Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sin of the Week, 11/18/07

I am liar.

Of course I don't really prefer being alone. Of course I would rather be married and have a family. Of course all my bravado and stupid jokes about being a droid are defensive. Of course they are. My avoidance is impressive, but in truth, you could drive a truck into some of the chinks in my armor. An opportunist who has seen a woman in my condition could render me a sobbing, infantile idiot in less than a day. If he felt like it. Either way.

It's a good thing I don't get out much.

This is on my mind right now because Slick recently posted questions and asked commenters to answer. One of the questions was "What is the most annoying thing about your significant other?" I wrote, "It pisses me off that he doesn't exist." I didn't think about it much when I was typing my response. Maybe something to the effect of "Well Jesus Christ already, if he ever shows up, I'll find something to hate about him."

I checked back later, and Slick has written this response that looked very much like pity. I was all like, "Relax, it ain't that big of a deal."

And then of course I got to thinking. Is it a big deal? Actually, no. It isn't.


Of course five-seven years ago it was a very, very big deal. I wanted children very, very badly. Most women want children, so I wasn't really breaking any records there. But I found myself different from other women in the scope of my desire and the range of things I was willing to do to satisfy it. I wanted marriage and a family very badly, but I wasn't willing to go through the gears most women I know operate while searching for a mate.

Gear A: marry a man I am in perfect love with who loves me back and have perfect beautiful genius babies in whatever quantity I order. Gear A is dominant from ages 21-34 or perhaps 35.

Gear B: marry someone I respect who also respects me and have as many children as we can before my ovarian reserve declines and just hope they babies are not completely screwed up. Gear B is dominant from ages 35-38.

Gear C: have artificial insemination and hope that the ONE baby I will be lucky enough to maybe have isn't completely screwed up. If I get that far, I'll tell the kid he was artificially created in a lab and that fathers aren't really all that important. Over and out. Gear C is dominant - or scaring the living shit our of her and her family - from 38-43.

Of these three gears, only the first two were ever operative for me. Though my desire to have a family was more intense that that of my friends, I got permanently stuck somewhere between A and B. I wanted to be in love with someone I respected - a pretty tall order for a woman at any stage of life, let alone the sharp rocks of the late 30s. I didn't really have the bravado to marry a man I didn't love so I could produce children. I never considered having children alone. I never considered a childless marriage all that desirable either. It has always been, in other words, an all or nothing proposition. And truthfully, most women don't have the guts to operate in Gear C. By 38 most single women discover that they don't have the guts to raise a child alone, and they train themselves out of wanting children at all by constantly reminding themselves of how great life is because they are child-free. "I can spend all my money on ski trips and facials." or "Wow, I can buy that Prada bag, and no one can criticize me for it." or "I can go the third world countries and go rock climbing. No one really needs me, so it's fine."

That said, there is another regrettable complication: Men are not disposed to date or marry women who are over 35. I realize I am generalizing, but my observations show me that this is true. A woman in her late 30s who wants children is descending into the desperation of plans B and C, and she reeks of misery and despair. It is impossible to hide. She is not fun and interesting; she is a walking agenda. The man knows that with one word, he can pull the trigger and make her life wonderful - or ruin it. It is far more simple and easy to find a 25 year old and have a grand old time doing "whatever." Chances are she'll be better looking than that 35 year old too.

The running of the gears and the disposition of the marriageable male population are not circumstances that produce love and respect for a woman in her late 30s. They produce emotionally abusive relationships ending in the woman's time being wasted and the man moving on to a younger woman with "fewer issues." Sometimes they produce a hasty wedding and an unhappy marriage. This is the type of relationship currently available to me, and I can't tell you how far I am willing to walk on broken glass on my knees, backwards, to avoid either fate.*

So what am I doing? What is my plan now? Is there a Gear D?

Why yes, there is a Gear D. I invented it and you can have one too. It's easy: celibacy.

When I hit 44, it will be virtually impossible to have children without donor eggs, which for me, why bother? At that point, the situation shifts - children will no longer be possible and diminishing ovarian reserve will no longer be the centerpiece of a relationship. Then hopefully, maybe maybe maybe, I will meet someone who already has children and does not need to marry a 25 year old. Perhaps his first wife will have died or left him for Some Other Guy. Who knows. Maybe I'll meet someone who never wanted children. But if I am really honest with myself I'd like to gain proximity of some fashion to some sort of small people somehow someday. Will this happen? I have no idea.

What I do know is that I can't date because the ovarian politics of it are so unappealing that I can't even stand the thought of a cup of coffee with an age appropriate male. It's goes beyond the merely terrifying; it's horrifying. I cannot even go there. (OK I tried once and I kept watching my watch trying to figure how soon I could leave).

If you are going to comment, do not tell me how it is not too late and how love finds a way and if I just think really hard about it or pray, or whatever, I'll "find someone." Finding someone is for me, right now, the harbinger of hell. (See above). I knew when I broke up with my former boyfriend (FB) that the question of children was closed. When you end a relationship at 36 and need several light years to pull your head out of your ass, you know that "it" is most assuredly over.

