I got married young and had children immediately. My husband was the breadwinner. I was at home with the kids, running a boarding house for foreigners out of spare upstairs bedrooms. I was so desperate for strangers that I imported them: Koreans, Brazilians, a few Germans. I barely ventured out of the house for years, except to playgrounds with other mothers I knew from the neighborhood. We wore denim overalls and compared teething remedies―inhabitants of a baby-centric world.
Then my husband and I ended up swapping roles. He quit his job to become a stay-at-home dad. I had written a book and suddenly had to occupy the role of a professional out in the world. My book-tour itinerary took me to a dozen cities over the course of two weeks. I was obliged to follow it.
I dressed in the manner of a professional: black boots, a suede skirt, makeup, a bona fide hairstyle. In the Philadelphia airport, a man sitting off the main thoroughfare looked at me. I tried to place him but couldn’t. Another man, sitting nearby, looked at me, too―equally unfamiliar. And then another. Too late, I realized that the men I was looking at were sitting in an airport bar. They were strangers―the creepy, ogling variety―but strangers nonetheless. The entire airport was filled with strangers! Oh, how I’d missed them so!