Category Archives: Relationships

The choice to be childless

Niece No. 2, aka my God-Niece, updated her status on Facebook this morning and has not been back to elaborate. Her status currently declares that she “never wants to be a parent”.

Never is a pretty long time. I’m intrigued, and looking forward to asking her what brought this on when I see her next. She’s coming to spend a week with me “doing nothing” on the beach next month. I’m sure it will be an illuminating conversation!

It started me thinking, though, about all the reasons I’ve had over the years for not wanting to have children. All these years, I’ve given the impression that it does boil down to that simple, declarative statement – I never wanted to be a parent. But in reality, nothing is ever that simple.

Growing up, my dolls were never really my babies – they were my friends. I never clamored to be the mother whenever the kids in my neighborhood played “house”. I just never had the drive toward motherhood when I was little.

I was babysitter of choice in my neighborhood when I became a teenager.  The kids adored me, and I them.  I wrote fabulous tales of adventure and heroism, and put them in starring roles in these epics.  I played the best games, and kept their secrets while still keeping them out of harm’s way.  I was their friend and guide – but NEVER their mother-figure.

In my late teens, I indulged in a little pipe-dreaming with a particular boy (yes, THAT boy) about “some day” and how it would be when we established our home and our family together – right down to “two cats in the yard”.  The scenario included a vague quantity of children, at least two judging from a sketch he drew for me one time.  At this point, though, I feel it fair to point out that for me, it really WAS dreaming; I felt very little real identification with the possibility that it could actually come true.  At 17-18 years of age, I’d already had a number of experiences that taught me the rug would be ripped out from under me as soon as I became comfortable and happy, so I don’t think I ever actually believed that “some day” would manifest into reality.

Later in life, I had what turned out to be an ill-fated marriage, to someone else.  But in the beginning, when I still had every intention of going through life with him, I picked out names; Julie for a girl (Julianna, actually, like the queen of the Netherlands) and Jordan for a boy. This was a nod to the name of the female lead in the musical Carousel. It was my first role after starting to study with Gloria, a radical departure from the roles I’d been playing – I’d learned how to sing like an ingenue.  I thought it was neat that “Julie Jordan” had two first names instead of a first and a last.  Anyway – eventually, I accepted that I was married to the wrong person, and actively sought to prevent the manifestation of children. I believed he would not pull his weight as a parent; he wasn’t pulling his weight as a partner, and I saw no reason to believe a baby would change any of that.  I already felt overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being an adult, having a household to tend to along with a full time job and a budding stage career.  I felt responsible for everything, and I didn’t see the sense in adding to those responsibilities.

I recognized, fortunately, that many men want children for the same reason they’d like a Porsche in the garage.  They love being able to brag about having one, but they want nothing to do with the maintenance.  I further recognized that a woman who is married to this sort of man is in for 18 years (minimum) of indentured servitude, self-sacrifice and subjugation of all her wants, needs and desires, always putting the needs of the children first, never getting an assist.

I grew up in a very restrictive environment.  I didn’t get to make the simplest of decisions for myself; everything was controlled to the nth degree.  I had no say in the clothes I wore, the way I styled my hair, the friends I was allowed to have…. no freedom of choice at all.  I was tired of external sources dictating every little detail of everything for me.  I wanted freedom.  The idea of living under restrictions again was not at all appealing.

I feared that, under virtual single-parent conditions, I would become resentful and miserable. This would leak over onto the children. I’d been on the receiving end of something similar. I knew what it was to really hate being treated that way.

Bottom line: I knew it would break my heart to have any child of mine hurt so badly that they would come to hate me.  I could not bear the thought of it. I’d been trying to prepare myself for a long time to not make the same mistakes my parents did. I started a diary at age 13 or so, for the express purpose of never forgetting what it is like to be a kid. I thought that would help me to be a better parent. Probably, it would have.  Definitely, under the “some day” scenario, with the right partner, it would have worked.  But once I piled the wrong partner on top of my fears that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree… there was no way I was going to introduce children into the scenario.  They would only suffer for it.

So, all these years, many of you reading this have had the understanding that I didn’t WANT children.  That is not necessarily the whole truth.  As is typical for me, I knew far better what I didn’t want.  What I didn’t want was to feel used and trapped.  What I didn’t want was to make children who were destined to suffer and to resent me for it.  What I didn’t want was to gift someone with a Porsche that I would then be forced to maintain solo. 

