Childless by choice

Yesterday at work I got into a conversation with the girl who cleans the first floor of this building. I always like it when she stops by. She’s really sweet and artistic. She has an 8 month old son and we talk about him a lot. Halloween is coming up, so she’s been debating what costume to get. And holy crap, is that a mine field of choices. And I’m not being facetious here.

I made the obvious suggestion.

Because this Dobby costume is a CLEAR win.
Because this Dobby costume is a CLEAR win.

So she’s been struggling with this choice. And I’m insisting to her that a Dobby costume is The Way To Go. And she’s saying she never read the books, but I’m confident that doesn’t matter because a tiny elf baby is cuter than a stupid teddy bear any day of the week.*

In conversation, it comes out that I used to nanny before I took this job. She asks me about the boy, and I tell her a little about him. And how I sort of miss being a playmate all day long but I like the regularity of my job.

Then comes The Question.

“Do you plan on having kids?”

I give my usual answer.

“Nope!”

And then comes the inevitable series of comments and questions and the long litany of reasons why parenthood is an ocean of flowers and mental orgasms and gorgeous photos of ponies running on rainbows in the summertime and I’m just resisting the urge to be a jerk to this woman because I actually do like her and I don’t think she’s doing what she’s doing to be malicious but the urge to yell at her during the whole exchange is driving me crazy.

*breathes after the longest run on sentence ever*

So, point is, I’m going to use this blog post to say the things that I can never say to the people who bug me about not having kids. Because telling coworkers to fuck right off is, generally speaking, not considered “good form.”

We’ll start with the most basic. Generally, the first question is:

Why not?

Because I don’t want to? Because none of your business?

But seriously, if you want an answer to that that’s direct and to the point, I’ll give you one. Or three. First, I am terrified of pregnancy. Like, the idea of having my body usurped by a little person makes me so anxious that I start sweating and, if I think about it too long, I get a stomach ache and need to lie down. So… not a great sign. Second, I’m selfish. Like, really. I want what I want when I want it. And as a person with no children, I can usually have those things. Quiet time? Done. A nap? Done. A trip to Asia? Some saving and, again, done. If you have a kid, you have to be all kinds of selfless. And I can do that in small amounts, but not on a 365 day a year basis for the next 18 years. And third, I really, really, really don’t deal well with gross stuff like poop or blood or illness or any of that. Again with the anxiety. It’s why I’m not a nurse. I dealt with poops and things as a nanny because I was paid to do it, but I gagged every time. And I pick up my dog’s poop with the same amount of gastrointestinal churning, but I put up with it because it’s part of the program and I can get fined if I don’t. So, basically, I’ll only deal with poops if there is some kind of financial benefit or in fear of some kind of financial penalty.

But you’d be a great mom!

Thanks for the compliment, random person that doesn’t know me. But I really don’t think you’re qualified to tell me whether or not I would be a good parent.

In fact, I think that, given that I actually worked as a nanny and was able to judge myself based on my personal Fed-Up-With-Kids-O-Meter™ at the end of any given day, I think that I am infinitely qualified to make a judgment on my own about what I want to do with my life and my ovaries. And even if that weren’t the case, I’m still a better judge of me than you are, having had a lifetime to get to know myself.

And being good with kids doesn’t necessarily mean that I want kids. I’m also good with snakes and have handled live cockroaches. I don’t want either of those things. Conversely, I very much want plants but have murdered every single one I have ever owned.

RIP Derek. We barely knew ye. Well, we knew ye for about two months, but forgot to feed ye.
RIP Derek. We barely knew ye. Well, we knew ye for about two months, but forgot to water ye.

You’ll change your mind at some point.

You know what, that may be so. But I don’t think you’re really qualified to tell me that, Mr. Always Covered in Unnamed Child Stains. Unless you got those stains whilst building a time machine with your child and have seen the future. Which, if you have, could you please give me some winning lottery numbers or ancient relics with which I could make my fortune?

But let’s be serious, if I do change my mind and it’s “too late” and my uterus expires, there’s this handy thing called adoption. Or surrogacy if I’m really attached to having a genetic clone.

And honestly, the thing I’m scared about the most when it comes to kids is that I’ll change my mind after the kid is born. And I know, all the parents in the world will try to tell me that you love them and want them no matter what once they’ve clawed their way remorselessly from your belly like a terrifying, bloodied alien, but here’s the thing, I’m worried that about half of them are lying out their asses. Because you have to figure that, for every parent that is just over the moon about their progeny, there has to be at least one that is more than a little bit unhappy with the whole parenting gig. But if they were to admit that, I’m pretty sure they would be tarred and feathered by the local PTA in some kind of insane culling ritual.

Who will take care of you when you’re old?

There are so many things wrong with that question. Let’s start with the first one. Who the fuck has kids just so they can be cared for in their old age? I mean, really? How selfish is that? And leaving that aside, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be batshit insane when I’m super duper old and need care, in which case my kids probably wouldn’t want anything to do with me anyway and would put me into a little old person storage unit to sit there until I die from boredom and despair.

You don’t know what love is until you have a child.

Really? I don’t know what love is? You know what, that statement is so presumptuous and nasty that there’s no real way to answer that one other than to tell you to fuck right off. So… you know… fuck right off.

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Don’t your parents want grandchildren?

Yes, I have actually had people ask me this on behalf of my parents. Because that’s not creepy at all. Well here’s an answer, nosy guy: Maybe? Probably? But it’s not their choice whether or not I bring life in the world. And here’s a weird story: I have zero intention to give up on my major goals in life (travel, gaming, hobbies, and having nice things) so that they can snuggle a new life once a week. I love my parents very much, but I refuse to give in to the social pressure to have children so that my parents get to experience grandparent-hood.

Hey, let’s be honest, I would be a stellar parent. And if I, somehow, were saddled with a child accidentally (thank all the holy things that ever existed for the lack of accidental pregnancies inherent in the lesbian relationship), I would parent that kid so hard. I would get an honorary advanced degree in parenting. And I would love them more than anything on earth and I would kill and eat anything that tried to hurt them. Because that is how parents should be.

But I don’t particularly want to do it. And if I don’t really want to do something, doing it because of my inherent ability to incubate a life or because of some crippling fear of loneliness in my old age seems like a really terrible idea that is bound to end in tears for many – if not all – of those involved. And, given that I associate way too deeply with the lady on the right in this particular Oatmeal comic:

...eew.
…eew.

… maybe we should both just agree that having kids isn’t for me and move on?


*As I was writing this, the girl from my office walked in, we chatted, and I suggested the best possible mother and baby Halloween costume. And she is going to do it. We even discussed the best ways to draw a mustache on her son.

I am unreasonably excited about seeing photos of her with her son after Halloween.
I am unreasonably excited about seeing photos of her with her son after Halloween.

So, rape culture sucks.

But I’m pretty sure you already knew that.

The other thing about rape culture? It doesn’t even make any sense at the best of times. At the worst of times, it is nigh-on indecipherable.

Saturday night. It had been a while since Frankie and I had gone out on the town together, so we made plans to do just that! Little did we know that the weather was going to serve us a big, wintry wake up call with a low of 50 that night.

So, what to do? Well, the obvious answer was to first drink some bourbon and warm up. And since the Twisted Tail is 1) two blocks away and 2) my favorite bar, this was a no-brainer.

Bellies warm with Bourbon, we set off to find a place where dancing might be had. We walked all the way up to Rittenhouse and tried a few places, finally settling on the Raven Lounge and it’s tiny, hot dance floor and decent club music.

Although why they only play 15 seconds of any given song, I will never understand.
Although why they only play 15 seconds of any given song, I will never understand.

We get to the bar and settle in. I wind up laughing at the group of girls who seem intent on creating some kind of dance circle show off group. Ladies, there is no space for that. Please stop. But it’s all in good fun and I’m having a beer and dancing with my lady and all is right with the world.

At one point I feel a hand grasp my elbow, then release it. After a moment, a man’s voice says “I can’t even say hello?” I ignore it, assuming that it was meant for me, but not giving any particular craps about talking to some dude in a club. I glance back and see a dark-skinned, short, white-shirted guy walking back to his friends. I tag him mentally and go back to dancing.

