Friday, June 02, 2006

generally, advice columns don't boil my blood. i nod along with advice i agree with, i shake my head at advice i think is pretty bad, and i giggle at advice that's just plain stupid. usually, i don't read an advice column that's just plain insulting.

the latest dear prudence? one of the bits of advice is plumb insulting:

Dear Prudence,
I will be getting married next year to the most wonderful man in the world. We share similar goals in life. One of those goals is that neither of us wants children. We are both in our 30s and don't want to be raising children into our late 50s. Our friends, family, and even acquaintances constantly ask us when we're going to start a family. When I respond that we don't want children, I get a lecture about how wonderful children are and how much I am missing. We both love children. We have plenty of nieces and nephews with whom we enjoy spending time. How do we head off those people who feel it is important to question our choices? One neighbor of mine suggested lying and telling them we are unable to have children (which will embarrass the asking party), but I am not one who can lie very well.

—No Child of Mine

Dear No,
As far as acquaintances are concerned, "I'd rather not discuss such a private matter" should do it. But family and friends are different. Yes, it's true that ultimately it's not anyone else's business, but from a human perspective this is a loss for both sets of parents. No one has parents who say, "I hope my child grows up to marry someone wonderful and they don't have children together." With your intimates, next time they bring it up, explain that you understand this is painful for them, but you are both comfortable with your decision and lecturing won't change your mind. Now I will join the chorus of people who are driving you crazy. You are about to get married, and as life's circumstances change, it is worth re-examining your goals, especially this one (and yes, I know, I am offending all happy childless people). You're only in your 30s—if you have children now, they'll be grown by the time you reach your late 50s! You say you love children, but as close as you may be to your nieces and nephews, that's no substitute for having your own. The people who know and love you best hope you and your husband have children—that alone makes it something worth considering.

at least she knows she's offending the childfree.

she's right about one thing: there's no substitute for having your own children. that's exactly the point--having nieces and nephews is not the same as having your own children. they don't want their own children. if having nieces or nephews were the same as having your own children, they would not want nieces or nephews either.

the last line is the most insulting. they should consider having kids because people they love are hoping they have kids? just because two people are good people doesn't mean they have any sort of responsibility to reproduce. it's not going to cancel out all of the stupid or mean people out there that are having kids. it's not going to make the nice people that don't want kids any happier or nicer, having to raise kids that they didn't want to have. if they reproduced for the sake of people other than themselves, they would become bitter, hateful creatures who resented the kids that others coerced them into having. there's a difference between buying a shirt that a loved one thinks looks good on them, and having a kid who's going to be a drain on their time, money, and emotions for the rest of their lives. one of those decisions is essentially inconsequential...they can buy the shirt for a few dollars, and stop wearing it if it doesn't grow on them. the kid...the kid, or at least the fallout from having the kid, is never going to go away.

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