My daughter’s battery-operated shark was spinning in circles, glowing in thousands of colors, ruthlessly screaming with a mix of several ear-piercing songs, distracting me completely. Between that whirling and laughter, I could hear my guests’ conversation–my friend (36), her husband, who, by the way, chose that shark as a gift, and my neighbor, an older woman who brought her nephew to play with my daughter. Somehow, her new toy was not to his liking, and who could blame him. “Do you have children?”–my neighbor asked my friend. “No,”–she answered, stirring on the sofa. “Well, it’s about time, isn’t it?”–my neighbor continued.
Oh, I thought to myself, this is one of those moments when other people know better what is best for you, what you should do, which decisions to make, of course, for your own good. For example, suppose you do not have a partner for a more extended period; then on every meeting with relatives, friends, and even some random encounters, the famous question arises, whether it’s in the form of a joke or with a slightly worried tone: “When do you plan to settle down?” Especially if you are at that particular age which the community has determined to be beyond the expiration date to keep the issue open. If you have built a career and you have a professional achievement, that doesn’t count. It’s simply just not enough in people’s eyes because the ultimate happiness lies in your intimate self-realization. Thus, in the opinion of others, you are not a complete person. According to the traditional understanding, a woman cannot be fulfilled if she does not become a mother
“Oh, work’s not important; time flies, and the most important thing is to sort your things out,” my neighbor continues. By sorting things out, she meant to start a family. Not to forget endless remarks on your behalf that you are doing something wrong, that’s why you can’t succeed. If you have already decided to get married, there is relentless pressure to extend that family. It becomes an issue that very easily transcends the intimate zone of both partners and quickly becomes a matter of the wider community. Everyone feels entitled to question you as a kind of reminder in case you forgot. That reminder hides one layer of condemnation if you dare to have an opinion other than what is regarded as a social norm, like in this case.
“We haven’t come to that topic… with my husband yet,” my friend says with restraint. “Leave him be; your clock is ticking.” I felt even more uncomfortable than my friend, so I decided to end the conversation at all costs. The shark was screaming, my daughter and the neighbor’s nephew, who joined her in the meantime, started shouting, imitating the sound of the toy, and I, in the role of a good housewife, brought them a piece of my daughter’s birthday cake. I was hoping it would redirect the conversation or at least interrupt it for a moment. But between two bites, my neighbor continued. “Young people these days. You only think of yourselves!”
“For a long time now, the survival of the world does not depend on one’s decision to have or not to have children,” I said a little louder because of the shark.
“You can’t even talk with these young people anymore. You won’t accept any advice. You think you know everything”- my neighbor seemed a little bit angry, so she got up, preparing to leave. “You’ll understand one day, but it will be too late for you,” she said, heading to the door. She turned to her nephew and gave him a sign to move.
The shark was circling around with its mouth chewing, reaching the boy’s leg. The sound suddenly changed and turned into a repetitive tone, causing a headache. The shark caught the boy’s leg. As he tried to get rid of her, he shook his leg several times, but with no success. Afraid that he won’t unhook her, he struck the toy with the other foot. The boy kicked the shark so hard that she collapsed and split in two after a short, broken sound. What a relief! Unfortunately, it lasted just a few seconds. My daughter’s deafening scream followed through which I heard her cry: “Mommy, I want a baby sister. I want to play with her.” I exhaled deeply and turned to my friend. She read my thoughts. Simply put, the pressure from the surrounding never stops.