Barbarella
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I must decline your invitation owing to a subsequent engagement. — Oscar Wilde

I kept my eyes on the road while David called out numbers. “We’re looking for 976, so it’s probably going to be on the right,” I said.

“Nine-sixty… Slow down, it’s coming up,” David said. I tapped the brake and glanced at the row of houses.

“Please, please tell me it’s not that one,” I said as we rolled past a home that had children pouring out of an open door.

“Nine-seventy-six,” David said, prompting us both to sigh heavily.

I kept driving. “Are you kidding me? How can that be? I thought this was supposed to be a party, not some friggin’ kid-fest. Oh, my God, and they’re screaming — I can hear them with the windows up!”

“Kids. Why did it have to be kids?” David said smiling, doing his best Indiana Jones impersonation. “Okay, calm down. Let’s just park the car and check it out.”

“Isn’t it worse if we go in and then leave? No, wait, we have to at least go in; I told her we were coming. Shit.” I took a deep breath and pulled my Mini to the curb.

I walked toward the house as if to the dentist — head down, nerves wrought, expecting the worst. It was nearly 8 p.m. Felicia had advertised that her party would last until the wee hours of the morning. Maybe it was a two-parter: offspring on the early side, night owls after midnight. But that hadn’t been communicated in advance, and the soiree had already been going on for a few hours.

“So, what now?” David asked. We stood on the sidewalk outside the house, observing the swarm of coughing, screeching creatures infesting the driveway.

“Well, I’m not going to walk through that gauntlet of noise and germs to get in there,” I said. “Just let me think.” I dug around in my purse and found my phone. “I should text Marissa, she was going to meet us here. We’re going to need a back-up plan.” I sent the message, “Ugh…f-ing kids running around outside. We’re afraid to go in.”

“This is weird,” David said. “Let’s go stand at the corner.” I received my friend’s response as we reached the end of the block: “R u serious — there r kids?? O wow — I’m dressed up too — wt?” I held the phone up so David could read it. When he was finished, he said, “Well? What do you want to do?”

“We missed her last two parties, and we said we were stopping in. We can’t just not show,” I said. “It should be pretty casual — her invitation said brief pop-ins were cool. We’ll just have to brave the itty-bitty welcoming committee, scope it out, and go from there. In the meantime, I’m texting Marissa to stay where she is and wait for an update.”

I held my hand over my mouth (one kid had some kind of whooping cough) and marched toward the door, the knob onto which a child was hanging. “They’re in the back,” said child politely informed, making me doubt, for just a moment, my aversion to their presence. But all doubt was dropped as soon as I crossed the threshold and the shouting began anew, following me into the house like ravens pecking at the back of my head.

Once in the backyard, I scanned the assemblage of strange faces until I found Felicia. A series of conflicts had made it impossible for us to hang out over the past few months, and I’d been hoping her party would be our chance to catch up. Felicia was generous in taking several minutes from all of her other guests to try and offer me a drink.

As with most holiday parties, eggnog was the featured beverage. I hate eggnog. As with most holiday-party hosts, Felicia tried to convert me. “So many people who don’t usually like eggnog like this eggnog,” she said.

I believed her — that for what it was, her eggnog had to be good; not only because she’s a diehard foodie, but also because in the five minutes we’d been there, David was already on his second cup of the stuff. Still, I would not be swayed.

After more polite eggnog refusals, I said, “Does it have eggs in it?” Felicia nodded. “Does it have milk?” Another nod. “Then I’m sorry, I will gag if I drink it.” Realizing the futility of pressing on, my host offered me beer from a cooler or a cocktail from the kitchen. “Thank you so much, maybe in a bit,” I said.

Felicia went off to talk to other guests and I turned to David just as Whooping Cough chased Doorknob Hanger into the backyard. “I can’t stay here,” I said. David nodded in agreement. Just then I received a text from Marissa, who’d been awaiting instructions: “Is there going to b hookers n blo there? Can u find out. Thanks.” I answered, “Don’t think so.” Marissa’s response was lightning-fast: “When r u bailing?”

“Okay, here’s the deal,” I said to David. “We’re going to absquatulate. I’ll go first, you follow — no goodbyes. That would be too obvious because we just said hello.” David downed his cup of eggnog as I continued. “We don’t know anyone here, so no one’s really going to notice us leaving.” I was hungry, but now that I’d made up my mind, I couldn’t eat and run, no matter how tasty Felicia’s spanakopita looked.

I texted Marissa as I walked: “Sneaking out. Grabbing Thai, bringing party back to our place.” She wrote back, “Oh-ok. Whatcha wanna do. I have a nice Mumm Champers bottle…and a pinot too.” Seeing this, I knew I’d made the right decision in leaving an eggnog party filled with people I didn’t know to chill at my place with a few friends and some choice fermented grape.

