NAVEL­GAZ­ING

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - MOVIE - KATHY LETTE

GEORGE CLOONEY has dis­cov­ered his al­tar ego, Amal Ala­mud­din, has be­come the world’s most talked about woman. She’s even eclipsed Kate Mid­dle­ton in the style stakes. How­ever, once the hon­ey­moon is over, how long can it be be­fore the me­dia’s my­opic eye turns tummy-ward? The pre­dictable spec­u­la­tion about a “baby bump” gives a whole new mean­ing to “navel gaz­ing”.

All women over 30, no mat­ter how suc­cess­ful, are in­vari­ably re­duced to lit­tle more than a life support sys­tem to a womb. Jen­nifer Anis­ton only has to eat one too many cup­cakes for the head­lines to screech around the world that she’s “ex­pect­ing”. And then, when her pub­li­cists in­vari­ably deny the myth, oh the sad sighs at poor Jen’s bar­ren state.

De­spite mak­ing up 50 per cent of the work­force, women are still per­ceived to have failed in some way if they don’t pro­duce off­spring. Yes, it’s so hard not to pity all those child­less women float­ing on their yachts on Sun­days, anaes­thetis­ing their sad­ness with Dom Perignon and pate. My heart bleeds!

When I hit 30 all my aged rel­a­tives be­gan pes­ter­ing me about when I was go­ing to pro­duce prog­eny. It seemed so ageist. Just be­cause they were in their 80s didn’t mean I kept go­ing up and ask­ing them when they were ex­pect­ing to get their first in­con­ti­nence pads, now did I?

But then I awoke one morn­ing to a very pe­cu­liar tick­ing sound. Yep. The snooze alarm had gone off on my biological clock. Taken hostage by my hor­mones, I sud­denly found my­self with an un­con­trol­lable crav­ing for kids. I spent hours en­vis­ag­ing my fu­ture kinder frol­ick­ing at my per­fectly pedi­cured feet. It was time to find a sperm happy to get egg all over its face.

But what if the snooze alarm doesn’t go off on your biological clock? Some women just don’t feel the urge to di­late their cervixes the cus­tom­ary 3km for the plea­sure of spend­ing the rest of their lives in bath­rooms ap­plaud­ing bowel move­ments. A close girl­friend of mine would make Medea look like good mother ma­te­rial. She only knows how to look after dogs. If she ever did pro­cre­ate, the kid would be cock­ing its leg on trees within days. She just doesn’t like an­kle-biters. Which is un­der­stand­able. I mean, how can you not dis­like some­one who can eat sweets all day with­out putting on any weight?

Be­sides, she al­ready has five god­chil­dren. And is ex­pect­ing a sixth.

But when she an­nounced at a din­ner party re­cently that she prefers a ca­reer to a crèche, a board room to a baby’s bot­tom, she was chas­tised for be­ing “self­ish” and “un­fem­i­nine”. And yet the men at the ta­ble who said they didn’t want a fam­ily were not crit­i­cised as un­manly or ego­cen­tric.

And, as any ex­hausted mother can tell you, there is an up­side to child­less­ness. Just think of all the walkathons she won’t have to spon­sor… The games of Mo­nop­oly she won’t have to play… The May­fairs and Park Lanes she won’t be beaten to… Nor will she ever be seated down ta­ble at din­ner par­ties, in case she has “baby brain”.

And that’s the irony about moth­er­hood. Women are per­ceived to have failed in some way if we don’t pro­duce prog­eny and yet, once we do get preg­nant, sud­denly so­ci­ety hands you an evic­tion no­tice. When wad­dling along in your ma­ter­nity jeans it’s like be­ing swathed in the In­vis­i­ble Man’s ban­dages. As soon as you’re preg­nant, peo­ple in­stantly deduct 20 points from your IQ. (In my case th­ese are 20 points I could not af­ford to lose!) Ma­ter­nity shops in­sist on dress­ing you like a lit­tle girl in pinks and pas­tels, frills and flo­rals, and pussy bows. No won­der your hus­band no longer fan­cies you. Oh sure, he keeps say­ing that you’ve never looked so fab­u­lous – but ev­ery time you feel like a Close En­counter of the Car­nal Kind – he sud­denly feels an ur­gent need to bleed the ra­di­a­tor or de-clog gut­ters – jobs he’s been putting off for, oh, a cen­tury.

It’s as­tound­ing that the Miss­ing Per­sons Bureau isn’t in­un­dated by mums search­ing for the peo­ple they were B.C. – Be­fore Child­birth.

So, let’s avert our col­lec­tive gaze from Amal’s ab­domen. It’s time we took the pres­sure off pro­cre­ation and left it up to each in­di­vid­ual woman to de­cide whether she likes her eggs boiled, scram­bled or fer­tilised.

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