11 November 2011

29 and some change

 I'm 29 years old. I don't feel 29.

Tonight, my eldest daughter (I have an eldest daughter) came home from a birthday party in a dress, wearing makeup, and having her hair done. She smelled nice too. Really? I thought.  I have to start dealing with this now? She's 4.

Parenting is hard for a lot of reasons, but this hardship is the result of trying to make what I believe fit in the context of what the society I live in believes and what my spouse believes. I don't believe that 4 year olds, even when playing 'dress up' (which they do a hell of lot in this country), should wear makeup. Sorry. But I live in a context where, at birthday parties, little girls do this. I have a couple of choices:
  1. Get the hell out of dodge and isolate myself and my family in the woods somewhere to avoid the influence of the outside world. Being neither a hippie nor a Fundamentalist religious type, this is not a possibility.
  2. Not let my daughter go to the parties. A good idea in theory, but much more likely to have a negative effect on her than wearing makeup every so often.Oh, we don't invite Naomi to parties--her dad won't let her go. Yeah, no: I'm not that guy.
  3. Let her go, but don't let her do the makeup. Same problem as number three, though, really. You don't want to be that parent.
  4. Let her go, let her do what everyone else is doing, and try to talk some sense into her when she comes home. A good idea, but how does that conversation start: Honey, the problem with you wearing makeup is that it encourages you to think of yourself as something to be observed rather than an agent in your own right. You might think it's great to have people looking at you and admiring your beauty, but think about your agency in that situation: do you really want to be object rather than subject? The result of that is a culture in which men assert control and power because you become an object to be admired and acquired, not a subjective individual, a signal heteroglot exerting, an albeit tiny amount of, pressure on the larger system. And by the way, all men want is sex. 
  5. Move to some posh neighborhood where the influence of the kids around us will be upwardly mobile and, even though they do put on makeup, the sea swell of the peers will be towards A-levels and University as opposed to... well, not.
Ugh. None of these options look great. I'm an academic and we will probably, for the foreseeable future, be living in lower cost housing, so number 5 is out. 1-3 is out too because I don't have the energy to be that much of an activist. I guess I've settled on 4. Who knows if it will work.

I'm 29. I want to purchase two things really badly for myself: some kick ass headphones and this Saddleback leather bag, but the cost of everything in this country is going up and we are making no more money this year than last. I can work part time, but who knows if the Euro-zone will explode in the next week? Month? Two months? I have to think about these things, can't just drop £400 on (even really useful, needed) toys. Hell, I can hardly buy clothes for myself when I need them without thinking, do I really need this. I have to think about keeping these four people that depend on me in clothes that fit, first: happy and health.
I'm only 29. I thought back to 2008-2009 with nostalgia today: I couldn't believe it. The worst year of my life and I sort of wanted to go back. We only had one kid then. The apartment was so much smaller. We spent less on food. There was no pressure from the PhD: I was lost, yes, but it didn't matter.

Oprah tells us to count our blessings. Nana and Mei still are happy to kiss me goodnight. I like that quite a bit... 

I came home from work the other day and there was a tear in my undershirt, so I was going throw it out, but before I did, I called the girls into the lounge and told them to watch carefully. They both stood there and I suddenly tore the shirt from the middle like Superman. Nana was non-plussed, just completely aghast. Why did you DO that? She was so shocked and I just laughed and laughed and laughed. I'm SUPERMAN! I said.

I'm only 29.