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When You're the Only Mom at the Party

Photograph by Twenty20

What happens when you attend a dinner party thrown by your boyfriend and his roommate, and you're the only one who has ever been married? And divorced. More than once. How about being the only one with kids and a custody schedule?

Here's what: You feel like you're passing. Passing for being younger, for not having kids, for not being defined by parenthood, for not having gone through marriages, C-sections, divorces, couples therapy, shared bank accounts, in-laws. You feel like a fake. But that's not all you feel.

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My boyfriend (who I refer to in my writing as Manboy X) is almost 10 years younger than me, which means our social worlds can feel very different. The fact that he has a roommate is a tiny clue about how vast the "worlds of time" between us are. There's nothing wrong with roommates, but I'm a mom with two kids and I haven't had a roommate since I was 24. So I can't imagine sharing my home with a dog, let alone another person I'm not married to or the mother of.

Everyone was glammed up. ... I was in my usual Sarah Silverman garb of pony tail, scrubbed face, jeans, scrappy tee and sneakers. I also wore two kids.

His social world here in Los Angeles consists of unmarried, child-free, aspiring 20- and 30-somethings. They're fat on hopes and dreams and have skinny non-mom bods and tattoos everywhere. They live in apartments with multiple roommates, scour flea markets for vintage things and shop IKEA for home decor, and they're still free enough to have a nightlife. Like me in my early 30s, they're not thinking of marriage or kids. Instead they wake up at noon while my motherhood compadres have lived 10 lives by noon.

With at least 15 years on his scene, my crew is married, divorced, single with kids or now on their second family. They have owned and sold homes several times over. They have renovated. They have architects. They own art. They are mid-40s, many pushing and past 50, and most have already peaked highly celebrated, top of their game, lucrative careers.

Except for me. I am a hover-er. I don't really fit in anywhere. While I may swim in the waters with Los Angeleno veterans, I am way more like Manboy X's 30-something peeps. In many ways, I too am just starting out. After a solid 15-year run in show-biz, in my 40s I decided to switch gears, hang up my head shots and change careers. And very much like this younger crew, I don't own a home either. My apartment furnishings swing between Craigslist and IKEA. The only difference between me and them is a few pounds and two kids.

The thing that makes me different, really different, is that I am a parent.

So when Manboy X invited me to his little dinner party, I asked in vain if any parents or kids were coming, knowing the answer was a resounding no. Nevertheless, he wanted me to come and I wanted to show up for him. I decided—fuck it—I'm not letting this parental-age-cultural rift prevent me from hanging out in his world. People are people, humanity connects us, and I'm interested in all people.

At first, I felt a bit awkward and out-of-place. Everyone was glammed up with sparkly make-up, teetering high heels and party dresses. It was Saturday and we had all just returned from bowling. I was in my usual Sarah Silverman garb of pony tail, scrubbed face, jeans, scrappy tee and sneakers. I also wore two kids.

It was amazing to sit at a dinner table without the conversation once veering into a panic about getting home to relieve the sitter or worrying about questions like: Did I apply for a Magnet in time? What are my feelings on red-shirting? Did I do R.I.E. with my kids? My kids were with me during the dinner, playing in the other room and watching TV. But no one asked them what school they went to and if they play soccer or volleyball. One adorable, pink-haired electro-singer asked AJ (5) if he was single.

When my girlfriends and I get together we, as a rule, don't talk about kids. Frankly, it's a bore. Our wine-fueled get-togethers are for us to get down and dirty about us. We want to remember ourselves as people first, parents second. We are not those annoying helicopter moms who talk endlessly about kid crap. Nevertheless it felt liberating to be free of the monotony of parent-centric socializing, to just be around non-parents and get a hint of what the group-think among unmarried, non-parenting culture is.

Here's what I noticed. First of all there didn't seem to be a charged group-think. There was no focused argument or thought, just chit-chat about this and that, as well as some shared recent experiences about what was going on in their lives. I was deeply intrigued by a 30-year-old pot dispensary employee who met his roommate on Instagram and just recovered from a massive accident. Another bouncy singer unloaded her dating woes, and I loved giving her my long-lived relationship advice.

At first I felt different to be the older, solo parent in the bunch. I was almost embarrassed by it.

But there was no urgency to the dinner convo. No heat. At least, not in the way I am used to. With parents, it could be months before we all do a dinner party again. There is always a "Let's get it all in now—life, love, sex, work—go!" type of vibe because time away from kids is so precious. This was missing with my boyfriend's friends, probably because they could see one another whenever they want and stay out later. They have no pressure to "get it all in now!" because they will probably go hit up a bar, catch a show and see a movie together the next night. They are free. They have space. Time is a totally different entity for non-parents. I remember being that age and just having non-stop dinner parties and taking the time with my friends for granted. Now, nine years into parenting, I don't anymore. It's a coveted thing.

Being parents means we are always on the clock, ready to turn back into full-time concierges as soon as the party is over, ready to jump in an Uber if the babysitter calls. There is an urgency when we are together to go deep quickly, to unearth our deeper rumblings now. There is a desperation for immediacy and connection that makes our time together feel sacred. The soul-wrenching conversations between my friends and I are deep, rich and vital. Surface scraping is of no interest to us anymore. We simply don't have the time.

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This thought comforted me. At first I felt different to be the older, solo parent in the bunch. I was almost embarrassed by it. But after, I came into major gratitude for it. I entered the night, anticipating feeling totally miserable afterwards and potentially distant from my boyfriend after experiencing the disparity between our worlds. I know he has to be bored suffering a group of my friends deconstructing pre-schools.

But it had the opposite effect. I was happy to be there by his side, seeing him in his element. I was able to appreciate and honor his world, even though it's strikingly different from mine. And I fell in love with him more, seeing how gracefully he traverses the two.

So even though I felt a bit old, I had lots of fun getting to know everyone. One guest had me scrolling through Google with her as we considered what shade of lavender my hair would look best in, and I'm now semi-well-educated on the various properties in pot. The experience made me feel empowered, enriched and deepened by my parenthood, even though it first felt like the subject of my alienation. And I might even be considering getting a tattoo.

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