Friday, December 26, 2014

The Sacrament of Sustaining Life

Somehow, I'm always out of step with everyone else I know. Just as I settled into the role of dutiful wife and mother, the feminist movement came roaring through my life and the lives of all the children born to those of us wondering how to always please our husbands, our breadwinners and family protectors.

During those times, there were two opposing, equally loud, voices. One was telling us to wrap our naked bodies in clear plastic wrap and meet our husbands at the door. Another was, just as stridently, advising us that we don't need men; we can do everything important for ourselves. Both bombed in my experience.

Nobody talked about what was best for, or what would happen to, our poor children during this transition. Where were they to be when we were hopping to the door, incapacitated by plastic wrap around our bodies to our ankles, and making wild whoopee with our husbands? The woman who gave this advice must have missed the part of the cultural revolution where middle class families lost their slave-waged servants who would remove the children to the nursery when Big Daddy arrived on the home scene.

That other, a flaming feminist who told us that we didn't need men was also promoting free "love," as if there should be no emotion involved in opening our bodies to the bodies of males. I don't think she took any anthropology courses; nor do I think she understood the power of hormones over our minds. It seems to me that a great number of women, because of hormonal influences, mother anything that comes between their legs, whether going in or coming out. The only "cure" for this tendency seemed to be drugs or drunkenness, both of which anesthetized the woman enough to be oblivious to what she was doing. Sex, drugs and rock-n-roll were a substitute for automatic mothering.

Birth control and finding our own clitorises was the accepted answer to all the problems that we were told we created for ourselves by seeking out male members of our species. No pregnancies, we were told, equaled no problems. Self-induced orgasms were as good as a girl could get; no wet spots, and no need to ask a man for anything. Women worked at becoming as callous about compassion for others as were the men that we had so long criticized.

Not all was evil about this transformation of society. The children of divorce, and women without life partner parents of their children, forced the fathers of our many offspring to become something other than simply breadwinners, Our children would settle for nothing less than love from each parent. We women had to "man up" and do some of our own heavy lifting; except it took at least two of us to lift any box that we had formerly counted on one man to manage.

Our society still expected us to bake cookies, even while we were winning bread for the support of ourselves and separate households, with children in residence. The fathers of our children no longer automatically assumed that there were others to whom they could hand their children while they sought their own fulfillment devoid of emotional entanglements. We women assumed that our children would acclimate to less need of our attention.

We may not like to admit it, but heavy lifting is a big part of what life's work is all about. Even a big baby is a heavier burden than most women want to carry across a continent without some brute strength to help her. Men don't like to admit it, but baking cookies in small batches without anyone to laud you as a great chef can feel rather thankless. Male-run businesses thrive, while family life dies. The businesses overwhelmingly staffed by females, such as health care, day care, and teaching continue to be run on slave-wages. The males who actually do the heavy lifting for the big bosses continue to receive not enough pay to support themselves, much less families.

Why do we pay so much to those who pray, and so little to those who do for us as we live and die? It is a mystery to me. When will we face the fact that there is no substitute for labors of love, and that those labors should be honored with pay that adds dignity to the laborers' lives? When will we, as homo sapiens, learn that the most sacred jobs of all are the ones for which we currently pay the least? It is not a lower caste assignment to take care of the basic needs of life, in all of its manifestations.

I didn't bear children to take care of their parents, but to proceed on their own paths. While some women would prefer to sexually pleasure themselves and pick up the poop of a dog or cat for companionship while waiting for, and paying a person, to come to their aid with each heavy box that needs transport, I would rather face the possibility that I may, one day, be picking up the poop of the man who has helped me to help my children, at my request, for many years.

I know the difference between giving a hug and getting one, as do the deeper recesses of our children's spirits. I'll take my husband over a hound any day. And as for baking cookies, I believe the making of sustenance for life is the greatest sacrament of all. I never feel more like a high priestess than when in front of my stove.

Sustainers of life's positive energy, here and beyond, is the greatest blessing we can. These are the gifts for which we should be willing to most highly pay. There are more things in life that I will do for love than there are that I'll do for money, though many of these same things I did for money to show love for my children when they were my responsibility. When will we reclaim money as simply barter for labors of love for those to whom we pledge undying responsibility? When will we realize that those who share responsible compassion are the only fully human homo sapiens?