Monday, September 23, 2013

The TorchBearers' Book Club: Bumped chapters 17-18


Last week on Bumped, we talked about commitment and obligation and how these two things can help and hinder each other.

This week, the divide grows as we look at Harmony enjoying breaking the rules while Melody sinks deeper into an orderly despair.

Ah, Bumped! Ever so cheerful!


Jondoe is gorgeous, of course. Harmony talks about him being better looking in person than in the ads, or in her dreams, and it’s very romance-y and Twilight-y and all in all nausea-inducing… or it would be, if this was any other book. First of all, Jondoe is a professional impregnator, a model, and pusher for all sorts of merchandise in Pregg-Free America. It’s not unreasonable to expect him to be good-looking.

Second, Harmony is new to this whole gig and she’s not used to having unusually hot guys coming onto her (especially since she knows, straight up, that there will be sex involved.)

Third, I’m pretty sure it was intentional… pretty sure.

“There’s no spontaneity to these transactions, nothing left to chance,” he says with a wide, bright grin. “Lib said you’d be here, so I thought I’d just connect in your facespace instead of the MiNet. You don’t like the traditional trappings of romance, which you are so right in saying it’s ironic because you’re Miss Melody Mayflower and all…”

I almost correct him when I remember. I am Miss Melody Mayflower.

“So I brought your favourite brand of GlycoGoGo bars and a sixter of Coke ’99 instead.”

McCafferty, Megan, Bumped, page 112, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

Daww, aren’t you precious.

In all honesty, Jondoe is easily my favourite character after Harmony, or maybe the two need to share the same spot. And it’s not just the fact that there’s a lot more to him than the professional “cockjockey” thing. We won’t discover his hidden depths until much, much, much later in the book, but isn’t it wonderful to see him taking the time to research his “assignments” and making an obvious effort to put them at ease. He’s obviously not making any delusions about his job – transactions and all that – but it’s nice that he tries to make it nice for the girls too.

It’s almost like he knows how bad they have it the rest of the time.

Anyway, it’s awkwardness all around as Harmony can’t kickstart her brain and, bless this guy, he jumps through hoops to make her laugh – cracking jokes (in good taste) and making fun of himself, but never of her. Bless him, because he knows just how awkward sex is, without the added pressure of procreating for profit.

And awkward it will be.

He looks just like the Jesus in my dreams.

McCafferty, Megan, Bumped, page 113, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

Ahem.

So after Harmony drops that little bomb, we move onto mental illness, estranged friends and identity crisis. As we do!

I am not proud to say I blinded Malia after her last MiNet meltdown.

They told me that if I loved myself, if I loved my country, I would give Angelina to her rightful parents and never think about her again. Why did you let them say those things to me? Why didn’t you try to stop them? You were my birthcoach.  You were supposed to be there for me…

I just couldn’t take the guilt anymore. I should have known this wouldn’t be the last I’d hear about her.

McCafferty, Megan, Bumped, page 114, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

Putting aside all the horribleness in these paragraphs for a second, can anyone think of a reason why a peer birthcoach would be allowed in a delivery room, but not someone older, like the girl’s parents? Or hell, a midwife or a professional coach? Someone who might not be totally scarred by the things she sees and hears? Malia is probably a very, very extreme case, but surely women have said a lot of things they would have never said otherwise during a delivery. (And I’m not even talking cutesy I’ll-never-have-sex-again speeches straight out of a romantic comedy.)

That out of the way… WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE!

If she loved herself? If she loved her country? What does any of that have to do with anything? Clearly, whomever “they” were, they clearly had no idea how to handle the situation, right? There is no way a professional would say that to a girl having a psychotic breakdown, right?

Or, they wouldn’t if they viewed the girl as anything other than a sentient uterus.

Malia was victim of “preggsploitation”, as Shoko puts it, but the fact is, all of them are. Some are just treated better than others.

We finally learn what happened – Malia’s agent sold her short, and she didn’t take her Anti-Toxin (the drug that was supposed to sever the emotional connection between mother and baby) so she got attached to her “delivery” and tried to keep it for herself. The doctors (or maybe her agent) took it away and she had a meltdown.

Shoko, apparently, thinks it’s hilarious.

“She was pregging. She’s supposed to get fat. How is that not funny?”

McCafferty, Megan, Bumped, pages 117, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

You know, the first time I read this, I thought Shoko was being a bitch. But now that I get to re-read it (and notice all of Shoko’s other reactions during this conversation), I can’t help but think she’s experiencing the same crisis of conscious as Melody is. We already saw Melody’s meltdown after her parents suggested she “re-negg” her contract and her desperate attempts to get back into her old mindset about bumping.

Shoko is in the same position – she was Malia’s pregg partner and friend – so clearly she should be as emotionally invested as Melody. Unlike Melody, however, Shoko is pregnant and nearing delivery, which probably makes it even easier to identify with Malia. So far, she has been nothing but supportive of Melody, trying to get her to cheer up, and diffusing uncomfortable situations, and has been presented as a natural mediator. She also gives it to Melody straight – pregnancy isn’t much fun, it comes with plenty of catches, but it was the “best decision” she “could have made”.

So I doubt Shoko has been brainwashed. I wonder instead if Shoko is using the bitchiness and jokes in the same way Melody tries to use the FunBumps in chapter one? What if she’s desperately trying to justify her life choices by completely turning on the person who made her doubt them in the first place?

Melody doesn’t see that, but Melody isn’t in the best shape either, so we can forgive her for that.

That’s exactly why Malia picked me to be her birthcoach. As the only one who hadn’t pregged yet, I was the only one who might listen to her pleas. She knew well before she was wheeled into that delivery room what she wanted to do. And if she only trusted me enough to let me in on her secret, I might have tried to help her.
At least I’d like to think I would have.

McCafferty, Megan, Bumped, page 118, Harper Collins, Kindle Edition

Oh, Melody, no. Don’t go there. This whole thing was screwed as soon as someone got into their head to turn pregnancy into a business and a competition.

Malia’s story is a tragedy of many facets – a combination of a terrible, exploitative agent, peer pressure, lack of support, personal flaws and a society that sucks cock and balls at protecting the ones who need the most protection – and even if you vanquish one evil, there’s seven more waiting to jump you. Melody’s only crimes in this scenario are not following her instinct when she supposed something was going “wrong” (read, wrong by that society’s standards) and freezing in panic when Malia dropped the bomb in the delivery room.

Melody’s guilt is very disproportionate to those things, and yet there is nobody there to tell her otherwise. Shoko tells her not to feel sorry for Malia, but she places all the blame on another girl, and doesn’t address the one thing that Melody needs to hear – that this situation is bigger than all of them and they each need to come to terms with that.

And that rings true. Women, even friends, are raised to feel responsible for everything, and they’re not encouraged to speak their true thoughts unless under exceptional circumstances. Shoko and Melody (and even Malia, because she clearly places all the blame on her birthcoach) are victims perpetuating the myth that women are always wrong and need to suffer. 

They can’t direct their anger at the right direction because they feel like they’re not allowed to.
It’s such a shame that only Zen seems to understand this.


Note: Image via Goodreads.

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