‘Have you ever considered having a vasectomy?’ That was a question I fielded last week at a playgroup.
Having initially assumed the woman who asked it was making a not-so-subtle reference to the fact I wouldn’t be Darwin’s first choice when it comes to procreation, it transpired it was actually a valiant (if unorthodox) attempt to engage me in a previously mum-only conversation about contraception. As a side note, it was also the first time I’d heard the phrase ‘get my tubes tied’ – and she didn’t mean me.
Anyway, despite the somewhat personal line of questioning, her effort was both unusual and appreciated. After all, attending any midweek toddler group as a man tends to be a bit like wearing Speedos on the beach. You have every right to be there but people can’t help but silently stare while asking themselves ‘why?’. Anyone who does break the silence tends to just want to know if I’m acting as mum’s emergency cover for the day.
Not that it’s ever really bothered me that much, though. Maybe it’s because I only have one day a week at home with the kids but I can honestly say the reason I take Nathan to playgroups is for us to spend some quality time together. In fact, if it wasn’t for the fact Laura and I have been keen for the boys to learn as much as possible about interacting with other children from an early age, I’d probably just take him to the park.
Consequently, I’ve never really noticed or cared that I don’t seem to have the same level of interaction with fellow parents that my wife does when she has the boys on Mondays and Tuesdays. I just assumed it was because I was, ahem, male.
Yet the vasectomy thing has given me pause for thought. I mean, if someone is willing to arrow in at my groin simply to strike up some small talk, maybe I’m missing the point here. Perhaps this isn’t some deep female conspiracy where the women huddle together to talk exclusively about ‘mum things’ while I end up repeatedly building a brick tower for a queue of their children to knock over.
Maybe it’s actually my fault.
So, from this week I’m going to try a new approach. I’m going to ask stuff. I’m going to stop concerning myself solely with whether Nathan is eating chalk again. I’m going to find out their kids’ names and ages. And I’m going to forget I’m the only adult in the room with a penis.
All of which gives me a few days to think up a similarly empathetic opening question. ‘Are you looking forward to the menopause?’ perhaps…