Feminism, Musings

When Babies Don’t Happen

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I have a friend who just turned 36 years old. Another friend who is 34 and another 29. My grandmother has a 40 year old niece. We all have Jennifer Aniston. Some of these women are married, some aren’t, and some are interim. All of them, however, are childless. And they probably didn’t know it would turn out this way.

Because here’s the thing: when you’re young you always just think about having children someday. But then you grow older and you realize more and more as the time goes by that this day hasn’t come yet. And the older you get the more you realize the possible likelihood of the fact that it might never come. This is probably one of the weirdest and heaviest feelings that you could ever experience. For most people going through this feeling nowadays is even weirder because today everyone is “younger” for longer. Vibrant, party-going, ladder-climbing, happy go lucky adults of 25 and 45 are the same. And they are. Absolutely.

Except if you’re a woman, the biological, baby bearing potential of your womb at 25 is vastly different than that at 45. Like every other tired female cliche, fertility is a window that will eventually close and a train that will eventually pass.

Any woman who’s ever had to enter her 30s man-less and child-less or had to endure years in a late marriage without bearing any babies will tell you that they know all about closing windows and passing trains. Whether or not you actually want a child (and its totally fine if you don’t), there will come a point where pretty much every single person on the face of the earth will be staring at you, loudly chanting the words: “BAY-BE! BAY-BE! BAY-BE!”

And regardless of where you’re actually at in your own head, that kind of impossible pressure just gets to you. In those moments, your own life plan and your personal choices disappear and, despite your education, your experience, and your confidence, you are endlessly befuddled.

Take, for example, this literal conversation I had with a friend of mine who is 32, childless, and who inspired this post: “Actually, I want a baby. Actually, I don’t want a baby. Actually, I don’t not want a baby. Actually, I want to not want a baby.” And on and on and on. My friend is an accomplished artist, happily married woman, living in a beautiful apartment, with the world’s cutest puppies, pursuing a PhD. She is the personification of all that a cool, sophisticated, kick-ass woman should be. And even she has the ‘Will I? Won’t I?’ debate playing on a loop in her head.

In the end what my friend is left with are persistent feelings of doubt, hesitation, and fear. That’s it. Doubt. Hesitation. Fear. No matter what she may actually want for herself, these feelings are pretty much there all the time. And it’s the same for so many other similarly baby-less but otherwise awesome women in the world.

You’re afraid of choosing to have children early and then being hampered down in your career or in your other worthwhile life experiences. You’re afraid of not picking the right partner and ending up with a horrible parenting situation. You’re afraid of missing out on the incomparable, lifetime connection and endlessly unique memories that only your own child can bring you.

Of course, what you may or may not realize is that, eventually, not making a decision is the decision. And if a woman does decide to not have children she often has to explain that decision to everyone around her. Which I’m sure can be mortifying.

Still, I know there is a clear difference between a woman who actively chooses to not have children and just waking up one day and realizing that its happening to you. Some women just know that they don’t ever want to have babies. And that’s fine. And some other women love, live, work, and grow only to wake up one morning and realize that they’ve crossed a certain checkpoint in their life. They get up and suddenly they’re in some new territory where everything looks exactly the same, except now you’re that woman who never had kids.

Looking back at your life and realizing this reality is a very strange and unsettling feeling. Because now you have to acknowledge what you are. A woman who is not a mother.

(Doubt. Hesitation. Fear.)

As you watch everyone around you pair up, marry up, and baby up, you start to feel more and more like a straggler at the party. Everyone’s gone home, so what the hell are you still doing here?

And, to make matters worse, in the midst of feeling like a freaky straggler you get to be bombarded with all kinds of mommy propaganda all the freaking time. From the Stalkerish Womb Updates of celebrity culture to Facebook feeds of ultrasounds, first steps, baby bumps, report cards, and the whole lot of it. The decade long tabloid story in which Jennifer Aniston is not a person but a soap opera character who, despite being a successful, fit, happy, and freaking fabulous woman, is actually very deeply depressed about the fact that she is still childless at 44 is a story that will never die down. These are all reminders that if you don’t do what’s expected of you–make beau coup babies–you must be doing something wrong.

