Kiss kiss boom

by Kieran Healy on April 28, 2007

Nora Ephron remarks somewhere that a baby is a hand grenade thrown into the middle of a relationship. But there are a lot of people looking for someone to pull the pin:

So if some men think my urgency for kids is unappealing, FUCK THEM. In the first place, it is not something I can control, neither the wanting nor the fact that maternal age matters, and you can not shame people for what they can’t control. In the second place, they are fooling themselves about having an indefinite period of healthy sperm and energy for young kids and young women willing to be with them.

That second point reminds me of another Ephron line:

Sally: It’s not the same for men. Charlie Chaplin had babies when he was seventy three.
Harry: Yeah, but he was too old to pick them up.

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05.03.07 at 5:04 pm

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1

Matt 04.28.07 at 3:37 am

God all-mighty. I hope she goes and has a kid already. It’s not as if that’s so hard- people do it all the time w/o even trying. It’s kind of an unpleasent display really. (Not the wanting kids so much. People want all sorts of things. But the going on about it. That’s what’s unpleasent. Who’s keeping her from doing it?)

2

Kieran Healy 04.28.07 at 3:52 am

Well, I think the problem, as she says in her post, is that she doesn’t just want to have kids, she wants to have kids with a man she loves (and who loves her back, I guess). So she wants not just a child, but a particular kind of family, with a particular kind of guy.

3

Matt 04.28.07 at 4:14 am

Yeah, I noticed that of course. It still just seems to fall in to the “life’s tough all over, isn’t it?” category.

4

a 04.28.07 at 4:50 am

“…she wants to have kids with a man she loves (and who loves her back, I guess)…”

I’m sure the “FUCK THEM” part of her personality will help her…

5

Dan Simon 04.28.07 at 5:08 am

Also the “You’re the man. You don’t have emotional needs” part.

6

Dæn 04.28.07 at 5:34 am

. . . and you can not shame people for what they can’t control.

Right. You can’t shame people for the urges they feel; the thing to do is to call them out for expressing those urges in extremely obnoxious ways.

7

Walt 04.28.07 at 6:08 am

Dan: That was, you know, a joke.

8

Megan 04.28.07 at 6:37 am

Friends, this is a common situation; I am not the only person who wants to have children and is afraid that it won’t happen before the opportunity is lost.

You could discuss the situation rather than me.

9

bad Jim 04.28.07 at 7:54 am

My brother, 53, recently announced that his fiancée, 44, is pregnant. The look on his eldest daughter’s face threatened frostbite. There are all sorts of arguments one could make against aging parents, and my niece made a couple of them, but, look, he likes kids (had 3 already, still has 3 dogs) is healthy (surfs, snowboards, does triathlons) and what is else if not to be overcome?

Decades ago my father’s brother was appalled to hear that my sister, pregnant by her second husband, had the fetus tested and knew its sex. He reminded me that his sister was born on her mother’s 40th birthday. He’s had a few grandkids since then, though, and raised no objections when I gave him the news about his prospective grandnephew.

My oldest nephew is also going to be getting his first son this summer. I can’t wait to tell that little guy that this other little guy is almost as much his uncle as his cousin.

10

John Quiggin 04.28.07 at 8:22 am

One thing that’s struck me is that in most respects, the age at which life events happen is increasing. People finish education later than they used to, take longer to establish themselves in durable relationships, have a longer life expectancy and so on. But fertility has effectively gone the other way, with earlier menarche matched by a reduction (at least in perception) of the maximum age for childbearing – it used to be thought of as 40 or so, but Megan’s post mentions 35 as the critical birthday and awareness is increasing that fertility declines after this age.

If the range for having children is narrowed, in many case to 25-35, it’s not surprising that the risk of missing out becomes substantial. While there are no easy solutions, the obvious stuff like family-friendly working arrangements is only going to get more important over time.

11

abb1 04.28.07 at 9:59 am

The institution of marriage is to blame here. Very harmful in many respects. IMHO.

12

novakant 04.28.07 at 11:32 am

the situation is this:

people don’t like to be instrumentalized, that’s why men tend to find the overwhelming urge to have kids in a woman at the beginning of a relationship unappealing unless they share that overwhelming urge, but even if both partners felt alike in that regard it’s probably not the best recipe for a successful marriage

13

dsquared 04.28.07 at 12:55 pm

14

Matt 04.28.07 at 1:07 pm

Part of my point (and I admit I’m not being especially sensitive) was that life is full of cases where someone wants something really badly but can’t get it, especially if he or she isn’t willing to settle for something other than exactly what he or she wants. It’s such a common part of life as to be unexceptional, and usually no one is to blame in any very deep or interesting sense so there’s not much to do about it.

15

Matt 04.28.07 at 2:22 pm

God Dsquared. I really wish you’d not exposed me to that.

16

Charlie Whitaker 04.28.07 at 2:34 pm

… after you had had a lot of fun in your twenties …

Oh yes, absolutely.

