Buns in the Oven Part 8: International Thespian Society
December 6, 2017
Your good news is not always someone else’s good news. Don’t let that stop you from sharing your news with people you want to share with, but do let that knowledge influence your method of delivery. Sure, we’d all like to rejoice in other’s successes and delights, but sometimes we just don’t have the goddamn energy to be there 100%. Lately, when someone announces their pregnancy to me, you can be sure that my joyful congratulations are a product of my many years of theatre school. Send your children to theatre camp! It will give them tools to avoid being a dick later in life.
Since I started talking openly about trying to get pregnant, some of my friends have asked me about the best ways to talk about the process or, more specifically, talk about their own successes with the process. I want to say first that I really appreciate the thoughtfulness of that question, so thanks for asking, guys. It's definitely a tricky topic - especially considering many people don't talk about their struggles with fertility, so you can never really know who is hearing your pregnancy announcement with a tinge of bitterness. It’s not like we, the fertilely-challenged, are wishing ill towards the pregnant announcers, it's just that they should be aware that we might not be super interested in being their friends for the next nine months or so. Probably longer, unless they have exceptionally cute babies.
Speaking for myself, there are two ways to temper my irrational apathy towards people making pregnancy announcements. 1.) Be a person who struggled to get pregnant for a long time and whose fertility treatments were not covered by your health insurance or 2.) Tell me your good news in a caring, thoughtful way. Either is sufficient.
I believe that these two options are applicable to any number of good-news-heard-through-angry-ears situations. It’s easier to be happy for an underdog who got the job, got the girl, won the lottery, etc. It’s also easier to be happy for someone who tells you about their success while acknowledging that their joy may be a fucked up fun house mirror reflecting your pain.
A few weeks ago I joined my friend's family for a holiday supper. I grew up with this friend, and her family feels like my family. I care deeply about all of their dreams coming true, and they are close enough with me to know all know about my extracurricular, intravaginal pursuits. When my friend's sister arrived at the house for dinner after a long drive, she was visibly sick. I was sitting with her on the floor as she tried to calm her roiling stomach, and I was asking her goofy questions like, “Wow, I didn’t know you were so sensitive to car sickness….” Eventually she turned to my friend and said, “Can I tell her?” My friend nodded, and her sister said:
“I know this is probably hard for you to hear, but I am pregnant.”
I told her I figured as much, and I was really, truly happy for her. I didn’t tell her how much her words meant to me, though, but I hope she knows. It was such a perfect way to share her happy news with me. Sure, it helped that she was more or less dying on the kitchen floor and I couldn’t help but feel pity for her, but just acknowledging my struggle in the context of her joy meant so much to me.
That would be my advice to good-new announcers. Couch your joy in the context of another's pain. It feels better to acknowledge the hurt, I promise.
I am a woman of extremes. I either hold my secrets on the tip of my tongue and tell literally everyone I interact with (apologies to my hairdresser, my barista, my waxer, and an uncomfortable number of Philly bartenders), or I tell absolutely no one and add it to the list of things I’ll reveal on my deathbed. It’ll all come spilling out as I am scarfing down my last meal of Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese and a bowl of Jell-o – no flavor preference. Oh, I’m taking nothing to the grave, friends, except my grudges. This is to say that being overly sensitive to hearing good news will probably lead me to the latter of my extremes if I ever wind up with child. I might not tell a soul that doesn’t ask me directly. Even if it becomes absurd to ignore my state of affairs, I might awkwardly sidestep the subject by talking about the gluttony I indulged in over the weekend. We’ll have a 5-year-old and people we see only once in a while will stare and say, “When did this happen?”
I am not suggesting you adopt this tactic. It’s weird and socially awkward. But harness the energy of my friend’s lovely sister and think about your audience when you have good news to share. All the people you know who are struggling - and the people you know who you don't know are struggling - will appreciate your thoughtfulness.