I have a dream that I’m June Cleaver with a loving husband, Ward, who goes off to work and does…work things all day long. While he’s gone, I take care of my two kids, uptight older kid, and the little scamp, the Beaver. Why is he called the Beaver? Who knows? The smarmy brat, Eddie Haskell, comes over from time to time to do whatever smarmy things he does, and I spend all day cleaning the house in heels because that’s what you do when you’re a white woman in the 50s, apparently. What the camera doesn’t show is me clutching a bottle of Valium, popping them like candy because IF ONE MORE PERSON WALKS ON MY CLEAN FLOOR I AM GOING TO LOSE MY SHIT.
Why do we never see that part of life in the 50s? How many women were sleepwalking through the day, just trying to get from one minute to another? I’ve been thinking about it for several reasons, and how in general, societal norms are so omnipresent and normative, we don’t even think to question them (society in general, not specific people). I’ve been thinking about it because of a few things I read online. One was a tweet by DJ Khaled about how he refused to go down on his wife, but expected her to do it to him because he was a man! He deserved it (but she didn’t was the implication), and given the one video of his I’ve seen, I can only conclude that it’s a business transaction for him. He gives her stuff; she gives him blowjobs. I tweeted a PSA to women who liked to get with men–don’t go down if he won’t, either. It boggles my mind that I have to say this in 2018, but there it is. I’ve also hoped that there would be less pressure on women to have kids, but apparently, it’s still pretty steady from what I’ve heard from younger women.
Another thing that really struck a chord with me was someone on an open thread at Ask a Manager was talking about seeing people her age (thirties) having all the ‘normal’ markers of adulting, marriage, house, kids, andd even though she didn’t want them, she was feeling as if she was falling behind. I totally empathized with that. I don’t want any of the trappings of the ‘normal’ life, but lately, I’ve been thinking how much easier it would be if I did. Not just in the big things such as marriage and kids, but in, well, almost every way.
Let’s start with some of the small ways (that really signify what a freak I am). Let’s talk taiji. There’s a movement called Cloud Hands (or Hands Waving in the Air Like Clouds) that everyone loves. If you’ve ever seen a movie with tai chi in it, you’ve seen this movement. It’s taught to actors because it’s fairly easy to mimic and make it look as if you know what you’re doing. To the uninformed, it appears as if you’re waving your hands from side to side. Most people love it and says it’s soooo relaxing and makes them feel sooooooo good. Me? I hate it. It’s one of my least-favorite movements in the whole Solo Form. It makes me impatient; it makes my hips hurt; and it makes me irrationally angry. Ironically, one of my classmates reminds me that I taught him Cloud Hands and that I did it really well. My response is that I probably am better at it because I paid more attention to it BECAUSE I hated it. it’s the same with Fist Under Elbow which was my most hated posture (at the time, they were called postures). I focused on it until I learned it, and I know it better than many of the so-called easier postures/movements.
Another minor thing that is actually rather major–I don’t like movies and television in general. There are exceptions, of course, but I never think, “Hey, you know what? I should watch a movie/TV show tonight.” It doesn’t help that most of my favorite shows get cancelled prematurely and that the movies I like are not box office hits. But, it’s something I don’t bring up often because they are so ubiquitous in our society. I once mentioned I didn’t like movies to one of my MA profs (sub), and she looked at me as if I had grown another head. I know my thoughts and beliefs are different than most Americans, and most of the time I keep my mouth shut about it. I’ve learned that when I don’t, I feel like a freak–which I get enough as it is.
Unfortunately, the more I keep silent, the more alien I feel. Most of the time, I don’t give a shit. I really don’t. Once in a while, though, it really nags at me that it’s so de rigueur, anything I say to the contrary makes me the weirdo/freak/contrary one. My mom has accused me of being a contrarian because I hate tradition. She’s not wrong that I’m a contrarian–I am–but it’s not because I hate tradition–I just don’t automatically buy into tradition. Just because something has been a certain way for a long time, it doesn’t mean it’s a thing that should be the way in the future. I am not consciously a contrarian (most of the time), but my brain is made such that it notices things that slip through the cracks.
I’ve noticed that even on liberal/progressive websites, there are some really normative ideas that I wouldn’t expect on such sites. One is Captain Awkward, in which the commentariat is very vocal in how progressive they are*. There was a letter about a woman struggling with many changes in her life, one of them being a new mom. That wasn’t the thrust of the letter, but it sparked a contentious discussion in the comments that resonated with me. I would guess that most of the commenters would consider themselves pro-choice, but some of their comments were disturbingly retro. One person posited that perhaps the new mother wasn’t ready for or made for motherhood and maybe should give full custody to the father. That set off a flurry of comments saying that was terrible advice and that the woman should just suck it up and be a mother. The original commenter tried to explain herself (and I was in full agreement with her), but people were not having it. There were comments about how she’d made her bed and now had to lie in it, how she couldn’t just decide not to be a mother, how it would be horrible for her to walk away. I swear I was reading Red State or something like that. There were a few comments at the end making a similar statement, saying, “I thought Captain Awkward was a liberal website”, and man, I felt that really hard. These are the same people who fall all over themselves excusing all kinds of behavior that they deemed unavoidable because of mental illness, racism, sexism, or other reasons. They’re all about women and choices–except when it comes to being a mother, apparently. One person pointed out that sometimes, it was better to not be in a child’s life than to be in it, but she was quickly shot down as well. Apparently, once you give birth–that’s it. That’s your choice, no backsies.
On the one hand, I’m lucky because I knew fairly early on that I didn’t want children. I’m even luckier that I never got pregnant (and it wasn’t because I was always diligent because I wasn’t) so I didn’t have to make the decision, but I wouldn’t have blinked twice before scheduling an abortion. If by some chance I had not been able to have one, I would have, as I told a Catholic liberal dude in an argument about abortion, killed myself AND the fetus. Had that not happened, I would have been an abusive mother–I know this in my heart. And yet, when I used to say it, people would rush in and reassure me that I would have been a great mom!
Side note: It reminds me of when I use the word ‘fat’ to describe myself, and people rush in to reassure me that I’m not. They think I’m insulting myself when I’m just being factual. It’s the same when I say I would have been a shitty mom. I’m not insulting myself–I’m just telling the truth. I would not have been a good mother, and I have no problem saying that. Apparently, that’s beyond the pale, however, as every woman is born knowing how to be a good mom. Now, obviously, I know once a child is born, it’s different than before it’s born, but that doesn’t mean that the woman having the child is any more ready to be a mom or will be a good mother. Having the child doesn’t change that, and maybe we should not be so quick to jump on the beatdown bandwagon when a woman confesses to struggling with being a new mother.
Back to the main point–I don’t mind being a freak most of the time. Some days, though, it just adds to me depression. I can’t even like the right season (summer) and instead prefer the one that everyone hates (winter). It’s hard not to feel alienated when even simple things like that puts me firmly on the side of devils. When it’s something big like marriage or children or drinking (being a non-drinker in a heavily-lubricated society sucks sometimes), it intensifies the isolated feeling. It doesn’t help that many times, it’s because I think things into the ground. This is not a humblebrag though it will sound like one, but I think about things on many levels, and I often go five levels deep where others rarely go past one.
The older I get, the more aware of how weird I am, and how I should just keep my mouth shut. The problem is, I’m tired and old and cranky, and this isn’t going to happen. Or rather, it’ll happen for a short period of time, and then, I’ll explode like a volcano and spew lava everywhere. All that pressure has to go somewhere.
*In case you can’t tell, I think they take it to an extreme.