Saturday, August 20, 2011

Here's a not-birth story for you

I consider myself a birth professional, even though I don't work in that capacity very often. The one and only time I went to a convention for birth pros, I was given a test to see what kind of advocate I was: woman centric, baby centric, pair centric.

Guess which one I am?

I chose to pursue alternative woman-led birthing (as opposed to directed, medical birthing) while I was pregnant with my son, my first child. It was my first child but not my first pregnancy. I terminated my first pregnancy in the summer after my first year of college. I was 18 years old.

That summer was a crazy blur of bad choices. I had met my boyfriend, a stage actor from L.A. in the last few weeks of the spring semester. He had come up to fish and discovered he had miserable seasickness. At that point I was woefully inexperienced and painfully self-conscious, enough so that I didn't really believe that this very handsome boy could be interested in me or anything I had to offer. When summer rolled around, I moved into a house with Actor BF and some friends and tried to make ends meet with a (very short) string of ridiculous jobs I wasn't interested in, and whatever money got sent from home. I drank a lot and hung out with some amazing friends who kept me fed and mostly out of trouble. No one thought to remind inexperienced, self-conscious, loudly feminist me that I needed to Take Care Of Business instead of letting Actor BF do it. I never went on birth control, and at some drunken point, our poorly-realized plan of condom usage failed. By the end of summer, I had Urgent Business to Take Care Of.

We ferried to Bellingham, and he gave me $300 before dropping me off at Sea-Tac, where I used $99 of it for a MarkAir flight back to Denver. I was numb and disbelieving the whole time. Apparently we visited the Ketchikan mall and had dinner at a pizza joint. I know that only because of the sentence fragments I jotted in my poetry journal. I made it to Denver with only a borrowed backpack full of dirty clothes and a sense of shame. My sister picked me up and drove me to her house. The next day she helped me call the clinic, and two days later she took me to Glenwood Springs and gave me juice to wash the Valium down with. Then she brought me back again, held my hand while tears poured down my face, and bought me lunch that I couldn't eat. She never said a word that wasn't support or love. She told her husband I had a bad case of the stomach flu, probably from food poisoning. She told our mom I was better off on her couch, where she could bring me soup. She let me cry and cry, and two weeks later, got me back to Denver so I could catch a flight all the way back to Alaska where I could finish what I started. I wrote a few poems about it, cried a little bit more, told Actor BF to fuck off, as he really wasn't good enough for me. And then I moved on.

I mention this all now because I read a blog post this morning on, of all things, a sewing blog. A 60-something hippie type told the author of that blog about her repeat abortions, the first of which was in 1969. The blog author came home and wrote about the harrowing experience of hearing these stories, and expressed her disbelief that the woman who told them could truly be at peace with her decisions. The author spoke of her sadness for this woman's "aborted babies." She wondered how this woman's life would have been different if she'd chosen to birth those children. She honestly believed that woman's life would have been better.

I know how my life would have been different. I could enumerate the ways, but suffice it to say that it would NOT have been for the better. I do not regret not having a baby at the precious age of 18, when obviously I could barely care for MYSELF. I don't regret not having a child with an alcoholic that I didn't love. Not only do I not regret it, I applaud it as one of the few truly sensible decisions I have made in my life. On the rare occasion that I dwell on it for even a moment, I think, "Thank GOD."

I have tried to write this not-birth story before, because I know that the stigma about abortion won't go away if we don't talk about it. I have found again and again that I was embarrassed to write it. But embarrassed about WHAT? I'm not ashamed that I made the choice I did. I'm not ashamed that I chose to go on and birth other children. I'm not ashamed to say I would have more if I weren't worried that this world can't hold them. Choosing to end that pregnancy gave me the strength to make other choices, ones that were crucial for me and my children. I'm not ashamed of that. The shame I mentioned earlier wasn't because of the abortion. The shame was because I prided myself on being too smarter than that. And I'm not ashamed to say that, either.

no regrets here, either

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Another letter to a filmmaker who is screwing stuff up

Dear Zack Snyder,

I really believe that you are a fanboy. You are camped out at 9:15 on Wednesday mornings outside your local shop to pick up the week's new issues. You bag and board anything and everything in case it might be of value some day. You know as much about obscure letterers and colorists from the '60's as baseball fanatics know about the Baltimore Orioles leftfieldsmen. I'm not doubting your geek pedigree. I know you too fucking well.

You're the sniveling little shit who disparagingly asks me upon my arrival at said comic book store if I'm "looking for something in particular - a gift for a boyfriend, maybe?" You're the one who points me firmly in the direction of the Buffy comics when I say I want horror pulp (not that there is anything wrong with the Buffy comics, but they're not exactly Hack 'n' Slash, are they?) You follow me not-terribly-covertly around convention floors making comments about the fit of my Star Trek t-shirt. You are the idiot who insists on trying to rolling to seduce my very powerful, not-at-all sexy mage in a one-off D&D adventure.

Here's the thing, Snyder. I don't much care for your movie-making. I think in your eagerness to make movies that are frame for frame reenactments of the comics they come from, you lose any desire to imbue your films with honesty or weight. It's frustrating when you do that to source material like Frank Miller's 300 and downright detrimental when it's something like Alan Moore's Watchmen. I don't know what graphic novel you were reading, but the Watchmen movie you made was NOT the Watchmen comic I read. The book was filled with fully-fleshed, complex characters with realistic motivations and emotional lives. Your movie? Not so much.

And now you bring us Sucker Punch. On the surface, there is nothing about this film that I shouldn't like. It is filled with dragons and mechas and sword-wielding lovelies and Jon Hamm. But why, for the love of Firefly, must you make the female characters look like they fell face-first into a vat of Porn Spackle(tm)? And why must the entire story be predicated on the assault - implied SEXUAL assault - of a teenager? And why do you take incredibly talented actors like Carla Gugino and Jena Malone and force them to emote with their fake eyelashes? You first remove all the power and agency from Queen Gorgo and Silk Spectres I and II, forcing them into roles where the ONLY art they wield is sexual - the sword-wielding and high kicks are merely frames for their ridiculous costumes. Now you are intent on selling us a whole two hours of this disenfranchising nonsense.

NEWSFLASH: We women live in a world that is fucking FULL of disenfranchising nonsense. We don't need it spoonfed to us in the guise of empowerment. Neither do our daughters, and just as importantly, neither do our sons. I want my budding geek son to not be the guy who chases girls out of the comic book shop, either directly with his nasty attitude or indirectly by insulting their intelligence and sensibilities with his complete ignorance of what makes a tough woman tough.

Honestly, Snyder. Your take on female power makes me feel bite-ier than the JJ Abrams Star Trek reboot. That is saying something.


P.S. In case you have forgotten what sexy AND capable looks like: