89. alistairconnor - 4/13/2005 5:07:35 PM
(continued from Message # 81)
There were a few political events I really couldn't get out of. I turned up late to one meeting : Harriet Horton caught my eye as I slunk in, and winked at me.
It was the electorate committee of Dick Jeckler, the most right-wing member of parliament of our ostensibly left-of-centre party (and, in retrospect, the worst bastard on the New Zealand political scene over the following twenty years). He had it all tightly under control, and Harriet and I found ourselves in a permanent minority of two.
She was a superb, charismatic silver-maned law professor, and had recently been elected president of the Party (of which I was the titular head of the evanescent youth wing). I suppose she was amused by my quixotic radicalism; and perhaps touched by my ardent feminism. (She could have bedded me if she'd wanted. The idea never occurred to me in those days; still less, the idea of making a move on her. The vast age difference accounted for that. Ye gods, she must have been nearly forty! Fooool.) (I'd better take this paragraph out of the second draft.)
In any case, the Higher Ups, or at least her faction, had their eye on me. It's true that I talked a good game in those days. I can imagine the trajectory they expected of me : they would give me an unwinnable seat to contest in the next general election; I'd be in Parliament before I was thirty, easy; and probably an ex-minister by now. Shudder.
She cornered me after the meeting. I hung my head : there was some moderately important stuff I hadn't taken action on. We discussed that, and she observed wryly : "I suppose there's a woman behind this."
"Not just a woman!" I declaimed defensively, blushing slightly (my, what a lot of blushing I did in those few weeks). "A ... a... a French woman." I finished lamely.
"Are you sure that's... politically correct? In the current circumstances?"
("Politically correct" was a rare term in those days, understood only by initiates of the left. Its meaning has eroded and deformed. It was our badge of pride.)
In fact, she was giving me an easy out : "You wouldn't want me to be racist, would you?"
90. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 5:25:30 PM
This story is titled “The Day I Realized I was a Mother.”
Dylan was born a week early and his introduction to life began with an emergency ceasarean section. I was rushed to the hospital after being informed that the baby was breech and that I would be delivering within the hour. I had no time to prepare really, as I was caught completely off guard. Thank God I had the prescience to bring along my pre-packed gym bag to the doctor’s just in case these pains were the real thing.
During the pregnancy I had forced myself to watch a couple episodes of TLC’s Baby Story and was moved by the excitement of having a new baby. Each woman was glowing and each husband was attentive, loving and pregnant alongside the wife. I was ready for the experience. I was ready for the actual pain, but even more so to hear the doctor say, “Yes, yes. Push harder… here’s the head…you have a lovely boy…here he is!”
Things didn’t happen that way, and I can only speculate that as a result, the bond between mother and baby wasn’t instantaneous. The first time I saw Dylan, I was still in somewhat of a drugged stupor and couldn’t muster enough strength to hold him. He was so little and so delicate and so intimidating. He was a precious life that had just come from me, and yet I was terrified that I would do something wrong. What if I didn’t hold him the right way, and as a result he hurt his neck? What if I didn’t know how to change a diaper correctly and he pooped all over the place? What if he was in pain and I couldn’t figure out what it was?
Yes, this little “bundle of joy” was really the start of a new life for me, and one that I wasn’t prepared for.
91. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 5:29:00 PM
We were able to bring Dylan home a few days later and I thought for sure that the maternal instinct would hit me. All of the nurses assured me that I would “just know what to do”, and I trusted them. I breastfed him, changed him, put him in his bassinet when he slept, and talked to him a soothing voice, but somethingw as still missing.
My family and friends were constantly calling and coming by to see the little guy and always asking the same things: “Aren’t babies the greatest? Dontcha just love him? Are y’all going to have anymore?”
I would smile and answer the way I thought I was supposed to answer. Yes, children are the greatest and I just love him to bits, and oh, I can’t wait to have more.
The real truth was that I still didn’t feel like I was a mother. Who was this person that had just given birth and where did the carefree and independent Jennifer go?
Of course I loved Dylan, but it was more of a desperate love, the kind that is terrified of doing anything wrong. Every little peep sent me into a panic and I kept hoping that I would feel the connection and just glide into the groove.
My friend Karen from church had just had her third baby a month ago and was already back into hot pants and tank tops. I would watch her with all three of the kids and she had a natural ease and grace about her. We would be heavily engrossed in conversation and without batting an eye, she could prepare formula, change the second child and assemble a tower for the oldest. She had it down, she was a natural.
“Don’t you just love Dylan?” she asked me, I responded, “Oh yes.”
