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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

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Feel it All

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am extremely uptight when it comes to toilet sharing, humorous, informational, or otherwise.

I can't help it. It comes handed down to me from my father's side. My mother, of the earthier branch of the family tree, says that she had two crushing disappointments almost immediately after she and Dad married. One, that they weren't going to dress up and go to mass together every Sunday (or any Sunday); and two, that shared bathroom privileges did not come under the umbrella of marital intimacy. Apparently my father nearly petitioned for annullment the first time she attempted a conjugal visit to the bathroom while he was occupying it.

In this, I am my father's daughter, through and through. A few days after I gave birth to our first child on our bedroom floor, naked, with four midwives and my husband staring on, Patrick came to me with a distinctly gleeful expression.

"I suppose now we can dispense completely with all notions of personal modesty between us?"

Not if there was only one toilet left on earth.

Now consider that I am a devoted reader of Heather Armstrong, the writer behind Dooce. At least three quarters of the content of Dooce originates in the bathroom, and it is a testament to Heather's writing that I am able to overcome my handicap for the sake of reading it.

It's almost always worth it. I don't mean to turn this post into Ode to Dooce, but I want to take a minute to defend it from those who attack or dismiss it on the basis of content*. There are oodles of people out there laying it bare in all forms of media. Very, very few do it thoughtfully or literately. Heather has earned her Artistic License (in fact, that's what the double O stands for in "Dooce").

Anyway, I wandered into Heather's bathroom the other day, and she was crying.

Now, crying in the bathroom is something I am very comfortable with. The bathroom is where I have typically gone to cry. It's where I remember my mother crying, when I was a child. Because mothers don't cry (unless they are happy tears, darling), except from behind the bathroom door, and only if her child is somewhere far away on the other side of it. I don't mean to say that this was the pattern that was consciously handed down to me by my mother or father. God knows my wires are twisted enough to have distorted the signal. But this is what I came into motherhood with: if you must cry, don't let the children see.

And then I walked through Heather's open door and she writes that she is crying right in front of her three-year-old daughter. "Bawling," as she puts it.

And it is the single most shocking, affecting image that has confronted me in the eighteen months or so I have been reading her blog.

I'm not going to attach a value judgement to it. Whether it was a good or a bad thing isn't for me to say. I was touched, and startled by it, and the image has stayed with me for days. I have been holding it, pondering it, weighing it, as if were a smoldering fragment that had landed at my feet from another planet. A clue to an alternate world from my own, one where children don't break if they experience the full range of their mother's emotions.

I put it in my pocket, this image. When I am feeling overdrawn, like I have often felt these past few weeks, like I did for an hour or so today, I curl my fingers around it, worrying it, trying to imagine: what if I looked the way I feel inside right now? What if the children saw? My husband? What then?

I don't know the answer. But I'm asking the question.

On a lighter note, Heather's portrait of herself as a messy crier made me laugh. My little sister, who has NO trouble displaying her emotions, anywhere, anytime, cries like this too. (Which goes to show how siblings can grow up in the same family with completely different experiences, perceptions and outcomes.) In the album of my first wedding there is a hilarious sequence of her face melting into snot, like the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, as everyone in the wedding party is finally, openly staring with mouths agape. Including me, whose—hello?—Special Day it was afterall.

And who didn't shed a tear.

*Not that she needs my defense. I believe H.A. towers four feet or more over me, and could squash me flat with her bare foot. Still. Her blog has been at the point of the plough in this field, and we owe the lady some props. Heather, if you need a blurb for the back of your book cover that says "definitely worth suspending your sense of decorum", I'm your girl.

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Blogger Charlotte said...

I agree with your words about Dooce. She's a superstar!

My family are all rather doors-open-and-keep-chatting around the toilet, but I'm sure you didn't really want to know that.

Great post, Kyran.

8:48 AM  
Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

the nice thing about living alone is you can cry when and where you wanna............

2:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm always happy to see props given to dooce. And I agree with you, she certainly says things I would nver say and by doing so captures exactly how I feel, and what I would say if I had the wherewithal.

Hurray for dooce and for Kyran her public defender.

3:47 PM  
Blogger littlepurplecow said...

The best part about crying in front of my daughter (typically limited to wound scenarios) is that she hugs me so tightly that it makes the tears stop.

10:32 PM  
Blogger LetterB said...

The bathroom is the only room in a house that typically has a lock. While I don't use it to cry necessarily (for that I use my pillow) I do like to lock myself in the bathroom when I need to be alone and unavailable.

There is this Slovakian movie (I'm not a movie snob - was just on tv once when I lived in eastern europe) where the mother character in an attempt to write a book (or it might have been a play) sits in the bathtub with her typewriter because it's the only place she can go in her apartment and be alone. I have always loved that image.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Amy U. said...

My mother cries in front of me, still, all the time. She cries when she experiences any emotion strongly, sorrow, sadness, frustration, anger, elation. All are expressed with tears.

8:42 AM  
Blogger 180/360 said...

I love Dooce! I actually wrote an ode to her awhile back. When I was young, I used to go into the bathroom to cry, hide out, even sing. I hadn't thought of this in years, until I read your post.

2:08 AM  

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