Sunday, November 27, 2011

You know I couldn't NOT take part in this

Commentary to follow, but for now I'm just avoiding doing real work. Kind of like this guy.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On dating: projections and reflections from a recently uncoupled, middle-aged, Childfree chick

Okay, so I slacked. But I'm back. And this time it's personal.

I've recently been talking to some folks about my dating woes. Well...not really dating woes because I'm not dating yet. I won't be for a while. That's just how I roll. I'm not a rebounder and I usually take pretty long breathers in between relationships. This time is no different, except this time I'm in Buffalo, New York, which is most likely the most Childfree-UNfriendly town on the planet, and if my previous forays into dating here are any indication, I should probably just get another cat.

Prior to meeting the most recent boyfriend (who is not from Buffalo but did live here for the last six months of our relationship), I dated here and there, but met with a lot of opposition - mainly in response to my Childfree lifestyle and my unwillingness to date single dads. People are really rude and awfully defensive and pushy when it comes to this topic.

And the worst offenders? Men. I mean, yeah, women are aghast at the very suggestion that lack of maternal instinct actually exists, but the men's reactions are what really surprised me.

A few years ago I asked a male acquaintance what he honestly thought my issue was when it comes to dating and attracting a quality partner. I said, "let's pretend for a second that my weight has nothing to do with it, and let's examine what the deeper issues are. Like, let's pretend I'm going to wake up tomorrow and not be fat. What's my problem then? What makes me so repulsive and undate-able then?"

He thought for a second and said, "well, your biggest issue, I think, is that you're 37 and have never been married and you don't have any kids. Guys see that as a HUGE red flag." The way he went on to describe it made me feel like a clearance-rack item, doomed to be picked over as I continue to collect dust on the back of the shelf. It's apparently better to be a divorced single mom than it is to be a middle-aged maiden. I believe I'm classified as what they call a..."spinster." No one takes into account that I spent 10 of the last 22 years earning higher degrees, and maybe I didn't have time to date, plan weddings, or have babies. No one seems to understand that not everyone meets their soul mate at 21. No one (except my girl friends - go figure) thinks it's "normal" to take a year or two off between relationships. No one thinks it's "normal" that I didn't get married the day after I graduated from college and pop out my first kid less than a year later. I'm regarded as "defective" because I didn't live up to the status fucking quo that everyone follows here. I'm not begrudging anyone their happily ever after, but maybe I should, since people see nothing wrong with pointing a self-righteous finger at my barren womb and unadorned ring finger.

I gave up on dating sites a long time ago because they just don't work (more on that later), but shortly after I moved here eight years ago, I received a note from a man on one site or another, and when I looked at his profile, I saw that he'd clearly skipped over the part in my ad that mentioned I wasn't interested in single dads. He had a kid. So I very politely wrote to him and said, "hey, thanks for the note. You sound like a great guy, but I should be honest with you and tell you that I'm really looking for someone without children. I live a child-free lifestyle, and someone with kids just isn't compatible with that. Thanks so much anyway, and best wishes in your search!"

His response:

"If you are going to reject me based on the fact that I fell in love with a
woman before you and our love resulted in the birth of a beautiful little girl whose light shines on my life every day, then I feel sorry for you. Your heart is dark, your soul is black, and I am lucky to avoid you. You clearly have deep-seated issues and I wish YOU the best of luck in your search, though you might just have to get used to being lonely for the rest of your life."

Holy shit. I'm the one with issues? Um. Okay. Ten bucks says that guy's still single, too.

Everyone knows that having kids is a big lifestyle decision, but NOT having them is a big decision as well. I have chosen the Childfree lifestyle based on a careful assessment of myself. With a few exceptions (i.e. my nieces and a few close friends' kids) I am generally not a fan of children. That's not to say I would ever visit harm upon one; I just prefer to not be in their presence the majority of my time. Everyone says, "oh, it's different when you have your own," but I have never felt the pull to be a mother. Some people just aren't born with a maternal instinct. Does that make me a freak? Perhaps. But better to recognize this and not produce an innocent life than to do it just because it's what's "right" and "normal" by societal standards and end up shortchanging the poor kid. I mean, parenting is not like buying a pair of shoes that you discover pinch your toes after an hour. There's no allowance for "buyer's remorse." And if there's no real desire in the first place, why push it? Just because I have "working parts" does not mean I should use them. People who don't like math do not generally become accountants.

Some women get all wistful and swoony when they see a baby, or see a couple with a baby, or see a family out and about. Some women aspire to have a van full of children, with representations rendered in adhesive vinyl stick-figures on the back. Me? I am happy for friends who have babies, because it's what they want and they're getting their dreams fulfilled. But you want to know what makes me wistful and swoony? Couples with dogs. Couples who travel. Couples who spend weekend mornings lolling about in bed with coffee and the crossword. Couples who don't ever have to fight over who's going to take Junior to hockey practice. There are women who would rather be hockey moms and vacation at family-friendly spots. I, however, am not one of them.

Older and/or non-custodial children are no exception. One of the reasons I never had children was not just because I am uncomfortable around babies and toddlers, but because teenagers bug the shit out of me, too. And grown children produce grandchildren. Rigid and closed-minded? Perhaps. But it is what it is, and I feel strongly enough about it that I won't back down.

So if I have no desire to be a parent AND doubt my ability to effectively execute the role, what on EARTH makes it so weird for not wanting to be a step-parent? Shortchanging myself and missing out on some potentially great dates? Perhaps. But I'm willing to live with that. Being alone for the rest of my life? Maybe. But I'm not alone. Partnerless? Yeah. But my life is otherwise very fulfilling, and I'm not so desperate to be coupled that I'm willing to compromise on this issue. It's really the only thing that I consider a true deal-breaker. And as long as there are men out there who won't date me because I have two cats, I feel totally justified in turning down men with kids.

What can I say? Not all of us are Carol Brady. Live with it.