By Humorist author the late Erma Bombeck
with Commentary by me
I am reproducing part of this book here for educational purposes. I don't think that Erma would mind. Intended to be funny or not, it is pretty on target as far as how “ reality”' gets distorted by the “inputs” of large groups of people operating with their own hidden agendas and demonstrates how people get TOLD who they are and how they are going to feel about it, and are often not ASKED or heard. This has now become so common it is not even seen anymore so maybe if we just SHOW you, it might cause some of you to wake up to an awareness of the some of the messes humanity creates for itself ( and “others”) while looking to “broken brains” as the cause, rather than the failure to use the brains we were born with just to see, and hear, the reality of ourselves. It is always about boundaries.
By Erma B.
There are three things in this world that people refuse to accept: an incurable bad back, directions without a map, and a woman who does not want a child.
Sarah did not want a child. She was thirty two, happy with her marriage, happy with her job, and happy with her life. What she was unhappy about was the people around her who seemed to feel that her choice not to have children was their business.
People like her mother, her sister Gracie, (mother of five), her best friend Dodie, and her gynaecologist, who reminded her, “You're not getting any younger.” (who is?)
One day, in a moment of intimacy when she and her mother were alone, Sarah attempted one last time to explain to her mother why she preferred to remain childless.
“Try to understand Mom,” she said. “I'm not against children. I'm just against them for me. For Gracie, it's fine. She is a born mother. I just don't want to go through life with little gates all over the house and a bathtub full of ducks and boats. People who have children change and it's scary. They lose a part of themselves that I don't want to lose. It's like someone flipping a switch. All of a sudden you're not a person anymore. You're attached to another human being. Separate them and they both die.
I don't want to be an extension of someone else's fever, someone else's hunger, someone else's pain, disappointment and frustration. I had a wonderful childhood but when I was a child, I never began to appreciate all your work and sacrifice. What did you get out of it? A lot of slammed doors and a wooden pig that held recipes for your birthday.
If I had children Mom I'd be having them for all of the wrong reasons-because you wanted to be a grandmother or Steve wanted someone to carry on his name or I couldn't stand the pressure of people wanting to know why I don't have children.
I don't think I'm selfish. I'm certainly not bitter or angry. I just feel I have a choice and I have every right to make it. Do you understand?
Her mother nodded.
The next morning in a planned moment of intimacy, Sarah's mother called her other daughter Gracie, and said, “I think I know why your sister doesn't want a child.”
Gracie glued the receiver to her ear, “Why?”
“Well,” said her mother, I don't pretend to understand all of what she said, so I'll quote verbatim. She's scared! It' s that simple. The idea of having a baby scares her spitless, and besides, she doesn't want all the mess around the house, like rubber boats and gates.”
“She made it pretty clear that if I want to be a grandmother again it's in your all park since you love the crud detail. Besides , she said with her luck she'd catch a fever from them and probably eat every time they ate and weigh a ton. Does that make sense to you?”
“Perfectly,” Gracie said.
Within the hour Gracie called Dodie, Sarah's best friend and said, Hold onto your hat. Remember how none of us could figure out why Sarah shouldn't have a child and be as miserable as the rest of us. Well Mom talked with her this morning and she finally confessed.”
“What's her problem?”, asked Dodie.
“I couldn't believe it when Mom told me. Sarah is afraid of losing her shape! She never weighed over 115 pounds in her entire life.”
“I think I've heard about that”, said Dodie. It's called sagophobia. It's the fear of the entire body falling down around your knees.”'
“And listen to this,” interrupted Gracie, “she said if anyone in the family should have a packful of kids, it's me. How do you like that? She said I've always got a houseful of old gates and soldiers and boats all over the place but I'm used to it. She didn't say it in so many words but Mom guessed the real reason is that Sarah is up for promotion and she can't afford to pass it up. I'm not too shocked are you?”
“Not really,” said Dodie.
When her husband came home, Dodie handed him a drink and said, “you'll never guess what Sarah's sister told me today.”
“Surprise me,” said Bob opening up the paper and burying himself behind it.
“She said Sarah wants a baby but they can't afford one. And all this time she's been putting up such a brave front and all, pretending she didn't want one. Gracie said she's up for promotion if she can keep her weight under 115. I don't know what they're going to do if she doesn't get it. Obviously Steve's job is on shaky ground. They won't even be able to adopt.I wonder why they bought a boat. Are you listening to me?
“I heard every word,” said Bob.
Several days later while playing handball with Sarah's father, Bob said, “Congratulations. I hear Steve and Sarah are adopting a Korean child and going boating this summer if he can turn his career around.”
That night, Sarah's father said to her mother , “Have you talked to Sarah lately?”
“Not in the last day or two.”
“I heard the strangest rumour at the gym today. Something about Sarah wanting to adopt but Steve doesn't want to. Does that make sense to you?”
“Perfectly,” said his wife.
Exactly one week from the time they had their “little talk”, Sarah's mother paid her daughter a visit , looked her in the eyes, kissed her on the cheek, and said, “I want you to know that whatever your decision for your future, your father and I will support you a hundred per cent. I know now why you said the things you did and we love you for it.”
As Sarah told Steve that night, “Imagine my thinking my mother wouldn't understand a word of what I was saying. Sometimes I think we underrate mothers.”
Paranoid Patty Commentary:
This is a good example, albeit 'humorous', of how something with a speck of truth in it becomes an unrecognizable “reality” when it gets passed through a group of people who 'spin' it to make it 'fit' their own beliefs and desires. This is also a good example of the chain reaction of gossip mongers and busy bodies when they are determined to create and define 'reality' for others. It is all the 'hidden' dis-information, (covert ops you might say) information deleted, and information invented and added, that makes 'reality' unrecognizable to the one who is living it from her own point of view. In fact, there is NO real communication going on in those relationships at all.
This is not a description of intimacy. It is a description of neurotic enmeshment. Though they are often passed off as the same thing, they really aren't the same thing at all. Though we laugh when we see it and hear it, it is not really all that funny because it means that we create situations in which any real intimacy is impossible, because we must either please the one who defines us to be included in their lives, or we must risk, and often accept, being pushed out of their lives for failing to agree with their definitons of us and accept going it alone. It is not a “choice' we need to make.
The choice to make to actually resolve these kinds of conflicts is to focus on the development of personal boundaries while acknowledging that others have the right to do the same and that no one has the right to IMPOSE their will on another. If we were truly equal, and respected the rights of others, we would already know that.
Now what makes situations like this 'different' for those defined as 'mentally ill' for talking about it? The group behaviour is completely denied to exist ANYWHERE other than in the mind of the one declared to be “defective.” Once that has been done, whatever power they had over their own lives is now handed almost completely to others, often against their will, and those 'others' who can never be blamed for anything, create and define their reality for them FOREVER. THAT is when the individual comes to know how very invisible they are as a person to almost everyone. There is no arguing with the deadly combination of “authority” and "group consensus"...is there?
If you doubt that, look back in time to the Nazi era or the one before that in Armenia, or any of the ones, many of them ongoing right now, after them.We cannot solve problems we don't acknowledge and we will never 'fix' what we are not "allowed" to see.
Stay tuned for a Psy-Fi extension to this humorous episode in relationships from Erma B. as I take it a bit farther for you, to the point of Sarah's ultimate breakdown under group pressure, hospitalization and the great relief almost all of Sarah's family and friends feel when she finally gets the psychiatric label she really needs which explains (away) Sarah's perception/reaction problem to everyone concerned.