Husbandry (3)

Continued from Part 2

After Baby was born, did you carry pictures with you everywhere in your wallet, showing them to everyone, relishing their cooing compliments, recounting the exploits of your new child, as though it were the first time this had ever been done? Did you tape a picture of your child inside the case you take with you everywhere and wait for people to notice it? Did you start spending more time with your folks, your brothers and sisters? Have you finally made peace with your lover’s family, so Baby will have all four grandparents and lots of aunts/uncles/cousins? Have they forgiven you for giving their little girl a reason to not stay with the B-movie actor who showed such promise? Have they justified your “sexual deviance” with their daughter, cutting you some slack because of the living, breathing, kicking, cooking, puking, concrete outcome of your love, putting pictures of their newest grandchild on the mantle, on the refrigerator? Have they even gone so far as to put the picture of you and your lover alongside the child, so they have a point of reference and know that this baby is a little bit different from the rest of their grandkids, and don’t you forget it?

Or do they stash the formal picture you gave them when “normal” folks come around the house, remembering to dust it off and making a little extra room for it amid all the others in the living room, when you and your young family come to visit?

Is your life more fulfilling these days, now that Baby makes three? I imagine your child fills you with a renewed sense of purpose in life, your work improving by leaps and bounds, now that you’re doing it all for more than just yourself, more than just your relationship. Now you have a child to provide for, and somehow, that makes all the bullshit you have to endure worth it. Is your wife aglow with motherly devotion? And do people in the business treat you any differently, now that you have that family, a family to support? Does your agent ask venues for more money when they book your performances, now that you officially have three mouths to feed, not just your own?

Thinking of you living a public — such a public — life, I can’t help but wonder, how much pressure is on you to reassure the world, once and for all, that you really are a woman, a female, a mother, so there’s less flak for what you’ve done, what you’ve accomplished? It’s not everyday a woman impregnates a nearly-famous man’s ex-wife and takes the experience to the press with such a forthright flourish. All eyes are on you — you’ve all but dared the world to turn a blind eye, a dare the world has defied. And at the center of attention, there must be some urgency to the world’s scrutiny of you as mother or father or whatever. You are, after all, bringing up Baby — another human being who belongs to the race — not just you.

Is this trip worth the time and trouble? Is it worth the pressure? Do you gravitate, almost in spite of yourself, towards the fatherly function, slipping into the role like a comfortable bathrobe on a cold night? Or do you spin wildly into crisis over your womanhood? You must wonder if your masculinity might somehow taint your child’s perception of what womanhood is all about. Do your parents admonish you to be less butch “for the baby’s sake”? Does your wife? Certainly, the imperative must arise within you at times — from within your own heart, your own mind, your own politics, that internal pressure you’ve had all your life, that promise you made to yourself in the secrecy of your soul while Baby was growing within your wife, that you would be the parent to your child that you never had. And yet, don’t you somehow fall short of your own expectations of yourself as a role model? Do you now find that what you want to be is quite different from who you really are? Do you disappoint yourself, even as you fear you will disappoint your kid?

So do you rein in the boy that once raged in your gut — and still does — as it’s unseemly for a grown woman, not to mention a new mother, to be so masculine? Do you put dampers on the boyish side of you, when in the public eye, since such masculinity in a mother figure won’t wash in the press, both in the straight world and the lesbian nation? When you want to just relax, do you seek out small seedy clubs where you (oddly enough) aren’t readily recognized — or your anonymity is protected by the proprietor who knows you innermost need to escape the hammering of a society and its subcultures that will perpetuate themselves in any brutal way it possibly can, at any expense, oblivious to the price they exact of their members?

Do you duck out of the public eye to take a breather from the expectations and just be yourself? Do you feel the full brunt of pressure coming to bear on you from your own “sisters” who are the final arbiters of taste and propriety, to recreate the role of mother in ways that will inspire and guide a generation of new lesbian mothers? Do they expect you to raise that child to be extra-specially in touch with the Goddess, as there are two mothers involved, not just one, to conjure the Great Mother venerated by all who haven’t been duped by 2,000 years of violent gynophobic patriarchy? Who pressures you more? The dykes or the straights? How often do you hear about what you’re doing wrong? How often are you pointedly corrected when you don’t behave properly? Are the messages subtle, subliminal? Do they come more often as awkward silences, or as carefully couched cautions against emulating The Enemy? I’ve no doubt there is pressure. It wouldn’t be the first time a child was used to control an adult. Nor will it be the last.

Do you find yourself doing and saying things you would have cringed at, months before, and you find yourself not minding it quite so much? Do you find yourself toning down your attitude a little, not being quite so blatant about how different you are, even though being different is what got you where you are in the world, and made this baby possible, in the first place.

Will you make more of an effort to accommodate people in the throes of old-fashioned socio-sexual ignorance? Will you bite back your replies when they betray their backwardness and make comments about “making babies the old fashioned way”?

