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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Boundaries

Greetings, Naked and Clothed Ones!

Thank you, world, for your overwhelmingly positive and supportive response to my Pocahontas-Traipsing-Around-The-Wilderness gallery. I should go in there on Photo Shop and draw myself a bathing suit made of twigs and mud. It's really how I felt: as though I were living some primitive fantasy in which K and I are cave dwellers, hunting fish from the lake with our bare hands and sleeping on a bed of pine needles (ouch).

There were a few mildly-raised eyebrows that resulted from the photos posted there, as best characterized best by a good friend of mine: "I can't beLIEVE you posted NAked PICtures of yourself on the INternet! You better save them in a secret file in case your PARents find them on your comPUTer!"

Ahhh, a shocked and cautionary reaction that only those closest to you - your mother and your best friends - can comfortably express. Where would we be without those sorts of friends? Kind of like one of those, "your nipple is showing, my dear" comments. As with a lot of things, that particular post - and my friend's goodhearted remark - did get me thinking about deeper philosophical things.

Allow me to explain. But first, put on your scuba diving gear, folks, or pull up a chair at your favorite French cafe with a philosophical beret on your head, and get yourself a strong espresso. THIS IS DEEP, man. Deep.

To me, my friend's reaction was a reminder of two things:

1) The deep thread of moral conservatism that runs through America (seriously! It's everywhere!) and that I tend to forget about; and

2) The fixation our society has on rules, on constructs, on expectations that we live within those boundaries we've been taught to believe in. I say that not in a bad way (well, sometimes-sort-of), just in a way-it-is kind of way. Ours is a rules-hungry culture, with long-held beliefs about what men and women should and shouldn't do.

And yes - when you push those boundaries, you're going to raise some eyebrows.

One thing I've come to realize about myself is that I am not a person who hungers for rules. For better or worse, I like to push the envelope, bang against the glass walls of expectation - the "rules" - that hover around in certain social settings, and I don't have much of a problem with raising eyebrows when I do it. It's a trait that has also colored the way I've dealt with watching my parenthood-dreams melt away down the drain-pipe over the last three years.

At the time when Kevin and I begin thinking of having children, we were living entirely within what I refer to as "the boundaries." That is, we were doing precisely what everyone around us – our families, our friends, society at large – expected: married. Solvent. Master's degrees. Progressive-minded. Great jobs supposedly doing good things for the world. Fun, loving relationship. Attempting to multiply - which EVERYONE approves of. Our sex life was what I imagine the vast majority of American married couples have: neither rip-roaringly adventurous nor achingly dull. Conventional, predictable, and sometimes repetitive, but not bad.

And you know what? Life within this reality felt unquestionably fine.

But when the baby prospects disappeared, suddenly here we were - sitting gloomily and shell-shocked within the construct of marriage and financial stability that we'd worked so hard to build around ourselves. And for what? For whom? If not for raising a brood of equally progressive-minded and educated children like ourselves, devoting our lives to them from this point forward, then why?

It's this sense of being inside of an empty tee-pee, a perfectly stable construction of baby-happy reality with no baby to show for it, that's led me to fill that space with other things in life (like this blog, and the pictures on it). It's one of the common empty feelings felt, I would imagine, by KuKd and infertility-fighting mommas around the world, I would bet. This experience has showed me that the ever-touted marriage/parenthood/solvency equation doesn't always equal eternal satisfaction, no matter how fervently and religiously our world tells says it does. I also discovered how little control we really have over biological forces, and how bad things can happen to anyone - even supposedly "good" people who live within the boundaries our society has set up.

More important, from my KuKd experience I took away a more deeply resonating message that I carry with me still: that our lives are short and precious, and that every day of life should be lived as one's last. That - despite the losses of my past - it is up to me to make the most of what I have, seeking joy and vitality where I can, shedding my own fears for the sake of living. It's this principle of living life to its fullest - even when that means taking risks - that guided my initially reluctant decision to: 1) get naked; 2) get photographed; and 3) post my arse-crack online.

