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Wednesday, 5 July 2017

I gave up porn and ‘dateline’ for motherhood

After the birth of her daughter, novelist Sophie Jaff discovered that she was looking at things she loved through a more critical lens. Some things just weren’t fun anymore.

Though the birth of my daughter brought me joy, wonder, and trembling amazement at the fragility and awe inspiring miracle that is life, it also killed my two greatest pleasures: Dateline and porn.
In 2015, I became a mom. I was a new mom but I wasn’t a young mom. I was set in my habits and as thoroughly independent and selfish as only a writer can be. I went to bed and got up when I chose, wrote for long hours, and watched old Dateline episodes until 2 a.m.  After giving birth, my life no longer felt as though it were solely mine. Where once I strode down the street, mowing down unfortunate tourists who got in my way, now I could hardly manage to take a ten-minute walk, and when we did make it out the door it involved a tank sized stroller and enough infant supplies to put a daycare center to shame. Where once I valued my breasts for their high-riding perkiness, I found myself despising them, weeping in frustration that I was barely able to provide enough milk for my child.

After experiencing how hard it was to grow a human, subject to continuous nausea, forbidden to drink, eat sushi, or unpasteurized cheese—basically every food that brings joy—only to realize that I was now responsible for keeping that small human alive on practically no sleep, I longed to return to my vices. Little did I know what a challenge that would pose.

I had always loved Dateline. I could lie and tell you it was for the research but, let’s be honest, I loved it all; from the formula with its the endlessly recycled photos of the victim, interviews with the victim’s mother, introduction of the husband, clearly faked 911 call, analysis of the bedroom or boat, inevitable arrest, recorded phone conversations with the mistress while in jail, court case, and jury’s final declaration of “Guilty!”—to say nothing of Keith Morrison’s voice. Keith Morrison’s voice is a thing of beauty: a creeping purr summoning up images of rocking chairs on moonlit porches, velvet curtains, and dark and winding county roads. And he used it to good effect, encouraging the mothers he interviewed to thaw, unbend, and lean forward eager to share why their loss was so terrible, why their children were so unique, so special.

“Kendra always put others first.”

“Sasha loved her children.”

“Caitlyn had the greatest laugh.”

And, of course, the inevitable: “Her smile would light up the room.”

I used to watch with sympathetic yet superior schadenfreude. Now, I can’t make it past the mothers. I find myself treating each episode as a survivalist guide, searching for clues, endlessly adding to my increasing list of “don’ts” for my daughter. Determined to protect her from the world and its teeth.
Don’t let your daughter befriend the awkward kid next door—he might be a stalker. Actually, don’t let her have friends, friends will only lure her to keggers or worse the mall —a total death trap. And who the hell are these so called “friends” anyway? Have you met their parents? When attending school, she shouldn’t be an academic achiever or be too popular with her peers.  Nothing will put a bad karma target on her back faster than being liked or doing well at high school. On that note, don’t let her go to college, and if she must, no roommates—they’ll bring her to parties where she’ll meet totally undesirable guys, or they’ll abandon her at clubs. Also, tell her not to be too successful at her job or be popular with her co-workers—again, it just leads to trouble. Forbid her from marriage, but if she does, she mustn’t let him know that she’s aware of his infidelity, his gambling, his Ponzi scheme, it will lead to divorce—which will lead to murder. And if she does divorce—willful, isn’t she?—advise her not to set out to make a new life for herself or take up with a younger man, tell her that on no account is she to set foot on a boat or an island, they’re the kiss of death. Above all
DON’T EVER LET HER GET A LIFE INSURANCE POLICY.


My daughter is not yet two.

And what’s going to happen when she turns three, five, eight? I’ve seen what little girls wear these days. They look like burlesque dancers, or, in other words, teenagers. Oh my God, what happens when she’s a teenager? She’ll be dating teenage boys. Teenage boys—a combination of body hair, hormones, and no impulse control. And forget the boys, what about the men? Older, scarier men checking her out, and I’ll be helpless to do anything. Sure, she should be allowed to wear whatever she wants and celebrate her body, but how far will she take it? Must we, as her parents prevent self-expression in favor of her safety? She probably won’t listen to us anyway. Teenage girls are all over the porn sites these days. She’ll end up naked and chained, writhing against a dungeon wall while some bald man alternately pleasures and punishes her. I used to get a kick out of such stuff once. Now I can’t even type in my favorite search terms without wondering: how old are those girls?

As I think about everything that’s changed, and all my dark delights sacrificed, my daughter toddles up to me, clutching a book. “Read? Lap?” She insists. I swing her up, and with a smile, begin the classic tale about a protagonist’s desperate struggle against change and the euphoric climax when he finally capitulates only to realize that he does, in fact, love green eggs and ham.

“I am Sam,” I read, “Sam I am,” and my daughter beams. And I know, I would give it all up and more. After all, she has a smile that lights up the room.

p.s. The author of Love Is Red and, most recently, Crown of Stars, South African native Sophie Jaff is an alumna of the Graduate Musical Theatre Writing Program at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, and a fellow of the Dramatists Guild of America. Her work has been performed at Symphony Space, Lincoln Center, the Duplex, the Gershwin, and Goodspeed Musicals. She lives in New York City.

(Source: The Daily Beast)

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