On Babies; Part Deux

I would be lax if I neglected to identify and acknowledge the other side of this reproductive coin, and so, I’d like to share a secret:

In a small, brightly lit, yet out-of-the-way corner of my inner self, I quietly nurture the idea of having a daughter.  When no one is looking and I don’t have to worry about appearances, I imagine laying my hands on a fat, round belly (visible only from profile or head-on, mind you, because It will be a perfect pregnancy with no additional fat….) containing a teeny, tiny girl with dark eyes and hair patiently waiting for her grand entrance.

When she does arrive, we are two peas in a pod, and I know, each time she looks up at me in wonderment, that it is my duty to be a better person and to cultivate and nurture that astonishment, against all ravings of my inner cynic.  From the top of her perfect head, I breathe in that flushed, baby scent and am calmed, eager to give away my smiles, easier than ever in the past.  She is me, in microcosm, but with a chance at being effortlessly joyful and unburdened.

For her, I skip and thrill, and leave aside storm clouds and doom.  My hands shake no more in anxiety, for they must be steady to contain her own tiny and reaching paws.  I sing, off-key, tiny little love songs into her sleeping ears, so that, even in dreamland, she knows my hopes and love.

I imagine her, a babe-in-arms and then in front and then in backpack.  I see her in my own mother’s arms, something I share to say: “Look, we made it.”  She sits, with feet swinging behind an ancient Martin as my father teaches her tiny fingers to bang out “G-L-O-R-I-A”, re-animating a musical sense that skipped me entirely.  I see her off to kindergarten, and then to her first dance, and then college, secretly pleased that I look so good “at my age”.

She’s a little pipedream I have, in quiet moments.  When no one is looking.

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On Babies; The First Installment

I have been told, second-hand, that my non-desire to have children means I have no idea what it’s like to have a family.  The Old Man has been attacked for MY decision as if it’s his manhood that comes to bear.  Others have been told that this quirk of my nature is unnatural and that they shouldn’t offer their own babies up to my arms because of it.  Apparently, I’m an aberration of nature.  What have I, the mutation of female, got to say for myself?

Get over it.  Babies do not a woman define.

As I knock on the door of number 32, I find that I am smack in the middle of those hideously-named Child-Rearing Years.  The girls around me are coming down with babies as if drinking in pregnancy from the water and I’m left surrounded by coo-ing mommies as I flounder desperately, compelled to explain clearly why I’ve chosen to let my uterus go unused.  I’m that girl you know.  The odd one, constantly fighting nature and what was “meant” to be.

I never wanted children.  I knew too well the power of my temper.  Knew intimately the genes from whence I came.  The neuroses by which I was reared.  My aversion took root there, determined to break a cycle of emotional abuse.  It grew as I realized I never wanted to ruin my body; that the misery I’d heap upon myself would surely overflow, a deluge that would certainly transform a tiny, giggling mass into a mute and hollow-eyed ghost afraid to tip the scales of my moods.

The reasons grew with the years and became part of my identity.  The idea of mountains of primary-colored toys and the death of social, adult interaction repulsed me.  In my mid-twenties, as girlfriends began sharing “The News”, I remember staring aghast as if we were all still 16 and they were throwing their lives away.  Other people’s children irritated me and I wondered if they were looking at the same child as I was when they pronounced him “so well-behaved.”  Had they lost hearing, becoming immune to the fact that the little imp had been interrupting the conversation ad nauseam for the past 45 minutes?

And so I shout, plain and loud, over the din of braindead coo-ing:  I do not want to know the sex of your soon-to-be-baby, nor do I wish to see 78 pictures of The-Cutest-Face-Ever! that he made whilst eating strained peaches.  Further, I am wondering what percentage of your Facebook friends actually care that she is .2579 percentile points ahead of all other babies EVER in terms of development.  You are not the first to get pregnant, it’s actually a pretty common occurrence.  Just because it happened to YOU does not make you (or your child, for that matter) special.

What amazes me far more than this “miracle” that mommies are continually spouting off about, is that they’ve forgotten that they had an identity prior to shooting that alien-faced, skin-wrapped, bag of warm Jello out of their vaginas.  So fond are they of vomiting out story after story about their child’s daily shit, they’ve lost all ability to carry on an adult conversation.

I’m tired of being judged by those on the Mommy Track as inferior or flawed for my decision to maintain control of my uterus.  I’m sick of the sidelong glances and the outright disrespect, the fake smiles followed up by gossip-y whispers.  I don’t need to breed a baseball team in order to craft an identity.  My refusal to play host to parasitic embryos does not indicate that I don’t know what FAMILY is.

It would seem that my 30s have landed me smack back in a world eerily similar to junior high, where babies are the cool thing instead of HyperColor T-Shirts, and if you don’t have one, your inferiority is held aloft for all the world to see.  For a split adult second, I saw my thirteen year old self in the mirror cringing while she silently prayed: “not again….please not again.”

