Sunday, October 26, 2014

August, unencumbered.

I wrote this in August, but forgot about it till this chilly October Sunday morning. It's funny to look back on it now, especially since only a few months on,for the first time in a long time, I'm so blissfully attached to someone (just one someone, oh how lovely, how novel, how perfect) else. But nevertheless, I don't think I've lost my weird lone wolf streak just yet, and I will always sing the praises of strong and independent women, so here it is.


So, I'm on vacation this week, and I've been doing an embarrassingly shitty job of unplugging from technology for the duration, something I swore I'd do. I informally (secretly) polled two of the men in my life on this one, to see what their reactions would be.

The one who is 30 years old said that the prospect of unplugging seemed so absurd as to be a joke. "My life's online," he said. "Well," I replied, "my friends told me they missed me on Facebook when I was gone, so."

The one who is 40 smiled supportively, again, and told me that social media is a waste pit, again, and was utterly thrilled to hear that I had accidentally booked us a campsite without an electrical outlet for next week. "I'll just turn my phone off," he said, nonchalantly. "Where did you come from," I replied.

So you see what I'm dealing with here.

But no matter, because on Saturday I up and left them all behind. I drove off to Grey County with no burdens on my shoulders. Just past a new detour through Eden Mills (2014 is the Summer of the Detour, and my eternal lifemate Kat's mom is the Detour Queen), I drove into a blinding thunderstorm, sheets of lightning and wild winds whipping around my poor little car. When the clouds finally parted I felt so badass and brave. I arrived at the sunny side of the lake just in time.

The next day Kat and I drove up to Red Bay, on Lake Huron. We've driven up there before, in varying stages of preparedness. It is a little bit like the Bermuda Triangle of the Bruce in that no matter what you do to get ready, no matter how many scrawled directions you shove into the console, you will always get lost.

"I so admire your willingness to go on a sketchy road trip," I told Kat as we embarked down Irish Lake Road, thinking of my own sense of immortality following yesterday's thunderstorm in Eden Mills. "I recognize in you the same risk gene I see in myself."

"We don't do things in half measure," Kat replied.

This outing was not unlike all the others, armed though we were with maps and a drunk GPS system and an information phone that kept losing its signal. It wasn't a big deal, though. We passed the time eating cheese curds and discussing the perils of dating non-feminist men.

"We really are the first generation of women who've had a mostly socially accepted choice in whether or not to settle," she pointed out. "Men don't consider that the way we do. I mean, what choice did our mothers have? Wife or lonely academic, that was about it. Our mothers may have broken that mold, but a lot of their peers couldn't, or wouldn't."

I kept considering that all afternoon, as we arrived at Red Bay as one always does, just in time. I thought about it as we laid out our picnic, swung on a swing set, gossipped and smoked and swam like mermaids, out past the breaker in water that felt like the ocean. As we flipped somersaults and scoped out cute dudes in the water nearby and reminisced about elementary school gym class, as we felt ourselves so gloriously unencumbered and free. We have chosen this life, beaten our own trails. Each moment on the path to this afternoon on this beach was one we had decided on, consciously or unconsciously. We may have struggled with existential malaise at nearly every turn, but the fact remained that we COULD engage in that struggle, that while we might be lonely, we'd never be pariahs.

Could our mothers have stood here a generation ago? Maybe. I feel like our particular mothers were built of strong, resilient stock. I know they could have been brave and noble in complete independence too. They'd have been an anomaly, though, women whispered about. It's still this way, I think. Women without traditional partners scare other people. For better or worse, we still represent a rejection of a norm. People still speak to us with a sort of patronizing admiration. It's so amazing that you're so independent, they sometimes tell us. I don't think I could ever live like that, by myself.

Hell, I want to tell them. Most of the time I don't think I can do it either, and yet, here I stand. And besides, I'm not alone. I'm held up by a vast network of secret sisters, coupled and uncoupled, mothers to their own children or to other people's or to no one at all. I do just fine. And so would you, if you had to, or even just wanted to. I know you would.

I don't know if I'll ever be the mother of a daughter. It's okay, it really is. I'm a feckless surrogate auntie to so many lovely and amazing children that I know I'll be alright. But if I do have a daughter, I hope she will be brave in ridiculous situations, and pay attention to orienteering. I hope she will feel the same desire to keep swimming, out past the boats, past the pier, past the break line. I hope she will one day feel fearless.