I dropped my gaze to the floor and beelined for the door, David close behind. In the living room, I threaded my way through wires connecting the television to video-game controls. The kids didn’t seem to notice the blur that momentarily blocked their view.

“Oh, my God, I feel horrible. I’ve never done that,” I said, once we were back outside and hustling toward the car. “It feels so wrong, so rude, but there’s no way I could have stayed there. It was nice of her to think of us, but if the invitation had said there’d be kids, I would have suggested we catch up another time.”

“It’s so nice and quiet out here,” David said. “But now we have an important decision to make.” I gave him my attention. “Drunken noodles or green curry?” ■

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Comments

MsGrant Dec. 16, 2010 @ 9:35 a.m.

One odd thing I have noticed over the last decade - NO ONE gets babysitters anymore. When did it become acceptable to have an adult party at night and bring your children? I know for a fact that people will not come to your party if you do not allow their children and some take down-right offense if you indicate "no children, please". As the years go by, and we child-free get outnumbered as our friends defect, it is just something I have learned to take in stride. Many of my friends are divorced now, and have joint custody. And they want to hang out again - kid-free.

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Altius Dec. 17, 2010 @ 10:59 a.m.

How nice, Ms. Grant, that your friends have permanently damaged their kids' lives via divorce and can now party without them. That's just great.

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MsGrant Dec. 17, 2010 @ 3:35 p.m.

One friend's husband was discovered to be having affairs - with men, after twenty years together. He then blamed her, telling her she made him do it because she was too invested in the children - hardly a bad mother. Another's husband was verbally brutal to her and also stuck in the same mentality you seem to embrace, Altius. That women should just suck it up and allow abuse and infidelity for the sake of the children. I suppose that my use of the word "many" was unfortunate, because I have four GOOD friends who are divorced and have children. In each case, the husband was horrible. That there were children involved caused each of them indescribable agony, but why don't you tell me what a better option would be? That they take full custody and live a life of hardship or that their ex-husbands step up to the plate and assume their roles as FATHERS? This is not the seventies, Altius. I suggest you get with the times.

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happymom Dec. 23, 2010 @ 6:02 p.m.

women need to take time to really get to know men so they can find out that they are cheaters or brutes before they let them impregnate them or make the choice (wisely) like barb to not have kids at all. it is so sad when certain women have kids with men they end up hating. and resenting the kids who end up looking just like daddy and are a daily reminder in the face.

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MsGrant Dec. 24, 2010 @ 1:48 p.m.

My friends are not "certain women". They have college degrees, did not get married until they were in their early thirties, and the one whose husband blamed her for him being gay had been with her husband for ten years before they got married, and did not have children for five more years. None of them hates their kids. Quite the opposite. Marriages can and do go sour and people change. Every one of my divorced friends say the best thing that came out of their marriage was their children.

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JohnnyJ Dec. 25, 2010 @ 12:12 a.m.

DUMB PEOPLE MAKE DUMB DECISIONS ABOUT MARRIAGE. YOUR FRIENDS OBVIOUSLY DID MSGRANT. BLAME THE MEN ALL YOU WANT. THEY ARE AT FAULT, TOO. NOW THEIR KIDS SUFFER.

I AGREE ABOUT THE BABYSITTER. YOU ARE RIGHT ABOUT THAT. NOW HOW SOON WILL IT BE UNTIL THOSE FRIENDS OF YOURS MARRY A SECOND GUY AND ARE SURPRISED BY THOSE MEN BEING IDIOTS ALSO?

CAN WE NOW GO A MONTH WITHOUT BARB DOING THE ANNOYING KIDS COLUMN?

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happymom Dec. 28, 2010 @ 8 p.m.

sorry I wasn't writing about your friends as "certain women" just women in general who end up marrying the wrong guy. too bad and it is a good thing their kids are the best thing that happened because unfortunately that is often not the case and I never said anything about "hating" the kids.

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Sportsbook Dec. 28, 2010 @ 9:56 p.m.

More child hating from a bitter "foodie" who probably weighs too much to get pg.

Sheesh, trust me, we'll be reading all about barbs trys at IVF when at 40 she realizes a life of partying and eating and kvetching is a sad sad life.

As for the women who divorced their hubbys. lots of women are screwing around as well. ALL of these people brought kids into the world & then decide they wanna party. How fricking sad. Kids aren't annoying parasites like the Childfree try to get all of us to believe.....These same folks are the wackos walking around with their puppys in strollers.

