Thursday, April 2, 2015

Voyager Re-Watch: Elogium

This post is about puberty and pregnancy and periods so if that wigs you out then you're welcome to just look at this instead:
Voyager Bros
In the second season episode, Elogium, Voyager runs into a swarm of spaceborn aliens that jumpstart Kes' weird, Okampan version of puberty. It's a little more intense than human puberty. Basically, once it starts, she has a limited time to decide whether or not to have a child and if she doesn't do it right then and there it'll never happen.

I tend to think of this one as, "The One Where Kes Eats Beetles" but, in fact I ought to remember it as, "The One Where Janeway Comforts Kes About The Stresses And Pressures Of Being A Woman" because that's what happens. Even though Voyager is in a dangerous position with the swarm, even though she's encountering a completely new life form, even though she's got the weight of Voyager on her shoulders, Janeway takes time away to talk to and comfort Kes--who has become almost an adoptive daughter by this point in the second season. It's easy to see why. Kes is innocent and compassionate and curious and intelligent--the kind of daughter it seems Janeway might actually have. She's far from her own culture and has no guidance from others of her species. It all makes the scene I'm referring to incredibly touching. Both actresses--playing complicated characters in complicated situations--excel in this one.

Here's what happened when I started my own period. I was twelve when it happened and, I guess because girls tend to be rather savvy about these things--in the 90s era of Full House and Family Matters and Roseanne--I figured out what to do on my own. But, in spite of my ability to cope, I was terrified. I didn't want that part of my life to start. I'd known since I was a little kid that I didn't want children and now suddenly my body was betraying me. It was signaling to the world--ok maybe not the world but definitely Marcy behind the CVS checkout counter--that I'd become a woman and fully capable producing offspring.

Anyway, standing in the store I stared in horror at the shelves of feminine products I was now obliged to overpay for every month. I got in the car afterward and took out a notebook and did math while asking questions,  "How many days does a period typically last?" "Why do these things smell like perfume? Is that really sanitary?" "At what age is a woman expected to reach menopause?"

I totted up how many boxes of tampons I'd eventually have to buy. How many weeks of my life would be spent concerned about whether or not something had leaked. How many times I'd have to wonder whether I might've gotten pregnant. I was already worried about unplanned pregnancy and I'd barely started my period.

Last year, after months spent in agonizing pain--pain so awful I didn't want to get out of bed in the morning--I sat in the doctor's office as she explained that I likely had endometriosis. It was something I'd suspected for a while. She said if I wanted to conceive it would be very difficult but maybe not impossible. She prescribed medication and some supplements and rest etc.

You might be wondering if this diagnosis brought about any second thoughts. Any re-considerations regarding the choice not to have children. The answer is: Nope. Not even a little bit. Still, it felt once again like my body was betraying me. Again, as I'd done in another hot car, on the other side of the country, nearly twenty years before, I calculated how long I'd be dealing with this. How long would I deal with pain, with daily doses of estrogen--which my body tends to reject? How many things might I miss out on because things inside my body are going haywire? In most instances I'm terrible at math but I still tend to rely on it as a coping mechanism. If I can put a number on the thing I don't want to face it becomes less nebulous. Conquerable. Nothing lasts forever.

In Elogium Kes suffers through her lady time for the course of a single episode. Once they figure out how to get away from the swarm, she recovers and subsequently learns that her Elogium was false. Her true Elogium will likely come later--when it's supposed to. And, hopefully by that time she'll know whether or not she wants to procreate and can make a more informed decision and won't spend so much time freaking out and eating beetles.
In any case, watching this one reminded me that even in Janeway's time, women can't really escape the choices and pressures about having children.

Bonus Points:
-Chakotay catches some crewmen necking in the lift. That's like your friend's dad catching you.
-Who says necking? How old am I?
-This is Ensign Wildman's first episode and I love it.

1 comment:

  1. Kate Mulgrew's memoir BORN WITH TEETH is out now - and has gotten good reviews!


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