Terrible Twosomes

What’s wrong with the childless?

Sometimes, what’s good for the Fray is very hard on your poor Fray editor. Emily Yoffe’s provocative article on the parenthood debates, “My Mommy War,” generated hundreds of responses. Even more daunting, the level of discussion in our Hey Wait Fray has been higher than any I’ve seen before. Apparently, almost everyone has been either a parent or not—and nearly all have something lucid and interesting to say about it. This synopsis can barely scratch the surface of the great material in our Hey Wait Fray.

Many readers of the original controversial Dear Prudence column kept their criticism focused on a procedural point—that it is inappropriate for an advice columnist to disregard the premises of a letter-writer’s complaint. Gilker_Kimmel writes:

I am a father of two. […]. I love my kids dearly and have loved being a father from the first breath they took. But that didn’t touch my decision to have a vasectomy shortly after my second child was born. […]

Even at that, we have had to endure the same stupid pressure to reproduce that originally sparked the letter. People who do not wish to have children, shouldn’t. They shouldn’t be pressured, they shouldn’t be cajoled, they shouldn’t be urged. Period.

It’s true that the letter writer was asking for advise - on how to deal with egregiously rude advise. That doesn’t open the door for heaping on additional egregiously rude advise.

But does rude advice call for rude response? Reader j_snare shares his polite correspondence with Yoffe:

I was one of the people that did write to Emily. […] Emily was overly thankful for the tone of my response, based on her words and tone in her reply back to me. What I was able to gather was that a huge number of people were terribly rude. She didn’t agree that my wife and I shouldn’t have kids, but she also didn’t press the issue. The way she phrased it, I was happy that we could agree to disagree. […]

So come on people, cut her some slack. Emily is a human being with real feelings. If you want to send her a hurtful note, keep in mind that she may be getting hundreds of such notes, and that getting such a strong response can be somewhat upsetting, especially considering the volume. Keep the tone civil and respectful, and I assure you she will do the same.

Many readers seem to find the topic of parenthood quite personal (go figure). The Fray abounds with testimonials of the precious antics of toddlers and the accomplishments of the childless. But, as wif notes, personal experience makes for a poor rhetorical tool in such discussions:

Without hesitation, I can say that having children is the best thing I have done in my life. I am all for reinforcing and encouraging people who need it to take the step. But what’s great about the experience cannot be conveyed in short, simple anecdotes which often grate like cell phone ring tones. It is a series of small often forgettable, often unnoticed details and psychological repositionings that add up to a rich, full life. In miniature it requires the talents of a poet. Expanded, it takes the sensitivity of a novelist.

Like kolmogorov,who finds evangelizing the childless “like trying to convince someone that life-after death is better than life—just follow me across the threshold on faith,” many readers express frustration at their inability to persuade the childless that a change of mind will lead to a positive experience. But, as with lee63, many of those who have opted not to breed resent the idea that they are ignorant of what they’ve forsaken:

I was angry by the response Prudence provided because I know how it feels to have EVERYONE second guess my decision. I don’t understand why people think the decision to not have children is this sudden thing that came about with no thought. Sometimes I think I’ll scream if I hear one more person tell me I can adopt, or tell me a story about a 45+ women who had a baby. I know what’s available out there, but I also know me and having a child is not the right thing for me. When someone goes on and on about why I should have kids, it’s the same as coming out and saying “you are wrong” and I find that offensive. I say hats off to all the parents in the world AND to all those who will not have children. There are ups and downs either way.

Some posters make a valiant effort to shift the discussion into a more neutral gear. rufus thinks the whole debate is pretty bizarre:

There is a middle ground between loftily deriding childraising as a mountain of diapers and insisting on its being an extremely expensive exercise in providing only the best and purest to an extension of oneself. It is actually possible to take it easy, push a baby around in a ratty old stroller, avoid worrying about the purity of every particle that comes into the baby’s airspace, and not spend every night worrying about whether Junior will make it into Harvard. The child often enough ends up healthy, without allergies to every earthly substance, and relatively free of neuroses. […] The whole Breeder/Proud Singles problem is pretty exclusively American, perhaps a product of everybody’s need to justify exactly why they’ve chosen their way of life. But who really asked for a justification?

switters, who is pretty bizarre, captures a central irony of the whole debate:

Having children today could quite possibly be the most pure, unadulterated form of optimism, hope, and belief in our inherent goodness, and, in another sense, the closest we approach the divine in all of us. Or it could just be a broken rubber. Jury’s still out.