Just thank your lucky stars your lover is so femme. Effortlessly, she’ll be “Mommy” to mirror your “Daddy” in the privacy of your own home. If you decide to have more kids, she’ll carry the babies for those interminable 9-month stretches, she’ll willingly be the girl for your boy, any day. She’ll throw her whole support behind you, I imagine, and reassure you in times of troublesome public criticism that she wouldn’t want you to be any other way. How could you change? How could you be anything but yourself? She loves you just the way you are, and do you find yourself humming that Billy Joel song in times of public pressing and unavoidable inner disappointment with how far you’ve drifted from the traditional female in your life and your love? Resistance is futile, no matter how much you may regret it. The boy romping in your gut will have his willful way, no matter what your “sistahs” may say. I’ve seen you in action, and there’s no stopping you. Not even for Baby’s sake.

But disapproval isn’t all you’re getting these days, I imagine. Your dad must be pleased as punch to discover he has another son in you. Have you grown any closer to your dad, these past few years, discussing the things men talk about, shoring each other up in the performance of your duties, trading stories and tips on how to best face life as a family man, how to be a better husband, how to best fulfill your masculine purpose in life? Has he caught on, that you’re more like him than he ever imagined, and do you take it upon yourself to be the husband and father he never was (but you wish he’d been)? Or do you consider him the best husband and father anyone could ever be and chase his emulation with all the strength in your solid rocker-chick bones? I imagine this baby has brought you and your dad together in ways neither of you ever expected. And it’s made you more adult than you or your dad could have ever guessed you’d be.

You’re all grown up, now. You’ve shaken loose the chains of seething boyhood, assuaged the rage, directed the intent, focused and raised the impulses that drive you. You’ve turned your drive to things more productive, things creative, and now, wife and child at your side, you press into the future.

But does it ever get to you, the never-ending stream of needs that emanates from the family of your making, their mouths open to eat or scream or suck, the eyes and hands searching, grasping, clutching at the life you once called your very own? Can you keep up? Can you keep abreast of all the changes, all the demands, all the ever-changing requirements incumbent upon you as a provider, as protector, as almost-patriarch of your own little clan? Do you ever wish you’d never pledged that life to this cause, wondering what in the world you were thinking when you solidified this plan, remembering with a grim smile how elated you were when your lover first told you “I’m pregnant”? And you do wonder sometimes what it would take to get that life, that life-before-Baby, back?

How much would it cost? What would it take? Surely, your boy must wonder in the darkest of hours, as Baby cries and mother won’t be touched, and all you can feel are needs that can’t, won’t, shan’t be met — most of all, your own. It must come to you, sometimes, that infernal misgiving, that pernicious doubt, that throws your whole life up in your face, laughing, joking, mocking the mess you’ve made of it all, the hole you’ve dug deep, so deep, too deep to crawl out of with dignity and untorn clothes.

The boy in you — who never wanted to settle down, who was content with screaming crowds throwing themselves at your feet, tossing their lingerie at you on stage, mobbing your bus when you rolled into the alley behind the concert hall, that boy who had free rein and broadest choices of the groupies along your path — that boy must be wracked with rage by now.

But there is more to you now than that boy. You remind yourself of it each day when you rise to the sound of Baby’s urgent hungers. There is more to your life than that initial rush of procreation, the elation of impregnation, the thrill of the idea of making babies. Now it gets real, now it gets permanent, massive, ancient as the days are long and the sun never knows for sure if it will set on the happy or the sad, the content or the disconsolate. You’ve grown up your boy, leveled the adrenaline-rush-pump-and-push, into an even strain of focus. The power of your concerted manly efforts could never be matched by the hubris of your boyhood. You’re all grown up now. Spouse, husband, parent, father-figure to your firstborn — make no mistake, you practice husbandry.

Still, is the significant rush of that realization enough to make you stay put? Can you stick with it? Like so many other husbands and fathers whose boy won’t be stilled, will you decide, after five — after ten — years, that it’s just not worth your freedom? Will you conclude, based on experience, that the price of acceptance and stability and respectability are just too high to pay, and since the kid’s in school, there’s more structure in the kid’s life and there’s less need for you to be around as much?

Will you back out of that almost-permanent relationship gracefully, agreeing to alimony and child support — if not making the perfect mate, at least remaining a good provider? It wouldn’t be so bad for everyone, would it? You’d still be able to fulfill your mission in life — husbandry — without missing out on all your options. Baby wouldn’t have to go through life explaining away two mommies to curious classmates, but would bear the lesser, more common stigma of just having no father around. Your in-laws could put Mommy’s and Baby’s pictures out anytime, no matter who comes to visit. And your ex-lover would still have her money, her house, her child, but wouldn’t have to compete with your performer’s schedule, your ego, your testy mood swings. Though who would date her, having a child, and all?

When your lover asked you to have a baby with her, she must have given that a lot of thought. She must have.

But the time for that thinking is long past. Now you’re committed, and I wonder if the memory of the moment when you made that baby is still fresh in your mind. I wonder if you still keep it precious…. I wonder if you really knew when the moment of conception was, or if you kept trying and trying and trying until you were sure the seed had been planted.

Did your lover cry when it took? Did she know? I’ve heard that some women can tell the next day that the sperm and egg merged. Could she tell? And did you cry, when she whispered, “I’m pregnant”? Do tears spring to your eyes when you think back?

Finis

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