04 January 2009

Cats, Motherhood and Birth

Charlie and Max have been all over me. No, you needn't be worried or jealous, Dominick. You know who Charlie and Max are: my two cats.

Ever since I've come back from Florida, it seems that they can't get enough of me. You'd think I'd been away for months or years instead of days. Any time I sit down, one or both of them is on me. In fact, late this afternoon, when I was talking with Dominick on the phone, Max wedged himself between my left side and the arm of the chair in which I was sitting. And Charlie somehow managed go climb onto me and the chair, and to prop his head on Max's back as they both dozed off.

Needless to say, they were beyond adorably cute. I wouldn't mind taking them to work with me. Now that I think of it, I'd love to have them nearby when I'm in the hospital. But I guess that if they've been this happy to see me after I was gone for only a week, they'll be even more joyous after I return from my surgery and recovery.

Caring for them, and for the cats I had before them, is probably the closest I'll come to motherhood. Mom has said that my cats are my children. Sometimes I feel that way, but I didn't bring Max or Charlie into this world. (Nor could I have done so!) Mom, on the other hand, gave birth to Mike, Tony and Vin as well as me. Two women have told me that because I'm not capable of even producing one offspring, I'm not, and never will be, completely a woman. One--a now-former friend (though for other reasons altogether)--also said that because I've never had a period, I'll be nothing but a male with female genitalia.

Sometimes I think defining "male" and "female" are even more tricky than defining the moment at which a sperm and egg become a life. I'll convene a panel of experts, including Sarah Palin, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh to help me answer those questions.

Just messin' with ya', Dear Reader. Sarah Palin may be a perfectly good mother, for all I know. But will I let her define me, or anyone else? Not unless I get to look like her!

I wonder whether she has cats. Somehow I think not. There is one reason why I'd never say that caring for Charlie and Max is equivalent to parenting: Either one of them is much, much easier to feed and keep in line (to the extent that I do that) than just about any kid (or adult, for that matter) you'll ever meet. It's almost too easy to love my felines.

Several people--none of whom are followers of anything that might be called "new age"--have said that I'm giving birth to my self. One went as far as to say that many people never do such a thing. That sounds about right. I also think that almost anyone who gives birth to him or her self does so out of necessity. No one plans on it; there's nothing to prepare anyone for such an undertaking. Sometimes it's a matter of desperation: to save one's life. Hmm...Giving birth to one life to save one's own. Gotta chew on that one.

A great example of what I've said about giving birth to one's self is Nora in A Doll's House. Now I'm thinking back to when I first saw and read the play, when I was a teenager. At that time, I'd never heard anyone talk about giving birth to one's self, and I was so far in the closet that I found myself in some really strange combinations of clothing. (I was going to the local public library to read Christine Jorgensen's autobiography: I wouldn't have dared to check it out.) Still, I remember thinking, even then, that Nora had given birth to someone new: a woman not under the bonds of her father, husband or some other man. Of course, what I didn't realize was that whomever she became wasn't new or seperate from her: She was always within her, just as Justine was within me (even though, at times, I'd lost sight of, or hope for, her) all through those decades as Nick.

How will Charlie and Max react to the "newborn?" And how good of a mother will I be. Dominick says I would make a fantastic mother. I hope he's right.