August 26, 2004

Checklist

Back when I was a carefree swingin' twenty-something, I used to mock-grumble about something I referred to as "Life's Checklist." Life's Checklist was the litany of questions that carefree swingin' twenty-somethings received from elders and later from the already marrieds among their social sets. The questions were well-meaning small talk, but they always had the effect of making the questionee feel somewhat pressured, even if the questionee was generally well-adjusted and pleased with her life's course. The typical Life's Checklist encounter occurred at a wedding, and went something like this:

Elder: So, I hear you're out of school now. Any plans?

20 Something: Actually, I'm in grad school and thinking about the PhD.

Elder: Ah, sounds interesting. Anyone special in your life?

20 Something: Not right now.

Elder: Yeah, it seems your generation is in no hurry to settle. When I was your age I already had a mortgage and four kids, blah, blah, blah...

20 Something: (downing entire beer in one gulp, looking frantically for rescue) Oh, wow, really? Look! They're doing the Electric Slide! Gotta go!

You'd think that getting a job and getting married would put an end to the Life's Checklisters, but you'd be So Very Wrong. The only thing that changes is the parameters of the list. Here's a remembered conversation from my wedding day:

Elder: Congratulations! You two make a great couple.

Me: (Desperately attempting to get to the buffet while still being polite to my mom's friend whose name I cannot for the life of me recall) Thank you so much. Thanks for coming.

Elder: So, are you planning on starting a family anytime soon?

Me: (downing entire glass of red wine in one gulp) Umm, not this year. Oh, look! They're doing the Macarena! Gotta go!

And then you do have a child, thus rendering yourself safe from the checklisters, or so you think. Again, you'd be So Very Wrong. See, now the elders are off your back about the Big Things--you have a job, you are married, you are reasonably fertile--but Society At Large starts getting antsy. Here's a sample conversation from (pick one) work, church, daycare or the supermarket:

Society Member: The Boy is so darling. How old is he?

Me: He'll be three this year.

Society Member: Such a great age. I bet he'd love a little brother or sister! Are you planning to have any more children?

Me: (caught helpless without an alcoholic beverage or an insipid wedding line dance to rescue me) Umm, maybe. Oh, look! The Boy is playing in traffic! Gotta go!

Where does it end? I got the job, got married, had a child. What's next, people asking me about my DNR orders and the status of my will? I know I'm sensitive, but I feel like I'm being checklisted into an early grave. And what do I get when I cross off all these accomplishments, anyway? A gold star on my headstone?

There'd better be an open bar in heaven, is all I'm saying.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at August 26, 2004 08:30 AM
Comments

It actually never ends. My daughter is just about a year older than your son. My son is now 4 months old. At his baptism party this weekend I was told by three different people that "once you have two kids, you might as well have five. The workload is basically the same." These people were not visibly twitching or eating bugs, but clearly they are insane.
Be warned: right around now--3 years--everything is going to get a lot easier and even more fun with your toddler. And you think to yourself: how hard could having another one be, after all...

Posted by: Mike Drout at August 26, 2004 10:48 AM

Why in the world would you go anyplace that involves relatives?

Posted by: Ron Hardin at August 26, 2004 12:09 PM

I agree with Ron. I see my relatives only at weddings and funerals, and even then I keep my head down and try to pretend I'm someone they don't know.

You can pick your friends. You're stuck with your relatives - unless you can make them disown you.

Posted by: Claire at August 26, 2004 03:52 PM

"Well, my husband left me for a Cuban pool boy and The Boy's father is in jail"

"Why? We only need one for the ritual"

"We've thought about it but snatch and grabs aren't as easy as they used to be"

P.S. How is that will coming? You know you should have one...

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at August 26, 2004 05:10 PM

Oy. It never ends. I like Annoying Old Guy's final suggestion....

Posted by: Belle at August 26, 2004 07:34 PM

Have two boys, ages 7 & 9. I'm blessed (most days).

But the question that people continue to ask me is "So, are you going to try for a girl?"

Makes me want to pop 'em one. Like having two sons is just horrible...

Sheesh.

'Course, it makes me wonder what people ask couples who have a son and a daughter.

"So, are you going to try for a puppy?"

Posted by: di at August 27, 2004 10:03 AM