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Archive for February, 2010

Two is Enough?

I have been thinking about children a lot lately. I thought about them yesterday because there was one exceptionally bad specimen carousing around the shop while her mother got her hair done. This morning, one of my favorite kid clients of ours came in with his dad and was as polite and adorable as ever. But beyond my daily exposure to the children who walk through our shop doors, I’m bound to think about it regardless. I’m married, although I’m really too young to get those constant questions and that overwhelming sense of pressure from other people around the “when are you two gonna have kids” question. And although I’ve thought about what I will from here on out refer to as “the children question” in some permutation many times throughout my life  (since I was old enough to play with a baby doll, at least), it becomes more urgent with each passing year.

I feel like I am a game show contestant and there are x number of doors to choose from and choosing door 1, or door 2, or door 3 – each one leads you on a different path, and each one is mutually exclusive: if you pick one, you can never pick the other. And I feel that I’m being asked to make this decision NOW. I hear you guffaw-ing – I am under no illusion that my fertile years are over (although 18-25 is supposed to be the peak age range, people), that I, for biological reasons, need to make this decision any time soon, but it feels urgent nonetheless. I’m trying to make plans, ya know? I want to know, to a degree, what my life will look like 5, 10, 15 years from now. But I can’t really explain where the pressure comes from – surely it is to some degree driven by social constructs, and to some degree self-inflicted, but I don’t really understand why or even how.

I’m trying to learn how to go with the flow. It’s very much in my nature to have a plan, an outline, even just a rough sketch. And I feel the children question gnawing at me precisely because deciding to have children is such a fundamentally life-altering decision and if I decide not-to-decide right now then I can’t see my future at all clearly – I have no plan. And being unprepared, not planning -well, any planner will tell you, that just strikes fear into our O.C.D. little hearts. I don’t ask for omniscience, just shapes in the fog – but postponing this decision just makes everything formless.

I just started reading a book called “Two is Enough: A Couple’s Guide to Living Childless by Choice” by Laura S. Scott, and I’ve already learned a lot, just within the first 10 or 20 pages. There is a little subset of the childfree who are basically postponers. They didn’t make a decision, they let nature take its course (or didn’t, as it were), and then they just kind of became childfree. Often, they postponed having children out of uncertainty, but over time came to the decision that, after all, its perfect that they never became parents because they like life just as it is. Sometimes, they postponed having children until it’s too late (until it becomes biologically impossible, or at least, improbable) – and then the decision has been made for them, although they may still embrace it as their choice. What I am afraid of is being the postponer who comes to the point where I can’t have children anymore and finds myself regretful, ultimately childfree by circumstance rather than choice. I am a big-time procrastinator and I don’t want to procrastinate my way into the worse decision I ever didn’t-make in my life.

Also according to “Two is Enough”, there is a subset of the childfree known as “acquiescers”. They come to be childfree in deference to a partner’s wishes. This isn’t always as awful as it may sound – it isn’t always as much a sacrifice as simply a compromise, and it’s not as though this decision is usually made lightly or without full awareness of the consequences. An acquiescer is usually someone who has made peace with their choice to remain childfree, even though that choice may have been a more difficult one for them than it was for their partner.

It’s likely that, if I remain childfree, I will sort of be a postponer/acquiescer. Trevor is probably about 95% sure that he does not want to have children. It’s not so much that I do, but rather that I just always assumed I would. And I’m now at the point where I’m trying to separate out all the noise and concentrate on what I really want, and what is going to be best for us. What are the consequences of having children? Of not having children? Do I really want to raise a child or do I just want a cute baby to coo over? Am I actually attached to the idea of having children or am I just attached to the idea that I should, or that I was going to, or that I’m supposed to? It’s hard to separate out all my myriad motivations both for desiring and not desiring to have children, and to come to any consensus over what it all means and what I really want. And, in the meantime while I try to decide, the weeks and months and years will just continue to fly by.

