I have chosen not to breed for myriad reasons. Two of my three sisters have already spawned two babies (with another on the way), thus lessening any pressure I might get from grandchild-craving parents. But my folks are not the only ones who can work the cooker, and I’ve had it up to the teats with people who push traditional values on me the way Mormons push their cult. I don’t know what’s going on with society; I thought the Women’s Lib thing already happened, that we were on our way to being viewed as equals with men and no longer expected to remain content in the kitchen. I was wrong.
Last week I joined a crew of girlfriends I used to party with for dinner. One was visiting from out of town, where she’d moved to settle down and breed. A true career woman, she has a nanny to watch the baby while Mommy goes on business trips. When she began to drill one of my local friends, I watched in stunned silence — afraid that I would find my tongue and give this interrogator a lashing. She railed off questions such as, “When are you getting married? When are you having a child? What are your plans?” How do you respond to such questions? “Uh, actually, next Tuesday I’ll be married, and it just so happens that I’m pregnant!” Such assumptive expectation offends me. I chose not to comment and thanked my cocktail that I didn’t get involved in an attempt to persuade her that her audaciousness was unwelcome and inappropriate. I’m sure she didn’t mean to offend, but that’s just the problem. We don’t think about how people receive information; we just blurt it out the best way we know how. I have a child, therefore everyone should have a child. You don’t know happiness until you do. You don't know anything until you do. Bullshit. Don’t get me wrong, I do like kids — some kids, some of the time. Just yesterday I was asked to watch my niece for a few hours. I LOVE my niece. I swear, she saves that smile just for me, and I’m convinced she understands me on some instinctual, emotional level. I held the six-month-old on my knee, and we locked eyes for a long time. She made a fart noise with her mouth, and I imitated her, sure that she could comprehend this silly noise for its intended “I love you.” She began to fuss, and I could sense (as well as smell) that she wanted her diaper changed. Not my favorite thing to do with children (the idea of baby body fluids triggers my gag reflex), but I managed to get her outfit on so the flowers were facing front and to keep her little ass dry. She was a joy to watch, a joy to “communicate” with, but never once did I think, Man, I can’t wait to have one of my own.
My sister Jane knew she wanted a child as soon as our nephew was born to our sister Heather. Her sisters, mother, husband, and a friend were in the delivery room when Heather gave birth to Liam. The moment of birth was emotional and educational. Did it make me want to go through it? Not for all of the epidurals in the world. Am I happy she went through it? Yes, of course. I’m not a psycho bitch who hates children, especially when they’re of my blood. I just have no interest in dealing with them on a regular basis. Jane told me she knew right then that she wanted one. With equal conviction, I knew right then that I did not.
So, why is her decision more sanctioned, more believed than mine? Nine times out of ten, when I tell another woman that I don’t want kids, I hear, “Oh, you’ll change your mind. You’re young...just wait.” Excuse me? Who the fuck are you, and just how do you imagine you could know how I will feel in the next ten years? Sometimes I just want to respond in the same rude manner, “Yes, and I am just as sure that in ten years you will come to regret that you ever had a child. You will recollect the life you wasted, and you will resent that poor kid every time you want to do something for yourself and can’t.” I know the look I’d get: shocked and appalled. Just as I am when those “knowing” statements fly out of the mouths of self-righteous mothers or unfulfilled women.
I know people who pop out a kid the way they’d buy an accessory — to continue the bloodline, because it’s good politics, or because it’s a minime to cultivate. There are just as many selfish reasons to have a child as there are selfish reasons to not have a child. When it comes to having kids, I can deal with the opinions of most people, because I don’t give a shit about most people’s opinions. However, it’s a bit more difficult to handle family and friends once my thoughts are revealed. People don’t ask you, “Are you thinking of children?” when you’re in a committed relationship. They ask you, “When are you having children?” My friend Nancy has a great retort to this intrusive, presumptuous question. “When I become bored with my life, I’ll think about it.”
Some women envision themselves as mothers; they identify with the word, and they find it fulfilling to restructure their lives in order to nurture another human being. This is a wonderful thing. Admirable. Respectable, even. It’s not me, though. I accept the truth that I will never measure up to the category my sisters have entered as “givers of grandchildren.” Prior to babies, I was the one in the family to get tattoos, the one to get my tongue pierced (which I kept for seven years, until it got too trendy), the one to live for more than six months in a different city, the one to live alone. And now it looks as if I will be the one who will not settle down, get married, move to suburbia, and start a family.