by Susie Day
Dear Western Civilization –
My name is Mary. Not Mary of Had-a-Little-Lamb fame. Holy Mary. Or, if you will, Maria. But not Maria as in The Sound of Music. Ave Maria. You know, Mother of God? Queen of Heaven? Our Lady of Perpetual Boundary Issues? You might remember me from such codependent masterpieces as the Pietà and nine billion paintings depicting the braless Madonna and breast-fed blessed child. Which reminds me: I want to talk about abortion.
Don’t get me wrong: motherhood is a noble profession. But I didn’t choose it. That’s the whole point, here. Looking back, I haven’t done much with my life except reproduce — once. For some reason, this makes me the eternal, long-suffering mom, who listens to endless tales of woe. Every second, I get prayers from zillions of plaintive strangers. These people never think to ask me about my possible empty-nest syndrome, or whether I’ve managed, after all these years, to graduate college. They mostly want a favor from The Man. To them, I’m the easy-touch, go-to maternal archetype. They want me to put in a good word for them. Screw that.
“You’d be a lot better off
if you got my archetype
the hell out of you”
As an archetype, Western Civilization, I am sick of being the nurturing female progenitor embedded in your incessantly whining and needy collective unconscious. I am bigger than that – I am an individual. I want to actualize my potential. I want to learn skydiving and CPR and I want to occupy Wall Street. But I can’t. I can’t until you, Western Civilization — regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof — psychologically suction out your mental image of me, the obsessively giving Virgin. Abort me, dammit. It’s not only to save the life of the Mother; it’s for you, too.
Please don’t ask me how the Baby Jesus would feel, here. How should I know? My son the messiah — he never calls, he never writes.
Well, who can blame him? As a parent, I was way too controlling, something you can’t always see in those paintings. I forced that kid to live out my dreams: “Jesus, you’re late for your public speaking lesson”; “Jesus, your father and I paid good money for that magic set, now make with the wine trick”; “I don’t care how much fun those kids are having, Jesus, you’re going to sit there until you heal that leper.”
I was bitter; I admit it. I mean, hell, people always said I was the one with the charisma.
You question my story? Fine, check the record. At fourteen, I was married off to a much older man. I went through with it because I had no choice. If I didn’t, I might get stoned in the marketplace – and not in a good way. A few days later, some angel comes around selling Bibles. Sticks his foot in the door and says, “You’re gonna like this book, girlie – it’s got your name in it!” Then he shows me that part in the book of Luke where it says, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.”
What newlywed adolescent wouldn’t want to hear that? I felt like that movie star Lana Turner, being discovered at the Hollywood soda fountain. Then I read the part that said I was going to bring forth a son: “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee … and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee.”
“Overshadow,” huh? Funny, you don’t hear that word much in rape crisis centers. But whatever. I didn’t want to hurt God’s feelings, so even though I’m Jewish, I bought the leather-bound deluxe King James version. Angel threw in a free vacuum cleaner. Long story short, couple days later in the mail I get a Candygram. So, not thinking, I unwrap a chocolate-covered cherry and — BLAMMO — I’m, what they call, “overshadowed.”
So I become another pregnant teenager. No, wait — I become THE pregnant teenager. The cosmic bun-in-oven-who-me? prototype. You’d think I would feel radiant and fulfilled, but I feel terrible. That’s because, for over two thousand years, Western Civilization, your entire moral structure has been premised on the fact that little Mary of Nazareth — that’s me — was raped and impregnated by the Holy Ghost. And fucking went along with it.
In a way, my story is not that unusual. I mean, how surprised would you be to see this on prime time TV?
You tune in to another episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Gritty pathos: darkly innocent adolescent girl — probably illegal immigrant — having grown up in weird, orthodox sect – is found wandering Jackson Heights, Queens, a violated child bride. Delusional. Claims virginity. Says God did it.
“Please,” begs the girl, “won’t someone think of the zygote? The male zygote?”
So our little pregnant pubescent, after being informed of the legal – yet unconscionable – alternative, decides that she will have this baby. You switch off your TV, reassured that, though the U.S. military kills innocent civilians in Afghanistan, young American girls still have the right to choose to have babies they neither planned nor wanted.
See, it’s not all that empowering to have greatness thrust upon you. Or into you. In fact, it sucks. All during my pregnancy, it never occurred to me that I could have chosen to abort the, how you say, fruit of my womb.
But you know what? Today’s Virgin nurtures what she wants; she terminates when she wants. Today’s Virgin is taking pro-choice to whole new levels. And so can you, women of Western Civilization. In fact, until you do, you can be as liberated as you want — become a nuclear physicist, sell lesbian sex toys, play your cello at Carnegie Hall, live with chimpanzees, practice yoga on the beach — it won’t matter. As long as I, the Blessed Mother, remain society’s unspoken ideal of womanhood — and I do — a woman’s only noticeable choice will be whether she has (a) a kid or (b) an abortion.
And is that not a tad limiting, you lawyers and women’s health workers of Western Civilization? I mean, don’t you find it frustrating to fight your whole life for something that all women dread and no woman enjoys and most women could have avoided if they’d only had the power to say NO in the first place?
Face it, Western Civilization: you’d be a lot better off if you got my Divinely fertilized, all-accepting, victim-loving archetype the hell out of you — because it’s never going to grow up to be a person. You never needed me, anyhow. In fact, you probably would have been a lot more civilized without me.
“Right to choose,” my ass. You got to go further. You got to look deep into the misogyny embedded in my image, Western Civilization, the unconditionally loving mother. And you got to do something about this.
Susie Day writes a satire column for New York’s Gay City News, Monthly Review’s online magazine, MRzine.org, and other publications.
Also see: Fine Thoughts On Fertilized Personhood by Marge Piercy in this edition of On The Issues Magazine
Also see: The Poet’s Eye From Poetry Co-Editor Sarah Browning in this edition of On The Issues Magazine
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