“Keith and I want to have at least seven kids, we just think that they’re the greatest,” she smiled at me, all the while confirming my deepest fear that *I* must have been a horrible mother because I didn’t feel that way. I wanted to. I wanted to be a super mom like Karen.
92. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 5:30:57 PM
I thought about Karen and decided that that day, I was going to be Super Jennifer. Having a baby didn’t really change ME, I thought. I am still the young, slender, carefree, independent Jennifer. I can handle anything.
So, I focused my sights on making a dessert to celebrate the Old/new me. I thought I would just make an authentic tiramisu complete with piped marzipan in a fancy decoration. The Jennifer before Dylan could do that, no sweat.
It took me 5 hours to create the tiramisu and it wasn’t that good. I let the lady fingers soak too long because I had to feed the baby and forgot about them. I didn’t have time to run to the store and so I substituted cream cheese. I couldn’t find the pastry bag and I was out of cinnamon.
I wasn’t about to let this wreck my determination to prove that I was still me. I decided to go to the mall. Granted I had never taken Dylan to the mall, and had only taken him out once since had been born, but I needed to prove that my life hadn’t changed that much even though I had a baby. He felt like someone else’s baby.
I chose an upscale mall, the one where even the 80 year olds wear stilettos to. I spent 30 minutes on my hair, did my make up and tried best I could to squeeze into anything that looked fashionable. Nothing really fit, but it was too painful to acknowledge that life had changed and that I couldn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes. So, I threw on a clean t-shit and a skirt with some sandals and dressed Dylan and together we headed off to the mall.
93. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 5:34:03 PM
My life hadn’t changed, so I thought I would do some shopping and then maybe some antiquing. Once we got to the mall, I realized that I hadn't packed a diaper bag along. In my reluctance (or ignorance) to admit that I was a mother - and needed to prepare the baby in addition to myself - I only managed to grab my purse.
Dylan and I strolled the mall and I watched the other mothers play with their toddlers or coo their babies. I watched the good looking guys walk right past me without even a glance. I went into places like Williams & Sonoma thinking I would plunk down $500 for an espresso machine, but no one helped me.
I felt so alone and so ignored! I wanted people to treat me like they had always treated me, and yet, somehow, pushing a baby around caused everyone to focus on him.
Dylan was like a baby bird and I was it’s mother. Day and night I fetched his substinence while he lay there with an opened mouth ready to be fed.
I didn’t know who I was, and hadn’t felt any connection to the living, breathing, vulnerable being who was completely dependent on me.
I cried about it to my mother who assured me that all mothers went through a similar process, but that didn’t jibe with what I had seen in the super moms like Karen. She promised me that it would hit me one day when I least expected it – I would realize and accept that I was a mother. I would embrace it and be fantastic.
I felt depressed but tried to carry on like normal. I wasn’t a freak like Andrea Yates or Susan Smith, so I felt some relief.
94. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 5:40:28 PM
Late that evening, my husband came home from work and tried some of the tiramisu. He was surprised that I had even attempted to make such a complicated dessert. I smiled and told him that we had gone to the mall. I left out the part about forgetting to bring a diaper bag and being forced to leave early because of the prolific poo that Dylan had in Neiman Marcus. Or about the part of having to stop at the nearest grocery store and buy another pack of diapers to change the boy immediately. Instead, I just told him that we had gotten out of the house.
He went into the baby’s room and greeted Dylan and carried him into the living room. It was cute the way he played with the baby, and it made me love my husband more. My heart ached and so I retreated into the den.
A half an hour went by and then Robert yelled, “JEN!!! Come here! You have got to see this!”
He had said the same thing before, which usually meant that baby needed to be changed, but this time, my ears perked up and I raced into the living room.
“Oh my gosh, check this out!”he said.
He held up a pair of tweezers which grasped the largest booger I have ever seen in my life. The two of us just marveled at its size.
Neither one of us could believe that someone so tiny could make something so big. I looked at it wondering how it could even be in that poor baby’s nose. I stared at Dylan and he just flapped his arms with glee.
I suddenly realized what he and I were studying with fascination - had it been from anyone else I would have been completely grossed out, and yet I was calm about it and thought that I needed to suck out Dylan's nose every now and then.
I looked into Dylan's eyes and hr smiled at me for the first time.
I fell in love at that very moment and realized that I was a mother after all!
95. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 5:44:26 PM
P.s. sorry about the misspellings and typos!
96. judithathome - 4/13/2005 7:29:34 PM
Very cute story, Jen, and one I'm sure many mothers relate to!
