Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Good for goose and gander

While I'm not a fan of advice along the lines of, have more/fewer children than you wish, because America, I don't think there's anything wrong with having a conversation about how old we are when we reproduce, which is the main point in the article Miss Self-Important just pointed me to from her secret Twitter account. Yes, Judith Shulevitz mentions the birthrate, albeit pros and cons in both directions. But the real issue she's dealing with isn't how many babies get born, but how old their parents are getting. This is not an immoral discussion, because, while it kind of deals with theoretical people, it's very much about already-existing ones, and the trials they go through to have a kid, to raise one when already older, and to raise one with whichever problems evidently correlate with (are caused by?) older parents.

But the way to have this conversation isn't to tell individuals that they've made the wrong choices. It isn't to frame it as a question of individual choice. Rather, we - following Shulevitz's lead - need to look at how society is structured, at what it means that if you do everything right, you're having kids too old. Mothers and fathers alike. The only ways to have kids at a biologically-reasonable age and be UMC-successful are a) to be one of those people who are super-fertile and capable of producing healthy offspring at 45, this exists b) to be one of those people who graduates from Harvard Law School at 12, or c) to be one of those people who just lets life happen, and for whom everything just falls into place.

If we're going to use the highly-scientific sample that is my list of Facebook friends, virtually none have kids, and those who do tend to be from a different generation. I'm 29. I feel no peer pressure whatsoever to reproduce. While it could be that between now and 35, everyone will suddenly give birth (and there's been a wave, or more like a ripple, of marriages), it doesn't seem imminent.

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Not worthy of a full post of its own, but continuing a conversation about male materialism-or-lack-thereof in the comments here, and perhaps weighing in on the gendered-toy wars waging everywhere else on the Internet: the male gift guide. I kind of think Refinery29 is just messing with us. Both posts are, by implication (consider the source), advice for women on what to buy the men in their lives, likely their boyfriends, husbands. It's great that Simon Doonan wants a $170 rose pin, but entirely irrelevant to the task at hand. It's not that these are guides to what gay men want (gay men are a diverse bunch; gay men are not women, not that too many women would want the rose pin, either) as that both of these guides are basically things women would want - or would think to give other women - but painted blue, as it were.  It's not that men don't ever want expensive things, and we get a hint with the car and whisky suggestions. But do they really crave expensive boots? Toiletries sample sets from upscale beauty companies? Yes, yes, some men do, and as the deity Rufus Wainwright once sang, "Men reading fashion magazines/Oh what a world it seems we live in/Straight men." But most won't. Whether we attribute this to gender essentialism or marketing, there's just not much demand there.

So what does one buy for men? Nobody knows.

6 comments:

CW said...

I don't want any of the stuff in either guide, and I agree that the authors seem more interested in making a political / cultural point about the acceptability of men liking things that are traditionally feminine than in giving practical suggestions regarding that will work for a large proportion of men. Nonetheless, I happy to see a guide that wasn't all about golf, barbeque, and football. You don't have to be gay, feminine, or metrosexual to fall outside the scope of most gift guides for men.

I will probably get my dad a good book.

Phoebe said...

CW,

I think the problem is really just the concept of gift guides. A book is generally a good idea for a man or a woman, if you have a sense that, and what, someone likes to read.

But I didn't see these guides as making any kind of progressive point. It seemed more that these were fashion blogs aimed at women, but that opted to half-acknowledge that at this time of year especially, women buy gifts for men. So these are woman-who-likes-fashion gifts, but in a different font or some such.

David Schraub said...

After careful review of the literature, television, magazines, and cultural references of all sorts, I believe the universally accepted gift that every guy Has To Have is a threesome.

Beyond that, it does seem to get kind of murky.

i said...

Trust me on this one -- between now and 35, everyone you know (barring, like, two people) will suddenly give birth.

Am heading home for the holidays and was looking forward to a raucuous, drunken girls night out, only to find that it's been turned into a baby playdate. That's fine -- I like babies, I have one myself, I guess I will bring it to the playdate -- but I was rather looking forward to miniskirts and martinis.

Phoebe said...

i,

We shall see!

David,

While I don't tend to think of them as contests, I believe this is what's referred to as winning the thread.

David Schraub said...

You may not think of them that way, but I have a wall marked with little blogger silhouettes for each victory.