Category Archives: Things Grown-Ups Do

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Choosing Childfree is my new blog about the decision whether to have kids.

People who have chosen either way and those trying to make up their minds are all welcome.

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An Open Letter to the Women Sitting Behind Me at “The Avengers”

Filmmaker Joss Whedon is among the greatest feminist talents of our time, “Dollhouse” notwithstanding. I don’t usually go for action flicks but this was Joss, on the big screen – so I had to see “The Avengers.” I paid double for the 3-D.

My husband and I arrived early and got plum seats towards the back. The theater filled up. Once the movie started there was no chance of switching seats had we wanted to. And the time came when we really, really wanted to.  

I never saw their faces, the women who spoiled Joss’s big-budget extravaganza for me. There was no need to see them to know that they were cinematic barbarians, seemingly convinced that the movie would benefit from a Greek chorus and inaudible dialogue. They took it upon themselves to remedy these omissions.

But you just don’t mess with the master. You shut up and revel in the brilliance and humor of his art. And for goodness’ sake, you never, ever add a Greek chorus to a movie featuring the Nordic gods Thor and Loki. Let’s get our mythology straight, people.

Their confusion didn’t end there. “What does she mean, she has red in her ledger?” one of them demanded. Oh Lord, who graduated this crew out of the G rating?

Then there was the seat-kicking. There was narrating. There was actual giggling. They were screaming, they were howling, they were gabbing inanely.

Now, Joss knows how to get a reaction. There were moments when the whole theater laughed, or screamed just a little – strictly involuntarily, you understand. But these women shrieked and hooted at every excuse of an opportunity, as though public movie viewing were a competitive vocalizing sport or a platform for personal self-expression. They kibitzed like they were in Starbucks doing the post-mortem. And they did it louder than the movie, no mean feat in these days of ear-bleeding surround sound. I longed for closed captions so they wouldn’t be able to steal another word from me.

Don’t tell me that watching violence doesn’t make people want to wreak some. Awash in nearly non-stop CGI-assisted glorified mayhem, I longed for Thor’s hammer and the guts to turn around and take every one of the cretins down. Or even for the guts to say “shhh.” But that would only lead to more and louder vocalizing, probably directed at me, which would make me miss more of Joss’s brilliance. Muscles tensed for battle, I fumed silently.

I never saw their faces. They left while I stayed for the credits. As I walked out minutes later, in the din of the theater, I let out one primal scream to answer the noise they had inflicted on me (my apologies to the startled usher sweeping the aisle nearby). They were gone but they will always be a part of that screenplay for me, as will a rise in my blood pressure and an unattractive sneer.

Joss, save me from your novice followers.

Photo credit: world of andrew woodyatt

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Ten Really Good Reasons Not to Have Kids

Nearly one in four parents (22%) say that if they could do it over they would not have children, according to a Dear Abby poll. Dr. Phil found that 40% of parents “would not have children if they knew the problems in creating a family.” And way back when, a 1970’s Ann Landers column reported that 70% of parents wished they had not had children.

Don’t become one of those people.

I chose not to breed after a lot of self-examination and pausing frequently each day to ask myself “if I had a kid, what would I be doing now? Would it be better than what I actually am doing now?” Many people would go through the same exercise and conclude that they would prefer parenting to the childfree life, and I’m sure their synopses of each of the following would differ substantially. Nevertheless, to help you make a thoughtful decision instead of just getting preggers because that is what folks do, consider my conclusions about the following.

  1. Pregnancy and childbirth: I don’t need to detail how the pros and cons balance out here, even for men – who will, after all, usually have to live with and tend to the ballooning mom-to-be.
  2. Babies: They are often loud, smelly, and damp with fluid or goo of unknown origins. (Spit-up? Snot? Drool? Or something grosser?) Your baby care and maintenance routine will include frequent diaper changing, interrupted sleep, and suctioning snot. Stores actually sell special devices to stick up Junior’s nose and slurp everything out, traumatizing both yourself and your little angel. My husband swears he remembers undergoing this torture even though he was an infant at the time.
  3. Toddlers & Up: Loud, whiny, clutchy, demanding, and destructive, with a penchant for self-injury. Your pastimes with these tots are repeating yourself, being interrogated (“Why? Why? Why? But why?”), suffering tantrums without throwing any yourself, and being the bad cop.
  4. Teenagers: Loud (when in groups or listening to music), sullen, secretive, and disobedient. Your new hobby: finding a balance between respecting their privacy and needing to know whether they are smoking, drinking, having sex, sexting, doing drugs, doing their homework, depressed, or being bullied. Fun bonus automotive obsession: dreading the day they can drive, teaching them to drive, arguing over which car they will drive, and worrying about them when they do drive.
  5. College Students: If you are blessed with charming teens who are a pleasure to live with and treasure their close relationship with you, prepare for heartbreak when they move out and leave you alone and your checking account empty. If, like normal people, you and your children are looking forward to a break from each other, there is still the pecuniary problem.
  6. Adult Children: They live too far away, pursue the wrong career, partner with the wrong person, and botch the job of raising your grandchildren or – gasp – don’t give you any!
  7. Sandwich Generation: When you get old and need help, your children will either (1) boss you around, make you leave your home and move into or near theirs, and butt into everything, including your finances and toileting habits, or (2) live far away and be useless, though likely still bossy.
  8. Nobody Else Will Complete You: Your progeny will not fill the void in your life, shower you with unconditional love, realize your frustrated aspirations, or save your marriage. All that you have to do for yourself.
  9. The Bottom Line: Raising kids will cost you. Numbers vary, but a United States Department of Agriculture calculator offers a conservative estimate of $350,000 per head, including college.
  10. Conventional Wisdom: Contrary to what parents may say, if you decide that you don’t want to be one of them you will not be a lone freak (about 19% of American women aged 40-44 have never had children: see here and here), you will not regret it someday (surveys confirm this – see here and here), you will not be worse off when you are old than people with children are (see #7 above), you will not be depriving the world of the priceless gift that is your DNA (people have actually told me this is why I should breed), and your decision that you do not want children will be no more selfish than others’ decisions that they do.

So think long and hard, and once you have made up your mind, do what you want. They’re your loins.

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