Monday, August 27, 2007
Let me preface this by saying I have gained a little weight over the past year or two, but at 143 lbs. and 5'5", I'm not exactly a hulking giant, either. Unfortunately, though, I do tend to carry extra weight in my abdomen, and I also love fashion, which is tending toward a lot of flowing tunics and empire-waist tops and dresses these days.
So earlier this month, I was at a barbecue at the home of a partner in my firm. It was pouring rain, but my husband and I politely attended anyway since we had said that we would. We brought the partner and his wife a bottle of wine, and as we presented it to them upon our arrival, he reminded his wife that she'd met me at a similar function last year. We were just shaking hands when he added:
"Kristin's a little bigger than the last time you saw her."
I was still trying to process that comment when his wife said: "Congratulations! When's the blessed event?"
My husband replied with an absolutely straight face:
"What blessed event?"
Needless to say, all parties were mortified. But I chalked it up to their tactlessness and laughed it off.
That wasn't so easy this time, since it was the second time in three weeks.
On Saturday night, I was at a going-away party for two friends of ours (we'll call them Brian and Kelly) who are moving to North Carolina. I greeted their parents, who'd come out to see them off along with everyone else, and Brian's father said to me:
"You look like you've gained a little weight."
This time, I was wearing a black silk empire-waist top, so as I spluttered and stammered, my quick-thinking husband gave him an out: "It's just the shirt."
"Oh! So it's not..."
What bothers me most about both of these incidents is not the fact that I have gained a little weight and that it is clearly becoming visible to others (although I certainly will be working out a bit harder this week.) Rather, it's the audacity, the absolute boldness of the assumption that because I was married about a year ago, and because I am at around the age when I probably would be having children if I planned to, any extra weight gain around the middle, or a flowy top, or a drink that looks anything like water (I was actually drinking Grey Goose and tonic on Saturday, but switched to martinis for the rest of the evening after that incident) -- is automatically interpreted as a pregnancy. So definitely, so certainly, that both of these men felt justified not only in pointing it out, but in doing so in what would be the most offensive possible manner if they were wrong.
Which, of course, they were.
Moral of the story: For the love of God, childed or childfree though you may be, please do not ever, EVER ask a woman about her pregnancy unless you are absolutely sure that she is pregnant. And by "absolutely sure," I mean either she has told you herself that she is, or she is going into labor and is about to give birth right in front of you, and you are approaching her to see whether you might be of any assistance in getting her immediately to the nearest hospital.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
So here's how I make them:
First, skewer one or more green, pitted olives on a toothpick. I personally like three olives -- one to eat as soon as I mix the drink, one in the middle and one at the end. Put the skewer of olives into a martini glass and set aside.
Next, get a cocktail shaker. That's right -- I said shaker. Martinis are meant to be enjoyed ice-cold, a state they can arrive at most efficiently by being shaken. In addition, shaking is necessary to get a little bit of melted ice mixed into the drink, which will release the flavors of the booze.
Put 4-5 cracked ice cubes into the shaker. Over these, pour a splash of dry vermouth. Then pour it back out. Leave the vermouth-coated ice cubes in the shaker.
Pour in 1.5 ounces of top-shelf gin. I like Bombay Sapphire for something easy to procure, but my real favorite for a martini is Beefeater's Crown Jewel.
Shake the gin, but not too much. 6-7 shakes is plenty, just until the outside of the shaker is beginning to cloud up. Strain the drink into the martini glass, over the olives.
Enjoy. I like mine alongside a small bowl of roasted, salted almonds.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Besides its obvious elitism, this argument has another fatal flaw. What no proponents of this theory seem to bother to do is to take it a step further. If the intelligent people are going to find a cure for cancer, that means that at some point, one generation is going to have to stop giving up our devotion to our careers in order to have children, and instead actually DO SOMETHING about cancer (or homelessness, or poverty or AIDS or whatever social problem you think smart people should solve.) If we just keep on procreating and counting on our children to solve these problems, ummm... when are we going to actually solve them?
