Get Off Your Phone!

It’s a common sight at events, concerts, or attractions to see someone (or many someones) with their camera or phone firmly planted in front of their face, recording or snapping pictures for the entire experience. It is also a common sight to find blog posts, rants, and other forms of judgment telling everyone that this is the wrong way to enjoy your life. “Get off your phone! No one wants to see those pictures! You’re not experiencing the event, you’re just taking pictures!” There is a common sentiment that an unmediated version of reality is the best version of reality, and that if you’re taking pictures or video your mind is on how to capture the experience rather than on the experience itself. If you’re not 100% mentally and emotionally present, then you’re ruining your own experience!

The odd thing about this is that more often than not, those taking these pictures aren’t distracting anyone else. Their behavior is entirely irrelevant to the people who are upset with it. It simply has to do with how that individual is experiencing someone, a personal choice that is entirely their own. This need to police other people’s happiness is an impulse which is both incredibly self centered (other people need to do things the same way I do or they won’t be happy) and incredibly unhelpful.

Here’s the thing: everyone has different ways of experiencing the world, and everyone appreciates different things. We get happy in different ways. We engage with things in different ways. We are present in different ways. These individualities are why not all of us like to go to bars and not all of us like to play Dungeons and Dragons, but for some reason when technology is involved it’s no longer ok to have preferences but instead there must be a Right and a Wrong way to exist because otherwise technology will infiltrate our lives and destroy our human connections (or something).

For some people, taking pictures allows them to experience things in a more active way. They prefer not to simply be passive recipients of their experience, but want to think about how best to capture it, about the angles of light and the image of what’s going on. For some people, thinking about how they will capture the experience makes them think about what they want to remember in the future, and helps them focus on the things they like most about their experience. Some people just like taking pictures or videos and that is an additional enjoyable experience beyond whatever primary experience they may be happening.

And guess what? Even if you personally don’t want technology to be a part of your day to day experience because you find it makes you less present, that doesn’t mean that technology inherently pulls people out of their lives and pushes them into the “unreality” of the internet. Some people find that having their phone on and around is a distraction from the people they want to be with, where others (especially the introverted and socially anxious among us) find it a useful way to take a quick break from socializing when they need a mini recharge. The point is that people experience technology (as well as social situations) differently. In the past, if someone had a hard time being fully present in a situation with lots of people for a long time, all they could do was leave or just try to stick it out or maybe dissociate. Now there are more strategies they can employ through technology. They may be more visible, since someone taking out their phone is more obvious than someone simply zoning out and ignoring what’s happening around them, but people have always had ways to take a break from a current experience. All of us do it, and that is 100% ok. We don’t owe any place or person or experience all of ourself for the entire time we are there.

So please friends, take out your phones if you want, take those pictures, hide behind your camera or take that video because you want to watch it tomorrow. Let yourself disappear for a bit into technology or find new ways to love the concert you’re at by finding the perfect image to capture it. I want you to know what makes you smile, and that’s no one’s business but your own.

 

Adulthood: Mourning The Past

I’ve been having a lot of ennui about being an adult lately. This is not uncommon. Twenty somethings excel at ennui and not wanting to be adult. But there appears to be more to this ennui than simply being overwhelmed or not really wanting to take responsibility.

Accepting adulthood doesn’t just mean taking on new responsibilities and learning how to do practical things. All of those are difficult and stressful, but what might be the most difficult part about growing up is the changing relationships and the loss of the world that existed when you were a child. When you begin to take responsibility for yourself, it shifts every relationship you have been in with an adult it shifts how the world looks, it shifts what consequences look like and how you handle them.

One of the most difficult of these for me is relationships. I’ve had an extremely close relationship with my mother since I was young. When I was a kid, this meant that she took care of me, she protected me, she made the world an easier place for me while teaching me about all the awesome stuff I could do in it. She was amazing at making things happen that I deeply wanted to happen (e.g. going to that really cool summer camp).

