"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by Dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."
- Steve Jobs

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tips for visiting Sal Island & Santa Maria, Cape Verde

Our first trip to Cape Verde Islands and we chose Sal island.  We stayed at the Oasis Atlantico Salinas Sea hotel for a week.  You have to walk across a dirt road to get to the beach from the hotel, and camped on this road are some locals with their advertising boards for various trips around the island.  The Cape Verde motto is "no stress" but that's exactly what most of the locals are - stress.  We got fed up of constant cries of "hello hello, lovely couple, you come see my shop/you book an island trip/come to the market" etc etc every time we left the hotel - sometimes even if it was only 15 mins since we last passed them and said "no thanks" they still ask you again.  I hate having to be rude or brutal to people but you really have to just say "no thank you not interested" and walk away.  "Where are you from, let me shake your hand, what is your name" - all attempts at friendly chat and I fell for it once but was hit with a hard sell again as soon as I engaged them. 

There is a tourist booth called "Sal Mine" in the town that is dead easy to spot and there is a British lady there and a foreign guy (her husband?) who can book trips for you and give you directions.  I used them as I didn't trust the fading sandwich boards scattered around with some random guy who would then take your money.  I wanted a trip on the OdisseĆ© IV Catamaran and had seen sandwich boards around town, but the Sal Mine lady said that they had stopped sailing until January - so why other people were advertising it I don't know.

It was the same in town.  We purposefully bought from shops that did NOT hassle us, and let us browse in peace.  To the right of the bar in town called "Pub Calerma" there is a lovely art gallery called "Protect Cabo Verde" and the guy who runs that is lovely - he does all his own paintings which are superb, and he is friendly but does not hassle you, he did us a great deal as we bought 3 paintings from him. 

Also in town there is a small undercover market, which I went in to but every stall was "hard sell hard sell, follow you around, make you look at things and never leave you alone".  I understand how these people want to make a living but they don't realise how off-putting the hard sell is to many of the visitors. 

The beach is fantastic - hire a jetski for 30 minutes it's brilliant fun.  Splashing in the waves on a windy day is a superb workout and your skin feels great after an hours' bashing with salty water.  There are dogs on the beach but most of them have collars on and leave you alone, even ignoring you when you call them over to pet them.  Not many locals trying to sell you stuff as you sunbathe, I think the hotels have warned them off from doing this as it would piss people off.

Take some Euros with you but I would get mostly Escudos (CVE) as the island has it's own exchange rate of 100 CVE to 1 Euro, and by paying in Euros you will lose a little bit of money.

Sal island is a kitesurf and windsurf mecca, I definitely want to go back and do a beginner's kiting course!

You can read all my other reviews of restaurants and our hotel on my TripAdvisor page here.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A letter and a plea to Tamara Ecclestone.

Dear Tamara

I feel compelled to write you this little note after watching all three episodes of your reality TV show.

Firstly, I'd like to make it clear that I understand that everyone is free to choose the way they want to live their life and how they want to spend their money, OK?  So all the haters, don't start with me..........This blog is just my opinion and I am only responsible for what I say, NOT what you understand.

You said that you want the public to understand who you are and that you feel you have been misrepresented in the media as a "vacuous, boring rich girl".  You seem to want validation, understanding, acceptance and approval/admiration for the life you lead.

My ultimate conclusion is that you could be one of the world's greatest philanthropic women if you chose to be.  If you truly have unlimited access to your father's fortune, you can make a difference to so many lives all over the world, and at the same time you would be educating yourself about the state of our world today and meeting a huge variety of interesting people who would be a big step up from some of the vacuous celebrity-loving fake people that share the same bubble as you.

Take 15 minutes to watch this talk given by Zainab Salbi, http://www.ted.com/talks/zainab_salbi.html - or this talk here http://www.ted.com/talks/charity_tilleman_dick_singing_after_a_double_lung_transplant.html THESE are truly inspirational woman that deserves to be admired, respected, and looked up to.  They also deserve to have cameras follow their lives SO MUCH MORE than you do. 

While I'm not suggesting you personally should start going into war zones and fighting for women's rights, your father's massive wealth in your hands can support and help people and organisations like this, and you would learn so much about the human spirit, the fight for survival, equality, and happiness alongside incredible inner strength and determination. 

You can choose one or many organisations to help out.  Marine conservation, kids charities, AIDS, female victimisation in the Congo, regeneration of inner city youth projects....the list is endless.  There are so many problems in the world crying out for the sort of money you have access to.  And you could be right in there with them learning so much as you helped finance their endeavours.  Lots of travel, seeing the world, but seeing it from a hugely different perspective than your gilded, insulated life currently gives you.  Please also note I would expect you to take an active part, and not just hire someone to dish out the money and do all the legwork while you simply turn up for the odd photoshoot.  If you want respect and admiration, you know you have to work for it, girl.

I can see you sticking your chin out now and reminding me of your GOSH fundraiser in episode 2 that raised £600,000.  Yes I remember that, but that achievement was somewhat swept away when you spent £300,000 hiring a super yacht for your next holiday, £10,000 on the private jet, £2,700 on bikinis, and then your brother in law spending an eye-watering 60,000 Euros on champagne while your boyfriend gambled huge amounts of money on backgammon.  I'd love to know the final bill for that holiday......And none of this expense seemed to even register on your radar as jaw-droppingly "O-M-G Holy shit did she just spend that???".  I mean, why didn't you just write a cheque for GOSH and not bother with all the hoo-hah of the fundraising evening?  Because in some ways, the exposure and the hoo-hah of that evening was your key to "validation and approval".

But I can sort of understand this lack of awareness if that's the only life you know and the only way of living you've been exposed to.  I know little about your youth and whether your mum took you out into "the real world" to see how the rest of us live, and whether she showed you how some people struggle.  If she never did this then you can't be blamed for having no understanding and perspective of your life compared to ours.  Seeing how "the other half live" on TV is no substitute for getting down and dirty amongst us and REALLY experiencing it.

To quote Grace Dent's TV review in the Guardian "Tamara, due to an accident of birth, has been starved of any meaningful skillset for class empathy."

I don't mention your dad in your upbringing as I get the impression he was rarely around, an explanation for the distant relationship you now share and which you desperately want to change.  I'd love to know what he thinks of your documentary and why he seems happy to give you unlimited access to his money yet restrict your access to him as a father. 

I can see that you have a big heart, as evident in the toy spending spree for GOSH.  I personally would love to spend like that and to see the smiles on people's faces in return, it's a reward that no amount of wealth and magazine spreads can ever match up to.

I would like to set you a challenge for 2012.  Meet with some new charities, set yourself a budget, ask to get your hands dirty, ask to be exposed to the harsh realities of their world, and ask to be a student - a blank slate to be filled with true life experiences that will change you inside forever.  Then open your mind, leave the false eyelashes and £60k bottles of champagne behind, step away from the cameras, and do some proper work.  In my view there is no other way for you to gain the respect you want.

Of course, while you are globetrotting and doing all this good I'd be happy to look after that black Ferrari for you...... :o)

All the best.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Why do today's soppy men act like toddlers who need to be mollycoddled?

By Sophie Heath

Like the original Madonna and child, the young woman on the Tube has her beloved draped around her, his head nestling on her shoulder.  As he snoozes, she texts idly with one hand, while the other absent-mindedly strokes his arm, soothingly, maternally. But this is no serene scene of mother and son — this is a couple. A couple of adults.

If you are forced to use public transport, you see them all the time. Soppy young blokes in skinny jeans, hair artfully arranged to mimic a guinea pig in a hurricane, being mollycoddled by a domineering, post-Spice Girls vixen who, if figures released last week are correct, also earns more than him.

Or perhaps he’s stroking her, as though she were a cuddly toy or a security blanket. You half expect him to start sucking his thumb or the corner of her coat.  If he’s allowed to travel alone, he’ll be reading Harry Potter or playing with his phone, spreadeagled like a giant baby in its cot, scratching his crotch and yawning so brazenly you fear being sucked into the gaping chasm of his mouth.

It’s not just young bucks. Men who would once have been called middle-aged are behaving like teenagers, faces nourished by some male consumer-targeted unction (because he’s worth it), huddled over their Nintendo Wii or iPhone, desperate to ignore the spectre of maturity tapping on their shoulder.
Once the hair starts to recede, the only concession is to shave it all off — leaving a greying-templed baby-man with a risibly-outsized watch on his ickle wrist, lager bottle in hand, clad in a T-shirt that declares Get Your Coat, You’ve Pulled and drop-crotch, half-mast trousers that render him incapable of doing anything but stumble about like a toddler. Be still, my beating heart.

You’d think fatherhood would force these baby-men to grow up sharpish, but not a bit of it.Those who have acquiesced to their girlfriends’ demands and suddenly find themselves pushing a buggy fractionally smaller than a bus clearly struggle with their new role. I recently shared a train carriage with a man who spent the entire 25-minute journey jangling an iPhone in the face of his bemused-looking baby. It wasn’t hard to see who was having more fun. Who’s the daddy?  Quite.

Just look at the success of the U.S. television series Mad Men. Aside from the sharp scripts and the faultless production values, what made it such a phenomenon?  Dare I suggest it was largely because it recalled a time when we still acknowledged a gender divide? When women were women, and men were men.  Call me old-fashioned, but can you imagine Don Draper on his daily commute, earphones plugged in, knees akimbo, playing virtual football on a Smartphone, pointedly ignoring the old lady teetering on a stick in front of him?

Which brings us to the golden age of Hollywood and the men who had studios chomping at the bit to sign them.  Would Ava Gardner have been irresistibly drawn to Frank Sinatra if she’d clocked him shuffling past in shorts and flip-flops, shouting ‘Laters!’ into his mobile?  Would Richard Burton have proved so addictive for Elizabeth Taylor if he were a simpering, feminised mess, confused about his place in the world?

I grew up in the Seventies and Eighties, daydreaming of a future husband with an air of actor Robert Mitchum about him. But today’s baby-men need their women to provide a shoulder to lean on, not the other way around.  The likes of James Stewart and Gregory Peck, while not overtly macho, could never have been accused of being juvenile or girly.   And even those whom some might regard as verging on camp — Monty Clift, James Dean, Dirk Bogarde — were butcher than many of today’s heterosexual men, despite being comfortable with expressing their emotions.  Dean’s ‘You’re tearing me apart!’ was the howl of a wolf, not the bleat of a lamb.  These were real, red-blooded, grown-up men, whose turbo-charged testosterone made them the perfect foil to their glossy female co-stars.  Strong, dependable, loyal — at least until another more pneumatic dame caught their eye — they drove women wild with starry-eyed lust, making them weak at the knees and sparking some primal longing within the female breast, while giving male fans something, however unattainable, to aspire to. 

