The Death of One's Passions

Posted by mouthyb | Posted in , , | Posted on 2:47 PM

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I've come the long route to the things I am passionate about, though my family labelled me dangerously over-passionate most of my childhood. I remember my childhood as quite passionate; like an exhibit behind glass, I scrabbled at an invisible wall in a suffocating space. No matter what I wanted, I would become just what the card in front of the glass said: "Female, North American, Native Habitat: Domestic, Reproduction. Incapable of independence, relies on provider."

Not so much human as a curiosity; someone who would deny the self-evidently natural script for our lives.

My nightmares were often of being married to a middle-class fellow, trapped in a home with 2.5 children and given only home-decorating and child-rearing as an outlet for ambition. I am not exaggerating when I say that dream used to wake me up in a sweat, thinking of my mother and father.

Sometimes, it woke me up literally screaming. The people who have shared my bed tended to laugh at my explanation that my nightmare was of being a housewife.

I have to believe my mother also wanted more for me, despite beating me and telling me that I would never be loved, since I was so ugly: in a twisted way, this was her charity. If I were ugly and unloveable, I could devote myself to pursuing my passions, instead of being trapped in a home, as she was. After all, a woman cannot have both a career and love. As she told me often, that meant I could be seen as competing with men, and they would be forced to punish it out of me. No love, no softness, no femininity, else I would fail to have my own desires.

And what cost would you pay, reader, to follow your passions? What cost have you already paid?

My MFA dissertation compared this to a tide, drowning my mother and I, filling the rooms of the house with the slap of waves. To be immaterial to your own desires and ambitions, to live every day with the knowledge that you will have no life of your own, only what the men and women who are willing to collaborate around you believe to be appropriate.

To have others be genuinely surprised that you did not passionately, with every fiber of your being, want nothing more than to find a nice man to marry, then stay home, have kids and never have to work. Isn't that what women want?

Your passionate refusal, of course, is evidence that you are mentally ill, defective. How could you not want this existence?

I suppose it's probably no surprise that my relationship to my passions is a bit distant. I had to kill something of myself to go to college, something which I will not get back in the same form. I am no longer capable of casually assuming good intentions in others and that society is essentially a fair place.

The difference for me, and something I'm continually surprised so many people think is irrelevant, was seeing women able to have careers. It was seeing women who were mathematicians, atheists, and scientists. There've been several threads on FTB about female role models, the most recent of which is Jen's.

Someone inevitably shows up, like pidgeon shit on park benches, to strafe the conversation with the idea that it's the artist's choice, or that there really aren't any women to admire, or that women don't contribute to the sciences.

And once again, for a minute, I feel the glass.

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