Friday, March 18, 2005

Giving Up, Holding On

• Spring break is about to come to an end and, predictably, I haven't accomplished but a fraction of what I set out to do. But I hereby resolve not to beat myself up about it. I'm realizing that I've spent most of my adult life mentally berating myself about this or the other thing. In theory, this is supposed to lead to self-improvement. In fact, it just leads to self-loathing. Or maybe it springs from self-loathing? I don't know, but it's making me tired. So I hereby give it up (excessive self-criticism, that is) for Lent and for life.

• Even though I no longer go to church, I had just about 15 years of Catholic schooling (that's grade school, high school and college), and I stubbornly -- some would say blindly -- associate a lot of the "Catholic identity" with the lovely Catholic people I know from those years, rather than with the official church's oppressive and homophobic practices. That said, I lately look back and get distressed by some of what I internalized from my Catholic education. For instance, the principal of my all-girl's high school. Sr. Mary Alice, routinely called assemblies at which she told us what "beautiful future wives and mothers" we were. This was her highest compliment, and, although this was the late-1980s, I never thought to question it. The suggestion that I was getting educated to be a wife and mother didn't interfere with my vague plans for a career as a journalist-veterinarian. And, in my cloistered world, I'd never had to think about the politics of heterosexism, marriage, or childbearing. I was just pleased to be my one of the Sisters' favorites—the Very Good Girl who kept her socks and her GPA up high. What I know now is that it’s no good to be the good girl. Good girls are lousy critical thinkers. Good girls marry boys they don’t love because they want to have lousy (but guilt-free) sex. Good girls are long on reputation but short on imagination. And what perks are offered to good girls tend to come in the form of responsibilities—chief among which is that of being admired for self-sacrifice.

• Which brings me to the point of this post. There’s a Saturn ad running on TV these days and it freaks me out. It opens with a mother talking about having been pregnant and overdue to deliver her son. “There was a moment when I honestly thought that I might be pregnant forever," she laughs. Okay, so that’s unpleasant image enough, but then comes the line that really twists a knife in my gut for some reason. (And, no, Dr. Freud, I won’t revise that last metaphor, but will instead let it sit on the record.) The mother says: “You spend your whole life putting yourself first and then, just like that, you’re second. [pause, cut to tight shot of the women’s face] And I’m just so thankful. That’s why I chose Saturn.” (Note the ambiguous relation between those last two sentences.) Now, I know plenty of women who have expressed feelings of diminished self-importance after the birth of their children. (My mother is constantly reminding me that having children makes people less selfish.) And, of course, it’s important to be devoted to one’s child. But I still recoil at this ad. Because you know what? It took me over thirty years to learn how to occasionally think of myself first (before husbands', parents, or others’ needs and expectations). And, frankly, I’m nervous and a little resentful at the message that I should become a pod person again.

• Of course, I could be getting worked up about nothing. According to this device, I have no estrogen and therefore never ovulate. The magnifier was useful for another purpose, at least. I put some, uh, fluid on it and managed to have a look at my husband’s sperm. (Apologies to relatives who might be feeling traumatized by this information.) Pretty fascinating. Now if only my estrogen would show up, I could be further freaked by a proclivity for self-criticism, Catholicism, and Saturn.


At 5:20 PM, Blogger Benedict said...

I hear there is a tofu pie for that.

Seriously, I understand the long term health consequences of estrogen supplements are a topic of concern these days, and you certainly know more about it than I do, with your extensive research on the subject. But it's nice to know there are some options health care experts are still tinkering with, isn't it?

Anyway, that's as far as someone who knows nothing about fertility will go.

At 5:52 PM, Blogger What Now? said...

What I hate about that particular Saturn ad is the implication that childless people are automatically selfish and parents are automatically selfless, which pisses me off no end. These characteristics are obviously true for some people, but some people who have children become very, very selfish on behalf of their children (in sort of a "screw the rest of the world, my kid should have whatever he or she wants/needs") and cease to recognize the rest of humanity. That is, they're still really putting themselves first in that their own happiness is entirely bound up in their progeny's happiness and not in, say, other people's progeny.

Not that this has anything to do with you, obviously, and it's really just a rant after years of being told that having children is the only way for me to start giving to other people. Grrr.

At 11:26 PM, Blogger YelloCello said...

What Now - I would just like to second everything that you just said! - YelloCello

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