God is good.  Some women who go through chemo lose their ability to reproduce.  I was 33 when they finally decided that those episodes whereby my head felt like it was spinning into orbit were actually hot flashes, and that meant I was entering menopause.  I was not a candidate for estrogen replacement, because that’s what my tumor ate for a living – estrogen.  Therefore, I believe that God picked the right person to visit with this condition.  It would have been a real tragedy if God had picked a woman who would have been devastated by infertility.  From that perspective, I’m glad God chose me.  And it really kind of settled the question once and for all.  Want or not want, it was moot – “can’t” was now the operative word, and aside from a mild twinge now and then, I’ve really been ok with it, with the finality of it.

All of this led to my ability to focus some individualized attention (not to mention disposable income) in the direction of my nieces.  And now I’m wondering if it also led to an example being set for them of an alternative option.  Even growing up in the 60s and being exposed to media coverage of “women’s liberation”, Gloria Steinem, fish having no need of bicycles, etc., I still had some notion that one grew up and got married and had children because that’s what one did.  I’m sure the extremely conservative way in which I was raised contributed to that; my parents often said that a young woman did not leave her parents house unless it was to move into her husband’s house. 

This hasn’t been true for my nieces, thankfully.  They actually get to leave the house and go away to college – without first having to get married!  Although I would never want to discourage them from having a family if that’s what they wanted, I do hope that my life has somehow served to let them know that a person can be legitimately productive and happy leading an alternative lifestyle, that there is another choice besides wife and mother.  There’s the choice to be childless.  When I ask about the mysterious Facebook status update, I might find that this is the case, or I might find that she was just in a very bad mood.  Either way – it’s satisfying to know that there are children in this world whom I love, that I’ve not made them suffer and they don’t hate me 🙂  So maybe it was the right choice after all.

Is there anybody… OUT THERE?

I’m fascinated by a Beatles song called “I Will”.

Who knows how long I’ve loved you?
You know I love you still.
Will I wait a lonely lifetime?
If you want me to, I will.
For if I ever saw you
I didn’t catch your name
but it never really mattered
I will always feel the same.
Love you forever and forever
Love you with all my heart.
Love you whenever we’re together
Love you when we’re apart.
And when at last I find you
Your song will fill the air
Sing it loud so I can hear you
Make it easy to be near you
And the things you do endear you to me
Oh, you know I will
I will.

The song seems to support the idea that there is someone for everyone, out there, somewhere – and that whether or not you’ve met, you’re already in love and always will be.

How can you love someone you haven’t met yet? How can you be willing to “wait a lonely lifetime” for this one particular person? What about the theory that there are SEVERAL someone’s?

If there are several someone’s, it would seem I’ve squandered all of mine. I sometimes wonder, did I give up on love, or did love give up on me? Was it really MY decision to be done with all that, or did the Universe decide that I’d had my chance(s) and blew it?

Being thrown into a chemo-induced state of early menopause at the ripe old age of 33 might have had something to do with it, too. I felt decidedly unattractive during and after chemo. You never know how much you depend upon your hair to feel attractive until it’s gone. After it grew out and I was feeling better about myself, I noticed that … no one was noticing. Not any more. I used to have some fun turning heads walking down the streets of Manhattan in my Victoria’s Secret power suits with a hemline up to THERE. But after chemo, after it had been confirmed that I was no longer child-bearing material, that all ended.

Did I look all that different? Not really. But it was like they knew – all the guys that used to wink, smile and wolf-whistle, they KNEW, somehow, that I could not process their DNA into little legacy beings for them, and they looked right through me. Maybe it’s pheromones? You know, like the little ant scouts that find food and send a chemical signal, and the next thing you know all their little friends are on your doorstep. Maybe the chemical signal dies with menopause. Or maybe it was more of a psychic signal, a change in my own attitude, that put them off.

It was a bit hard to swallow, and baffling too. But of course, not everyone is interested in procreating, and there were still dates to be had, just not with the wolf-whistlers. After a good run of disappointments, I decided to hang it up once and for all. I was done. All the energy and angst, for what, exactly? Was it better than being on my own? No, I can honestly say, it wasn’t.

So now, every time I hear “I Will”, I have to wonder. Is this person REALLY out there, unknown, but already loved, already loving me? Have I passed him on the street, or maybe bumped carts with him at the supermarket?

Can love REALLY start before you have ever met the person? 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is this, that, and the other thing, and that it abides. It endures, it continues… I guess the assumption here is “forever”, that love is infinite. Which means not only does it abide into the future, but it must also abide into the past, with no alpha or omega. Kind of like God.