17

Ed 04.28.07 at 3:17 pm

What’s behind this trend is a view of kids as consumer goods. I really can’t see what good can come of that.

As I get older, I’m becoming increasingly sympathetic to the “population bomb” folks in the 1970s. During that decade, world population was 4 billion. Now its 6 billion. At the start of the industrial revolution it was 1 billion. Is the carrying capacity of the Earth , allowing for the magic of technology, infinite? If it is, the optimists are right. If there is some limit, even if its some unimaginable number like 20 billion, it seems that we are collectively in a rush to hit it.

18

Aidan Kehoe 04.28.07 at 3:40 pm

You could discuss the situation rather than me.

Right, but the situation is known and well described and disected elsewhere, you’re new and diverting in most of our consciousnesses. And there’s no requirement to be affirmatively kind here, hah, and thanks be to jaysus.

19

luci 04.28.07 at 4:08 pm

My two cents: if we wouldn’t want to blame those women that have a strong desire to have babies and are feeling the pressure of their biological clocks, would we also not want to blame those men that wish to avoid it for as long as possible, and to maximize their number of sexual experiences? (gross generalizations there, obviously).

Or maybe there is something qualitatively different between those two urges, and one can be justifiably disparaged or ridiculed. I can almost see an argument like that – as baby-making is probably thought to be more of a social good than sexual conquest. But that kinda calculus gets into complex and dangerous territory fast…

I’m mid 30’s, single in San Francisco (a city relatively full of unmarrieds). Among the singles my age and socioeconomic level, the game appears like this to me: women are holding out, trying to find the absolute ideal mate, while the men are holding out to prolong their singlehood, freedom, sexual variety, etc. And as we reach mid-30’s and later, the men seem to have a definite advantage.

20

ogged 04.28.07 at 4:09 pm

The part Kieran highlighted, and what’s not much described elsewhere, is the feeling Megan describes that she’s supposed to keep her desire for children hidden.

Partly that’s surely about not treating other people as a means, but even apart from that, I think she’s right that the urgency of the desire for children is seen as unseemly.

21

dubin 04.28.07 at 4:20 pm

It’s funny how when you take Megan out of context, she often seems like an aggressive biznitch. FUCK THEM indeed! Note to self: context is useful.

22

roy belmont 04.28.07 at 5:46 pm

Meghan-I am not the only person who wants to have children and is afraid that it won’t happen before the opportunity is lost…
Another way of looking at it is that something in you wants you to reproduce. That that’s why sex is such a primary impulse in all of us, that that’s why sex even feels good to begin with, because if it didn’t the species wouldn’t be here.
The slip from central purpose and outcome toward elective consumer choice that children have become is happening without any real discussion, outside the hysterical shrieking of religious/anti-religious warfare. The tacit assumption is that kids are a life-choice, like rhinoplasty or a tattoo or buying a condominium. It’s part of the larger arrogant chauvinism that has made human control of every aspect of human life something to be desired, and submission to larger, non-human forces a thing to be despised.
The idea that something other than your conscious mind is at work in the desire to have children makes for a science-fictiony kind of mise-en-scene, but that’s where we live now. Half-conscious of what we are, and very confused.

23

novakant 04.28.07 at 6:14 pm

so you’re in favour of more teenage pregnancies?

24

bitchphd 04.28.07 at 8:04 pm

The “kids as consumer goods” attitude is reflected more by the guys (ahem, Matt) whose attitude is “hey, things are tough all over”–as if wanting children were equivalent to wanting, say, a big house with a koi pond.

Kids are pretty central to a lot of people’s humanity–and appropriately so. Having them isn’t something you just up and decide to do some day; it’s a pretty major life change, and it’s not at all inappropriate to want that to be something you have company in and something that people take seriously and even, god forbid, approve and support. No one oughta be required to have ’em, but it’s kinda hostile and solipsistic of people to act as if it’s weird and selfish to want them, and to want them badly.

25

bitchphd 04.28.07 at 8:16 pm

people don’t like to be instrumentalized, that’s why men tend to find the overwhelming urge to have kids in a woman at the beginning of a relationship unappealing

Ridiculous explanation, as it doesn’t address the perception that it’s usually men who don’t want kids and usually women who do.

My hypothesis is that men find women who desire kids frightening because they recognize that having children means giving up a lot of autonomy. A lot of women feel the same way, but by and large women are less likely to really *be* autonomous than men are, what with being expected to be considerate of what men want all the damn time (e.g., how unseemly of Megan to be angry!). It used to be that giving up that autonomy was the mark of adulthood; nowadays, it’s not. Whether one is better than the other is debatable, but let’s at least not pretend that being angry at the solipsism of others is itself solipsistic.