Now that I’m an adult, that person that my mother was no longer exists. In childhood, parents can become a bit godlike. Sometimes they’re kind, benevolent, awesome gods (like my parents), and sometimes they’re shitty gods, but they do hold all the power in the relationship. Sometimes this means they can come across as faultless. No matter how you view your parents when you’re a child, you’re not seeing them as real, complex human beings (because that’s not the relationship parents and children have).

As you grow up and the power dynamics in your relationship even out, you see your parents in more and more realistic ways, as human beings with faults and fears. The god that protected you as a child dies. This hurts. A lot. It’s a little bit terrifying too. The relationship you had with the adults in your life will change drastically, and that is also scary and painful. You’ve replaced your parents with these new, odd people who are very much like your parents but suddenly can’t fix things for you and screw things up sometimes and have a history and want to do things other than cook you dinner.

This may sound very selfish, but at its root its about losing someone you love. Of course I still love my parents, but they’re not the people that I saw as a kid. I’m never going to get back the feeling of Mama Bear Who Will Fix All My Problems And Make Everything Ok. That’s a good thing, but I miss her. Part of growing up is mourning. Oddly though, we never talk about the fact that it’s a good and healthy thing to stop and feel sad for the things that are gone. Generally the attitude is “well you knew you had to grow up, everyone has to do it, move on”. That’s unhealthy and callous. Setting aside some time to feel sad that things have changed makes perfect sense and makes it easier to go on and do the difficult work of paying your bills and organizing your own damn vacations and building a new relationship with these people who are your parents.

There are other things to mourn though, and other places to notice that as your perspective changes, you may have to learn to be in relation to new things. A big part of this is consequences. As a kid, consequences are often arbitrary and usually limited by the adults around you: in all likelihood nothing you do will have the consequence of you ending up homeless, getting fired, going hungry (there are circumstances in which these things happen, but for the most part you aren’t going to cause them). As an adult, these things are possible, and your actions could cause them: you can get fired, you can lose your apartment, you can not have enough money for food! AH! Your relationship to the world has expanded into a much bigger and much scarier territory.

While it’s quite likely that you won’t end up making any of these huge mistakes and you probably know that, the fact that they now exist is something that’s scary and new. The world has changed in an irrevocable way. This is another thing that you get to mourn. Every couple of months if you need to, you can sit down and have a good old worry fest about the fact that it’s now up to you to make sure you have a roof over your head and food in your tummy and no deadly molds growing on your bathtub. And once you’ve felt that worry you can stand back up and remind yourself that you’re capable and not going to make any deadly mistakes, then go about your day.

The natural emotions that are part of growing up aren’t a bad thing, but for some reason it’s become normal and acceptable to tell young people that they should just get over it and ignore those emotions because hey, it’s just being an adult and everyone has to do it. Newsflash: there’s lots of things that everyone has to do that are unpleasant and terrifying and that deserve some time to respect that. A great example of this is that everyone’s parents dies and it’s absolutely understood that you get time to grieve. Similarly, growing up is a time of flux and change and confusion. All of these come with natural emotions and it makes sense to feel those emotions.

Let’s stop with the shame and start accepting that a part of adulthood is mourning what you lost when you put childhood aside. Sometimes you do get to sigh deeply and miss having Mom tuck you into bed when you’re sick, or having long afternoons of playing outside in the dirt. You get to mourn the things you miss, and hopefully you can figure out how to reincorporate some of those things into your life in appropriate, adult ways. growing up

 

The Sexualization of YA Fiction

Most people think of teenhood as a time of raging hormones and awakening sexuality. “Experimentation”, “hormonal” and “out of control” are things we tend to associate with young adults and sexuality. Young adult fiction seems to have picked up on these associations and has one-upped its adult counterpart in terms of obsessing over sex and sexuality. I have read a lot of young adult fiction. I prefer it to adult fiction in many ways, and when I was in high school I was a voracious reader, often going through 5 to 10 books a week. Throughout all of these books I can think of perhaps two that did not involve a sexual relationship, and I would approximate that 50% or more circulated around sex and sexuality. Even those that only peripherally involved a relationships often culminated in sex. If you limit yourself to young adult fiction aimed at women, sexuality suddenly takes completely control of nearly every book.

