Sunday, July 13, 2008

Simon and Garfunkel 101: Ooh!

Woman 1: "Ooh! Let me show you. Let me show you our picture. This was me and my husband when we were first married."
Woman 2: "I always slept on one side, left room for my husband."
Woman 1: "And that's me when we were sixteen"
Woman 2: "But this, this, this, this is not the case. I still do it. I still lay on the half of the bed. (pause) We used to sneak in. . . "

Dear Barack Obama,

I've laid on my side of the bed almost longer than you have lived, so I want to tell you a little about loving and about growing up and what is important. And what it takes to get beyond 16. Too many people keep going back to 16, back to when we didn't know up from down or yes from no. But we do so need more real adults around here.

Back a ways, when I was 16, life and sex and marriage had a little different taste. Not that the sex drive has changed all that much. (Did you know that even old women can still pant long after their children think that our sexual pleasures should be relegated to long term memory?) But the flavor of sex back then was tinged with a certain reality. The reality was that sex often led to procreation. That procreation was good and anticipated by married couples. When my husband moved over into my side of the bed, we had fun and we had children.

But there was a dark side. Most of culture, religious and non-religious, painted that darkness upon couples, and, particularly, women who tasted sex and then pregnancy before they tasted a wedding cake. One of my first jobs was at a home for girls, "predelinquent girls" they were called. They carried with them a tang of the outcast, each wearing some style of scarlet letter affixed to their lives. People helped them, but not without attaching to these beautiful, young Eves a stigma, a curse.

The best thing that resulted from the 1973 Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade, was that some people finally were forced to reassess their view of women who carried children to birth, married or not. These women, we came to see, were neither delinquent nor cursed, but were indeed responsibly mature and blessed. That has been the shining beauty of Roe v. Wade. People think of Roe v. Wade as the decision that opened the doors to abortion. It did that. But I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about a cultural shift that has changed life for those women and girls who are not married but are pregnant and choose to give their babies birth.

I've raised three girls to womanhood. Any mother thinks, at some point, what words would I say, were my daughter (or son) to come to me and say, "I'm not married, but I'm going to have a child"? I decided what my response would be, were I ever to need one. My answer is, "A child is always good. Let us rejoice in this life. How wonderful!"

Last March, in answer to a question about this subject, you said, "Look, I got two daughters — 9 years old and 6 years old, I am going to teach them first about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby." Of course I don't agree with everything you say politically. But this isn't politics, so I'm going to give you some grandma type advice. If your daughters ever come to you and talk about a baby that is their own, DON'T call it a mistake. Don't curse that child. A life, young and new, whether mother or baby, is not delinquent because of a pregnancy. Call it beautiful. Call it blessed. Call it theirs. Call it yours. Call it love.

And punished? I think that there is a lie being told to a whole generation of potential parents. They are being told by everyone from Jerry Seinfeld to you, Barack Obama, that children are a punishment. This is a lie. I have never experienced any joy in life that even remotely compares to the joy of holding my babies. You know that I'm speaking the truth, because you have Malia and Sasha. Ooh, I'm not trying to be slobbery. I'm just reminding you, and a whole generation, that life and meaning is not found in self-indulgence and purposeless pleasuring. It is, however, found in the kind of responsible decisions and sacrifice that result in strong families and healthy children, like mine and like yours. It's no mistake and it is not punishment.

Sure, not everyone will become a parent, but the truth of the matter is, no one is ready to do it until they do it, and it is in this type of mature embracing of responsible living that brings an individual to adulthood. Fully responsible adults arise from the ranks of those who embrace their lives, their own and their children, not because they are picture perfect but because they are theirs, and because they savor the goodness that comes with it all.

And this, this, this, really is the case.


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