For many other posters, the debate over child-rearing is political. 3dogs suggests licensing parents. Jaque argues that those without children should  pay more to society. By contrast, yerevan believes he’s subsidizing middle-class brats:

People who have had children should not place the burden of their personal choices on the rest of us. We should not have to work overtime because they want to go to a kid’s school play. We should not have to pay extra to cover their family’s health insurance. And if people get rebates from taxes to pay for private schools for their kids, then singles should get a rebate as well for having NO kids in the public school system. […]

I’ll be damned if I should support the personal lifestyle of the middle classes. You want the kid - then pay for the kid - with your time and money.

One of the stranger lines of argument is that parents must breed their politics into the next generation. Chauncy writes:

My wife and I are not “mindless breeders” We are educated, well-traveled, and involved in the community. Those that would judge me for having children remind me of the morality police from the right wing. Just because the decision to remain childless is not based on the Bible does not make it any less offensive to impose your beliefs on the rest of society. […]

[Besides]; who is going to carry on the fight against environmental destruction and conservatism if the Republicans are reproducing like mad and the self righteous left quits making babies? I’m not saying that you should have kids just to win a few seats in congress, but political opinions are shaped in the formative years just like anything else. The world isn’t going to get less lousy if you let the other side have all the kids and shape the values of our young people.

Xando finds such talk  patently silly:

I can’t tell you whether or not you should have children. But I can tell you that if your list of reasons for not having children contains silliness like social policy analysis, you need to seriously reconsider how you’re making such decisions.

There are also many threads that elude easy categorization, such as the parenting insights of Caromer:

I agree somewhat with the characterization of us reproducers as breeding morons. Why do we do it? Because we are programmed to do it. For the future, not for us. For our children.

Children are one of the creations that people put their lives and hearts into; art, the house, a love affair, a piece of carpentry or music. But unlike those things, which are made to have some purpose defined and centered around you, the creation of a child is mainly a gift of life to the child. So, the motivations of the creator are secondary. That is why reproduction is truly selfless and somewhat moronic. Sane people do not create things unless they have a purpose to them. The main beneficiary of a child is not the self, but the child. Sure, there are joys, but there is heartache too. There may be another hand to work on the fields, but there’s two more mouths to feed; the child and the pregnant spouse. And the child does not serve the parent. It’s a constant one way pouring of effort.

If you have the time, you should check out some of the other excellent posts in the Hey Wait FrayGA 2:30am EDT

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Emily Bazelon’s piece on whether to send your 6-year-old away to summer camp was a hot topic in Family fray, inspiring one noteworthy, if odd, exchange about the sex life of counselors:

A self-proclaimed summer camp administrator, CharlesWesley, offers reassuring words for parents:

While I don’t want to discount the many parents who have posted here about their negative experiences as children at camp, I do need to point out that summer camp now is a very different place than summer camp in the 60s, 70s or 80s. The focus on child safety - physical, mental, and emotional - is much greater, for obvious reasons as well as financial. In these litigious days, summer camps simply can’t afford to have non-qualified or sketchy staff around.

TheRanger forcefully dissents from this benevolent view of summer camp:

The counselors are high school or college kids who just wanted a summer job or just to be away from home. Many try to arrange to have a boy/girl friend to be a counselor as well. These agendas detract from the camp mission.

“If they’re spectacular and enjoy working with kids, does it matter if they hook up with a co-counselor in their free time?” shoots backCW.

In TheRanger’s next post, the conversation takes a digressive turn:

You neglected to tell exactly when counselors have not only free time, but free time to hook up with co-counselors. This would be valuable to know. Supposing that you got one night a week off. When do they do laundry?

CW earnestly replies:

Maybe the counselor needing to do laundry works at a summer camp with on-site laundry facilities, so they spend 10 minutes putting in their laundry before they leave for their night off. Or maybe their laundry is done for them as a cabin.

