Tag Archives: feminism

What, no “Aunties Day”?!? Hallmark! Por quoi?

Botanics BreakSomeday, I hope Hallmark or some entity of equal authority and importance declares an official Happy Aunties Day. Think of the revenue to be generated, the mushy commercials hawking tchotchkes, the poets plucked from the ranks of the unemployed, all penning tributes to the woman with all the disposable income. She’s been focused on spending it on the progeny of her siblings all these years. Why does no one pander to the PANKs, I wonder? Oh, that’s “Professional Aunt, No Kids” but I can’t take credit for it. I just can’t remember where I read it.

An aunt is not quite a mother, not quite a sister, not quite a friend. An aunt is an aunt. My definition of “aunt” is about refuge and breathing room.

  • If I see you maybe heading the wrong way, I won’t continually harass and try to bend you to my will. I’ll just make my point and then leave you alone. You’ll give my opinion more weight because it was delivered without the dynamics of control.
  • I won’t let you pay for anything; if you pick it up and admire it, I’m buying it for you.
  • When you come to visit me, I’ll do your laundry, twice – once when you arrive with it dirty in your suitcase, and once just before you leave, so you don’t have to do it when you get back to your crazy life.
  • I will let you sleep as much as you want. It’s your vacation.
  • I will cook! I will serve only high nutrition, low-fat food but you will not notice that it’s not junk because it’s delicious.
  • I will set a good example for you by running on the treadmill in your presence, expressing my hard-won, middle-of-the-road values through actions and by never putting up with a selfish man’s bullshit. Also, by demonstrating that life can be fabulous with or without marriage and children. Your life, your choice, nobody else’s.
  • I will hand you the car keys sans safety lecture; if the good Lord and the State of New York both saw fit to grant you a driver’s license, who am I to doubt your abilities behind the wheel?
  • I will encourage you to be better than everyone at what you do best.
  • I will make it clear to you what information I will and will not divulge to your father, BEFORE you tell me.
  • I won’t embarrass you on your Wall unless you flat out deserve it. And you know what you have to do to deserve it. So if you don’t want to be embarrassed, either block me or don’t behave that way in public! Your choice. I still love you. <3

There. Don’t aunts deserve their own official Hallmark occasion?

And don’t you wish I was YOUR aunt? 🙂

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.

In response to the Pope, I declare NEW SINS!

1. Anthropomorphizing God IS A SIN

Do not assign human traits to God. God is not tall, benevolent, bearded, mighty, angry, fat, lean or male. God is God, and is beyond our minuscule comprehension. Therefore we should not assign human traits to God; it probably pisses Her off.

2. Excluding people from God’s table IS A SIN

Any Christian should be able to receive communion in any church. The Catholic Church has no business denying anyone a seat at Jesus’ table, and must immediately retract their posture that communion is only for the Catholics. For Pete’s (literally) sake, Jesus had JEWS (le gasp!) at the very first communion mass!

3. Forcing yourself between me and my God IS A SIN

God and I can hear and understand each other just fine. I don’t need anyone to relay my sins to God for me, and I don’t need anyone to put words into my mouth for God to hear. We’re doing just fine together, just me and God. But thanks for the offer. We’ll be sure to let you know if either one of us ever becomes unable to communicate for ourselves.

4. Deifying humans IS A SIN

Just as assigning human traits to God is a sin, it is also a sin to assign God’s qualities to a mere human, Jesus excepted. NO ONE is “infallible” except for God, so cut that shit out already.

5. Subjugating, devaluing and subsequently alienating fully 50% of the faithful IS A SIN

Bitch, please. It’s the 21st century, and lame excuses like “because Jesus was male” and “because Jesus wasn’t married” just aren’t cutting it any more. Just get over yourselves, start admitting women into the priesthood, and start allowing priests of either gender to marry and pro-create. With each other, even. If you do this, in 10 year’s time you’ll be thanking me for the idea.

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!