ani difranco, barbie, birthday, careers, childfree, childless, david brooks, destiny, education, fry, going once, hormones, jobs, ken, kids, life, math, melancholy, purpose, questions, resumes, song lyrics, spring, teacher, teaching, v-day, valentines day, weddings, writing, WTF
I’ve been stricken by a bout of melancholy tonight. The husband’s theory that it’s hormonal or lack of gym (severe thunderstorm warnings and torrential downpours twarted that plan earlier) workouts this week might be the case. He’s better than most men at gauging that sort of thing. My birthday’s also around the proverbial bend, and February’s just a depressing month anyway — too many clouds, too much cold, too little cheer. Then there’s my deep-seated hatred of Valentine’s Day that thirteen years of blissfully-happy marriage hasn’t unseated…. And it’s getting close to the one-month mark (since the return of the “add-water daughter” who didn’t mix well with water or people or the word “no”).
Spring is coming. You can see the hope of it etched on the faces of all the snowbound reporters explaining how busy their streets usually are and how many inches of snow fell on their patios last night. Spring is a time of rebirth and renewal and all that other hokey stuff that implies you have your life together enough to know what you’re rebirthing and renewing or that whatever you birthed and newed before should happen again — ever.
Being an American means, to David Brooks anyway, that you’re consumed by some passion, big or small, that drives you forward with such fervent energy that you confound all around you. That you’ve found your “Fry!” — that miniscule, idiotic obsession that keeps you up at night plotting market trends and minute manufacturing changes that could yield quarter-penny profits over the long-term. Or, that you’ve eschewed the Fry! route (or conquered your Fry! so completely you’re bigger than Bill Gates in your corner of the consumer landscape) for small fries that you’re intensely training to become the next Martha Stewert/Steve Jobs/Bill Clinton/Lebron James/Oprah Winfrey/etc.
Except, I’ve never seemed to have a Fry!. My resume looks like someone loaded a shotgun with job titles and degrees and fired it at blank paper. I’ve sold tickets for fake jungle cruises. I’ve worked for lawyers — one of which was so insane that the only person he’d been able to keep for any length of time was a former stripper he paid above-market wages to attempt to read his mind. I’ve been in advertising and education and some borderline-news-media niche that sent soundbytes to pagers.
I never wanted small fries, though. I just never did. I never dreamed up little frylets. I never imagined the joys of midnight feedings and preschool-choosings and cooing and crap. I just didn’t. And I was fine with it. Despite many a well-meaning person trying to convince me that my biological time bomb would explode or that there was something wrong with me or that I was depriving myself or my husband or the world of something…I was fine.
I more envisioned myself like the character in Ani Difranco’s “Going Once” song (which came along when I was well on my way to being the girl with the odds stacked). I ignored the advice, packed my suitcase with all my noble intentions, bungles, near misses, my maps, and my diary. I was ready to ride off into the world and reinvent myself to be the best me I could be and I, too, was “ready for the lonely” because I never imagined weddings and husbands in that “jungle of last calls and first kisses.” My Barbies never walked down the aisle to meet Ken because they were busy trying to grasp the math in my father’s old high school textbook, that I’d earnestly copied onto my little blue chalkboard for them.
I never saw myself as a math teacher either. That, I fell into like everything else. Since I’ve never had a Fry! to guide me, the maps I packed haven’t really done me much good. It’s always something I’ll do while I’m trying to get someplace else. Teachers seem to fall into this trap more than most — it’s a “good” job to have when the kids are young or while still in grad school or when the economy’s bad or some such excuse — and that may be why the state(s) set up all sorts of barriers for escape. There are tests to get certified and tests to stay certified and other subjects you need to be certified in and other endorsements you need to get and other classes you need to take and then there’s the lesson plans and the grades and the politics so that you never quite have the energy and focus to get another plan, to rewrite that resume, to look for another career or ever shake your magic 8 ball.
Which means I’m rolling up on my mid-thirties just past the zenith of the school year with no plan, no Fry!, no fry, and no clue. (And, at 9:30 pm, still no dinner because I got distracted by my thoughts while trying to make it.)
I’m still no more maternal now than I was back in my Barbie-doll days. My experience as a foster mother left me feeling more like a person who wasted ten months trying to glue together a massive, shattered vase only to decide, after several dangerous gashes from the sharp materials or poor handling or both, to scrap the whole project before it killed her. Yet, in these winter days with newscasters talking of snow days (up north) and impending FCATs (down here), I find myself suddenly feeling a little more childless than childfree.
I know this feeling will pass once my hormones rebalance, once I’ve finally eaten dinner, once I get to the gym again, once I’ve passed the hurdle of being officially a year older and supposedly wiser… It makes me wonder, though, if anyone else has had such an experience.
The “childless” women I know tend to be either the Fry! followers who have put it off until that magic day when their Fry! destinies dictate they dedicate their energy to Child-Rearing! or those who just “never found the ‘right’ man” as though he were a magic pony who would arrive on a sunbeam-scented cloud of rainbow happiness. Most of the “childfree” women I know fall into two camps — the ones who are too busy partying to notice and the ones who are so militant about their choice (likely from years of defending said choice) they have trouble seeing anything but verbal weaponry they need to shield themselves against.
So, I guess I’ll just go read a book.
(For the record, I haven’t proofread this. Forgive me.)