Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Fitting In To a Me Shaped Hole

In my Wednesday reads, I came across a theme - and my goodness, I just may use it for something more worthwhile than whinging about my own life - not that there is much to whinge about at the moment - 'Salina is being a peach, V is proving that good, intelligent, sexy men exist (well one does - but that is the one that matters!), the earthmoving equipment has moved up the road and it is a glorious day in Paradise.

While reading 8 Centimeters Deluded: Washed Up Jellyfish or Breast Implants? I had to laugh out loud at the line:
Gag me with a 3D, acid-free photo corner.

She was referring to scrapbooking (and she could not have echoed my sentiments more) during an adventure packed blog regarding social niceties and the cringe reflex - but go check out this amazingly witty woman!

Not much further along in my blog meanderings, Jennster bemoaned
that's when i just look around wondering if anyone else in the room feels like an outcast like i do. and i always decide that no.. i don't think they do.

Honey - I sure do! I remember when I was at my most vulnerable in life (besides the every day vulnerability that washes over me in some social settings). I lived in a beachside suburb where I knew NO-ONE. A single mother refugee from an increasingly dysfunctional relationship break-up set down in the middle of nuclear-ville. I am sure that all the females in the little nests for miles around shuddered at my coming and I sure as heck have no idea what the males were thinking as I was at the point where I was truly invisible to the actions and reactions of that species.

I lived there 18 months - not one day during that time did it get any better. Oh, a few old dears would appreciate the cuteness of my toddler and I did corner a neighbour into a discussion about dogs once - but that was it. If they had been ungenteel folk I am sure that I would have found graffiti plastered across my walls "Begone - Heathens Not Welcome" - but they were very polite in their stiffening of lips and sniffing disdainfully as I perambulated their streets.

I would like to say that once I moved, all that changed - but change was very gradual and there were days during our journey where I could have shrivelled up into a ball of see-through cellophane - and there were people I met on my journey who I think wished for this response.

I often wonder why it is that people seek to feel better about themselves at the expense of others? Maybe it is because I am a woman that I feel this most keenly in the camp of women but I do not wish to be sexist and say it is a purely woman thing.

I have noticed it most since being a mother - no, since being pregnant with a child.

It began innocuously enough...
  • Do you know the sex?
  • Do you want to know the sex?
  • How much testing will you do on finding out if you have a perfect child before birth?
  • How much intervention will you seek/accept in having the child?
  • Cloth/Disposable? Breast/Bottle? Dummy/Thumb? Working/Stay at Home?
  • Choosing to be a single parent over a dysfunctional family?
  • Playgroup? Swimming Lessons? Music Lessons? French Lessons?
  • Kindergarten, day care; home-based care or grandparents?
  • Drinking? Smoking? Vegetarian? Allergy free?
And that is all before you get to school age - at which point there is pre-school, committees, parties, sleepovers, bullying and teachers to tiptoe through - and if you feel that you don't fit in to the accepted norm as a mother, the ostracism you can feel can certainly flatten.

It did get better at the old school before I left - and that is because I found a group of awesome mothers - both single and married - among whom I really felt I could be myself - and that was a truly liberating experience.

I would love to say that it remained all wonderful when I moved to Paradise - but it didn't. In fact I felt so shut out by other parents it was truly painful. I made an effort to be friendly at school pick up (which I attended as my daughter felt so shut out by other children) and I have never before met such a solid wall of resistence. The only person that would speak to me was another new mother.

Gradually it has changed - mainly through relentless volunteering and therefore the children will say hello to me. I also met another mother who I clicked with - and who could recount her very similar reception six months previous - so I knew it wasn't me. And I have also found some fringe-dwellers amongst the phalanx of disdainful matrons who I can relate to.

I would love to have the guts to turn to these women (and a few men, I might add) and tell them that I am NEVER going to conform to whatever their narrow standards may be and to just get over themselves - but I dare not run that gauntlet of artfully cocked eyebrows. So instead I will cultivate my slowly growing posse of pleasanter parents and know that there are people like me - we just don't run the P&C!

