An hour of off key singing and pretty taffeta dresses, ragged ties on the boys and for another year it’s over, this memory, this place in time.
No touching when moving is writ large on the dull yellow walls of the gym, and I joke with another mother how constrained these children are, how limited. Do they understand their bodies? Can they touch and not touch? How do they learn the simple reassurance of a friendly hug? How do they play tag without, you know, the tag?
I float in and out, not touching. I’m better on the outside, no investment, no responsibility. You don’t hold my crap so I don’t have to hold yours. I am not a burden. I will not be a burden. I will not touch, or be touched.
I know my reasons for how I am, but I wonder, how on earth can I teach my daughters how to reach out without worry for the burns?
It’s amusing to me on some levels how women interact. You might say it seems to be a pose, an act, but I don’t get it. Sometimes I wonder if I missed out on the vagina card when I was born, since I don’t understand women, and as I grow older, find I don’t want to. They gossip. I sit near a few tight groups of women in my workplace and nothing has changed since grade school. Not one thing. Cattiness and meanness and snobbery. I find myself sucked in unwillingly, and have to extract myself, confused by the tide of mean, hating myself for it.
I look to other groups, and find it disguished in well meaning glances, in advice, in “help”-women always seem to want to help me, leading me often to the conclusion that I’m better off hanging out with men since I can drink and pontificate in peace, without worrying about what’s being said the minute I’m 5 minutes down the aisle. Help with my hair, my esteem, my attitude. Always something to fix, always something to change.
I don’t understand sisterhood. It makes me nervous and uneasy and glossed over, closed up. I don’t understand the touching, the hugging! What is the need for hugging, for contact? Surely I’m not the only person overwhelmed by physical proximity and touch, so why is it always so difficult to believe that I really don’t want to hug or be hugged, hands grabbed, hair twirled? Do I need to do this to be a woman? Are these the things that make me part of whatever red tent sort of arrangement that gets made? Is it necessary to subvert my needs and wants in order to have any sort of closeness with women?
I teach my daughters to stand up for themselves, to defend against unwanted advances and actions. I teach them these things with boy and men involved, not able to think of how to adequately defend against girls and women, against the slithery smiles and whispered “did you know…” when they’re barely out of earshot. I teach them to give no quarter, but I am at a loss for how to deal with the shunning, with the changing requirements, with the seeming needs of women. Most of which I don’t understand.
And being alone, do I teach that? Do I teach them to find solace and satisfaction in being on their own? Is it right to teach them that the sisterhood might possibly be a lie, and that reveling in a weekend or 10 spent reading by themselves is glorious? Is it right and good for them to notice that some of us don’t need the network that others do, even when it’s faced with a disapproving eye?
Can they learn to touch little in a world that touches too much? Should they?
They were lovely but aloof, my eldest with eyes only for her mother, my youngest the one who knows all the names and loves her friends. Rosalyn points out her friend’s dress, her shoes, her other friend’s tie and hair, carefully mussed by a mother’s hand. One loves grand and the other to herself, and I find it lovely and simple and right.
But later this year, or the next, things will change, and one or both will find they don’t know or play by unwritten rules well. There will be no signs on the wall with these lessons.
And I fear I will have nothing for them than my own lessons, which are likely not nearly enough to go around.