When I did a pregnancy test live on stage in hoo:ha at CPT last year (as part of Calm Down, Dear festival of feminism), my intention was to render both visible and amusing the process known on countless online communities at ‘TTC’ (Trying to conceive). As I said in the performance, being disappointed month after month alone in your bathroom and relying on internet strangers for support instead of friends and family is depressing. I didn’t want to feel like a failure if I didn’t get a BFP (That’s ‘Big Fat Positive’; they really love their acronyms on fertility forums.) I wanted to laugh it off and enjoy another month of my excellent child-free life, bonus shags, and boozing it up without worrying about pickling my zygote, whilst also enlisting my audience in the optimism of ‘Maybe next
time.’ I knew there was a chance the test would be positive, but I’d been fooled before. I’ll certainly never devise a better ending to a show than that one.
Fast forward almost eight months and here I am making goo:ga, trying to wrestle my pregnant body into my trademark blend of comic live art, neo-burlesque, and stand-up. I’ll be honest; it’s not easy. I tire more easily and I can’t cope with the guilt of exceeding the recommended daily allotment of 200mg of caffeine. I can’t rehearse a bit of choreography into the ground until it’s perfect. Can I still twerk ironically? Yes, but only on a birthing ball. I lost 15 minutes of rehearsal time to a sob-fest watching the ‘Baby Mine’ scene from Dumbo where he visits his mom in the ‘Mad Elephant’ cage. What I have to trust, is that these struggles ARE the material.
One of the highlights of goo:ga will be the live revelation of the baby’s sex, or if I’m more accurate: what the baby’s genitals looked like at the 20-week scan. I had the sonographer write it down and seal it in an envelope. I kept it in my flat for a few days, but to stop myself lunging at it I had to give it to my stage manager, Alex Murphy. Now she’s had a big envelope simply labelled ‘SEX’ sitting on her mantle for months, intriguing her guests. We’ll finally open it during the April 29th show and find out once and for all; testes or vulva. Satirising the pink/blue binary of prenatal inculcation into the gender paradigm is, frankly, pretty easy. This patriarchal baloney, for example, is just unacceptable:
What’s challenging and fascinating, however, is exploring the dissonance between my intellectual distrust of cultural constructions of gender and my undeniable attachment to certain preconceived notions of ‘raising a girl’ and ‘having a son.’ As research for the show (and for parenting in general) I’ve been reading Chasing Rainbows: Exploring Gender Fluid Parenting Practices edited by Fiona Joy Green and May Friedman. It’s a collection of essays both personal and academic with a variety of perspectives on queer feminist parenting and how to challenge gender norms and foster gender-creativity in children. It’s brilliant, and while it’s a bit late for me, as a cis woman hopelessly attached to her Bettie Page hair, with an extensive childhood CV of princess costumes, cheerleading camps, and ballet lessons, I hope to give my little foetus more encouragement to be playful and fluid in their performance of gender.
I’m already running into problems.
The April 30th audience gets to vote on the baby’s name (since we obviously can’t find out the sex more than once.) Now, I’m not INSANE. I’m not going to let them do a write-in vote for any name they like. They’ll be choosing from a short list of names that my partner and I are both genuinely happy to go with. In whittling down this list, though, it’s become clear that I’m not willing to apply my rejection of the gender binary to something so basic as naming the kid. The names I like are NOT ‘unisex’ names e.g. Storm, Rain, or Tree, or even Robin, Francis, or Ashley. The names I like are dusty, old, his & hers names that have never even heard of Judith Butler. These names have corsets and monocles. They shoot dodos for fun. And I just can’t make myself prefer ‘Desert.’
goo:ga will mine the comic depths of struggles such as these, and find the hilarity in the supreme abjection of pregnancy. And it may be the only hour-long show you see this year with built in pee-breaks.