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 .