I have one question: what is "substinence" in this sentence:
Dylan was like a baby bird and I was it’s mother. Day and night I fetched his substinence while he lay there with an opened mouth ready to be fed. Wouldn't "sustenance" work better?
97. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 8:01:18 PM
Ha ha ha!
yes, Judith, you caught one of my many typos. I wrote the story in one sitting and right when I got to that point, I was trying to finish my thought and tell a student that I was getting a substitute.
It should be sustenance.
98. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 8:18:39 PM
I am seriously considering playing hookey tomorrow.
Btw, for any of you who read my story, I know I am not much of a writer, I was just hoping to share a funny anecdote.
99. alistairConnor - 4/13/2005 9:33:42 PM
The important thing is the universal element that speaks to all parents - that transcends the anecdote. The alienation of modern medicalised childbirth : is it the scourge of our age? Your anecdote certainly moved me. I can feel the pain of that retarded bonding, I can relate to that unexpressed jealousy : as it happens, my wife had a local anaesthetic for our first daughter, she was groggy, and I believe that I bonded with her before her mother did.
100. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 9:46:29 PM
Thank you Alistair. I am happy to say that Dylan and I are in love with each other, but I am still terrified that I will do something wrong. I have accepted that I will no longer be pre-baby Jennifer, but I do miss some of the old days. I wouldn't trade them for Dillie, though.
I am also happy to say that my husband has bonded more with the kiddo, too. It seems that the older he gets, the more they can play together.
I will read back on everyone's preceeding stories tomorrow! Can't wait!
101. Jenerator - 4/13/2005 9:46:55 PM
Thank you Alistair. I am happy to say that Dylan and I are in love with each other, bit I am still terrified that I will do something wrong. I have accepted that I will no longer be pre-baby Jennifer, but I do miss some of the old days. I wouldn't trade them for Dillie, though.
I am also happy to say that my husband has bonded more with the kiddo, too. It seems that the older he gets, the more they can play together.
I will read back on everyone's preceeding stories tomorrow! Can't wait!
102. judithathome - 4/13/2005 9:49:04 PM
I'm about to post a story I wrote for Keoni...every year I write him a story about an animal for Christmas. I've done this for over 20 years....
103. judithathome - 4/13/2005 9:53:01 PM
The Christmas Toad
Once upon a time in a land where groups of men devoted half their lives to playing a game called golf, there lived a little toad called Tomet. Now you might think this little toad had a name that rhymed with grommet but you’d be wrong. He was a French toad and his elegant name was pronounced Toe-may.
How on earth did a French toad end up living in Texas, one might ask? It was a very strange and convoluted tale. Tomet was born to aristocracy but preferred the down and dirty style of life amongst the common man. So one year he sat in the cheap seats of the Grand Prix of tennis which took place in Paris each year. A plan was soon formed to see more of the world after watching how much fun the American camera team seemed to be having shooting the tennis matches.
On the eve of the final match, Tomet secured himself a hiding place in the camera bags of the head cameraman and settled in for a long ride. He made it to America without his stowaway status being discovered and without being squashed, either. Quite a feat, considering how the bags were tossed so cavalierly by the baggage handlers!
It just so happened the cameraman who had been in Paris and who ended up with Tomet in his bags was assigned to the Byron Nelson Golf Invitational tournament in Dallas Texas. Having no time to unpack, the cameraman grabbed his gear and took off for the country club right from the airport. He dumped his things in the sound truck and that was where Tomet found himself after rousing from a deep stupor. The first thing he noticed was how weirdly everyone spoke. It sounded like a bad movie, the sort of movie with horses and ladies who worked in saloons. This was no movie, however.
Tomet found himself gazing at the frantic efforts of the production crew working to get the pageantry and puffery of the opening of the golf tournament on the air and not only on the air but on time. He guessed this was of utmost importance to the viewing public but little did he know those out there watching would be snoring and asleep about forty five minutes into the show. Tomet decided to search out a place safe from being trampled by technicians and grips and he set off for the greens and a nice looking pond beyond them.
The pond was cool and quiet and most inviting so Tomet took a dip. He swam deep under water and noticed with a jolt hundreds of egg-looking objects resting on the bottom. What could possibly account for this? Some highly fertile egg laying amphibian? Just as he was musing on this poser, a loud plop blooped into the water next to him and one of those eggs settled to the bottom with the others. Tomet raised his head out of the water to about eye level and saw the answer to his perplexing question…ah ha! It’s the species golfexis!
The species golfexis is particular to the state of Texas and can be found on any course in any city on any given weekend. Sometimes they travel to other states and can be recognized in airports by the huge bags they wheel around and the way their eyes are glazed over, staring into the distance as though seeing the golf course they are heading to off in the distance. A grouchy female, weighted down with books and magazines, can usually be seen in their company.