A few more segments of song flash by. My beer is half-gone. I’m laughing at the silly happy people standing on the benches along the walls and shouting to their friends. Everyone is having a good time.

Then the man in the white shirt is standing very close to me. He tells me that he “had to come over and talk to me.” I ask him why, moving myself away from him so that he isn’t touching me. He is clearly drunk. I can barely hear him above the music and shouted song lyrics and my own blood pumping in my ears.

I do not like being approached by drunk strangers. They frighten me. Especially when they are male. Especially when they keep moving closer to me as I inch away from them.

He tells me that Sarah and her friends told him to come over to me. I ask him who Sarah is and what this is about. He tells me that Sarah is the “wife of the night” and gestures behind him, where a group of four guys and one woman (standing on a platform above the men) are watching the exchange with interest.

I ask him what a “wife of the night is” and inform him that I really don’t have any interest in whatever is going on. He starts to get frustrated and tells me that I’m not letting him explain himself. At this point, I inform him that I don’t really care what he wants, but that I don’t want to talk to him and he should leave us alone. Of course, because my feelings on whether or not I should talk to him are totally irrelevant, he gets more insistent.  I tell him that I don’t want to talk to him. I tell him that I’m there with my girlfriend and that we just want to dance and be left alone. He continues to insist that he needs to talk to me and, when Frankie tries to talk to him, brushes her off and says he’s talking to me.

Frankie kicks into another gear at this point and rushes over to his friends and asks them what’s going on and what he wants. They don’t respond. They just stare at her and smile. So she informs them that this whole thing isn’t fucking funny they need to get their friend to leave us alone or she will be getting security because this is harassment and it’s weird and we just want to be left alone.

While she’s doing this, he is still standing near me and tells her really loudly that she’s “getting aggressive” and that there’s “no need for that” and that he just “wants to talk” to me. I tell him, yet again, that I don’t want to talk to him.

Apparently, my girlfriend is intimidating, because the males in the group slowly reach out and grab him and start to pull him back. As they do that, he is half turned and pulling away from them. He tells me loudly that I’m “being an asshole” as he pulls against his friends. I tell him to go fuck himself.

The friends take him back into the group and Frankie pulls me toward the bar. I’m shaking and angry and upset. I see white shirt explaining his side of things to his little circle of friends. They look up at us and smile. All of them. They seem to think it’s funny. I experience white hot rage and just want to go over there and take the “wife for a night” by the hair and fling her across the dance floor. I’m certain by the way she is smiling satisfactorily and what white shirt had said that she orchestrated the whole thing.

I’m uncomfortable being in the same room with them. And I’m upset at not having the guts to go and say something to them because white shirt seemed really ready to physically lash out both in his body language while talking to me and while being pulled away from us.

I tell Frankie that I want to go. She insists that we should talk to security or something. I tell her I just want to go. We get our coats from where they’re hanging and make our way back out into the night.

I’m torn between extreme rage and some kind of horrible fear reaction as we walk outside and catch a cab. When we get out of the cab and walk toward Tattooed Mom’s to calm down I’m so frustrated and upset that I start crying. Then I’m struggling to pull myself together before we hit crowded South Street.

The whole thing was so confusing and upsetting and frustrating. I don’t know what he wanted, and that’s bugging me. But I know that it centered around us being gay and female. And I know that his whole attitude of entitlement to our time and attention comes straight out of the rape culture handbook. I tell him that I’m not interested in talking to him and I’m an asshole. Frankie tells his friends to get him to leave us alone and she’s being unnecessarily aggressive.

And why not, right? We left the house, so obviously we want any attention that we get whilst going about our lives. How dare we just want to dance with each other! How dare we tell him that whatever drunken shenanigans he was trying to describe, we had no interest in participating in! How dare we, as people he wanted to interact with, rebuke that interaction directly and succinctly.

Situations like that are what make me want to give up on going out altogether sometimes. They also make me miss Sisters quite a bit, because I could always go there for a drink and some dancing and feel relatively safe.

All in all, the situation was resolved well, I guess. I still wish I knew what the hell he was talking about. He was obviously soliciting us for something, but I will never know what. But at least no one got hurt, which is the main thing.

Sigh. Stay classy, Philadelphia.