26

Matt 04.28.07 at 8:28 pm

It’s not weird and selfish to want kids and want them badly. It is a bit weird and self-indulgent, if perhaps not selfish, to think that other people ought to care much about this, though. But it’s also not weird or selfish to want a lot of other things, or to find them central to one’s humanity. And a lot of people don’t get those things. That’s unfortunate, of course, but unless someone has done something wrong (I don’t know enough to say if that’s the case here nor do I care to find out, really) then it’s wrong to feel angery as opposed to, say, disapointed or sad.

27

alphie 04.28.07 at 8:30 pm

Children aren’t all the same.

If you’re going to fantasize about having the perfect family, make sure you include bright, healthy, well-behaved kids in your dream.

28

novakant 04.28.07 at 8:41 pm

Ridiculous explanation

umm, okayyy, so I’ll put it differently:

Idon’t like to be instrumentalized, that’s why Itend to find the overwhelming urge to have kids in a woman at the beginning of a relationship unappealing – and I don’t think I’m very different in this regard form other men”

call me a romantic or whatever but I would like to a.) fall in love b.) enjoy being with that person for a prolonged period of time and then c.) maybe talk about having kids

now, is that still a “ridiculous” explanation? you can hypothezise all you want, but wouldn’t it be easier to ask some men how they feel about the issue?

29

bitchphd 04.28.07 at 8:43 pm

It’s not at all weird, self-indulgent, or selfish to want to be able to find a partner who shares one’s interests. I agree that feeling long-term anger or resentment about not being able to do so isn’t great, but ranting occasionally about one’s frustration isn’t exactly a mortal sin.

30

bitchphd 04.28.07 at 8:47 pm

Novakant, what makes you think that (1) you’re representative of all men; (2) I’ve never talked to men about this issue?

31

Ken C. 04.28.07 at 9:00 pm

bitchphd:”The “kids as consumer goods” attitude is reflected more by the guys (ahem, Matt) whose attitude is “hey, things are tough all over”—as if wanting children were equivalent to wanting, say, a big house with a koi pond.”

That wasn’t what he was saying at all, although he could have been a little more sympathetic to the human condition.

bitchphd:”Kids are pretty central to a lot of people’s humanity—and appropriately so.”

Yes, of course. But also, for example, for a lot of people, the giving and receiving of sexual pleasure is pretty central to their humanity. I assume you would be just as sympathetic to the plight of someone whose sexual needs are unfulfilled, as to the plight of someone who has not yet had the baby she wants, in the exact situation she wants to have it.

And of course, one must address the perception that it is usually women who don’t want sex, qua sex, and men who do; to address that analogously to your discussion, one should conjure up a vague explanation flattering to men and unflattering to women. (And discuss how trying it is for men, to have to constantly be considerate of women and their lack of a desire to have sex right now. And how wrong it would be, to consider it unseemly for a man to be angry about that.)

32

Matt 04.28.07 at 9:02 pm

It’s not weird or self indulgent to want to find a partner that shares one’s interests. Obviously not. I’d guess that’s why no one here said it was. And if you can’t find such a person it’s a good reason to feel sad or frustrated. Again, I don’t think anyone here disagrees with that. Anger is really only reasonably directed against wrong-doing, though, I’d think, and I don’t see any special evidence of that here. And these days ranting on a blog that people look at is a bit like talking so loud in a resturant or cafe that everyone can hear you. When you do it about your personal problems it’s a bit odd.

33

politicalfootball 04.28.07 at 9:14 pm

31: Wow. Why do you feel that someone should be *just* as sympathetic to the one as to the other? You don’t see any important distinction in these desires at all?

What other desires are indistinguishable to you from the desire to have a baby?

34

lizardbreath 04.28.07 at 9:20 pm

Sorry, talking about personal problems is inapproriate on a personal blog now? What a strange comment to make.

35

Matt 04.28.07 at 9:26 pm

I suppose it depends on what you mean by inappropriate. It’s certainly pretty public. There’s nothing wrong about it, I guess, and one obvious difference from the annalogy I used is that it doesn’t disturb people like talking loudly in a cafe would. But it is a bit odd to announce your personal problems to the world, especially if you are then annoyed that people go on and discuss them (as in comment 8).

36

novakant 04.28.07 at 9:35 pm

you are slightly misrepresenting my views, bitchphd, and you know it, but for the sake of clarity I’ll elaborate a bit:

obviously not all men are even relevant in this discussion, since there certainly are quite a few who don’t even consider a long-term relationship with one woman desirable (yet) – they don’t want to marry and have kids and women wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) want to marry them and have kids; if you only talk to them, then you’ll have a slightly skewed picture of the situation

but for those who do, and are therefore relevant to the discussion, I do indeed think the views I laid out are pretty representative and as I said, even if they share the overwhelming urge to have kids, I don’t think that’s such a great basis to build a marriage/relationship on before establishing that they really want to spend their lives together

finally, what happens if either partner turns out to be infertile? does the urge to have kids make it ok for either partner to just leave the other in search for superior mating material? is adoption a non-option?