Having said all that, I wonder do I do that to others? Are there people who think that I do that? Do I dismiss others because of some inner snob? I would like to think not - but then I have to think that these people do not deliberately make others feel small - do they?

But hey - I have found an online club that is made up of women just like me - or rather, possibly rather unlike me but enough like me in the "I am not going to play the mother game competitively but for the joy of it" that I feel more at home. They are Omega Women - go check them out!

And finally - a preview for the blog I aim to do tomorrow: I have to thank the internet for saving me during those dark days alluded to above - I found a group of like women online, and for the last 4 years I have known and loved these women for the beauty they have in their lives. One of these ladies is part of a group called "The Betty Boobs" and this year they are doing the 2007 Arizona Breast Cancer 3-Day! which is a 60 mile walk to raise funds and awareness for two Breast Cancer charities. As a teaser for tomorrow's post here are the shirts they have created - and you can own one too!!!


jane said...

Jeanie, I admire your approach so much.

I have never really fit in. I've always been a bit of an outsider, but in the last few years, I've started embracing that a bit more, and ironically, it means I can relax into who I am a little bit better and I'm attracting similar people to me, rather than slamming my square-peg self into that round hole. Plus, I think being on the outer a bit gives the detachment I need to write.

Don't feel too harshly towards those mothers who are so judgemental (eep, like me, LOL). They are the result of a society that tells a woman that her worth is not only tied to her reproductive status, but how she wields it, and how well she conforms to the stereotype. It is a frightening thing to have that stereotype challenged, when it's the thing to which you've hooked your worth.

Jen at Semantically driven said...

It could have been me writing this post. As you know I'm a sole parent and quite often feel on the fringe. I do the school pickup one day a week as I work the rest. If I didn't do reading that same morning then I would hardly know anyone. This year I feel more accepted than last year.

I too felt out of place when my peers were sending their kids to swimming lessons and doing this and doing that and I couldn't for financial reasons and otherwise.

Thank goodness for the internet ey?

Domestic Slackstress said...

Hey, hey, sha-nay, nay ... Thanks for the shout-out. I'm happy you're enjoying my posts. Sometimes they actually work. Most of the time they flop like my post-breastfeeding ta tas.

jeanie said...

Jane - you said:

"Don't feel too harshly towards those mothers who are so judgemental (eep, like me, LOL)."

I think that is why I wonder whether we all do it, just that we are caught with the reactions we feel and do not notice the reactions we engender.

Jaycee - I think there is a lot in being a single mother that makes us ostracised - or more easily so - and the economical rationalism that comes into being a solo parent does make it that much harder to tick all the boxes!

Hey Domestic Slackstress - of course I will do the shout out to your blog - I really enjoy your writing, and if we can all go through life with a witty view offered, either through our own eyes or borrowing others, I feel it is a much more joyful journey.

Tracey said...

I feel like I don't really fit in with anyone much around here so believe me you don't have to be a single parent to feel like a square peg. Actually, once I got conned into playing in a 6-a-side women's soccer team with other mums from the kids school, and I was the only one in the team who wasn't a single parent! But apart from the fact that I didn't enjoy the actual soccer much, the reason I didn't 'fit in' wasn't because of our domestic situations but because when it came to the end of season meal out, I was the only one (as I normally am) who is not into 'partying'.

There are so many single parents/split families around where we live it really doesn't ever seem to make a blip on the radar! - maybe you should move down here!! ;)

So we all have our non-belonging 'issues' I think. I'm about to do a post on the conversations I don't want to be a part of with the girls I played tennis with today....

j.sterling said...

you are so awesome- and about 10 feet deeper than i could ever be. :) it's amazing what we do to eachother, adn i have sometimes wondered how people perceive me. do they think i'm rude, or snobby- but i don't think they do. i think they probably just think i'm a bitch. but i'm okay with it. because i don't feel like i'm missing out on anything by NOT being friends with these people. :)
i'm going to check out the omega chicks, but it sounds like an online sorority- and i hate those. lol