Friday, May 15, 2009

"Nowadays”


This term was defined by Dr. Eric Berne in the 60’s in his popular psychology book “Games People Play.” I heard “nowadays…” from my elders all the time. I’d nod, 20 year old wise- acre, and note the complaining and fault finding that always followed such a preamble. “Nowadays…” was categorized by Dr. Berne as a fairly harmless pastime of old folks—if not too vitriolic. Otherwise, it was a “game,” inviting others on the same wave-length to agree and add their own stories of what used to be a far superior way of life. Whether “pastime” or the higher ante “game,” “nowadays” was labeled as an inauthentic way to relate to others.

Well, I’m now in my 60+’s, and despite Dr. Berne, “nowadays…” pops out of my mouth with some frequency. For instance, last week, I was at my local feed store, and a young gal who works there was talking about her new baby. All winter we shoppers had been chatting with her about the coming blessed event. Now baby had arrived, and here she was, hardly missing a beat, and back to work. It wasn’t easy, though. This was her second child, and, of course, two are always a heck of a lot more work than one. Unfortunately, the new baby had “colic.”

Well, as I listened to her anxious recitation to another shopper, it wasn’t colic, it was allergies. Baby was allergic to his formula—to soy formula, to corn oil formula, and apparently to all the other expensive substitutes that Nabisco and all the other pharmaceutical/agri-businesses have devised. She complained that her milk had dried up, but I could tell by the way she said this that her own milk hadn’t been given much encouragement. The first baby, she explained, had taken to canned cow straightaway like a champ.

The young mother is now near panic; I can hear it in her endless rambling. Her six week old baby is at home with Nana, screaming and puking. She’s an emotional wreck and not getting much sleep. But where is she? Behind that counter, at work--at least, sort of. Here's “nowadays” for you. Young marrieds think they have to have it all right now—the big house in the ‘burbs, the SUV for Mommy, a diesel truck for Daddy, the newest washer/dryer, fancy kitchen, freezer, flat screen TV’s, Cable + movie packages, riding mowers, gas grills, etc., etc. They are only doing what TV taught them to do—owe their souls to the Company Store.

I felt terribly sad as I listened. Like most women of my age, I wanted to say something helpful, to give some useful advice that would soothe her, maybe, even, bring relief to the suffering baby. (Imagine starting life in constant pain. In no future I can imagine will a kid with this kind of awful start be a “happy camper.”) It’s not just the raging consumer madness that drives the young couple, but the inability of the mother to simply do as Nature intended--without shame, without pressure, without having to get to work on time, without her husband or her relatives being embarrassed by an “animalistic” display--and give the child of her body the comfort and nourishment of her breast. This, after all, is the perfect “formula” for that particular small new individual’s tender stomach.
I'm glad my husband and I were too dumb to do anything except what came naturally. We were 19, married, and living pretty much hand to mouth. I was a part-time student and a very part time waitress, but I was lucky enough to be home in our 2 rooms/1 bath apartment--mostly. Milk that came from me was a heck of a lot cheaper than formula, so that was what my babies got. I washed clothes at the laundromat and hung them out in all weather to dry. Our prize possession was a VW bug, but if my husband needed the car for work or school, I walked to wherever I needed to go, pushing a stroller. A new book or a record was a big treat.
Yes, we had some occasional help from our folks, but then we didn't even have a credit card until some years later. Sometimes we had to scrounge in the couch cushions for coins to go to the laundry or gas up the car or buy oatmeal, but we got by. We longed to have "stuff," sure, but we knew that acquiring all these things, for plain middle class folks like us, would take time.
Don't take this wrong. A woman must have education and/or job skills with which to support herself. Otherwise, she ends up a victim. I don't know--and I wish I did--what the answer is for that distressed young mother, but I am sure that it's not the best of all possible worlds when a paycheck is more important than taking care of the baby.

1 comment:

Sun Singer said...

It's been years since I've heard anyone other than me mention Eric Berne. He was so delightfully cynical about everything that his books just naturally resonated with me.

As for the young mother, thank goodness I'm not around to hear the problems because I don't have a clue either; of course, father's aren't expected to have a clue, are we?

Tell her to read "Mozart's Wife." Then she'll really know about the slings and arrows of child bearing.

Malcolm