Throwback Thursday – This post was originally published on March 21, 2011 on skirt.com.
The other day as I looked at my pretty friend on the computer screen – tan and fit with her long blonde hair flowing down her back, I began to wonder about her life…and about mine. Somewhere between high school and Facebook she moved from Los Angeles to Miami. We were really only acquaintances in high school – I was better friends with her brother a year older than us – and now we are acquaintances through the world’s largest social network. I see photos of her fabulous single life and she sees photos of my rather suburban one (if she even bothers to look).
In her photos she sits courtside at a Miami Heat game, drinks umbrella drinks on the beach, and wraps her arms around equally tan and fit singletons at bars and barbeques. In my photos I’m trying my best to look cool mom funky rather than suburban mom frumpy.
At 45-years-old she still looks amazing in a bikini. Of course that’s probably a lot easier to do when you are blessed with the combination of being born with good genes, never experiencing the wondrous body-changing magic of childbirth, and have nothing but time on your hands to go to the gym before heading out to the local pub to meet your latest conquest on Match.com face to face.
I wonder sometimes as I stare at her beautiful face smiling at me if she is as happy as she looks. I consider myself happy in this life I’ve chosen for myself, but there are days when I trip over my husband’s shoes in the bedroom or get an aching back from doing eight loads of laundry on a Sunday that I wonder if I would be even happier if I had never married, if I had never had kids, if I had never given up my career to stay home with my children. If I only had to be accountable to me…what would my life be like?
A few years ago, when my husband unwillingly went from the security of fulltime employment to get-it-when-you-can-find-it contract work, I took a job at an elementary school as an aide in special education so that I could give my family the extravagant gift of health insurance. As an instructional assistant I have been bit, hit, kicked, pinched, spit at, peed on, and had my life threatened. And sometimes I even get to clean up poop! As an added bonus the pay is terrible. Of course I do get summers off and every December and June parents shower me with Starbucks gift cards to thank me for my patience with their little darlings.
But if I didn’t have kids, where would 15 years in the career world have taken me? I picture myself dressed in designer clothing checking my Blackberry as I tap my pedicured toes encased in $300 boots waiting for the valet to come with my Mercedes that only seats two so I can hurry from my business lunch to a very important meeting. My “what if” wardrobe seems a bit more stylish than my usual attire of jeans and tone-up sneakers sadly worn for function rather than fashion so my heels don’t sink into the grass as I attend my kids’ soccer games or so I won’t trip as I race around town running errand after monotonous errand.
Speaking of monotonous, my husband and I have been married for seventeen years. We’ve had our ups and downs, but all in all we have a happy marriage. He is a good partner and a good friend; we are very compatible and I feel like I’ve chosen well. Even during our toughest times the thought of divorce has never crossed my mind.
But what if we had never met? If I had never walked down the aisle, would the rush of experiencing first date jitters be greater than the joy experienced from the comfort of a long marriage? Would I choose to experience firsthand the phenomenon of online dating instead of only experiencing it vicariously through my friends? I am rather curious to know how many text exchanges with a man you’ve never met face to face it takes to get a photo of his penis in your inbox. And like many of my still-single or again single friends, would I also have a nice, incurable dose of HPV?
I look at my suburban tract home in a neighborhood known for its good schools. In my “what if” life I envision myself in my two bedroom condo in a much more urban part of town decorated Pottery Barn chic – no roses to dead head, no lawn to water or mow. There are no socks on the floor, no Lego’s to be stepped on, no princess toothpaste smeared on the bathroom counter. If the song “I Still Want You” were to play on the 80’s station of my satellite radio as I was cleaning my condo on a Saturday afternoon I’d probably think to myself, “Whatever happened to The Del Fuegos?” having no idea that front man Dan Zanes went on to be a Grammy Award winning children’s artist.
If I’d never had kids I would probably still think that Lindsey Lohan’s drug addiction and downward spiral is a terrible tragedy, but the true tragedy would be missing both her and Jamie Lee Curtis’ fantastic comedic performances in “Freaky Friday” because what kind of designer-boot-wearing, two-seat-Mercedes-driving, online-dating-still-hot-in-a-bikini-after-the-age-of-forty single girl sees a movie like that?
If I were single I wouldn’t have to share the covers in my bed, give up half my closet space, or watch NASCAR. If I were childless I wouldn’t have to make sure there was always milk in the fridge, referee ridiculous arguments, or worry about how the hell I’m going to pay for college. (Shit. How the hell are we going to pay for college?)
I look at my friend’s pretty face one last time before clicking off my computer and joining my family for popcorn –crumbs of which I will inevitably have to vacuum off the floor tomorrow- and the latest episode of The Simpsons. I snuggle with my daughter under the Snuggie she and her brother gave me for Mother’s Day last year and laugh a deep belly laugh as Bart tortures Homer.
If only my two lives were a Gwyneth Paltrow movie and I could watch them in parallel to see which path was better. But the truth is I really don’t have to wonder. I already know.