My dearest friends aren’t tactless but, last night, I was forced to admit that they have some strong capabilities in this area.

Owns Her Own Business Friend arranged a dinner for eight of her closest female friends to celebrate her birthday last night. She figured it would be a good chance for her chained-to-the-crib friends to get together and gossip without the men-folk.

Being the only two of the group not chained-to-the-crib, Owns Her Own Business and I arranged to meet for a pre-dinner drink, while the young mothers put their children to sleep and the pregnants had a rest before coming out to join us. We discussed the conception issue over margheritas. As a close friend she knows that I have been trying for nine months, and I know that she has been trying for five. As someone in the same, stressful line of business as me, we gossiped about work and then whether we’d made a mistake by building a career first and considering children later. We spoke about how we’d like to balance the work we loved with motherhood, and whether we’d both be as fascist with our kids as we are with our clients. In fact, the conversation was so nice I was resentful to see it come to a close when the others started turning up.

As the red wine started to flow at dinner, I became painfully aware that I was outnumbered. Nothing could have prepared me for the onslaught of conversation topics that made me feel both awkward and rather like I came from the fictional planet Zorb. First there were the abhorrent levels of competitive self congratulation: “You are so THIN / gorgeous / trendy / rested / talented / multi tasking / beautiful / sparky (delete as necessary, or don’t) for a young Mum” and then a raft of exclusive conversation topics ranging from family friendly hotels to whether you’d really want your second to be a boy to whether bosses had ratified ideal, part-time working arrangements. They were subjects so very specific to young mothers, there was NO way you could have involved yourself as a non-Mum / pregnant without sounding either mad or attention seeking, “Would I want a boy the second time round? Hell, ladies, gimme a Tyrannosaurus Rex FIRST time round.”

When dinner had finished, half the party departed, citing tiredness and early mornings, while the other half – including me – remained to enjoy a cocktail or three. Owns Her Own Business was three hundred sheets to the wind by this stage and waxing lyrical about some of the more challenging parts of her working week. This prompted her remaining young Mum friends, who I have met all of three times in the past decade, to weigh in with some advice that went a bit like this, “You work far too hard and are always under too much stress. It will be absolutely impossible for you to get pregnant when you are this stressed,” to which she replied, “Yes you are probably right. Stress is definitely the reason I’m not pregnant yet, and the same probably goes for you, too, Bumpy Ride.”

As all eyes turned on me, the list of friendship rules broken in that moment unfurled themselves: 1) disclosure of private and intimate information 2) disclosure of private and intimate information in public 3) presumption of cause 4) chucking me in the same stressed out category as her as when I did not ask to be chucked.

Had my dear friend not been so drunk, on this day, her Birthday, I would have taken her to task. I would have been hurt, like I was hurt when I first started writing this post. But, as I get to the end of this story, it has occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, Owns Her Own Business was feeling as left out as me at her own birthday party. Maybe she wanted to find a place to belong if she couldn’t join the pregnant / fashionable / skinny legged / one year old teething, can-do-it-all gang.

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