Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Turning Verbs into Adjectives

It's a risky business.

I've been observing these pregnancy/breastfeeding/parenting web boards for over a year now. I know they're not good for me but I keep coming back. It's a sick fascination.

I've become intrigued by the dynamics of these boards -- in particular, the way board members choose to represent themselves.

One of the boards I visit allows members to post avatars, tickers, and other words and images to signal Who They Are. Every time someone posts a comment, her signature automatically appears below her words. A signature is like a collection of virtual bumper stickers, and usually just as political.

Here's a typical signature: "Baby-wearing, 'sposie-using, breastfeeding, Jesus-loving, co-sleeping Proud Mommy." Translation: "I am a female parent. I worship in the Judeo-Christian tradition. I wear my baby in a sling and let her sleep in my bed. I feed her with my breasts, not a bottle. When it's time to change her I use disposable diapers. I am proud of this."

I have to wonder how much of the individual angst and collective bullying I've witnessed on these boards has to do with this tendency to turn verbs into adjectives. If you have difficulties that necessitate the cessation of one of these habits -- say, if the need to take a certain class of antidepressants disqualifies you from breastfeeding -- then the resulting change in behavior becomes a change in identity. Those are some very high stakes.

I bought into this ideology soon after my daughter's birth. When I had to supplement with formula, I became One of Those Women Who Supplement with Formula. It all seems so ridiculous now, but at the time it really felt like a threat to my identity, a threat to the person I wanted to be. It wasn't even about my daughter's health. It was about me.

I have to wonder how many of the people who breastfeed until their child can ride a bike are clinging to an identity they're not ready to give up. The party line is always "It's about what's best for the baby." But really, is it?

As for bumper stickers, I have one on my car: "I love Key West and its chickens." Because, I mean, who doesn't?


Blogger mireille said...

wow, those baby/mommy sites are serious business. And I thought perfume was a rough game. xoxo

9:53 PM, September 06, 2006  
Blogger Bela said...

I meant to comment on the vanishing identity when you broached the subject earlier. It's true: the women I saw in the documentary I mentioned would have described themselves using a string of -ing words, all relating to their role as mothers, and thereby losing their identity as human beings. What happens later, when the child goes to school? How do they describe themselves then?

(Should that thing read 'Emily DickEnson'?)

7:11 AM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

LOL! Yes, that's a typo, isn't it? They're awfully casual down in Key West; spelling probably doesn't concern them. Or else some local named Emily Dickenson said it. Or maybe that's a portrait of a chicken named Emily Dickenson. They name their chickens down there.

12:09 PM, September 07, 2006  
Blogger doulicia said...

Very interesting point.

8:38 AM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger mireille said...

♥ xoxo

7:34 PM, September 08, 2006  
Blogger Kyahgirl said...

Hi! goodness gracious its been along time since I've checked up on you.
I'm sorry that your female parent (I'm not going to call her Mom because she doesn't behave like one) has created more pain and distress for you.

Your little angel has sure grown! Beautiful.

9:13 AM, September 09, 2006  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

One has to have leather skin to approach those sites, it seems.

That being said, I know that you will put it all into proper perspective.

Fi is adorable, as usual.

8:08 AM, September 10, 2006  
Blogger katiedid said...

I couldn't take the few boards that were around when I had my twins. It was just... I can't find the words. Too stressful, perhaps. Too much of a peer pressure environment - be the best mommy ever, or else your child will be irrevocably harmed and everyone will blame you! Eeek. You must try to fight the fascination, it does sound sick.

Also, I'm just not keen on assholery disguised as "advice." The "advice" often seemed less about being kind and being helpful, and more about proselytzie others into their way of thinking. Even stuff that just started out as discussions ended up being a pissing contest over who had the most rightyness on the topic. Shrug. I'm sure with there being a lot more message boards out there now that there are some boards that are better than others, of course. But at the time, that was my sentiment. I've not looked at the boards since my boys were babies, actually, so what do I know?

I don't get the self-labeling either. I totally agree with your reading into the subtext of the labels: "I am proud of this." Still, I dunno, I guess the stuff I was proud of when my bubbas were babies wasn't the stuff anyone else would brag about. I'd probably say, "one of my babies only rolled off the changing table once in six months!" Or "I managed to complete two entire loads of laundry today!" It's the little things that really matter. Heh. What you do, not what you believe. Of course, I'm fickle, and the label I'd choose for myself would change from day to day. Also, I'd probably just pick something like "I love invisible pink unicorns" just to be ridiculous. I somehow think those are the not sort of folks who would appreciate the value of being a ridiculous mother. Pity, that. I'm coming to understand that a sense of humor is quite possibly the best gift any mother can give both herself and her kids.

Now then, I'll ask you for some advice: how do you explain about sexism to children? They've been asking questions, and it's nigh on impossible to try to explain something that doesn't make any sense in a way that makes sense to them. Seriously, I think I've only confused them further. Sigh.

8:35 PM, September 16, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

Nice observation! I think you should write a paper on the language of the breastapo (maybe don't call it that though).

2:38 PM, September 17, 2006  
Blogger PFG said...

p.s. a noun would be possibly worse - e.g., baby wearer, sposie user, breastfeeder, jesus lover, co-sleeper. of course nominal forms don't allow the stacking. Oh and don't forget the capitalized diminutive form "Mommy". I think that is important.

2:42 PM, September 17, 2006  

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