If you have a toddler and are trying for another baby but still haven't gotten around to getting married, then it helps to have a celebrity role model. Mine, of course, is Brangelina.
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie don't sweat being unmarried with six kids because, as Angie told Vanity Fair, "Children are clearly a commitment... it's for life." True that.
I love that they vowed not to marry until all gay people can, though apparently pressure from eldest child Maddox has led to an engagement. And I respect that they take turns shooting movies so that one of them is always there for the kids. Dave and I fantasize about being so desirable to work with that companies would plan their multi-million dollar ventures around our personal schedules. It could happen.
But I'm guessing Angelina never feels weird introducing her "boyfriend" to the conservative new neighbors.
Caring what other people think came as a surprise to me. When Dave and I decided to put the carriage before the marriage, I relished the opportunity to flout society's conventions a little bit. I grew up in Connecticut. I barely ever got to flout! Plus, my technically single status reflected my personal belief that marriage, while nice work if you can get it, is not essential to happiness, love or successful parenting. But once Dave and I had Viv, this dormant east coast conventionality of mine woke up cringing, and I became unexpectedly self-conscious.
Like when I'm at the pediatrician's office holding our baby and I want badly to be able to say, "My husband will be right back." Most substitutions sound silly and vaguely embarrassing in my own ears. Have a listen:
"My boyfriend" -- What am I, a teen mom? A really haggard, sun damaged, out of shape teen mom?
"My fiancé" -- Saying this turns me into one of those annoying women who've waited their whole lives to get engaged and now can't stop flashing their diamond rings while dropping the F-bomb, emphasis on the last syllable, accent-aigu-ing all over the place.
"My partner" -- Makes me seem pretentious or gay. Would prefer to be thought of as a lesbian, but eventually "my partner" will show up with his penis, and then I'm just pretentious.
"Viv's dad" -- Sounds like we're divorced, and he only sees her on alternate weekends in his sad studio apartment with takeout pizza and all the violent video games I don't allow.
"Dave" -- Assumes I'm married to a famous Dave who you should know, even if we've never met. Maybe Dave Letterman, or the Dave who founded Wendy's. You know, Dave.
Occasionally I'll use "babydaddy" ironically. But mostly I just lie and say "my husband." Like with our Guatemalan babysitter. It was hard enough telling her I didn't take Jesus to be my Lord and Savior (she asked). I couldn't also cop to being an unmarried mom.
And once I started lying, it was hard to stop. The customer service department at Time Warner Cable definitely thinks I have a husband. (I have rather enjoyed threatening them that my husband will switch to Direct TV.) So do myriad repair people, shop keepers and UPS guys who fix, sell or deliver something for my husband.
A husband just sounds so respectable, secure, safe. As a mom, I feel like saying anything other than "husband" raises a question mark next to my name. Who? What? Where? Why? Huh?
I'm probably not giving people enough credit. No one's tried to burn me at the stake just yet.
My good friend is embarking upon single motherhood by choice, and I'm proud and in awe. She will be an amazing mom and I'm glad she didn't forgo her dreams just because Mr. Right is running late. But it's not going to be easy. And public perception shouldn't be one more thing piled onto her extremely full plate, but I worry that it will be. Well-meaning strangers will ask about the baby's father. There's an assumption of a second parent, a second side to the family tree. The wee world is mainly a "we" world.
So I figure my job is to stop fibbing, get comfortable in my skin and do a good job raising Viv to know and cherish all different kinds of families. A play date with Knox Jolie-Pitt would be a nice start.
Viv wearing my engagement ring.