Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Story Behind The Object of Your Affections


I’m a STEM girl to the core. Nothing excites me more than new technology that improves our quality of life. We’ve come a long way from our cave-dwelling hunter-gatherer ancestors to an era where Space X is about to take us to the moon and back. With the advances we’ve made in medicine, we are living longer and reasonably healthier lives. And while new diseases are being discovered every day, so are their treatments…all pointing toward a positive progress.

Let’s look at what medical technology has done for fertility, in particular, through birth control, in vitro fertilization and surrogacy. These days, women (and men) can take their fertility into their own hands and are no longer bound by a biological clock or a faulty reproductive system. They can choose when to have children, whether to have any children at all, and most importantly, how to have them.

In the last decade, surrogacy has been slowly climbing the fertility charts mostly because movie stars are opting to have their children through surrogates. In India, big-name directors and movie stars are eschewing traditional family models to become single parents through surrogacy and adoption. In the last three years, two single (by choice) men have chosen to fulfill their dreams of fatherhood through surrogates. They were tired of waiting for the perfect life partner to appear and decided to get on with their lives.

Reading about these single dads, I was struck by the fact that the need to nurture wasn’t just a woman’s prerogative. Fatherhood is as strong a calling as motherhood—I’ve seen his firsthand in my husband too. Conversely, the desire to put one’s career or self above everything else isn’t only a man’s shtick. The single dads also got me thinking about gender roles and societal myths that propagate motherhood as being a woman’s “true purpose in life.” That’s not to say that it isn’t or can’t be for a lot of women. But, what about the women who don’t wish to be mothers? The women who are fulfilled just as they are—childless, yet happy—surrounded by the people they hold dear, and the work they thrive on? Should these women be forced to have a child against their will because their spouses want children or society deems it so? And why should the spouse who does want a child be deprived of his desire either when medical advancements allow for a satisfactory compromise?

And yet, how many women (and men) end up compromising to societal mores? We live in a world where judgments have become as commonplace as breath. Our appearance, our intellect, our choices, our beliefs, nothing is exempt from comment. We judge others or are judged by them with the frequency of a status update. The larger the step off the beaten path, the harsher the judgment. And then there’s the guilt of either conforming to the rules and betraying yourself or following your heart and disappointing loved ones.

In The Object of Your Affections, I’ve attempted to address these issues and the stigmas attached to them through the points-of-view of two strong yet vastly different women who are best friends. In Paris, we have a protagonist who is happy just as she is…except she knows her husband wants a child, and has given up his dream of fatherhood for her. To assuage her guilt, she finds the perfect solution to the problem by asking her best friend, Naira, who is going through her own life upheavals, if she would agree to be a gestational surrogate. Of course, such decisions and intricate relationships are never without a cost, and both women come to realize it through the course of the novel. As in life, fictional stories must be fraught in tension.