I went to my brother’s 50th birthday party last night. The group included artists, lawyers, professors, psychoanalysts, harp players, chess players, public health clinical trial experts, and at least one hedge fund guy. Many Burning Man fans in eclectic dress. All there to celebrate. Happy birthday, GMC, known by the family nickname that starts with a P.
My brother took his time growing up, paradoxically arriving at 50 still a very young man. He will marry this year for the first time. Maybe it’s more accurate to say he took his time growing into himself, since he hasn’t lived an irresponsible, perpetual teenage life. He’s unusual. Followed his own proverbial road, step by step by step. My brother lives very honestly, more honestly than most people can sustain. He thinks about everything. Refuses to mistake the expected for the necessary.
Of course, as family does, he’s driven me nuts more times than I can count. Life is only exalted now and then. Sturdy Gals get impatient with dreamers. Just show up on time, really, that’s all the Buddha wants. But I digress.
Last night, looking around the room and the many midlife people, I found myself thinking not about the passing of our years, not about how how short life is, but about how much time we do have. There’s a lot of time, in the ordinary life span. Lives are cut short, I would not in any way ignore the possible tragedies. Not in any way. But an ordinary lifetime is pretty generous.
This morning, it occurred to me that life is more freely generous to men. My brother’s unusual life was made possible by his intelligence, and his originality, certainly, but also by his gender. From every angle, it seems to me that women’s biological relationship with fertility imposes structure and limits. I mean no political statement, no religious statement, nothing. I regret in no way being female. I begrudge no man his gender. However. Fertility, infertility, unwanted fertility, pregnancy, nursing, choosing not to have children. These things take more space in women’s lives. We’re given somewhat less time early in life to freely carve out who we are, no matter the scope of our imagination.
I’m seeing rock, and the traces of picks.
All of which probably leads to a need to carve ourselves out later, when the ordinary lifespan is an even greater privilege.