With the exception of Colin Firth, who fills the Peck/Stewart gap, and Cary Grant’s successor, that old-school playboy George Clooney, today’s big-screen role models are all eternal ‘frat boys’.  Think of American actors Owen Wilson and Ashton Kuchter. Ashton’s currently making headlines for allegedly cheating on his wife Demi Moore, a woman 15 years his senior. But the whole affair is being treated as if he’s a naughty schoolboy who’s disappointed his proud mum — not a man who’s betrayed his woman.  Maybe Ashton has decided he is finally ready to cut the apron strings and flee the maternal embrace? He should count himself lucky — not many thirtysomethings can afford to leave home these days. This, perhaps, explains a lot.

Women have a lot to thank feminist Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch for, but some lines have become catastrophically blurred since the Nineties rise of the Jack Daniel’s-swigging ladette.  Remember the boyband East 17? I think the rot might have set in there.They looked like they had borrowed their big brothers’ clothes and crooned: ‘If you’ve got to go away, don’t think I can stand the pain.’ Just like a child to his mother on his first day at school.

What a weird century. We fret endlessly about little girls growing up too quickly, while men regress back to the womb.  Is it because in a society that’s all about boosting female confidence (‘Here come the girls!’), men are unsure of their role, ashamed of their testosterone?  No one’s saying everyone should conform to a gender stereotype, or that men should be ‘dissing’ their women like some caricature of male aggression.
But neither should masculinity be regarded as a dirty word. Isn’t it time to man up, boys?

Friday, October 07, 2011

The best CF rant ever about becoming a parent

This was taken from Craigslist and is especially for all you Childfree out there:


Yeah, we get it - You're pregnant. BIG FUCKING DEAL. It's not like you went to school for three years and had to take some excruciating multi-day certification. It's not like you saved a Golden Retriever puppy from getting run over by a bus load of Norwegian tourists. It's not like you cured macular degeneration. YOU SPREAD YOUR LEGS AND TOOK A MAN-MUSTARD INJECTION... Wow. Way to go. I am amazed you made it through such a mentally and physically demanding challenge that probably lasted all of 45 seconds (either natural or lab-grown.)

And now we are suppose to fawn all over you. We are suppose to act like it's so incredibly difficult to get pregnant, and that you are now this pristine chalice of life -Something that deserves to be worshiped and adored.

Feel sick in the mornings? Do your feet hurt cause they are swelling? Gotta buy new clothes because you are 12 weeks along and have already put on 19 pounds? NOT MY PROBLEM. Do your job like you are suppose to and shut the hell up already.

Oh btw - Quit using your pregnancy as an excuse to stuff your gullet each and every chance you get. When you proudly stand up at the staff party and announce that "The baby wants" an entire pint of Ben & Jerry's Super Fudge Chunk, a liter of Dr. Pepper, some curly fries THEN TELL THE BABY TO SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Now what exactly do I have to look forward to for the next two or three years..? A constant stream of verbal diarrhea such as "little Bobby went to the toilet and pooped all by himself - But he forgot to wipe and then sat on the floor to pull his pants up! It was so precious, but there was poop everywhere!" or "I'm sorry I'm 40 minutes late, you see I have a four-year-old in potty training and we had an accident." or "I don't feel comfortable doing the speed limit, my baby is only two months old - You can go around." FUCK YOU.

Two years after that and now I'm stuck behind you at the concession stand - And guess what? You feel it's important to empower your child. It doesn't matter that there are nine people behind you, you want little Bobby to make his own choice when it comes to artificially flavored processed movie snacks. By God, Bobby is special. He must be because that's what all the Nike commercials say. There is only one Bobby and he is different from every other person on this earth. He is special by God, and he will be raised knowing he is special. And now, little Bobby has been standing there with his little index finger in his little mouth, staring at all the choices for the last FULL minute. But you aren't the type of parent to acknowledge the fact that many people are waiting for little Bobby to make up his little mind. You don't say something like "Hurry and choose something or I will choose for you" or even better "Other people are waiting, make up your mind" - Not you. Instead, you turn to the sea of humanity that has formed a marginally cohesive line behind you and look at them with an 'I'm sure you all understand' look. FUCK YOU. You are the same people that just can't put their cell phone conversation on hold for 20 seconds while you order your venti no-whip-half-caff almond latte and spinach croissant - Instead you make eye contact with the waiter and raise that index finger. The index finger which happens to be the international signal for 'I am a socially retarded fuckhead.'

One time I saw an interview with Hootie (of the Blowfish), with his wife. It was a lovely 'What does Hootie and his wife do when he's at home and not packing fans into concerts at 20 or 30% of capacity' piece on some lame ass afternoon news biopic show. Anyway Hootie's wife starts talking about kids and how they are such a miracle and (now she is actually tearing up) and she just can't understand how anyone wouldn't want to have children and HOW SHE JUST FEELS SORRY FOR THOSE PEOPLE. Oh yes honey, feel sorry for us. Obviously we are emotionally fractured because we don't share the same fervent desire to add our particular goo to this world's collective semen cesspool...

I don't hate children. I hate the parents that think they are entitled because they have children...

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Take That with concerts full of drunken Fishwives

Posted on the Take That official forum in response to other posts about Drunk people at Manchester:


I have to agree here. Your enjoyment of the concert is purely down to the luck of who you are standing or sitting near. I was at Manchester last night and I got there at 9am to queue and was near the front of the C gate. Queueing was fine with all in good humour, though towards 4pm the women behind us were getting a bit gobby as they were drinking Bacardi. They brought chairs with them to sit on in the queue and just discarded them when the gates opened, along with brollies and half-empty bottles of booze too - jute shopping bags and unused food were also thrown away. Very wasteful and it happened a lot, with people buying cheap chairs to sit on then just throwing them away.

The rules about "no food and only sealed water bottles" is insane and purely just to boost profits from the vendors in the arena. Take That should demand that a) no booze is served inside, and b) we are allowed to bring our own food. I smuggled in two pasta pots and had a sealed water bottle as I wasn't going to pay £4.50 for a glass or wine of God knows how much for a poor quality burger.

I wanted a seat so I could look over everyone's heads, and also because previous gig experience with other bands has made me sick of having to defend my standing territory and ward off leaners and shovers, not to mention drunk idiots with entitlement issues. I chose a row 13 up from the bottom opposite the B stage, bril view :D Soon, the row filled up and just my luck- a group of cackling fishwives in personalised tshirts sat down next to me, booze in hand. I should have moved then and there but everything was filling up so fast I stayed put. From the minute they sat down they were up and down shuffling past me to either buy more booze or go to the loos. Their cackling got worse and worse, the screeching started, the swearing, and then they made friends with more fishwives and their husbands behind them. One loudly declared she was 48 to which I was dying to reply "you should know how to control your drinking then, you dishevelled Harpie". When one of the husbands of this new found friendship offered to get her some food she squawked "ohhh I'll suck your c*ck if you do that" to him, before finding out that his wife was seated 3 seats away. Behind me, a teenage daughter of Cackler no. 2 just sat in silence, probably mortified.

We sat for 2 hours waiting for the PSB to come on and I got sick of moving to let them out to pee - buy drink - pee - buy drink. By the time TT came on, Fishwife behind me was crying and streaked with mascara, reaching over to paw her daughter who was desperately trying to ignore her - so she pawed her husband instead, and the Fishwives in my row were screaming and cackling and one had what looked like yellow puke on her tshirt. Classy. The two ladies in the row in front of us were directing sideways glances at them and you could tell they were fed up of being screeched at in their ears every few minutes. Even people in the aisle opposite me were sideways glancing and looking annoyed. "Look at thaaaa....just lookarit, innit F***ING BRILLIANT" screamed one of them as she took in the full stadium. When the countdown began for the boys to come on stage she screamed "OH MAH GODDD I'M SO EXCIIIITED I'M LITERALLEH PISSIN MASELF".

I had an aisle seat and all thru the gig there was a stream of people going and up and down the stairs with booze. The stadium must have made a killing but at what price to the sacrifice of enjoyment of so many? Drunk people started standing in the stairway and a nervous young steward moved them out the way, then they tried to shove in and stand on my row, and when I refused to move they swore and complained loud enough for me to hear. There was an air of tension wherever there were drunk people because you don't know how they will react if you turn round and tell them to shut the hell up. A drunk lady shoved into the row behind me while the teen girls were away in the loo, and they were "wooooooooo" screaming about 6" from my earhole. I turned to glare and wince at them and they saw me but didn't care and keept WOOOOing. They were moved on when the teens came back from the loo.

When the lovely ballerina had finished her dancing to one of the songs, Jason asked the audience to thank her and a bored and drunk husband's voice boomed from behind me "oh you can shove f***ing [dancer's name] right up my a*se". Later he started singing Queen "Bicycle song", so bored was he to be at the gig. Ladies. if your husband doesn't want to see TT, LEAVE THEM AT HOME.

While I was filming one of the songs on my digicam I was tapped on the shoulder and drunkenly asked "are you filming for professional reasons?????" to which I responded "Does this look like a f*cking professional camera?" and turned away, waiting for the blows to start being rained down on me.

When I left the gig I was lucky to be sleeping at a friend's house right near the Velodrome, so I walked that way, passing pink limos, Land Rover limos, and Hummer limos. I remembered in the queue some passing ladies squawked how they'd "had champagne on the bus". It seems that going to a gig now involves flashy cars, "getting off your trolley", and behaving like 20-somethings on a hen night. WHY?

My main observation is that the 18 year olds who loved TT the first time around, are now 40+ year old (supposedly) responsible mothers but at this gig, they regressed to their boozing inconsiderate, loutish days of youth once more. In front of their children. One mum said to her daughter "whatever mummy does after 7pm you have to forget about". What a shining example. The majority of the audience were 40+ mothers and I can't help thinking teens may have been better behaved, they'd probably have just screamed very loudly a la Beatles style, and would have been too young to buy booze.

While making my way out of the venue I passed the fishwives from my row, with their stained tshirts and still squawking, they were hugging and slobbering on eahother and declaring it to be a "f***ing brilliant night". Maybe for them but it killed a lot of the evening for me.

Take That, PLEASE ban booze from future gigs. Then at least if people drink in the queues, they will have a couple of hours to sober up before the main gig starts.

Regarding the actual gig, well.....I'm not a fan of the PROGRESS album, I don't like any of the songs from it. I wish I'd gone to see the Circus tour, and I love the stuff from their other albums. However I wanted to see the Five reunited with a promise of hearing some of their old hits as well as the new.