No doubt the golfer who landed the egg in the pond bottom was from out of state. No matter. It was a close call and Tomet decided to exit the pond and look for safer shores. He made his way to the parking lot and saw a beautiful pewter-colored car that had the windows open a bit and availed himself of this boon immediately. Soon be was settled into the warm area under the backseat and asleep, dreaming of France and calmer days.
Before Tomet knew it, the car was speeding west and was filled with laughter. Two people seemed to be enjoying themselves quite a bit. Tomet stayed quietly listening and riding into the great unknown. The car sped on, carrying him and his fate to places he could only imagine and hope were not to be regretted. It was cool and dark in the car and Tomet was soon lulled back to sleep, the tinkling laughter of the occupants sifting into his dreams as background music.
The next thing Tomet knew, it was daylight and the car was being driven at a fast speed toward the west. Suddenly it stopped and he could hear clanking and clunking coming from the trunk area of the car. Tomet peeked out the back window and saw a huge Hawaiian guy lugging a set of golf clubs toward what appeared to be the clubhouse. Deciding to investigate further, Tomet exited the car and hopped along the gravel trail until he came upon the tee box of the first hole of the gorgeously laid out course.
Little did Tomet know he was on the verge of a great adventure and one of the best all time practical jokes ever played in the history of golf. That the Hawaiian would be the brunt of this joke was cosmic retribution of the highest sort.
The French are a droll race and not given to practical jokes, neither doing them nor on the receiving end. Also, the French aren’t too keen on golf. So Tomet, being the fun loving type toad that he was, hadn’t much chance to practice his little tricks on unsuspecting golfers who actually took the game as seriously as these residents of Texas did. He was in the midst of a race of golfers who lived, breathed, and practically ate the game of golf. The big guy from Hawaii was definitely in this category.
The course was laid out so that it snaked around a planned community of cedar shake roofed McMansions with mouse pad lawns and blue lagoon sparkling pools, many of which were actually black lagoon pools. Most of the pools were nestled in rocks and foliage resembling an oasis in the Arabian Desert. One expected to see the Sheik come riding up on his noble steed to sweep the lounging lady of the house up in his muscular arms and ride off into the sunset with her weakly protesting. However, the only horse within shouting distance was the one powering the riding lawnmower.
All these castles verged upon the golf course with great impunity and made their presence known by the number of arched windows in their back walls. These impossible-to-curtain arches overlooked the patios that served as the staging areas for the pools that served as financial statements sans numbers for the owners therein. It was in this setting that our little Franconian toad found himself.
Tomet surveyed the course and noted which holes looked the furthest from the tee boxes. He decided to start his prank after the Hawaiian had played a few holes so Tomet could get a feel for the way he putted before Phase One of the Franco-American Golf Ruse took place.
Soon Tomets prey approached the first box and teed off, sending the ball in a long arc down the fairway. “Wow!” thought Tomet. “I have my work cut out for me if this dude putts as good as he drives.” Hopping down the rough so he would remain out of sight, the little toad scampered ahead of the foursome and made it to the green well ahead of the players. His perch was such that he could survey the placement of each players landed shot.
The Hawaiian was shooting third and as the third ball plopped onto the edge of the green and rolled to a stop about six feet from the hole, Tomet jumped forward, grabbed the ball, and tossed it over into the well manicured yard of a pricey castle resembling a fortress from the movie Braveheart, well beyond the boundary of the official course. As the golfers approached, the Hawaiian groaned at seeing the absence of what he had assumed was a well-hit ball. He grumbled something about scoring his game by the number of balls he lost each time and took the penalty.
At the next hole, Tomet allowed the Hawaiian to have his shot unimpeded and was pleased to note the putting didn’t go as well as might be expected. On two following holes, Tomet pulled the toss trick once and once he pushed the ball off the green and into the rough. The Hawaiian was becoming a little rattled but not overly so. He was still joshing and laughing it up with guys in a self-deprecating manner.
104. judithathome - 4/13/2005 9:53:21 PM
Time for a new Tomet Tack! He backed off and let the Hawaiian have five good holes. No toady tricks, no jumping japes and no subterfuge at all, just well driven balls and accurately putted putts. This had just the effect Tomet had planned…the Hawaiian became more confident and began to relax.
