Her Bad Mother

Friday, June 15, 2007

Around The Corner, I Had A Friend

Almost exactly one year ago, I lost a friend.

I lost this friend because new motherhood had caused me to be neglectful of the relationship. The phone calls were fewer, the visits were fewer; the friendship, all told, was left to languish in the dustheap of obligations from my previous, childless life. My friend - a longtime friend, a best friend - felt that neglect. She knew that I couldn't help that my attention was diverted by an infant, and that my head was clouded by depression, but she felt, still, that the neglect was something that she couldn't tolerate. So she left me.

This in itself would be unremarkable - every parent has a story about how some childless friend drifted away, uninterested in the constant baby-prattle, unimpressed by such accomplishments as good latches and regular shits - but that the gap that opened up between me and this particular friend wasn't a gap created entirely by new parenthood. This gap was created, in part, by blogging.

That I was unable to make sufficient time for the friendship was a problem for my friend, but it was not the entirety of the problem. More serious, from her perspective, was the fact that while I did not have time to go for coffee or spend leisurely evenings chatting over a bottle of really good Syrah, I did have time to blog. You make time, she said to me in her 'Dear John' e-mail, for what matters.

She was right. I was making time for what mattered. I needed blogging. In the midst of all of the confusion and isolation and - yes - depression that I was feeling as a new mother, blogging gave me something to cling to. It gave me something to do. It provided me with a means of opening up, of finding my voice and giving voice to the feelings that were threatening to overwhelm me. And it helped me to rediscover myself as a writer.

These were all things that I couldn't do with her, that I couldn't do with anyone in the lived space of real life. These were things that I had discover for myself, in the shadowy company of virtual peers. I needed other parents, other writers, other friends who I could speak to, confess to, through the curtain of virtual space. I needed to do this from the security of my sofa, in the dark of night, in the grey hours before dawn, as I sorted my thoughts alongside freshly laundered onesies. I needed to do it in the company of sympathetic strangers.

I can understand why she felt hurt by my self-imposed isolation. And I can certainly see why she felt hurt by the fact that I had gathered strangers around me, behind my closed doors. But I was angry, last year, when she accused me of neglect, of not caring, of thrusting her into the role of, as she put it, window-licker. I am still, sometimes, angry. But that anger, when it comes, comes mostly from frustration and regret. I regret that the friendship ended. I regret that she'll never know Wonderbaby. I regret that this friendship couldn't survive my motherhood. The loss of this friendship was just that, a loss. I have formed some very, very special friendships in the blogosphere - incalculably special friendships - but this friendship was important, and can't be replaced.

But it's done. I can't do the calculus on gains and losses here - I would no sooner give up what I've gained from my friendships in the blogosphere, and from the rediscovery of my voice and my (figurative) pen, than give up my motherhood. These are among the most precious things - after WonderBaby - that this new life has given me. To say that I've been empowered as a woman and as a mother doesn't even begin to adequately describe what I've gained from this community, this experience. From blogging.

But there has been - rightly or wrongly, fairly or unfairly - some cost, some loss. I suppose that with every new stage in life, every new road travelled, there is something lost, something left behind. Does it mitigate the quote-unquote empowerment that I've discovered on this journey? No.

But it does make it somewhat bittersweet.


Posted as part of MBT's BlogHer or Bust Round Up. There's still time for you to participate: sometime before midnight tonight (Friday), write a post about blogging and the empowerment of women and link to MBT. Not only will you feel really, really good about yourself, you'll be eligible to win a two-day registration to BlogHer. Or candy. Your pick. And your post will be linked up here, and at MBT, and at BlogRhet, where the brightest minds in the blogosphere will immediately set about deconstructing it and identifying its greater meaning. An offer you can't refuse, no?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just Do It


Toronto bloggers want to send you to BlogHer. So write that damn post already. You have until tomorrow, midnight. Just write it, then link back here or here and leave a comment here.

