Choices and memories

Why have a baby? And do you remember being one? This and more, this week in TT.

Published October 13, 2005 10:22AM (EDT)

Private Life

The Male/Female Question Box

Robert Chariot - 08:22 a.m. Pacific Time - Oct. 9, 2005 - #2919 of 3066

Historically, BABY was an inescapable fact of life. A woman who ignored this fact, or who lived her life making choices that did not prepare for BABY, ended up ruined, or worse, when the inevitable BABY arrived. Even if she managed to arrange for a respectable marriage to a wealthy man, this did not insure her against all possibilities. Unhappiness, divorce, disease, life's calamities all waited, like wolves at the door, to destroy the woman and BABY.

The pursuit of Love? The pursuit of Adventure? The pursuit of Beauty? The pursuit of Art? The pursuit of Knowledge? The pursuit of Meaning? The pursuit of Pleasure? Fun? Not for women! These were the domains of men. The smart woman realized that these were not just secondary, but way, way, way down on the list in a woman's life. Whether she wanted Love, Adventure, Art, Beauty, Knowledge were irrelevant. The smart woman's paramount task was to ensure safety for her and BABY.

But now we live in the era of "Choice." BABY is no longer the foregone conclusion. BABY will not come clobbering her over the head if she happens to be pursuing Adventure, or Knowledge. A woman no longer needs to organize her entire life, upfront, sweep every other approach off the stage, to accommodate BABY. Every person or situation or interest does not need to be evaluated, in advance, in terms of whether or not it will support BABY.

BABY no longer looms on the horizon like an inescapable storm, forcing her to arrange for a rich husband (regardless of whether she knows, loves, is loved by one, or even wants one), a big brick safehouse (regardless of whether she has the desire or the financial -- or emotional -- resources to "pay" for one) and a storehouse of food, goods and services at the ready.

Choice does not mean BABY or NO BABY. Choice means you get to live a life as an individual, not a BABY-machine. Choice means you get to pursue the process of individuation, as it unfolds, for you. If your individual life, as it unfolds, leads you to meet a stable, long-term, financially secure partner, your process may then lead to the question of reproduction, naturally, one step at a time.

The point I am making is forward, not backward-looking. To approach life as if BABY is an unquestioned fact from the git-go -- before she even meets anyone who wants to have a baby with her, before she's even in a place where reproduction is a meaningful possibility -- sounds backward to me. It sounds fearful, BABY as default mode. In our era of Choice, having a baby can now take its place as an event in the journey of a woman free to live life as it unfolds in real time.

Work Life

The Science of Information: Librarians, Archivists and Records Managers Gather Here

Peter James - 07:03 p.m. Pacific Time - Oct. 6, 2005 - #81 of 146

Librarians do not exist to enforce laws. I suppose you'd like us to police photocopy machines to make sure nobody's violating the fair use policy in their xeroxing, or perhaps keep tabs on what Internet sites people visit to make sure nobody's gathering information on illegal drugs. Maybe we could keep an eye on people typing essays to ensure no plagiarizing happens. Librarians, at least the ones I know, support unrestricted access to information. Of course we do our work within the limits of the law -- we're not going to make the illegal photocopies that violate fair use, etc. The point is that librarians act as points of access -- we're not legislators or judiciaries to our patrons, and the fact that you (implicitly) thrust that responsibility upon us boggles my mind. Librarians purposefully don't keep records or they shred them so when feds come knocking to check up on what Person X has been reading, the librarians can say, "Oops, we don't keep our records." Librarians are champions of civil liberties. So I find it a bit antiquated that you frown upon our wanting to freely duplicate media amongst ourselves, no different than you would burn a CD for a friend, dub a VHS tape for yourself, etc. (but I guess you've never done anything of that sort). Let me pull my hair out of this bun, take off my glasses, and raise my voice a little. Perhaps that will help.

Private Life

Tempests in teapots: Share your local controversies

Toddler Recall: Your first ever memory...

Sir Realist - 08:00 a.m. Pacific Time - Oct. 4, 2005 - #47 of 58

Throughout the tenure of human life on earth, the two most common fates have been, 1) to be conceived but not born (probably about 2/3 of conceptions), 2) to die as a child (in all, something like 1 in 6 conceptions has resulted in a human adult). I quite nearly did the latter, before my first birthday. I developed pneumonia, and the range of available treatments in 1950 was limited. About the time they were going to consider me a goner, the doctor's research turned up a new antibiotic, which was just becoming widely available. Chloramphenicol was invented in 1947, and it was the first "wide-spectrum" antibiotic. It was an expensive shot in the dark, but they decided to try it, as a last resort.

As a result of that experience -- and in tune with the practice of the times -- my parents responded to my every little respiratory infection with a trip to the doctor's, for a "shot." "Shot," a word embroidered with terror. In bed, I would hear the fateful phone call, and know that the next morning I would be led through that glass door with the doctor's name painted on it, and boosted up onto that leather exam table for an experience of sudden, searing pain. With the image ricocheting around my head, I would lie awake for hours in fearful anticipation.

In those days, of course, syringes were not the innocuous, disposable plastic things they are now. They were -- especially to a 2-year-old -- monstrous glass tubes, and the reusable needles themselves were bolted on like something from a Frankenstein movie. And the penicillin was a voluminous hot milky load forced into the tissue of your butt muscle.

I cried. I screamed. Probably as much from the release of the awful anticipation as from the pain itself.

Then one night -- I think I was 3 -- I thought, basically, I cannot live like this. It's awful for me, and for everyone else too. And apparently it's not going to stop being part of my life. So I've got to get past this. I've got to stop behaving like a baby.

I didn't let on that this day was going to be different from all those other days. As they boosted me up onto the worn leather of the exam table, and brought out the weapons of therapeutic torture, I could see them all bracing for the inevitable outburst. But instead, as I had planned, I just said "OUCH!" and laughed. And then they laughed, in surprise and relief.

Ah, a rite of passage.

House and Garden

Questions for the Cook, III

Andrea Doria - 07:46 p.m. Pacific Time - Sep. 29, 2005 - #209 of 239

With tomatoes, I really haven't found the need to dredge. Actually we had a cook who never used eggs (my grandmother was 1) old and 2) could not boil water, so hence the cook). I have never ever had such wonderful fried chicken in my life. And it wasn't crispy, just fantastic. Of course, it was heavy with bacon fat. But she would dredge it in flour with salt and butter, then cook it in lard.

Oh now I'm feeling sad and bittersweet. She was the loveliest person and believed in me. I knew her my whole childhood and then some. Coming from my mom's house, where food made you "fat, ugly and not worth loving," then seeing L, I learned that cooking was a form of love. No gesture too small or little. She used to call me and say, "I want you to be a soap opera actress, because then I can see you on the TV every day." I used to bring her gifts from NYC, even when I was a really young child (thank you, Dad, for paying for all those "but L has to have a gift!" purchases). I watched her watch her son die. I went to her husband's funeral and watched her shake him in his coffin and say, "Get up, wake up." I used to go see her when she was too old to work. She would tell me how she had a great conversation with her husband: "Oh, lordie, W told me the other night that he didn't like my new dog!" She always talked of seeing spirits, but in a way that made them still alive. She would make some fried chicken and biscuits for me. They weren't quite as good as when she was younger, but they still tasted of love.

Man, I am crying now. I think of her all the time but this is the first time I have cried since her death, which was in the mid-'90s.

You just rekindled the memory of one of the three people, the other two being my grandfather and ex-bf, who loved me for who I was, not who they wanted me to be. I miss her so much.

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