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The Luxury of Choice

January 4, 2013

Happy 2013, everybody! I hope everyone had a more exciting NYE than I did–I was so exhausted from working four days straight as a ski instructor (and there are some full-timers who haven’t had a day off since Thanksgiving. I have no idea how they do it) that I passed out at 9:30, set an alarm at 11:55 so I could properly yawn in the New Year, and diligently hit the hay again at 12:01. The closest I got to a New Year’s kiss was the cat curiously tasting my ear, but that was just fine until I woke up the next day worried about having Kannibal Kitty on my hands.

By that night, most of my circle figured out that I’d be flying solo into 2013. But I do have to give special applause to those who knew as soon as the break-up occurred for helping me keep my perspective. The first people who knew were my best friend from high school (a.k.a. “ex-husband number one“) and one of my closest college friends/programming project partner. The latter has been my go-to guy for a lot of my bitching and moaning, since he’s recently been through some relationship shit (relationshit?) of his own. He was the one who, after dutifully listening me to prattle on about what went wrong and bemoaning my certain fate as a crazy cat lady (the cat’s doing just fine, in case you were wondering), cheerily reminded me that it could have been a lot worse. The ex and I could have been married under more definitive terms than provided under Colorado common-law statutes (see above link for an explanation), and/or we could have had children.

On the first ugly possibility, he’s right. I don’t think any breakup with anyone who isn’t a complete and utter waste of sentient life is easy under any circumstances, but when you have to throw lawyers and judges into the mix, the Clusterfuck Index goes up by roughly 100 points.

On the second possibility, my friend is completely and unassailably dead on the money. Throw in lawyers, judges, kids, and those kids’ future therapy bills, and you’ve blown the Clusterfuck Index to smithereens. Especially since in most cases, parents fight to ostensibly prove how much they want their children by proving how much the former spouse is a low-life scuzzbag unworthy of spending any time with any members of the next generation. And that asswipe is demanding full custody? Forget it!

In my case, I would have been ardently and passionately fighting to prove that I was a low-life scuzzbag unworthy of spending time with any members of the next generation (unless we’re talking about the cast of Star Trek’s Next Generation. Sir Patrick Stewart, I hear you like the ladies, and I’m single now!), especially my own contributions to it. I am puzzled by small children. The younger they are, the less I can relate, and the less comfortable I am around them.

I am, in other words, a proud member of the childfree movement. While my female friends who are married coo over babies and pictures of the creatures, I scratch my head in bemusement. Show me a kitten or puppy, and I’ll turn into a squeeing pile of mush. Show me a human baby, and I’ll mistake it for either an overgrown prune or a monkey on chemotherapy with water retention problems. It’s good for the human race that I’m in the minority in my views, but the fact that I don’t find babies cute means that I only notice how smelly, noisy, and unhygienic they are. Which in turn means that I have absolutely zero desire for one of my own.

And for this deep-rooted non-desire, I am deeply grateful. One of my longest-lasting friendships is with a woman my age who is also going through relationshit. She doesn’t feel like she has the luxury of not dating, however, partly because she has a deep-rooted desire to have children of her own. With all the panicky studies of late informing women in their mid- to late-twenties, “This is your last chance to have healthy babbiez! FREEZE YOUR EGGS NOW OR BE DOOMED TO A LIFE OF BARRENNESS!” I totally understand where she’s coming from. I get that being amenable to a lifetime of happily checking “Single” on all government and medical forms is, in spite of the wider options available to single parents, still only truly practical for those who are also content to enter “0” as the number of children they have on those same forms.

Of course there are changes that could be made so that single mothers and fathers had an easier time of it. Parental leave policies in this country are laughable by European standards, and childcare is an even greater source of dark comedy gold. But even if America were to catch up to the top of the first world, the conservative commentators clucking that two-parent families (opposite-sex parents, of course) are the only way to go won’t be silenced. And whether we like it or not, those attitudes persist through all levels of our society. Even the farthest-left granola-crunching commune farmer won’t argue that single parenthood is the preferred situation in which to raise a child.

This is not to say that I haven’t taken flak for wanting to opt out altogether. Months before I began contemplating a breakup, a distant relative of mine whom I have spent a total of perhaps two weeks with over the course of my life asked when my boyfriend and I were getting married. “Probably not ever,” I told her. “We already live together and don’t need a legal document besides the lease for that. We’re not going to have children–”

“Of course you’ll have children!” she snorted derisively. “Everyone wants children.”

Before I could retort that I was amazed she could know that I was right in line with “everyone,” having actually spoken to me for all of one week when I was sixteen and one week when I was twenty-six, she got distracted by something else taking place. We were, after all, at her son’s rehearsal dinner, and damned if he wasn’t going to have a great time going through the motions of his Big Day so he could get in line with his mother’s–or shall I say, everyone’s–script.

But even still, I am happy that my biological clock simply doesn’t work, leaving incidents like that one as the major hindrance to living my life peacefully. I’m an impatient person, and on the major issues, I like control, and I like to get things done. Naturally, this makes me wonder if I would have stayed with my ex, compromising on issues that were crucial to me and ignoring their importance until it was too late, if I believed that it was necessary to set the whole baby-making machine in motion by getting married rightnowgoddammit.

With the Patriot Act still unrepealed, Ben Franklin’s remark still applies on a national level: “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Call me grandiose and sneer about how I have an overinflated sense of my own self-importance, but I also find that quote applicable to my personal life. Given my need to get things done yesterday when they’re of major importance to me, I wonder how much liberty I’d have been willing to sacrifice in order to have the safety of a baby-daddy if I were baby-crazy.

This is certainly not to disparage those who do know they want to have children. My friends who are solidly in the “someday” category will make great parents, and it would be a disservice to them and to future generations if they were unable to act on their desires. I know my friend who does desire children but is currently in dating hell will make a good decision–the fact that she refused to back down on her principles for a man who wasn’t willing to work with her is proof enough. I, however, will bask in the contentment that my desire to be dependent-free leaves my future wide open. Even if that future means cracking open a bottle of champagne to share with my cat and watching Next Gen reruns on more New Year’s Eves to come.

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