I drove carpool at 3:30, assisted with homework and quickly made zucchini soup for dinner, drove a little one to dance while dinner simmered, slurped my soup, kissed my husband hello and drove off to participate in a radio study. I offer my opinions for money several times a year, but this is the biggest yearly study.
I walk into the Sheraton a bit early and sit down. My focus group members stream in, at least one hundred of them. We are all between 34 and 44. 90% are overweight. As a group we are nondescript, blah, boring. Hair is generally stringy, overgrown, needing a fresh cut. I see highlights grown out 3 inches but more often, no highlights at all. Clothes are generally fashionless but serviceable. Here and there I see baggy sweats. The woman in front of me is wearing Simpson PJ bottoms and a Micky Mouse sweat shirt. The few exceptions are notable in the care put into their appearance. I can tell that this survey is an event "out" for them. Hair is newly curled, best clothes are worn. But I can tell by the crease and the newness that they have just been donned. The group just screams "MOMS"! Not the hip and happinin' young moms mind you, but the "our lives are full to the last drop of car pool, late nights, teen to baby" moms. Moms that desperately needed the $60 we were paid for our thoughts. Moms that snitched the extra mints lying on the tables and snuffed them in their purses.
I am one of them. This is my group. "This is a bit sad." I tell myself. "We are a sad, sad, little group."
I watch for a few more moments. All of a sudden the volume turns up. What has happened? After sitting by another woman for 3-4 minutes, the women could not stand to waste the opportunity. Far beyond feeling self conscious, women of "a certain age" turned to each other and started to talk. From behind, in front, and to the side of me I heard snippets of life tales. Talk of children, ages, returning to Jr. college, husbands, exercise and jobs filled the air. I myself bonded as I discussed handling children approaching puberty with my neighbor, when to buy a first bra and how to make an emergency kit for their first menstruation. Women who didn't know each other poured water for each other and watched each others bags during bathroom breaks. Women not chatting, were busy on their cell phones, checking on all they were responsible for.
The man introducing the study prefaced it by telling us that we were being polled because as a demographic we ruled the consumer world. More dollars and decisions about dollars went through our hands than any other group. Marketers were anxious to get our opinions. I looked around at our unprepossessing group and laughed inside. This meek group of clearly service oriented women rule the world? They obviously didn't think so. One of the first questions asked was from 1-7, how much do you agree with the statement, "I never have enough time for myself." The room erupted in laughter. Plainly the others thought that was as stupid a question as did.
2 1/2 hours later, the survey ended. We streamed out the door, connected, easy going. I heard, "so nice to meet you!" and "Good luck with that!" We all click click clicked to our cars, feet going rather fast as I knew we were all anxious to get back to ruling our world.