But I do hope that, in all things, I will be able to teach myself to simply not decide, to be spontaneous and fluid and mutable. I think there’s a certain freedom in that. It eliminates that game show feeling – the door 1, door 2, door 3 – and opens up all the doors, all the possibilities, all at once. After all, ignorance is bliss, right? If you don’t know which path you’re on, you can’t ever get lost, can’t ever really get off it. That is just so comforting to me.

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My new male fantasy

Have you seen those gift books titled “Porn for Women”? It’s a series of books generally featuring pictures of handsome men cleaning, cooking, doing the dishes, or in some other way fulfilling a fantasy I think many women share about the men in their lives (or the men they wish they had in their lives, rather).

I have flipped through them before and gotten a few guffaws out of them, but I never really put much thought into the whole phenomenon until recently. It occurred to me the other day that the things I fetishize men for nowadays has completely changed from what I used to fetishize about them. The guys I dreamed about when younger had always been the type of guys I could never have access to – somehow, even if I had no actual interest in dating frat boys, the fact that they had zero interest in me made them all the more appealing. Ditto for muscle-y, stud-type guys (who more often than not are gay anyway), and, of course, dark, tortured, hipster musician types. None of these men are men I would’ve actually likely enjoy dating, but they had always figured heavily in my daydreams nonetheless.

Now that I’m married, I find good husbands REALLY attractive. Not attractive in the same sense as my teenage crushes, where I might foolhardily try to actually pursue them, but more as a comparison to my own husband (sorry, honey, but it’s inevitable). Most of my exposure to these men is at the shop where I work.

What makes a good husband or, rather, what makes me think they’re good husbands? They talk about their wives (and not to bitch about them). They give her cooking rave reviews, they talk about vacations they’re going on together, they ask for advice on whether she’d rather like a spa day or a piece of jewelry for her valentine’s day gift, and they’re really excited they just found out they’re pregnant! What are they going to name they baby?! Gosh, I hope it’s a boy! Etc.

Sometimes, their wives come into the shop with them and then it’s not just how they talk about them, but how they act toward them that sets my heart a pumpin’. And then it’s: “Would you like a drink, honey, while I’m getting my hair cut?”, “Why don’t you leave the kids here? I can watch them while you shop.” It is the real life equivalent to those “Porn for Women” books and I see it at least once daily.

My friend and co-worker, Esther, and I have one question: who ARE these men? Why have we never met or known (or, more to the point, dated) any of them until now? Obviously they exist, but where the hell do they come from? There’s always been what I (perhaps somewhat unfairly) believe to be the myth of the perfect man – he cooks, he helps clean, he takes care of the children, he is kind and considerate and always knows the right gift to get – you share with this perfect man a perfectly egalitarian relationship, a partnership of equals – he might even consider himself a feminist. Although somehow, even though you share this perfect, equal relationship, he ends up footing the bill more often than not and opens a lot of car doors for you and such. But, surely, these men don’t actually exist?! Well, it turns out they might. And some of them get their hair cut at MY barbershop.

I sense (hope?) that this is not true – I mean, that these men are not actually perfect partners, but rather that they appear to be perfect partners out in the public eye. I’m sure they, too, leave their dishes in the sink and put empty milk cartons back in the fridge, and forget when that dinner with your friends is, and get pissed about the heating bill, and are actually secretly TERRIFIED that they’re about to be a new dad. But regardless of the reality of what these men are truly like, their public persona presents to me a brand new fantasy – the perfect husband fantasy. When you add in the hot-dad fantasy that my friend, Sarah, and I, had already started to cultivate while in college, it’s pretty much a one-two punch right in the ovaries.

Don’t get me wrong, my husband is pretty perfect for ME. But I will probably never come home to him vacuuming with his shirt off , telling me there’s a roast in the oven, and he just put a load of laundry in the washer, either. I think, in reality, each man has his strengths and his weaknesses as a partner, just as each women does. I’m sure Trevor would like to come home to me vacuuming with MY shirt off, telling HIM there’s a roast in the oven, and I just put a load of laundry in the washer, too.

But, let’s face it, it’s only marginally more likely to happen for him than it is for me.

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