Discounting the Fishwives, the stadium was packed with a great atmosphere and I had a smashing view - side seats are the way to go for a clear view of everything. The lads came out (just the foursome) and opened with Rule the World, and Greatest Day - which I LOVE. To hear the crowd singing along and see the arms aloft was a sight to behold :D THe finale of "Never forget" was a tour de force.

However, I disagree with Robbie having near 20 minutes to sing his own hits. The foursome disappeared and the visuals on the screen started, with the opening bars of "let me entertain you" - an awesome song which made the stadium pretty much explode, but it also knocked right out the ballpark the 'tame by comparison' screams of the foursome's entrance at the very start.

Love him or hate him, Robbie is an excellent showman and is the only one IMO who can whip a crowd up in the way that Freddie Mercury used to do. He had 55,000 people bouncing with their arms aloft, it was fantastic. He belted out his biggest hits including the self-serving "Come undone" and as he stood and surveyed the crowd you could see "SMUG" written across his face. He knew damn well he'd got the biggest reaction of the night so far (and prob every night of the tour), and he knew that the other four TT lads knew it. I think that if this gig was all about celebrating "Robbie's return to the fold" then they would have been better singing 20 minutes of their old hits, with Robbie back where he should be doing the vocals. Instead, his solo spot served to remind us all that while TT faded into obscurity, Robster ruled the world for a short while. This just seemed to highlight the whole separation that the band had been through.

When the lads came back on and were a fivesome they did some more songs from "Progress". Word to Gary - stop giving Mark lead vocals, he CANNOT SING. He sounds like someone singing while being strangled. On one of the songs he was drowned out by the music, so weak is his voice.

They did a quick compendium of their old hits while sitting at the piano, and Jason gave a little speech about how it was nice there were 5 of them again, he started saying "when Robbie left 15 years ago" and was loudly interrupted by Robbie yelling "NO - WHEN I WAS SACKED". Jason tried to continue saying again "When Robbie left" but was interrupted again by "no - you said that it was all my fault", and it just seemed an uncomfortable moment. When I'd watched the behind the scenes documentary about them recording the new album, I detected some tensions between Robbie and Jason, and I think they are still there.

Robbie also declined to sing "Everything changes" on the grounds that it "did his head in". You see, it's all about Robbie...he didn't want to sing it regardless of whether the other lads did or if the crowd wanted to hear it. Later on he announced the band and put his name first, and during "The flood" the boys were lowered in cages from the top of the stage but Robbie had to do a head first dive while secured by a wire.

I'm sure that he will also be fully aware that this tour will remind all his fans of his cracking days of "Escapology" and "I've been expecting you", and boost his cred a bit after his previous albums that flopped (when I mentioned "Rudebox" to some girls in the queue they snorted with laughter and rolled their eyes).

So I have a bet with myself that Rob won't be "back for good" with Take That - he's just too much a "force of nature" so to speak, and his ego is just TOO BIG to become a backing singer once more.

To sum up, I enjoyed the gig, wish I'd been away from the boozers, but my "Best gig ever" are still the Kylie Showgirl gigs, sorry! They were utter class from start to finish with NO drunkenness at all.  So be warned girls, if you go to a TT gig and end up standing or sitting near anyone dressed in cowboy hats and personalised tshirts, move elsewhere - ESPECIALLY if they are boozing!

My compilation footage and stills of the gig is here:

Footage with the actual gig audio is here, be warned you will cry during "Angels"!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wonders of the Universe drinking game


Do not attempt this drinking game if you do not have access to multiple compatible livers, a team of trained medical professionals and a death wish. This drinking game should not be attempted by those under the age of 18, over the age of 18 or anyone exactly the age of 18 - side effects may include vomiting, temporary blindness and permanent death.

To play this game you will require:

1 episode of Wonders of the Universe
1 hand
1 glass
1 huge quantity of booze (to taste)

The rules:

If any of the following occur, imbibe alcohol:

1. A panning shot of landscape.
2. A time lapsed landscape.
3. Brian Cox close up.
4. Brian Cox walking through a picturesque area.
5. Brian Cox standing atop something picturesque.
6. Brian Cox makes a clumsy segue from something totally unrelated.
7. Brian Cox looks wistfully into the distance.
8. Brian Cox says something that sounds deep and profound - but isn't.
9. Brian Cox says something that sounds deep and profound and is.
10. Brian Cox changes country.
11. Brian Cox makes a gross oversimplification of science.
12. Brian Cox talks about something only tangentially related to the topic.
13. A CGI shot is reused.
14. Brian Cox looks thoughtful.
15. Brian Cox illustrates a point with a picture on a card.
16. Brian Cox illustrates a point by drawing in the dirt or similar.
17. Brian Cox says "million" or "billion" or "trillion".

Friday, February 04, 2011

SMILE DAMN YOU, at least you have a job!!!!

So I spent this morning invoicing, packing, franking and processing 3 sacks full of orders, all the while watching "Mary Portas: Secret Shopper" on 4oD (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/mary-portas-secret-shopper/4od#3155506).  it was spectacular viewing because customer service in shops is one of my pet peeves, and to see this lousy service exposed on national TV was most Epic.

I headed off to the local Post Office with my heavy sacks, and - in my efforts to be a more positive and upbeat person (yeah yeah come on, get the laughs over with) - I always try to be smiley and nice to counter staff cos let's face it they don't always have awesome, interesting jobs.  And for the third time in a row at this particular Post Office, the two women behind the glass did NOT crack their faces.  The bespiked hair girl who served me peered at me past her nose pin, and was unresponsive as I said hello and explained about my 3 sacks of pre-franked post, while giving her the recorded delivery ones to scan.  Just to make chitchat I mentioned how I'd nearly tripped over one of the sacks as I got them out the car and they all fell over.  No response.  The other woman came to the parcels door to take the other sacks, all the while looking at me as if I was the most hideous inconvenience.  Through smiling gritted teeth I was most polite, asked for some empty sacks, and said thank you.  No "thank you goodbye" in response.  Had I got thicker skin I'd have said "and thank you for the friendly service, next time I'll try a pack of rabid pitbulls as they'll probably be friendlier".

I'm sure that as I get older and even MORE crotchety, I'll think nothing of bringing these po-faced twats down a few pegs.  In this economic climate they should be damn thankful they have a place to live, a job, and an income.  That they don't live in Haiti amongst rubble with not a stitch to call their own, or Darfur, or the Congo where rape is a daily occurrence.  So they should be fucking thankful and appreciate when other people are using their establishment, giving them money, and being NICE to them to boot.

I rarely go clothes shopping now, eBay is my shop du jour.  Where else can I get a brand new £95 Karen Millen waistcoat for £15?  But also, there are no sullen teenage shop girls to deal with on eBay.  Girls who aren't paid enough to give a shit, girls who - through no fault of their own - are not given any customer service training.  Or if they ARE trained, their attitudes scream of "whatevaaaa, I'm not bovvered about customers I just want to earn some money".  It's as if the employers take them on knowing they are stop-gap cheap labour who aren't worth training because they'll all be going to Uni or getting pregnant within the year.  But Mary Portas' programme shows in cold hard light, just what an AWFUL experience this makes for us, the shopper, the ones with the MONEY that keep these fuckers' businesses alive and pay their wages.

I bought a £70 duffle coat in Top Shop once, and the girl who served me was looking at and talking to her friend on the next till, through the whole transaction.  I wish I could have just stopped her and said "give me my card back, cancel the sale - if you can't even be bothered to interact with me as you take £70 from me then I'm not giving me your money".  Same thing happened in a petrol station.  And when I was shopping for new bathrooms, I was ignored for 20 minutes in a posh bathroom showroom, while sales people sat around and chatted.  Maybe they thought they were being non-invasive and letting me browse, but I just felt as if I wasn't posh enough looking for them to make any effort.  made me never ever want to spend a THING with them, even if I was a squillionaire.  Oh how I long for a "Pretty Woman" scenario when she goes into the posh clothes shop that had previously snubbed her, only to rub it in how much she was spending elsewhere.

Primark is the pinnacle of horrendouc customer service.  Another shop that i rarely go to now.  Clothes on the floor, clothes strewn on shelves, no order to sizing, horrific changing room experience, and not a single member of staff over 30 or with any decent customker facing experience.  They are machines, and we are the cattle.  Process process, pack em in, rack em up, bag em then they can fuck off when you have their money.

Why is it that whenever you try to make chit chat to shop people, you mostly see fear in their eyes and you get a polite smile and a stiff response, and you can almost hear them screaming to themselves "WEIRDO!  ON DRUGS!!  GET ON WITH IT SO YOU CAN GET RID OF HER!!!!"  Or is it simply because the younger people today don't have a clue how to communicate and do small talk with strangers.  Or they just can't be arsed because we're "just another customer".  What they don't understand is that if a few minutes chit-chat makes that customer feel special and valued, then they will be a customer for LIFE, which is a priceless thing.

For those people who DO have the balls to complain, and on occasion I have spoken up when I'm sick of queueing and I ask for a second till to be opened, you are met with a look of such disdain and disgust you'd think I'd have just started to drink blood from the baby in the stroller behind me.  How DARE I criticise this 17 year old's shit attitude!  How DARE I communicate that I'm having a crap time in this shop and can they make things better or they'll lose my custom!  How dare I break through their narcissistic sense of inflated entitlement and self opinion, and tell them how fucking rude and disrespectful they are!  Daft old ginger bat, she can fuck off she doesn't know what she's talking about.  Or they will be semi polite to you and apologise but you just KNOW that when you walk off they turn to eachother and pull faces.

How I wish we Brits would quit this age-old politeness when faced with crap shop service.  We need to speak up more, me included, and shame these gits into fixing the problem and winning back our custom and our money, which is THEIR lifeblood.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A marvellous article about the numbed-down violent society we have become

This is a fantastic read:

Some extracts -

We blithely exist in a culture of violence at almost every level, from our food and entertainment to the economy and what passes for politics. The better part of our creative and pecuniary energies alike are expended on the ceaseless operations of a military machine that we service as human cogs rendered before an insatiable Moloch.
We will, in short, place blame on everyone but ourselves — even as we watch the programs and punch the ballots, buy the products and consume the cuisine, tell the jokes and repeat the slurs, drive the cars and close the gates. Moderates will call for peace and civility, and we will nod in thankful agreement. Moments of silence and memorial remembrances will bring a lump to our throats and a tear to our eyes, even as the flag of national expediency slowly subsumes the genuine emotions of compassion and fear. Most of us will say and do all the right things, except the one thing that most needs doing: healing the wounds, not merely by dressing them, but also by undoing the capacity and desire to inflict them again.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Outlive the bastards…

“Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.” – Edward Abbey

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Kitties, wheelie bins, and an ugly Mob Mentality that leave me cold

So yesterday a woman was caught on CCTV stroking a cat before dropping it into a wheelie bin and walking off.  (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1305751/Cat-bin-woman-Mary-Bale-Whats-fuss-Its-just-cat.html)  The cat wasn't found for 15 hours.  When it was fished out of the bin, the owners immediately released the footage onto a Facebook group so they could identify the culprit. Now there are Policemen outside the woman's house, her face and name is splashed all over the papers, and she is receiving death threats.  Comments being posted about her on the internet are such as:

"if ever saw her id violently shove her head into shit filled toilet & hold the lid down with an anvil.... fuckin witch!"

