Don't get the title confused with the book and now movie “Girl on The Train.” This story is a little bit different from that. And maybe, a lot more scary. Because people really do think they can talk to you like this.


Michael and I each held a weathered black leash in hand as we ambled our tired bodies up to the tram stop. We both looked how we felt: defeated. We've been looking at apartments and houses and they either are wrong in their description online, won't allow dogs, or we are too slow to make a decision. The real estate market in Germany is intense, and we are just trying to rent a property.

The crowded tram arrived and we stepped up to get on with the other passengers. Our English Springer Spaniel, Millie, gets pretty nervous on public transportation and immediately yanked the line of her leash, and me attached, under the nearest chair. Hugo, our Doberman, was busy making friends with passengers who fearfully moved away or pet him as he looked them directly in the eye with the seated passengers.

I held onto the railing as Millie made a hideout under a hard blue seat next to a baby carriage. I said “Entschulidigen” (Excuse me) to her when the tram started and I lost my balance a bit, knocking her in the knee. She smiled, and immediately spoke English to me, “Is that your dog?”

“Yes,” I said brightly, loving any excuse to talk about the dogs.

“And that one over there?”

“Yes, both are my mine. And my husband's.”

She looked over, then continued, “Can I pet her?”

“Of course,” I said and looked on, proudly.

“Where are your children?” she asked, without hesitation.

I was a bit startled but answered, “I don't have any.”

“Oh. Why not? How old are you?”

“Excuse me?” was all I could manage.

She laughed, pulling at the zipper on her designer bag, “Are you not going to have kids? Why don't you have any yet? You don't want kids.”

I was so shocked. This was a middle aged, well-dressed woman who I didn't know from Adam asking me, bluntly, why I didn't have kids.

I straightened, then stumbled over my answer, “Umm. No. Actually, we don’t plan to have them. At least not right now. But I guess that could change.”
“How strange. You should have kids. You two are lovely people. Kids are a gift, they are a wonderful gift. It’s really silly not to have them,” she said flatly.
I couldn’t even answer her at that point. I was so shocked that someone would assume things about my life. I have plenty of friends who are struggling to have kids, what if that is what I was going through? Or what if we had tried and it just didn’t work out? Or for medical reasons I couldn’t? Or a myriad of other reasons why.
Growing up going to Catholic schools it was always assumed that I would have kids. I just never really gave much thought to it. When Michael and I dated and even talked about marriage, we always had a kind of understanding with each other. But when the subject was brought up, we both realized that we weren’t sure that was the right choice for us. Not because we dislike kids, it’s just a personal choice.
I turned away from the woman on the tram when I saw an open seat. She smiled at me, as if her words weren’t at all cutting or overly direct.
It still surprises me that in this day and age, people assume that you should make certain life decisions.
No matter what, it should be your decision. And that choice should be met without judgement or a condescending air. This is the 21st century and I think we'd all be better off if we didn't judge the “right” and “wrong” ways to live your life.
What do you think?

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