If you are concerned about such issues, having children is not the answer. This argument doesn't make any sense to me at all! Why, if you're so worried about finding a cure for cancer, wouldn't you donate the money, time, energy and resources you would have spent on a child to helping to find one? The average child today is supposed to cost over $1 million to raise. I'll bet the American Cancer Society could make some serious use of that money... and it's a much surer bet on helping to find the cancer cure than just having some kid, who, after all, could just as easily grow up and decide he wants to be the starting quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons. Or something equally unhelpful.
So, no, this isn't a reason for you to feel guilty about not having children. It's just another block on the Breeder Bingo Card.
Friday, August 24, 2007
Pregnancy, to say the least, is not my idea of a joyful experience. Forget the morning sickness, nausea, sudden weird aversions to certain smells, sudden weird cravings for certain foods, greasy hair, exhaustion, stretch marks and looking like a cow. While all of those things certainly seem like major deterrents to me, the main thing I find really off-putting and almost creepy about pregnancy is the idea of another being living inside of me. Some women find that idea sort of beautiful; I find it downright disturbing. It's like a parasite would be inside me, feeding off of me, totally dependent on living off MY body for nine months. I'm hoping other childfree women will understand what I'm getting at here, because I have a feeling most folks don't feel this way. But I really find that idea quite spooky.
Following that, of course, we have the lovely experience of childbirth. Again, never mind the pain, pooping on the delivery table, screaming, crying and humiliating oneself (although all of that is very scary to me, since I'm a really private person.) What bugs me in a way I can't explain is the idea of a screaming little person oozing out of my vagina. Ew! Eww! The very idea gives me the shivers. That is so... wrong to me. And I don't think I'm alone on this one, even among the childed. This is why so many husbands, having witnessed their wives giving birth, have difficulty finding them sexually attractive afterwards (The New York Times did a very interesting article on this phenomenon a while back, which you can find here.) It's not that they saw them screaming in pain or pooping or any of that. It's that they witnessed parts of their wives that they think of as sexual doing things that are entirely reproductive, and were thereafter seriously weirded out by that. And I can't blame them.
My body is my own, and I don't ever want it to belong to anyone else. And it seems like when we have kids, that part of us, along with every other part, is given away. Not only do our bodies have to play host to another living being for nine months and then give birth to it, after that we have to nourish it (for who can forego breastfeeding in our modern society without being harshly criticized for neglecting her baby??) and then tolerate it jumping on us, tugging at us, etc., for the next 10 or 12 years until it grows up somewhat.
The idea leaves me totally cold, and really craving my body all to myself. And thankfully, that's what I have.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
If you ever need to be reminded of what could happen to your budget, home, dinner, or travels if you had kids, this is a good way to get that reminder and a laugh at the same time. I adore the cartoon drawings it includes of "Your Home" and "Your Home with Kids," "Your Dinner" and "Your Dinner with Kids," and so on. Since Ms. Shawne and her husband, like me and my husband, live in a large city and are fairly young, her life without kids is actually a lot like my life, and she does a great job of pointing out just how great that life can be and how deeply having kids could screw it up (my favorite part is her chronology of a typical Saturday in the life without kids, and then with them, which is funny yet has the chilling ring of truth.) The book also deals with such topics as "coming out" to friends and family, and has a humorous chapter on dealing with OPCs (Other People's Children).
In short, this is a great read for sometime when you want a childfree book that isn't too serious. The author, Jennifer L. Shawne, also has a blog by the same name as her book, which I really enjoy and which you can find under my links section.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Deforestation, food and water shortages, global warming, the generation of more and more trash, and the spread of disease are just a few of the social problems caused by our currently bloated world population of over 6.5 billion (and growing at a rate of approximately 80 million per year). Here are a few sobering statistics:
-According to the World Resources Institute, agriculture has displaced one-third of temperate and tropical forests and one-quarter of natural grasslands already.
-The United Nations indicates that about 850 million people worldwide are malnourished or starving, and 1.1 billion people do not have access to safe drinking water.
-As many as 400 million people are at risk of starvation because of drought and crop failure.
-3 million people are killed worldwide by outdoor air pollution annually from vehicles and industrial emissions.