But I woke up, and saw shocks of grey in my hair, and realized that I am a grown-ass woman.  I am not defined by the fruit of my loins, but by my actions and the way I love.  There is no law dictating reproduction as the ultimate in female fulfillment, no standard of womanhood to which I fall short.  Those distended bellies are not badges of honor, the carseats not signifiers of femininity perfected.  They are merely paths divergent of my own.

So I raise my wineglass to myself.

Because I can.

Closer to Fine

Recently, Elizabeth writing at Letters From A Small State issued a challenge to make a list of 50 things that make me feel normal.  As I sit here on my couch under a pile of blankets, shivering and wondering how SKIN CAN HURT, I feel decidedly abnormal, and figure that now would be a great time to compile my own list.  Like Elizabeth’s, mine aren’t in any particular order.  Further, I can’t really say that I ever feel ‘normal’.  Mine is a sliding scale.  So, without further ado, I commence with the listing.

1.  The Beach.  This one is in a particular order.  It’s at the top of my list.  It will always be at the top of my list.  At the beach, my soul settles back into my body and my mind is quiet.  I know no pure joys until my toes sink into warm sand.  At the beach, I imagine that I experience life like the rest of the world on a normal day.

2.  Exercise.  At the end of a hard workout, I feel accomplished and strong and healthy.  Most of the few moments where I feel good about my body happen after a workout.  It feels especially good lately since I’ve quit smoking.

3.  Books.  I might give up sex if it came down to intercourse or reading.  Well, really, there’s no might about it.  I would.

4.  Music.  My life is kind of defined by music.  Whether I’m sitting at Caffe Lena on a Thursday listening to my Dad and his friends play or on a marathon night of dancing at a club absorbing Paul Van Dyk or Armin Van Buren, I am moved by music.  Folk, Blues, anything acoustic, Pop, Punk, Classical, Rock, Jazz…I really really love it all.  My life has a schizophrenic soundtrack.

5.  Travel.  Road trips.  Adventures.  I am enthralled by the NEW.  The unseen.  I collect experiences.

6.  Correspondence.  The handwritten kind.  Nothing feels so special as HAVING MAIL.  When someone was thinking about you.  It’s warming.

7.  My dog.  There are times when I love her above anything and anyone else in the world.  She doesn’t talk back.  And she’s never as happy as she is when I walk into a room.  It’s unconditional.

8.  Down or down alternative blankets.  Queen size.  White.  Puffy.  Soft.

9.  Loose leaf Earl Grey with Bergamot.

10.  Cannoli from San Remo.

11.  Laughter.  The doubled over, can’t breathe, Yes-I-Just-Snotted-On-My-Sweater, uncontrolled laughter.

12.  Antique stores.

13.  Flip flops, sundresses and oversized sunglasses.

14.  A tan.  The sun on my shoulders.

15.  Wakeless, straight through, Best-Dreams-Ever, perfect temperature, windows open with no street noise just nature, SLEEP.

16.  Tattoos.

17.  Making snow angels while slightly ennebriated.

18.  The fall in upstate NY.  Minus the tourist leaf-peepers.

19.  The end of a hike.

20.  Safety Meetings.

21.  Window-rattling, daylight-out-of-night, torrential-sheets-of-rain Thunderstorms.

22.  The moment in the winter, at a friend’s camp, when you’ve arrived about 2 hours earlier and the woodstove is cranking out the heat, when all the snow on the slanted tin roof melts JUST ENOUGH and it goes sliding off to the ground.

23.  Sailing.  With someone else shouting out orders.

24.  Friends.  The ones who’ve seen me at my worst, but love me anyway.

25.  Photo albums.

26.  The J Crew Holiday catalogue.

27.  A good poo.

28.  Windchimes.

29.  Cooking for large groups of people.  Saying “nope” when asked if I need any help.  Watching as everyone serves themselves.  Finally getting a plate of my own.  Not feeling bad about making everyone else clean up.

30.  My family.  Twisted, odd, off-kilter, functionally dysfunctional, delightfully deranged….

31.  Roller coasters.

32.  Shopping.  For bargains.  At off price stores like Marshall’s or the Rack.  Or flea markets.  Or rummage sales.  The prospect of finding a little treasure amidst the junk.

33.  A Starbuck’s grande coffee frappucino light with no whip and a caramel drizzle on the inside of the cup on Friday.

34.  Sephora

35.  Olive Green.

36.  Vodka sodas with lime twists.  And whiskey.  And a good Pale Ale.  And Malbec.

37.  Sweaters.

38.  Tiny, chewy, cinnamon candies.

39.  Crossword puzzles.

40.  The stained glass in old old old churches where the light filters through and illuminates the dust motes in shafts over ancient, oiled pews.

41.  Wildflowers.

42.  The Olympics.

43.  A beautifully wrapped gift.

44.  The smell of blooming lilac trees on dewy, early spring mornings.

45.  My mother’s scalloped potatoes and ham.

46.  When my cat decides that it’s “exercise time”.

47.  Antique jewelry, especially cocktail rings.

48.  Other people’s problems.

49.  Open air markets.

50.  One to grow on.