I certainly think that discussing sex in books about and aimed at teenagers is appropriate. For many teens, sex is a part of life. There’s certainly nothing wrong with sex, nor do I think we should keep teens in the dark about how sex works or the potential pitfalls of sexual relationships. What does seem inappropriate is to center sexuality at the heart of every story about being a teen. Certainly many teens spend a lot of time thinking about sex and exploring their sexuality, but not every human being feels the need to become sexual at that age or at all.

I’m going to use my current read as an example. I’m in the middle of the Divergent series by Veronica Roth. I’ve enjoyed a great deal of it, particularly the explorations of bioethics, dystopian futures, and different conceptions of virtue. But for some reason in the midst of a book that is about self-exploration, family, human nature, and good and evil, the main character finds herself with a sexy times boyfriend. Personally I feel this adds nothing to the plot and feels out of place in the middle of the very serious relationships she has with others. But because the main character is a young adult, she has to have a sexy sexy boyfriend and passionate descriptions of hot making out and his pecs.

No one can exactly pinpoint what the point of literature is, but most people would agree that part of it is to capture the human experience. There are so many experiences that surround being a teen, growing up, learning to be an adult, finding independence, determining one’s values. While there are some classic young adult novels that circulate around these themes (Hatchet, Call of the Wild, Huck Finn), many new YA novels seem to forget that it is possible to write a rich and full experience of being young without including sex, and that many young people are looking for themselves in nonsexual characters.

Authors have made an effort to include gay characters, but it would be wonderful if there could be a single asexual character in young adult fiction. If that’s asking too much, perhaps even a character who simply isn’t interested in sexuality. That may seem like a foreign concept to some people who are convinced that teenhood is a time when everyone is controlled by raging hormones that lead them to make out with anything that moves, but I actually knew a few people when I was in high school who just never expressed an interest in dating or sexuality. It wasn’t a problem and we all simply accepted it. Perhaps if we didn’t continue to disseminate the idea that all young people want sex all the time, more people would be content to focus on other aspects of their personality.

Generally, YA fiction tends to portray sexuality as a choice between morality and impulses, or just as a natural and fun part of life. If YA characters choose to abstain from sex, it’s often because they are religious.  In real life, there are lots of reasons not to have sex as a young person. You may not be interested, you may not have a partner, you may be uncomfortable with your body, you may not feel confident enough, you may not feel mature enough or emotionally ready, you may not feel that your partner respects you enough…the choice to engage in sexuality is complex, but for some reason the options in YA fiction seem to be “TOGETHER AND SEXY” or “single and depressed/repressed/religious”. Oddly enough YA fiction generally seems to overlook someone making out with their partner and then deciding they’re not comfortable with that, or someone setting boundaries with a partner simply because it’s their body and they get to decide what to do with it.

Many, many YA novels culminate with a kiss or with sex. It’s the peak of a relationship or the plot. Two friends become closer and closer until BAM their feelings come unleashed and they make out furiously. The end. Unfortunately that’s not really what relationships are actually like. The beginning is not the peak (and if it is then it’s likely to be a sad and unpleasant relationship). Even in romantic relationships, there is so much more than the kissing or the passion or the fire. There’s the really shitty bits where you try to navigate what it means to not be able to make someone happy, or how to balance your interests with theirs, or what happens when they’re depressed or have hard things in their life. All of those nonsexual parts are just as important. Some of the most beautiful parts are also nonsexual. The strong focus on kissing! and boys! and sex! really undermines how awesome some of the other parts of learning about relationships can be.