And if you don't want to go to BlogHer? Write the damn post anyway. How has blogging empowered women? HAS blogging empowered women? Has it empowered YOU? Feel free to adapt to your own whims and fancies - if you've got a post simmering about how blogging has beaten women down and caused us to regress to some terrible pre-Cleaver state, have at it. There's candy in it for you, and attention. And I know that you crave both.

So? What are you waiting for?

Just write the damn posts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Ave, Hitchens: We Who Are About To Gossip Salute You

So Christopher Hitchens is comparing Paris Hilton's treatment by the media to child abuse: Hilton is, he says, "legally an adult but the treatment she is receiving stinks—indeed it reeks—of whatever horrible, buried, vicarious impulse underlies kiddie porn and child abuse."

How so? Well, having gleefully consumed all manner of Paris-porn (the notorious sex tape, the paparazzi shots of tits-and-ass), the "dumb-ass TV addicted crowds" of the dissolute Western World are now jeering and roaring their approval at the spectacle of Paris - "a tearful child... a sobbing, helpless child" - being hauled in and out of and back in to prison. "Not content with seeing her undressed and variously penetrated," he says, "it seems to be assumed that we need to see her being punished and humiliated as well."

Right, so - the media coverage of Paris being incarcerated for violation of her probation has gotten ugly. This is, apparently, akin to the impulses underlying "kiddie porn and child abuse." Except that it's not, and the comparison offends me deeply.

Let's address the most obvious mis-statement of fact: Paris Hilton is not a child. Perhaps from the gray peaks of senior citizenship occupied by Mr. Hitchens (and Jamie Lee Curtis, if we're keeping tabs on the legions of those who feel sorry for the young heiress-slash-tabloid-fixture), Paris might look like a young'un, but by the standards of any modern state she is, at 26 years of age, an adult. So she cried out for her mommy - so what? I cried out for my mommy more than few times in my adulthood - notably, during childbirth, and most recently at the dentist - and I'm sure that Mr. Hitchens has cried Mommy in more than a few moments of unrestrained fear or, um, excitement. If crying out for mommy was evidence of age of minority, more than a few men would have trouble making purchases at the liquor store.

Paris is an adult - and a spoiled, shameless fame-whore of an adult at that. If the unwashed masses are jeering at her, it's not without at least some cause. She has built her dubious career on the unsteady sandhill of attention from the masses, and deserves no sympathy when those sands shift and threaten to bury her.

And this is, I think, what is really bothering Hitchens: the unseemly behaviour of the masses. They're showing their ugly side, as they invariably do. All of the jeering and taunting and hooting at Paris reminds Hitchens - he doesn't say this, but it's there between the lines - of the Roman Coliseum, of Christians being fed to the lions (a spectacle of which, ironically, he would probably approve), of slaves being thrust into combat with gladiators. Of blood and gore and violence and deafening cheers by ignorant crowds at same.

So it is that he paints Paris as an innocent. If this were a Catholic priest - if this were Mother Teresa - being grotesquely pilloried by the masses, he'd likely stand and cheer from the comfort of his box seats. The masses, it seems, are most offensive to Hitchens when they are satisfying their blood lust crassly, when they are calling for the blood of something or someone who has caused Hitchens no offense. Curiously, Paris Hilton falls into this category, and so Hitchens - unable to see what it is about Paris (couldn't be the obscene flaunting of her wealth and privilege, nor the flagrant disregard for the laws than are obeyed by ordinary people, nor the unceasing fame-whorage - could it?) that so provokes people - labels her a child. An innocent.

I'm as discomfited as any thinking person by the circus that has surrounded Hilton's arrest and incarceration. And I find the Coliseum-like displays of mob blood lust that erupt around any event like this (Michael Jackson's trial, anyone?) positively disturbing. But I don't translate that discomfort into sympathy for the participants. And yes, Paris Hilton is a participant in this spectacle, not a victim. She put herself at the centre of it, and she's making damn sure that she gets maximum exposure from it (what other inmates are making calls to Barbara Walters from their cells? Wait - what other inmates can get calls through to Barbara Walters? Right.)

