But lately, as I track my mother’s shifting relation to her crime, I’ve remembered rumours of a new dispensation in the matter of blue and pink. Be careful what you wish for. Here’s a new politics in university life. This digression may seem unimportant, but I intend to apply as soon as I can. Physics, Gaelic, anything. So I’m bound to take an interest. A strange mood has seized the almost-educated young. They’re on the march, angry at times, but mostly needful, longing for authority’s blessing, its validation of their chosen identities. The decline of the West in new guise perhaps. Or the exaltation and liberation of the self. A social-media site famously proposes seventy-one gender options – neutrois, two spirit, bigender … any colour you like, Mr Ford. Biology is not destiny after all, and there’s cause for celebration. A shrimp is neither limiting nor stable. I declare my undeniable feeling for who I am. If I turn out to be white, I may identify as black. And vice versa. I may announce myself as disabled, or disabled in context. If my identity is that of a believer, I’m easily wounded, my flesh torn to bleeding by any questioning of my faith. Offended, I enter a state of grace. Should inconvenient opinions hover near me like fallen angels or evil djinn (a mile being too near), I’ll be in need of the special campus safe room equipped with Play-Doh and looped footage of gambolling puppies. Ah, the intellectual life! I may need advance warning if upsetting books or ideas threaten my very being by coming too close, breathing on my face, my brain, like unwholesome dogs.
I’ll feel, therefore I’ll be. Let poverty go begging and climate change braise in hell. Social justice can drown in ink. I’ll be an activist of the emotions, a loud, campaigning spirit fighting with tears and sighs to shape institutions around my vulnerable self. My identity will be my precious, my only true possession, my access to the only truth. The world must love, nourish and protect it as I do. If my college does not bless me, validate me and give me what I clearly need, I’ll press my face into the vice chancellor’s lapels and weep. Then demand his resignation.
The womb, or this womb, isn’t such a bad place, a little like the grave, ‘fine and private’ in one of my father’s favourite poems. I’ll make a version of a womb for my student days, set aside the Enlightenments of Rosbifs, Jocks and Frogs. Away with the real, with dull facts and hated pretence of objectivity. Feeling is queen. Unless she identifies as king.