Or worse actually. There must be something wrong with you.

(Doubt. Hesitation. Fear.)

But, you know what? Screw that.

What if you don’t have a child? What if you don’t try? What if you’re not sure? What if there are extenuating circumstances? What if you don’t have the time/money/health/right partner? How the hell do you go on anyway?

In a perfect world all these confusing and scary questions wouldn’t be such a huge, social issue. It would be like ‘hey, you do you, and I’ll do me, and everything’s going to be cool, tra-la-la-la.’ Right? Whatever. But that’s not the world. The world is crappy. Because you’re supposed to work hard, contribute, support people, make something of yourself and still, in the end, everyone looks at you funny and goes: But, wait, no kids? (It’s probably even worse when they go ‘no man and no kids?’)

Not having babies, having babies, letting life decide for you, what you want, what you need, unfortunate timing, regrets, the freaking Jennifer Aniston headlines–its a lot and it sucks. Y’know, they say that the unexamined life is not a life worth living. Well, I say that an over-analyzed life in which you obsess over every tiny detail and every past choice is a freaking suffocating nightmare wet blanket. Sometimes you just have to be.

And sometimes its important to get some perspective. Remember that even if you end up staying at this party instead of moving on to the next party, its still a freaking party. A party with plenty of love, late nights, late mornings, good times, travel, shopping, joy, independence, accomplishment, and a million other great pleasures that most mothers in this world don’t have nearly enough of. It may not be the story that all the magazines talk about and that everyone in society obsesses over but it’s there. It exists. And if other people aren’t praising you for living an awesome, childless life, then you praise yourself.

And, for what it’s worth: I totally praise you too.

All my love!

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‘Screw You!’ Week Is Over. Thank You. You’re The Best.

Well, its officially the weekend and that means ‘Screw You!’ Week is over. I feel so much lighter and happier and clearer and I don’t know why. I tried to make a point of venting about the stuff that, actually, is non-related to anything I’m going through right now specifically. Somehow, it helped. Thank you guys so much for your comments on the blog, on Twitter, on Instagram, in emails, and just for sticking around. You are literally the best people.

All my love!

Food, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Screw You, Quinoa!

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Quinoa usually divides itself into three distinct groups: people who love it, people who hate it, and people who have no idea what the hell it is.

To the people who love quinoa: get the hell out. Seriously, I am so freaking done with you. Kidding, kidding, I love you, please come back. But seriously, please stop telling me how much you love quinoa and how awesome all the proteins are. Enough already. Go fill that yapper with some quinoa instead and leave me alone.

To the people who don’t know what quinoa is: I’m not talking about rice or oatmeal or any other grain that sounds kinda like quinoa. I am talking about something so much worse. See, quinoa is a bag of pebbly, icky sand. That’s it. Its sand masquerading as food. Back in the day, if someone caught you eating virtual sand they’d call you crazy. Now they call you a “foodie” and make you pay beau coup bucks for a cup of water-blasted sand gravel. Progress! If you’ve never actually tried quinoa before THEN YOU MUST PROMISE ME THAT YOU NEVER WILL. SERIOUSLY PROMISE ME THIS. BLOOD OATH.

To the people who hate quinoa: LET’S RAP.

What’s wrong with buying some decent brown rice that doesn’t taste like tiny rocks? When quinoa lovers take me out, make me eat quinoa, and then annoy me with questions of how quinoa tastes, I try to be sensitive about it. So I say it’s ‘water-flavored.’ Usually they take that to mean ‘pure-tasting’ or ‘a little bland’ BUT NO. It tastes like water, which literally tastes like nothing. QUINOA TASTES LIKE NOTHING.

