Thursday 21 May 2015

Complementarity/ Babies and Art

Last night I went to swing-dancing night, and I almost fainted halfway through the second hour of classes. The ballroom was very warm, but that in itself should not have made me feel faint. I was quite alarmed; the spectre of early death by heart failure (not unknown to my family) hovered.

I texted B.A. the news so that it would not be a total surprise if a few hours later I dropped dead.

"I guess Doritos are not the wonder food they're cracked up to be," replied B.A.

It is true that, having spent the whole day in a chair reading and writing, I had consumed nothing but coffee and Doritos. B.A., noticing this, had harangued me on my poor health choices and sedentary lifestyle and remarked that at least I get exercise at swing-dancing.

I went to Tesco and purchased a healthy-looking falafel wrap and a bottle of antioxidant juice containing wheat grass and flax along with various juices. (B.A., at home, made a salad.) After I consumed the juice and wrap, I felt much better and danced the third hour away.

Being gently chided by B.A. about my health was a reminder of how it isn't just men who abuse their health unless corrected by spouses. It was also a reminder of how complementarity is supposed to work: man and woman take care of each other.

It was a contrast to the jokes of a new man in swing-dance class who exulted in the idea of pushing women around. He gave me the impression of someone who wanted to settle old scores, and I nervously asked him to remember that I was not his boss. ("Nor your mother," I added silently. "Nor your old teacher, nor that female supervisor.")

How should one treat a follower in swing-dance? Like a florist handing a bouquet  in a crystal vase, I think. You can guide her here, and you can guide her there. You can even gently swing her about in a controlled and disciplined manner. But you must not push her or pull her or foolishly drive her into another dancing couple or whack her against a table.

How should one treat a lead in swing-dance? "You're the boss!" I like to say. Hopefully he's a good boss, the kind you can sincerely praise or, if he's a bit awkward, train up diplomatically, as would  a veteran secretary. Being the ultimate in temps, you behave so that you will be, um, hired again--or spotted and hired away by an even better boss. As it were.

If this seems all very retro, it's certainly a lot better than thinking about men driving horses. In gloomier moments, I think about men driving horses. Of course, when I look at the advanced swing-dancers, they look totally equal and complementary, each adding his or her bit of dancing genius. The Cool Girls do not in least seem like horses, bouquets or secretaries. Well, given the retro outfits, maybe secretaries.

Nota Bene: This is about a dream.

So last night I had my first ever dream about an ultrasound. In this dream I had gone to see a doctor about a persistent tummy ache, and it turned out that I was pregnant.

I was most surprised to hear that. I thought I had just put on tummy fat from abuse of Doritos, giving up Pilates, etc. The dream-doctor popped me on an examination desk and drew blood, poked me here and there, examined reports and announced happily that everything was going all very well.

In hindsight, this was obviously a dream for at no point did this British female doctor mention "termination" which, given  the NHS and my age, in real life she would have done at least five times. Of course, perhaps the pregnancy was advanced enough that it was no longer legal to kill the baby, for next the friendly dream-doctor showed me the ultrasound--which was more of a video, really--and the baby seemed rather advanced. He--most definitely a he--rolled around and made terrible faces and seemed even to be silently yelling.

Benedict Ambrose, exactly like himself in this dream, was torn between anxiety and delight in the sight of this child, half him and half me, and asked if we should name him right away. And fortunately, I said no, I thought we should wait until we knew it wasn't a dream. I had a sneaking suspicion that it was a dream, which I thought  would be very unfair. Meanwhile, I was torn between wanting to tell everyone, and not wanting to tell anyone, in case I miscarried after all. Interestingly, I told my new friend Jackie (hello, Jackie!); why Jackie turned up in this dream, I know not. At any rate, she knew as soon as she saw me without my having to tell  her.

I was very pleased at the thought that I was having the ultimate female experience after all and was somebody's mummy, and as for worries about changes in my lifestyle, I worked from home anyway, so really, I wouldn't have to arrange or worry about anything domestic. I could just carry on. So I was feeling very satisfied and happy about it all and then, as children finish their creative writing assignments, I WOKE UP.

And instead of weeping and wailing, I felt fine. I got up and began working on another story for my collection. The baby in the dream probably didn't symbolize a real human baby, anyway,  but artistic creation. The rolling around, terrible faces and silent yelling most definitely remind me of my stories coming into being, as does the memory of the baby being both a stranger and familiar. I am not entirely sure my stories can be considered "half-B.A.", but they are certainly born out of life with B.A.

No sense of loss, for the new baby is developing on paper. His name is "Clarence" although I think of him as John.


  1. Re: complementarity in dance. Your observations reminded me of this:

    I took ballet when I was younger, stopping just before I would have started pointe classes. Almost from the beginning the teacher prepared us for dancing with a partner, insisting that we have good form ourselves to make the pas de deux possible. "You have to HELP him!" she would stress. "You can't expect him to just lift you like a sack of potatoes...he will drop you and both of you will land on the floor in a heap!"

    We all thought that hysterically funny, but now, all these years later, I think about what a great lesson that is for marriage. So often women expect Prince Charming to come along and lift them out of whatever life situation they don't like: financial woes, poor self-confidence, family problems, etc. But the women have to do their part; he can't do it all...if he tries, they usually both end up crashing. (In your example, Seraphic, when B.A. reminded you of "correct form," you went and got something nutritious to eat.)

    I've also thought that perhaps in life, like in the pas de deux, the man is making it possible for the woman to display her beauty in ways she could not do alone....lifting her to heights she could not reach without him.

    This probably needs a thousand caveats, but I have found it interesting to ponder.

  2. Hmm. My first thought is that the ballet teacher's philosophy should be passed on to homeschooling mothers. "You have to HELP him," the mothers could stress. "You can't expect him to just take on the entire financial burden for a family...." Of course, it could also be passed on to homeschooling fathers. "You have to HELP her. You can't expect her take on the entire emotional burden for a family..."

    I feel really uncomfortable with the idea of women expecting/wishing/hoping men to come and rescue them from their lives. I am not sure men are so interested in doing that nowadays. What I see around me is more of a life-sharing. "Here's my life, wanna share it?" "Yes, thanks, if you wanna share my life, too."


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