Last night in my dreams my mother had another baby, a tiny boy whom she cradled on her lap and referred to with the feminine pronoun in the way my mother often gave the feminine pronoun to objects.
‘She is heavy,’ she said when it came to lifting a pot full of spilt peas before the water had been steamed off, or ‘she has a leak in the roof’, when she talked about our house.
Most objects were feminine. And her choice of whether objects should be feminine, or masculine seemed as random as when I learned French and could not remember which words took the feminine article and which not.
My mother in my dream was sixty-six years old, too old to have babies but somehow she managed. Her tenth living child and she was proud of this baby and delighted to re-enter the early phases of motherhood again.
My father was in my dream too, the two of them seated outside on a bench after I had taken my ping pong ball and begun to bounce it around the concreted back yard of a neighbour’s house.
I did not know my neighbours and at first I was hesitant to play in this prohibited territory but one of the neighbour’s sons came out and we talked.
Soon after his brother, an older boy, also in year eleven like me in the dream, exchanged ideas about our subjects at school. This family was foreign from Poland or Czechoslovakia and foreign smells wafted under their door.
In time other members of the family rocked up and by now I was no longer shy. The sons made me welcome and the mother when she came along, also nursing a baby, seemed curious about me but not hostile at this interloper.
I told them about my mother’s baby. How my sisters and I were disappointed this baby was not a girl. Now top heavy with boys.
This stuff about gender dogs me everywhere I go. The way delightful boys can grow into rageful and devouring men who swallow pornography as though it’s popcorn and think nothing of the way some people who produce the porn portray women as willing subjects, keen to be abused in whatever way the masculine fantasy runs.
Pornography feeds the fantasy of men as strong and in control, even when they too can feel small, fearful, and inadequate.
I am too close to the surface of this writing, too top heavy with the weight of pain that ripples through my veins like a poison.
When I found The Truth newspaper discarded in the laundry after my father had finished reading it, with pictures of topless women and huge engulfing breasts on the front page, I shuddered.
Like the calendars in the mechanic’s garage where my father left his car for repairs. There among the oil stains and greasy fingered workers with their dark overalls and tousled hair, the men whose fingernails were blacker than mine, attached bare breasted women to the calendars that hung off the walls near the cash register as though these naked women were somehow part of the process of repairing cars.
In much the same way as the beautiful but at least clothed, albeit scantily women draped their bodies over the shiny hoods of brand-new cars advertised on the television.
And this the world into which I was born. A world where women were demeaned as sexual objects. And today it continues.