Where would you start telling your story?
In the beginning was the word. The word, in fact, was immigration. That may sound rather odd, since I’m not what anyone would call an immigrant. But my mother was. My father, in fact, one might say also was, since the borders of the country he was born in weren’t finalized until a few months before his birth but, technically speaking, it was a few months before he was born rather than after. In her early twenties, though, my mother came to Canada for the first time and soon met my father — teachers at first sight, one might say. The rest isn’t so much history as failed attempts at birth-focused procreation followed by mindbendingly useless paperwork to gain custody of a child put up for adoption. Two, if you really want to get technical about it. But my sister came along years later and we’re not at that part of the story yet. Ten years, many liquified trees and the same unreasonable dose of government bureaucracy later that is typical of a western country with its makework projects and seemingly unlimited lack of understanding of the uselessness of office work. By nineteen-eighty-two, though, they had waded through the generic hoops long enough that they were the proud and joyful recipients of a phone call informing them that they would have to make a lengthy trip to collect their pound (four of them, realistically, making me a rather tiny child) of flesh. And they did.
That’s not the only beginning, though. Let’s look at it another way. It wasn’t young love. It was young lust. An inability to think coupled with an inability to put down the (many more than four pounds of) flesh. The eighties were a time of sexual abandon. I don’t mean people abandoned sex. I mean they abandoned everything else. Drugs and rock and roll certainly had their place in society, much as they had in the previous couple of decades. But more than anything, the eighties were a decade populated (and repopulated endlessly) with a freedom not just to sleep with someone with or without marriage or commitment but to do so as often and as vigorously as possible. One might say that the sixties were a competition to be the most free, the seventies were a competition to be the most cool and the eighties were a competition to be the most fucked. Certainly throughout a lot of human history, especially in the twentieth century and beyond, sex has been used to sell and convince, manipulate and coerce. But in the eighties, it was no longer subtle and it didn’t need to be. For the first time, female sexuality wasn’t seen as a threat but something to be rejoiced in and male sexuality was exactly what male sexuality had always been — possessive, violent, coercive, aggressive and compulsive. Along with obsessive. Female sexuality just happened to be given permission to catch up.
What happened wasn’t so much a sexual revolution as a procreative free-for-all. Add to that a brutally stupid society that didn’t accept the necessity of birth control, sexual education and abortions and you get what I usually refer to as the late-century rabbit effect. Boy-craziness, bouncing and babies abounded. Mothers less so. Sure, mothers in the biological sense of the word but this was the beginning of the helicopter-parenting generation where children could easily identify their teachers but forgot their mothers’ faces rather quickly. No longer was it hard for kids to go to school for the first day — they’d been left alone most of their lives and by that point in time were old hands at the whole leaving-the-nest thing. Not that mothers shouldn’t be completely free to work or feel any pressure to stay at home with their children. But someone should take care of them. This isn’t a question of gender or social roles. This is a question of the fact that large-group education of preschoolers doesn’t work and babysitting leads to criminality. If you want a study on this, there are thousands. I’ll just leave it at the fact that the largest determiner of criminal behavior later in life isn’t race or gender or social status. It’s preschool education. Of course, the ability to acquire the time to take care of children one-on-one or one-on-three rather than one-on-fifteen-or-thirty has a lot to do with economic status and we can certainly blame inept governments and social programs for that. But it doesn’t mean that every family needs to have one parent stay at home with the children — or that any family does, for that matter. But preschool education needs to be individual and constant with no more than three or four children, not only per adult but per space — open play areas are all well and good but children need to be safe and within a single space where they can develop a feeling of safety and security centered on a single adult figure and, potentially, a very small group of other children, whether their own age or similar.
