BIRDS OF A FEATHER

I have three amazing nieces. One of them is a free-spirit. At the age of three, she had her own mind and was firm in her beliefs. That’s not to say she doesn’t listen to others because she also has wisdom. She may not agree with you or act on your advice but she will patiently absorb your perspective. A change from when she was three.

Her Mom, my sister Dawn and I were sitting in her kitchen, chatting about our favourite musicians and fave songs, sipping on tea. In strolls Jess (who I called Muffy then) in her onesie and declares that  she likes Marilyn Manson. Perplexed I look at Dawn and ask, “Who is Marilyn Manson?” She ignores me and a battle ensues between Mother and child, “No, you don’t. Yes, I do. No, you don’t. Yes, I do”. After a few minutes of the same argument, my sister  exasperated raises her hand, points down the hall and in a firm voice says, “Room, now.” My three year old niece sauntered down the hall, turns and softly said, “Yes, I do” before she shut her door to us.

Now, in her early twenties she works as a Dental Assistant, still as sassy and spunky as ever. She recently experimented in some bold hair colouring. First a full head of neon pink before graduating to rainbow colours. As her aunt and artist I though she looked beautiful and I applauded her bravery. It’s not easy standing out from the crowd in our die-hard conformist society.

Beautiful, brave Jess with her hair now faded to Easter colours.

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A couple of weeks ago she relayed a story about how one of her patients asked her boss why he would allow her to work in the office with her vivid hair. To his credit he said, “I like it, many patients like it and she is not hurting anyone.” Bravo.

Bravo, bravo, bravo. With the caveat that personal choices cause no harm, why do people get so worked up about what others choose to do, with and to themselves? Some folks get so angry with others who paint outside the lines or think and actually live outside the confines of those boxes they’ve chosen for themselves. I’m not fond of young men who wear their pants around their hips. I don’t want a view of their manties but that is THEIR choice. While our sensitivities may be offended, our life is not in danger.

On my last trip to Las Vegas I saw a man who wore a crochet bag around his family jewels which was held in place by various crochet strings weaved around his body. He did not have any body issues whatsoever and while I did find myself staring, I was not offended, nor did I need medical attention. And if you choose to use your body as a canvas, that is your right. I’m not fond of a full body of tattoo art yet find much of the art beautiful. Neither of these choices would suffice for me as personal expressions but I respect they are for others. I respect their freedom to make choices. It is admirable and I applaud anyone who has the courage to do what they want to do with their life. In fact, I encourage others to see themselves, be outside the “norm” and discover what it is they truly like, who they truly are and free themselves of any restrictions society has attempted to place on them. If you want to live in Indonesia and help save the hundreds of orphaned orangutan, please, do it, they need you. Anytime I see someone somewhere expressing themselves I have more faith in humankind. When I am lucky enough to witness the celebration of uniqueness in each individual, my heart swells. When people free themselves of these false societal bonds of normalcy, it someone provides others, myself included with the impetus and power to do the same.We need more freedom fighters. We need more inspiration. We need more awe.

We are individuals and it’s time we appreciate and respect our own great uniqueness in whatever manner you chose to express it. I paint, I write. I explore and right now, I’m off to the hair salon.

Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You. ~ Dr. Seuss

 

MOTHER DEAR

"No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother." ~ Margaret Sanger

Not every woman wants to be a Mother. I’m well aware those words cause fear in many women because I’ve said them often and witnessed a look of shock and dismay. Many of those women never thought they had any other choice but to become a Mother. You find a good man, get married, make babies. A societal norm, or is it?

I’ve been looked at as an oddity, a freak of nature and the usual question posed at me has been, “What’s the matter with you?” People automatically assume my baby-making equipment is damaged or I don’t like children. I adore children, more so than most adults. The answer is, I have never found a good enough reason nor do I feel the need to validate myself as a woman via child-bearing, period.

In my younger days my perfectionist tendencies reigned supreme and I found myself wanting in my imagined role as Mama. I took the duties and role of motherhood and parenting to the extreme and searched inside myself and the only reasons I could come up with for having a child were always selfish ones. “I” want, “I” need. If it’s a duty, why and to who? If it’s a role, where is the script?

I, unlike many women actually put in serious consideration about what it means and entails to bring a new life into this world. Despite cutting insults and ostracization, I have never regretted my conscious decision not to have a child. Because of this, a surprising number of Mother’s I’ve met have confided that if they had to do it all again they would not have a child. This declaration is always followed up with, “Don’t get me wrong, I love my children.” Well of course a Mother loves her child but, and it’s a big but, she does not always like them.

We are human and as such, we cannot always control who we love, who we favour. Those feelings swell inside of use often irrationally and the best we can do is control how we respond to such feelings. For many Mother’s, one of their children will pluck on their heart-strings more than another. In the same way we adore our dearest friends some who have qualities we admire but are short in other areas. It is a rare thing that one friend fits all and the same goes for one’s children. To think otherwise is selfish in the extreme and puts an unnecessary burden on that child to meet the parents expectations. That’s another story.

One of the many reasons I choose not to beget a child is the future of a planet in dire need of coddling. This world is complex, breathtaking, beautiful but an often ugly world. Corrupt governments rule over us and need policing and serious repair. The crime, cruelty and despair in this world was something I did, no, chose not to share with my offspring. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would not want any child of mine to come to harm. I also knew that to bring a child into the world meant I could not control what happens to that life. Love does not protect your children. It only serves to soothe them when they have been broken of flesh, bone and spirit. The idea that I someday might witness a medical professional stitch my child’s skin or set a broken bone still chills me.

Even now strident Mothers will say such things as, “But you’ll have no one to look after you when you’re older.” Stories abound of seniors who are abandoned by their children for whom they cared and often sacrificed. “You have no one to carry on the family name? Really, only my ego cares. I am my actions, not my name. “Don’t you want to have grandchildren to play with? No. There has never been a shortage of children in my grand family to play with and I don’t imagine that will change as my nieces and nephews are bound to sire children of their own. “We got married, had children. Isn’t that the way it supposed to be?” And my personal favourite, “We didn’t plan on having children. It just happened.” Are these not odd or selfish reasons to claim Motherhood?

When I was thirty-five my eggs were tingling and hormones racing against the clock begged the question, “Are you sure you don’t want children because we’re ready for retirement if you don’t.” I discussed this with my long-term sweetie and he flat-out said, “No, I like our life as it is.” When we started our relationship neither of us wanted children so that was the deal going in. My need to Mother was never strong, certainly not strong enough to risk my relationship or my freedom so my eggs took the early retirement. I gently closed the book on my extension of self through proliferation. I am today, happy in that decision. I enjoy the fact that my breasts are almost the same as they were decades ago and my nether regions have not been stretched to accommodate the passing of a watermelon. As yet, there is nothing I think or feel is lacking in my life due to this well thought out decision. I also have peace knowing that I am not adding further strain to an over-taxed, over polluted, plumaged and pillaged planet with yes, finite resources. The same planet which the children of the world will inherit and be made to repair so they can swim in clean lakes and breathe clean air, eat healthy foods as I once did.

To the Octo-Mom, Susan Banks, Caroline Young, Dora Luz Durenrostro and the three to five children murdered by their parents every day, shame on you, forever.

For all the wonderful Mothers and Grandmothers, God Bless you and may your dreams on the fulfillment of Motherhood exceed your expectations and always keep your heart full of joy.  

“Biological possibility and desire are not the same as biological need. Women have childbearing equipment. For them to choose not to use the equipment is no more blocking what is instinctive than it is for a man who, muscles or no, chooses not to be a weightlifter.” ~ Betty Rollin