Monday, November 13, 2006

Reflection Hurts (x-posted from LiveJournal)

I'm enjoying writing my NaNoWriMo novella, but it's becoming more personal than I intended. The interesting thing about this process, writing so quickly and so stream-of-conscious-ly (necessary if one hopes to ever make the deadlines) is that the story takes on a life of its own.

The main character in my novel is a childfree woman, about my age. My inspiration for her was my friend's cousin Shereen, who was the oldest left in the house of 9 kids and spent much of her teenagehood caring for babies, toddlers and kids. When she moved out, she continued to babysit, remaining very close with her siblings. She married and has told her family, who is furious with her, that she intends on having no children, that she's done raising kids and wants to do something different.

While I'm picking influence from Shereen's life, a lot of encounters my character has, good and bad, are coming from my own experiences. The supporters are there, but so are the people who are less supportive. I just got done reliving the bizarre coffeeshop incident from last summer ('05), and I'm feeling very emotional about it.

What happened?

I was meeting Jeanine for coffee. We sat on the patio and were talking. I mentioned the incident where A and I were at his grandmother's house the night before and she kept talking about "when the baby comes", and how uncomfortable that made me. I talked about his family, how uncomfortable the idea of talking to them about the whole childfree thing made me, etc.

A woman, in her late 30s I would later find out, two tables over came over and interrupted our conversation, giving me the third degree about why I wouldn't want children. I'm all about opening a dialogue about the issue, and she started off innocently enough, so I engaged her; big mistake. She badgered and pushed, asking all sorts of inappropriate questions, insisting that I would regret the decision. "How old are you, like 24?" 27, I corrected her. "Oh, so maybe you'll have kids when you're like 32?" No, I said. "But you'll probably change your mind." No matter what I said, she wouldn't leave me alone (and didn't) until I said "fine, I'll probably change my mind." As soon as I said that, she backed off and went back to her table, no exaggeration, and I was sick about it. By now I was near tears on the inside, but I kept putting up this front like it was okay. Weird, but okay. But it wasn't okay. I never really talked about it, like talked about it talked about it, with anyone, but it tore me up inside that what I was saying was so offensive to a complete stranger that she would commit a social faux pas, not even pretending to make honest, friendly conversation and just launch right into it, with a couple of girls who were just sharing stories over coffee. It made me feel so small, so freakish, so weird and broken.

I knew I was working up to this in my novella, but after writing it I'm just feeling all those emotions again.

After reliving it through the eyes of my character, along with the other incidents she's experiencing: being chastised at work for not wanting to hold random-woman-in-another-department's newborn son; being told repeatedly that I would never know what happiness was, that my life would be empty without children; that I didn't know what I was talking about, that things would change when I got married; the pregnancy test that was thankfully negative being greeting with comments of "that's ok, you'll get pregnant sometime, don't worry"; being accused time and again of being a childhater, while others assumed that affection for a child meant that I must want children of my own; people implying insensitivity because I was "wasting" a perfectly good uterus when others out there so desperately want a child; words like selfish, heartless, silly, misguided, being tossed about like grenades; people saying the wrong things while trying to be supportive; others just not getting it or telling me it's just a phase; people accusing me of being melodramatic about the whole thing, or implying that my pain over it meant that I was internally conflicted or something. I can deal with it case by case, but as I've been writing it's just sort of come all at once.

I was rereading the story and seeing how sad my character is, how depressed, and I wondered "is that me?" The only answer I could come up with was yes, and that's really, really… well, sad, quite frankly. And I'm not sad because I don't want children, or because secretly I *do* want children and I'm trying to be part of some club or something, which has been implied. I'm sad because so many people have treated me like shit, made me feel like a broken freak because I don't and I just want to feel like I can be myself.

I don't really have much to say other than that. If you have made commentary like that, it's okay, you didn't know, and I'm not angry, and NO this IS NOT some passive aggressive attempt at getting my anger out at anybody (most of the offenders were random, not friends, anyway, and if you're reading this I consider you a friend and supporter). I'm just feeling worn down. Too much emotion, and at the tail end of a bad day.

And yet I want to keep writing.


Anonymous said...

Your blog comforted me. I was married. Put off having kids. I never had the same drive as other women. I love kids. Just was lacking that drive to have them. Then my husband left and I was divorced and alone. I've gotten used to being alone again, but the child issue is always hard. I think about kids..even adopting, but I know I couldn't handle being a single mom and managing my career. My sister told me I just didn't want kids bad enough and I wasn't good with kids. I didn't think that was fair. I felt like she was punishing me for trying to honestly think things through carefully and recognize what I can and cannot handle. So hearing you blog on the subject made me feel less alone in being abused on this topic. Women are so hard on other women sometimes. I don't know why.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog, and omg is this ever me. I'm 28 and I've known I don't want children for the past 20 years, ever since I was one.

I feel so lonely. I know people who "didn't want kids" but they apparently weren't serious about it, because now they do. Including, apparently, my ex-boyfriend. This is making me scared that my current boyfriend will change his mind and I'll have to leave him so he can find someone new to have children with.