-Global warming will force hundreds of millions of people out of coastal regions in the next century or so.
-The population of the U.S. tripled during the 20th century, but the U.S. consumption of raw materials increased 17-fold.
-Every 20 minutes, the human population grows by about 3,000. At the same time another plant or animal becomes extinct (27,000 each year).
-By 2050, world population is projected to reach nine billion, a 38% jump from today's 6.5 billion, and more than five times the 1.6 billion people believed to have existed in 1900. Most of this growth will be concentrated in developing nations.
Obviously, I could go on, but it's difficult to truly address the crisis in depth in a single blog post. I hope the above gives you some idea of what I'm getting at.
It's easy for my husband and me to contribute to solving this problem, since we don't want kids anyway. However, it's also my firm belief that, even among the childed, no socially responsible couple should be having more than two children (enough to replace the current population), and even that may be too much.
Drastic? Maybe. But massive problems sometimes call for drastic solutions.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
"But YOU were a kid once!"
True, true. But I'm not now, so why does that mean I have to like kids as an adult?
I must now share a fact I am not proud of, in order to illustrate this point. I used to be a smoker, a very heavy smoker in fact. I was one for 11 years, from age 14 to age 25. I finally quit in April 2006.
As an ex-smoker, I cannot stand smokers. I'm just as bothered by them as anyone who's never smoked, if not more so. I walk around them on the streets to avoid the cigarette smoke, holding my breath as I do. I don't blame them for their behavior, because I understand what their addiction feels like, and I know how hard it was to stop. But just because I was one once doesn't mean I enjoy being around them now.
Same thing with kids. I was one once; I can't help that -- none of us can. But I am an adult now, and not every adult enjoys being around children. Period.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Here is how my airplane trips go now: I pack my Vuitton Keepall 50, which I adore because it's so compact and fits under the seat in front of me in even the smallest planes. I sling it over my shoulder and for 90% of our trips, it's the only bag I have to carry. My husband has one bag as well. He and I move around the airport with ease, checking in and boarding the plane. I stow my bag, take out my wrap if it's chilly, and enjoy a stack of magazines or an episode or two of Lost on the flight (love my iPod video). Sometimes I have a drink, too.
Need I even mention the fact that this relatively pleasant experience would be shattered into a million pieces with a baby in tow? Goodbye Vuitton (there's no way I'd let little grabby hands near that vachetta!), and hello nylon diaper bags stuffed with snacks and ugly primary-colored toys. Goodbye ease of movement, hello dragging a kid around with us kicking and screaming. Goodbye peace and quiet on the plane, hello shrieking baby, hello dirty looks from other passengers, hello spending the entire flight worrying about her comfort and not mine.
This is from a mom on a forum I post on:
"I had to fly 8 hours with my son when he was around 1.5 years old and it was HELL.
"We gave him Benadryl, and it didn't do anything. We planned a nighttime flight hoping he would sleep- wrong idea. He couldn't sleep on the plane, the air pressure hurt his ears and he didn't like being in his carseat, and everything was new and strange. Babies are VERY consistent, they don't like change.
"We had packed snacks, toys, etc, but since it was night, he was just tired and wanted to sleep. Nothing could entertain him, nothing could soothe him. And the worst part was when there was turbulence, so we couldn't even hold him, he HAD to stay in his carseat, flight attendants' orders.
"After that, I never have anything but pure sympathy for parents who have to fly with babies, young kids. If you think it sucks for YOU, try doing it yourself sometime. Trust me, being on both ends before, it is MUCH MUCH MUCH worse for the parents b/c they know everyone is hating them/giving them mean glares, judging them, and they are STRESSED OUT trying to get the kid to stop crying, and sometimes there is just nothing to do about it. I wanted to fling myself out the door."
And if that isn't enough for you, try this: Today, a coworker of mine came back from vacation and stopped by my office to chat. Her little kids are 2 and 4. I was asking about her trip and she was asking me if I had any vacation planned. I told her that my husband and I are going to Ireland in October. Her response was: "Ahh, traveling without little kids. I'm so jealous." She went on to describe the experience of traveling with children as "pure hell."
