She sat isolated from her cousins as they huddled together, talking about menstruation in hushed tones. They had all got their period that year and she was sorely left behind. She heard her aunt comforting her mom and her mom looking bewildered at the consolation. Her eyes met her mom’s across the room. They both were thinking the same thing. How could she win? She didn’t control any of it.
She finally got her period the next week but knew she had been late to get there.
People asked her repeatedly if she was stressed with education and the chase of a career. She looked at her waif thin figure without a single curve that could endorse her femininity. She looked at the women around her, voluptuous in their confidence and endowed in their assets.
She wrapped her coat around herself tightly to give the illusion of a woman.
She waited for two blue lines. Somehow this was painful. The waiting was always more painful than the actual act of peeing on the stick and getting it right. There was a blue line finally. The other one didn’t come that day.
It didn’t for many years .
She listened to questions about her fertility. Some were direct. Some were clothed as a scientific interest in her fertility. Overall, they were all crass. Women around her joked and bantered on how early, how quick and how effortlessly they got pregnant. She listened and tried to look for clues to have the same luck. There weren’t any.
The scene dissolved.
She sat at the train station as two women boarded the train, one with a bag heavier than life and another with a stroller with two kids. She boarded the train with them, found a seat near them and looked on.
There were more women in the train as it sped towards expensive schools in Manhattan where women dropped their kids off before going to work. Most women had kids. They all talked about kids. Every woman who had a kid talked about kids.
She listened intently as always to find a way. They talked about how quick, how many, in what quick succession, how painless, how rapid, how fertile. She looked at the woman with the big bag. She was listening intently too. There was never an answer in these conversations. There was a lot of preening like peacocks on display.
She watched the other woman become disinterested finally, bitter almost. There wasn’t going to be any help forthcoming today, she knew. Like it never had.
She put her head against the cool window, the train rushing and creating the illusion of movement when actually her life had stood still many years ago. Not because she didn’t have kids but because she had lost every comrade in the battle of biological functions. Her own kind, the only kind who could understand and know her had insisted on creating a conversation around her that she could never become a part of. The field had never been level for her biologically but it didn’t have to be uneven emotionally too. People thought she had been shortchanged by her body. She knew it wasn’t her body.
Women discuss biological functions and their intactness and efficiency as a way to bond. Once their own biological functions start to dwindle, they discuss other women’s reproductive courses. It’s an old, almost predictable way to bond.
Somewhere along the way she had thought that this was going to change. That she’d be finding new conversations. That there’d be more meaning in her womanhood. That there’d be more sisterhood.
Then why couldn’t women stop talking about children, home, reproduction and fertility? Why did the questions almost unanimously originate from the same sore well that they had before. Hadn’t that well dried yet? How much was there to discuss about parenting and fertility? Isn’t there anything else that a woman amounts to?