[Vanessa Mooney Fight the Power studded cuff bracelet + Holy Tee fringed shawl.]
Still posting beach pictures… things have been too busy to stay caught up! Vacations aren’t what they used to be; what fond memories I have of reading in the sun have been obliterated by the most puny invoice of monthly billable hours I’ve seen in over a year. Whoops.
So Rob’s out in Oregon, picking right up where he left off. He sounds completely in his element, happy to be back, and just like I’d imagine someone who’s about to embark on an awesome adventure for which he’s completely equipped would sound. And adventures are the name of the game for us these days: fun ones, shitty ones, and ones that end in little career victories for us both… none that allow us any savings of any sort, though.
These pictures are a funny, stark contrast to my words—two paradigms that coexist like wall and buttress. Only the force of the other dictates that of its counterweight. We were watching the sunset, taking a break from a puzzle, with vodka & tonics, impractical garments… total freedom.
Freedom. Which brings me to something I’ve been kicking around for the past week. I’m not sure I have the chutzpah to talk about this, but I’m going to anyway, on one condition: no one leaves a comment trying to convince me one way or the other. (Ha.) And no one assumes I’m speaking for Rob. And no one disowns me. Ok, that’s three conditions.
When people try to talk to me about having babies, man, it feels like a cold’s coming on. I dread colds; I do things to prevent colds. But that first tickle or sneeze—and the second you acknowledge it, you validate it. And it’s on a roll.
“You have kids?” “Nope.” “Well… why not?” Hm, I actually don’t know. Let me think about that.
The next day, that Friends rerun is on. [Does it matter which one?]
Followed shortly thereafter by a baby weight conversation at work [jarring], a glimpse of a photo of supermodel with child [curious], a jokey text from a friend with a baby [annoying].
As my real life cold was taking shape last week, the baby storm rolled in. I had a visit from a very sweet, particularly baby-crazy friend, numerous years my junior, to see the house for the first time. I know she wants to be married, and to start a family—I like listening to her talk about it in a way I like hearing about trips to countries I’ve never seen. “When are you and Rob going to have a baby?” she asked. I stood pigeon-toed and shrugged.
“You don’t want one.”
“Not really, no.”
I felt horrible, like I was someone lucky enough to get halfway to where she wanted to be, but was scrapping my luck and quitting before the last lap.
[The moments we live for… for now.]
Setting aside the fact neither of us has a job with benefits, I can’t afford to buy 3 things at Whole Foods, and I work three jobs, I’ve never been comfortable around babies. Or thought they were particularly cute or interesting to a degree that I’d want to keep one permanently myself. My first memory of interacting with a baby was in the daycare room at my mom’s aerobics class. I was 5, maybe 4. A baby smiled at me, then crawled toward me. I sat, panicked, as it climbed up across my outstretched legs, and actually bent my knees, launching the thing off me into a barrel roll across the carpet.
Usually, I hate being wrong, but this is one area in which I’ve waited quietly to be proven wrong. If there was a switch that could flip inside my head, I think I’d vote for it to flip: whether it’s right for me or not. It’s the knowing, I think. Never mind the huge societal pressures. Or the miracle of life. Or my love of family. Or fear of dying alone.
Instead, I only find more (alarming, at times) comfort in my (so far, still unmade) decision. The noncommittal comfort zone. It’s nice.
Until you read something about your age and statistics and probabilities, and then time sort of makes the decision for you, doesn’t it?
I don’t judge anyone who does have babies. I think it’s pretty awesome, actually. My parents are so cool, they make me wonder what kind of parent I’d be. Creative kids are amazing. Poop’s ok, too. I’d love to be able to watch cartoons again, and teach a little shithead how to draw cats and what the names of the fish are. And the idea of something that’s part you is intriguing, although fleeting in its significance.
But don’t mistake curiosity for desire. It’s easy to do. None of that has ever been enough to make me want it.
And from what I hear, you’ve gotta want it. Like, tattoo on the forehead want it. I think about it plenty, but never with much more than a sartorial curiosity. The only things I can ponder with any real imagination end up feeling like mentally packing for a trip you’ll never take.
