Sunday, January 30, 2005

deconstructing identity

I was just reading an article about a woman who has lived as a man for many years and is now thinking about having a baby. He was commenting about the rather high chances that he might not fit in at some of the usual groups when it came to sharing concerns and such. We all need personal trainers for this journey, I swear. Me, I need a class that caters to married, middle class women in their thirties, who never planned to have children, who reject pink satin onesies off hand, lead unconventional work lives, hate mushrooms and acrylic nails, have never watched "the Apprentice," and enjoy a good syrah on an evening out that also includes a healthy dose of sarcasm and marimba music.

It all makes me think back to a sign I saw at the peace rally in February of 2003 (the big one, where the whole world told Bush to go fuck himself, except that the San Francisco march happened a day later than everyone else's because they moved it to Sunday so as not to interfere with the Chinese New Year parade. I believe in cultural sensitivity, but… biggest demonstration in history and we couldn't have switched with the folks in the dragon suits? ) The sign I saw said: "Just another transexual vegan epidemiologist for peace."

Maybe instead of one-size-fits-all pregnancies we could match ourselves up with like-minded people under a model akin to dating services or personal ads: "Are you 28-34 weeks, love virgin piña coladas, getting caught in the rain, and fear tearing? Mailbox 45."

Despite the fact that almost everyone I know who's walking around these days claims to have been an "accident," everyone I know who's pregnant these days claims to have carefully planned their babies. Hey, I'm as big a control freak as the next person, how did I miss this boat?? It came up in my exercise class earlier this week that my pregnancy was unplanned. My instructor asked me a question I didn't quite catch and when she repeated it, it was "Are you married?" On hearing the question, I realized what she most likely had said initially that my ear didn't hear (or maybe that my brain couldn't take in). If I'm not mistaken, she had asked, "Are you getting married?" When I told her I was indeed married, she moved on with "Does your husband want children?" "Yes," I told her without offering any further explanation. After that it was shoulder rolls and discussions of the group's various aches and pains.

What was that about?? Has "unplanned" taken on such a stigmatized connotation as to replace things like "unwed mother"? It says a lot about just how planned we think we live our lives today. Not to mention, you'd think we'd come to terms with being different from one another by now. But the guide books still flaunt white, middle class, happy mother values and each time we encounter a different approach to life our horse rears up in fright and we flee wildly from the forest, scarves trailing in mud.

Frankly, as much as I complain about not fitting in while the rest of the pregnant central coast chatters on about what their husbands have bought for their "little linebacker," I have a tendency to shy from groups larger than four if they are likely to agree with me. Large gatherings of kindred souls make me nervous. Maybe I'm just more comfortable defending a position, stating a case. Take writers for example. Leave me in a room with those people for a day and I'll be planning my career as a trapeze artist. I own no berets.

This whole pregnancy has been about deconstructing identity. I think about walking around town with a baby some day soon and feeling like a complete poser. After hard-won labels I've slapped on myself, I now need to soak many of them off. The replacements aren't really lined up yet, and there is still that gooey residue of glue that hasn't completely gone away – it's mucking up my brain. I need to be exposed to all kinds of people and models for living. I want it all – someone to complain about and someone to commiserate with. So, if you have that same gooey feeling of absent identity, and never really decided to have kids, or, maybe if you can't relate in the slightest, give me a ring, we'll chat.


Molicious said...

All in all I think most people who ask questions are pretty dense. I married young(right out of high school), unpregnant, and very much in love. I had tons of people ask me if I WAS pregnant because I got married so young. And I still have no children, because either I choose not to or I am unable to. Now people ask me WHY I don't have children. I can't imagine what you're going through. You really didn't plan this child. But it doesn't mean that you won't love him or her just as much. I am still up in the air about having kids. Or having one kid. A part of me wants to be a mother and the other part wants to be free. At least as free as a married person can be. My mind changes on a daily basis. But it is very true that once you give birth you will take on a new role and a new identity. I've read that many mothers go through the same identity crisis. Not sure what they are. Are they a mother or a wife? A woman or a breastfeeding machine? I have no advice, I can only read what you post. And I hope most of all that when it's all said and done that you will find yourself content. Not only with your child but with being both a woman AND a mother AND yourself. Happy with whatever label you or the world puts on you.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I just noticed that these posts are from you list of the Blog Graveyard-- congrats on dragging them out and whipping them into shape!!

I think that identity is always a struggle for those of us who, at some point, had to start our definition with "different." In the face of mass-culture and mass-media, it is hard to give even a little-- "ok, in this one *tiny* way I am 'same'," and not feel that you need to defend all of the rest as STILL different.

And then, of course, amidst all of that difference, it would be nice to have someone really get it, too. Wonderful husbands are great, but insufficient, for that kind of understanding.

I think the baby is that one *teensy* way in which you have to be *the same* as everyone else. This is something that ALL women can do, even the ones that we find nauseating (bummer, that). I think that you and the cross-dresser should hang out. You'd probably get along fabulously.

BTW, I *do* check your comments after I post in them, but if you want to email me, that's always nice too.


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