Friday, February 17, 2012

Shoulda seen it coming

There's a particular type of conversation with a type of person who likes to play devil's advocate no matter what the consequences on the emotions of the fellow conversant. Sometimes, I see them coming. Sometimes I set myself up for them.

I mentioned to someone that I was going to try to ease myself off of caffeine as soon as I was childless again. Simultaneously I hear "What does having a child have to do with it?" and "Wait, why are you going to be childless?"

For reasons I cannot fathom, in a room full of men, I choose to answer the second question. 

"Oh! I have to show you this! I found an amazing recipe for toddler fricassee. I was thinking of trying it out for dinner tonight."

There is a shocked uncomfortable silence as several professors who I will never have to ask to write me a letter stare at me. I sip my tea.

Alas, I explain that Epsilon will be with his father come September.

"Because his father is a better parent than I am." Nervous laughter.
"Don't you want to keep him with you?"
"I don't want to face Regional Difficulty X."
"But don't you want him to have Cultural Experience Y?"
"I would love for him to have Cultural Experience Y, but Difficulty X is just too great."
"Oh Difficulty X isn't so bad. Just do Z, and then Epsilon'll have Cultural Experience Y."
"Can you imagine then, what I would do in situation W?"
"Oh but immigrant group A has been dealing with situation W for decades. Racist anecdote about immigrant group A dealing with situation W."

Fortunately someone changes the subject soon thereafter. I know this conversation made at least one graduate student in the room uncomfortable. I am really sorry about my role in that. Maybe I'm growing bitter, maybe I'm tired, maybe I've lost my sense of humour. But I should have seen this one coming as soon as I made the comment about the caffeine.* I think I'm going to develop a policy of not discussing my family at work at all for the rest of my time here.

*There's a fine line between blaming the victim and protecting oneself. I'm trying to stay on the latter side of that line.

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