TheRanger’s true motive: “Please tell me how to do all my laundry in ten minutes.” But CW stays on message: “I don’t understand what the purpose of the laundry discussion is anyway. Counselors don’t spend all their time off doing laundry, nor do they need to.”

rundeep, for his part, sees summer camp for toddlers as part of a broader cultural rush to end childhood:

I know that childhood has been a flexible concept for the last century and a half. A hundred and fifty years ago, children were working and being injured in industry. Then we started to think schooling might be a good thing, and nurturing too. Then childhood became a full-fledged thing – a time when the young could learn and should play and spend quantities and qualities of time with their parents. Middle-class moms were encouraged to stay home to serve these interests.

Then, somewhere, family life like this got expensive and women got restive. Two working parents meant kids needed another form of care. Lots of it is terrific, some is not. Summer sleepaway camp is just the next trend in the industry of sending your kids off to be elsewhere while you work.

In her mini-treatise on Parents and Responsibility, MarieA indicts those who “comfort themsevles with the fact that they give their children a ‘lucrative lifestyle’ … just as sending them to camp helps them have a sense of ‘community’ and learn new things. How about giving them parents?”

And finally, for all those curious, FrayEditor05’s first confessional contribution to the Fray, detailing his own early traumatic experiences at summer camp, can be found here. AC

7:40pm PDT

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Seth Stevenson’s underwear manifesto, torn between its tendency toward confessional anecdote and its desire to pass as legitimate consumer research, elicited comment from medical professionals and fetishists alike.

Nurse caba11 offers some advice to young men:

As a mother of sons, I saw all of them go through the ‘Boxer rebellion.’ But I am glad to report one son prefers BB’s (boxer briefs). Personally I think they are way sexy and prefer to see my husband in them over any other style. I agree with you that they are probably a better choice health wise although I only have personal observation as proof (I am a nurse). I have seen many of the older ‘boxer generation’ with testes almost to their knees! Gravity works on all of us! So, my word of advise to all you young men is take gravity into consideration!

CuervoJones issues an even more dire warning about testicular torsion.

If their anti-gravitational boost is a plus, boxer briefs “don’t take to that much friction very well” according to runner Prometheus73 here.

The preferences of women were by no means absent from the debate, with johnboy779 openly admitting his wife’s role in the decision-making process:

As far as I’m concerned, underwear has 3 functions: 1) comfort; 2) support; 3) sexiness. The first two are decided by me, and the third by my wife. Most comfortable? Definitely briefs. Boxers are too loose and bunchy, and boxer briefs are too hot: I don’t need my upper thighs warmed. Most support? Briefs and boxer briefs score equal–again, comfort favors briefs. Sexiness? My wife loves those tight and short briefs. So briefs win, particularly if you have a sufficiently athletic body for them.

Indeed, mpose speculates that men’s underwear choices are in no small part “made by women who are tired of seeing their men in yellowed, moth-eaten, elastic-decayed underwear.”

Chiaus chronicles his long road from brief to boxer and back again:

It feels good to for once be ahead of the trends. I treaded this path from tighty-whities as a child/adolescent to boxers to boxer briefs. I first made the switch to boxer briefs back in the early nineties and was also full of evangelical praise; I often try to convert friends and people I met at parties. If you think girls like your boxer briefs, try making it the center of conversation at a party.

I didn’t realize I was an early adopter of the movement, but I must now report that I have gone back to plain boxer, after a brief retro-flirtation with tighty-whities, and am happy with the change. I believe it is because I live in hot and humid Houston that I prefer the light and airy boxer, but it was my year in even hotter and more humid Hong Kong that showed me the limits of the boxer brief.

I still keep a few pair for playing sports in, but like when I made the change to boxer briefs: I can’t imagine ever going back.

On a fashion note, Gilker_Kimmel declares boxer briefs to “have all the stylish glamour of a 1890’s men’s bathing suit. Or perhaps modern day bicycle shorts.”

In a Linda Richman moment, RichardSF notes that boxer briefs “are neither boxers nor briefs.” Talk amongst yourselves.

