Today I floated in a hot tub surrounded by women, greeting and kissing each other, calling loudly over one another in their respective languages, women who are cultured and ethnic and bringing their histories in the pool with them. I watched these fierce fiery women who take no shit from anyone connect over small talk and gossip and nothingness, but connect nonetheless. Women who are older and weary and having put in their time, their children notable absent from the pool, too old at this point to accompany them. Women who look younger than me, carrying armloads of children, looking visibly overwhelmed and looking so impeccably in their prime of womanhood, but sweating and batting hairs away as they run after their little ones. Not a lot of women like me, who look like they should be mothers, who receive at least daily comments like “o3balik” and “inshallah soon,” but who instead have chipped years and years away at a dream that has nothing to do with domestication.
On the way to the pool, when I was driving and taking my mom for the first time ever, I told her how much I was still revolted by the idea of having kids. I described–and she agreed–how much life is sucked away from you as an individual when you have your first child. How it’s the last of any selfish deed and that each and every action from then on will be in some form or another picking up after someone else. How it’s just so much work with so little payoff, other than the assurance that maybe someone will look after you when you’re old. She insisted, as she must, that this is a woman’s job and her role in life. That the purpose of life is to procreate and a woman’s life purpose is to at some point be a mother and raise children (perhaps while also working outside the home). Despite agreeing with everything I had said about all the extra work and no fun. Despite this, she had to make her case that as a woman of course I will have to have kids. Thankfully, rather than direct anger towards me, she expressed concern about my older sister, who she feels fears work and embraces laziness to the point that she may be terrified of having kids.
I thought about my friend whose wedding I attended 6 weeks ago who is now 5 weeks pregnant. I thought about how her life is no longer hers, is no longer her husband’s, how the two of them barely had the chance to exist as a couple and now there’s going to be three of them. I thought about my friend who finds herself near the end of a 5 year on and off relationship with a guy she was sure was her soulmate, who has simply decided he might be better off alone. I thought about my sister who, against all odds, found a man she truly loves and gave up enormous chunks of herself and her personality as we all knew it, to be with him in a tiny town and buy secondhand things and adjust, adjust, adjust. And now I’m thinking about my mom, who has spent the last 4 weeks alone while my dad is back home, who has learned to use online banking for the first time and pay all the bills on time, who spends most of her time in her bedroom watching the news, even while I’m home visiting for the weekend–someone who spent her entire life giving and serving and hosting, now politely excusing herself after dinner to retire to her bedroom and her own peace and quiet, rather than spend time in my company.
I’m thinking about womanhood and what its means for different women among us, what expectations it raises for some and how the rest of us will always be looked down upon for not meeting them. I am not the young woman who grew into her destiny of marrying a fob from back home at the age of 19 and started getting to work on a family. I am not the woman who had to leave her entire family behind and start over in a new country to give her children a better life. I am not the women who lived through civil wars and have recurrent dreams of gunfire and bombs. I am not someone who has had to sacrifice anything. Anything. Everything I have, I was handed by others. Everything I’ve done, I’ve done for myself. What seems to be the very definition of womanhood–sacrifice–as it plays out in real life, I have never experienced. I have selfishly pursued a career that will provide me endless income, prestige, and the highest education levels in society. I have selfishly turned down proposals that have come my way from young men who are not to my liking, looks-wise for the most part, occasionally religion-wise or job-wise. I have selfishly pursued men who I know are not good for me, who catered to parts of my ego rather than a wholesome well-intended mutually beneficial relationship and that ultimately left me back at square one. And after all that, I have selfishly decided to be alone for some time, not caring that I’m getting older, not caring that the good guys are getting taken, not caring that my ovaries are dying, not caring that I’m making decisions I might regret one day. I’m 26, single, and childless, and I have no qualms about any of that right now. I have no problem declaring to the world that I’m gladly going to live selfishly, the way I’ve watched boys of every generation do for most of their lives until they’re finally tied down. But this doesn’t even have to do with equality or boys or feminism, honestly. It has to do with the fact that women should be entitled to selfishness on their own right, if and when they want to. That womanhood in my mind equating to sacrifice is very, very messed up. That for as long as I want to, and until I’m ready to give up more of myself, I’ll be as selfish as I damn please.