If you are going to go see "Bodies: The Exhibition" and you’re planning on taking
b. small children
c. your time,
there are some things I feel I should say to you.
1. Pictures are not allowed.
2. Strollers and large bags aren’t allowed either, so make sure you are able and willing to carry your child and keep him or her entertained as you walk through the exhibit.
3. Please do take your time, but be advised that this show attracts a high number of poseurs who go to it because it’s the thing to do and not so much to appreciate the beauty and mystery of the human body. I don’t think that is necessarily bad–Lord knows that things stay afloat from word-of-mouth and coolness factor– but I do think that if seeing lots of cadavers in an impressive array that looks like a 3-D version of Gray’s Anatomy is not your thing, you shouldn’t pay a whole bunch of money just to be disappointed.
But if biology is your thing (it is mine) then it’s worth every penny because it’s simply amazing. From the beautiful lattices of veins and arteries to the more graphic segments of pelvis and intestines and the diseased lungs and liver, the whole exhibit was a big thumping valentine to the wonder that is the human body.
I find it amazing that dead bodies can teach us so much about living ones, and about the seeming fragility of our own bodies, as theirs lie flayed and dissected and still look strong and somehow imbued with a kind of life.
Incidentally,when we went to see the exhibit, some lucky people were treated to two displays of boobs (okay, well one big one and then just a boob sliver) at the same time because Herr Meow got very restless around the time we passed the female body exhibit. To tell the truth, he was restless the whole time, but he was sent over the top in that area. And do you know what? I didn’t get one nasty or shocked stare from anyone! Everyone seeing the corpses on display thought it was the most natural thing, to see a year-and-a-half-old baby going to town on his mommy’s chest.
Then again, there were corpses on display.
Nobody likes a zealot.
I guarantee some of you may not like me for what I’m about to write.
I’ve done much reading, hand-wringing, dirty-staring and envying because I have been a very
staunch breastmilk supporter from the very start of my breast-feeding relationship (which had a pretty rocky start). It has upset me that mothers who’ve chosen to formula feed seem to have it so much easier than us breastfeeders (as far as being socially accepted, knowing how much food the baby is eating, and ease of settling into a "routine" if you will), and how popular culture seems to underwrite the notion that it is not just that formula is pretty much the same as breastmilk, but that somehow sticking a breast in a baby’s mouth is somehow perverted or disgusting– not to mention unsanitary and downright weird.
In my own little one-woman player-hater routine, I would sometimes give dirty looks to random women rejoicing over formula on sale at Target. I remember seeing a gaggle of besuited women at a grocery store, lovingly pointing to which formula they’d left for their children at daycare, and feeling a roiling mixture of exasperation and fire, and wishing I were a dragon so I could go spit at them. Especially when Herr Meow started teething and sleep started becoming more checkered, I longed for being able to do what formula feeders can do: dropping off the child/children without so much as a second thought at grandmother’s house for a whole weekend and then turn around and go home and sleep an uninterrupted night’s sleep. That thought ate at my insides: why, if I chose the path that is supposed to be the better one for my child, am I being punished for it? Why can’t I sleep and why must I be glued to this baby all day and all night?
But then it hit me very simply, and not too long ago.
I made a choice: a choice that has emboldened me at times to be oh-so-very-much-holier-than-thou, even.
I made a choice that is my own and to which no one forced me or cajoled me or threatened me, unlike the way I secretly wish I could force or cajole or even threaten women who’d made a different choice from mine.
And it is a choice that, even if supported by medical research, is not necessarily the choice that fits best with everyone– and really, there are cases where I cannot imagine how breastfeeding could have ever been established, or kept up.
I chose to breastfeed my baby. Other women didn’t, and theirs are not my children. And that is all there is to it.
It’s a weird thing, to realize that you have no control over anyone’s life but your own. But it is an even weirder and more humbling thing to realize that you only have a tenuous amount of control –if any at all– over your own life, and that it only takes a slight change in circumstances to make things radically different.
And it only takes a well-positioned mirror for you to see things from the other side.