I'd heard this part of the Kahlil Gibran quote on children before:

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.

But I'd never seen the rest of it until tonight.

Your children are not your children...
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

Yeah, I'm thinking about the settling-down and getting-married and having-children thing again (and yeah, it's getting old; it's been old for me for years now). This is somewhat inevitable during any trip involving family, because it's one of those things that's constantly asked about and after a while it starts to get to you. I've always needed to have good answers for why I show no signs of going down that path anytime soon. Marginally acceptable answers (none untrue):

  • I'm just starting out, and I'm so busy with work and travel right now, you know...
  • I want to finish grad school first. (I never really cared about the "but who will want a woman with more education than himself?" argument - and there's precedent on my mom's side of the family, so I'll deal. My grandmother may despair that I'm making it difficult to find a mate; I'm trying to reframe this as "high standards are a good thing, right?" The problem is that some of our standards may be directly incompatible; for instance, I don't actually give anyone bonus points for being Chinese.)
  • Hey look, it's $name_of_unmarried_cousin over there - why not start with them? *vanish!* (BEST TACTIC EVAR.)

Actual answers:

  • No, I do not feel a deep and lonely void that can only be filled in this manner. I'm happily single, thank you.
  • The guys my family would set me up with are probably not the kind I'd go for.
  • And vice versa. And I don't want that fight right now.
  • "While I recognize that it would make you extremely happy to see my children, your happiness is nowhere near sufficient reason for me to take on the responsibility of acquiring a suitable life-mate, then bearing and raising progeny, likely sacrificing much of my potential to do great things in a career I dearly love in the process." (see Mel Sounds Like A Jerk Alert, below.)
  • And if I did ever have kids... well, there's a reason Cat's in the Cradle is a song that haunts me whenever I hear it.

I know I sound like a total jerk when I even write this, but... argh. Sometimes I'm just frustrated and I'd like to say it. And I know it doesn't have to be this way, but it still feels like a giant trap, because there are all these cultural expectations that come with being a wife, and then being a mom, and I have a hard enough time keeping my own stance under just the expectations of being a girl. (To some extent, I will be a girl until/unless I marry.) The ruts of history are so strongly grooved and deeply sloped that once I click into any portion of that track, I'm afraid I won't be strong and steady enough on my feet to keep from being swept down into the rest of it. And I don't think that track goes where I want to go. My mom got married when she was almost exactly a year older than I am today; I'm still young enough that "the rest of my life" is a very long time indeed, at least to me. I admire and envy my friends who are my age and married or engaged or in happy long-term relationships; they have something wonderful that I still don't understand.

The scary thing is that my family (especially my mom's side) is actually pretty liberal and westernized as far as these things go - I know there are a lot of girls who have it way, way worse. (I mean, I went to school. I can read. I'm writing this. That's pretty good already.) Maybe I'm hiding from an invisible shadow that isn't really there - it's hard to tell sometimes. Invisible or not, I think I need to deal with this before I really start the dating thing; I don't want to drag anyone else into carrying that baggage with me. Where I'm from, relationships are between families, not individuals. (What if I end up liking someone who doesn't come from that sort of cultural mentality? That... will be interesting, to say the least.) I have to work on my relationship with my family before I can even think about adding another individual to that mix. And like I said, I don't want that fight right now. I have a lot of other things to do.

Sometimes I think these are all mostly excuses to maintain the paralysis against the pressure until I find someone I like. (Hi, my name is Very Westernized. How are you?) I'll figure out how to deal with all the rest then. I should apologize in advance to any hypothetical future relationships of mine because whoever loves me will continuously have to put up with a lot of shit. (I will, of course, return the favor. That's what it means to love someone.)

In other news, I got a haircut today - there's a good cheap place in the next town that cousin Mark was going to, and my impulsiveness and cheapness won out over the more rationally prudent conflict-avoidance part of my brain. So the shagginess is gone and my hair is now fantastically short, the way I like it (easier to care for). And I did pay for it; I came home and went straight to hug my mom in a pre-emptive mollification move because I knew she wouldn't be pleased. I got away with two relatively short lectures and having to wear earrings and a necklace and a nice blouse (hers, as usual) for dinner. But I'm the one waking up with this haircut for the next couple of months, and I like it. So that's okay.