Who's going to come after me for that? Jesus? My grandmother? I doubt it. Morally conservative people who believe that a naked woman is something to get squeamish about? Maybe. I'll keep a look-out for them.

Posting arse-pics on the Internet is a risk. It's a risk that I accept, because it feels good - and because getting comfortable with my own body and sexuality has been part of what's filled that empty "tee-pee" I mentioned earlier. I could give you a long list of big and small examples of this anti-conventional-behavior pattern of mine has both helped and hurt me over the years. In this case, I'm going with it.

Now, for the record - I DO have a job, and it's a job that I love, with people that I love. I have mixed feelings about people at my workplace seeing my arse-crack online. Not a complete and terrifying concern, but enough of a kernel of risk-awareness to know not to leave that particular post up forever. So I'll let it sit there and soak up the sun for a bit longer, and then take it down for a while, perhaps letting it reemerge in a year or so. ;-)

Now, off to see what other boundaries I can tinker with.

9 comments:

Hope's Mama said...

You are fantastic Monica. Keep doing everything you do.

Natalie said...

I feel ya. I've always prodded boundaries. I analyse things. I'll be the one who says, "Okay... so WHY can't we talk about that subject in polite society?" And no one knows, it's just How It Is. I like to challenge that, change that. I like to announce to the masses that I AM DOING IVF and I HAVE A DEAD SON. So people get used to the whole idea, the concept, talking about it. So we can get past the shock of things-that-shouldn't-be-said and get to understanding each other better.

And they were beautiful pictures.

Mirne said...

Quite right. It's all ok to everyone if it appears to be ok - good job, good education, good house, good finances, stable relationship. Everyone surrounding you can pat themselves on the back for having done a good job. But then when the worst happens -- a baby dies -- which NOONE has any control over -- the shock confuses people, usually into doing what they've always done. Except we can't do that any more. We are left with the enormous cavern in our lives that was our children. Filling up that space is bloody hard work.

sharonvw said...

I consider myself on the more conservative side but I didn't think there was any eye-brow-raising-worthy pics? I thought they were gorgeous, you looked beautiful and the surrounding was stunning.
Or am I missing something?

Brenna said...

They WERE beautiful photos. Of course I happened to be looking at them in the kitchen just as my husband was coming in, and he wanted to know when it was our turn. (A new form of Show and Tell? ;) His only comment: "more boobies would have been nice." (I explained that you'd cropped the photos for discretion.) Kudos for the brave display of gorgeous womanhood! I always preferred drawing female models to male when I took life drawing classes, maybe it's just my bias but I think our curves are gorgeous and I'm glad you're comfortable showing yours!

Amy said...

Yes, so much of what you say echos in my own head. Filling my empty tee-pee with other stuff like blogs and artwork. Finding ways to live in this world where the rules no longer seem to apply to me.

Monica LeMoine said...

NATALIE - I hear ya.

BRENNA - Sweet! That's my secret goal here - to get more guys into these blogs. Yes - make sure those go on to a show-and-tell post when (not if, WHEN) you do that awesome photo-shoot.

SHAZ - nope, you didn't miss anything. If you saw the arse-crack, you saw the whole kaboodle.

Michelle said...

Good for you! You always amaze me! BTW those pictures were freakin AWESOME!

Rebecca said...

I love this post. That pull of societal norms is so damn strong, and I find myself constantly resistant to it and yet not able to articulate my resistance, and also often feeling slightly freakish because I don't curve to the norm (although living in NYC definitely makes it easier not to).

Funny how now (finally) being pregnant pulls me closer to the societal norm (well, despite what is my "advanced maternal age" in any part of the world besides NYC), and makes so many other people so much more comfortable with me, even though my own resistance to the conventionality hasn't changed a bit...

Thanks for pushing all of us to try to find joy in the moment we are in!