Elsewhere on the internet, I received this comment to something I wrote concerning having a large family:
"You all are a bunch of freaks and emotional little girls who are retarded in many things.
I knew I was emotional, and immature, and also sometimes retarded about things, but so's everybody. It's the "freak" part of it that sort of stuck in my craw. I thought I was passing.
So I've been introduced as, "The crazy lady with five kids." If I need another crazy lady with five kids to stand in solidarity with me, I know where to find one. I've cased out all the Catholic Yahoos within a hundred mile radius. I spend most of my social time with other crazy ladies and our gazillion children, or with family and friends who've known me forever. In such friendly company, I've managed to convince myself that I'm relatively sane.
But when I step out of my subculture a little bit, it occurs to me that the majority of humanity is not on board with my philosophy of living--that by current cultural standards, I really am sort of a freak.
At a time when most people would rather flee the Catholic Church than accept it's teachings on sexuality, here I am, pregnant with my sixth child--like a weirdo. When the priesthood is mistrusted, here I am trusting my Parish priest with the most intimate details of my life in Confession--like a weirdo. Here I am writing about my dagburn Catholic faith again, try though I may to write about something of interest to the general population.
My faith becomes ever more central to my being, while at the same time, drawing me further out to the margins of society.
I'm not a natural hater of the cultural mainstream. I like to read pop fiction. I like to wear current clothing. I'll watch The Bachelor with you. And I'd paint my toenails green if it were the latest fad. Parting company with the mainstream does not come easily for me.
And yet, the mainstream has no trouble parting with me. "Oh, she's one of those kinds of Christians." I, too, have thought it about women who have more children than I can currently comprehend having myself. Yes, with five kids, I can still sort of pass, right? I just had a whoopsie-baby in addition to my intended sort-of-culturally-acceptable four. But any more than that? She has to be working at it.
A woman at Church, noticing that I'm hatching again, said to me in complete charity, "We're praying for you. We know you're the right family to do it" ("it" being have a bunch of kids). And as I processed the comment, probably for much longer than I should have, it made me sort of twitchy.
What makes us the right family? I beg to differ. We're a madhouse. We're chaos. There's no guarantee this is going to work out for us. Yes, please, those prayers--keep them coming.
And why aren't you the right family? Why not someone else? Is there such a thing as the "right" family to participate in God's plan?
Because believe me, there was no calculation going on in the Duffy house the night of conception. There was no budgeting. There was no deposit made in the college savings account. No plans in order for a bigger car, or an addition to our house. I didn't take my folic acid. My husband and I didn't put on our super-suits, and do sit-ups to warm up for our cosmic power coupling.
He said, "Wanna do it?" And I said, "OK."
At that very moment, I have no doubts that similar conversations were taking place all over the world. In the back seat of the folks' station wagon, in hotel rooms, in igloos in Antarctica, in my next door neighbor's house. People are probably having that conversation right now.
And the only difference between the Duffys and all the other supposed non-freaks out there having the same conversation is this one little issue of contraception.
But it's not a little issue, is it? It's the kind of issue that can bend like a hairpin an entire culture by 180 degrees in the course of a few decades. It's the kind of issue that makes people look ridiculous.
Most Catholics who wear their faith publicly do look ridiculous.
Who would want to be a priest when nearly every media venture in the last twenty years portrays priests as pedophiles and perverts? What mother would want to send her son to Seminary when she knows that once he is a priest, he'll be subject to the scrutiny of every eye in the pew, that even his most minor faults will be fodder for parking lot conversation and thinly veiled criticisms? Who wants to be a nun when she knows she'll be categorized on a spectrum of new-age-femi-nazis on one end and stiff-necked ruler snappers on the other? Who wants to advocate for pro-life legislation in Washington when they'll be called a right wing extremist?
Only a fool, or a freak.
As has always been the case in poetry, so too with Christianity: the more I'm willing to do for love, the more foolish I'll appear. There's no way to get around the fact that Christianity, done with fervor, makes people unlike the mainstream.
And yet for so many years I've been looking for a way to stay under the freak radar, to stay cool, to stay in touch. My sister says I was kidding myself to think I passed when I only had five children. So, fine, I don't pass anymore.
"Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude and insult you, and denounce your name as evil on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice and leap for joy on that day! Behold, your reward will be great in Heaven." (Lk 6:22-23)
So, hooray, I guess.