this is a personal blog


there's an interesting article online by hedgebrook alum rahna reiko rizzuto about why she left her children for six months, to pursue a writers' residency in japan, and ended up leaving them, and their father, altogether.

i don't often speak about marriage or motherhood because the institutions strike me a bit like mlk jr's beloved community--an unattainable ideal, or perhaps a figment of the imagination, that may never exist in reality anywhere. i don't have ample examples of positive marriages to provide evidence of the benefits of this union. since i prefer to deal with what i see reflected in my reality, marriage has been largely irrelevant to me. i also have never been clear that motherhood is a better institution than selfhood. perhaps why i have walked away from every man who has ever dared utter the words 'marriage' and 'children,' usually within mere months of our meeting. i wonder, does he think i'm just going to slip into this perfect picture of a life he's imagined for himself? is he crazy? i'm not falling for that trick."

don't get me wrong: i would love to be someone's partner, perhaps even for life, but i have never wanted to be someone's wife and all that implies. i am a free spirit, have a tendency (and perhaps, a desire) to float around from mate to mate like a muse. i like to sample a little bit of everything on the table before i choose what i want to eat. and i value my freedom, my independence, my singledom somewhat fiercely.

but lately (oh, lately) i have begun contemplating giving up this freedom. you could chalk it up to my upcoming 30th birthday this year, or the new gray hair on my head that brings the count up to two. or maybe i'm just tired of these fleeting relationships i have that, nevertheless, leave my emotional energy sapped dry.

and don't get me wrong (again): i hate those movies where the independent, no nonsense career woman is ultimately rescued from the exile of singledom by a (strong, handsome, and yet sensitive) man. that has never been my story. first off, i love myself as i am. not in that 'i'm so fabulous' kind of way, but in that bone deep understanding that i am a person of conscience, of spirit, of intelligence, and of value with or without a mate.

it is a prevalent assumption that all women want to marry and have babies. but when i was a little girl, i never dreamt of any those things. i had baby dolls, but they were often my patients (i wanted to be a doctor then) and rarely my children. i would leave them lying askew under the dinner table for days at a time, later chiding myself for my carelessness, knowing deep down i would make a terrible mother. and this notion changed very little in adolescence and young adulthood. i was simply too selfish, too insecure, too neurotic to be trusted with another person's heart, let alone a child's.

i would raise children who were desperate to find the care and validation they never got from me in the world around them. they would end up as emotional doormats or, worse yet, in abusive relationships that would land them in therapy for decades. i was not going to allow this to happen under any circumstances.

but over the past few years, i find myself changing. i am slightly less insecure, less neurotic. i still don't want kids, at least right now, but i can at least dream of having them one day. no matter how i've felt in the past, i always figured that one day i'd rise to the occasion of being someone's mate and mother. i'm not sure if/when that day will come, but i'm not sure i'm ready to decide that it never will.

i was thinking about it a lot today, and then i read that article, and then i was ambivalent again. i think it is courageous to step out of the mold of traditional femininity to pursue one's art/dream. another major reason why i have never wanted to marry/mother is that, deep down, i don't want to resent my spouse/children for limiting my ability to achieve my creative dreams. i have been happily wedded to myself as an artist for many years now, and am still laboring to give birth to my creative ideas. there just hasn't been time/energy/room for anyone else.

i just really hope that i'm not missing something.

i am somewhat reluctant to share this here. however, as i write this memoir about my mother, it brings up all these unreconciled notions about marriage and motherhood that i need to work through somehow. thankfully, very few people read this blog. --AL.

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  1. I had a lengthy response to this post, but somehow my computer ate it. Will type it up again once the topic of marriage comes up again. But in essence, just wanted to sign in a loyal reader of alligator legs and empathize. Immediately, I hear the words marriage, I find myself sabotaging such relationships, unconsciously. Like you, annoyed at the idea of becoming a line item on someone else's lifelong ToDo list. Another is that, marriage is so predictable and when something is predictable, you sort of know how it ends, and it's like, "So, is that it?"
    I spent the first few years of my twenties chasing marriage simply because it was the prudent thing to do, and I thought I wanted to be such. However, the prospect of merging my identity to that of another adult was unbearably stifling (though, to be fair, that was not the intent of the men I was involved with) and even is the roles were flipped, I did not want to do so to another. I instead became a free agent of sorts, and like the woman in the article you link to, I discovered that marriage was not terribly desirable. I want children or a child - adopted or not - but the idea of carting along another adult with me doesn't interest me, terribly. I hope this is a phase, and I wish I could dissect out the roots of my aversion to marriage as you have in this post.
    I wish it were a phase...

  2. @nneoma: as a fellow free agent, i can identify with everything you've said here. frankly, i'm not sure i really understand marriage at all. at this point i figure i wld only do it because i was expected to, or happened to fall (deeply, madly) in love with somebody, or because i were somehow hypnotized into it. don't know what the odds are for either one. and i hate the to-do-listers with a passion! once had a guy list out his home, career, two cars, and a dog all as reasons why i should twist myself into a pretzel accomodating his life and schedule. i had the damnedest time figuring out if i would come in behind the cars or the dog! had to say goodbye. i suppose that, while i'm definitely averse to the idea, i'm not officially opposed to the idea of marriage. IF it cld be some kind of egalitarian compromise with another human being. i just have never really seen that in practice.


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