Dispatches | October 23, 2008

I’ve never been a baby person. More than that, I find baby lust a boring subject. There’s been a recent spate of movies about women whose biological clocks are ticking loudly, the alarm set to go off somewhere around forty. Baby Mama, Miss Conception, and Then She Found Me are three movies that immediately come to mind. This one-note conflict reduces women to feral cats in heat. In Miss Conception, the worst of the bunch, Heather Graham yowls and pounces on the men who have got what she needs while Tina Fey and Helen Hunt simper and whine as they consider their limited baby-making options.
Thankfully the short story hasn’t been infected with baby fever. Problem stories in general and I-want-a-baby-now stories in particular seldom work because they cast the character in simple conflict solving mode. Complex desire is good, simple problems are bad.
During the last season of Sex and the City, poor Kristen Davis’ character was saddled with the gimp “I want a baby” storyline. Her waspy character Charlotte York has friends, beauty, and a once thriving career in a posh gallery but no little babe to swaddle in Burberry. One wonders when was the last time the show’s writers spent an entire afternoon with a toddler.
I also wonder about the message are we sending girls when films and television are populated with so many women on a mission to procreate. In fact, these fertility-challenged thirty-something’s are so desperate they are willing to settle for men they’d never consider in their twenties.
Last semester, I assigned to my advanced composition students Lori Gottlieb’s article “Marry Him” published in the March 2008 issue of The Atlantic. When our single New York author wanted a baby and there wasn’t a man insight, she didn’t seduce her gay best friend, troll the singles columns, hit on lonely divorcees, or hire a surrogate, some of the options offered by Hollywood, she simply shopped on-line for donor sperm. About six months after her son was born though, she realized that she didn’t enjoy going it alone. She wanted a man to co-parent. Her advice to young women: settle. It gets worse; “Don’t worry about passion or intense connection. Don’t nix a guy based on his annoying habit of yelling ‘Bravo!’ in movie theaters. Overlook his halitosis or abysmal sense of aesthetics. Because if you want to have the infrastructure in place to have a family, settling is the way to go. Based on observations, in fact, settling will probably make you happier in the long run, since many of those who marry with great expectations become more disillusioned with each passing year.”
Great! Desperate wanna-be mommies and now desperate wanna-be wives.
I have some better advice. Keep your cool and offer to babysit your niece or nephew or your best friend’s kid. This will help the most baby-frenzied woman chill out and get a little perspective.

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