being the problem

The rituals we have for a woman’s life transitions are just so small and insulting.

There’s such a mismatch between the reality of giving birth and the infantilizing consumerism of baby showers. Giving birth means, very literally, that you are approaching death’s door. Things go wrong, and you hand over control to strangers, and you accept that to bring this person into the world you are willing to risk death or grievous injury.

And then before that happens you’re supposed to put on a frilly pastel dress and take pictures in front of a cutesy banner and unwrap diaper pails and let all the older women have a ball talking down to you?

The mismatch is so jarring to me. You’re gearing up to do one of the most hardcore things a human can do, and these are all women who have gone through it, and you’re supposed to dress up and act like a child. They want you to! All of these women who had their vaginas and perineums and abdomens ripped and cut will get mad at you for not playing along and dressing up/acting submissive as if you yourself are the infant.

This year I learned what a big problem I have with older women. Or to be more accurate what a huge problem the older women in my life have with me. Between the engagement, the wedding, the baby shower, what I have learned is that the older women I am related to believe I am doing everything wrong because I either 1) don’t know any better or 2) am a spiteful person.

I just hate having to act younger than I am! I hate having to act like things are safer than they are! Giving birth is a terrifying thing, and that’s not being dramatic, it’s being realistic. Caring for a baby is arduous and physically incredibly taxing and depresses the shit out of lots of people. But in preparing to do these hardcore things you also have to put on parties where people behave as if you’re giving birth to a stuffed animal.

Here’s my imagined deeply wanted ritual for preparing to give birth: the older women in your life gather with you. they write down the moment in the birth/first year that tested them the most and what skill or lesson they took from that moment. you get to honor the things in your life you are saying goodbye to for a long time- the freedom, the independence, the quiet. Some kind of ritual to honor what you did with the time in your life you had those things. Some kind of “you did good with your maidenhood, now onto motherhood.” some kind of honoring of your body and the physical challenge it’s undergoing, and honoring of your willingness to take on what you’re taking on.

My mother and my mother in law are in agreement that i suck. because well, my mom has always felt i sucked on a deep level, and then my mother in law just wanted her little boy to be single after his divorce and if he wasn’t going to be single to choose a woman who Womaned a lot better than I Woman. They both, with the wedding and the baby stuff, couldn’t seem to process that i’m not a 24 year old who wants to be dressed up like a princess barbie. That doesn’t feel like being valued and honored to me. which makes sense, since i literally am someone who took testosterone to try to look like a man. Of course i don’t want my life transitions marked by dressing up like a princess! Of course i want things to be much more realistic and soulful and connected to the reality of the big shifts happening in my life.

I really resent them both. I know I don’t know what they’re staring down as older women, I don’t know what they expected cronehood to be like and how it’s disappointing them, I don’t know how mortality is kicking their asses, I don’t know so much. But to undergo all this stuff and get treated like I am a fuckup for not wanting them to play dress-up with me- do they not remember? Or were they better at accepting that part of their duty was to be a dress up doll for older women when they were going through this? Or did they love being dress up dolls?

Motherhood does not create a sense of completion or peace or anything like that. There’s a new person in the mix, you want him to be healthy and you feel viscerally very protective of him, but it’s not an experience that gives you a sense of effectiveness or wisdom or fulfillment. And it’s actually not at all fair to be making demands of someone headed into the experience. It’s not at all fair to act like you’re entitled to some kind of performance from that person, just because you get off on flower arrangements and holding up baby clothes.

You know, I always feel guilty when I’m mad at older women for being immature or self-focused. Because I know I don’t know what they’ve lived through. And I know from the snippets I’ve heard and the weirdly lighthearted, dissociated way they both have talked about it that their babies came into this world in conditions that were fucked. My complaints of being treated like an animal/child in the hospital- they got it worse. So I guess it makes sense that if you went through a deeply fucked birth experience, and you didn’t believe you had the right to be fucked up from it, and now you’re in cronehood and there’s no authority attached to being a crone and it’s like your suffering was extraneous- you would want to retreat to doll-land. Me entering motherhood is a clear, distinct reminder they have left the motherhood stage. And maybe that’s what they wanted my wedding/baby shower to be- their own ritual for leaving motherhood and entering cronehood as authorities.

But also I’m so sick of mind reading people. I’m so sick of thinking harder about what’s driving people’s behavior than they are thinking. I’m so tired and disappointed and hurt by always being the problem. My wedding was like a mini-conference of people interested in the topic of “carey sucks” and I can’t think about that day for too long without starting to tear up. And now it’s been 6 months since that day and I’m still sad about it. Ugh. Fuck this whole year. Fuck patriarchy and fuck this whole year.

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