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different strokes for different folks
stop pissing on everyone else's path
by katherine l (aka clevertitania) (@CleverTitania)
7.13.09
general

The misconception of romantic ideals and procreational choices in this day and age has bothered me for a long time. It seems that the concept of wanting to get married and start a family, before the age of 30, is slowly being relegated to a bad idea. Its also become common place to assume that all marriages that begin before 30 are doomed to failure. In fact, some people speak with condescending tones of anyone who is truly hoping to find a partner for life at all, much less those who are bothered by not finding that person by the time they are in their 30s. Never mind that the sooner you do find that person, should you choose to look for them, means the more time you get to enjoy their company.

In an interview with Bill Maher, Cameron Diaz made the point that the idea of settling down and getting married in her youth, never appealed to her. I understand the logic, but something still bothers me about it. To disagree, generations ago, made me normal. To disagree now, makes me antiquated. While I agree that its time to stop looking at our lives as nothing but a placeholder until we find domestic bliss, do we really have to vilify that bliss to accomplish the next stage of human development?

Lets look at the idea of parenting age from a new perspective, mathematically. I had my son when I was 20 years old. This means, when he graduates high school, and becomes legally responsible for himself, I will be 38 years old. Many women today arent even having kids until they are close to that age. But while I was young, and definitely not financially stable when I had him, at 38 I will have a lot of options available to me. I will still be young enough to travel, embark on a new career, hell I can begin an entirely new life at that age. But consider the reverse. If I had my first child at 35, I would be 53 years old when my oldest was grown. And if I had more than one, I could be as old as 60 before the nest was empty. Now we can all agree that the 50-60s isnt what it used to be. Many people are still quite viable and lively at that age, compared to their equals 100 years ago. But unless youre got some great genes, and/or you take pretty good care of yourself, 50 is definitely when youre physical self starts to drop off. Even if you try really hard, youre rarely going to feel as good in your 50s as you did in your 30s. And thats just women having kids mid-30s. Dont forget the new trend of starting in your 40s.

Now lets look at the next generation. Its been suggested that access to multiple family generations can be good for childrens development. Plus, lets face it, a lack of that exposure probably factors high in lacking compassion for the elderly. So lets say you wait and have your first kid at 35, have two more kids, finishing around 40. And lets further say that your children follow your example and start having children at 35. You are now 70 when your first grandchild is born, and possibly over 80 when youre last is born.

World Life Expectancy Chart

If you look at this map at the link above, youll see that the countries with the highest life expectancy are still looking at about 80 years old tops. At the current state of things, should you choose to have children later in life, not only will you never meet your great grandchildren, youll be lucky if your grandchildren have more than a fleeting memory of you. They will likely never benefit from the long life experiences of your past, even if youre in full control of your faculties right until you shuffle off this mortal coil.

There are some justifications for starting a family before youre 30. For one thing, when youre younger you will (in general) have more energy to be an engaged parent. Im sure there are some 45 year old men coaching t-ball, but Ill also wager many of them wouldve enjoyed it a lot more at 25. Also, average life expectancy means that some people live to their 100s, but some also dont make it past 50. If you begin a family in your 20s, the odds are a lot better (barring congenital conditions) that you will live to see them grow up. Sure, 20-somethings get hit by busses, but they dont often expire from simple heart attacks. Cancer rates also begin a sharper incline in the 40s, hence warnings of prostate and breast screenings.

Of course, having children young has its disadvantages too. Risk of divorce is higher the younger the age of the couple, but that number starts dropping steadily after 24. So you might be more likely to give your children a broken home. But if youre not willing to work hard, the way any good marriage requires, youre age isnt really relevant. Additionally, younger couples/parents tend to struggle more financially. But frankly, as someone who lost a parent at a young age (though admittedly cancer took my father at the age of 26), broke parents are better than losing one or both parents.

So whats my point? Am I saying we should be encouraging people to have their children young, and plan to live full lives after the kids move out? Nope, not at all. What Im saying is; lets not condemn people who make that choice. As we try to move our society to the understanding that a womans ovaries dont dry up at 35, were starting to push the idea that they having children before 30 is somehow a waste of our youth. Why does it always have to be either/or with us? How about we encourage people to be fiscally smart and mentally prepared to get married and have children, and stop worry about how old they are? The fact that we simply accept 20-somethings as not as mature or responsible is a joke unto itself. These people arent kids anymore. If were doing our job as parents (and educators for those in the field) they should be able to make family decisions as readily and intelligently as their 30-something counterparts. If they cant, then we should be focusing on fixing that problem, not telling them to wait until they are older to make big choices.

Regarding the romantic element, Ill be more brief, because this isnt an issue for math and statistics. Some say that movies, television, books, art, music... all these things tell us that love and relationships are a goal we should strive for. They say that we are programmed by these things, to believe its what we should want. Personally, I think thats a pedantic perspective. Isnt it just as likely, that these forums all reflect love and romantic ideals, because its what we want? Isnt it just as likely that our own desires for love and companionship influence the arts, instead of the other way around? Does that mean its what everyone wants? No. But its what many want. And from a personal perspective, I cant imagine that I am so easily led. Im an awfully self-aware woman, and I want to find a man to be my partner; someone to love and share my life with, who feels the same way about me. I simply cant believe I have been forced to this desire because I really enjoy a good romantic comedy. Instead, I think I enjoy these movies, in part, because it is what I want.

Its the mentality that, if something is popular, it must be something beloved by sheep who cant think for themselves. And to that argument, I present the television show Friends. This TV series not only ran for 10+ years, it was one of those shows that highly intelligent people (even those who generally condemned popular television) confessed to enjoying. I dont believe Friends was popular because we were all brainwashed into believing it was good. I believe it was popular because it appealed to people of many different mind-sets. It featured funny and intelligent people, doing funny and intelligent things, in a way that was accessible to even the more average intelligence. It simply was good, and many people recognized that.

And thats my perspective on notions of love and romance. Sure its all over the place, constantly in our face, the ideals of love and marriage. But I dont believe its there to enslave us to want it. I believe its there because we want it. It infects our art, advertising and culture, because its a desire within us. Its not for everyone, certainly. But that doesnt make those unique individuals, who have no desire to fall in love and knit their life to someone, somehow smarter and more evolved than the rest. Once upon a time, we wouldve belittled those people with terms like spinster. But weve moved past that point. Weve come to accept that their desires for a career or other type of life are just as valid as marriage and family. But lets not start reversing the process, and proclaiming the rest of us as being idiots led by fairy tales. Once again, lets just try accepting that there are multiple schools of thought, and different ways to approach life. Embrace it all.

We all have choices to make, and paths to choose. Maybe youll pick the road more traveled, or maybe the one less. But neither choice is the wrong one. And just because you picked one fork, doesnt mean you have any business putting up detour signs to steer people in your direction. Just be smart, make your own decisions, and let others do the same.


ABOUT KATHERINE L (AKA CLEVERTITANIA)

When I grow up, I want to be; whoever Joss Whedon wants to be, when he grows up. I am a writer because it's the first thing I want to do when I wake up in the morning; aside from eating and using the lavatory of course. My work includes screenplays, short stories, film/TV/music reviews and socio-political commentary. The last one is a fancy way of saying I like to shoot my mouth off on many topics. I excel at using $1.50 words. They gone up, thanks to inflation. Isn't our economy awesome?

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