Tuesday, January 26, 2010

So, how am I doing?

This photo was taken when I was 20. It's one of my favourites. I look young and happy and indefatigable, but also more or less fully formed. There aren't many photos like this, certainly not of me.
I had a party for my 20th birthday. In those days you designed your invitation by hand, then photocopied it up onto a sheet of A4, then bought coloured paper or card, duplicated your A4 onto multiple sheets, chopped them up with a guillotine, and put them in the internal post. I can still remember the invite: it said 'please come and help celebrate the fact that I will never be a teenage mother'.
And these days, when I am making an important choice, I don't ask myself what Jesus would do. And nor do I make decisions based on what's easiest, what's expected, what's the least difficult, least boat-rockiest thing to do right now. Instead, I think about the woman in this photo and try to make sure I'm not letting her, or the people who gave her the space and freedom to be herself, down. And generally, yeah, I think I've done pretty well on that front, though no prizes for guessing what one of those important choices has turned out to be.
Tomorrow, I'm going to be 40. I'm not about to invite my friends to celebrate the fact that I will never be a mother at all. We celebrate motherhood, we don't celebrate its opposite, even when it's freely chosen.
And I think that's ok. There are enough children in the world who know they weren't wanted without reminding them that some of us are better at not having them. And now I am 40, I know that most women want children, and that's something to be celebrated too. If my mother hadn't wanted me, I wouldn't be here, and hell, that would be a tragedy.
But me, I made my choice, and it was the right one for me. So I raise a glass of posh Sauvignon Blanc to humanity and turn up the Internationale*. My 20 year old self would be cool with that, I think. Freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all.

* Ignore the video, I hoped to find this version on Spotify but it was not to be.

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Blogger Miles said...

I salute all those who ignore the prevailing fashions of the outside world and instead look inside themselves to find out what they should be doing. Jo, you always have been true to yourself and that is what I will be celebrating today.

On the other hand I will also be spending many hours staring obsessively at that photo and bitterly mourning the fact that I never knew you when you were 20.

12:28 am  
Blogger Spine said...

Happy Birthday.

7:12 am  
Anonymous jonathan said...

Appropriately, your 'automatic photo' feature just now generated a picture of your present-day self looking slightly downwards and left, directly towards the picture of you 20 years ago. The older Joella looked amused and intrigued, as I am sure the younger Joella would be if she could see you as you are today.

All of which is my typically long-winded and poncey way of saying Happy Birthday. Oh, and I like 20 year old Joella's hairstyle, I used to have exactly the same fringe at the time, and come to think of it, exactly the same coat.

1:11 pm  
Anonymous Helen said...

I think we all had that coat when we were 20. Happy birthday Jo! And thank you for your thoughtful thoughts which keep this mother from forgetting the n-year-old non-mother she used to be.

10:22 pm  
Blogger Ben said...

Belatedly, happy birthday! I look forward to hearing what the 80-year-old Joella has to say in 2050.

8:53 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy belated birthday, Jo. Is it really 10 years since your 30th birthday do at some rugby/cricket/a.n.other sport club somewhere in Oxford. As Michael Stipe wrote "where, where does time go?"

10:57 am  

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