And this where Hitchen's analysis of the situation falls most absurdly, most obscenely apart. Paris Hilton is not a victim of any abuse other than that she has inflicted upon herself. Children who are physically, emotionally or sexually abused are, however, most emphatically victims; the most heart-breaking, soul-wrenching victims of the some of the greatest evils that human beings are capable of perpetrating. There is no comparison. To even suggest the comparison is, to my mind, inutterably, sickeningly offensive.

Paris might not - might not - deserve the jeers and the taunts. She might not even deserve -according to the strict letter of the law - the prison sentence that she received. I don't know, and I don't care.

What I do know is this: there are great, great evils in our world, some of our own creation, some not. This is not one of them.

This is so not one of them.

Monday, June 11, 2007

What's In A (Nick)Name?

This may come as a shock to many of you, but 'WonderBaby' is not WonderBaby's real name.

It's not even her nickname. Contrary to what you might expect, we do not run around the parks and playgroups of Toronto calling out WonderBaby! 'WonderBaby' is, like 'Her Bad Mother' (pick yourself back up off the floor!), a pseudonymic nickname (a pseudo-nick-nym?).

Her real nickname is - wait for it - Budge. As in, budgerigar. The bird. Don't ask me how or why this nickname stuck. There's nothing bird-like about Wonderbaby. Nothing at all. And yet, we call her Budge, or Budgie, or Budgerigar. More usually Budge. It's not the most elegant of nicknames, but for some reason, it's her.

Her Bad Father and I both call her this, as name and as proper descriptive noun. We say things to each other like, oh, the Budge. She's such a Budge. Or, Budgie was so Budge today. Or, is she being a Budge? Such a Budge!

It has emerged, it seems, out of the babble of our love for her. Scrolling through the archives of my memory - and of this blog - I can note that sometime last year I was calling her Baboo and Bapchi, nicknames that are really gibberish, gobbledygook, nonsense. Words that mean nothing, but which are nonetheless utterances of affection, expressions of love in our own private language. Somehow, from Babchi came Budgie and Budgerigar and the name has stuck, perfect in its expression of the inexpressible essence of who she is, to us. Incomprehensible to anyone other than us.

No doubt absurd, to you. But I suspect that however absurd the name 'Budge' sounds to you, the idea of an inexpressibly nonsensical but nonetheless perfect name is something you know well. I suspect that you have such names for your children. I'm not going to ask you what those are.

I've told you our special name because its specialness is exclusive to our use of it. It is nonsensical, on the tongue of anyone other than us. It has no power, no meaning outside of our little world. For us, this silly, gibberishy word is full of meaning, inexpressible meaning, meaning that melts into air outside of the circle that is us. Meaning that is ours, and hers, alone. So you can know it, because having others know it doesn't diminish its power. Its power belongs to us.

You can tell me yours, if you want. I'd love to hear your special names. But you don't have to, if you don't want to; you could just tell me how it came about, what it means to you. I'd love to hear about it.

Portrait of a Budge.


I was tagged by Jeremiah at ZRecommends to write a post about names; I decided to write about nicknames. Consider yourselves all tagged, too - respond on your blog or in the comments. As I said above, I'd love to hear about your nicknames - even just the stories behind them.


Hey! Have I harassed you lately about writing a post about how - or whether - blogging empowers women? Yes? Well here's the harassment again - sometime before midnight this coming Friday, write a post about blogging and the empowerment of women and link to MBT. Not only will you feel really, really good about yourself, you'll be eligible to win a two-day registration to BlogHer. Or candy. Your pick. And your post will be linked up here, and at MBT, and at BlogRhet, where the brightest minds in the blogosphere will immediately set about deconstructing it and identifying its greater meaning. An offer you can't refuse, no?

And, in other corners of Her Bad World: talkin' 'bout blueberries and BBQs here, and singing the praises of local bloggers here. And, always, gossipin' here.