Life Imitating Art

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?

oldonlinerEveryonce 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.)

jpdefillippo138I 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

5 thoughts on “Life Imitating Art

  1. I’ve started to notice how many of the “bodice-rippers” I read to escape have an oops pregnancy which magically brings the couple together.

    There are a lot of plot obviousness I can enjoy, but that’s not really one of them any longer.

    (And yes, as an only child myself my children will be perfectly behaved around adults and play decorously with other children. I’m going to have a biter, I just know it!)

  2. Our children may be all we dream, but they will also be all sorts of other things, some wonderful, some dreadful.

    They’ll be human.

    I think having reservations about the whole process is part of the IF landscape. We have time to contemplate such possibilities, while the oops!ers have no time at all, not until they’re knee deep in diapers, tears, and regrets.

    Maybe this is your call: write an awesome chick lit book with NO MENTION OF THE AWFUL P anywhere near it. 🙂 I’d read it in a heartbeat!

  3. What a great post. I love the transition to wanting what you don’t really understand, only what you imagine.

    I worry about that sometimes, that I’ll finally get what I want (a child) and be dissapointed or unhappy. -Not that I expect that to be the case.

    I think it’s stems in part from having too much time to dwell on the situation. It’s easy to fantasize about what family life will be like. On the flip side, it’s hard to imagine giving up the perks of a child-free life as the years roll by. At least it is for me.

  4. Boy did you nail that one on the head! I think any woman you asked would tell you that there is something about her life now that she’d trade, and things that she wanted to trade earlier on…

    And you know what? Kids are not for everyone…and I think those who can see that BEFORE they become parents are truly wise…

    Oh, and you’re right! The whole formula for fiction drives me nuts…the accidental pregnancies magically making them realize how perfect they are for each other, and how madly in love they are…yikes! Of course…those stories always have some benefactor of some sort…someone has oodles of money and a lavish lifestyle, so they probably end up with nannies and goevernesses and the like… 😀

    Hoping you find some wonderful new author that will allow you to just escape!

  5. Mmmm, I can relate on that level. I don’t really know what it’s truly like to be a full time mum and at my age, I feel like I’m going to have a rude awakening. I theoretically know what it’s all about, but I also sleep 8 hrs a night as well.

    I used to think that once I got married, all will be well, then I learned it was A LOT tougher than it looked – especially since my hubby refused to read my mind and be perfect all the time.

    Nothing teaches better than experience.

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