"she looks like an horrible cunt.....bet thats the only pussy she's seen stroked in ages thats why she hates it....bitch....."

"WTF i don't give a shit if some stupid ass police was standing right in her way I would shoot the cop then get that fat bitch get in my car reverse into her then throw her in a bin for 15 hours dumb bitch."

And on it goes, 34,000+ comments on the YouTubepage showing the video.  It's no wonder I'm a Misanthropist.  People disgust me, and the Mob Mentality of the reaction to this crime just reinforces that fact.  Cue the Monty Python "Burn the witch!!  Burn her!" scene.

She's not helping herself by talking to the newspapers and saying "it's only a cat, I didn't think I'd do much harm".  Why isn't a lawyer or advisor telling her to shut up and not say such things, quotes that have been fallen on by the media masses and induced more howls of disgust.  I would think that she'll now have to move house and go into hiding until this incident blows over.  She'll never be safe again in her house, there will always be some delusioned idiot just dying to make his mark by shoving flaming dog poo through her letterbox, or a brick through her window.

Of course what she did was wrong and yes, a punishment should be meted out. It's rather unsettling that the Police are saying they can't charge her because "no crime has been committed" and the papers say that the matter is still "being investigated" by the RSPCA.  Surely they can do her for "animal cruelty and suffering" for what the sentence is, I don't know.

However, the baying mobs and keyboard warriors seem to be forgetting that much WORSE crimes against animals happen every day and go unreported.  Dogs kicked and beaten, cats put in tumble dryers, pet hamsters stamped on, horses kept in their own filth until they resemble Belsen victims.  Their perpetrators are caught and sentenced and nothing is said and we go on with our lives as  normal.  How many of the uneducated Chavs posting hate comments have a pitbull-esque dog sitting at their feet, perpetuating the growing trend for these dogs which has spawned cruelty, inbreeding, abandonment of unwanted dogs, not to mention the growing underground dog fighting scene.

What makes me laugh is that all of these "Kill her" self-righteous doogooders probably have freezers full of supermarket-bought meat. Meat from animals reared in terrible conditions and slaughtered in equally terrible conditions.  I suggest that they stop playing the "kitty in the bin" video over and over, while pursing their lips and demanding Bin Lady's death - and watch this video instead

Now THIS sort of shit is what righteous protests, indignation, horror and outrage should be directed at.  But despite worldwide protests that ARE happening, the meat industry prevails, because we can't break our addiction to meat.  And we don't seem to CARE where it comes from, we prefer to avert our eyes from videos such as the above, and watch "softer" cruelty videos like Bin Lady.  It's easier to stomach, we know the cat was found and is OK.  It's cute and cuddly compared to watching pigs writhing on a concrete floor in their own blood while listening to their almost humanlike screams of terror.

I've not eaten meat for a long while now and yes, part of me is hypocritical in that I posess some leather shoes, and my wardrobe is also full of clothes doubtless made in sweat shops.  But nobody can point the finger at me before examining the contents of their own closets.  The point is, I made a conscious decision to quit meat after I DID force myself to watch those videos, and I was outraged at the levels of cruelty we humans can inflict on animals.  Reading the sick preaching of these internet "Witch burners" simply erodes my faith in humanity a little more.

So please - a fitting punishment for Bin Lady and then LET IT GO.  Then look at yourselves and the contents of your freezer before you pontificate any further on who is cruel to animals.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Yes, Unwilling Raconteur, there are nice Childfree people.......

To the Raconteur....if you wanted to just discuss books, the arts, careers, gardening, or pretty much anything NOT involving kids/being childfree, then why not join just a normal "General chat" forum?  Here are some for you -
http://goth.net/forums/ (Don't laugh - some very good discussions on here)

The list goes on - just Google "general chat" or "Gardening chat" or "[insert hobby here] chat" and there will be a forum somewhere about it.  But you chose to come to a CF forum, and were surprised and somewhat miffed to find that, horror upon horrors, we discuss our childfree choice.  Did you really expect a forum for the CF to never ever mention our decisions or the problems raised by our decisions, or kids and parenting in general?

You point out and also seem to mock the "Kinship" being sought on CF forums.  But you joined one hoping to discuss hobbies, life and the universe, with Childfree people.  Therefore you yourself were seeking some "Kinship".  Can parents not discuss books, film/TV, politics?  Course they can.  So why seek out the CF? 

I don't like football so I'd never join a football forum then complain that they only REALLY discuss football and never the latest episode of House......you get my drift?

I am a member of thechildfreelife.com forums (TCFL), as I understand are you.  And not a new member either.  So you see the many posts about our leisure and hobbies, our views on movies, photos of our gardens/pets/cars, travel and holiday pics.  You would also read some people venting personal woes about money/job/boyfriend, or just posting after a bad day to have a blast about their horrid boss and receive some sympathy.  

I will certainly not oppose or try to hide the fact that the "Childfree Pub" section has over 3000 threads, discussing parenthood and kids.  And yes, some are vicious, some are petty, and there is definitely a sense of "Kinship" there, as you put it.  Why do you think we feel the need to post little niggles about kids or Mumzillas, and why do we like people agreeing with us and forging the old Kinship thing?  Why?  Because in a world and society where parenthood is expected of EVERYONE, and supported by the mainstream media, advertising, politicians, Governments, the economy, TV soaps etc etc....it's just good to know there *are* other people out there sticking up a  middle finger at all the stereotyping and all the Dogma fired at us from all directions and from all levels of society. 

Think about it -  we, the CF, all have jobs and relatives and friends, and the majority of these people will have kids....or will *want* kids as part of their future.  And if we wanted to vent or talk about being CF to them, wouldn't that turn into a bit of a nightmare?   Essentially, those who like and want kids or those who already have them, may not be interested in hearing our own opinions and discussions on all things parental.  In their view "you dont have kids so can't possibly understand" and there is potential for disharmony in the office and an awkward working environment, or even family rifts (many posts on TCFL about family breakdowns due to people insisting on grandkids, or newly married couples being badgered about when they are going to have kids). 

I have a few parents on my Facebook and when I posted up anything relating to being CF they normally post comments - always constructive and supplying their side of the discussion, which I always find interesting reading.  Never have they dropped a "oh FFS shut up you whining old bat".  Whether they say that in private I'll never know ;o)  But I do value their input and thoughts and *maybe* they are curious about my whole attitude about being CF, because they, as parents, would never understand or know how it feels to utterly LACK the instinct or need to have a child - just as I will NEVER understand their NEED to have a child.  Or maybe they just find it rather amusing to read my little snippets of Childfree-ness.

You say you have "never been bingoed".  Well I'm telling you - when you spend the best part of your adult life bing bingoed, and always defending yourself as to why you are CF, you will soon start to seek out some kinship.  And you may even start to get a bit pissed off and needing to vent.  Because it wears you down, it's draining, it's frustrating - having people simply sweep away your statement about being CF with those odious presumptions "oh you'll change your mind!"  "You've just never met the *right one* yet", "But it's different when they are your OWN kids!!".  Thankfully my parents have never been on my back about my CF choice, but I get it from people at work and from friends, or I get it when I'm at a social event and kids may be mentioned.  The arrogant presumptiousness that I will "change my mind" because "everyone wants kids" to me is just a result of successful brainwashing and Dogma spewed forth by society.    

So, maybe when we are back from a party and have had our CF choice challenged by a semi-drunk parent, or have had a nasty bingo at work, or Uncle Ernest has been chewing your ear off about your body clock running out, it's nice to vent a bit on a CF forum and know that you'll get some sympathy, sympathy you may not get from parent work colleagues or parent friends.  Maybe you have family or friends who do not treat you like this, in which case you are very lucky.  But some of us are assaulted from all directions and we will seek out the like minded for reassurance, opinions, and sympathy if we need it.

As for the gripes about badly behaved kids or poor parenting - these kids, and the parents who are (supposed to be) bringing them up properly, are the generations that will be running the country when I'm an old granny living in a retirement village.  I want my granny-years to be safe, secure and economically sound, with good healthcare.  If the upcoming generations are just legions of morons with poor social skills, half a brain, an iPod earphone permenantly attached, and a selfishness/sense of entitlement that means they will only look out for themselves, well what does that mean for our country?  The formative years of a child's life are the first 5 years - when their social skills, personality, intelligence, pretty much everything important to carry them through life - are formed.  If these 5 years are filled with pisspoor parenting then I think I have a right to be worried and to complain about it.

Thankfully there are a good percentage of great well adjusted happy kids and teens out there, and it's always a pleasure to meet and interact  with them - certainly gives me a sense of hope.  But the burgeoning breeding benefit-fed underclasses seem to be encroaching more and more into the fore.  Argh.  And look at what's happening to our schools and education - Political correctness is rotting education to the core, destroying any sense of competitiveness between children ("there are no losers, everyone is a winner!!"), removing powers of discipline from teachers, dumbing down the curriculums, removing the sense of respect towards adults and authority figures.  The Nanny State and Compensation Culture encourages us to always blame others and never ourselves.  Parents are scared to discipline their kids in public in case Social Services get involved, or even the Police.  Smacking is frowned upon.  Parents are allowing their kids to grow up in a non-competitive non-authority non-respect environment, and look at the STATE of these kids.  They can't cope with rejection, they can't cope with being told what to do, they lash out at authority, they are filled with a disproportionate sense of entitlement due to this lack of authority and discipline.  They are soft, wimpy, pathetic, mollycoddled, spoiled (My Super Sweet Sixteen, anyone??).  And they'll be in charge when I'm an old granny.  HELL YES I WILL COMPLAIN.  Because I'm a tad worried for my future, y'know?  But I digress....... *ahem*

"The childfree movement has a serious P.R. problem" - damn straight, and it's fostered by the childed, and society/the mainstream media, and advertisers/PR people.  Cameron Diaz and Eva Mendes have both recently spoken about their decisions to not have kids - read any comments left on these articles by Joe Public and see the Dogma at work, see the vicious responses from the parents, see the "selfish" word batted around, the "what a waste", the "she must just want a CAREER" sneer, as if wanting a career over a child is a bad thing?  What's wrong with just going *shrug* "OK, it's your choice lovey", and then leaving them to it?  (Of course the same could be said of why don't the CF just *shrug* about parents and let them get on with it, but we have a vested interest - ie the future of the world we live in).

