INTRODUCTION

“The personal life deeply lived always expands into truths beyond itself.”

~ Anaïs Nin

The bittersweet dynamic between men and women has spawned many books. There are many other subjects to study for the benefit of self and society, but few other issues grab as much consistent human attention as this one that is both mental and emotional, as well as physical—and of pre-limbic reptilian proportion as well. The attraction/repulsion of the opposite sex has shifted in the last fifty years. Options are more available now if one wishes to create a life explicitly of one’s choosing; however, I focus specifically on the relationships between the sexes as these are what I’ve personally encountered the most.

My awareness of the relationships between men and women began early. My mother says that one morning when she was in a snit I looked up at her and said, “Maybe if you’re not nice, Daddy won’t want you for his wife anymore.” At that young age did I pick up from the early 60s advertising that a woman was supposed to always have a smile on her face when her man came home from work?

Memories that stand out in my early childhood involve the tension I felt emanating from my mother. Everyone has memories, yet many confuse whether they are true memories or portrayals in photographs or what family members have told them over the years. In our family pictures, my mother was always smiling. When I would ask her why she was upset she’d say, “I wanted nothing more than to be your father’s wife and to have you three children.” That’s what she said, but her seemingly and consistently frustrated behavior confused me. If my mother wanted nothing else than to be my mother, why didn’t her words carry through to her actions?

Not until I was in my twenties did I discover my mother had some curiosity about the social work field, which she later went into, but her father insisted she take business classes instead and get her MRS. degree. She didn’t dare cross him in the early 50s. Thus by 1956 she was married, and in 1959 I was born as the only girl in between two boys. I grew up in a bedroom community set up south of Los Angeles and I’m told my family was classified as a striving, upwardly mobile middle class environment.

I believe my desire to not reproduce began early. I played with dolls just like my girlfriends. I had a Ken and a Barbie doll, but I was more interested in how their doll parts fit together than how many doll cars, doll houses, and doll clothes they could amass. In other words, I wanted to know how the muscular Ken could lay on top of the curvy Barbie without falling off.  I wasn’t concerned with whether they’d have a little Ken and a little Barbie each needing a bedroom of their own. If my mother only wanted to be Daddy’s wife and to mother us three, then why was she upset so often? If being a mother was supposed to be the supreme joy and privilege of a woman’s life, as many commercials in the 60s portrayed, why did my mother not appear at peace?

I don’t believe I was conscious of these thought processes for many years. Yet, I can say for sure that when the prospect of having to deal with boys became more than a subtle threat, certain behaviors crept into my life that signified I was troubled and concerned.

I have never married. I’ve been asked seven times. Both high school and college boyfriends married and had two girls followed by a boy. According to our family lore, I could possibly have twins (since it skips a generation or two) if I opened my body to baby making. My maternal grandmother had nine baby girls, three sets of twins. Looking back, I see now that much of my twenties and thirties I purposefully spent in a cloudy haze because I felt ashamed and selfish I wasn’t willing to surrender my body to what was expected of me as a woman—to reproduce.

When I was thirty-eight my gynecologist said, “If you want to reproduce, you need to tell me now. If so, we will need to take steps to prepare and preserve your eggs.” These two sentences began a grand symphony in my ears and woke me up like Sleeping Beauty’s response to the Prince’s kiss after a hundred year long sleep. Now that my eggs were getting old and crusty, no man I might love would ask, “If you really love me, you’ll have my child.”

I didn’t want a baby, not one or two or three. Seeing my mother struggle through days with constant piles of laundry,  never-ending meals to make, and so little assistance or even much vocal appreciation from those she devoted herself to, I realized I couldn’t and I wouldn’t walk that path. No matter how much I loved a man, I didn’t want his baby.

I wanted my own unique life more. I didn’t want to merely exist, accomplishing only the eternal job of reproduction which is repetitive and demanding if done right. My ancestors sacrificed so I could have my life. I intended to understand, as fully as possible, what this life I was given was truly all about, not spend it bringing up the next generation.

At thirty-eight I realized I could finally be open to love. I became aware of how closed I’d been, how I’d run from any genuine heart-felt connection with a potential mate once it started to get serious, and how I’d twisted myself in knots to prevent what I was certain would be a repeat of Sylvia Plath’s predicament. Oh sure I love you. Oh sure I’ll have your babies. Oh sure I’ll let my own aspirations die so yours can rise. Oh sure I’ll put my head in the oven. I was sure in an unconscious yet insistent voice. My instinct followed Plath’s poetry without even reading it. All the Disney tales of happy families didn’t stay in my mind once the popcorn package, simultaneously bought, was empty.

In the last thirteen years I’ve opened myself to love in ways I never allowed before. I reacquainted myself with true desire, instead of my typical intellectual agreement to care. At one point, I purposefully decided to seek love and began a conscious attempt at online dating in order to find it. For a long while I compiled stories for a book about my online adventures. But with a 2010 diagnosis of cancer at the age of fifty, I decided that instead of a tongue-in-cheek humorous book for the masses about how funny the path to passion is on the computer, I needed a truth-filled, earnest declaration made for myself first and foremost—whom did I love and what did I learn? I wanted to write the book I’d always wanted to read, the one, which told the stark truth of each unfolding situation. If my internal reckoning is of any value to others, it is here for all to read.

Every story has a beginning, middle, and an end. So does mine. My beginning represents the first forty-two years of my life. The middle carries on for another few years. The end began when I was almost forty-five.

 

I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?


~
Jalaluddin Rumi, poet and mystic (1207-1273)