Anyway, this is all to say that two extremely young people decided that instead of being responsible adults, they’d stick parts of their bodies into each other without either protection or birth control and then compounded their error by not taking the most sensible course of action and terminating the pregnancy once it occurred. And we’re talking teenagers here. This wasn’t a place for careful deliberation and planning just having slightly slipped up once. This was simply lack of education and societal assumptions that not talking about something would make it go away. Young people in our culture are pressured more and more to have sex. They’re absolutely going to. If we talk about safer sex, they might do it. If we don’t talk about it, they’re going to have just as much sex, just without the precautions. If we don’t talk about abortions, they don’t stop happening. They just happen in unsafe ways and the people who should be taking advantage of them to save themselves from truly unpleasant experiences are the small minority who don’t get access to them or end up suffering through unnecessary pain and trauma — often referred to as pregnancy and childbirth — without understanding that these things are optional. This is inexcusable in our age — or even in our grandparents’ age, for that matter. Gone are the days when this is anything other than a political issue of conservative silliness. If you don’t want to have an abortion, don’t. Much like if you don’t want to have a tattoo or a piercing, don’t. But standing in someone else’s way is like saying to someone with a lung infection, tough it out, antibiotics weren’t created for people to use, especially not people who did dangerous things like going outside and breathing dirty air. See my point about the silliness? Yes. I thought so.
Nine months after the backseat nightfest, I was become flesh and bone. It was a little more gradual than that, of course, but if you’re adult enough to be reading stuff on the internet, you’re also adult enough to know how a baby forms. Either that or you should be and I blame the school system if you don’t know how a mammalian embryo develops, as that’s a fundamental piece of knowledge that any five year old should have a pretty good grasp of at the basic level and any fifteen year old should have a detailed understanding of. I’m told that when I was born, I didn’t cry or scream or really make any noises — except the rather obvious lung-clearing ones, given nine months of existing in bodily fluids and suddenly coming into contact with the air. That’s not surprising, though. I’ve never been much for loud noises or being noticed. It hasn’t stopped other people from noticing me, sadly. But I’ve definitely tried pretty hard to make it happen. I don’t know which hospital this happened in, nor do I particularly care. Or which city, for that matter. I know where the agency was where I was collected but it’s just down the road from an airport and nobody ever really asked much in the way of questions. Mostly because it simply doesn’t matter.
I had a family, not for the second time but for the first. And I was happy. As were my parents. They were absolutely overjoyed, in fact. They had spent their whole adult lives desperately seeking children and they had succeeded despite governmental roadblocks and societal judgment about “natural birth” and “being fertile” being hot topics in that time — and still today for some reason, as if a child who’s adopted wasn’t born naturally or from a place of fertility. Usually being so fertile that a child appears unexpectedly is half the problem and people are obsessed beyond any reasonable measure with natural birth to the point that that’s the whole reason the child is born rather than aborted. It’s time for these people to either stop being judgmental of adoption or stop fighting against abortion — you can want every potential child to be born or you can want only those who are planned to be born but you can’t want both at the same time because they’re mutually exclusive. Not every person who gets pregnant wants a child — they either need to be able to give the child to a parent who wants one or to terminate the pregnancy. I would suggest that it’s a basic right to be able to do either but if you’re going to be against one of them, you certainly can’t legitimately be against both.
So I was brought home in one of those typically-eighties infant car seats in the back of a little Honda (yes, I know, late-seventies Hondas were pretty shit but Japanese cultural traditions die hard and, hey, they’re pretty sweet rides now), a dozen hours and as many pit stops later. There was certainly more story to be told but as I was settled into a crib and the nighttime lullabies began from both my parents, I couldn’t possibly have had any doubt that I had, indeed, found my people. For the first time, I could close my eyes.
Of course, then and for the rest of my life, sleeping for more than about an hour or two in a stretch was realistically impossible and my parents, who had far more typically human sleep cycles, would be tortured for years by the sleep depravation that being around me at night tends to engender. Again, though, a story for another day — one with more snoring and nightlights, I suspect.
In the beginning the word might have begun as the necessity of immigration for work and marriage for love. But that word quickly (for me, at least, since I didn’t exist through the hard-work phase of the problem) became family. They’re still there. A little older, a lot wiser, far more tired. But my story begins with coming home. Where does yours?