37

abb1 04.28.07 at 9:59 pm

And if you can’t find such a person it’s a good reason to feel sad or frustrated.

In fact, it’s not a very good reason to feel sad or frustrated. Just like the failure to find a suitcase full of cash is not a good reason to feel frustrated. Some commonly accepted expectations are totally unrealistic, and that’s the cause of frustration.

38

bitchphd 04.28.07 at 10:21 pm

I do indeed think the views I laid out are pretty representative and as I said, even if they share the overwhelming urge to have kids, I don’t think that’s such a great basis to build a marriage/relationship on before establishing that they really want to spend their lives together

I agree that it’s pretty representative. What I’m saying is that the question is why.

It used to be, y’know, that having children was THE basis for marriage. And indeed, for a lot of people who aren’t upper-middle class white folks in industrialized countries, it still is.

39

bitchphd 04.28.07 at 10:22 pm

31: Charming. If only those bitches would put out.

40

F 04.28.07 at 10:26 pm

38: Charming. If only those assholes would commit.

41

F 04.28.07 at 10:28 pm

38: Like a previous poster has said, the analogy is pretty clear here, and you can only reject it by making the personal choice that baby-making is an acceptable unrequited desire and sex is not.

42

Dan Karreman 04.28.07 at 10:34 pm

Jesus Christ, this must be among the worst CT threads ever. There’s ample opportunity to discuss the basically sexist character of the dating institution due to biological difference, the irony of not controlling the perhaps most important choice in a consumerist culture, the destabilizing effects of letting romance be the most important plank in a relationship, and whatnot. But what do we get? Thinly veiled sexism, jokes falling flat (yes, dsquared, I’m looking at you), and bitchphd and lizardbreath feeling forced to state the obvious. Heckuva job, lads.

43

Ken C. 04.28.07 at 11:55 pm

38: Boring. You’re feigning an inability to understand an analogy, and taking the most obvious of shots.

I hope Megan has the babies she wants, in the context of the loving relationship she wants, even if her primary goal is the babies and not the relationship: I understand that she wants both. It would be awfully easy to pretend she’s only looking for a disposable sperm donor, but I know she’s not.

39: Please, enlighten the boors. Say something.

44

dsquared 04.29.07 at 12:26 am

yes, dsquared, I’m looking at you

Well I suppose you can see me scratching my balls then.

45

Mar/y Catherine Mor/an 04.29.07 at 2:09 am

The slip from central purpose and outcome toward elective consumer choice that children have become is happening without any real discussion, outside the hysterical shrieking of religious/anti-religious warfare.

Yep. Though apparently this thread is not the place to have such a real discussion.

It’s a little bit bizarre, I think, that the desire to reproduce has become the “lifestyle option” that needs to be explained, justified, rationalized. Until the day before yesterday or so, this desire was seen as perfectly natural … because (remember Biology 101?) reproducing is just what critters do, unless or until their extinction (hey lads: it’s how you stay in the game, you know?). It’s as though we have very recently decided to sever all ties between past, present and future, in the service of “choice” or “pleasure” or some such something that, in the long run, probably doesn’t have much staying power.

46

Megan 04.29.07 at 2:51 am

But it is a bit odd to announce your personal problems to the world, especially if you are then annoyed that people go on and discuss them (as in comment 8).

But the comments above 8 didn’t discuss the problem. They discussed ME. There is the initial problem that they’re discussing me without any knowledge about my actual affect or how I treat people, or even extended contact with my blog, which shows me to be a person who talks about getting pregnant rather less than I talk about agricultural water use. But even if you could detect the flaw in me that is causing this dilemma, diagnosing that in me is probably the least useful information you could add to what is a widespread condition.

42 – Yeah, I thought the comments missed a lot of the potentially interesting points of this discussion, although Ogged caught the part that I thought was interesting, which is that it feels transgressive and shameful to admit to really wanting kids. Since it has biological origins and is something a lot of people do, why does it feel like it should be kept secret? And what is with the gleeful gloating about “but when I was really horny, I never got enough, so hah hah see how it feels now?”. (Which shouldn’t be directed at me anyway, considering my good works in that field.)

43. Dude, if I were looking for a disposable sperm donor, I could buy one. Or negotiate one. That would be something I could arrange.

Eh. Dsquared’s joke was mildly funny, as some of his jokes are. But he didn’t follow through. Right after “two sightings equals a trend!” comes, “and they’re middle class white women, so it MATTERS!”

47

Matt 04.29.07 at 3:18 am

Well, I guess that I suppose it’s _your_ problem, not a problem that there’s anything for anyone else to worry about or care about except insofar as they care about you personally. It’s not some big problem. There’s no injustice or anything as far as I can see. “Person doesn’t have the life she wants through no fault of anyone else’s” just doesn’t seem like something that people ought to get very upset about.

