Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Personal Choice

Last Sunday my sister and I had planned to go to see a documentary showing at The Earl in East Atlanta. We e-mailed the documentary people an RSVP in advance; we arrived at The Earl on time, and waited in line at the smoky front bar for 15 minutes. Then we were turned away at The Earl's stage entrance, because my sister is under 21.

The justification for turning away people under 21 from the back portion of The Earl is that the bar alllows smoking, and under Atlanta's restrictive laws, smoking is only allowed in restaurants (bars, really), that serve people 21 and up. The idea is that they are protecting young people's lungs and discoraging young people from picking up smoking. This is ridiculous. The unintended side effect of the under-21 ban is to bar adults (because, legally, people over 18 are adults) aged 18-20 from many concerts, cultural events, and restaurants. In short, if you're 18 you're old enough to die in Iraq, but not old enough to see a documentary at The Earl. Many would then say, "Well, that's The Earl's choice. If they disallowed smoking, then everyone could see their shows."

But how would The Earl then remain viable as a business? Some adults enjoy smoking while they drink, and The Earl's main business is selling alcohol. Honestly, I see the smoking ban as a feable attempt at controlling bars in Atlanta - and one more sign that the Southern Baptists in the state have used their influence to write a nonsensical law. After all, the outer restaurant portion of The Earl was just as smoky as any place I've ever been in - and my sister's tender underage lungs did not fall out of her chest and explode while we waited in line.

So we went home and bought DVD's of The City of God (which features corrupt cops), and Angels in America (which does a pretty good job of villianizing Reagan). And I felt like purchasing and watching those two films was at least in some way exercising my personal freedoms, after having them stomped on by the goddamn smoking law. I'm also annoyed that the documentary website said nothing to us about the show being 21 and up.

I've been cranky about my civil liberties lately. Maybe it's because my pregnant state causes people to constantly feel the need to advise me (put your feet up! you need rest! don't lift that! don't eat tuna fish! etc.). I feel entrenched in a battle against those who would limit my personal freedoms, even in giving birth. Did you know that it's illegal to give birth anywhere but a hospital in the State of Georgia? No home births are legal here, and there are no birthing clinics like in other states. My personal research did reveal to me a highly networked underground of feminist women secretly arranging for midwives to attend them outside of hospitals. Were I more adventerous, and my pregnancy less complicated, I would join the secret underground of home births. As it is, I have had to be content in firing my Obstetrician who ignored me and treated me impersonally, and replacing the traditional OB with two midwives at Emory. The OB just wasn't working for me - I would make an appointment, and go to an office too busy to remember who I was, and then they would stick me in an examination room, where I would wait...and wait...and wait...

So I left the OB, went downstaris a few floors in the same medical office building, and met up with two young midwives, nurse-practicioners with a different view. And now I get to go to group examinations with other couples who are due about the same time I am. And we meet the same time, on the same day of the month, once a month. As a group, we get to laugh and talk and express our worries and measure each other's tummies. I feel so much better about my monthly checkups on the baby now, and so much more in control of the process. I feel like my caregivers know who I am, and all about my pregnancy. And even though I know I'll have to give birth in the hospital, at least I won't feel like I'm just part of someone's damn rounds, another faceless person impinging on their time.

Thank god I still have some choice over how my body is cared for and operates. I wonder how long it will be before someone tries to take that away from me, too.

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