As for options not discussed in our limited boxer vs. brief debate, whatevs alerts us to the virtues of “square-cuts.” MoreChoices expresses disbelief that the “micro-brief” failed to get equal airtime in Seth’s manifesto.

Since Frayeditor05 had never heard of such a garment, he decided to enlighten himself here. Discuss your choice of lingerie in Fashion. AC10:26am PDT

Thursday, June 8, 2006

In response to Shmuel Rosner’s article on what America can learn from Israel’s West Bank security barrier, fraysters conducted their own seminar on immigration, with the following keynote speakers and topics:

Good Fences/Good Neighbors: revisionist (Re)readings of Robert Frost

“High fences don’t always make good neighbors.” I suggest you repeat this over and over. The Chinese failed with walls, the Romans failed with a wall, the Soviets failed with a wall, the Israelis are failing with their wall.

Fences and neighbors was from a bloody poem. Not historical wisdom. —janeslogin

The Wall: A Global History

1) Nobody has screwed with the Chinese on the west border for centuries. Yes, I know about Japan during WWII.

2) The Roman empire stood for how many centuries???
And it fell because of a malignant leadership, not because of a wall.

3)The Soviets wall was to keep people IN!!

4)The Isrealis wall in ineffective because they are SURROUNDED by countries that want to destroy the country entirely.

Walls are effective however, only when there are people willing to stand behind them and enforce the boundries that the wall is there for in the first place. As a countrry, we are unwilling to make that commitment! —evensteven

Israel’s Fence: Rethinking the Analogy

The biggest problem the Palestinians have with the Israeli wall/fence/barrier is that it is mostly on Palestinian land as opposed to on the actual border between the West Bank and Israel. The wall cuts off farmers from their fields and people from their schools, hospitals, and other needed places. The Palestinians have said they would totally support the wall if it was on the 1967 border line! A wall on the 1967 line would have been just as effective in keeping out terrorists. As it is, a large percentage of the West Bank is on the Israeli side. Its route reveals its true purpose - to illegally grab land.

The correct analogy for a US wall would therefore be a wall that was largely in Mexico, effectively annexing portions of Mexico in the process. It would snake through private Mexican property and even through some Mexican towns. Can anyone see that as justified? —azfWhile I don’t doubt that the fence helped, it is clear that a number of factors contributed to the drop in terrorist attacks in Israel. Arafat’s death. Better security at checkpoints. Better security at Israeli cafés and buses. A feeling among Palestinians that the attacks aren’t effective. The loss of payments to bombers’ families from Sadam Hussein. The list could go on and on.

Is the fence effective? It’s unclear at this point. It isn’t even finished yet. —BarkinJ

Immigrant Labor: Policy Solutions

1) Temporary Guest-Worker Program

I have a lot of business dealings in Mexico, both with Mexican business men and with the Mexican government. They seem to have a much better handle on this that we Americans do. Their solution would be to have a guest worker program that pools the labor. American businesses that need Mexican labor could recruit the personnel they need, then draw up a contract with them for a certain job and duration. At the end of the contract period, they could either renew the contract or let it expire, upon which time the Mexicans would go back across the border and await a new contract. The logistics of this are not simple, but it would be workable. —AmericaFirst

2) Living-Wage Employer Fine

Make it a law that any employer caught hiring an illegal – from Walmart sweepers to your sister-in-law’s maid – be fined the difference between what they paid the illegal and $20 per hour worked by the illegal. The money to be paid into local road, school and law enforcement budgets. —the_slasher14

3) Snitch Reward and Protection Law

Provide a “snitch reward” of a dollar per hour worked to anyone turning in an employer for hiring an illegal, and make it a mandatory minimum 10-year jail sentence for anyone who attempts reprisals against a snitch. —the_slasher14

Register for the seminar here in Foreigners. AC6:54pm

Monday, June 5, 2006

To all you desk jockeys out there, welcome back to the five-day workweek. In honor of that special muddle-headed Monday state of mind, we here at Fraywatch present you with teasers. Since you can release the suspense at your leisure, we’re hoping you’ll find them less cruel than that other teaser—the prospect of that oh-so-distant summery Friday. Enjoy:

I was born in the seventies, grew up around LA, went to one of those valley prep schools.