So Slick, internet, entire post-modern world, of course it sucks. Of course I wish it had gone differently, and of course I am subject to occasional bouts of sadness and regret, but it beats the ever living shit out of lots of alternatives, like being married to someone I hate and having to stay in the marriage for money or for the sake of the children, or being married and unhappily childless, or being a widow with children, or being born in an irrigation ditch somewhere far far away and dying of malaria at four, or getting my ass shot off in Iraq, or finding the love of my life, only to have him killed by a suicide bomber, or perhaps worst of all being married and also lonely because I do not love my husband. I know enough of myself to know I'd leave, and please dear God spare me the self-hatred I would feel if I left someone who really loved me. No... thank... you.

My situation, though vaguely regrettable, is no big deal. If nulliparity turned out to be the biggest tragedy of my life, I'll call myself way way way ahead of the curve. All indications, however, are that I'll have bigger problems. Most people will. It's just life, and if this is what my life Is, I'll take it.

-Nina takes a page from the playbook of Sturdy Girl and says, "Relax, it's really fine; she only cries 6 (ok maybe 7) times a day.**

*Yes, of course I could just tell Some New Boyfriend that I didn't want children. Of course I could. But wouldn't I be lying? Well, yeah, I would be. It is true that I have written it off a possibility, but it would be disingenuous to act like I am simply not interested in children. That's just not true. So we end up back at square one.

**Also I am so totally kidding .


LAS said...

Okay, I'm a little scared right now. This has been on my mind - the very things you write about. It really does scare me, but I can't really talk about them with anyone (cause no one else I know is in my same situation or really expresses fear about this). I'm scared I'll never find a man and I'm scared I won't find one in time to have children. Yes, I know, I am only 30 - BUT - the thing is - I don't know how long I have. All I know is that I've been told not to wait very long because the chemo drugs (although I appear to be fertile still), will cause me to be infertile early and we don't know when. I'm scared no man will ever want me because I had breast cancer. Now of course if my options are alone and unhappy or unhappy with someone, I would choose alone, but still, either way, it looks like I'm destined to be unhappy.

ByJane said...

This is where being MMMUUUCCCCHHHH older than you pays off. The options you list now--the gears--may well change. E and F and G may well appear. Or C becomes viable. How can you be so sure of how you'll feel in 5, 10, 15 years. Having been your age, I KNOW I feel much differently than I did then. I have a better understanding/acceptance of what is possible, what is probable, and what I can live with. I don't have kids. I know what you're feeling.

BTW, have your own eggs frozen.

em said...

"it beats the ever living shit out of lots of alternatives, like being married to someone I hate and having to stay in the marriage for money or for the sake of the children"

Absolutely. Your situation does beat that. (Course, as you've discussed leaving is an option but that's a mess too) I know the whole "the grass is always greener on the other side" thing is overused. But sometimes it fits, so from me to you - enjoy what you've got - you're right it's not so bad.

Nina said...

LAS, You have time, at thirty, to meet the right person. You might not have time to have children, depending on the effects of the chemo, but you know, none of us really knows if we can get pregnant or not until we try (hopefully). Lots of women start trying to have kids at 28 and discovered they are infertile for one of hundreds of reasons. Some women are still getting pregnant at 45. The only other thing I know about the men/dating/marriage business is that none of us really has very much control and for that reason, it's a waste of perfectly good fear to worry about being alone. You can "try" to meet someone and fall in love all you want but provided you don't spend all your time hiding out at home, your odds are as good as anyone's at finding someone. Or not. Why is it that I know so many of the people I would have voted "least likely to ever get married" - who are... married? Why do I know dozens upon dozens of women who are very much the marrying kind who are unmarried? Nobody knows. With regard to the breast cancer issue, I can understand your concern. But it can also be a handy screening tool for weeding out superficial jerks. A decent guy won't hesitate to marry you - or date you, for that matter, if he is interested in YOU, rather than the status of your breast(s). I am surprised that there isn’t more support out there for younger women with breast cancer. Surely there are other women your age who are having the same worries about dating and marriage and fertility, right? Have you dated at all since you finished treatment? Also, don't even think it's impossible to be happy. Read what Jane wrote - you have no idea how you are going to feel about any of this in 5 or 10 years. Anything is possible. Anything, including marriage and children - including deciding you want neither. Deciding you'll definitely be miserable can literally bring about the misery. Try your best not to think that way. Deciding to be happy is far more promising. Sure it may not happen but at least you'll be on your own team for trying.

Jane, if it wouldn't involve a loss of actual years of life, I would set the dial to 45 right now. And you are perfectly right; I have no idea how I will feel in five years - that is one of the things I like best about life: the unpredictability of it. I do hope more gears present themselves. That would be nice. And yes, I could get my eggs frozen but I can just picture, in ten years, finding someone, going through IVF and then getting so invested in the situation that I have a FUNERAL for a two-celled embryo. I don't know if I have the emotional constitution to follow through - but you are correct. I'd be giving myself options.

Em, well said. I am being sincere, too, when I say I am happy to have the life I have. It could be so very much worse, and I do cherish my freedom. I also should have mentioned that the life I have now would be impossible – or at least very unlikely, if women who lived before me had not fought for the right to vote, wear pants, drive cars, own real estate and hold good jobs. I appreciate the heck out of the fact that I have options.

utenzi said...

I don't think women are interesting until they hit 35, Nina, and I'm sure I'm not the only guy that thinks that way. And you're right, not being in a marriage isn't the end of the world.