I just finished reading Jen Kirkman’s book I Can Barely Take Care Of Myself: Tales From A Happy Life Without Kids. It’s a hilarious, quick read that really made me reflect on my own experiences as a childless woman, and how rude and presumptuous people can be just by asking a simple question. More on that in a minute. It also reminded me of a piece that I wrote for Uptown Messenger two years ago. I typically keep my comments to myself when it comes to baby making, but I couldn’t resist writing a response to a very alienating opinion piece, which is best read aloud in a thick-as-molasses drawl. To sum it up, a magazine that touts itself as “THE soul of the South” published an article back in 2011 that reduced women into baby factories. I’ll quote the essay here so you don’t have to subject yourself to reading the entire thing.
“Southern women love babies. We love them so much we grab their chubby thighs and pretend to eat them alive. This is not the case in the North or the West or the middle bit.
I grew up, like all Southern girls, babysitting as soon as I was old enough to tie my own shoes. I was raised to understand that taking care of children was as natural and inevitable as sneezing, that when we were infants, somebody looked after us, and thus we should clutch hands and complete the circle without any fuss.”
Now make no mistake; I definitely identify as a Southern woman. I love me some sweet tea, I own more than one seersucker dress, still call my grandparents “maw maw” and “paw paw” and throw “y’all” around because uttering the words “you all” feels unnecessarily formal in pretty much every social situation. I grew up with alligators for neighbors and have been to more crawfish boils than I can count. However, I’ve never had an inkling of a desire to produce offspring, or even babysit for that matter. So it’s no surprise that Kirkman’s book on the joys of being kid free really struck a chord with me; she grapples with the idea that some people think that you aren’t a real woman until you pop one out. Kirkman is a Yankee living in L.A., but I know she would recoil the same way I did when I read the sweeping generalization that us ladies born below the Mason-Dixon line basically want to get knocked up the second we exit the womb.
For years, I’ve just been a good Southern gal and responded to the “So, when are you going to have kids?” question with a polite “I’m not.” That question is bad enough, but throw “when” in there and it gets even worse.
See? No other option, just when, not if. It’s pretty rude to assume someone’s reproductive wants and needs. Instead of trying to shut down the conversation with my two standard responses:”kids just aren’t for me” or “the oven is shut down,” one day I’ll get sassy on someone and respond with something like this:
Them: “Oh, you’ve been married for ten years and you still don’t have kids?”
Me: “I secretly have cannibalistic urges and am afraid that if I ever run out of food in the house I’d resort to eating my baby, cooked medium rare, served with a generous coating of chimichurri.”
But really, I’m tired of having this conversation. How about we all just respect each other’s decisions?If the answer is no, let it be and don’t probe any further. Please and thank you.