There also seems to be a dearth of literature that explores friendships as important relationships. Sure, there’s a lot of literature that’s aimed at teenage girls that involves lots of gossiping and rivalry between girls, but it’s nearly all circulating around a boy rather than things like shared interest, or mutual care. By centering romantic relationships at the heart of every story we tell our young adults, we’re really robbing them of models for other important relationships.

For those reading YA literature, know that there is more out there for you, there are more possibilities than a monogamous, sexual life. You are not defined by a desire for sex or physicality. There are more stories to tell.

 

Share This Blog To Illustrate That Young People Are Stupid

You’ve probably all seen pictures or posts floating around on Twitter and Facebook that feature a picture of an adult asking the internet to share, comment, or like the photo to illustrate how quickly things spread on the internet. Usually this is supposed to be some sort of lesson for their class or their children as part of internet safety. These posts have long rubbed me the wrong way and I only recently came to the realization of why.

The first thing that strikes me about these posts is that they’re often created by people who are not incredibly internet or social media savvy to illustrate a point about the dynamics of social media to young people who have spent their entire lives on social media. While young people often make stupid decisions and often require education about things, it’s an odd assumption for an adult to assume that young people don’t understand the nature of “viral content” when young people were really the inventors of viral content. Young people spend much of their lives striving to make their content spread more quickly to more people, so if you think they don’t understand how to get the internet to work, you’re deeply underestimating their abilities.

But this odd dynamic that young people can’t live in a technological world safely isn’t what makes me angry about these posts. What makes me angry about these posts is that they are not in any way an actual reflection of how posts spread on the internet. The only reason they go anywhere is because there are lots of adults out there who like to feel holier-than-thou about internet safety. If a teacher picked a random post on their Facebook page to track that was simply a picture of their dog, or a status update, would it spread in the same way? I seriously doubt it.

Most of the internet does not run on contrived social experiments. It’s an organic world in which interesting, fun, and sometimes ridiculous content rises to the top and the rest falls away. Because of the sheer size of the internet, the vast majority of content that any individual will post will not get seen by very many eyes. Trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time TRYING to get my content in front of eyes and it is not easy. Banking on the fact that lots of people love to make teens feel stupid is a cheap trick and doesn’t accurately reflect what a realistic piece of content might look like. It’s also incredibly different from the type of content young people are likely to be posting, which makes your oh so cool experiment fairly irrelevant.

But beyond the fact that your way of illustrating your superior intelligence to young people isn’t really very good, I would also invite adults to consider that teens have reached a point in their lives where they begin to weigh cost and benefit for themselves, and they don’t always come to the same conclusions as the adults in their lives. They may have all the same information as you and still choose to act differently. They have every right to do so. As a whole, I have found that young people have a different sense of privacy, freedom, and safety than older adults do. Many young people are less bothered by the concept of massive data collection because they don’t see it as an invasion of privacy but rather as a way to use data while allowing individuals to become lost in the size of the data.

Many young people also have a different sense of what kinds of information are shameful or inappropriate for public consumption. As a personal example, my mother and I have often had disagreements over internet safety and how much I share online. I am well aware that what I post on this blog may follow me to a job or may break up some friendships. I am well aware that I have been extremely open about my mental health and that there is stigma against those with mental illness. However I have personally decided that if a work place or friend will not accept me with my mental illness, I don’t want them. I also find that I’m not afraid of Google or Amazon using my information to tailor ads to me because no actual human being is sitting and looking at personal information about me, and likely never will. No one is gaining insight into me, there is simply an algorithm run without any person watching it or learning anything about me.

Older folks tend to have more fear about these things. But think about the fact that some people don’t feel comfortable giving out any information online whatsoever. They will never buy online, never give out their address, never give out anything. Most of us think they’ve gone overboard. That is how older adults often look to us younger folks. We have come to our own conclusions about privacy and safety, and it’s ok that they’re different from yours. That doesn’t mean you have to educate us or teach us. We have the same information as you.

