I’ve talked about this a bit before but I’ve had a few more thoughts on the issue so now I’m going to put them all in blog form on the off-chance that some of those thoughts are worth the reading. Basically: my ovaries. Hello, you. See, it was quite funny for a while – in some ways it still is. Oh, haha, Jenny’s just seen a small child and she’s gone all crazy and gushing about it. To be honest it was quite amusing to me because obviously I’m not likely to have children of my own for at least another five years or so. There’s part of me that somehow believes I never will get married and have kids, just because I’ll never find someone who I love as much as they love me, or vice versa, I just believe it’s somehow never going to work out for me. I don’t know why I should think that but there you have it.
Anyway. I was in Starbucks the other day with some friends, M and H, who are a couple, P, a bachelor of 64 who was on the same MA as M and is now a good friend of his; and A, who I’m always talking about, who was, incidentally, suited and booted for the funeral later that day of his friend’s grandmother, may she rest in peace. We’re all in Starbucks with our coffees and mochas and hot chocolates, M soothing his hangover with fruit salad and water, me pigging out on crisps, sandwiches, syrup waffles and an apple fritter doughnut (it was just one of those days, I don’t know). And into the cafe arrive: five mothers, about seven children between the ages of about eighteen months and four-ish, buggies and bags and toys and coats and a lot of noise.
We carry on talking and actually at first H and I are OK. The group is directly behind H so she can’t really see them without turning round; I can see them over her head but currently I’m more interested in eating and a fairly absorbing discussion of something pretty surreal (yeah, you’d be scared if you spent any time with us as a group, things get a bit mental).
And then one of those children, small, curly headed, blond, just under two years, at a guess, starts crying. It’s probably partly the fact that I am twenty years old and a girl but hear a child crying and there is nothing you can do about your response, it’s completely preconscious, and it was all I could do not to get out of my seat and run to him and pick him up and try and make it all better. Just a completely emotional, hormonal lurch. H felt it too, I could see, and we were transfixed from then on in. She was constantly turning around and neither of us were particularly participating in the conversation any more as we literally just stared.
I wasn’t particularly thinking, ‘aww, that’s cute’ as two of them clumsily hugged one another, or marvelling at the way they play and how you can literally see the learning process going on, which is amazing really – oh! if I pull this cord the lamp switches on! and off again! And if I do it again…? it switches on! and off! and on!… – I was thinking all of these things, yes, but what I was mainly feeling is this irrepressible gut instinct about just how much I pray I have children myself one day. I’m not mad – obviously I don’t mean now (though jokingly I did ask A if he would be the sperm donor for my children) – but it’s not as if I have got any rational mental choice in the matter. Hormonally I am absolutely and completely cut out to be a mother, because that is my evolutionary role – to have children, and to teach and protect them until they can look after themselves.
Sometimes it amazes me that we think we’re all so clever – we build buildings higher than we can really imagine, we fly planes, we invent computers, the internet, solve the enigma code, know how to blow up our own planet, drive cars, play chess, write great literature, record history, the Bible, produce the most heartstoppingly beautiful music and paintings and sculptures, have conversation, complicated humour and wit, brew ale, set fire to things, cook food, ferment things to create whisky or wine or whatever. We have clothes, watches, make-up, houses, streets, a money economy where most of the money these days is in the form of imaginary numbers that get shifted about from computer to computer, transactions going on that sort of don’t really exist (you can see just how much I know about the economy…) – and underneath all of this, all this intelligence and thought and beauty and might and power – we are just animals. We’ve just designed a hugely complicated system for satisfying basic animal needs for food, warmth, companionship, sex, having offspring. We are only a bunch of hairless apes with bad posture and 20/20 hindsight, and we only want these same basic things, on some level. We cannot escape the fact of our nature and in some ways why would we want to?
Think about it. You invite all your friends out for a sophisticated-sounding dinner party, when what you’re really saying is, come to my place where it is warm, look potentially sexually attractive, eat too much food and we’ll probably have lots of humorous but slightly coarse conversations and jokes all evening before finally going home and falling asleep. You go out to dance somewhere and it’s all just about the display. We may as well have bright green shimmering feathery tails like peacocks, we just happen to be a bit less elegant and (perhaps?) a bit less weird about sexual display but that’s all it is, posturing.
We are still animals, underneath it all. It doesn’t make the art or the philosophy or the science or the architecture or the other millions of amazing things we’ve done pointless, of course not, they add to our experience and appreciation of the world and they are great achievements, but we shouldn’t forget that we are basically apes who just happen to walk on their hind legs. That’s what I tell myself anyway, because otherwise there is no rational explanation for the complete hold small children have on me (no paedophilia jokes in the comments please, I might just cry…).