Many thanks to my family and friends for their love and support over the past year. I am especially grateful to Mary Ann Elgin, Sarah Giffin, and Nancy LeCroy Mohler, who, as always, were there from the very beginning of this story with their invaluable input. I couldn't ask for a better mother, sister, and friend.
Abiding appreciation to my exceptional editor, Jennifer Enderlin, and to everyone at St. Martin's Press, including Kim Cardascia, Sally Richardson, Matthew Shear, George Witte, Jeff Capshew, Andy Lecount, Tom Suno, Gina Wynn, Brian Heller, Christine Jaeger, Jeff Cope, Jeff Willmann, Rob Renzler, Matt Baldacci, Carrie Hamilton- Jones, Nancy Trypuc, Anne Marie Tallberg, Josh Zacharias, John Murphy, Dori Weintraub, Tommy Semosh, Jenn Taber, Christina Ripo, Harriet Seltzer, Christina Harcar, Kerry Nordling, Mike Storrings, Elizabeth Catalano, Kelly Too, and Nicole Liebowitz. Thanks also to Kari Atwell and the good people at H. B. Fenn.
Special thanks to Lisa Reed, Julie Portera, Allyson Wenig Jacoutot, Jennifer New, Eric Kiefer, Brian Spainhour, Selina Cicogna, and Stephen Lee for their friendship and generous contributions to this manuscript. I owe so much to Stephany Evans, a fine agent and an even finer friend. And I am so lucky to have Carrie Minton, the best assistant anywhere.
A warm thank-you to all the gracious book clubs and bookstores I visited, and to readers everywhere who came to my signings or took the time to send me such kind and inspiring e-mails.
And finally, I thank my husband, Buddy Blaha, and our sons, Edward and George, for giving all of this meaning.
I never wanted to be a mother.
Even when I was a little girl, playing dolls with my two sisters, I assumed the role of the good Aunt Claudia. I would bathe and diaper and cradle their plastic babies and then be on my way, on to more exciting pursuits in the backyard or basement. Grownups called my position on motherhood 'cute'-flashing me that same knowing smile they give little boys who insist that all girls have cooties. To them, I was just a spunky tomboy who would someday fall in love and fall in line.
Those grown-ups turned out to be partially right. I
'None?' Charlie looked startled, as if I had just confessed to him a terrible, dark secret. 'Why not?'
I had a lot of reasons, which I laid out that night, but none that satisfied him. Charlie wasn't alone. Of the many boyfriends who followed him, none seemed to understand or accept my feelings. And although my relationships ended for a variety of reasons, I always had the sense that babies were a factor. Still, I truly believed that I would someday find my guy, that one person who would love me as is, without condition, without the promise of children. I was willing to wait for him.
But around the time I turned thirty, I came to terms with the fact that I might wind up alone. That I might never have that gut feeling when you know you've found
Then I met Ben. Beautiful, kind, funny Ben who seemed way too good to be true, especially after I learned that he actually
Ben and I watched him, smiling in the way people often smile at children and puppies, when I blurted out, 'If you have to have kids, that's certainly the kind to have.'
Ben leaned across the table and whispered, 'You mean one with a bowl cut and a hip wardrobe?'
'No. The kind that you can take to Nobu on a school night,' I said matter-of-factly. 'I'm not interested in eating chicken fingers at T.G.I. Friday's. Ever.'
Ben cleared his throat and smirked. 'So you don't want to live in the suburbs and eat at Friday's or you don't want kids?' he asked, as I noticed his slight, sexy underbite.
'Neither. Both. All of the above,' I said. Then, just in case I hadn't been clear enough, I added for good measure, 'I don't want to eat at Friday's, I don't want to live in the suburbs,
It was a lot to put out there so soon, particularly at our age. Ben and I were both thirty-one-old enough to place the issue of kids firmly on most men's list of taboo topics for first dates. Taboo assuming you
On the flip side, I knew I could be automatically disqualified for long-term consideration as I had with so many guys in my recent past. After all, most people-women
But in the messy world of dating, I had grown to favor candor at the expense of positioning and posturing. It was a nice advantage of not wanting kids. I wasn't up against that infamous clock. Nor was I about checking the boxes on a blueprint of life. As a result, I could afford total honesty. Full disclosure even on first dates.
So after I floated the kid issue out there with Ben, I held my breath, fearing that familiar, critical look. But Ben was all smiles as he exclaimed, 'Neither do I!' in that jubilant and marveling tone people adopt when they've just stumbled upon a staggering coincidence. Like the time I ran into my third-grade teacher at a pub in London. Maybe the chances of being on a first date and discovering that neither party wants children aren't quite as slim as sitting on a barstool on the other side of the ocean, sipping a pint, and glancing up to see a teacher you haven't run across in two decades. But it's certainly not every day that you can find someone who wants to have a monogamous, meaningful relationship but also opt out of the seemingly automatic choice to experience the magical world of parenthood. Ben's expression seemed to register an understanding of all of this.
'Have you ever noticed how couples discuss the merits of having children early versus late?' he asked me earnestly.
I nodded as I tried to pinpoint his eye color-a pleasant combination of pale green and gray outlined with a dark ring. He was handsome, but beyond his fine nose, thick hair, and broad, muscular build was that incandescent intangible my best friend, Jess, calls the 'sparkle factor.' His face was alive and bright. He was the kind of man you