48

Keith M Ellis 04.29.07 at 3:50 am

It’s surprising that this is a problem among this demographic. My experience with my ex-wife and most of the women I’ve dated has been that they don’t want children. But I’ve wanted children since my mid-20s and the desire has increased over time.

I’m a 42 year old male and I am really sad and frustrated that, at this point, it’s unlikely that I will have children. A large number of women my age are either like those I’ve dated in the past and simply don’t want children, or have grown children and are through with that stage of their lives. Actually, I’m sort of generally resentful that women have a number of options for having children outside of the context of the relationship Megan is looking for—men do not.

49

a 04.29.07 at 5:33 am

Megan: “I am not the only person who wants to have children and is afraid that it won’t happen before the opportunity is lost.”

Well then go and have children. As Keith mentions you have a number of options for having them. It appears that your problem is not having children, but having them within a certain type of desired relationship. If you can’t arrive at that relationship then that’s unfortunate, but many people want things out of a relationship which can’t be had or at least is not always immediately obvious.

There are, needless to say, many men who want children (I knew I wanted children; for instance, and I now have four).

50

Megan 04.29.07 at 6:58 am

Yep. And the time for that is fast approaching. It is not something to take lightly, though. I am well aware how hard it is to be a single parent, so that has to go into a decision about trade-offs.

See, I really feel for men in Keith’s situation. It isn’t only women who have this dilemma, so I wish we were kinder to each other when people are up front about wanting children.

51

magistra 04.29.07 at 7:08 am

Part of the problem is that wanting any of the ‘traditional feminine goals’ has become problematic to some feminists. There was a recent Guardian article by Lionel Shriver on how she was criticised for having a female character whose greatest ambition was a happy marriage. I think as a reaction against centuries of being told that marriage and children are *all* that should matter to women, there is still a tendency to denigrate the desire to have them.

But there’s also a mismatch here about the strength of an individual’s feelings and social expectations. If anybody has such strong feelings about events in their life that many people cannot comprehend them, then that is bound to be difficult for the individual concerned. (As an analogy, and it is only an analogy, I have had periods of depression, despite the fact that objectively my problems were not as great as many other people’s. Telling me that I should not have been depressed in my situation only made the problem worse).

What my analogy does suggest is that Megan (unfortunately) shouldn’t expect to get sympathy if she talks to/blogs to the general public. It might be worth her getting some counselling about how she deals with a desire that is both extremely important to her and also possibly unobtainable.

52

Belle Waring 04.29.07 at 7:43 am

magistra: gah, feminism is NOT the problem. when there has been substantial progress towards gender equity in some area, but a certain level of entrenched sexism remains, people invariably point to feminism as the problem, when it’s the other bit that’s the problem. I would be willing to go out on a limb here and say that the number of women who have rejected a relationship with a trustworthy man who shared their desire for kids, because feminism told them they shouldn’t want that, even though they did, is…well, it can’t be zero because people are insane, but let’s just say very small.

53

abb1 04.29.07 at 8:07 am

Feminism is not the problem, but obviously feminism, individualism and secularism are in contradiction with the traditional concept of marriage/family. Go Scandinavia.

54

mq 04.29.07 at 8:52 am

51: I think there are a quite large number of women who have rejected a relationship with a trustworthy man who shared their desire for kids because feminism told them that they should hold out for a relationship that fully satisfied all their various conflicting desires for perfect romance, career, and family, and then run out of time to have kids before all of these extremely challenging ambitions could be realized in one relationship. Especially in the U.S., feminism is just another expression of the individualism that is central to capitalist culture. Variants of feminism that conflicted with this individualism have tended to fall by the wayside, while “you go girl” consumerist feminism has been integrated into the culture.

55

mq 04.29.07 at 9:03 am

P.S. In fact, I would make a large bet that Megan herself has rejected possible relationships with trustworthy, decent, kind men who shared her desire for children because she prioritized her own desire for romantic love over her desire for kids. Or perhaps because of where she was in her education cycle. No reasonably attractive person reaches their mid-30s without having had opportunities for child-bearing.

Naturally, men do the same thing, the issue is (as abb1 states in 52) the fundamental conflict between individualist, secularist ideologies based on investing in an idealized “self” and the traditional idea of marriage and family. Men are obviously at least as individualist as women, but they do not trumpet it as a social revolution a la feminism.

56

abb1 04.29.07 at 9:22 am

Yeah. If you google ‘marriage scandinavia -gay’, the second link (http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2004-12-15-marriage_x.htm) has this:

“You choose a father and then you choose a different husband,” says Anne-Maren Hanssen, 25, Nonshaugen’s youngest daughter. “It’s like, ‘You’d be a great dad, but I don’t want to marry you.’ I’ve got quite a few friends who’ve got kids and they decided the kids are their own.”

Hanssen doesn’t believe the traditional, one father/one mother family model is necessarily best for raising kids. “I’ve had plenty of parents and I’ve been pretty happy,” says Hanssen, who studied dance in London and now is applying to medical school.

