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In the past three years, I've had two kids, quit my job, and moved into a house. Which I know is wonderful and lucky. I feel enormously blessed. But going to this dinner party might make me cry.

I scrounge up a plum dress I bought when I was three months pregnant with my first son and busting out of all that I owned. I put it on. I feel relieved. I head downstairs to kiss the boys goodbye. Aidan, my younger son, leaps into my arms and brushes his cheek against mine. Then he throws up all over my dress.

I head back up the stairs, angry at myself for failing to get out of this dinner as I have managed to get out of every other we've been invited to in the past year. But the woman inviting us—Nancy, an American I know from the playground who had her third kid when I had my second—was persistent.

I take off my dress and wipe myself with a washcloth, determined not to feel discouraged. But it's hard. I am tired. I miss my job. I put on the blue tent dress, which makes me look like I could sleep four.

Leaving home, alas, doesn't turn out to be half as bad as arriving at Nancy's party. Though our home very much reflects the fact that we have little kids, Nancy's looks more like a spread in a magazine. In the center of the perfect room stands perfect Nancy, looking resplendent in gray pants and a long maroon jacket. I suck in my stomach and walk over to say hello.

Nancy extends before us a platter of flaky triangular pastries. "Try one," she says. "They're stuffed with spinach. I made them myself."

She made them herself?

Nancy starts passing around red ceramic bowls filled with cold cucumber soup. I am in awe. Don't you have to puree for that sort of thing?

It's delicious. Everyone says how delicious it is. Nancy stands up to start clearing bowls. I get up to help her. "Please don't," she says. "Just sit down."

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