Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Name is Independence

A trip to the library today got me spinning about a new project.

I was crouched down by the kid-sized stacks in the parenting section, looking for kid books on divorce and split families to explain some questions my daughter has been having. The titles i was finding were "My Mommy's Wedding" and "My Mama is Away," among other titles i've already forgotten that deal with the big 'D' word.

It hit me that most of the books explained to kids either the concept of divorce, or how to deal with the fact that one of the parents was getting remarried. This got me thinking about how often conventional wisdom is telling my daughter that someday this too would be her reality -- that one day mama would get married to someone and she would find ways to deal with it. And it seems that everyone around me is reinforcing that belief.

It's in the little comments from friends: 'o someday it will all be easier, when there are two incomes in your house again..."

It's in the asides from family: 'o someday they'll be yet another wedding..."

It's in the hope in a little girl's voice: 'mama, when you have another baby, i want you to name her such and such...'

It's in the parenting section of the library, that provides no literature about someone who may have a child, yes, but who just might enjoy the fact that there is no wedding ring on her finger. Take time to gasp here, if you must. Or roll your eyes at my demand that another fringe lifestyle be endorsed by the public library.

But i am very bothered by the fact that so many people believe that women -- especially women with children -- need a partner to save them from the terrible fate of going through life alone. I am bothered by the fact that even my own child has little conception that it can be any other way -- and that even though she lives with me and doesn't bear witness to any lonely crying from me, she too believes i must be lonely.

I suppose among other populations, this conception of the independent woman only goes so far too. A childless woman too may spend most of her young life in a powerful job, living high on the hog with all her material needs taken care of from her own hand alone. But once she reaches a certain age, people begin to question what she's doing with her life. Will she get married, have kids, settle down like the rest of the world? Or will she bear the scarlet A-title we call "Old Maid?"

Is this really the way we want our girls growing up -- believing that if they're alone they're less than fulfilled; that they're just half of a person and need outward validation to feel whole?

Let me make this point perfectly clear, though. I am not, as this post might seem, categorically against marriage. My parents have been happily married for 32 years, so i know from their experience that it can be a good way to live. What i am against is the notion that all of us -- all us poor single people -- are somehow not as good without someone by our sides, and we must all scramble out to find a mate.

So there is really just one thing i feel i can do about it. Start writing books about the topic to fill the stacks of the parenting section.

They first one is all but written -- about a girl named Independence who got her name because her fierce mama believed in the concept. She's got a house and a dog and chickens and a life she doesn't always understand, especially when her other friends have dads and stepdads and even second moms. But she learns that love is not something that can be sought for love's sake, and that a person can be happy, even when there is no one around to tell them they're great.

"My name is Independence
my mama gave me that name..."

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