57

Matt 04.29.07 at 12:38 pm

Though it pains me a bit to say it I do have to say that I largely agree w/ abb1 here, even with the time when he directly disagreed with what I said.

58

John Emerson 04.29.07 at 1:37 pm

I think that people tend to underestimate the cost of having and raising children, and the more accurately people understand the costs (the more child-raising is a deliberately chosen option) the less likely they are to have them.

At the same time, child-raising is a unpaid but socially necessary activity, and I think that parents should get more social and governmental support. Not with intent of maximizing population, but just because we don’t actually want to be the last generation on earth, though at times we may pretend that we do.

No help for Megan’s problem, though. I’ve done my bit.

59

engels 04.29.07 at 2:30 pm

If we do feel, as some people here seem to, that people who wanted to have kids and couldn’t are the victims of an injustice then isn’t this a reason against tax breaks for families? Doesn’t it seem to follow, on the contrary, that there ought to be tax breaks for childless people to compensate them for the injustice they have suffered?

60

Aidan Kehoe 04.29.07 at 6:04 pm

And what is with the gleeful gloating about “but when I was really horny, I never got enough, so hah hah see how it feels now?”.

You’ve no real insight into the opposite sex, then? It’s not a question of ‘horny’, it’s a question of ‘going slowly mad in the absence of sex, and in the absence of CBT directed away from such madness.’ Not any more preferable than what you describe.

61

dsquared 04.29.07 at 6:58 pm

I actually think that the Natasha Bedingfield song is a quite interesting pop-cultural development. I don’t agree that the taboo about women who want children has anything to do with objectification – it’s just the more or less rational fear of any long-term and expensive irreversible decision. Oh tee oh aitch, giving women a hard time for it is a pretty new cultural phenomenon, I think it has a lot to do with the tendency of men to infantilise themselves over the last twenty years (which in turn is clearly part of the whole “laddish” backlash against feminism) and it strikes me as interesting that someone decided it might be time to push back a little. Bedingfield is, on the other hand, a notorious fucking god-botherer, so this might not be such a trend after all.

62

leederick 04.29.07 at 7:03 pm

“…they are fooling themselves about having an indefinite period of healthy sperm and energy for young kids and young women willing to be with them.”

I’m still stuggling to figure out why, if men have different apparent desires to women, the natural explanation is that they actually have the same desires as women but, being idiots, are kidding themselves about reality. Perhaps they really do have different desires?

63

Ken C. 04.29.07 at 7:12 pm

Megan:”Dude, if I were looking for a disposable sperm donor, I could buy one. Or negotiate one. That would be something I could arrange.”

Yes, that’s why I said: “It would be awfully easy to pretend she’s only looking for a disposable sperm donor, but I know she’s not.”

I would consider it a personal *kindness*, a gesture of good faith, if you would respond to what I actually said, and not something else. (In this case, virtually the opposite.) I wish we could all treat each other in this minimally kind way, but it ain’t gonna happen (Hi bitchphd!).

Megan: “And what is with the gleeful gloating about “but when I was really horny, I never got enough, so hah hah see how it feels now?””

Not gloating, not gleeful, not directed at you. Again: the desire to have kids is a very understandable human need. It is understandable even when the need is not immediately associated with any specific partner. We all get this. Similarly, the desire for sexual intimacy is a very understandable human need. It is understandable even when the need is not immediately associated with any specific partner. In some feminist wave, this was not understood.

As to your good works, bless you, but I have no idea how you think it could be so easy. One part of your advice is basically, “don’t be desperate”, which is certainly good advice, whatever need you’re trying to fill.

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mq 04.29.07 at 10:36 pm

58: we won’t be the last generation on earth. The pro-natal cults like Mormons, born-again Protestants, orthodox Jews, etc. will take over from the can’t-commit secularist types.

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Helen 04.30.07 at 12:53 am

Well, I guess that I suppose it’s your problem, not a problem that there’s anything for anyone else to worry about or care about except insofar as they care about you personally. It’s not some big problem. There’s no injustice or anything as far as I can see. “Person doesn’t have the life she wants through no fault of anyone else’s” just doesn’t seem like something that people ought to get very upset about.

Posted by Matt · April 29th, 2007 at 3:18 am

Incorrect, and surprising to see this opinion aired on an academic blog. It’s increasingly well known that this is a demographic trend in the western world, largely caused by the inability of employers and governments to sort out the work-and-family dilemma, combined with the tendency to do everything later – and the cost to women of potentially losing everything if they interrupt their working lives to have a baby; combined with the “laddish” male culture of commiting, again, as late as possible.

It’s not just anecdotal.

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Helen 04.30.07 at 12:55 am

Oh, I was going to recommend “What, no Baby” by Leslie Cannold, as an excellent look at this problem. I’m no expert in the field but as someone who’s been through the whole marrying and having kids and working starting in the mid-Thirties, I was just nodding with recognition the whole way through. And the book mentions the fact that countries with better work-and-family systems have higher birthrates than, for instance, conservative Southern European countries.

