Monday, June 2, 2008

Oh boy.

Now that I have so much access to Quantum Leap (all seasons, most episodes) via Netflix, I find that the episodes I find myself watching are the ones in which Sam leaps into a woman. Those really weren't my favorites in the first run; as long as he was leaping into the 50s or 60s, I was happy enough, and it used to bug me to watch him clomping around in high-heeled pumps with his chest hair poking out of the bodice of some dainty little piqué number. However, I think these days I'm seeking out those episodes because I can actually relate to Sam, uncomfortable in too-tight clothes and heels... trying to put his lipstick on right... figuring out how to act like one of the girls. I don't have trouble with the lipstick and heels, thanks to coming of age in the 80s and living in a dorm full of beauty pageant winners for several years (they were generous with the beauty tips). And I'm fine one-on-one with other women, usually. But put me in a room full of middle-class moms and their kids, and I feel like Sam: the clothes don't fit, I can't walk right, and I'm always saying things that betray my true identity—the identity that is so not a middle-class mom (MCM).

Before I had Borg Boy, most of my female friends were single or in committed, non-married relationships. Then one of my good friends, an engineer, got downsized out of her job, and within a year she was married, pregnant, and living in another state. Another, a programmer in Silicon Valley, sent me a birth announcement out of the blue, via email, to let me (and approximately 560 of her closest friends, apparently) know that she and some guy I'd never heard of were now the ecstatic parents of [insert generic Jane Austen heroine name here; everyone I knew who had a baby girl that year named her after a Jane Austen heroine]. I mention their career paths only to emphasize that these were ungirly, geeky women who somehow managed to make the leap that I have never been able to make—from geek grrl to MCM. None of my other geeky women friends have children, and they were almost all completely puzzled by my decision to have one. I think that's because none of them could even contemplate joining the ranks of the MCMs, whose seemingly inborn knowledge of things like How To Cut Grapes So That Toddlers Can't Choke On Them and How To Get Your Kid To Sit Still For Library Story Time is just a mystery to us.

Sam was always teaching someone in another era about women's rights, even in that RIDICULOUS episode where he leaped into Dr. Ruth and inadvertently advised a young woman named Anita that speaking up about sexual harassment was always the right thing to do. I know that my friends and I are extremely lucky to live in a time and a place in which we have a choice about these matters. To work in a traditionally male-dominated field, if that's where our interests lie. To get married or just live with somebody—or neither one. To have children, and to have just one or a whole passel of the little dears. But those of us who didn't necessarily grow up with the assumption that OF COURSE we'd have children someday also grew up with huge gaps in our knowledge of how children work... and how mothers do too.

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