None of this is to say that teens don’t make stupid decisions on the internet or that people can’t post incredibly inappropriate and harmful things that might follow them for a long time. It’s absolutely appropriate to educate about internet safety. What isn’t appropriate is this “gotcha” mentality that seems to imply young people are too stupid to figure out how the internet works or that it might ever have consequences. Teaching the values of kindness, compassion, appropriateness, and social skills will work just as well for helping kids navigate the internet as it does to help them navigate every other public space. We have studies and actual real research about the internet, how fast things spread, what tends to spread, and so on. Research instead of being lazy and conducting a poorly thought out experiment.

 

Will You Be Disappointed In Me?

I recently had someone very close to me ask this question in regards to taking a job at Starbucks. They’ve been serially unemployed and are getting desperate. Many of my friends are in similar positions: they work in retail, food service, temp positions, or are serial interns. I’m sure my friends aren’t the only set of millennials that find themselves falling off the path of “what was supposed to happen”. It’s only every trend piece in existence at the moment that talks about these lackluster jobs and the influx of grads moving home again.

But this question really resonated with me and it doesn’t seem to me that it’s something all those trend pieces touch on. Many times the focus of millennial questions is about whether or not they’re entitled to want a job that pays decently or is the pathway to a career. That’s a legitimate question, but there are many additional elements to it. This question hits on one: those millennials have family and friends who expected things of them. They had teachers and mentors who invested time and energy into these young people. We are well aware of the expectations that people have for us, particularly if we’ve been told we have potential or that we’re talented. We’re well aware that our parents have invested a great deal of money in us (especially after reading op eds about how we’re spoiled because our parents helped finance our college education). No one wants to be a drain on the people they care about. And so perhaps even more deeply seated than the fear that we won’t be able to support ourselves is this question:

Am I a disappointment?

We were supposed to be the golden generation. We were the generation of girl power, the generation of “if you can dream it you can achieve it”, the generation of positive thinking, of FISH!, of every kind of positive reinforcement you can think of. We were the generation that was all supposed to go to college, the generation that was supposed to cure cancer, the generation that was supposed to create world peace. Our parents told us about all the amazing things we could do.  From the time we were young we were told we could excel at everything, and we have followed the path we were supposed to: we got straight A’s, we took on every extracurricular known to mankind, we headed organizations, we got into prestigious  colleges and accomplished amazing things while we were there. We were set to save the world. We were supposed to be amazing.

Even worse, we’re people pleasers. You say jump and we will pull out a fucking trampoline. You ask and we say yes, what else can I do? We feel deeply beholden to the people who have helped us and we are intensely aware of what our parents have done to give us the things we have (privilege is becoming a mainstream word and we sure as hell know we have it). Anything less than perfect is unacceptable to us, because what if mom/prof/boyfriend/friend/sister/whoever doesn’t think we’re good enough? We could be anything so we absolutely must be everything, and it’s so hard to do enough to fill everything.

And now we work at McDonalds.

Of course millennials are worried about their jobs and their lives. They’ve let everyone down. Or so they think. Underlying the terror about jobs is the fear of fucking everything up and not being the person you’re supposed to be.

Clearly if this is the case the answer is not to continue berating young people for complaining about their job situations and being entitled. But what is the solution to this communal existential crisis? It seems entirely likely that the path we’ve been groomed for our entire lives doesn’t exist, so where do we go now?

First and foremost I think we need to validate this feeling. Enough with the shaming already. Enough with the whispered moments in dark cars that finally dare to ask “did I disappoint you?” It’s hard to say out loud that you think you haven’t done enough, but here goes: I am terrified that my life is not enough. I did not achieve enough in college. I have not already slain grad school. I have not put forth something amazing and mystical and uniquely mine and thus I have not earned my keep yet. I was supposed to change the world and I can’t even earn a living wage. Where did I go wrong?