Did you ever stop to think that the Governments and societies would want to perpetuate a growing population just to encourage spending, material gain, boost the economy, keep credit and borrowings high?  Keep us down, keep us poor, keep us consuming, keep us controlled, keep us afraid - afraid to lose our jobs "because who will support the kids"?  It's in their interests to encourage more and more babies.  So they happily encourage the Canonisation of parenthood, and portray those who do not choose it as cranks, weirdos, freaks.  Heaven forbid the masses start breaking out from the Dogma, thinking for themselves, and deciding to not go the route of kids, thus having a healthier income and lifestyle, with much less fear of "the machine" that controls us?

There are other CF communities on the web that are much more vicious than TCFL, but I've never joined them because I like the vibe and balance on TCFL and enjoy the discussions on there.  In any hobby or gathering of like minded people you'll always get factions of nutters and people who will overstep the mark.  Get onto Google and find all the mommy blogs and parental communities who regularly lay into the CF people, or the very religious who believe a child is a "Gift from God" and happily tell us that we will "rot in Hell" for choosing not to "accept God's Gift".  Nice.  So please don't reserve the "militant" tag just for the Childfree.

You say the CF movement is not given any respect or credibility.  This may be partly due to the more aggressive CF communities out there, but I believe the BIGGEST part of that lack of respect is once again, the age old assumptions that we will "change our minds", and the sweeping aside of our decision as mere trivia, bullshit, meaningless, because *EVERYONE* wants kids don't they?  Of course they do!  Cuz like, it's just WHAT YOU DO, isn't it?  Because everyone else does it?  Because seemingly there is an invisible rule that simply *everyone* must procreate.  How utterly blinkered.  Those that do not give us the respect we ask for suffer from these blinkers.

"Very few human beings are tolerant of abject insults against children and parents"
you say.  Again, social conditioning.  Parenthood is sacred.  It's been made sacred by society, governments, the media, and parents themselves.  Mothers are canonised, pregnancy is glorified (how many Demi Moore-esqus magazine covers have we had now??), parents get tax breaks, kids get Govt child trust funds.  Can't criticise mum or dad, even if they're doing a crap job bringing up little Timmy, who enjoys playing with knives and swearing at old Mrs Dobson next door.  Single/childfree people get no tax breaks or no Govt bonuses, and we're doing far less damage to the environment by not reproducing.  We should be rewarded, not those who send thousands of Pampers into landfills each year, or irresponsibly have kids that they can't afford then sit back and watch the State benefits roll in.

As a side note, in my local paper this week there was a story about a woman who, despite severe epilepsy and against the warnings of her doctor, she insisted on having a child.  And now at 37 she has died, leaving her child without a mother.  Yet the newspaper headline extolled her as a "BRAVE MUM".  I'm sorry???  Brave?  Selfish and foolish more like, knowing the risks and seemingly not caring.  I wonder how many people will have read that article and thought this woman was foolish.  But you'd never see a headline screaming "FOOLISH MUM" would you? 

I too have a sort of incredulous respect for anyone who chooses to have kids.  My brother recently announced his impending fatherhood.  My immediate response was to ask him "WHY?????" but I held my tongue.  It's his choice and I always knew he'd be a dad one day.  Unless you're filthy rich, the sacrifices and pressure of having kids are to me, utterly crushing, and anyone who goes into them willingly has got to be given some kudos.   But when I hear new mums whining about how "bored" they are "stuck at home with nothing but baby talk" and how they "can't wait to get back from maternity leave and escape the baby", or moaning about how skint they are/how they can't afford a nice holiday/how their tits have sagged to their knees, then I also want to ask them "WHY?"  Why did you do it, if it's now making you so miserable?  Did you just follow your hormones/instinct, did you do it because it was "expected of you" or because all your friends are doing it??  Did you NOT realise that your life will irrevocably change once you become a ward to a new human life?  Quit yo bitching and go change a diaper. 

I respect parents who take all these sacrifices in their stride and do an amazing job bringing up awesome kids, but I do not respect the whingers and moaners who hand their child over to daycare, let the TV bring them up, and then wonder why they grow up into a basket case unemployment statistics.

http://thebritgirl.com/ asks "are the Childfree misunderstood" (http://thebritgirl.com/2010/06/15/so-does-the-childfree-movement-have-a-pr-problem/) - I would say definitely so.

I'm Misanthropic in that I enjoy my own company and I enjoy the company of nature, plants, insects, birds, animals.  I enjoy the peace, the quiet, the stillness.  I do not crave human company nor do I ever feel lonely.  A lot of human beings piss me off.  Society and the Govt TOTALLY piss me off.  I have friends that I love and respect, but if they were wiped off the planet tomorrow I'd not shrivel up and die.  I'm a Malthusian in that I fully believe one day we'll wipe ourselves out through our own stupidity and our burgeoning consumption of this planet and our insistence on squeezing out too many kids.  I'll be happy when we're wiped out.  We've had our time, had our chance.  Give the planet back to nature and let it recover.

To all my CF buddies I refer to the Steve jobs quote at the top of this page - "Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life.
Don't be trapped by Dogma which is living with the results of other people's thinking.
Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your inner voice.
And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, they somehow already know what you truly want to become."

This to me sums up what it is like to be CF.

Finally, if you dislike Childfree forums that much, then erm, don't go on them?   ;)

Thursday, June 24, 2010

McChrystal tells it like it is


"His slate-blue eyes have the unsettling ability to drill down when they lock on you. If you’ve fucked up or disappointed him, they can destroy your soul without the need for him to raise his voice."

That's the sort of person you need commanding armies for sure!

"Obama has quietly begun to back away from the deadline he set for withdrawing U.S. troops in July of next year"

I would bet my entire salary that the withdrawal is never gonna happen.  If everyone had watched the debates in Congress on C-Span about this so-called "withdrawal" following Obama's West Point speech, they will have heard that all Obama plans on doing is "reviewing the situation" in July and then "depending on the outcome of the review and the stability of Afghanistan/Iraq plus the ability of the Afghan army to take over, then they will CONSIDER starting a withdrawal "procedure".  it was such bullshit, Obama should have NEVER given that speech as he must have know he'd not be able to deliver.

Seems he's going to be a one-term President if things don't get better for him.  Guantanamo Bay - not closed.  Iraq War - no signs of that ending - oil spill is a thorn in his side and not helping his ratings - healthcare bill wasn't welcomed - a senior general disses him publicly.  "Yes we can!!"  It seems not.......

McChrystal must have known that everything he said would be published and that his neck would be on the line.  Seems to me that he's either so pumped up with his own self-importance that he thought he'd ride the storm unscathed, OR he's so pissed off with the war and the Obama administration and policies, that he's past caring what reaction his outspoken views receive.  Seems if anyone is qualified to comment on the war and the "suits" in the White House who are sending young men to their deaths, it's a decorated General who has been out on the field and seen all the shit going down.  Certainly better qualified than any of the suits in the White House who's only brush with wars is via the Playstation or XBox.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Shame of Not Wanting Children - The Social Stigma of Leading a Ward-Free Life by Carolyn Ray

An excellent article by Carolyn!
Priceless quote (8/8/2000) from a reader's letter: "My husband and I (both child free, 15 year marriage) have likened staying child free to running down a hall with people throwing chairs in your way, trying to trip you up. The journey requires a definite thoughtful resilience in the face of overwhelming disapproval from family, friends and religious organizations."
--Jennifer Enright-Ford
You do have a choice. Have you ever thought about it? Do you feel guilty just questioning the idea that you will reproduce? 

What I am about to say may shock you. You might feel a bit afraid of thinking about this subject at all. You might be scared you'll change your mind about having children if you think too carefully about it. But considering life without children does not make you a bad person. Thinking before making a decision is good. And if you love children and want some, a little discussion won't change your mind. If you do "change your mind" as a result of reading this discussion, or start to develop doubts, maybe you should give the matter more thought before it's too late. If I can prevent even one unwanted child from coming into the world to lead a loveless life and one would-be parent from taking on a burden that he or she really doesn 't want, I will have succeeded in my purpose. 

Children are not toys. They are not property. They are not rational abstractions that we can discuss without knowing the details. They have lives and interests all their own. It was once typical, even in the United States, for adults to create chil dren so that they could use them for their own purposes: if they needed workers for the farm, for example, they could produce them. And even now, if people are bored or their marriage is rocky, some hope to distract themselves with a new duty. 

Currently, a popular view is that children are creatures who naturally demand sacrifice. Sacrifice is considered by many to be an intrinsic good. It is common for people to say, with an air of moralistic condescension, "What do you mean, children are too large an investment? You have to make some sacrifices in in life!" Perhaps it's true that some sacrifices have to be made in life. But why this sacrifice, in particular?
Many people are unable to imagine a person who is happy without children. There are some eccentric artists and philosophers who never had children, but of course they're oddballs. It is unthinkable that any of the nice people in one's social circle wo uld intentionally go childless. 

Even if they are vaguely aware that there are people with children who are not at all happy, still many people think that living without children increases the risk of unhappiness. This may be true for some people. But there is no good reason to think that it is true for all people, and plenty of reasons against thinking so. 

I am convinced that there are many parents who never wanted children. They created them anyway because they didn't know how to stand up for what they really did want. Judging by the way many parents behave toward children, and by the things they comp lain about, it seems pretty clear that most people don't like children very much at all. They are bothered by a high percentage of the natural behavior of healthy children.
Some of these very people will try hard to convince others to have children too. Why would this happen? Some people genuinely believe that a happy life is not possible to the ward-free adult. But for others, I think defensiveness is part of the reas on for the inconsistency. Whether one voices any criticism of them or not, some people who have created children without really wanting them will consider someone else's decision not to live with children as an implied accusation of a lack of foresight. And others who are happy to live with children consider the decision to do otherwise as an assault on their values and their lifestyle. The rest of the cause can be attributed to unthinking conformity to established practice. 

As simple as this idea seems to me, and indeed as simple as it may seem to you, nevertheless sometimes people do not understand my point. People think I am over-intellectualizing the matter — that normal human beings have strong emotional needs t hat can only be gratified by living with children. 

Of course it would be a waste of time and even morally wrong in some cases to attempt to persuade people who really want children that they should not live with them or that in fact do not want them. But this is never my purpose. 

