Friday, February 22, 2008

The Blank Stare

For the childfree people who are reading this...I have a question for you. Have you ever gotten the blank stare when you tell people you do not wish to have kids (assuming you tell people that)? The blank stare can be decribed as a look of complete incomprehension and speechlessness, as though the person is being spoken to in a different language.

I was talking with my hubby the other night about the blank stare asking him to help me come up with a way to more accurately describe it. Calling it a blank stare just doesn't seem to do it justice.

Hubby nailed it. He said that the blank stare is similar to the look you might get if you said, "My wife and I don't eat food, we only drink water". I went a step further for humor's sake. I told hubby, "it's the look you would get if you said, 'yeah, my husband and I both have penises'". We both had a good chuckle over that one.

It's a look that conveys complete and utter incomprehension and complete and total cognitive disonnance. The concept simply cannot be absorbed and understood. The person hears what you are saying, and there's this burning smell as their mental wheels are spinning and their brains and doing flips to try to understand just what it is you are saying. They are looking right at you, but their face is completely emotionless and blank because they just aren't getting it.

I am simply fascinated by the fact that people can't wrap their minds around the fact that some people do not wish to have children. Why is it such an unfathomable concept? After all, anyone who has children knows that there's much more to it than puppies and rainbows. There's a hell of a lot of grunt work, misery and sacrifice involved - and in my estimation (and I am sure the estimation of most childfree people), the work and misery outweighs the puppies and rainbows. Knowing that, why is it THAT IMPOSSIBLE to imagine that some people would simply not be interested in all that grunt work, sacrifice and misery; that some people might simply find their life fulfiment in other pursuits, or judge the benefits to not be worth the sacrifices?

I don't find it shocking that people are judgemental of childfreedom, perceiving it to be an inferior lifestyle - after all, we all (hopefully) choose the lifestyle that we think is the best (I certainly think my childfree life is the best!), but to not even be able to comprehend another's lifestyle just intrigues me.

I ask myself if there are any alternative lifestyles that might render me equally speechless and in an utter state of incomprehension, and really, I don't think there are that many - at least not that many that we encounter in every day life. Maybe if somebody told me they like to skin humans and eat their body parts, or if somebody told me they liked to have sex with corpses, or enjoyed a steady diet of excrement-dipped insects. Those are pretty extreme and I can imagine possibly given those people the blank stare (before I ran away in horror). But harmless stuff like how many kids one chooses to have (or not have), sexual orientation or other life choices that really don't harm anyone wouldn't faze me at all or be incomprensible.

I don't think there is any lifestyle option that is absolutely, 100% set in stone required to make a person happy. Whatever floats your boat. The thing about having children, though, is that most people don't even perceive it as a lifestyle choice; they perceive it as a basic requirement like breathing or eating. It's something you don't think about, you don't decide, you don't elect. You simply do it because it has to be done.

But the thing is, it DOESN'T and I think the contemplation of that fact is what throws people for a serious loop.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Sad, Regretful Baby-less Celebs

Today I thought it would be interesting to spend a little time on the despicable way the media promotes the message that motherhood is the ultimate fulfilment in life and women who opt out of motherhood are destined to a life of unhappiness and regret. Of course, you, my childfree friends and sympathizers, and me know this message is complete and utter hogwash and recognize it as part of the rampant pronatalism designed to keep women bound to their reproductive roles at the expense of other fulfilling endeavors. We are completely innundated with this message from every direction, every second of our lives, but magazine covers like this illustrate it so blantantly and obnoxiously, they just beg for discussion.

I came across this magazine this morning while waiting in line at the supermarket. Just look at the cover...a small off-to-the-side photo of a despondent-looking Jennifer Aniston looking away wisftully as the caption reads, "39 & Wishing she'd had Brad's Babies". Her hair is stringy and she's not looking her best. Meanwhile, a beautiful, radiant and obviously deliriously happy Angelina Jolie, gets a huge, center-stage photo. Her photo triumphs over Jen's and she looks the most beautiful she ever has. Her caption reads, "Angie's Joy, Jen's Pain...After 3 years, ANGELINA'S got it all While JEN'S Still Tortured by "the Woman who Ruined my Life and Keeps Wondering What if..."

Ever since Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt broke up, rumor has had it that their break-up was due to their differences on having children - Brad wanted them, Jen did not. Whether this rumor is true or not doesn't matter. What's interesting is that underneath all this focus on Jen and Brad's breakup, and Angie's subsequent reign as Goddess Mother, is this message:

"See, Jen. This is what you get for being a selfish bitch and not fulfilling your duties as a woman. You wanted it all, didn't you? You wanted to have fun in the sun, pursue your acting career, be caught up in all the Hollywood glamour and be a big hot shot, maybe make it big in the movies and you sacrificed having babies (horrors!!!) so you could be so self-centered! Well you got what you deserved because look - ANGELINA wasn't selfish - she had babies like she was supposed to and LOOK AT HER! She's more beautiful than you, she's far happier, a bigger star than you AND she got BRAD PITT! What do YOU have? You're still single and can't seem to keep a man and now you're sorry, aren't you? You are a sad, pathetic excuse for a woman!"

Oh, and while we're here, let's also take notice of the rest of the this magazine cover because the Angie and Jen story apparently wasn't enough baby-obsessing for OK Magazine this month. We have Jamie Lynn Spears and her beau with the caption "Ready for Baby" (a pretty upbeat tone, don't you think, considering she's 16, unmarried and pregnant?) and underneath, a smily photo of Anna Nicole's daughter and her father, Larry Birkhead, showing that even when mommy celebrities are dead, we must still obsess over their babies.