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Matt 04.30.07 at 1:19 am

Helen, since I’m happily married for several years I doubt I’m part of, or heavily influenced by, the ‘laddish’ culture. (In fact I find that rather disgusting.) I’m not at all worried by demographic trends. There are other ways to deal with them- immigration for one. It’s not as if there is a shortage of young people in the world, just a mis-distribution. The work-family dilema is a real problem, but it would be a problem even if Megan were married and with a family. Given this, I really don’t see that there is any injustice in this case. As abb1 says, the Nords seem to do a pretty good job of it.

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Megan 04.30.07 at 2:44 am

63 – Right. I was repeating your statement, to confirm that you hit on my sentiments. Like, we agreed, so I could go on to introduce the next part of that theme.

I didn’t mean that you were gloating, so I should have distinguished that the source was elsewhere. But I have sensed that theme in the responses to this.

Gotta run.

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Ken C. 04.30.07 at 4:54 pm

Mega: “Right. I was repeating your statement…”

Really? Ah, ok, sorry.

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mpowell 04.30.07 at 10:16 pm

Hey Megan- I wish you well in the pursuit of your desires. From reading your entries it appears that you approach your pursuit in an entirely respectable fashion.

I have been a bit confused about this analogy people have been making about men wanting sex. To me it seems apt, and I don’t understand BitchPhd’s response to Ken. I think it has to do with a part of feminism’s attitude towards ‘nice guys’. You can read a lot about it at Pandagon. Basically, those women are convinced that there is a large portion of men who believe they are entitled to sex- those are ‘nice guys’. This may be true, but I think they underestimate the extent to which there are respectful, nice guys in their early 20s who are just awkward and nervous around women, but I think its a perspective that might drive BitchPhd’s response. Is that right, BitchPhd? (if you’re still listening…)

Anyhow, I think the important distinction is not the legitimacy of your desire (kids or sex), but the degree to which you respect the agency of the person you need to fulfill that desire.

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Matthias Wasser 04.30.07 at 11:18 pm

The desire for sex and the desire to have children are pretty analogous, in my mind, for the purposes of our discussion – they’re both fairly basic human drives the frustration of which is apparently very painful for a significant minority of people, and thus worthy of sympathy, and they’re also things we can’t rightfully demand from other people.

Ascribing one to one sex and one to the other is inaccurate, but we can abstract away from that and not lose much of anything meaningful.

(A hypothesis: if we assume that there is some gender difference in aggregate due to a combination of socialization and biology, and model the dating/marriage scene as a hedonic market with high transaction costs, then the sexes’ differences in preferences will be significantly higher among middle-aged singles than among middle-aged marrieds, and they’ll also be more frustrated.

This might explain a bunch of the disparities in anecdotal evidence.

It’s also probably distorted by religiosity levels – which are self-seeking in the aforementioned dating market; and encourage early marriage and natalism and traditional gender roles, all of which are important in the model – and the strong anecdotal evidence that couples grow more alike the more time they spend together.)

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Kurt9 05.01.07 at 9:24 pm

Some “out of the box” thinking for the lot of you: Why do you people think that aging is not a curable condition?

Check out the following:

http://www.annalsnyas.org/cgi/content/abstract/1100/1/409

http://www.sens.org

How you think these developments will affect peoples’ decision to have or not have kids?

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AndyJ 05.01.07 at 9:59 pm

My My What a generation… unsure whether to look for Mommy to suckle and nurture you or the BFF that you can have sex with… Its a good thing you don’t breed. There are enough spoiled noisy mewling boy-men out there on their mountain bikes and skateboards as it is.

The mentality exhibited shows no self confidence, no physical strength and assuredness, no manly virtue of protecting, defending or providing. All I read is take-take-take… Selfish grabbing

When you boys are ready to assume your place in the world of men… you will be ashamed of what you have written here. Your children will be ashamed and wonder WHO-T-F you really are…

Maybe we should blame the women for rewarding such childish behavior? That would follow the Blame-The-Women meme…

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Mark 05.01.07 at 10:15 pm

What is Keith worrying about at 42??? I met the girl of my dreams a few weeks before my 50th birthday and had a beautiful son when I was 52 (my first child) with my 33 year old bride.
One way to solve your problems is don’t limit your choices to people the same age. I’m done sowing wild oats and have a great time taking care of my son. I never could have done it at 20 or 30 because I was more interested in ME, getting laid, and making money.

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fish 05.02.07 at 4:11 pm

I am somewhat amazed by the older guys (let’s say 35+) who think they don’t have to worry about biological clocks because they can always date younger women (as in less than 30). The solipsism is for to laugh! Alas, they must be deluded that they inhabit an alternate universe from the one which affects the rest of society.