And then the texture! It’s gravel. Really. People are paying 5 KD a cup to eat gravel. They fool you into thinking its a healthier ‘rice substitute’ but that is a load of crap. Quinoa is not rice. It doesn’t even live in rice’s neighborhood. It doesn’t even share rice’s galaxy. Damn all of you swindlers who tried to pawn off quinoa to me as rice! You are horrible and I will never forgive you!

Oh, and another fun fact about freaking quinoa? It’s ruining the farming culture in Bolivia. Oh yeah. Due to all the “foodies” running around and pretending to be cool and decadent and hip by eating a handful of pebbles and overpaying for it, thousands of other people get to suffer. Because in places that export quinoa like Bolivia and Ecuador it’s considered “poor people” food, that is until idiotic rich people came along and started buying it in bulk. Now these countries are exporting so much quinoa that the farmers can barely afford it themselves and are now turning to way less nutritional supplements instead. GOD, QUINOA. How do you sleep at night?

And, to add insult to injury, quinoa has forever ruined Joaquin Phoenix for me because, as I write this, my brain has somehow exchanged “Joaquin” for “quinoa.” And now Quinoa Phoenix sounds like an even douchier name than Joaquin Phoenix and I will never be able to watch Walk The Line again without hating quinoa and hating myself.

SO SCREW YOU GODDAMN QUINOA. Not liking you is Reason 137 that I will never be cool.

Feminism, Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Screw You, Bigots!

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Look, equality is not complicated. Racial equality, gender equality, social equality are very simple issues, despite what people (who may actually mean well) have always said. Because when people don’t know how to approach sensitive subjects like race or gender they usually chime in (and chime out) with phrases like: “Oh, well, race/gender/social equality is complicated and everyone has a different opinion on it.” Except no. Its not and they don’t.

And you know why? Because racial bias, gender bias, and social bias is some seriously arbitrary and entirely made up nonsense. And imaginary, made up things are, by nature of their deep non-realness, usually not that complicated. I mean, really, they’re about as complicated as goddamn Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny.

Oh, well, that guy’s racial blood lineage is less ‘pure’ than mine so it makes me an inherently better person? Women’s brains are broom-shaped and so they need their own brand of pens and can only operate pink machinery? That dude likes other dudes (or doesn’t believe in God or likes to dress like Darth Vader) and so he deserves to have less rights to privacy, social dignity, or even a hint of human compassion?

Made up. Made up. Made up. Made up and completely messed up.

But, y’know, its not really all that surprising why these messed up things are around and refuse to go away. People benefit from bigotry–hell, I benefit from it every day–and things that benefit people in power don’t just suddenly go away because Halle Berry won an Oscar or whatever. Nope. They lurk around in words like “social background” and “natural-born” or calling every other Indian person “Raju.” Look at where there are deliberate and silent absences of certain kinds of people and there you will find hidden, powerful bigotry.

And the people who watch that bigotry from afar and choose to say nothing about it, or worse purposefully disseminate it and make it grow for their own benefit are The Bigots.

Now, I’m generally a well-intentioned person and so I try my best to give people the benefit of the doubt when they make seemingly unintentional bigoted claims like, “Racism is over! Obama’s president!” So I always ask these kinds of people one simple question: Do you believe that people are born equal? And their answer to this question is usually the deal-breaker.

Because if you claim that you’re not a bigot (or at least that you’re working hard towards not being one, which is the most any of us can really do) then you must at least believe that all people are born equal. And so, if you believe that, then you also believe that things like someone’s race/gender/personal lifestyle choices shouldn’t have anything to do with how successful/socially comfortable they are. Right? And yet you look around and what do you see? Tons of successful traditional men of one specific race who’s success vastly outweighs the people who are otherwise born different than them. And so, if you believe everyone’s born equal, then you also believe that there are external factors that are holding these different, but equal people back. Factors like bigotry. Right? So, then congratulations! You believe in bigotry and you are actively trying to make sure that you are not a bigot. Kudos to you!

