Let freedom (from the ring) ring!
I do love the 4th of July. Unlike so many holidays, it doesn’t require family or church or shoving a last minute present into an overpriced gift bag. There’s beer and potato salad and strawberry shortcake decked out like a flag with blueberries and whip cream.
And don’t even get me started on the fireworks. Doesn’t matter how old I get, I’ll always geek out on the boom and burst of those lights in the sky. There’s a reason they’re a movie metaphor for orgasms. They’re that magical.
I’m also a fan of freedom. Though Fox News and the Tea Party have tried to beat it out of me, I have an enormous amount of pride in this country. As a woman, I’m proud that I have rights and liberties that women from many other countries don’t have. I take some of these rights for granted until I have to fight for them.
We women have been fighting for our rights a lot, lately.
Politicians and religious leaders are all up in our asses these days. Literally. You know it’s election time when the local Planned Parenthood sidewalks are lined with protestors. Many of them holding baby dolls. They are a strange lot.
It’s hard for this yogi not to hate those protestors because they hope to take away freedoms that women have fought hard for. I have to use deep breathing and read a little Pema and meditation. Sometimes, wine helps. Then I remember that in spite of the recent attacks, I still have the freedom to decide so much about my my sexual and reproductive health.
As a patriot, I’m pleased as spiked punch about that fact. So pleased, that I’ll be celebrating that freedom in a very personal way this 4th of July. After years of going back and forth on the issue, I’m getting my tubes tied. If you think this is too much information, you’d be right. But I figure the Young Life kids outside Planned Parenthood feel free to share and I need to return the favor. It’s the Christian thing to do.
When I made the appointment I was hoping for something in June, something on a Friday so I could be back at the gym on Monday. The receptionist told me that it would have to be early July, later than I planned on.
I was impatient because this was a decision I’d made at the age of eight years old when I saw my friend’s mother changing her newborn’s diaper. It was the first time I’d watched the process with such focus. I remember thinking that I’d rather eat poop than have to clean it off of someone thirty times a day. I remember making a promise to myself: no children.
As I got older, that promise seemed ridiculous—dangerous even. Once I hit the mid-twenties, everyone I knew seemed to be having or contemplating babies. They were tired, frightened and overwhelmed, which made me feel like I was the lucky one. However, they were also deeply exhilarated by being parents. They were discovering new depths of love that a childless person like me couldn’t fully understand.
I began thinking that if I didn’t have a child I’d be missing one of the most transformative experiences of human life.
Thousands of words have been written and millions of feet of film have been shot about this topic. They say there’s no guidebook for raising children, but it is the path most taken and documented.
By not having children, I’m veering off the path without a compass. I remember the transition from dating in my twenties to dating in my thirties. Instead of talking just about Radiohead, men in their thirties were asking about my career and my views on marriage and children. I would give them my pat answer, an uncomfortable speech that I’d cobbled together from several movies and undergrad feminist theory books. I would slam a few too many drinks and start talking about Radiohead, afraid to admit that I didn’t want children. I found that was something a lot of men didn’t want to hear.
That little girl, though, was still in me and she liked having the place to herself. In order to become a woman, I had to go back to the child I was—to remember who I was before fear and bad sitcoms took hold. That little girl knew that she enjoyed her freedom. That every time she wrote or painted, she felt like she’d given birth to something, like it came right out of her own body and took shape. As she got older she realized that this creative path had to be nurtured and tended to. Like it was a baby.
I spent the next decade going from one kind of birth control to the next. I experienced every side effect on the packages and more. No matter what kind I tried, I seemed to spend most of my time in the bathroom with one violent reaction or another. Then there were the massive hormonal storms that would take place every hour or so. I was Sybil with a Pepto-pink ring around my mouth. Pregnancy was no longer a fear because very few men ever stuck around.
I find myself at thirty-four in a committed relationship, with a dog I adore, many beautiful friendships, and the ability to be creative for a living. Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus. I have a spiritual life that enriches even the poorest areas of my life. I don’t know if I could make this decision without support that my spiritual life gives me. Yoga allows me to experience love with an intensity that has nothing to do with what does or doesn’t come out of my vagina. I think the goal is to try to love the world as if they are part of me.
It’s very hard to love everyone, but it’s much easier than putting a child through college. I respect my friends with children—their tenacity and ability to work on four hours sleep astounds me. I’ve chosen a different path. They get it. I’m everyone’s favorite godmother and I’m proud to be in the lineage of the greats like Auntie Mame. My friends know that I will take their children to movies and talk about music and be an adult friend. Sometimes, that’s exactly what a confused adolescent needs. God knows I did (thank you, Aunt Beth).
This July 4th I will fly my flag because I have the freedom to make this informed decision and the support of my friends and family.
I fly my flag for the women I know who don’t have children, who’ve taken a different path. They’ve left crumbs for me so I don’t get so lost. Thank you.
Most of all, I fly the flag because I can enjoy a good fireworks display without ever having to worry again. Namaste.
Editor: Lynn Hasselberger