I want my generation to be able to validate each other by openly admitting these feelings: yes. We should be allowed to communally bitch because it is a coping mechanism and it hurts no one. In addition, that communal bitching is a validation that we didn’t go wrong anywhere: we did what we were expected to and the universe bit us in the ass. This is understandable as it’s part of life, but only by the continual reinforcement that it is not our fault or our failing can we relieve ourselves of the intense guilt that we’ve ruined the universe.

We also need to continually remind ourselves of facts: we came of age in a recession. Jobs are not readily available. The messages we were fed as children are unrealistic and have created unrealistic expectations for us: we cannot do anything we want and we have no obligation to do everything we might want. The barrage of messages that we’re lazy and entitled are simply wrong: we go to our crappy jobs and we work hard and we engage in volunteerism at a high rate and we aren’t out of line to be a little miffed that things didn’t work out how we thought they would.

This emotional fallout is very real and is part of the disenchantment of the generation. It is not selfish nor is it something to ridicule. It is the very real feeling that we were supposed to get something done, give back in some way, and now we are incapable of doing so. In many ways it feels as if our purpose and meaning has been stripped away, as if all our agency is gone.

Communally, we also need to talk about what we are doing that brings meaning to our lives: how are we truly engaging in the world in ways that we can see our impact? I continue to blog because I can see how it affects others. I can make this choice, do something, and hear the feedback from others who have been impacted. These are the moments we need to share with each other: we are not powerless.

And to all those who feel they are disappointments because they haven’t followed the path: remember that none of us have. It never existed in the first place. It’s ok to ask that question and ask for the reassurance that you are still worthwhile. We’re finding new ways to be outstanding human beings and maybe Starbucks is part of that if it means that you are healthy and safe and alive to be there.

So no. I won’t be disappointed in you. I won’t be disappointed in any of you. Your talents are far more than the sum of your education and your job. You have contributed far more than that and you will continue to do so. You never owed anyone greatness or perfection or the right job. Your worth is safe.

Being Childless: Prejudices and Pitfalls

Note: This post is very much an exploratory post for me about a variety of issues. I’m taking some time to examine how I feel about children and try to understand what about my behaviors might be disrespectful to children. I’d really appreciate it if you find something offensive in this post if you were polite about it and helped me come to a better understanding of why it might cause harm. I’m also going to be using childless and childfree somewhat interchangeably here, although I know that that’s not the most appropriate. I’m aiming to stick with childfree when it’s a choice and childless for an overarching term of those without children.

Somehow children and having children have decided to take over all of my blogs and twitters and internet haunts and have become the topic of the day. This is weird. I don’t really have any friends with children, I don’t have children, and I have no desire to ever have children (and if you tell me that it’s just because I’m young and some day I’ll want them and it will be great you can just leave now). I’m not used to thinking about children or the difficulties and questions surrounding raising children. And I particularly found myself challenged by a few posts by Libby Anne about prejudice against children. Many of the things she was saying were attitudes that I held: I don’t particularly like kids, they make me uncomfortable, I often find them frustrating when they’re in my spaces. Generally she suggested that people who hold these types of attitudes are “childist” and are discriminating against others. I’d like to delve into some of the nuances of what it means to be childless and still respect children and their parents.

Let’s start with a fact: children are an imposition. They are in fact a burden. Many people would argue that that isn’t the case because they provide so much back to us and they are human beings that are deserving of respect and love. I’m not trying to say these things aren’t the case, but they are human beings who are not capable of caring for themselves, or even of fully processing their world. This means that they impose upon adults in order to survive: they require the time, money, and resources of adults. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many things in life involve some sacrifice and imposition and a whole lot of joy, and kids are probably one of those things. It doesn’t seem to me to be prejudice to recognize that fact.