Hello! If the girls weren’t in to you when you were younger and hotter, what makes you think your softer belly and balder pate has made you a great catch to the next class of college grads? If you think having a little more money will help then I have news for you, my pumpkins. Unless it’s the kind of mega-money that has bimbos leaving you love messages day and night (in which case how DO you find time lounge around so much on the internets, naughty boy?) don’t expect that to offer you an edge! No, no, no – more money is the price of entry – what you will HAVE to have in order to still compete poorly against the looks, energy, and fitness of the younger guys. The “secret” is out: aging isn’t just for women anymore. After all, when is the last time you saw attractive young women at the peak of their game helplessly drawn to the sad old guy hanging out late at the club?

Seriously, people want to date and mate people their own age. You may be sure that you’ve discovered the magic formula “I’ll just marry someone younger!” But, by Jove, it turns out that idea has been tried before. And if it were a formula for success then we would expect to see many such pairings in the general population. But, we don’t. Instead, the vast majority of couples are very close in age.

Perhaps it is more related to resource acquisition than fertility, but it turns out that girls prefer youth and energy in their mates, too.

Sorry boys, but what happens when you prolong your adolescence indefinitely, is that when you finally get around to popping the question? You’re the one whose going to be shelling out mega-bucks for your wife’s fertility treatments.

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Kurt9 05.02.07 at 8:43 pm

The aging process can be defeated.

http://www.sens.org

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Dresda 05.02.07 at 9:01 pm

P.S. In fact, I would make a large bet that Megan herself has rejected possible relationships with trustworthy, decent, kind men who shared her desire for children because she prioritized her own desire for romantic love over her desire for kids. Or perhaps because of where she was in her education cycle. No reasonably attractive person reaches their mid-30s without having had opportunities for child-bearing.

This is my response, too. I know so many single people, men and women, who claim to want partners and children badly, yet make very little effort to date from reasons ranging from fear of rejection to not wanting to miss their favorite TV shows!

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Xanthippas 05.02.07 at 10:08 pm

It’s hard to summarize the comments here (like I was originally planning to when I started writing my own comment.) But I can say that somewhere in the middle of what everyone is saying is something that approaches a happy medium that is applicable to most people who are facing the conundrum of whether or not, and how to go about, having children.

I’m a pretty generic liberal, and so I have a “golden rule” approach to just about everything. I think it’s okay to not want to have kids cause you don’t like the little buggers, as long as you’re not whacking at kids with your cane like Scrooge. People who have kids shouldn’t take it as a personal affront from those who don’t want them, and they shouldn’t be condescending about the person who doesn’t want them not “knowing what they’re missing” or something like that. I also think it’s okay to want kids and have pretty high standards for who you want to have them with, and though people should also recognize that those aspirations can make it hard or impossible to actually meet someone, if they’re willing to hold out for it, well more power to them. People shouldn’t take personal offense if they don’t meet this high-achiever’s definition of the perfect mommy and daddy, or if this person lays out near the beginning of the social interaction (say over the first glass of punch at a party) that they’re really looking for an appropriate co-parent and not just nights on the town or a roll in the hay. I also think it’s okay for single people to have kids because although I think a mom and a dad is maybe best, two dads, or two moms, or one mom or one dad, is a hell of a lot better than a white trash mom and dad who wouldn’t know what to do with a kid if it came out with instructions from God tattooed on it’s back. Nobody should be judgmental about that.

About the only thing that matters more than anything is that people who have kids should realize that once you have the kids, it’s not about you anymore. You may have been commanded by God to have children, coerced into it by a raging biological clock, careless about contraception, or ready and willing, but whatever your attitude is about it, that all has to go away once that little bugger comes out into the world. There are no refunds, so to speak, whatever impulse it is that might have prompted you to have a child.

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Kurt9 05.02.07 at 10:09 pm

Another point to keep in mind about men and aging (at least until its cured around 2030 or so) is that sex drive, at least in men, tends to decline with age.

This means that, as we get older, being able to screw pretty young things becomes less important in the larger scheme of things. Other activities like outdoor sports, travel, and visiting friends, tend to become more attractive. This is because, if you excercise and take care of yourself, you can maintain much of your strength and fitness well into old age, even as your physical attractiveness declines. Hense, activities not requiring physical attractiveness become more appealling as we get older.

One of the problems that women around 35 years old or so will have in trying to find a suitable mate is that many of the men the same age are simply not interested in having kids. It may be the case of “been there, done that” or simply that with the waning sex drive, such men are more interested in other activities than “scoring” or having kids. This is one problem that our friend Megan is likely to encounter.

Fred Reed as much to say about this from the perspective of an expatriate. Having lived as an expat for 10 years, I relate to much of what Fred has to say.

Megan is definitely to be commended for being up front and honest in expressing her desire for having kids early on in the dating process. Such candidness saves both her as well as her prospective date time and money and is, therefor, to be respected.

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