The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum

unspeakableIn addition to parenthood, dating seemingly incompatible men, and lesbianism, Meghan Daum’s fascinations include the Canadian painter and composer Joni Mitchell, who taught Meghan that, if you don’t “write from a place of excruciating candor, you’ve written nothing.”

If candor is a measure of success, then Daum has certainly written something.

The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion opens with Daum’s life-long irritation with her mother and her ambivalence toward her mother’s untimely death. Daum and her mother repeat a cycle: Daum’s mother detested her own mom and was too, physically repulsed by the woman that gave her life.

Daum examines her thoughts, reactions, beliefs, and inclinations around relationships, family, and stereotypical gender roles. Daum is neither martyr nor saint and her essays are interesting precisely because she’s willing examine herself and her own (sometimes ham-fisted) actions to uncover the truth about herself. The Unspeakable is both harrowing and hilarious.

Harrowing:

For my mother’s entire life, her mother was less a mother than splintered bits of shrapnel she carried around in her body, sharp, rusty debris that threatened to puncture an organ if she turned a certain way.

Hilarious:

To try to explain to a 13-year-old the importance of leaving a callback number is essentially to bathe yourself in sepia tint.

I found myself relating to Daum on more than one level. She connects more easily with dogs than humans, for one, (Hello, sister from another mister.) but I found myself nodding yes as she shared her struggle to be ok with not having children. She, like me, wanted to want to have kids, but eventually realized that not having them was the right choice for her. Our reasons differ, though it’s refreshing to read about how someone else came to a similar realization in a world so obsessed with child-rearing.

June and July, 2016

Published by

Krista Stevens

I'm a runner, reader, writer, and editor.

2 thoughts on “The Unspeakable by Meghan Daum”

  1. Sounds like a worthwhile read. I work with a number of younger women, and several have spoken openly of their choice to not have children. Refreshing in this age of catastrophic human overpopulation, and a liberating decision personally, as well.

    1. Definitely a worthwhile read. It’s refreshing to see more young women decide against children. My sense of my own parents is that they got married and had kids because that’s just what people did, not necessarily because they really wanted to raise a family.

      Interestingly, Daum has a collection on choosing not to parent, called, Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids. I question the “selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed” part, though can see why some might lob those (not necessarily apt) descriptors.

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