While I'm away, readers give the advice.
On dealing with boorish public behavior:
Life is so much more pleasant when I assume the best of everyone. I rarely take offense; rather I assume the person just had an awkward moment but meant well. When someone is dishing dirt, I try to refrain from shoveling it back. And if the others go along with the dirt, then they aren't people I care to associate with anyway. I get lots of practice because I am a high school teacher.
When my 32-year-old son, who happens to have Down syndrome, was 18 months old, he was with me at a Christmas party. As he sat on the floor with some other children, a guest walked up, looked at him, looked at me, and said, "Didn't you have prenatal testing?" For 30 years, I have regretted being so completely stunned that I couldn't say a word. Sometimes you really do have to respond.
On not having kids and remaining friends with people who do:
I have stayed close to my three college roommates. I lived farthest away and never married or had kids. I love visiting my friends, and they love coming to visit me. I've seen them through kids and divorces and now one expecting a grandchild.
We were also lucky in that two of the three husbands understood how much we valued our time together and would otherwise engage the kids so the merlot could be poured.
I'm still touched by the memory of one friend who called me after Baby 3 was born. She was still in the hospital feeling miserable and said, "I just want to hear your voice." Could I relate to her nursing issues? No. Could I relate to just needing someone to talk to? Yes.