I woke up with the sun. No alarm clock, just the gentle quiet of pre-dawn enfolding me in yesterday’s blanket. I look at the ceiling fan. It is emanating its futileness in the cold months and I finally decide to leave the silence for a new day.
I sit in the cold and watch the sun rise. I know my sister got up around the same time to be induced. My niece is going to be born today. It is some how scarier to me than when my nephew was born. I have the almost 28 year female perspective to know the weight of her life. It will start off a handful and half of pounds and ounces that slowly start stacking like matryoshka dolls, carrying former selves around while still growing. What is the measure of a life?
How do you teach a little girl to be self-aware? And to love herself despite true self-realizations? I wish someone had taught me that. I find, two years shy of 30, I am still teaching myself this one staggering fail at a time. Funny, we’re a society full of mirrors and we never really want to see ourselves. We look in the mirror for flaws instead of reflection—that’s fear flashing in the pan; pyrite.
How do you tell a little girl about love? About false expectations? About setting herself up for failure? Let’s burn all the Disney movies about princesses. Let’s not read of Juliet and her Romeo; there are no Antony and Cleopatras—no “I love you or I do not love at all.” I want her to read Walt Whitman to learn of love. I want her to read Kate Chopin’s The Awakening to learn of self-discovery. Let’s bend the bars of gilded cages. I want her to see healthy examples of relationships; unlike the misguided and broken ships passing in the night of mine and my sisters’ youth. I want her to value real women as heroes—Emma Goldman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Jane Austen (who forged her life with a pen)—to relish in a fairy tale, but have it grounded in historical context. I wish I could teach her that love is the biggest fallacy of all, that we all have our own definition which we develop through some sort of scientific method innate in us since birth, a series of trials and hypotheses we keep testing one connection at a time. What is my fallacy? Maybe we can’t articulate the scope of our definitions because of their fluidity, the constancy of their changedness. The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives nine definitions:
1 a (1) : strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties <maternal love for a child> (2) : attraction based on sexual desire : affection and tenderness felt by lovers (3) : affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests <love for his old schoolmates>
b : an assurance of affection <give her my love>
2 : warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion <love of the sea>
3 a : the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration<baseball was his first love>
b (1) : a beloved person : darling —often used as a term of endearment (2) British —used as an informal term of address
4 a : unselfish loyal and benevolent concern for the good of another: as (1) : the fatherly concern of God for humankind(2) : brotherly concern for others
b : a person’s adoration of God
5 : a god or personification of love
6 : an amorous episode : love affair
7 : the sexual embrace : copulation
8 : a score of zero (as in tennis)
9 : capitalized Christian Science : god
My definition of love is none of those things. My definition of love is infinites. It cannot be measured by increments of time and space. Someone I love recently said to me, “Love is never having to say you are sorry.” I find myself saying sorry all the time. Sorry because I am self-conscious of my feelings; I’m still a stumbling babe of emotion with a heart-broken handicap. I am sorry I am not better at loving; it is the accepting I have the trouble with, I give freely. I think love is serendipitous connection. And mostly I think I have no idea what it is.
And what of gender equality? How do you tell a little girl that women make 77 cents to the dollar for jobs equivalent to males? I don’t want her to ever know that 33 cent gap. How do you tell her that she will be judged, not only for her merits, but on her appearance as well? How do you un-ingrain societal standards that are fed to us from early childhood in media, at school, in books, and in our daily transactions? I want her to know that she is a person, a human being, first and foremost. That beauty is subjective. That she doesn’t have to play with Barbie or have pink be her favorite color or wear ribbons in her hair (unless she wants to). I want her to know that science isn’t just for boys, that we are living, breathing science and by god! that is pretty amazing.
I guess I am sitting here, reevaluating what love means to me this go-around because I am terrified. She isn’t born yet and I love her enough to think about a life outside my own. I am still stumbling, still learning how to walk, when it comes to matters of the heart. We’ll totter the infinites and learn as we grow.