Monday, January 22, 2007

A Work of Artifice



The bonsai tree
in the attractive pot
could have grown eighty feet tall
on the side of a mountain
till split by lightning.
But a gardener
carefully pruned it.
It is nine inches high.
Every day as he
whittles back the branches
the gardener croons,
It is your nature
to be small and cozy,
domestic and weak;
how lucky, little tree,
to have a pot to grow in.
With living creatures
one must begin very early
to dwarf their growth:
the bound feet,
the crippled brain,
the hair in curlers,
the hands you
love to touch.

Marge Piercy

My hands are dry. They are so dry that they catch on some of my clothing...silky shirts, even some of my so-called "yoga pants" (to whom a yoga mat is but a beautiful dream). But my hands bother me. I put cream on them before I go to bed, and even try a remedy my mom used to recommend, gloving them with old socks while I sleep. But inevitably my middle-aged sleep is too disturbed by the wierd mitten interlopers, and the socks end up on the floor, having been flung at some point across the room. But my hands are not, as the old commercial calls it, "hands you'd love to touch" (which were to be achieved with the help of a particular dishwashing detergent, I believe).

Of course, dry hands have to do with things like the weather, my age, the housework I do. Dry hands are no great indictment of me as a human being. I'd love to change the dry hands into hands someone would love to touch. But it is always good to be reminded of the big picture, the way in which my dry hands are really ok.

I don't know why I have been compelled recently to blog the news... but I was so profoundly disturbed by this piece in Slate Magazine that I couldn't ignore it. The brilliant addition of the Marge Piercy poem is why I like Slate so much... they like poetry over there.

But the article... people deciding to use medical interventions to render their profoundly developmentally disabled daughter a smaller, more manageable, unsexualized "pillow doll."

I don't have developmentally disabled children. I did not grow up in a household with one for a brother or sister. So perhaps my moral compass is irrelevant to this issue. But should parents make a child smaller so that they can carry her and fit her into a particular stroller? Should they remove the tissue likely to develop into breasts to accomodate both the stroller straps and their own sense of--- I do not think this too strong a word--- revulsion at her body changing with adolescence? Should they remove her uterus so as to not have to deal with menstruation?

God, grant peace and light to all your servants, especially caregivers. Give us all a delight in one another that mirrors your delight in us. Teach us your ways, your wisdom, your patience. Amen.

4 comments:

more cows than people said...

i am so beyond mortified by this article in slate, particularly having worked closely with folks with developmental disabilities. are breasts just for breast feeding? the uterus just for childbearing? how can we decide for someone else that they will perpetually be a child? i share your discomfort, mags. will be thinking on this...

Cynthia said...

There is something profoundly discomforting about this, yet I do sympathize with the parents as well. I have a nephew with melingomyeocele spina bifida. He's intelligent, athletic and charming, but does and always need help with being lifted, such as from wheelchair to car or bed It's hard work, and I can imagine that the developmental difficulties would make it even more so. The parents would receive no hope from her physical maturation, just an increase in difficulty. Knowing that, I'm still disturbed.

Catherine + said...

It should not be a matter of convenience for anyone to deliberately make another person less of a person because of an illness or disability that they had no control over contracting. I have been a caregiver of over 15 years for my own mother, 24/7 and I never did anything that reduced her dignity as a woman or a person for my convenience. She was 5'9" and a large boned person. I am shorter but you know, it didn't matter. I didn't ask that she have a colostomy just so I didn't have to clean her up, or a valve for her bladder, or a stomach tube so I wouldn't have to cook, et al. What is preposed here is for me as close to legal Nazi experimentation on the less than perfect. Where is the love to protect her dignity as a human being?

juniper68 said...

Hi Mag - I'm new to your site (visiting via More Cows) and it feels funny to jump into the deep end without even saying hello, so...
I started to respond to this and it got totally out of hand. If you want, you can check out my response at my place. Otherwise, consider this a "hi, nice ta meetcha...."