Hmm... a pleasant trip, or pure hell? Which should I choose? Doesn't seem too difficult to me!
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
These backpacks were created by a concerned father in Boston in the wake of Columbine and other school shooting disasters. I can't say it's not a good idea. You put your arms through the straps and the bag acts like a shield. Why not have one, just to be safe? But the fact that my hypothetical child could ever even possibly need this item is enough to make me not want to have a child at all.
As the article points out, most schools today are considered safe, but that doesn't mean anything. I'm sure Columbine was considered safe until the shooting there, and I don't think Virginia Tech was a particularly dangerous college campus.
The bottom line is that the fact that these bags even exist is a sad social commentary, and in a time when we also have to worry about AIDS, drugs, poverty, bird flu, hurricanes, Iraq, and God knows what else, I find it a relief to be able to cross at least one item off the list of social ills that could personally affect my family and me.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The Mask of Motherhood, by Susan Maushart, is a book about the reality of being a mother. This is a reality that Maushart insists is often swept under the rug by mothers who feel too guilty to talk about what they are really facing and how they feel about it. Although it may be a little exaggerated, and can be scary at times, I would definitely recommend this book to the childfree community. It's very validating, and I think there's a lot of truth to it.
This book touches on a lot of aspects of motherhood that I personally find to be major deterrents, from the physical experiences of pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding to what happens to a new mother's career, marriage, and state of mind. Maushart is not childfree -- she has three children and is extremely forthcoming about her own experiences. Since I don't have many mothers in my life who are willing to be this honest, I very much appreciated the firsthand point of view.
One warning: this book can be difficult to read. The chapters on labor and breastfeeding are especially disturbing, particularly for those of us childfree women who are absolutely HORRIFIED at these prospects.
All told, though, this is one of my favorite books on the subject and I'd highly recommend you pick it up, whether you're trying to make a decision about becoming a parent, or have already decided it's not for you and are just looking for a good read.
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
Kathy and Bill used to be really good friends of ours, but I can't say I didn't see this coming. My husband (let's call him Mike) has called Bill several times to try to get him out for a beer or a baseball game and keeps seeming surprised when he says no. We've even tried inviting ourselves over to see the baby, but no.
But I must admit that given that Bill was a groomsman in our wedding, and we've always been pretty close to them (as well as the rest of our friends), I was pretty surprised when Bill called me today about something business-related and left a message saying, "Hi, this is Bill, Mike's friend."
Mike's friend?! Jeez. Apparently I can't even be trusted to know who Bill is anymore. And since when is he not my friend as well?
Sigh. The great divide begins. Another set of friends we hardly ever see as it is are now having a baby as well, and they're due in December. I doubt that friendship will fare much better.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
We could live right on the beach in a small apartment that's not a far commute from our jobs in the city at all. The places we're thinking of buying look something like this: (the first picture is the building and the second is what the apartment looks like inside...)
Later on, probably by the time I'm 35 or so, we'll be able to move to a crazy condo like this one...
The amazing thing about being childfree is that we can just pick up and do this. We have the money to actually buy an apartment, and later a house, that is basically in the dunes. And we have the freedom to make this decision without worrying about schools or daycare or how good the neighborhood is for kids or any of that. If we had kids, there is no way we'd be buying a place on the beach. We'd be moving to Main Street, Suburbia, USA, and I'd have to become a soccer mom and shoot myself.
I'll be doing a full review of this book at some point after I'm done, but last night I read a passage that was so great I picked up a pen and underlined it, which I do very rarely. The section was on the myth of the "biological clock," and why women seem to suddenly get motivated to have kids when they never were before, simply because "time is running out!" A contributor to the book put it this way:
"I figured, if I didn't want a baby badly enough to make it a priority before...why should I want one now simply because time is running out? It kind of reminded me of a going-out-of-business sale at a pink suede belt factory. So what? If I never wanted a pink suede belt before, why should I buy it because it won't be available tomorrow? What would I wear with a pink suede belt, anyway?"
Amen. I have never understood this reasoning myself. I don't want kids any more than I want a pink suede belt. And I don't ever plan on changing my mind just because time starts to run out.