Unless of course you believe that all people are NOT born equal in which case you would be a freaking bigot.

See how simple and so not complicated that whole equation was. ALL people are born equal? Not bigot. Maybe not ALL people are born equal? Bigot.

Now, if you think you may be a privileged bigot and you think maybe you wanna try to change your mind about including EVERYONE in the growth and progress of your country/your subcontinent/your world then here’s my humble two cents if you’ll have them:

It’s not easy to swallow your own privilege and to admit your complicity in bigoted actions especially if that’s just what you were born into. Really, I get it and I know how that feels because I, OwlOlive, am in many ways a member of this privileged global class. By sheer randomness I had the good fortune of being born into a white, straight body, in an economically stable family, with ample education opportunities, in a rich, powerful country in a world that implicitly favors powerful, educated, straight, white bodies over all other kinds of bodies. It’d be so easy for me to say ‘Well! That’s just the way it goes, I guess! La-di-da! Thank God for making me so privileged! What’s for dinner!’

So, yeah. I absolutely know that swallowing your privilege is hard but I can promise you that once you do it you’ll be addicted to that feeling. That feeling of opening yourself up to different perspectives, accepting your part in unknowingly helping to build a crappy social structure, and working on making the world a better place for everyone instead of just defending your territory and telling people where their ‘place’ is. It’s something I have to do as a privileged white person and something I still have to work on every single day because it’s the right thing to do. It’s just that: right. And so you have to do it. And that’s it.

Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that you’re a bad person for being born into a privileged life in a privileged body. I’m saying you’re an extremely lucky person and that you should acknowledge that random luck by trying to make life easier for the people who weren’t so lucky. The people who were born with a different skin color, or ethnicity, or ‘lineage.’ The people born as female. The people born wanting to live a different but completely non-harmful lifestyle. You should be trying to make their lives equally privileged and easy as yours not less so. And when you do nothing but stand around and watch (‘What am I supposed to do? That’s the way the world is!’) when you could at least say something, you are making it less equal.

Humans are not complicated. All everyone wants is to feel valued, respected, and to feel like we deserve to exist in the world and all that it offers. So stop pretending like these ‘issues’ are so complicated, because they’re just not.

And, to those horrible specimens of crappy, bigoted people who know and understand all of this but still choose to live their lives at the expense of other people’s safety and livelihood and equality, I have but two words for you: Screw you. Screw you for literally turning the whole freaking planet into a disgusting cesspool of pain and division and a lack of progress just so you can stay the only privileged person in the world. Screw you for holding innocent people back and degrading them just because you’re so afraid of being overpowered and made obsolete by unity and loyalty and respect and equal opportunity.

People like you are garbage monsters who just need to shut up already. So yeah. Screw you, bigots. Please go away and never come back.

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Screw You, Cat Allergies!

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Okay, to be honest, I have to say that I don’t really have it that bad with allergies. I mean, I DO but it’s not like my allergies are so insufferable that they keep me bed-ridden in a sponge sealed room for half the year or like I have the kind of immune sensitivity that could turn an ordinary peanut butter sandwich into a lethal weapon. If you are one of those people then, MY GOD I am so very sorry. My allergy is by no means that painful and dangerous but its still pretty bad and definitely sucks big time!

See, my allergy is against cats. Cats. Adorable, fluffy, neurotic, hilarious, damn-near edible kitty cats.

Yup. Put me anywhere within the approximate vicinity of where a cat may have once existed and my face will literally start to self-destruct. My eyes get insanely scratchy and well up. My nose reddens and explodes until it starts to resemble a garden vegetable variety. And I sneeze endlessly and ceaselessly until my body starts to get numb. I pretty much have to dunk my head in a bucket of Evian water before I can cleanse my pores of those tiny, flying, super pesky cat follicles.

