Stranger Knows Best

You know how I was planning on running a marathon in about seven weeks? Scratch that. New plan. I am going to buy a house and have a baby.

See, despite spending the last year or so working awfully hard to get this bidness that I call my life in order – and, as it turns out, actually enjoying myself in the process – I was going about it all wrong. In the last two weeks I have been shown the grievous error of my ways by two strangers. Stranger 1 works at the bikram yoga studio I’ve been going to for about 7 months, and when she overheard me talking one evening with the instructor about how I’m marathon training, she jumped in with the super helpful information that the course I’ve chosen for my first ever (and thus utterly terrifying) marathon – Portland, in October – is a horrible, awful, no good, very bad course and she should know because she’s an ultra marathoner (one of those freaks who runs like 50 or 100 miles at a time). Thanks, Stranger 1; you are a peach.

That whole exchange totally pissed me off because any runner worth her salt and versed in the ways of running camaraderie knows that you don’t try to scare other runners. Sure, maybe you share a harrowing tale of woe or two when talking about your exploits, but you also throw in some encouragement and end on a positive note. Plus, you keep it to YOUR exploits and mistakes YOU might have made; you don’t flat out say to the wild-eyed creature in front of you who clearly thinks she’s in over her head that it’s too bad she picked such a shitty race.

However, onward. Thankfully, I’ve got enough awesome people willing to play the part of cheerleader for the next several weeks that one naysayer won’t get me down. Which brings me to Stranger 2. Stranger 2 will not get me down either, but she was so spectacularly awful that, comparatively, Stranger 1 really was a peach.

This past Friday night, post-pool, post-hot tub and post-delicious dinner, I was nearly comatose – happily so – and lounging by the communal firepit with Boyfriend and Boyfriend’s Brother at Boyfriend’s condo when I found myself in conversation with Stranger 2. She, her husband and her kid had wandered over to hang out by the fire. The beginning was fine, as far as neighborly chit chat goes, but pretty soon this woman was both oversharing about her own life and overassuming about mine. If you would like to know what foods she’s discovered her body can no longer process now that she is 40, I am able – though not pleased about it – to write you a treatise on the workings of her gastrointestinal tract.

I don’t know if maybe this chick hadn’t interacted with another human being in awhile or what, but it was like some sort of unsolicited advice giving floodgate opened. Things she felt compelled to tell me:

– I really need to be having children now or very soon.
– Strike that, I really need to be having my one and only child now or very soon. There is no need to have more than one child. All her friends who have two kids or more are divorced or getting divorced.
– My body will fail me on my 40th birthday. I will wake up and I won’t recognize myself anymore. My back will hurt and everything will stop working. Overnight. That is how quickly this will happen. I will be 39 and fine and then the next day it will all be over.
– I have a good job and should be buying a house right now. Preferably in the neighborhood I currently live in because it is so nice.
– My parents are very sensible people for disliking the current presidential administration.

These last two points were based on nothing more than me telling her where I work (not remotely what I do or whether or not I am in a position to buy a house) and answering her question about what my parents thought of the current administration with, “I think at least one of them is not super happy about it.”

As far as my nearly expired baby making parts go, she took some rather impressive liberties in advising me on how best to use them. At no point did she ask me if I already had children or wanted children. As far as she knows – hell, as far as I know – this business could be the reproductive equivalent of the model home on Arrested Development. Nice to look at, but not meant for habitation.

There was a whole chunk of the conversation that I think was a convoluted explanation of her political ideology, but as I’m sure you can imagine by now, I was seething on the inside long before we got to that point and would rather not revisit it. Suffice to say, it was not pleasant.

It took a couple of false starts to extricate myself, but eventually I got away from her. I do not plan on having any more heart-to-hearts with her around the fire in the future.

Do I actually care what strangers think of me and what I should do with my life? Not so much. What I do care about – and what I have a responsibility to myself to rectify now that I’ve put it out there – is that I keep my mouth shut in situations like the one I just described. I definitely don’t want to turn into someone who is confrontational all the damn time – constantly looking for a fight or sure that they are being slighted at every turn. However, listening to all of that garbage on Friday, nodding and offering up a lot of, “Oh really?” and “Hmm, I didn’t know that” left me sort of sick of myself. Had she been telling me about her favorite needlepoint patterns or something, that would have been one thing. But this lady was making sweeping proclamations about my life, what I should do with it in the future and what it may already be too late to do.

Very not cool.

Should I find myself in a situation like this in the future, it will go differently. Unless I have a house and a baby, in which case, clearly she was right.

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3 thoughts on “Stranger Knows Best

  1. Well written, as always, Daughter. I couldn’t agree more…except with the part where you are sure that at least one of your parents isn’t too thrilled with the current presidential administration. Just felt the need to remind you that you do indeed, have two parents. Who don’t always/usually(?) agree about such things. 🙂

  2. What a great take-away: Never be THAT guy/lady. They are the worst. But also, I am wondering: How do we, the magnets for THOSE people, deal with them assertively without stooping to their level of awfulness?!

    NB: Lately, I have been told more than once that I am going about it All Wrong. It’s discouraging, especially in the midst of working so hard. F* those people.

  3. Becca, there was a whole big second part of this post in my brain about how I wish I’d handled things/want to handle them in the future, but I just lost steam… Also, what it’s really going to come down to is me mustering up some courage, eloquence and brevity when faced with this in the future. Hopefully what will come out of my mouth is more along the lines of, “You know, I’m pretty happy with the choices I’m making in my life right now and I’d rather not continue this conversation” and less, “You’re a big dumb stupid head!”

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