Dispatch 11 (Oct. 6, 1998)
Sometimes people tell us things or we experience
something second-hand and we go into "comfort mode." We tell them that
everythings going to be okay. Assuming we are stable minded (and they probably
wouldnt have shared with us in the first place if we werent), we impose our
worldview that things work out in the end, that tomorrow will be a better day and that no
matter how dark things are now, some brightness will arrive to make it all okay.
Somewhere past this empathy, we find something else. A
kind of darkness cloud that drifts over us when, after they are gone, we pull back the
Wizards curtain and realize that weve been lying. That things arent
always going to be okay. And that if it were Us instead of Them, we might be falling apart
as well and that rosy outlook on life would tear apart like cheap tissue paper.
It happens when theyve walked away, in the darkness
before sleep or in dark moments alone trapped on a bus or standing in line. Captive
moments when we really, truly reflect beyond the platitudes. Happens when a friend loses a
grandmother or when a confidante waits on the results of an HIV test.
And it happens with not-so-bad news too, like when someone
tells you they might be pregnant. To hear it from a young, single woman like Gina is a
little scary, maybe more for me than for her.
Two afternoons after our late-night
jaunt to Mount Bonnell, Gina called me and we talked about it. I told her I
didnt know if she wanted me to be more supportive. She told me she wasnt sure
it would have been a bad thing, having a baby.
"I get sad because I lack direction and I keep
thinking God, or a force, or something will put me on the right path," she said.
"A little boy, a baby, might not have been the perfect path, but it would have been
Gina with a baby. Yes, it would have been something.
Life-altering and scary. Could she nurture a child? I know shes not financially
stable, but surely her parents would help out.
The whole episode made me think (as it tends to do) about
my own thoughts and desires. Unlike Gina, who sees marriage and children (thought not
necessarily in that order) in her future, Ive never been convinced that I need to be
a mother to fulfill some sort of purpose in life. Isnt it enough that I want to do
something thatll make the world a better place? Why should I owe more than one
lifetime, mine in addition to my offsprings, in that regard?
Why is it that a man can go his whole life without a wife
or children and be a bachelor and a playboy, but a woman in that circumstance, even today,
is barren and a spinster?
All I know is that I was brought up to put school and a
career before anything else, although thats never been the course of women in my
family. Yes, I know its cultural the first or second-American generation
whinings that I cant do justice to next to the Amy Tans of the literary world,
that my parents pushed me to succeed like so many other Asian-American babies.
But its always been a singular drive, a
dont-look-back mentality instilled in me from soon after birth. The few efforts my
parents have made on my behalf as far as dating or ensuring that I had a social life to
match my academic one have been mostly for the purpose of hooking me up with boys of our
ethnicity and keeping me away from the white boys I typically date. Despite that,
its always been studies and a job first.
For Gina, I think its a little different, and
Im not sure if its cultural or just her particular family. But I see a
definite tug of war. Her family (and Gina herself) wants her to be close to the culture
to embrace its ways and to pass on the ideals to the children that will eventually
and surely come from her womb.
But shes also one of the first women in her family
to seek a career before marriage or before the birth of her first child. Surely her
parents want her to succeed to get that coveted degree and to make money, but I
dont think it could be at the expense of a marriage and the grandchildren they
Confusing the matter is that Ginas ambitions, her
desires and goals in life, seem to change with the cycles of the moon. She seems to
believe shell be successful at whatever she does, whether its raising a family with
compassion or making six figures by the time shes 30 as a cultural anthropologist.
Ginas near-pregnancy seemed to signal a clash
the world shes built here in school, at the co-op, with her friends and her clubs
and her independence was nearly brought down by a careless mistake from a love back
home. I dont know that both of those pieces of her, a split-Gina that lives in both
places at once, can continue to co-exist.
But at least for now, her avenues are still wide open and
shes avoided having her biggest life choices made for her.