Utne #3 - By Beth Cramer

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Utne #3 - My Poems are my Children- Why Ill never have a baby by Rachel Wetzteon

Rachel Wetzteon, author and poet, is 29 years old, unmarried and has no desire to have a child. She states these facts in the first paragraph, but as the article continues the reader becomes unsure of the authors innermost aspirations. Wetzsteon finds wedding rings disturbing. She has no difficulty "hitting it off" with a person who happens to have a gold band circling their fourth finger of their left hand. The enigma comes in knowing no matter how close or intimate she becomes with this new friend, she will never attain the intimacy signified by that gold band. The German word wedding translates into English as "high time". Wetzsteon interprets this translation literally, when she infers that after the wedding there is no place to go but downhill. She states that the metaphor "settling down" is often used in reference to marriage. The thought of descending from high times is one of the reasons the author spurns the idea of marriage. When Wetzsteon makes decisions about how to live her life, she focuses on the lives of famous writers. She justifies this by quoting Woody Allen, who says in the movie Manhattan when a friend accuses him of thinking hes God, "I gotta model myself after someone." She creates many humorous images of famous authors and their mythical children. She asks the reader to imagine, "John Keats watching a nightingale soar through the sky while little Keats. Jr. spits up his oatmeal? Impossible!". When it comes to changing her mind about wanting children, Wetzsteon states, "How can we ever know what we want?". She is often asked, "What if she falls desperately in love and is filled with the desire to create a new being out of that love?" In response, she fears she will become uncontrollably jealous of her new loves relationship with the child and she states, " Ill want him all to myself". Wetzsteon ends the article describing a recent experience/fantasy. She is walking down Broadway and notices a car stopped at a red light. Inside the car was a father seated at the wheel, mom in the passenger seat and two kids in the back. She turns this simple observation into a fantasy. She is walking down a country road, when a car containing a happy family of four, drives by. When the husband notices her flushed cheeks and flowing cape, Wetzsteon writes, "he realizes how stale his life has grown; the wife wonders whether shed be happier if she hadnt gotten married and given birth; the children regard me with curiosity and wonder. Who is this peculiar creature, the confidence in her step, the fire in her eyes?" In this fantasy, Wetzsteon walks with pride and thanks God she is not in that sweltering car. Once the car has gone the fantasy takes a wrong turn. She imagines herself hobbling along a country road with nowhere to go. No relatives or family. All her friends are married with young children to take care of. She has to question if life was OK in that musty but safe family car. Is she a fool to walk that long unending road in solitude? The title, "My Poems Are My Children", grabbed me, pulled me in and before I knew it, I was reading about the uncertainties of life, instead of the expected poems that are so awesome they are as precious as children. The content, to have and to hold and to give birth or "not", was fascinating and familiar. I had my first child at the age of 20. I remember feeling out of place and uncertain about this unique being who had taken over my life. My girlfriends treated me like a new exhibit at the zoo; as a young mother I was entertaining, different, but after a while it was time to move on. Their conversations were about boyfriends, college parties and shopping. My life was about sleepless nights, bottles and the consistency of my childs stools. In this article Rachel Wetzsteon fantasized about what she was missing in that family car bouncing down the country road. I, on the other hand, was desperately hanging on to my old familiar life as motherhood barged in through the front door without knocking. Wetzsteon eludes to her uncertainties about the life she has chosen. In the beginning of this article, she states that she does not want to get married, nor have children. Yet, throughout the article she questions whether she has made the right decisions. She fantasizes about having a child and being a part of a family. Wetzsteon claims that the wedding day is the high point of a marriage and then there is no place to go but down. I agree with her, but I dont think this downward trend is something to be feared. Marriage and children are forever humbling. Both teach you how to handle stress, how to improvise in the most unexpected places, how to relax and accept the fact you no longer have total control over the final outcome, how to compromise when you really dont want to, and the list goes on. I do believe "Marriage and Children 101" provide lessons that can not be taught in text books. One must take a chance and experience this long, unending road, firsthand.

-- Anonymous, May 16, 1999

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