Or so I truly believed.
Both my parents are doctors. My dad works in his private practice
mostly and a clinic, he is an OBYN, he delivers babies, performs
surgery etc.. My mother is a microbiologist, at the hospital she works
in a lab, she also teaches at university. As a child, all I could make
from their work life was what they told me, or what I picked from our
environment. Being the kid of a couple who worked a lot, I spent a
fair number of hours waiting for them in their respective work places
to “just finish something, it will only take five minutes”. My father
specialised in helping people who have troubles conceiving. I was
witness to a lot of joy, happiness and gratitude around him. While the
bacteria that my mother dealt with, even though they had cool names
such as “Proteus mirabillis”, they were somehow less joyous, happy and
grateful around her.
I always thought of myself as one of the boys. This thought is worth
unpacking, but this is not today’s concern. The point is that I am not
entirely sure what led me to the conclusion that my dad was smarter
than my mum, but it was to me for a long time obvious, I never
questioned it. The people that inspired me were Richard Feynman, Mark
Rothko, Mistislav Rostropovich, Paul Verlaine. The whole picture was
consistent. It was consistent until 2017, when I became a mother, and
the consistency of the picture that I painted exploded in my face.
For the first time, I “saw” the crazy juggling that my mother did when
my sisters and I were kids. To be honest, I have no idea how she
achieved professionally speaking all that she achieved with the insane
schedule she was managing. And she did this with a smile and joy on
top of everything. Unless I was blind to her anger and frustration? I
do not exclude this hypothesis.
My new year resolution of 2019 was to read only books written by
female authors for a year. I broke that resolution around January 8
when I needed to check something in a physics text book. When I shared
this observation with a dear colleague of mine, they told me, maybe
you should do something about it then? How exhausting are these
constructive people when all you want is to complain and feel sorry
about yourself for a bit.
I did stick to my 2019 resolution for all other genres, fiction, non
fiction, poetry etc. This constraint that I imposed to myself worked
like a super lens, it brought into sharp focus the differences in book
shop displays or at the library. I could not ever again “unsee” this
difference with books and many other topics.
Is my dad smarter than my mum? Even if it did torment me, I decided
not to answer this question after all. Nowadays, I like to think of
people like complex numbers, there is no ordering relationship between
complex numbers. What I do try to do though is to constantly update my