A Window into Life in the Suburbs

"Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these." Luke 12:27 (NIV)

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Random Thoughts about Lady Gaga, Celibacy and Motherhood

It's strange somedays how one thought leads to another and to another...

So the ridiculously dressed and flamboyant Lady Gaga claims to be embracing celibacy. Good for her, I suppose. The cynical side of me, on the other hand, wants to say with Inigo from The Princess Bride, "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." But my problem with celebrities is their constant need to reinvent themselves to be relevant to a fickle public that it's hard to know if any change of heart is borne out of a sincerity to ground their lives in values or sell themselves as trendsetters.
Still, I return to my Inigo statement -- does Lady Gaga know what celibacy means? Is celibacy going to be the new cult led by Lady Gaga? Or is it, more likely the case, the state of being for a modern woman who is in-between relationships?
A couple of nights ago, I was reading the account of Anna from the tribe of Asher in Luke's gospel that this widow married for 7 years remained celibate until the age of 84 (assuming that meant till she died) and gave herself to prayer and fasting at the temple.
From the details that we're given here, it suggests that celibacy is the exception rather than the norm. Anna was called to lifelong celibacy after the death of her husband. That appears to be the case for a number of others in the Bible as well. The apostle Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians. The default position for the vast majority seems to be marriage with children.
Unfortunately, we live in an era where marriage and children are perceived to be lifestyle choices rather than facts of life, which goes some way into explaining why I was so poorly prepared for it. Just think of how many years we spend preparing for a vocation or a career but so little time being ready for motherhood or parenting. True, we do learn many of these things from our own parents growing up but I really don't remember much about breastfeeding babies or dealing with tantrumy toddlers. My mother was a working mother with help from relatives and she seemed to manage, so I thought it just sort of happened to people and they would eventually figure it all out when the time came.

I spent most of my growing years studying and trying to excel academically (not that I did anyway) but was clueless about the fundamentals of adult living. It many ways, life in Singapore where everyone's energies is directed towards academic excellence, it advertently fosters a culture of dependency. On the upside, I was grilled into becoming task oriented. On the downside, I led a fairly sheltered life that revolved around study and adults took care of everything else. In hindsight, I was fortunate to live with adults who believed that I should learn a few life skills at a young age but outside of home, the entire society was geared towards producing a highly efficient, professional workforce. To help young families achieve this, the government provided an underclass of domestic help from poorer, neighbouring countries so that this efficient workforce can go on unhindered and become competitive on the world stage. (I'm not against domestic help or providing people with job opportunities, by the way)
Although I left the country in my late adolescence, that sort of mindset has more or less stayed with me throughout the years. No doubt it hampered my ability to parent in many ways. I didn't have the confidence or the excitement that I should have had to deal with this apparently normal part of life. Ill-equipped to cope with the transition, I am fairly certain it contributed in no small way to my experiencing postnatal depression with my first child. (Probably a story for another day)

I often joke that I probably didn't become an adult until I had my first child. But truth be told, it isn't a joke. The Creator factored in marriage and child raising as a way to grow us. The problem is that many of us are doing it later and later when some of our habits and thinking become fairly fixed. By then, children seem to be intrusions or disruptions or hurdles to overcome.

I suppose there's an interesting sociological study in that... would probably end up being quite controversial. From the little I've read, I believe these days it's called the Peter Pan Syndrome. The Greeks apparently called it puer aeternus.

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