Now, you see, all of these symptoms would be entirely manageable for me if I didn’t also happen to suffer from another deadly condition: AN EXTREME AND WILDLY INFATUATED LOVE FOR ANY AND ALL KITTY CATS. I live in self-denial and try to tell myself that cats are evil, passive-aggressive, night ninjas with knife fingers but, really, cats are probably one of the things I enjoy most in this world.

And, because of my allergies, I pretty much have to shun one of the things that I enjoy most in this world. And for that I say: screw you, allergies! I shall never, ever forgive you!

But, oh, it wasn’t always like this! When I was younger, I used to always go over to our family friends’ house–which housed at least half a dozen cats–and would do nothing but play all day in this adorable cat cornucopia of love, laughter, and endlessly fluffy happiness! I would snuggle the kitty babies and brush their kitty coats and attend their fake kitty weddings which the family would put on. It was good to be young then in the season of plenty.

But then disaster struck a few years later and I was kitty snuggling nevermore. I developed a weird allergy out of nowhere and overnight. This was discovered when my mother came home one day with a tiny, beige-colored ball of meowing cuteness. His name was Smarty; we called him Smarticus (because he was vicious and snotty yet oddly loveable). And ever since we’ve bought Smarty into the house my face has been plagued with the disastrous cat allergy from the seventh circle of hell. Over the years I developed a semi-immunity to Smarticus which allowed me to at least exist in the same household with him. But still. I couldn’t pet Smarticus. I couldn’t sit near Smarticus. And I certainly couldn’t stay in the same room with him for any longer than 5 minutes. My relationship with kitties. Was over.

“Meoooooow!” Smarty would quoth into the night. He would get no reply.

Now that I’ve moved out of my family’s home and my body is no longer used to Smarty’s presence, whenever I go back there I’m immediately seized with the worst bout of sneezing frenzies which doesn’t go away unless I can sedate myself with medication and warm drinks.

Imagine one of your life’s most beloved creatures. Imagine it standing in the distance, staring back at you with wide, glossy, perfectly round eyes begging for one last hug. Imagine yourself running out to it, a Celine Dion song playing in the background to your moment of final, loving embrace. NOW DIE BECAUSE YOU DON’T GET ONE FINAL EMBRACE BECAUSE OF FREAKING CRAZY CAT ALLERGIES. Now woefully skulk off into the sunset, as a lone, heartbroken tear streaks down your stupid allergic face.

Now you’re me.

So, yeah. Screw you, cat allergies!

Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Screw You, Cancer!

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Cancer has been a persistent factor in my life since before I was even born. My aunt died of it, my grandma died of it, my closest friend in high school died of it, my grandfather almost died of it, and now I know three people who are en route to dieing of cancer.

Cancer is an axe that’s been hanging over my head and my sisters’ head and my mother’s head since literally forever because, as luck would have it, we all share a mutantly rare genetic possibility of dieing of breast cancer. Me and my sisters each have a 1 in 4 chance, and my mother has a 1 in 2 chance. So, basically, the odds have royally screwed us and the higher likelihood is that breast cancer is going to be claiming one of us for sure at some point.

We’ve each suffered multiple cancer scares in our lifetimes and my mother now has a chronic, deep-seated fear of mammograms, hospitals, and anything that vaguely resembles the word ‘cancer’ (answer, dancer, prancer: very scary words for my mother). Somewhere in the deep, dark corners of our mind a part of us is waiting for that axe to drop because we’ve all seen it happen so many times.

And to those of you who have thankfully never been through such a harrowing experience and so don’t know what I mean by ‘seen it happen,’ here’s the basic gist:

Seeing someone die of cancer does not, by any means, look like a movie or a TV show or even a well-intentioned PSA. Nope. Listening to the breaths of someone you love getting so slow and so heavy that inhaling and exhaling literally begins to physically hurt them is something you can never ever, ever prepare yourself for. Never. Because seeing cancer is seeing the surgery scars, the exhaustion of chemo, and the sky-high (and usually crippling) medical expenses. Seeing cancer is seeing the toll it takes on every single relationship you have and seeing someone live in fear of the fact that there’s a good chance they are going to die very soon.