My only contention is that there is an alternative lifestyle, and that people who have never thought about WHY they want children and WHETHER they really want them, ought not to have children until they consider the alternative. If possible, the matte r should be discussed with an objective third party who is not under his or her own religious or familial pressures to reproduce. 

"Children Might Be Nice..." versus "When Will the Misery of Being Childless End!?"
Examine your feelings very carefully!
I have considered what it would be like to have a very large house. Sometimes when I have lived in cramped quarters, the idea of 20 rooms with large closets creates a quiet longing in me. But when I think about my preferred lifestyle, my preferred ca reer, etc., it is hard for me to justify having an apartment much bigger than the one I have, let alone own a house. 

On the other hand, I want a dog very badly, and the fact that I cannot currently have one is torture for me (my apartment complex doesn't allow them). I think about dogs all the time. I can't wait to have one or two or three as my constant companions . I walk other people's dogs, and have thought about working as a trainer just to be near them. 

The basic difference between my feelings about a large house and my feelings about a dog boils down to: "might be nice" versus "when will the misery end?" 

If you are miserable without babies, children, and teenagers in your daily life, then you know what you want. Unfortunately, most people can't say this, and the result is offspring which competes, often quite unsuccessfully, for its parents' t ime instead of integrating smoothly into their lives. If you think it might be nice to have a cute little baby, think more — a lot more. 

Have You Done The Cost-Benefit Analysis?
List all of the things that you would like to buy and add up how much they would cost. Then get a current estimate of the cost of caring for a child. Would you be happy to give up the other things, if that's the only way you could afford the child?
Many people find themselves counting the money the child has cost AFTER it is spent — secretly, of course, because it would be shameful to let people know that the cost of the child is even a consideration.
This is not intended to imply that there are some things that are more valuable, intrinsically, than children. However, I do think that these are the sorts of things that many people would rather have and that help them feel regret at having had childr en. They ought to give these options serious thought, and not allow themselves to be cowed by taboos forbidding the calculation.
Children crave loving companionship above all else. They are not interested in lots of intellectualized reasons for bringing them into the world. They want to be around adults who adore them. You can lie to your kids, but if you don't really want t hem, they will pick up on it. How many people do you know personally who have told you that one or both parents were cold to them, or seemed more interested in their jobs, or beat them? I know many such people. Their parents should never have given bir th; once they did, they should have sought help either in finding more suitable homes for their unwanted burdens or in learning how to appreciate their new charges.
In what follows, I address prevalent attitudes toward living with children, and the persuasive techniques people use to convince others to live with children. I draw on real-life examples to make my arguments. I write in the first person for the most part, because I believe this device serves as a reminder that there is a real person behind these ideas. I will start my describing my own attitude. 

My Personal Desire
Let me be as blunt as possible. I don't want children. It's not that I can't have them, or that I don't feel capable of raising them, or that I am by nature irresponsible, or that I haven't thought enough about it, or that I don't have a suitable paren ting partner. I've thought about it for many years, both before and after rigorous philosophical training. I just don't want them in my personal life. Not even one.
It has been expressed to me all my life that such an attitude is shameful. Yet I see no more shame in not wanting children than I see in not wanting to be a dress designer or not wanting to run a farm. All three of these are worthy occupations; I do n ot condemn the people who sincerely choose them. I see this as a matter of interest and taste. I can do many, many things with my life. Living with children is just one of those many things.
Whether this attitude will change in the future for me, I don't know and I don't need to know. Given the rate at which unwanted children are born, children are remarkably — shamefully — easy to come by, at any time of life, contrary to common myth. True, eggs go bad, health goes bad, and husbands and wives die. But none of those reasons nor any other is a good enough reason to create a currently unwanted child because I might change my mind. I don't even have a reason to th ink it will ever be too late. 

Reactions to the Decision to Lead a Ward-Free Life
As a woman who has decided not to have children (unless her interests and values change in a way which she does not foresee at present), I listen to a lot of well-meant lectures — and some not-so-well-meant insults. I have also heard reports of a rguments from people whose partners or families are pressuring them to have children. I get the most pressure from people — both parents and non-parents — who have not examined their own alleged "interest" in living with children. If these le ctures were intended to create a genuine love of and desire for children, one could see the point. But they seem designed to persuade me to create children even in the absence of desire for them.
Below, I list a number of the attempts at persuasion that I have heard or that have been reported to me. I'll tell you what I think of each. If you are childless and wish to remain so, I hope that this discussion will help you develop the strength of your convictions. If you have or want children, I hope that the discussion will help you to feel more comfortable with others' decisions to live a ward-free life. 

