It’s party season again. Time for the annual round of how-have-you-beens and the ongoing reassessment of one another’s family lives, waistlines and balding pates. That’s humanity for you. And it’s annoying.

You’d think it would be less daunting for me now that I’m a woman of a certain age. Now that I don’t feel so set-upon by the masses as to my marital status (been there—so no one asks much anymore) and my childbearing ambitions (my child is almost ten so a new baby seems like an afterthought in most people’s eyes), you’d think I could now have some fun. No such luck.

This past weekend’s round of parties proved me incapable of escaping the indiscreet queries and outright sizing ups—even in the throes of my late thirties. It’s not just the realization that waistline will always be an issue, it’s also the recognition that with each new stage in one’s life, fresh topics will surge to the fore when it comes to those pesky questions people will inevitably ask.

This year’s clear winner for topic of nosy inquiry? Private practice ownership:

“Why don’t you own your own practice? Why not? You have so much potential!” “You mean you’re a vet and you have an MBA and yet you don’t have your own place?”

“What’s wrong with you?” they might well have cried.

Thankfully, being “of a certain age” also confers benefits that allow me to send people to hell at will without feeling as if the world might dislike me for my testiness. I’ve reached that point where it’s clear to me that those who ask rude questions deserve nonplussed rejoinders urging they keep their opinions to themselves. I’m way past caring about being thought ill of either for my personal choices or my tart replies.

Yet it’s also obvious to me that if a question touches a nerve, it’s probably worth thinking about—later, when I’m relaxed and out from under the glare of the party lights.

Owning a practice is one of those touchy areas, I guess, especially now that I’ve reached that point in my career when the ratio of income to debt would normally create a pile others refer to as “savings.” I haven’t quite gotten there yet. (I’m a late bloomer, perhaps?)

But there’s yet another issue: I haven’t exactly decided that owning a practice is where all this future money should be headed. “It took me this long to amass a reasonable cushion,” I might say, “so why should I spend it on a ball and chain I’ll have to work until I’m dead or pending the presentation of a willing buyer?”

Call me commitment-phobic. Call me lazy. Call me confused. But after thirty years of knowing exactly what I want to do with my life, this decision truly stumps me. I’ll happily spend thousands of dollars and work ‘till my fingers bleed for this blog but a practice? Not yet.

So if ever you see me (standing in front of the food usually) at one of these parties, please have mercy: Don’t bring up the P-word. This vet is still in denial…or something.