After a busy week packed with the scheduled ogling of other people’s offspring and the various ways in which babies incite both fear and longing in the middle of my body, I’ve been forced into zeroing in on my physical focal point. My uterus. And I feel sorry for it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about that organ lately. Actually, to be honest, I have no clue whether it is, in fact, an organ or something else less medical sounding. Mainly I’m just glad it’s not a muscle because I know those things atrophy from lack of use as in the case of the comatose or morbidly obese. Then again my uterus gets no exercise. This fact is troubling from a physical fitness standpoint if for no other reason. See, if my womb were a person, she’d never go jogging and if she ever did, she’d pronounce it with a soft “j.” Most likely she wouldn’t even own running shoes, seeing as how useless they’d be. And my uterus is nothing if not economical.
Up until right now, my uterus has been all but forgotten like a ghost limb, mentally amputated long ago because it got in the way of more important business. Like being awesome and putting together particle-board crap from IKEA. Or perhaps it’s simply grown limp from too little attention, locked away from the rest of Helena in the physiological equivalent of a dungeon—or purgatory. Official organs like my brain and, occasionally, my heart get full voting rights when it comes to personal legislation like, “Is this man really worth the trouble?” My uterus, however, is the District of Columbia of wombs, getting taxed out the wazoo with repeated inquests from my mother without the proper representation to defend itself. My anatomy, then, is a sort of aristocracy.
But doesn’t it make sense that my uterus wouldn’t have home rule? Back-seat driving from the pit of my body doesn’t seem like something a professional would do. Jesus, maybe, but one never knows. Another philosopher, Deepak Chopra, said, “I am not my body.” So then why let a certain part of it rule my adult life absolutely? Divinations about my invisible fertility (“You’re sooo gonna be next!”) should be met with cynicism, especially when the man everyone’s sooo excited about turns out to be just as confused about his gentleman part. A more than decent “relationship” of mine just recently went south when the guy asked/proclaimed, “Isn’t the purpose of dating to be in a relationship and then get married and then have babies? I’m not ready for that.” Whoa there, Ricky Reproduction, I thought, neither am I. Since when did our collective sex organs stage a coup and start calling the shots?
If my uterus could talk, I wonder what it would say? “Umm, hellooo don't forget about me!” Or, “Forget this!” Eventually it might just pack up and leave me—off to some better body that appreciates it. Wants it. Worries about it more. I don't know. Maybe my uterus likes being left alone. It’s agoraphobic and all the fuss being made over it lately just gives it panic attacks, makes it break out in hives. Or perhaps it craves the spotlight. Tired of being an understudy to the rest of me, my uterus has been secretly plotting behind the scenes and waiting in the wings for its chance to trip up my head.
So the role of the seemingly innocent but totally calculating Eve Harrington in the anatomical “All About Eve” will be played by my womb. My post-20s mind is a lot like Margo Channing, the aging Broadway star tired of sacrificing femininity for feminism. “Funny business, a woman's career—the things you drop on your way up the ladder so you can move faster,” laments Channing in All About Eve. “You forget you'll need them again when you get back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common, whether we like it or not: being a woman.” Good thing the original Eve had her priorities in order. Good for the whole of the human race, I mean, not for me who’s still a bit mixed up on the whole “being a woman” thing.
My uterus and I went to the movies the other day. Well, I went and my uterus sneaked in—degenerate that it is. Up in the Air was supposed to be a two-hour escape from whatever man troubles I was having because watching George Clooney bumble through perpetual bachelorhood as a guy who fires people for a living was supposed to be validating. See? That’s how men who “aren’t ready” end up. But, of course, Clooney’s Ryan Bingham, who’s something like a car salesman without the cars, makes self-imposed solitude seem cool. However, his Ivy League-educated female sidekick—the super single girl to his super single man, if you will—is just super annoying. “I don’t want to say anything that’s … anti-feminist,” begins the anti-feminist rant of Natalie Keener (played with youthful ignorance by Anna Kendrick). “But sometimes it feels like no matter how much success I have, it all won’t matter until I find the right guy.”
Whether the subsequent growling from within was coming from my stomach, my uterus or the fiery pits of hell would be impossible to tell. Being single and sans child has always been something of a badge of honor for men of a certain age. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, when the character Amos Hicks wants to impress the novel’s main character, Janie, he first pretends to be the “guv’nor” and then makes sure to describe himself as “…free, single, disengaged.” As if his “success” and his tax filing status were not mutually exclusive. (It’s somewhat more than telling that I measure success by finally being able to use mutually exclusive in a sentence—correctly.)
Knowing its own status as the “neener neener neener” of my nether regions, my uterus probably just likes getting a rise out of me. In grade school, my mom said it was best to ignore that particular brand of jerk on the playground. It didn’t work then either.
Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root. Her book, Bitch Is The New Black, will be released this summer. Follow her on Twitter.