If I never meet this person, or if I have met him but did not recognize him – if I must “wait a lonely lifetime”… then how can this love be real to me, and what was/is the purpose of its alleged existence? Or is it all just a crock?

Which brings me to the title of this post, inspired by Pink Floyd this time – is there anybody… OUT THERE?

I’ve got more questions about love than answers. As usual. As always and “forever and forever” 😉 And if anyone has an answer – even a partial answer – I’m listening!

Something to be said for being single

Celebrate The Single Life | Joyful Days.

Neat blog article on the benefits of being single. A couple of things that resonated with me:

women becoming more highly educated and finding it harder to find their equal– Not only is it harder to find their equal, but education leads to better paying jobs, which leads to independence. Women may have needed men at one time to survive, but this is no longer true. Financial independence means that there is no longer a material reason for the trade-offs and compromises that women have traditionally been expected to make in exchange for survival.

making all my own decisions and traveling faster – true and true. It is both incredibly scary and incredibly liberating to realize that there’s no one you have to run that by or with whom you must compromise. This saves time, and everything becomes much more efficient – travel is only one of the many things that can be accomplished in less time when you’re unencumbered by a second party who has a vote.

Why Facebook = suckage

There is someone who friended me on Facebook who is unfortunately associated with a period in my life that was characterized by emotional upheaval and bad decisions that amounted to bad behavior on my part. I have huge regrets about the choices I made back then, which resulted in pain for someone I loved, who loved me. Casual reconnection with this person on Facebook has also served to reconnect me with those emotions. I would have much preferred to keep them in the past.

I’m aware that this would have happened as the result of a high school reunion too, but there’s a major difference. This stuff was MEANT to fade, and if it surges to the forefront again briefly as a result of a class reunion, well that’s a finite event that has a beginning and an end. The end facilitates the fading of these feelings into obscurity once more.

Facebook, however, has become a 24/7/365 reminder that I’m not his forever best girl, that there will be no “some day” for me – he’s been having “some day” with someone else for lo these many years. And regardless of whose doing that was – or perhaps because it was my own damned fault – it still hurts. It hurts as much as it did one night in the summer of 1979 when I realized, too late, what I’d done and what it had cost us both.

Since I’m otherwise enjoying Facebook as a fun and efficient way to keep up with my posse, I am loathe to abandon it simply because this one thing about it sucks. An unfriending might cause drama, which I’d rather not do. Barring those two options, I don’t think there’s anything I can do, any action I can take, to alleviate the situation, to push back the flood of emotions and stuff them back into the dark recesses of memory from whence they came.

Maybe this is one of those things that I just have to let suck until it doesn’t suck any more.

—————-
Listening to: Little Texas – What Might Have Been
via FoxyTunes

A song from long ago

sunshine“Daisy Jane” by America
I believe it used to remind someone of me.

Flying me back to Memphis
Gotta find my Daisy Jane
Well, the summer’s gone
and I hope she’s feeling the same.

Well, I left her just to roam the city
thinking it would ease the pain
I’m a crazy man, and I’m playing my crazy game
game

Does she really love me?
I think she does
Like the stars above me
I know because
When the sky is bright
Everything’s alright

Flying me back to Memphis
Honey, keep the oven warm
All the clouds are clearing
And I think we’re over the storm

Well, I’ve been picking it up around me
Daisy, I think I’m sane
And I’m awful glad
And I guess you’re really to blame
blame

Do you REALLY LOVE me?
I hope you do
like the sars above me
how I love you
When it’s cold at night
everything’s alright

Does she really love me?
I think she does
Like the stars above me
I know because
when the sky is bright
everything’s alright.

a Valentine essay

In response to an exchange between two friends who found themselves at odds with their partners on Valentine’s Day, I offered the following thoughts:

+++++

Mah sistas, you are onto something there. I am convinced that we are not supposed to be living with men, and we do them a great disservice by expecting more from them than they are capable of providing. Instead, we are supposed to be living under the conditions that existed in hunter-gatherer societies. Women lived in multi-generational, co-operative dwellings with their offspring. Some of them went out to hunt and gather (worked outside of the home) while others remained in the dwelling to care for the kids (SAHMs). No one had any guilt about whichever role they chose, and no one felt taken for granted. No hunter/gatherer ever had to come home and start a whole other 8 hour job over again. There were plenty of lactating women around, so no one ever had to exhaust themselves getting up in the middle of the night if they didn’t want to. Each child had a multitude of mothers to care for them, dote upon them and raise them right. In short, it worked just swell.

