It’s been a whole year since I last updated this blog. O turned 3 this month, and again, everything’s changed. The first 6 months of 2014 were a bit of a rollercoaster, in fact, and scrolling down through some of these posts I almost don’t recognise some of the entries. So much has changed in so little time, and other things that seemed out of our reach before are now part of our routine. I’ve always kept records of my life – now OUR lives – in the form of journals, diaries and blogs (as well as occasionally freelancing as a journalist), and for reasons that I can’t quite explain other than lack of concentration and general mental-blurriness, I’ve stopped writing altogether for about a year. Well, the silence is gone now, I hope. Being a mother has been teaching me along the way that it takes time, patience and a lot of mindfulness to get to where you want to be, or even stay where you are. Three of practice, in fact, and I still think there’s a long, long way to go.
So, to get things going, I’m gonna post below a little short story I found while backing up my computer. I wrote it last year and submitted to a mainstream fashion mag writing contest, before forgetting all about it (I’m guessing it didn’t win anything, as I never heard from anybody). It’s supposed to be about how fashion manifests itself in someone’s life and shapes their view of the world. I chose to write about my confusion at founding out I was having a girl (I thought I wanted a boy because I’m quite tomboy-ish and had mostly male friends till I became a mum), and how we navigated a bafflingly divided world of pink and blue.
Pink and Blue
It started with the little cross sign. It was a faded blue, its intentions not uncertain as its colour seemed to be. An unwelcome accident (aren’t they all?) it meant life could not go on as it was. “I’m way too young for this”, cried my jobless, 28-year-old reflection in the bathroom mirror, all ripped denim and shattered dreams.
The image on the screen of the technician was also blue, electric and fierce. “It’s a little princess”, he says, and my vision blurs. A girl? But I don’t know how to deal with them. Never had many of them around for long. What was I supposed to do with a princess?
“Now we know the sex, we should go shopping!” exclaimed my thrilled mother-in-law. Sensing my bewilderment, she takes me into the girls’ section of a department store, all pink bowls and frills. My eyes blur again. I sneak into the boys section and suddenly blue surrounds me, reassuringly. There, I find it: a tiny denim shirt, the kind I desperately wanted for myself. “I think I’ve found something”, I say. “But that’s a boy’s shirt”, she exclaims while I pay for it. “I know,” I say.
The gifts start arriving, every one of them drops in a sea of pink. I put them away and clear a rack in my overworked bookshelf. Instead of baby manuals, I fill it with feminist authors. My partner raises an eyebrow: “Getting acquainted with the business of being a woman?” he asks, and then says to himself, “better late than never.” I’m suddenly grateful for having chosen him.
Her first outfit is white, a plain cotton onesie, a blank canvas like I thought she would be herself. But she’s far from it. When she arrives, it’s not in the way I wanted her to. It’s my first lesson: “You think you’re a riot? Wait till you get to know me,” she seems to tell me, opening her big brown eyes. My heart pounds in surprise, and my eyes are full and foggy yet again. I’m head over heels with pride and love.
Then time flies out the window, and with it, everything I’ve ever learned, everything I’ve ever thought I wanted. The pink fluffy dresses go, and with them the tiny blue denim shirt. At two, she won’t comply with my rules, or anyone else’s, unless it’s tinged in bright yellow. Hair long and scruffy, Converses dirty with the remains of play dough and paint, she then runs in my direction, arms and smile wide open, and asks me to read her the story of Dorothy and the ruby slippers. “There’s my princess,” says my now exasperated mother-in-law, a glimmer of hope in her tone, aware of this sudden manifestation of girliness.
“There’s no place like home,” ends the story, and then suddenly I get it. A ball of contradictions lying next to me, she’s the embodiment of my most cherished lesson of all: to be nothing but one’s own colourful self.