‘You know? Middle-age women seeking a fertility treatment are the typical unhappy type — no matter how successful their career might look. They are just … late. Are you aiming at the same? It is about time for you to make a choice.
(Akward moment # 12 — home)
I spent last year reading about age normativity, gender segregation and the boundaries between care and punishment (from the state to its citizens or simply among family members). I have written hundreds of pages — although most of them made it right into the trashbin — on the ways in which individuals, welfare recipients in particular, internalise norms and reconfigure their lives, probably scaling down dreams and giving up aspirations. I stood up for unknown stories, arguing an empathetic excercise. Clean and pretty, I was talking about ‘others’. I walked around wearing the ultimate rebel T-shirt, bought a pair of dark framed glasses and used any weapons of choice to support ‘their struggle’. I even wrote an entry from my ‘privileged position as a chooser’.
It has been months of silence, till one fine day, I returned home. That safe place where I do not have to watch out all the time. A place where I can finally unwind, take off my subversive outfit and just be. How naive! What I found, instead, was an antagonistic scenario at the very core of what I regarded as ‘home’. Disillusioned, I had to switch to first person and initiate a chapter on how home, sweet home, could hurt. Remarks about my life started coming, derived from kin, closeness, older age and even privileged economic status — well, at this point of my PhD, almost every single member of my family is richer than me, except for my eight year old nephew. What became particularly upseting was that almost every man I bumped into seemed to know better than me, even the taxi driver. And ‘we were not sisters in the struggle’, some women did too. All felt responsible for my ‘reformation’, taking me away from my ‘metropolitan ideas’ and bringing back to my modest (i.e. submissive) ‘self’ —it is worth noting that most of these ideas had been cooking slowly, from my early teenage years, but bursted in the distance. Anyhow, they were doing it in the name of care, in a genuine attempt to protect me (from myself). Luckily, there were some — very remarkable — exceptions: my father, my mother, few friends and my under twelve-years-old nieces. But I would get back to them by the end of this piece.
Denial usually works for me. I tried distracting myself. So I turned on the TV just to find more of the same. I grabbed my laptop, went online and found thousands of comments, posts and memes reacting to the same antagonistic scenario on social media. I sat on the sidewalk and heard it back again. If the reader could follow what is going on in this country where the left has gone right and the right hangs out with the left, concerning many crucial issues, among which I should highlight (young) women’s morals. The state now, sounded like this wise old male character responsible for my ‘reformation’, for my return to the submissive female nature they had nurtured with so much care. Why, all of a sudden, was I getting so much unwanted advice about my life choices? Was it because of my current situation: a childless woman in her (almost) thirties? My particular choice of womanhood was perceived as controllable, and therefore, subject to moral judgment. I had a ‘status of choice’ and I was making use of it. The discusion was not about tradition versus modernity, neither about (lack of) maturity or pragmatism. It was mainly about exercising choice and how endangering it might be, breaking the moral order and bringing about some purposive disorder.
‘Choose your future. Choose life . . . But why would I want to do a thing like that?’
So, I put back my rebel T-shirt — literally, my brother calls it like that, he has just asked why did I wake up on a dark mood today, shall I blame it on Iggy Pop? Enough of this distance and third person writing. My ultimate exercise of consistency is to advance an honest piece in first person. And back to my father, my mother, the amazing troublemaker friends I was lucky enough to find, and the handful of school-age girls — who were born with a fortunate critical twist, I smile while typing: we are in this together. Oppresive efforts had actually fed our resistance, built on those who had already made a choice and now inspire us, by who are struggling for a chance or fighting for a space to live it. Back home, doing my age, doing my gender and living up my choices, are tasks that have demanded an extra bit of resilience, a search for (new) allies and (new) spaces. Yet, there are old spaces that can be rejuvenated and filled with empathy — which served as motivation for this entry. Last but not least, I should try to detox myself on the go, too many synthetic ideas had been internalised.
Aftertaste? Slightly bitter. Choice is catchword in our ‘modern times’ but it hardly is a practical reality (as discussed in a previous entry) or a desired one #upsetting #unsettling #radical?