Occasionally, a cave man would drop by with a side of bison, thwack it on the dwelling floor, pound his chest and declare, “Me Thor! Me bring meat! Me want sex!”.

The cooperative would evaluate the situation and determine whether or not there was interest in Thor’s, um, meat. Their level of approval and interest would make itself evident approximately nine months later.

Other than these occasional and very necessary interruptions, the women held no illusions about the opposite gender, preferring to remain with the sure thing, the thing that worked – themselves and each other, there in the multi-generational, all-women-and-children dwelling.

This arrangement served womankind well for millenia, until the Thors of the world banded together to invent patriarchy, the chief purpose of which was to sell the women a bill of goods about another illusory invention of theirs – romance. See, they had fond memories of their childhoods amongst the women, and wanted to be doted upon and cared for once more, but needed to fabricate just the right lie that would lure the women into believing that humans are a pair-bonding species. (NOTE: biologically speaking – we’re NOT!). For whatever reason, their duplicitous plot worked, and here we are – expecting things of them that were either promised or implied, but which are seldom delivered. I know not why such a conquest was successful, considering how happy we all were in the multi-generational dwelling. Whatever could it have been that altered our thinking thus?

I suspect the use of chocolate was involved.

yeah, so I think you should both ditch your husbands and go live together in a cooperative. If one of them brings you a side of bison on occasion, and the meat is judged to be acceptable… well, I trust you both know what to do!

Gloria, 1927-2006

Originally published in the online guest book memorializing Gloria, who left us too soon on January 15th 2006.

I guess everyone writes when they are ready. And I guess I’m ready now.

As Steven pointed out, this is an impossible task. These are only words, and words can never hope to describe the life-altering influence of one woman on so many people. On me.

Studying with Gloria was an accident. Presented with a list of teachers by the college I was attending, I simply chose the one closest to where I was living at the time. I was 21 years old, and I was nervous. I’d been waiting my whole life to take voice lessons. What if I found out I actually couldn’t sing, after all? And what if she was mean about it?

I arrived a bit early, and Gloria still had a student in the studio. Grandma Rose let me in (that was the first and last time I knocked – thereafter, I just came on in, like everyone else did). I sat on a chair in the kitchen, waiting my turn, feeling sort of like a fraud, when I began to hear some suspicious sounds coming from under the kitchen table. I peeked under the tablecloth, and the nerves went out the window. A box of puppies! I think one of them was probably Pinkerton, and another might have been Miss Liu. At any rate, a woman who kept a whole box of puppies under the kitchen table couldn’t possibly be all that scary.

Up until this day, I’d been laboring under the awful misconception that I wasn’t actually good at or capable of… anything. At all. Won’t go into the reasons for that here, but suffice it to say that early on in life, I’d had a sneaking suspicion that I could sing, but I was actively discouraged from pursuing it, or even thinking that it was true. Well, now I was going to find out whether or not I had been delusional, after all.

As that first lesson progressed, I stood before her, incredulous at what she was pulling out of me. What had been locked inside, denied light and encouragement, came pouring out, easily and unobstructed, to bask in all the warmth and glory of her beaming approval. She validated the existence of my giftedness – validated ME. Not to give in to hyperbole, but in those first 60 minutes, she pretty much saved my life. Really.

Being able to sing well has been the foundation upon which all faith and confidence in myself has been built – things which were crucial to the successes I’ve had both within and outside of the musical world. The bonus was, not only could I sing well, and believe in my own abilities, but I had a friend, too. She cared about me. She listened when I was tormented, she cried when I was sick, she swallowed her own hurt feelings and understood when I was confused, and she supported me when I made decisions that meant I’d be doing a lot less singing. Her support and love were shockingly unconditional. I knew her for all of my adult life, 24 years (we would have had our “25th anniversary” in September 2006). It’s hard to let her go.

And so, I won’t. Every Tuesday afternoon at around 3:45 PM, my Palm Pilot beeps at me. It’s reminding me that it’s time to shut down my computer, get into my car, and drive to Gloria’s house for my lesson. Although she has been gone for months now, I refuse to delete the calendar entry. And whenever it beeps, I smile. As painful as it is to know that I will never “come sing at her” ever again, it still gives me joy to be reminded of her in this way. When I hear the beep, I get that same feeling I had that first day – the dawning of disbelief, surprise, and delight in discovering that I really AM somebody. I am somebody because Gloria believed and showed me that I could believe, too.

How can words possibly compare to that?