocking, I realize.) And that's to say nothing of the point of view of the other guests. There are people with kids who come to these parties, but they're the exception.  Most of those present are single (most of those are longing to get married and have kids), and a good many are married folks who can't have kids.  This basically describes the demographic who can stay up late on a Saturday.  It extra-describes the demographic who can throw a really big party on a Saturday and stay up really late.  We're no longer averaging 25 - when everyone was excited by pregnancy and engagement announcements, anticipating that they'd be next.  We now average closer to 35. 

I would say that the people making these announcements don't know this - aren't aware of the age of the people they're telling, or those people's states in life, hopes and dreams, challenges and triumphs.  But I'd be lying.  I've been confided in by a number of the guests whom the Pregnant Couple doesn't know well enough to have heard from, but mostly, I know by observation.  I know that after four years of marriage and no kids, a devout Catholic couple has every pregnancy announcement they've heard etched on their brain.  I don't have to ask.  I just know.  I know that a 41-year-old single girl from a big family, who works for the church, and brought a date to the last party...but not this one, is hurting.  I don't have to ask her.  She doesn't need to cry at the party for me to know what in her life is hard.  She and I can have a delightful conversation about recipes, but I still know. 

The Pregnant Couple would know, too, if it wanted to know.  But it doesn't want to.  It doesn't want friends, as in, people whose joys and sorrows it can share, of whose lives it can be a part.  It wants friends, as in the television show.  It wants an audience, so that its special-ness can seem more special, by having admirers.  And though my two recent examples have to do with pregnancy announcements (a topic of particular irksomeness), I've seen numerous other examples of this behavior recently - often among millenials, but regrettably, not exclusively.  (Both recently-pregnant couples are well over 30.) 

This is not how humanity works, people. 

13 comments:

  1. I can't believe that happened! It really boggles my mind that people don't really think of other people and their situations. This reminds me of a friend who has for some reason felt the need to share her pregnancy woes with me. Some people have no filter.

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  2. I so remember these feelings. I remember when all the other women my age could only talk about their children and their pregnancies. And there I was, smiling and nodding, trying to be polite and not tear up, eventually leaving the party early, after hanging out with all the men, because I couldn't take it anymore. Surely there could have been other topics of conversation- faith, food, politics, television, volunteer work...anything else to talk about would have been so refreshing and could have actually helped nurture our friendships.

    I'm so sorry.

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    1. Ugh, yes! After parenthood, everybody must talk about babies all the time. Who cares if we're rubbing childless people's noses in the biggest disappointment of their entire life?

      Misfit, I'm so sorry that happened to you. I'm sure you'll never invite the Pregnant Couple over again, and I'm equally sure they'll never understand why.

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  3. Ouch. simply, OUCH! I admire your fortitude and ability to motor on...not exactly like you could leave your own house, but, really, kudos to you for gamely accepting the news. I also appreciate how odd it must have been to see others also reeling from the gushing news...

    This observation really struck me, too:
    "... It wants friends, as in the television show. It wants an audience, so that its special-ness can seem more special, by having admirers."

    I am always amazed at the cluelessness demonstrated by people, but it truly seems magnified now by all of the reality TV shows and social media narcissism.

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  4. To be entirely honest, they're nice people (a little socially...odd? Hard to say exactly why), but they're not particular friends (and yes, they invited me to their wedding anyway).

    Your details of the events explained exactly the reason why - they are more than a little socially odd. They have no self-awareness.

    I have social anxiety and consider myself socially inept, odd, etc., but even **I** would have the presence of mind not to make someone else's party about me.

    Thank you for your compassion towards the 41-year-old single girl. She is hurting, and, although she isn't going through the "2-week wait," she is acutely aware that she's entering the double-negative phase: She'd love to be married and have children, but her advancing age is making her unlikely (even if she had normal fertility) to conceive and carry to term, a fact that is making her much less attractive to men who want to have children. She's very likely facing the rest of her life without a husband and without children. Over-40 single girls mourn each cycle, too.

    Oh, and people would please have the smarts not to ask the single/childless/potentially infertile girls to plan or largely take part in a baby shower, that would be appreciated, too. (Happened to a 40-something single friend who was asked to help plan a baby shower for co-worker to whom she wasn't close and who was in a neighboring department.)

    I'd also like to touch on your comments about the couple wanting an audience. I think that's true of couples marrying, and more so of couples expecting. Everything has to be a big production, a big reveal with lots of (annoying) drama; perhaps these announcements are part of a social competition with other couples? I can be just as happy for a couple with a modest announcement as I can be for one with a, "LOOK AT US! NO, REALLY, LOOK AT US!" announcement. In fact, I'm more inclined to acknowledge the more humble couples.

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  5. I definitely think people are so caught up in there own world to care about what could be going on in someone else's. Sorry this couple tried to ruin your party. I agree...you didn't have a party for them to announce their news. You didn't even really know them. But like I said...they didn't care or think much about it. Anyways...you handled it well and you will get graces in heaven for that! (as a few priests have told me).

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  6. That's rough ... on all of you. I am sorry. It's already hard enough without that.

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  7. I wonder if this sort of thing is worse now than it used to be .... because of the social media mindset? Because as a society we appear to have less basic manners? I would like to say that it's unbelievable this could have happened but you describe it all too clearly ....

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  8. man, this was an awful, yet hilarious story. because I think you were being generous by saying they were only a "little" socially awkward. understatement!
    way to try to be nice and inclusive. sounds like it would have been a 100% amazing party otherwise, so hopefully that's the only thing that held it back!

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  9. I can't - but kind of can - believe this actually happened!! Wow. I wish Hallmark made that card. Talk about hijacking someone else's event, and single-track focus (not on, I don't know, the other people's birthdays?) - sheesh. And to announce it again and again and again...words fail.

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  10. I'm impressed that you did not kick, punch or yell at the couple who kept announcing their pregnancy over and over and over again. I do not think I would have been able to refrain after time and time again. Wow. Just wow. I cannot believe they did that in such a way as they did.

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  11. It's bad enough they had to make it all about "me, me, me" (over & over again) -- but the fact that this all took place at someone else's birthday party really takes the cake. I guess a baby/pregnancy trumps everything else. :p What a world we live in...!

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  12. loll
    It's hard to believe... this was an entertaining and disgusting story.
    These little announcement are the part of social and they want to compete with other couples.
    I am wondering that how they are disclosing their news in front of everyone...

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