The One About My Dry Cleaner

Every week, I drop a bag of clothes off at the dry cleaner, and every week, I am confronted with my infertility head on. How is it possible that this mundane errand can be painful trigger? Because the woman who works at the dry cleaner thinks my child is adorable. And, that I should definitely have more. 

“Only one?”

“Yes, only one.”

“One is no good. You need more.”

**Taps my fingers on the counter and grins.**

Every. Damn. Time. She is nothing if not consistent with her opinions on my family planning.

We all know that in our society, it is somehow acceptable to inquire about another person’s reproductive choices. “When are you having kids?” oh so quickly becomes “when are you having another?” It feels inescapable and oppressive (because it is). I could go on for days…

There’s another perspective on these interactions that I want to talk about. The part where we shut our mouths and grin. Make excuses. Tell little white lies. And try to get out the door as quickly as possible. 

Why is so hard to speak our truth in these situations? Why can’t I say “well, no….” Why do I stay silent?

Shame.

That’s why.

We don’t want to tell our secrets. Because they are secret. And they hurt. Because we feel other, and less-than. Because we feel vulnerable after our losses and “failures,” and don’t want to open ourselves to another attack. Because we cannot make all the babies, nor plan how far apart they’ll be spaced, or if their birthdays will be in November or December for school admissions. We can’t have sex and get pregnant. We have no control over the adoption process that takes years and costs us thousands of dollars. We feel broken and out of control. We feel different and ashamed.

So, we stay silent. We smile. We make jokes. We dodge questions artfully. Then we go cry in the car. Because we don’t want to make everyone uncomfortable by saying “I don’t have a uterus, so it’s not that easy.” In the case of my dry cleaner, I think this would have required a translator, and I seriously considered asking someone in there to help be make it perfectly clear for her.

Instead, I changed dry cleaners. 

Next time? Next time, I need to strap on a pair of boxing gloves and open my mouth. And, it’s not just as simple as saying the words. Speaking my truth is a radical act in some ways. It takes guts and heart and strength. (Which we’ve all got in spades, by the way.) I can’t be afraid of the reactions or follow-up questions or emotions. I can’t feel guilty that I took the conversation to an unexpected place, or made someone uncomfortable for a few minutes. I need to get my advocate on, and get in there. Every time we speak, we teach. And that’s how we change things. One dry cleaner at a time.