Single White Nerd: The Admissions Interview
I’m not a parent. Nor am I gay. There is nothing wrong with being either one of those things. They’re great. But, fact is, I’m neither. And, thanks to a recent experience, I now know that I’d suck at both. Too challenging. I’d crack under the pressure.
A couple weeks ago, my co-worker (let’s call him “Stuart”) and I went to a fancy private school to read a story-book to kindergartners and teach them about community activism. Stuart and I have worked together for a couple of years and get along well. It’s fair to say that we’ve established a certain comfort and rapport with one another. We’re about the same height and, on that day at least, were dressed nicely. In other words, it’s possible that we looked like a couple.
We arrived at the school about fifteen minutes early, found our way to the administration office, and approached the gray-haired, cheerful receptionist. Before we could even open our mouths, she let loose with an effusive greeting: “Well, helllooooo! I know who you’re here to see!”
Stuart and I looked at each other. I spoke: “You do?”
“Well, surely. You’re here to see Mrs. Pitka!”
There had clearly been some sort of misunderstanding. I had no idea who Mrs. Pitka was. As far as I knew, we had come to speak to Mrs. Morse’s class. Before I could ask for clarification, the receptionist barreled onward: “We are so happy to have people like you here. I’m sure that it will go just fine. We’re always looking for people like you to round out our little family.”
Stuart and I exchanged another glance. We realized, at more or less the same moment, that our cheerful new friend had mistaken us for a couple with a toddler seeking admission. Apparently, people ‘like us’ were in demand. That’s when something weird happened: I got a little self-conscious. Like, I wanted to make a good impression. See, I’ve always been extremely suggestible. That, combined with a vivid imagination, makes it very easy for me to buy in to just about any scenario that people throw at me. So for a moment, I became one half of a gay couple with an adopted daughter.
I adjusted my posture and wondered if I should have worn a suit. I wished I’d told Stuart to wear better shoes–he always wears tennis shoes and sometimes I think that gives an unprofessional impression. After all, we wanted our daughter (whom we’d recently adopted from Somalia) to have a good future. And a good future began now, at this moment, in this school.
Oh my God. How could we afford this school? We both work for a nonprofit. The same nonprofit. Hell, forget affording school; what the eff was I doing partnering up with a co-worker? Poor judgement! How had things gotten so far? Well, that is what it is. No controlling love. Back to the nuts and bolts–the finances. Even if we did succeed in paying for pre-school, what about college? With rates on a constant rise, we’d be in the poorhouse before we’d really even lived.
No spontaneous trips to Australia. No popping up to the vineyards for wine tastings. We’d need a larger apartment, of course. As our daughter–good Lord, we hadn’t even named her yet. We were applying to pre-school and hadn’t even named our daughter! We were the worst parents ever.
Clearly, I had to end this relationship. We weren’t good for each other and he always wore those damned sneakers. They’re not even real shoes. Did I want my daughter to grow up thinking that you can just waltz into maybe the most important application interview of your life wearing athletic gear? No, I did not. We could still co-parent, just not together. Yes, this would be best for everyone!
Before I could pull the trigger and end this clearly doomed relationship, Stuart, bless him, turned to the happy receptionist. “Yeah, no,” he said choking back laughter, “We’re just here to talk to the kindergartners. But, you know, any kid would be lucky to go here.” Just like that, our relationship ended and our daughter poofed back into non-existence.
As I breathed a sigh of relief and came back to reality, the receptionist turned a truly stunning shade of red. “I’m so sorry, I thought. . .oh my. You mustn’t be upset with me, I’m. . .how embarrassing.”
Both Stuart and I reassured her that there was no need for an apology. It wasn’t quite true. She needed to apologize to Stuart for thinking that he could end up with a neurotic mess like me. I mean, less than 30 seconds into our relationship and I’d already been ready to dump him and relegate our daughter to a life of shuttling back and forth between two fathers. And all because I was insecure about money and we’re co-workers. And his sneakers. And because I’m not gay. But, all that aside–that woman owed Stuart an apology.
On the other hand, it was a valuable experience for me. I can now add “Member of Same Sex Adoptive Couple” to the list of Things I Don’t Want to Be When I Grow Up where it joins other items like Marmite Taster and Responsible Adult. For that, I send a big thank you out to the cheerful receptionist lady. And to all those nerds out there braving the world of parenthood and/or coupledom, I bow before you in awe and amazement. I don’t know how you do it.