published Sunday, January 12th, 2014

Fortune: Being a woman in a houseful of boys


by Mary Fortune

On the way to school this morning, my boys played the car game. Spotting makes and models, spouting information about horsepower and options, keeping tabs on who called the coolest cars. There's a subtle scoring method weighted to rareness and radness. You can spot fewer cars and still win if the cars you spot are better than the other guy's cars.

All I know about cars is that mine's due for an oil change. And I only know that because the little wrench icon on the dashboard is illuminated. (Note to self: Get the oil changed.)

I read an article in The Washington Post recently in which the president lamented his girls' growing absence from his day-to-day life. The first daughters are just a few years older than my boys, who are 9 and 13 but, as I read the article, I wondered if part of what the president is experiencing is the flip side of the undeniable gender realities I'm increasingly up against.

For the most part, women hang out with women. Men hang out with men. And my boys are quickly becoming young men who don't especially want to hang out with a woman. I mean, they conduct their conversations almost entirely between the touchpoints of cars, golf and (apparently hilarious?) bodily functions. All I am is a clueless, occasionally horrified, impediment to spirited discourse.

My husband, our sons and a buddy of theirs recently spent a Saturday in Atlanta touring the Ferrari dealership and making an impromptu stop at the Lamborghini store. I apologetically begged off and spent a blissful day of girl time with a dear friend and then my mother.

My friend and I went running, had lunch and got pedicures. My mom and I shopped together for groceries and made a giant batch of chicken and rice soup, talking all the while about relationships, family dynamics, career trajectories, the books we're reading, the merits of gel manicures.

The boys tumbled back through the door about 10 p.m., full of car stories and carried by a roiling cloud of testosterone and noise.

"I feel kind of bad that I didn't go," I confessed later to my husband. "I hate to miss spending a day with you guys, but ..."

"It's OK, honey," he assured me. "You never would have made it, and we would have had to skip the Lamborghini dealer."

Even the one weedy patch of common ground I share with my younger son is quickly eroding. He's a gifted runner, and we like to lope along companionably, taking in trails together. But he's already too fast for me -- a 7-minute-miler and gaining speed all the time. On our most recent run, he glanced over his shoulder and said, "I'll go kind of slow so we can stay together."

Oh, my sweet, gone baby. Thanks. But I know that's too much to hope for.

Contact Mary Fortune at thirtytensomething.blogspot.com.

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