The other day, my youngest sister and I took my kids to the pool. We were a large and boisterous group, me holding my toddler on my hip, my 6 and 8 year-old fighting for their aunt's attention. The lifeguard was an early twenty-something woman and she smiled as we walked by.
"They're cute," she observed to me, "Are they all four yours?"
I figured with all the commotion, she'd miscounted.
"The kids are mine, all three of them," I said,
"Oh," she nodded. She was looking at my sister, who, admittedly, sporting a pair of short shorts and a T back tank looked like a teenager.
I made a little gasp of horror.
"Not that one," I all but shouted, "She's my sister! Not my daughter!"
"Cool," the girl said. She'd clearly lost interest, like, three sentences ago. She was really, really, not that interested in getting to the bottom of this misunderstanding.
"I mean, she's just 10 years younger than me," I went on, undeterred by her lack of interest, and frankly acting a lot crazy. I stated laughing manically, "So, I'd have to have been 10 years old when I had her! Because I'm only 36!"
Obviously, I'd cured the girl of her temptation to make small talk with the pool goers. She smiled politely and I forced myself to shut up.
Still, I'd like to have a few more minutes with her to ask some follow-up questions, Namely, what exactly it was about my appearance that lead her to believe I could be the mother of a 26 year old. Do I need a cooler haircut? More youthful footwear? Is my bikini no longer age appropriate? Or is my face simply just haggard, weather-worn and wizened? Why hadn't she just gone whole hog and congratulated me on being pregnant??? Oh, that's right, I couldn't POSSIBLY be pregnant because I'm apparently already deep in the throes of MENOPAUSE.
Nicole is a parenting writer who contributes essays and articles for magazines like Parenting, Parents, American Baby and Babble. She lives in Brooklyn with three children, one husband and a morbidly obese goldfish.