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TheJeep Dec. 29, 2010 @ 9:18 a.m.

Barb-

I've waited to write this particular post for at least a couple of years.

I know the column is called "Diary of a Diva" And after god-knows how many columns on the subject, I get it that you are not a big fan of kids, and apparently their parents. Or at least how they parent.

A few words of advice. Move on.

You have a rare franchise in San Diego. You are a woman, and you have a regular weekly column in the major weekly publication in the entire city. In fact I think there is only one other female columnist in the entire city (not counting blogs).

The Diva thing was somewhat entertaining for a while, but Barb, there's a recession on, and a lot of people are broke, through no or little fault of their own. The Reader is a free publication. I'm sure a lot of people who are reading it really don't care about your narrow-minded attitudes about children. You are entitled to your opinion, but it is not a pleasant opinion, and it alienates a lot of people

It's gotten to the point where I don't care what party you went to, or where you ate, or what you did with your friends, or how much you feel that other people's children inconvenience you. If I see that one of those topics is the subject of the column, I quit reading, because I've read it before.

I'm much more interested in the opinions and insights of someone who is (I'm assuming )an educated woman about living and working in San Diego in 2010. Do you like living in San Diego? Do you think the city is on the right track? Is the media doing a good job reporting on city issues. You are in a position to comment on those things, but you don't.

Please don't continue to squander the opportunity you have been presented. It is a rare chance to actually say something of substance in a publication that many people actually read.

But column after column of "I can't stand kids, and neither can my husband" just won't cut it anymore.

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Evelyn Dec. 29, 2010 @ 10:40 a.m.

Personally, I'm surprised Barbarella hasn't responded to any of the comments. There usually is some response from her.

And, to continue the children discussion to further boredom, I think Barbarella's had 2 articles about children because children are on her mind more than usual--and not because she's surrounded by them--but, perhaps, because, she's considering what life with children would be like?

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Barbarella Fokos Dec. 29, 2010 @ 11:32 a.m.

I'm sure if you all read carefully, you'll see these aren't "child-hating stories." The last one was about my sister and her over-planning skills, and this one was about a misunderstanding, a party that was expected to be one way, but comically turned out to be another. Just as it would not be appropriate to take children to a bar, I don't think it's appropriate to have them at an "adult" party. @TheJeep, this is a slice-of-life entertainment column. The Reader has other writers who cover the topics you mention.

I understand there are many who enjoy having kids and get a great deal of satisfaction from raising children. I'm not trying to suggest the child-free way is superior, I'm just saying it's MY preference. I wish that happy parents could likewise understand that it's possible for the child-free to also be happy and fulfilled.

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Barbarella Fokos Dec. 29, 2010 @ 11:37 a.m.

p.s. The next column (out today) has nothing to do with children. Apparently, two in a row was way overwhelming for people. If you look back over the past few months, you'll see the variety of things I've written about, from attending the Rally to Restore Sanity, to basking in the glory of an awesome 90-year-old, traveling the bay of San Diego with my father, going to the San Diego Zoo, going sailing in Mission Bay. You can't please everyone, but really, I think I'm covering a wide variety of interests, just from one local woman's point of view.

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Grandpuba Dec. 29, 2010 @ 12:07 p.m.

Barb, It's amazing how one person's comment quickly spiralled out of control and ended up with you doing a poor job on your column. People with kids always take offense to couples who refuse to have kids or enjoy having a good time without kids around. I love your column and it's the only reason why I pick up the reader. Every week I sit at Luigis in Golden Hill, eat two slices and read your column. Then if the layout team managed to catch my attention with the front cover I may read on. Keep up the great work.

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trapin Dec. 29, 2010 @ 12:44 p.m.

Sweet Jesus there are some real geniuses out there. I know Barb personally and she does not hate kids. She is a journalist and is pointing out the many intricacies of life. Those leaving negative comments bad as the very people they claim to be against. That's you, Sportsbook and TheJeep. Now go ahead and spew your hateful comments. Lets see if you have me "figured out." We can then compare notes. If you dont like her column, stop reading it.

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trapin Dec. 29, 2010 @ 12:47 p.m.

Oh yeah, for those who wish to judge others who divorce, I recommend "The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce: A 25 Year Landmark Study" by Judith S. Wallerstein, Julia M. Lewis, and Sandra Blakeslee (Paperback - Sep 19, 2001). Very interesting research with quite surprising results.

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TheJeep Dec. 29, 2010 @ 2:48 p.m.

Actually Trapin, I have taken your advice and I have stopped reading her column.

In the words of Gertrude Stein (now THERE was a woman who could write):

"There is no there there."

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