Emotional Arguments
This group of arguments plays directly on the social stigma of not wanting children, and on other generic emotions such as fear of the unknown, loneliness, and insecurity. None of them make use of what I would consider an appropriate emotional reason for living with children: genuine love and desire for them.
  1. But it's so sad when people don't have children! Their lives are so empty and unfulfilled! Do you want to be like that? The pity is misplaced. I don't have children, but I don't feel emptiness and a lack of fulfillment; it is wrong to assume that all ward-free people do. My life is extremely full of activities and people I love — so much so that I feel overtaxed as it is. There is no longing keeping me awake at night, no sense that there is someone missing. Not everyone's life requires the same things. Your life may require children; mine does not.
    There are people who feel empty and unfulfilled and don't know why. But it is quite possible that any given feeling of emptiness stems from some underlying problem that has nothing to do with children. If so, children can make matters worse by distrac ting attention and energy from that problem. Perhaps the emptiness stems from a longing to get an education, advance in a career, find a more attentive lover, or do something adventuous; or perhaps it is due to depression or psychosis that requires treatm ent, any of which can be more difficult or effectively "impossible" to accomplish with a child around. Unless a person expresses emptiness by peering sadly into strollers or offering free babysitting during their leisure hours, it would be irresponsible a nd unfounded to try to convince the person that the problem is a unrecognized desire for children.
    If you think that the saddest thing you have ever heard is the story of the parents who couldn't make their own baby, listen to the story of the person who regretted having children, or the story of a child who was regretted.
    And in the end, doesn't a desperate and unexamined sense of emptiness seem a rather poor foundation upon which to begin a new life?
  2. What if your husband wants children? Won't it be cruel not to give him any, now that he's stuck with you? The answer to this question for me is quite simple: Any man who wants children in his personal life is incompatible with me at a very basic level, and I wouldn't let him "get stuck" with me. Of course, it isn't that easy for some people. It is easy to understand why many people are so frightened by the social stigma that they don't discuss the matter openly before marriage. Then they have to deal with a much more difficult problem.
    Let us imagine that I marry a man who has not been open with me on this topic, and he begins to pressure me to have children. Supposedly, I love this man, and would not want to deprive him of anything. Therefore, it would be very painful for both of us if I were to deny him children. Wouldn't it be reasonable to compromise and give him just one child?
    I contend that such a compromise would be exceedingly cruel. Even in the case in which I have to do the least work — where a child is adopted rather than carried in my body, and my husband does most of the caregiving — there are severe probl ems with the arrangement.
    • There is no evidence so far that I will ever change my mind about children. If that is the case, then I will be living with a child I don't want. I will be miserable. It is not a good compromise if the happiness of one partner requires the misery o f the other.
    • What about the child's well being? The child would have to live with someone who doesn't want her! This is a horrible thing to do to a human being. It is much worse than preventing my husband, a grown man whose self-esteem and integrity are mostl y formed, from living with a child.
    It is quite possible, if this man's longing is severe enough, that the marriage must end. This would be a much better compromise. Hopefully, he would overcome the social stigma and be more responsible the next time he discusses marriage with someone w ho so openly declares her disinterest in children.
  3. You say you don't want them now, but I know you'll like it once it gets here. A friend of mine from college made this argument to persuade her fiance to make children part of their lives, even though he said he didn't want to. You might have had enough experience with someone to convince yourself that the intrinsic appeal of a new babie will change his mind. It might be a reasonable strategy to use when choosing a new kind of ice cream. It is a terrible risk to take with a child. You can't take it back to the store or use up the whole thing yourself if you are mistaken. As a lover of children, do you really want to subject a child to an uninterested father?
  4. But I want grandchildren before I die! I gave you life. Can't you give me this one little thing? Grandchildren require the cooperation of someone else. That one would even feel comfortable expressing such a wish to an adult child is incredible (in the United States, at any rate), given that so many adults take their parents' feelings very serious ly, and in certain kinds of cases consider them to be a moral injunction, in the sense that the parent would not wanting that thing if it weren't a right thing to want.
    Moreover, attempting to make an emotional connection between the birth of a child with one's own death can play on an adult child's worst fears, even to the point of suggesting that a child had better be produced so that the grandparent will live longe r.
    This is not to say that it is wrong to want grandchildren, or to fantasize about them. But it is wrong to say this to an adult child without qualification; for example, "I've always wanted grandchildren, but I am behind your decision 100%. Only your needs are important in this decision. I've realized that what I especially want is to have a relationship with a child. Since you have decided not to give birth, I have arranged with my neighbor to supply babysiting in exchange for their child's company. " If you are a person who is being pressured by a parent to have children, you should realize that this is the way a responsible person — whether your parent or anyone else — should respond to decisions you make about your own life. If this is not the response you are getting, do not give in to the pressure. Children make life hell for adults who don't really want them; and in turn, those adults make the children's lives hell.
    If you are a parent who is feeling the urge to discuss the absence of grandchildren, keep in mind that such expressions of desire must be carefully controlled, lest a daughter or a son feel compelled to comply with it and bring forth a child for no oth er reason than that someone wants to be a grandparent.
  5. But sweet little babies! How can you not want that in your life? I think this "argument" is supposed to convey the idea that the person finds babies irresistible, and is confused and shocked that there is someone who does not.
    However, I contend that even if a person finds a quiet baby irresistible, it might be possible that he or she won't find a crying baby — or 7-year-old, or a 14-year-old — so irresistible, or even that he or she doesn't really like to be with children or babies the way a caregiver has to be with them. Arguing in this way is an expression of a very superficial and unreflective interest in babies in particular, and it has nothing to do with a genuine desire for real children.
Character Assassination
These arguments have one thing in common: aggressive attacks on the character of the person who is considering not living with children. They seek to persuade by threatening to think ill of the person who does not want to have children.
  1. You must have been an unhappy child. That's why you don't want to live with children. You should see a psychologist and find out what's wrong with you. This sort of argument disguises itself as concern for a difficult childhood. But it is a cruel attempt to persuade by means of hurting the person's feelings or making him or her feel ashamed of having a bad family life. And it works; most people wish to think well of their families, and a lay-familiarity with psychoanalysis can be enough to convince them that there really is something wrong with them because they don't want children.
    If your decision is attacked in this way, after you get over the shock of the attack, consider: what is the point of bringing this up? Should the threat of the stigma of being an unhappy child persuade you to have children? Hopefully it will not! If you were an unhappy child, there are probably some things you should straighten out in your life before you try to help some children with theirs. And if you weren't an unhappy child, then who cares if someone thinks that you were? Are you going to have a child just to prove what you already know?
  2. You're only thinking about the bad parts. If you were a more positive person, you'd want to live with children. This argument, too, is intended to persuade people to create children, although it seems to express hopeless resignation. How does it work? No one, except self-described cynics, wants to be thought of as a negative person. One is supposed to think, " Yes, that's true, I was only thinking of the bad parts. But I'm not the sort of person who only thinks of negative things. Since I am so upbeat and fun-loving, I guess I really do want children."
    However, it seems to me that some of the last people who should be persuaded to live with helpless, innocent children, are negative people who are already focused on how bad it will be. So the critic either doesn't really believe that the person is ne gative, or doesn't really care what kind of life the person's potential children would lead.
  3. Why do you hate children so much? Hold your ground long enough, and you will eventually hear this accusation. It is a well-aimed shot; people are terribly afraid of being accused of hating children. Hans Christian Andersen and the Grimms brothers are famous for witches whose goal in life is to torture, kill, and eat children. After all, a person who hates children must hate human beings, potential, carefree happiness, life, love, sexual union, playfulness, puppy dogs and kittens, and pretty much all that is good about the world. Th e argument is a subtle sort of character assassination, and it works by exaggerating the case.
    The critic makes it sound like the only alternative to hating children is desiring to live with them. It works! Husbands especially, but wives too, fall for it; and the result is children who have at least one parent who "doesn't really HATE them, I guess." I have heard several of my male friends persuade themselves as follows: "My wife wants children, but I've never been interested. I guess I dont' really HATE them, so maybe it wouldn't hurt to have a couple — she'll take care of them most o f the time anyway, since I'll be at work." Sounds like a wonderful father, doesn't it?
Thought-Free Arguments
I have often heard it asserted that thinking "too much" about certain subjects is bad — and the more important the topic, the worse it is to think about it carefully. Romantic love is one topic people try to protect from thought; reproduction ano ther. The following sentiments seem to recommend acting without thinking.
  1. I can't believe you have ever even considered not having children! I haven't! (Or, I've always assumed everyone has children.) I can't count the number of friends and acquaintances who have said this to me. Sometimes it is offered, indignantly, as a reason for having children; other times it is expressed in a tone of wonderment, as though for the first time the person is discovering that perhaps they have their own life to live without an umbilical tie to another person.
    A person might be praiseworthy for never having considered theft or murder. But to never have considered not having children is an error and should be corrected with all speed before an innocent and helpless being is on its way!
  2. It's just what adults do. You grow up, you get married, you have children. I was close to a woman who used this argument to justify having her own children. I had known her for many years, and she had never showed any interest in children at all — no stopping in the street to smile at a baby, no babysitting, no playing with the neighbors' children, no interest in her small cousins and nieces and nephews. After 5 years of marriage, she told me she would cease taking birth control pills in preparation for pregnancy. I expressed my surprise, and asked her what had made he r change her mind. She said that it wasn't really a change of mind, but rather that she had always implicitly considered having children to be part of growing up. You don't have to be particularly INTERESTED in children per se. It's simply the next thin g that adults do.
    But the argument assumes what needs to be justified. If I ask why an adult should have children, it is not informative to tell me that adults have children. Clearly, adults have children; you can see them everywhere. But WHY do they do it? If it is merely that people have told them that that is what adults do, then woe to the children!
Intellectual Arguments for Having Children
Intellectually inclined individuals offer more contrived, academic reasons that a person should have children, and contrived, non-emotional reasons for their decision to have children. Whether any of the arguments in this section add to a general list of reasons for someone to have children, there are two things to keep in mind: (1) someone who has children for one or more of these reasons might still not genuinely want a real child, and (2) the mere fact that someone else thinks any of these is a good reason for having children doesn't have to say anything about how you should feel about it.
Although there are many intellectual exercises that can be performed on and with children, intellectual arguments have very little to do with making, raising, and loving real children. Using an intellectual argument against someone's desire to lead a ward-free life probably means one of two things: that one is for some reason ashamed of the emotional desire for the company of children, or that one doesn't have the desire but has tried to make sense of the idea of human parenting just by talking about it. I find these arguments to be the most objectionable because they are so far removed from the reality of living with children. Children don't need to know that you had good intellectualized reasons for bringing them into the world; they need to kno w that you adore them.
This first argument is on the borderline between intellectual and emotional. Although the threat of unhappiness does much of the persuasive work, it seems to have an intellectualizing, rationalistic undercurrent; in addition, I have some logical probl ems with it that make it seem more appropriate to handle it here.
  1. You only have a limited amount of time — later you might regret your decision not to have children, and then it will be too late! You're better off having them now while you can. This argument seems to have a lot of power; but it is fraught with difficulties, so I'll spend some time on it.
    It must be terrible for people who really want children, to discover that they are no longer able to reproduce. Being able to literally create a child as well as raise one is a big part of the fun, and missing the window is understandably regrettable.
    How much more terrible to have a child and regret that decision! The mere fact that I might someday in the future wish that I had had children does not justify bringing into the world a life I do not now want whole-heartedly. There are already millions (yes, millions) of children who suffer abuse and neglect because their parents unthinkingly gave in to social expectations, and did not magically develop a taste for parenting once the children arrived; I'm sure there still will be plenty of the m once I reach menopause. If I truly come to want children, I'll know exactly where to get some — and how wonderful it will be to not only live with a child I adore, but to know that I rescued it from abuse or neglect! Hedging against regret I mi ght feel in the future is a rather random strategy for pursuing happiness.
    The Future Regret Argument seems to compare creating children to doing homework in school: "You may not want to write that paper tonight, but you'll be sorry when you see that 'D' on your report card! Think of your career — don't you see that gi ving up one night of leisure could mean the difference between a job or not?" But children aren't like papers; you don't get them over-with, and then sigh with relief as you look to your future. Children are your future. It would be more reasona ble to compare the decision to have children to the decision to stay in school for the next twenty years; and if you're having trouble writing that paper tonight, how do you think you're going to feel in five years?
    In fact, the argument, taken to its logical conclusion, is absurd. Consider any person who has one child — might she not regret not having TWO children, and shouldn't she have another to hedge against this regret? How about a person with two chi ldren — ought he have THREE? How about a person with ten children — might ELEVEN be the right number?
    In addition, if this strategy for hedging against future regret were valid, we could also say, "In the future, you might regret having had children — so don't."
    This absurdity — that the risk of future regret means I both should and should not create children now — shows that there is something wrong with the argument that considers future regret to be a problem. Regret is a waste of precious time. It is better to accept my past decisions and move boldly into my future. If I find when I am 50 that I want children, regret is not nearly as effective a life strategy as adoption, foster-parenting, teaching, or babysitting. In fact, babysitting and t eaching are great ways to satisfy uncertain parental urges now, while I take some more time to decide whether I want to live with children.
  2. Society would be much better off if more talented people like you had children. There is no question that the world would be a better place for everyone if every person who had children were talented — with respect to caring for and showing love to children! Then we would not have cruel parents and clueless parents. But the fact that someone is talented at something(s) says nothing about whether it is the right decision for them to create new human beings. People should do what will make them happy, and children should have parents who want them. "So ciety" is not served by thwarting either of these objectives.
