We Haven’t Come A Long Way, Baby.
I was pretty surprised when a routine stop through British customs turned into a 15-minute ordeal.
This was not the way I had expected to start my mini-Christmas getaway, a treat to myself while my kids spent the holiday with their dad.
On the rare occasions that I have more than a weekend alone, I try to take a trip, not just because I love to travel but I do find it hard to be alone in my house without my kids.
She started in with the typical line of questioning, like the purpose of my visit and how long I was staying. I wasn’t even taken aback when she asked what I did for a living, even though I had told her my trip was for pleasure, the answer that’s not supposed to raise red flags.
“A writer,” I told her, pointing to where I had written it on the card, assuming she’d stamp my passport and send me on my way.
But that wasn’t the case.
She proceeded to ask me all sorts of probing questions, like what I wrote about. Parenting. And how many kids I have. 4. Along with the ages, and finally, their whereabouts.
“They’re with their dad,” I replied, trying to remain friendly and pleasant, which was growing increasingly difficult for me, especially considering I had spent the earlier part of my flight missing my kids, the latter part trying to get sleep so I could enjoy my short little jaunt, the Christmas gift to myself this year.
But she just kept going.
“So why wouldn’t you want to be with them for Christmas” she continued, at which point I gave her a look and explained, uncomfortably and reluctantly, that I was divorced and this was their year with their dad. I celebrated with them today, I added, hoping she’d stop at some point.
But she didn’t.
“Okay, but why don’t you want to be with them.”
Ummmmm. Did she not hear me? Isn’t it common knowledge that divorced people with kids split holidays?
“I’ll need to see your return ticket” she said, curtly.
I began searching my iPhone for the email confirmation, silently cursing her for forcing me to use my roaming data. I fumbled around through labels and keywords as she sat and stared at me while flipping through my passport, mentioning that I “certainly don’t travel much” until she got tired and told me to just forget it.
As I walked away, I felt flustered and confused, and then, angry, because I’d be willing to bet money that she wouldn’t think it was odd for a man to take a vacation over Christmas without his kids, let alone pester him about why he didn’t want to be with them or wonder if he was abandoning his family.
Maybe one day it won’t be so odd for a mom to go on a vacation without her kids, but until then, I’ll make sure to prepare a thorough explanation, even though what I really want to say is “None of your damn business.”