At least when there's a camera around. And especially lately, since I've been proofreading this humanities textbook, the take-home of which seems to be that the world is ending. That sucks! I've begun to wake up in the small hours worrying about overpopulation. And the only thing I can do about it is to not have any more kids. Which won't even make a difference anyway. It didn't help that yesterday I was proofreading an article about the meat industry while Adam and Tallulah were eating a steak. What is the right way? I wondered. It's just an inchoate, no-doubt ego-driven longing I have, to fix everything, and short of that, to understand.
As I was taking a walk I got waylaid by an old Culebrense lady who lives in a ramshackle cement-block house overlooking the airport. I've noticed her house before because it's on a corner, and you can appreciate from every angle how absolutely overgrown it is, how unfinished, the goats grazing in the weeds, the rebar sticking out of the roof, building materials and broken appliances stored in the open basement, soap suds from the washing machine running down the hill. She asked me if I spoke Spanish and when I said, Un poco, she explained that her knees and ankles were killing her. We chatted for awhile about the healing properties of basil and blackberries, and living on boats, and the Virgin Mary, and the paved roads. Dios te bendiga, she said as I left. Do you know what that means? Yes, I said. And you answer, Amen. Amen, I said. I told her I'd come back after hurricane season and teach her English. Afterwards I felt better, but then I woke up again this morning imagining relentless hordes of humans overtaking every last square inch of the earth.
My stepmother Wendy sent me an article recently about a new book entitled Le conflit: la femme et la mère, by Elisabeth Badinter, one of those particularly French intellectuals. Badinter argues that mothering has become more oppressive thanks in part to renewed concepts of “ecology.” That is, childbirth without drugs, breastfeeding and cloth diapers have all become tools of the patriarchy. “The baby has now become 'the best ally of masculine domination.'” That's not a new argument. And I'm not really sure how anybody thinks they're going to have a baby and then go back to what they used to think of as normal life. Return to work, sanity, all that crap, in the same way as before. It just simply doesn't work--I mean, in my experience. I had all sorts of notions about how awful the whole thing would be. How resentful I would feel of the new demands on my time. And in order to create a context in which I would not go stark raving mad, because I've always known I had it in me, I thought to myself, I have to quit my job and go far away. And Adam has to quit his job, too.
I realize this solution isn't possible, even desirable, for everyone. And truth be told, I love working as much as the next career woman. (What I wouldn't give for an office!) But herein lies the main problem I have with what I understand of Badinter's theory—not only that motherhood, properly done, should make you more wasteful and less conscious, but that motherhood is strictly a woman's issue. In my view, two things are necessary: to accept the basic essentialism of sex, and to respond to it creatively. And I guess Adam and I have traveled around the world trying to work that out.