  3. You'd be a great parent! Are you just going to let your ability go to waste? I love to teach and to play and to find creative ways to improve life in general. Children like me. Therefore, many people think it is contradictory that I say that I don't want children. I have heard people express their own "desire" to have childr en by citing such qualities in themselves, without ever mentioning that they crave the company of a child. But there are many ways for a person to express abilities; why is it assumed that this expression eventually must be directed toward a child?
  4. People throughout history have chosen to have children, so there must be some value in it. Otherwise, they wouldn't do it. Are you saying that these people are all wrong, that you know something they don't? This argument is actually rather silly and trivial in the best cases (e.g., where the cases cited are cases in which parents actually adore children); naturally, people who want children see some value in creating and living with them. It is incorrect in the worst cases (e.g., where people gave in to social pressures); in these cases, there was something at work other than a genuine valuing of children.
    My point is never to deny that there are people who want children and who find the experience of raising them extremely valuable. Rather, the point is to help people to respond to the barrage of arguments they may face when they show doubts about havi ng children.
  5. But it is natural to want to nurture something! Look at how you take care of your plants and pets — don't you think you're trying to make up for not having children? I nurture the plants in my garden, my pets, and the wild visitors to my property. I lavish attention on my friends. But my urge to nurture is not context-free. When I acquire plants and animals, it is not because I am filling a need to nurture someth ing. I acquire them because I want my life to be full of plants and animals, and my response to their presence and their needs is to nurture them. The mere fact that a child is something which requires nurturing does not make them similar enough to plan ts and animals to make me want one.
  6. If you're worried about having to be the primary caregiver, then it doesn't mean you can't have children! What you need is a husband who is willing to stay home with them. I enjoy nurturing my neighbor's children for about 15 minutes per week, and then I want to move on to the ward-free activities that fill my life. But children need more than a few minutes, which I can only hope they get at home. I am responsible for a ny life I bring into the world, and I have to be prepared to care for it even when I don't feel like it or when my profession requires more of my time than expected. If a few minutes of nurturing is all I want, then it would be cruel to call forth a life whose day is more than a few minutes long.
  7. Reproduction is a natural human activity, so human happiness requires reproduction. It is true that the nature of human beings is such that they can make babies. But it is a natural human act in virtue of the fact that humans are animals, and it is animal nature to make babies. It is amazing and wonderful, surely, but as a human fun ction, it carries no special force, certainly not the force of necessity.
    The nature of human beings, as animals, is also that they can overpower other human beings and take their possessions or kill them. The mere fact that such action is possible to us does not mean that we must act this way, or even that we must act this way in order to be happy. There are many natural human functions which should be curbed. The random production of children without genuine interest in them is one of them.
  8. All human beings need to give selflessly to someone else; children give us the opportunity to exercise selflessness. It is commonly believed that human beings need, whether they feel it or not, to give selflessly of themselves in order to be truly fulfilled, to feel fully human, etc. Children are seen as the recipients of character-building self-sacrifice, and peopl e who don't want children are objectionably selfish, self-centered, uncharitable by nature, egostical, childish.
    One might ask why a living with a child is required for a human being to give selflessly. Mother Teresa, for example, was single and childless, yet her admirers think of her as selfless. There are plenty of ways in which one might sacrifice one's va lues, happiness, leisure time, or whatever else it is that one is supposed to sacrifice for the sake of a child, and none of them involve creating a new life. Finally, there is no reason to suppose that self-sacrifice is an inherent need in human beings at all. In fact, an attitude of selflessness has to be carefully cultivated. I will return to selflessness in a later section.
  9. Having a child is a unique experience. There's no substitute! While there is no question that there is no experience like having/raising a child, uniqueness alone doesn't constitute a good reason for doing ANYTHING, nevermind calling forth a new individual person. There are many experiences like no other that a human life can endure: e.g., skydiving, practicing medicine, serving in the marines, training animals for the movies, practicing law, teaching algebra to high school students, etc. All of these experiences are in some way like no other; there are myriad good things to say about each of them. Yet no one would argue that another person ought to do some or all of them simply in virtue of their uniqueness.
    Nor is it reasonable for someone to argue for his or her own engagement in that activity by simply pointing out that it is unique. A special interest in the subject is a reasonable expectation; and a medical school student who is not the least bit int erested in biology, science, or people's health is very likely to be questioned by friends as to the choice of discipline. Why, then, would no one question a person's decision to have children, even if the person never showed any interest in children?
    It might be replied that while not everyone can be a lawyer, ANYONE can be a parent, and thus there is a disanalogy between being a lawyer and being a parent. This doesn't save the argument; after all, while it takes a special kind of person to become a goodanyone can become a bad lawyer. Just so, it takes a special kind of person to be a good parent, though ever so many people become BAD PARENTS. Just swing a rope, and you'll hit a few in your neighborhood. lawyer,
    The real reason, I suspect, that people don't ask other people why they have decided to have children despite never having shown any interest in them, is that they are afraid of putting them on the spot about a personal decision that can't be defended. In many cases, this is probably best for one's own mental health. But a close friend should consider it one of the requirements of friendship, to question what seems to be an unreflective judgment.
Moral Arguments for Creating Children
There are various version of morality floating around out there, and there's no telling what sort you will run into next. However different these moralities are, their objections to a ward-free existence can be dealt with in pretty much the same way. Here are some I have heard.
  1. That's an awfully selfish attitude, isn't it? In an episode of the television sitcom Mad About You, Jaimie is trying to hide her pregnancy from her mother so that she can surprise her; she tries to throw her off track by suggesting that she is not even sure she wants children. Her mother is appalled. She replies, "That's an awfully selfish attitude, isn't it?"
    Forgetting for the moment any special moral interpretations of the word 'selfish,' several questions arise. First, 'selfish' in the vernacular implies that someone is hurt by the selfish decision; if this is a selfish decision, whose welfare is hurt b y a woman's decision not to have children? Is it Jaimie's? Obviously not. Ordinary people wouldn't call an act "selfish" if the only the actor got hurt. In order for the claim to be meaningful, we must suppose that there is a party other than the acto r who is hurt by the decision. The most logical answer is that it is the potential father; perhaps he wants children, but his cruel wife refuses to give him one. But if the husband is not making this accusation, why would the mother?
    And wouldn't a husband be selfish to expect his wife to not only live with children she doesn't want but to create, carry, and give birth to them, all for him? Sadly, I have heard it said that this attitude is selfish despite the absence of a boyfrie nd or husband to disappoint. So, toward whom are these women and these couples displaying selfishness by refusing to have children? Perhaps the woman is being selfish toward her possible future children by not bringing them into existence! If that's the case, then to fulfill her moral obligation, she'll have to create as many children as possible — we wouldn't want to cheat any viable eggs.
    Perhaps Jaimie's mother meant that it would disappoint her if there were no grandchildren. If any attitude can be called brutally selfish, it is the attitude that a daughter should create, carry, give birth to, and be responsible for children she does not want so that her mother can "be a grandmother." The very idea should make our stomachs turn. Yet we accept that it is natural for a woman to consider the desires of persons who would have no part in raising or paying for her children were s he to have them.
    Another possible interpretation is that Jaimie is not a "giving" person — she is too selfish with her time to give any up for a child. Since childlessness is selfish, and selfishness is morally wrong, childlessness by choice can be taken as a cle ar sign of moral failure. (I deal with other aspects of selflessness and its special burden for women in another essay, and for an eye-opening account of the psychological ramifications of selfless behavior, see Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself, Melody Beattie (New York: MJF Books, 1992).)
  2. Children are a blessing. How can you reject this great gift? The idea here is that children are intrinsically — i.e., without reference to anything else or any desire of any person's — valuable. But why think so? If someone wants a child, and she manages to give birth to one, it is appropriate to say that THAT child is a blessing to her. But why would anyone think that EVERY child is a blessing, aside from vaguely defined religious injunctions to reproduce? If a couple does not want children, or is not in good financial circumstances, and the woman becomes pregnant, that pregancy is not a blessing to them. It is a burden.
    The sentiment used to make sense, when it was common for babies (and mothers) to die at birth or shortly thereafter, and when a man's wealth was counted by how many children his wife or wives had born him. With modern medicine, woman's liberation, and the decline of the importance of physical labor, it no longer makes a lot of sense to calculate wealth in this way. It really doesn't make sense in third world countries, where every new baby means that there will be less food for others. But more impo rtantly, a child is a blessing if you WANT a child; if you don't want a child, in what possible sense can it be a blessing to have one? Thus, as an argument for bearing and raising children, this one is pretty unconvincing.
  3. It is a virtue to have children. People don't make this claim explicitly. It is implied. Mothers often get more respect from people than they got when they were childless. Children are expected to respect their parents, simply because they are in the general vicinity of the child. "Family man" and "Mother" are both terms that engender respect. Certainly, carrying a child can be difficult and giving birth is painful; and there are many things a sincere woman can do to make sure that her fetus gets superior nutrition and protection. But one cannot tell just by knowing that a woman is pregnant or a mother, whether this special effort has been made. In most cases the fetus is carried and born automatically as long as no one interferes. So the implication is that people are virtuous i f they do not interfere with reproduction.
    But consider: If having children required a virtuous character, a lot fewer people would have them! Conception is one of the easiest things in the world to do for most people; it takes no thought, no energy, no insight, no good works, no virtue at all . Many vicious, despicable people make babies and then torture them once they arrive. You just need the animal parts in good working order and they will happen automatically. I don't know of any version of morality that considers that a virtue.
    Apparently, people confuse two types of behavior and treat them as one. On the one hand, there's making the baby, bringing it into existence. On the other, there's taking care of the child and doing it well. If someone does a great job of raising a c hild, he or she is worthy of praise. But there are plenty of people who make a babies, keep them, and don't take care of them properly; these people should be condemned for mistreating a helpless and innocent human being.
    But choosing not to make a baby is very different from neglecting or abusing a child. Yet sometimes it seems as though these two behaviors are considered equally bad.
I'll conclude now by simply listing some questions that many parents seem to have avoided considering until it was too late.
Who really wants kids, and how can they know? People who are happy with their work and hobbies, but still feel a desperate longing for children which babysitting cannot relieve, are probably the kind of people who would be miserable without children. These people should still consider carefully the amount of time, money, mental and physical energy, etc., which children require before they make their final decision. Once the child is here, it is too late.
Questions Potential Parents Should Ask Themselves Aside from questions like "Will I keep a Downs' Syndrome baby or put it up for adoption?" there are other, nonstandard questions that I suggest that people ask themselves. Here are some:
  1. Do I recognize that each child is an individual with its own personality and preferences, and that I can only influence these to a limited extent?
  2. Do I really LIKE children? Do I enjoy playing all levels of children's games? Do I enjoy being with someone who is frequently rambunctious, loud, uninhibited, deliberately trying, and who requires my constant supervision?
  3. Do I enjoy the idea of parenting? Specifically, do I enjoy the idea of correcting someone else, feeling like I have to correct someone else, monitoring another person's behavior and finding creative and sensitive ways of expressing the same thing over and over until it is understood?
  4. Does a disrupted sleep schedule bother me? Or am I the type of person who gets irritated or ill if my 11:30-8:00 schedule is shifted or interrupted? Do I take the irritation out on other people? How will I feel when the baby cries at 2:00 and th en at 5:00? Would I ever feign sleep while my partner tends to the baby?
  5. Is a committed relationship my style, or do I tend to have friends and lovers for a while and then move on when I lose interest? How do I feel about starting a close and intimate relationship with an unknown person with unknown interests (i.e., th e child) that will last the rest of my life?
  6. When I daydream about being a parent, am I picturing the child at a certain age? How do I feel about children at other ages? Do I fully realize that a rambunctious 13-year-old will be my responsibility just as surely as the cuddly newborn is? Am I interested in 13-year-olds?
  7. When I daydream about having a child, do I picture the child doing certain kinds of activities, such as little league? How do I feel about the child engaging in activities that I am not interested in, strongly dislike, or disapprove of? (E.g., if I enjoyed contact sports as a child, will I be disoriented by my son's love of the piano and interior decorating? Will I need to "keep trying" if I have a girl?)
  8. Do I lose my temper with people who don't catch on immediately? How will that translate into a parent-child situation?
  9. Do I expect to be such a wonderful parent that I will never have to discipline my splendid child, or do I expect to make mistakes that I will see reflected in my child's behavior? How will I treat the child when I realize that something I have don e — such as lying to my child — has interfered with his or her purity of spirit?
  10. If you are considering "giving" your lover or spouse children, though you don't especially want them, on the condition that he or she take over most of the responsibility for their daily nurture, have you considered the idea that your partner might fall ill, die, or leave you with the kids? Do you have a fallback plan for that eventuality? Or are you hoping that you will become more interested in caring for the children in such a case, or perhaps that you will be able to quickly meet another pers on who will take full responsibilty for them while you do the things that are more important to you?
  11. Is your principle reason for having children that you and your lover want to "make something together" or "make something that will be part of both of us"? If so, do you also love _children_? What if the child's personality and interests doesn't much resemble either of yours — will the fact that it has half of each of your chromosomes be enough for you?
  12. Do you have extra money that you don't think you'll be using for anything else? Or do you expect your years with your child to be years of "sacrifice"? If the latter, are you accustomed to "hardship" or do you think it is possible that you will r esent the cost of the child who is preventing you from buying other kinds of luxuries?
Living in an industrialized, informationalized society, we have the luxury and the responsibility to think about children as real human beings. We have the luxury and responsibility to assess our own worth without reference to any potential l ives we are able to create. You have the luxury and the responsibility to think about it before you commit.
Is it possible to live a full and happy life without children? The answer depends on who you are. For at least some people, the answer is "Absolutely!"
The interesting question remaining, then, is, "Who are you?"