I’m often called this by people who are close to me. That I’m the maternal or parental type. I’d like to know what makes one the paternal type, so that I’d cover all forms. I don’t know whether I should take it as a compliment or criticism. I’d like it to be the former, but it often is said in the tone of the latter. Like there was something ironic about it. I’ve been getting this for a long time, but now, I am a little more concerned about this observation. I’m not a parent, but I am old enough to be a socially acceptable one. However, I am not sure whether being the parental type, has really anything to do with parenting or potential parenting. Just like so many of our social terminology, I find it heavily flawed.
And not this alone. One that irks me is girlfriend/boyfriend/relationship material. First of all, you are reducing a person to something basic, inanimate. Yes, materials can be made of organic matter, but the moment you apply that to somebody with a mind and personality, you are reducing him or her to not only something inanimate and non-individual, but also subjecting him or her to a non-foolproof rubric set by certain people. I once watched a BBC documentary where a speed-dating experiment was conducted. It would test the hypotheses of a dating agency against a control of people who also participated in this experiment without any training. Every hypothesis was proved to be wrong, and the untrained daters did much better. The point is, the moment you reduce people to materials or types, you strip them of the possibility of having any individuality. The more you strategise or try to fit them into a specific grid, the more you set yourself up for disappointment, because they will inevitably break away from it. You don’t even need science to show you that. Every romantic comedy out there, though usually taken as unrealistic, is a testament of how these grids and rubrics will be broken time and again.
Remember how you learned to make friends? Remember how you learned to associate with your family? Remember how you learned to get along with other people you meet everyday? I know, you don’t. Neither are your interactions always smooth. But, the interactions are necessary to you as a social being who lives in a community. The worst thing you can do for a partner is impose a strategy on them.
But, how did this post go from parenting to dating? Well, the latter does precede the former ideally. Being the parental type is also an issue that gets carried along with those grids I was trying to disprove just now. If someone identifies me as the parental/mother type, they would automatically conflate that with the wife type. And that makes me wonder, is being caring or concerned an automatic signifier of being familial? Evolution would agree, but has evolution taken into account the complications of modern human life? Has evolution taken into account the complexity of human psyche? Or are we reducing the scope of evolutionary science to some common, perhaps misunderstood ideas?
I’m sure Kramer Vs. Kramer would have been a much less interesting film without Meryl Streep. Because it was her, we were/are generous enough to include mother/wife/independent woman and much more than that into our perception of her. Our misconception with people who show care and concern is that we automatically assume them to be absolute successes in their personal relationships as well. I am not saying I am not, or I am, there is no way of knowing just as there isn’t any way of knowing whether I am the parental type. Being caring or concerned has a degree of power attached to it. And there is also a certain need to impress, a sort of quiet bravado, even a vanity attached to it. Of course, the thing with care is it doesn’t matter if there is vanity attached to it, as long as the work is done. A parent, or any care-giver, if they are successful at their job, should be proud of it. But, you cannot flaunt it, unless you officially have hopes of becoming a saint. The by-product of being caring or selfless is humility. You can steal from the rich and give it to the poor, but you better have some very good skills as an archer to justify that smirk.
Because, being caring isn’t a talent. It isn’t like playing an instrument, though both can show your empathy in an obvious, and subtle way respectively. If you take pride in being caring, you better keep it to yourself. If someone tells it about you, you smile and humbly accept. You cannot let it affect you to the extend of it being a badge to be worn at all times when, there are moments when you aren’t parental (whatever that means, really) but, you must not think yourself an awful person for being so.