While I was getting my face waxed today (I’m Sicilian and hairy) I got wished a Happy Mother’s Day, and I kind of wish it hadn’t happened.
Unlike many friends who are also grimacing their way through the the holiday, my mother is alive, we are not estranged, and I am not struggling with infertility or child loss.
But I am 43, childless, and deeply ambivalent about it. Ambivalence implies a lack of strong emotions, and to some extent that’s true. I mean, here I am, no kids, had other stuff to do. But lately my ambivalence looks like a constant yo-yo’ing between gasping relief at my freedom and locking myself in the bathroom at work to sob, because Erin and I have just written several novels with pregnancies and children in them and it’s been close to the bone for me.
In fact, I have a number of pretty spectacular essays about all this sitting on my hard drive. So why haven’t I posted them yet? Or submitted them? Or finished them?
Well, all sorts of reasons. Including wanting the books in question to be out first.
But I’m also cognizant that as a queer and genderqueer woman who has opted out (or simply hasn’t been able to secure) so many of the culturally rewarded milestones of womanhood, that when I say my experience of my womanhood is to feel like Hermione Granger with no awards to hang on her wall, three things are going to happen:
First, people will show up in the comments, express relief that I have no children, and call me either ugly or a narcissist.
Second, people with children will decide that my comments about my own psychological landscape are an insult to them. Maybe because I’ve been careless in my phrasing. But maybe because women are put in the constant position of having to defend their choices and circumstances no matter what they are.
Third, there will also be endless advice about late in life pregnancy and/or adoption that has nothing to do with me and my body and my life or all the research I did for the book with the 48-year-old heroine.
And it’s just going to be awful.
So what did I do at the face wax? I sucked it up and said thank you, and then wondered if I looked old, and then wondered if I looked accomplished. In the end, I suspect, I just looked tired. And none of it did anything to dissuade me from my conviction that being a woman is, at core, about endurance.
4 thoughts on “On unearned holiday greetings”
I want to make a joke about sending you a threenager, as my default setting to life is to make jokes about difficult stuff (my internal monologue is appalling); but, I don’t think that is helpful either.
Being a woman, particularly a queer woman, particularly a queer woman with a weird relationship to gender is sometimes seems like a whole pile “meh” sometimes.
2 things, and I apologize in advance for the fact that they both may be useless, insensitive and inappropriate…
Firstly, and I get this from my Mom, is that I wish EVERYONE a Happy Mother’s Day. And that is simply intended as a wish for a happy day. Everyone is allowed to be happy on Mother’s Day and not just Moms. It may have simply been that kind of kindness.
Secondly, and I apologize for the hijack, is that Lisa and I couldn’t have children (endometriosis sucks) and I watched for years as she went through feelings of shame as she felt like a less of a woman for it. She struggled with it almost daily. Couple that with the fact that the day she died, we were going to fill out the initial form with an adoption agency and I can almost feel her thinking that the Universe simply didn’t want her to be a mother and did everything to stop it.
I don’t tell you this for any other reason that to let you know that you have every right to complex and layered feelings on the subject because the subject is complex and layered. Whatever you feel is OK as long as it does no harm to you or others, and from where I stand…not even close. Thus, I’m in no rush to invalidate how you feel. I will add that you aren’t alone on the complexity continuum (I might be more on the highly emotional end of the spectrum) and I’m listening.
P.S. Did any of that make sense?
Feel free to take that greeting: you may not realize the way you’ve mothered other people, by intention, example or cautionary tale.
I’m a mother and even I dislike hearing this from random strangers. It presumes so much- my status, familiarity with my close relationships. And, weirdly, I have a troubled relationship with my father, which these generic, presumptuous greetings always seem to highlight in the corners of my mind. So, your feelings are valid, it’s okay to be squicked, and all you can do is what you did- presume good intentions from the uninformed and move on. Hugs and peace.