Children are also different from adults. Yes, they are human beings, yes they have legitimate emotions, and yes they are fully autonomous. However their brains have not developed completely, they don’t know how to manage their emotions or their world yet, and they often simply view the world differently from adults. Again, this is not a bad thing, but it is not prejudice or stereotyping to say that children’s brains are different from adults’ brains. That’s a fact.

As someone who is child-free on purpose, I have taken these elements into consideration. I am not very good with children because of those reasons. Realizing that another being is wholly dependent on you is a scary proposition, and as a responsible adult I know I’m not cut out for it. Because of that, I avoid children. I’m not good with kids and so I don’t want to be around them because I don’t like being around people who I cannot socialize with. Interestingly, to many people this would be viewed as a prejudice, or as discrimination against children.

It’s widely recognized that childless adults, particularly adults who choose to be childless are often badgered and sometimes oppressed or discriminated against by the people around them. Many people with children want to say that the childless have turned things around and begun acting the same way towards them and their children. Of course there are some childless individuals who treat children poorly, just as there are some people with children who treat children poorly. But making statements about disliking children, about wishing children weren’t in your spaces, or about preferring people not to talk about children are not prejudice: they’re preferences. Children are a very different type of being, and each of us gets to choose what sorts of people we have in our spaces. For those of us who are childless, children can be difficult and scary. Wanting to avoid that is 100% logical.

Just the same as I choose my social spaces so as not to be around racist or sexist people (who I don’t know how to be around), I choose my social spaces so as not to be around children (who I don’t know how to be around). (This is not to say that I am equating children with racists and sexists, but rather that they’re both groups of people whose brains I don’t understand). It’s frustrating to me that I’m expected to coo over small people who confuse me, rather than running for the nearest exit as I would with anyone else that I’m afraid of (yes children scare me. I don’t like being confused). I’m frustrated that it’s labelled as “prejudice” when there are in fact major differences between the brains of children and adults and I don’t know how to bridge that gap. It’s frustrating to me that when I say kids are LOUD and I don’t really want to be around them, I get labelled as someone who thinks kids don’t have humanity or don’t deserve my respect.

While the world is not my personal garden and I can’t edit it to my taste, I should get some choice in the question of who I am around, particularly whose noise and body are in my space. We accept this with adults. And yes, kids don’t understand it, but I’m still allowed to make adjustments for myself and to request that the parents make adjustments. Particularly because children often don’t understand boundaries and more often don’t understand auditory boundaries, it doesn’t seem out of line for the childless among us to avoid them because we like our boundaries.

Now I will in no way defend people who call kids scum or evil, but I have been known to call them (to steal a phrase from Tennessee Williams) no neck monsters. But I’m going to level with you: I would call anyone who was screaming on the bus a monster. It’s not about dehumanizing the kid, it’s really just about me and my desire to express my discomfort. Like I said, kids are a burden, and I think we get to recognize that, particularly those of us who didn’t choose that burden but sometimes get saddled with parts of it simply because we’re out in public.

Of particular note here is friends with kids. I love you. I have no problem with your kids. But I want no part of the responsibility of children because I might break your kid so please don’t put your kid near me or in my lap because I will freeze up like a deer in headlights and start wondering what would happen if I accidentally dropped them. If I’ve made it clear that I am not comfortable around children, please don’t expect me to be overjoyed when you bring your kid over, or when you ask me to come over and be around your kid.

With all these thoughts in mind, I do still have some questions: Is it prejudice to recognize the differences in child and adult brains and have a preference between them? Is it a privilege to be childfree and to be able to avoid children? What are the potential oppressions that the childfree can enact on those with children? I’m not sure about many of these, but I suspect that there are some great privileges that people without children get, and which they often expect people with children to have (like time, flexibility, etc). I do suspect that we need more communication on all sides, and more exploration of what the needs and wants of all parties are so that public spaces can better accommodate everyone. And more than anything, the question that has been looming in my mind through this whole post is whether or not it’s prejudice or disrespectful to avoid children. I’d love some feedback.