Thursday, February 16, 2006

Pity the Child-Free

No, I mean it. And not in that smarmy, condescending way that so many parents have: "Oh, you'll never know the tender joy of holding your own infant in your arms! You'll never experience the transcendence of knowing that your bloodlines are passed on forever! You'll never..." And so on.

Please! Screw that noise. You think any of that really matters? Ha! No, the greatest joy in life, the joy that the child-free can never know, is that of having someone near and dear, another human life, your own flesh and blood, and being able to make merciless fun of that person and she or he cannot do anything about it.

Please understand that I am in no way advocating abuse, unless by "abuse" you mean, maybe, emotional or psychological - but let's not pick nits here. I just mean that your kid is someone at whose expense you can have a great deal of fun. That's all!

My mom was a pro at this. I have a favorite story I tell about her. I was 15 and not at my most self-confident (to put it fairly mildly). I liked - or, to be perfectly honest, Mom liked for me - a boy in the high school class a year ahead of me: quiet, brainy, well-bred, of a respectable engineering family. His name was (and may indeed still be) Ben, and he worked at Madison Books & Computers, a little place that had stumbled upon the brilliant marketing idea of targeting the gaggle of new engineering and computer techies that descended upon Huntsville, Alabama in the early-to-mid 80s.

(Someday I will see a brilliant marketing idea and it will not set nerves to singing in every fiber of my being. That will be the day that I know I have become, at last, a true government employee, and have purged the last filthy taint of sales and marketing from my system.)

Well, every Saturday, I would practice my fledgling driving skills by heading off in our family's 1980 Honda Accord with Mom to the bookstore. She would peruse the shelves and I would, in my feeble, pubescent way, attempt to chat up Ben at the check-out counter. Did I mention this was all Mom's idea in the first place?

It's important that I stress this point, because it really shows up the parental cruelty that she exhibited in walking up one day, when I was talking to Ben about the difficulty of learning to drive on a stick shift (I had gear-shifting down, but starting up in first, you know, the car tended to lurch forward and stall out if you didn't let out the clutch just exactly so): "Yeah, you've probably noticed my daughter jerking off in the parking lot."

At this point I'll let you know that there's a tone of voice your children will employ when you've succeeded in embarrassing them so completely that they will need to join the federal Witness Protection Program and begin life afresh in another state - or if you've done a really smashing job, another country. This is the wonderful, musical sound that will come to your ears:


So get to stepping, you child-free freaks. You think being smug and self-righteous about not contributing to overpopulation or other problems of the world economy is fun? You don't know anything.

I refer you to a timeless Stephen Schwartz lyric from Leonard Bernstein's Mass:

God said that sex should repulse
Unless it leads to results
And so we crowd the world
Full of consenting adults
(Full of consenting adults),
And it was good!

*Unless you're a dad. Mileage may vary.


At October 14, 2006 8:08 PM, Blogger Pam said...


I remember Ben!! I wodner if he remembers this incident?

My mom preferred for me a guy in that same class named Brad. E-mail me if you want the last name. I had ZERO interest. I hear he is an uber-conservative now. I think I sensed it, even back then!


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