“Children can be so embarrassing to their parents,” the Nigerian father said to me as his baby wailed on the flight from New York to Atlanta.
“Yea, but he is seven months. What can you do?” I responded.
“Do you have kids?”
“No, not yet. But I am currently seeking a labradoodle.”
The Nigerian father stared blankly. At first I thought he was confused; that in Lagos they did not mix breeds of dogs as casually as they did in America, but then he clarified. “You are not married?”
“Goodness, no. I’m 23.”
He breathed a sigh of relief. He had mistaken my age for 28, and that was the age his wife was when they were married. Hence he had drawn the conclusion that a woman of age 28 should find a suitable partner and begin matriarchal duties.
And I, high on the possibilities of several traveling adventures to come in 2013, could only say, “We’ll I certainly wouldn’t be traveling as much as I do if I had a ring on my finger. ”
The absurdity of the conversation is that it had even come to this. Five minutes before we had been debating tribal disputes over oil reserves in the Niger Delta, and now we were talking about my decision to put my career before my uterus.
And, well, I wanted to return to our previous debate. I didn’t want to talk about myself or my ticking biological clock. I wanted to continue our discussion of oil wars in Nigeria, or political turmoil in the fledgling Egyptian state, or even the difference in taste between skim and 2% milk in Starbucks lattes. But I most definitely did not want to discuss me, or my right index finger (or whichever finger sports an engagement ring.)
I tried to convey this message to my fellow passenger, and he protested loudly enough that the man in front of me– a real southern gentleman type– felt compelled to join the conversation. He explained how he had sacrificed a field producer position in South Africa many years ago so he could settle down in Georgia and start a family. “And that, young lady, is the best decision I made.”
I wanted to say, “Mazel tov, glad you turned out be a part of the ever decreasing statistic of couples whose matrimony doesn’t end in divorce.” But instead I replied, “You turned down a job in South freaking Africa?” Only to realize seconds later that I had turned down a similar opportunity after graduation to temporarily settle in New York.
Well, seeking to avoid involving any other passengers in my personal business, I soon resigned and stated simply, “I’m working on it, ok?” At which point the two men said in unison, “Get it, girl.”