So I’m a single woman rapidly approaching thirty. Let’s talk babies. Why not? That’s what everyone else does. All the bloody time.
For me it started at around the time of my 25th birthday. My mother suddenly started the when are you going to find a nice man and settle down conversation. After all you don’t have forever darling… Now it seems I’m reminded about my rapidly decreasing clock life several times everyday.
I’m twenty eight. This is not a disaster. Still plenty of time to get shackled to nappies and baby wipes. However, twenty eight and never been involved in a serious relationship is another thing altogether. If I met a man tomorrow it would take a good few years of working out whether or not we could make a go at the whole marriage thing (for those old fashioned ones amongst us all) and then a couple of years of just enjoying that which would mean I might be just about primed for pregnancy at around 34…ish. And that’s if I meet the man of my dreams in the very immediate future, which banking on my last twenty eight years of loveless failure I’m not counting any pre hatched chickens on.
So this explains the concerned look begind the parentages and already coupled up or sprogged up friends when they tentaviely bring up the subject of when do I want kids. And this is all assuming that I actually want to have kids in the first place. The question, from those that ask at least, is nearly always when as apposed to do.
The reality is, dear fellow friends from the blogosphere, I’m really not sure that I do.
I’m yet to experience that legendary whoosh of maternal longing, yet to hold a baby and go gooey eyed and teary. Sure I do what I’m supposed to and coo and aaaah and say, gosh doesn’t she look like you, whilst frantically thinking – she smells of your stale milk and poo and she’s getting all red faced and itchy which either means she’s having an almighty shit or she’s getting ready to rain down the mother of all tantrums… In either case please remove her from me now please.
Yet despite all this uncertainty I still experience that frantic impatience of a woman who needs to get a man quick just incase she changes her mind one day and decides that maybe she does want a family after all.
Is it because deep down, hidden beneath all the faint gross-outs and commitment phobia – I secretly nature some fervent desire to further advance the worlds overcrowding programme? Or is it because I have been so effectively programmed by societal expectations that, despite all my best efforts to resist, I’m coaxed into the mass hallucination that no relationship and no family equals failure.
I mean it’s everywhere isn’t it. ‘Love’ makes you happy, families make you happy. Its normal to want both things. to shun either is a slight against everyone who have spent their lives investing so heavily in those extended conceits. Everyone worries about you if you’re not in a relationship and, once you pass a certain age as a woman, if you don’t have children. And couples who have each other but don’t have children? Either there’s sympathy muttered behind doors through the assumption that they can’t conceive, or they’re branded selfish for preferring their lifestyle as tis without bearing the inevitable life clutter of a child. Sure, because having a resource guzzling western child in order to satisfy some societal endorsed longing to create a little version of yourself is a totally selfless act.
So here’s a question for you –
You read a story about an eighty year old woman whose decomposed body was found in her apartment. She’d been there for a week. She never married or had children. The proceeds of her estate will be distributed to various charities of her choosing including, lets embrace the stereotype, a large chunk to the local cats home…
What do you feel. Do you assume that this woman’s life was lonely and tragic. I know I do. And this very definite judgement of a fellow human being, who’s life and triumphs and sadnesses and joys are entirely based on the fact that we read the above and think – she died alone with no one loving her.
I feel angry with myself for leading to such conclusions, how dare I pity the brief story of someone I know nothing about. I forgive myself because I realise its society’s expectations speaking through me. I work against it.
I create a different possible story. This woman had a long and fulfilling life. She travelled the world and worked in many different jobs. She saw so many things that not a strand of DNA in her body would allow herself to shackle herself down to a husband and a family. She had dozens of fabulous lovers who taught her endless lessons about life and culture and pain and love. In her later years she was surrounded by friends, young and old. She never lost her appetite for life and new experiences until the day death knocked on her door and invited her to undertake a whole new adventure.
Well. Why not.
Still, despite these other stories – I still don’t want to be the woman who leaves the remnants of her life t be auctioned off to raise money for the local cats home. Society always has the last laugh. It’s too big a beast to escape entirely.
Oh , and happy Valentines day.