Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sexual Chocolate

On the way to work this morning I passed an interesting billboard. It was black and white and had one word written on it in large, somber letters—DIGNITY. It was for a funeral home.

I began to ponder the concept of dignity. “Dignity” is a word that has been thrown around a lot lately. News reporters have blathered on about the dead in New Orleans being “robbed of their dignity” by the failure of the guard to collect the bodies. During the Terry Schiavo fiasco, pundits around the country screamed about the right to “die with dignity.”

We all know that dignity is something we deserve as human beings, but what does dignity actually mean? It’s a difficult word to define.

My mother was a very modest, well-mannered woman. Throughout her entire life, I never once saw her fart in front of my father. She always said that it was out of respect for her husband. “If you respect and love someone,” she said, “you don’t subject them to that.” At the end of my mother’s life, she lamented to me that the thing she hated the most was the loss of dignity that comes with chronic terminal illness. In the end she vomited a lot. She had problems with her digestive system and often had accidents. She ended up moving into the other bedroom so that my father wouldn’t see her that way. To the very end, no matter how sick she became, she always went to great lengths to preserve the few shreds of her modesty that remained. She felt that being unable to control her bodily functions robbed her of her dignity.

I think this is what I am most afraid of with this pregnancy. Already, I can’t control the nausea. And I know that during the birth, some VERY gross things are going to happen. I know that I will be basically naked throughout the whole thing. I’ll be sweating. I might vomit. There’s a chance I’ll have a catheter. Needless to say, I won’t exactly look my best. There’s a pretty good chance I’ll poop on the birthing table. Most women do. The entire experience is one that, in theory, is NOT DIGNIFIED. I will be at my most animalistic. It might sound silly, but this is what I am most terrified of. I’m not afraid of actually giving birth, but I’m terrified of other people seeing me like that. I’m scared of the embarrassment.

But is that really what dignity is? Is dignity merely the ability to be modest and control one’s bodily functions? Or is there more to it then that? My dictionary gave two different definitions of dignity. The first is, “the quality or state of being worthy of esteem or respect.” The second is, “stateliness and formality in manner and appearance.”

I’m trying really hard to adopt the first definition, even though I was raised by the second. After all---I know that no matter how supposedly “undignified” my mother’s condition was, she was still worthy of esteem and respect. And I know that no matter what gross thing I do during delivery, no one’s opinion of me, especially my husband’s, will change.

I guess maybe Whitney Houston was right.

“No matter what they take from me, they can’t take away my dignity.”
---Whitney Houston

Sexual Chocolate, ladies and gentlemen, sexual chocolate....