It’s all the “can’ts” and “won’ts” about having a kid that make it so inconceivable to me. “Sorry, we can’t [fill in blank of something fun] because that’s when the kid [fill in blank of something annoying]” and I’m thinking… I already have so many limits to things I want to do—financial, time, and otherwise—why would I want to turn around and get pregnant? What about living for a little while? It’s like there’s this big hurry to get fat, tired, and complain about it.
I have nothing real to complain about, and I love it. That seems like a big “I made it”, but that I don’t have anyone to share it with. Because they’re all getting pregnant. So I go back to wondering about this reason everyone thumbs a ride on this particular wagon to confusionville. Like I’m the big dummy who doesn’t get it.
What’s the deal, anyway? Do you wake up one day and just decide to do it? Would endless funds change my mind? Is living on the most family-friendly, giggle-filled street in Richmond going to break me down? Are stretch marks laser removable? Do you have to like kids to have one? Wait, don’t answer that.
I’ve always called it “the baby bone”—as in, I don’t have the baby bone—but now I’m starting to think it’s the other way around. It’s not a bone at all; wanting and having children comes from being soft—bending to want something so badly you’re willing to fold into whatever it takes. And I have excellent posture.
Being stubborn is not always a virtue. I can see someone reading this and thinking, “That’s sad. She doesn’t know what she’s missing.” But I’m familiar with that sentiment. I feel that way about people who don’t enjoy a delicious glass of Beaujolais on a late summer afternoon apropos of nothing except to celebrate the way the light hits your kitchen window and takes your breath away. I feel that way about people who don’t care to travel, who don’t feel the insane need to see every art house French film with a 1-star rating on Netflix. About people who don’t eat glorious, succulent slabs of beef. See, I could go on. We all think someone else is robbing themselves of life’s great pleasures.
A measuring stick of maturity, I’ve found, is the ability to love your own life wholly, but still look on the lives of others with envy. It means our eyes are open. It means we can see beauty in all different walks of life. It means the world’s big enough for all of us.
There’s a main line to this conversation I want to be careful to point out. And maybe it’s embedded in who I am, or maybe it’s what I’ve been through, mistakes I’ve made, and how happy I am to be where I am now… but I have a fierce desire to protect exactly what I have. Protect it and not let anything jeopardize my happy, my freedom, my choices.
For someone with a life devoid of any major tragedy or hardship, considering, being who I am and my life the way it is is a victory I could savor for eternity, but I don’t have that long.
Yesterday I texted Rob to confess I was lonely. “No wonder people have babies,” I quipped immaturely. Today, though, I was so full of happiness at his happiness, his being gone seemed to gild this portion of our life in a way I wouldn’t change if I could.
I want to eat in every restaurant. Go to every city. See every concert. Nurse a hangover without hating myself. I want to be selfish with my time. Chase bouts of melancholy down their holes until I’ve got nowhere to go but back up. I want to pour myself into work that I love. Have my irresponsibilities put only myself at risk. Focus on my significant other until he has to peel me off like paraffin just to go to work. Somehow, the idea of bringing anything else into my perfect little world feels like begging for imbalance, strain, tests of what I’m made of.
To me, having a child feels like asking myself to step up to the plate and make sacrifices when I’m not committed to the cause.
The amount of times I’ve vacillated while writing this—on how I feel about it, and whether to post it—are countless, yet still after each period, I pause with the same questions.
Maybe I am limiting myself, or maybe I’m boldly taking a stance. Isn’t being given choices a strange thing? I think about complaining enough at the dinner table to the point my mom would say, “Fine, then go to your room and don’t eat.” Then there you are, in your room, alone, embarrassed, but feeling the need to honor your anger. You hear laughter at the table downstairs, life goes on without you, after all, and you feel foolish. But it became your choice.
So what if we run out of highways?
Because if I wake up one day and find that all of this was actually not enough, I’ll have to be ok with that. That would be another measuring stick: the ability to forgive.
For now, I know what I do want, but I’m not sure what I absolutely do not want. And that’s not an invitation to help me fill in the blanks.