So in addition to providing enough disgust to make me want to barf up my breakfast today, magazine covers like this beg the there NOTHING ELSE going on in the celebrity world other than the glorification of breeding? Are the stars capable of nothing more interesting to entertain us than screwing and popping out their spawn?

And the scariest question of all: Who's responsible for this fixation on celebrity breeding? Is it the media, or is it US?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Spa Ladies

Today I thought I would share with you some eavesdropping (and conversing) I did with ladies at the spa today. I was getting my hair cut and there were several women around me chatting...some hairdressers and a few customers. Since it was all women, you can probably guess what they were talking about.

For the entire half hour or so I was in the hairdresser's chair, I eavesdropped as the women did the requisite chit chatting about their kids. Here's what is interesting. None of them - and I mean NOT ONE - had anything positive to say about their kids or about mothering - not even the slightest positive comment. The entire 30 minutes consisted of each woman complaining about their kids and about their duties as mom. Among other things, they complained about:

The fact that their young daughters (in one case, age 5) are already obsessed about getting sexy clothes.

The fact that teenaged girls dress like hookers and they have to fight their daughters to prevent them from dressing this way too.

The cost of the Wii one of them bought for her son and how he is playing with this thing obsessively and won't do his homework.

The fact that one's son has befriended girls on MySpace who all do the same pose (butt up in the air with dark lipstick on and puckered lips).

One complained about the crowd her teenaged son hangs with since a friend of his recently committed suicide.

One woman was in ecstacy simply because she was out getting her hair done and was finally away from her kids for 30 minutes.

Another one has a 23 year old stepson living with her who she put through college, but who is content to work at a bar and live at home.

So much for motherhood providing the ultimate joy and fulfillment in life.

And then, after all this evesdropping, my hairdresser asked me, "so, do you have kids?" to which I gave my usual reply of "yes, 3 cats!" and she said, "me too". So I got to talking to her about this a little, trying to casually ascertain if she was childfree by choice, or just by circumstance. She told me "a little of both". She explained that she never wanted kids...ever. She always liked her life just the way it was and never saw any reason to mess it up by having kids. That is, until she turned 38. Then, suddenly she decided she wanted to have kids.

So I asked her "what was it that made you change your mind and suddenly want kids after never having wanted them before?" Her reply? "It was my age...I was getting near 40 and it was either do it now, or don't do it. I was afraid if I didn't have kids I would regret it later." I found this reply very interesting, and very telling. She didn't say she actually suddenly changed her mind and DESIRED children. Her change of mind appeared to have more to do with responding to the pressure of the motherhood mandate - the fact that women are expected to have kids. It was almost as though she had been putting off a dreaded assignment for years, the way a college kid puts off writing a term paper, and now the due date was upon her. It was simply surrendering to a perceived obligation (at least this was how I read her reply).

This, above all else, is what truly fascinates me...that women truly do not see this pressure for what it is...just a pressure, not a gun to their heads. It's a pressure that you can either cave in to, or you can simply say NO. Yes, it's as easy as that! It's like Nancy Reagan always said.


So my hairdresser tried to get pregnant for two years, but it didn't happen and she said she accepts it and says it just wasn't in the cards for her.

The look in her eyes betrayed her relief.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mom for President!

There's a bit of unspoken prejudice against childfree and childless folks that I thought I bring to light today. Because its unspoken, it's very subtle and probably goes unnoticed by most people, especially for people who have kids because let's face it, they all believe that having kids is the greatest achievement in life. But to a childfree person, this prejudice is very obvious and quite frankly, offensive.

There is a bias toward people who have children in that they are ascribed positive attributes simply by their nature of being a parent. There are obvious examples of this that we see every day - parents are automatically assumed to be selfless, warm, caring, feeling and in many cases saintlike, simply for the fact that they reproduced. (The underlying assumption - sometimes unstated, and sometimes stated - being that childless/childfree people are selfish, cold and uncaring.)

This has always been annoying to me because I know that I am just as selfless, warm, caring and feeling as any parent out there and my choosing not to have children has nothing to do with those qualities.

So yes, it's annoying and good material to vent about in a blog, but today I must really draw the line because when a person is assumed to be better PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES material based on parental abilities, it's time to speak up.

For the benefit of those who cannot view the video above, it's a spot that aired on the Today show yesterday which focuses on the US Presidential primaries and specifically, the Latino vote. The gist of the piece is that the Latino vote is split and in many cases families are split between Clinton and Obama. In the clip above, Tom Brokaw is interviewing two Mexican sisters, one of whom is supporting Barack Obama and the other who is throwing her support behind Hillary Clinton. One of the sisters explains that many Latinos are supporting Hillary because as mothers "they see the job she has done with Chelsea and they understand that she's going to do a good job as President."

Say what?

So let me get this straight. Good mom = good President of the United States? In that case, I would like to throw my mom into the ring! Heck, let's throw all the moms into the ring because Lord knows they could do a better job of running this country than the present moron in office!

For the record, I like Hillary a lot and respect her tremendously. I will be thrilled if she or Obama get into office. However, my respect for Hillary, Barack or any other candidate has never been based, nor will it ever be based on their parenting skills. I don't care how well they changed diapers or what a good child they raised. There are plenty of mommies and daddies out there who do a good job raising their kids and nobody will convince me that because they reproduced and did a decent job of childrearing they should be PRESIDENT! Cut me a break!!!