For a certain subset of people in that part of the world, the Chili Peppers were an essential element of your growing up. You can hardly think of walking up Hollywood Boulevard barefoot in summer at fourteen or fifteen, or candy flipping at Topanga Beach at dawn, or your friend saying he’s been kicked out of school cause they found shit in his locker and that he has to tell his father he’s hooked on heroin that night, without thinking of them.

dot, dot, dot, and finish that thought! Thanks to thebluenomad, responding to Friday’s Music Box.

Berger goggled.

“Oh, these are trade secrets and then some. You won’t remember this meeting but it’s everything you’ll be picking up on the first few weeks of the job anyway. In fact, we believe you’ll be especially effective in targeting the ‘key consumers’ as we call them, which is why you have been recruited. Our research and early analysis shows that your unusual cognitive structure makes you especially adept at identifying marketing nodes. Mr. Berger.”

She flicked a few switches on the tall panel. “You have no idea how bloody difficult an imposition on my time it is that I trust so few people with the second kind of binding.” She looked back at him. “With any luck, you’ll work out as my new second. Otherwise…” She let the imposition dangle.

Dot, dot, dot, and finish that thought! Thanks to Dr_Thanakar. (Have you been following The Unbinding?)

I am always dumbfounded by how we treat the truth in this society. On the one hand, we raise our children to tell the truth all the time, even when it hurts. But, we really don’t expect them to tell the truth all the time, only when we ask them a direct question. Now, to me the only true measure of a lie is when you knowingly answer a direct question with a misleading or erroneous statement of fact.

But in this society, if you follow this rule you will surely be a very unpopular person and likely out of work very quickly. Americans have a peculiar way of dealing with the truth. We expect the truth when we want assurance for our own desired outcomes but shun it when we are afraid of the answer.

As Jack said “you can’t handle the truth”. Its very true. For instance, I am a sales person.

Dot, dot, dot, and finish that thought! Thanks to Woolley, responding to Wednesday’s Politics article.

WHY did he eat the fruit? He ate it because he knew his wife was going to get evicted. And you know what? He loved her and wanted to protect her and take care of her. So when God came back, Adam wasn’t slinking when he made the whole “the woman you gave to me” speech. He was owning up to being a man. He stood up and basically said “look, she’s mine. You gave her to me and I’m not letting her go. If you put her out then I’m going too. If the choice in one hand is my friend/boss/landlord, my job, my wealth, my life and the other hand is the woman I love. Then I choose my wife. No contest.”

Dot, dot, dot, and finish that thought! Thanks to bracip, belatedly responding to an earlier installment of Blogging the Bible.

DC Comics has just announced the reintroduction of Batwoman. The original superheroine premiered back in 1956 but was subsequently killed off in 1979. The new Batwoman will share some commonalties with her predecessor – her alter ego is named Kathy Kane and she will wear a costume replete with cape and boots. However, DC says they have also decided “to give her a different point of view.” By this they mean that Batwoman is now a lesbian.

Fan reaction to the change ranged from outrage to hearty approval, with a wait-and-see sentiment dominating. “This is not just about having a gay character,” DC insists. “We’re trying for overall diversity in the DC universe.” […]

Let us examine some of the reasons why people “just don’t like” Clinton in a more analytic light. One Democratic strategist has labeled her “black licorice,” meaning that the people who like Clinton find her irresistible while those who dislike her absolutely despise her. I would argue (tongue-in-cheek) she is also the new Batwoman of politics and can be best understood in those terms.

Dot, dot, dot, and finish that thought! Thanks to The_Bell, responding to another Frayster.

Department of Homeland Security


Central Park
Birds ‘n shit.

THREAT – low

Yankee Stadium
A-Rod can’t hit in the clutch. Haven’t won since 2000. Damon looks sharp in pinstripes. Expensive hot dogs.

THREAT – low

Special instructions: Torre will need to be ferreted to secure location.

No longer playing.

THREAT – moderate

Dot, dot, dot, and finish that thought! Thanks to august, responding to the weekend’s big story.

May you have yourself a bearable Monday. GA1:00am PDT