I hate, loathe, abhor and detest stereotypes. In other words, I don't like them. I cannot tell you how many times I have been victimised by such abhorrent behaviour. You simply cannot know how difficult it is to be reduced to a demeaning, pat, one-size-fits-all sweeping generalisation.
I am a stay at home Mom. Worse still, to those who judge and mock, I am a retired stay at home Mom. I guess. My youngest child has now flown the coop, so while the Mom part is accurate, it is much less hands on at this stage in my life.
I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked, "what do you do all day?" I know I am looked down on, but I try to ignore the whispers. I see the sideways glances and the uncomfortable silences when I enter a restaurant or store. I know I am conspicuous in my absence of the power suit on public transportation.
I have made numerous futile attempts over the years to disguise my true identity. I have eschewed yoga pants, refused to don apparel emblazoned with the name of my kid's sports teams, and I avoid grocery stores between 9 am and 5 pm like the plague. I have a hard case cover for my Kindle of a literary classic to hide my latest chick-lit or Candy Crush level. At dinner parties I cleverly steer conversations away from the merits of the latest Dyson vacuum or my absolutely delicious one pot recipe that you just HAVE to try.
And still I am still judged.
I have a degree. I worked as a registered nurse for many years. But one look at my expanda-waist knit trousers and my circa 1980's haircut, albeit in a much grayer form, and I am immediately reduced to nothing. My witticisms in public do make me more palatable. I am seen as articulate, so that is a plus. I fly under the radar and consider myself to be law abiding except for my tendency to walk when the crosswalk dude is red and not green. I still worry I will be singled out simply because I am a stay at home mom.
My issue came to a head after I travelled to Paris with my husband and his parents. I live in England, so we took the Euro Star train for our mini vacation. When one returns to England from France, one has to clear customs on the French side; for us that was accomplished at Gare du Nord. My husband handed over his passport and was asked the usual what do you do in England, what was the purpose of your trip blah blah. Then they came to me. The border patrol agent asked me what I did. I said I was a stay at home Mom. He asked the inevitable "what do you do all day?" I hesitated, and then with a strength and courage and boldness I did not know I possessed until that moment I responded, "I sit at home eating bon bons and watching Internet porn all day." I might need to add that just as I blurted this out, an uncanny silence fell and you could have literally heard a pin drop were it not for my outburst.
I was allowed to return to England. For that I am grateful. And because this is the interwebs and once something is out in cyberland it could destroy my chances of getting into Oxford, or Harvard or snagging that corporate dream job, I feel the need to clarify that I actually do not watch porn on line or in any other form. I do, however, sometimes find that an entire box of Jaffa Cakes or Oreos has suddenly and inexplicably emptied whilst in my possession.
I hope to bring awareness to my plight. I hope that one day we can all coexist without fear of judgement or scorn or ridicule. I hope that one day I will be free to join the commuting class in my comfy jeans with just a bit of engineering genius we all know as spandex, and not feel ostracised.
Whew. It felt good to get that off my chest.