Living in the ‘Cancer Death Bubble’ is like living in the slowest, most horrible purgatory you could ever possibly imagine and wanting nothing more on this planet but to leave that purgatory. Except for one thing: to never ever leave that purgatory. Because once you leave that purgatory, it’s over. The person is over. Your grandparents and aunts and uncles and mother and father and sister and best friend are all over. And all you have to do now is go home without them.

So, I guess no one ever told cancer that my mother would suffer with self-guilt issues for the rest of her life because her sister and mother died suddenly and prematurely and all while she was about to give birth. I guess no one told cancer that I would’ve really liked to have gotten to know my grandmother and to get some great stories and life lessons and endless love out of her. That my friend was only 17 and had an entire lifetime left to live. That my aunt would never get to know her only son who she had to leave mother-less at one years old. Couldn’t someone have told cancer about any of these things? Cancer, you’re fired.

But, of course, the reality is that none of these things matter at all. Which is why me and my sisters and my mother have to deal with the constant and very real possibility that one of us might have breast cancer at this very minute. And to that I say: screw you, cancer!

Screw you for killing my grandparents and other people’s parents and other people’s children and for probably killing me one day. Screw you for not giving a flying dingbat about whether or not someone is nice or mean or good or evil or boring or ugly or pretty or if someone’s daughter or son are going to suffer for their whole entire life because of you. Screw you for just taking people and time and money away. Screw you for making women like Angelina Jolie resort to these measures just to save her children and herself from you. Screw you for being nothing more than a weird organ failure and mutant cell growth instead of something real that I can be mad at. Screw you for surrounding me and my family and so many other people in the world with this feeling of heavy, sad, deep absence that never really goes away.

So, yeah. Screw you, cancer. And screw you most of all because saying ‘screw you’ doesn’t even help.

Musings, SAY WHAAA...!

Introducing ‘Screw You!’ Week

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This is going to be about as straight and plain of a post as you’re probably ever going to read on this blog. Because the basic fact of the matter is that things have just sucked lately. Not in any deeply tragic, ‘please send your donations here’ kind of way but there’s just been a serious happy, fun vibe deficiency going around lately.

And while I know that in many ways current unhappiness is actually the key to to eventual happiness, I figure purging some of that toxic crap out of your system doesn’t hurt either.

So, this week I’m going to do just that. I’m going to purge. Purge endlessly and gloriously about ALL THE CRAP.

Big crap, small crap, petty crap, meaningful crap, specific crap, general crap, and all your other basic craps. And I’m going to take all these various craps, sit them down in the naughty corner, and flagrantly shout ‘Screw you!’ at them all week long. And, come weekend time, I will hopefully be fully purged and back to my normally surly but mostly sunny old self. Hoorah!

So, it is with great relief and zero real explanation that I bring you ‘Screw You!’ Week. A week entirely devoted to desperate emotional cleansing and unabashed mental purging which, really, we all need to do from time to time in order to retain our sanity.

Some of you will think its whiny. Some of you will think it’s refreshing. Hopefully most of you will land somewhere within a manageable middle. Whichever way you go, I hope you stick around and maybe even join in the glorious purging fun (email me your angry woes and, in honor of this week, I will be more than happy to post them here if you’re so inclined).

And, y’know, I usually sign all my posts with the proverbial ‘All my love!’ because I like to leave you all with a sense that I’m not some evil, negative troll monger but merely a concerned, slightly snarky individual who watches too much George Carlin.

But I’m not going to do that this week, and that’s mostly because I do not love any of The Crap I’m going to talk about.

So hang on to your metaphorical seats and, for the last time this week: All my love!