On the next hole, Tomet secreted himself inside the cup on the green and when the Hawaiian putted and the ball fell in, the wily toad punched it back out of the cup and it rolled a few feet away. He did this on every other hole for the rest of the game, in fact. He also tossed several balls out of bounds and many more into the rough. The putting trick was his absolute masterstroke, though, and was something that couldn’t be explained. Because no self-respecting golfer whose putt has gone awry will think to look into the cup and place blame there. Instead, he will blame himself and go home and order yet another expensive golfing aid guaranteed to improve his putting by so many strokes and costing just three easy payments of thus and so plus shipping and handling.
So Tomet continued his little ruse and the Hawaiian spent the last third of the game very distracted, trying to remember which putting aid he had recently seen advertised and where. He just couldn’t believe his putting had gone so downhill in such a short time nor could he believe he’d lost so many balls that day. The Hawaiian just had no clue about how this had come to pass.
No, this golfer could never stoop to imagining a little French toad named Tomet might be hiding in the cup pulling a prank.
Why, that would be like finding out there was no Santa Claus!
105. Ms. No - 4/13/2005 9:53:29 PM
Oh wonderful stuff! I'm having such a great time reading all these stories!
106. judithathome - 4/13/2005 9:56:18 PM
(It was a little over the 8200 limit so I broke it up a bit.)
107. alistairConnor - 4/13/2005 11:30:18 PM
Nouvel Observateur (French weekly), 10-16 Feb 2005
An interview avec Philippe Vilain
With the publication of Marianne Denicourt's narrative, and the release of Annie Ernaux's book, the "auto-fiction" debate is raging. Philippe Vilain comes to the defense of Narcissus.
Philippe Vilain entered literature arm in arm with Annie Ernaux, who made him the hero of a novel called "The Occupation". He lost no time in shaking out their bedsheets in his novel "The embrace" (L'étreinte). From one book to another, estranged lovers are pushing the boundaries : is exposing one's intimate life a valid literarly genre? Is it a crime to mine someone else's life to provide the substance of a book? The artist has no case to answer, says P.V, in his essay "In defense of Narcissus".
Why such a personal novel?
PV : I wanted to decry the intellectual contempt in which autobiographical literature is held. It's always the same criticism : writing about oneself is narcissistic.
Is that untrue?
No. But some "me"s are more "me" than others, as Valéry said. Most autobiographical novels are works of mourning. People talk about their pain. ... A narcissistic text can be recognised by the fact that there is no concern for the reader, nor for universality. It doesn't try to transcend the intimate and move toward the extimate.
What do you mean by extimate?
It's a learned term which means envisaging one's relationship with oneself as a relationship with others, i.e. in an altruistic manner. Simone de Beauvoir said that when an individual exposes himself sincerely, it's everyone's business.
Sharing oneself means taking in one's personal experience what belongs to everyone. In drawing out one's own experience, often one finds... a water table. Scratch the bark of your ego, you'll find an Us underneath.
But the writer who tells his own story is often accused of immodesty. It's a stupidly moralist criticism. ... Writing has a therapeutic dimension, but that's not the original motive. ... Confession writing. That's the generic form of the autobiographical novel : Rousseau, Gide, Guibert, Mondiano... It's the opposite of "Prozac literature" : people go to the bookshop and ask for "something that's not depressing"... People sometimes tell me that my work is "good, but sad"... as if the purpose of literature was to amuse, and to flee reality. Why should works of imagination be considered the only true literature? The origin of the world, by Courbet, is a work of art. Why should realistic literature not be considered art?
[... And there's more, but never mind...]
108. alistairConnor - 4/13/2005 11:47:53 PM
PV: In "The Embrace", I give my own romanced version of my relationship with Annie Ernaux, but I reinvent the first encounter, and I invent the separation.
You invented the separation although you were still living together. You explain now that that provoked your separation.
PV: At the time, I wasn't aware of the destructive impact. I didn't realise the implications of such a book. And I was 26.
It's no doubt gratifying to be the subject of a book. But people who don't know you, discover your intimacy in reading it.
PV : It's gratifying, but over time, it becomes a criminal record. To tell the truth, the publication of Annie Ernaux's book "The Occupation" poisoned my life.
You are the incarnation of the cruelty of the writer who is willing to create carnage all around himself to nourish his book. Do you accept that?
PV : There is something of the cannibal in us. Perhaps we're writers first, lovers second. We choose to see life through the prism of literature. We are ready to sacrifice all to literature.
A few years ago, a French writer seduced a young woman and did all he could to make her love him. He wanted to write a sort of Diary of an Affair. When the book was finished, he left. Could you do that?
PV : No. But I'd be ready to make a contract with a girl, so that she became my heroine, for the duration of a novel. I'm inventing the literary marriage contract.
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