My consumption of chick lit has been conspicuously low these past few months. This is due in part to the sneaking increase in single-gal-to-hot-mama transformation themed books. Even my beloved Shopaholic had to go and get herself (accidentally) knocked up. It’s a serious bummer when the one genre you turn to for a little escapism throws your biggest failure right back in your face, with a Gucci diaper bag to boot. Et tu, chick lit?
Everyonce in a while, though, I find one that isn’t too objectionably baby-centric. The most recent entry was Swapping Lives by Jane Green which I finished as I was waiting for the show to get on the road at my egg retrieval. It was brain candy of the Twinkie variety – well-preserved, sugary but not too sweet and still pretty satisfying. The main theme was single gal swaps life with suburban mom who each desperately wants to get away from their lives and both come away appreciating what they had.
It started slow. Single gal whines about lack of hubby and “perfect” home life in country with large farm house, children, dogs and gorgeous kitchen appliances. Married mom and suburbanite feels as if her life is a shallow cesspool of charity functions and bratty children. Each is certain that life will be better on the other side. For each of them, all I could think was “cry me a river, both of you.” But, I guess that’s the point of fiction which is to play into the most pernicious stereotypes, particularly in this genre.
But, I started to get an uncomfortable feeling. A feeling as if I lived in a glass house and yet I was throwing stones. I scoffed at the single gal’s notion getting married would solve all of her problems and yet more than once, I’ve convinced myself that my life would be get a whole heckuva lot better if I was just able to fulfill my wish to have a child. My depression, sadness and heart-stabbing feelings would disappear overnight and poof!, I would be cured of this infertility thing. I could go back to the normal world of voluntary pursuits and once again reign supreme over my desires and wants.
(In other words, I could go back to being a clueless fertile – although, in my defense, I was never clueless and fertile at the same time. When I was clueless and hopeful, I was infertile as my tubes were as stuffed up as the nose of a hay fever sufferer. And then, when I was fertile, I was no longer clueless.)
I realized that I suffered from the same disease as Single Gal: absolutely no realistic understanding of what the endeavour actually requires. She had no experience with marriage or long term relationships. I have no experience with children or parenting (only child, no cousins nearby = no clue). So, in the void of experience, we fill our expectations with what we see of others, which frankly, is rarely the whole picture and usually only the really glossy happy highlights. And, no amount of stories from the trenches of those who have trodded down those paths will erase those visions of similing cooing babies in little carriers on happy dads or the vista of the perfect family out for a walk in the park, because we know what it is supposed to be like. We’ve seen it on TV. Therefore, it must be true.
We, Single Gal and I, certainly set ourselves up for a viciously rude awakening. Of course, she got to do it in a consequence-free environment that allowed her to give the kids and husband back after three weeks. And, of course, she learned the lesson that her married friends had been trying to explain all of this time: marriage is wonderful, but it’s hard and it is by no means the magic bullet for what ails you.
I, on the other hand, short of adopting a friend’s child for a few weeks, am going to have to wait it out until we get one of our own. In the mean time, though, the fantasies continue unabated in my head of the perfect tow-headed children we will have who will be well-behaved, delightfuly droll and intelligent. Perhaps, it is having these fantasies that keeps me going, that allows me to get through whatever next hurdle there is to expanding our family. Because, if I really knew what it was all about, I may not have even started down this path.
image: top left – OldOnliner; bottom right – jpdefillippo138