Today I got trapped behind a woman with twins at the grocery store who seemed hellbent on telling me all about the apparent lack of two-seater shopping carts at stores in our town. She blocked my cart, then took her sweet time strapping her twins into hers as she blabbed on and on about the galling absence of the elusive two-seater. Her eyes waggled out of their sockets with outrage and disbelief at the magnitude of this horrible injustice. Like the universe somehow always owed her a convenient spot to stick her kids simply because she managed to have two of them at the same time (who, by the way, were totally old enough to walk nicely beside the cart, if you ask me).
My mistake was agreeing that the seat part on the new FreshCo carts is hard to open. But the thing is, that's where I put my purse, not my kids.
I started to explain that I use the area where you'd normally put a child as my handy purse-holder - that would have been my contribution to the conversation - but agreement was all she needed to assume that we had common ground. And she was off.
After the initial vent subsided, I learned how difficult twin wrangling is, and got a verbal map of all the stores in our area with two-seater carts. Which is all such useful information for me, isn't it?
I'm used to this sort of thing. It usually ends up being more amusing to me than anything else now - in that Murphy's Law/ Born Loser sort of way. Unless the person is particularly annoying, in which case I'd probably be irritated even if I had living children.
But there is still a little part of me that squirms under the weight of my history when this sort of thing happens.
Because, of course, in situations like this I'm a fraud. I nod in agreement, as though I know anything about things like putting kids in shopping carts or twin wrangling - or need directions to the stores with the best kind carts for multiple kids. But I nod just the same, and smile sympathetically.
Or, even worse, knowingly.
No one can tell I'm lying. No one can possibly imagine the internal dialogue I'm having at the same time - prepping my answers, absorbing landmines, concentrating on arranging my face into something that I think probably looks normal, relaxed, and appropriate. Acting, acting, acting.
And then I walk away feeling like I've just been sliced out of a picture. Neatly and with surgical precision, I lift right out of the "normal" world around me as soon as someone reminds me that I don't actually belong there - that I will always be different because I have this whole other life that people who worry about the lack of two-seater shopping carts can't begin to fathom even exists.
Of course I have the right to explain that my world looks different; that my purse is in the spot where children are intended to be because all my children happen to be dead. But most of the time this is simply impractical. It's easier to nod and agree than it is to tell my story in the fleeting snippet of time you generally give to strangers at the grocery store. My story isn't quick or easy. And, let's be honest, most people simply don't want to hear that kind of story anyway.
So I just carry on living my double life, being normal until I'm reminded I'm not. And being me until I'm required to play some other, more palatable and socially acceptable role.
Lucky for me I'm not half bad at faking it.