Last month, I posted a list of things that well-meaning-but-misguided people tend to say to childless lesbians. On my Facebook page, a few readers mentioned that people say equally irritating and/or idiotic things to lesbians who have kids. Here are some of their least favorites:
Seriously, people. Let me give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're beside yourself with joy and curiosity about a child or a pregnancy that is not your own. It is very, very rude to ask someone you barely know about the biological details of how his or her children came to be, or to offer your unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinion about how the family arrangement is likely to affect the child.
Q: But what if I really want to know?
A: That's what the Internet is for.
Q: But I'm a total supporter of gay rights! So it's okay if I ask, right?
Q: What if the person I want to ask is a friend or family member?
A: Possibly fine. But this varies based on the person. Some folks will talk your ear off about IVF; others will want to smack you for asking. If the person is a friend, you probably already know the deets or would feel comfortable saying something like, "Hey, I had a few questions about the biological aspects of your pregnancy. Would it be okay if I asked you about it? If not, I certainly understand."
Q: Oh, good! I can ask my lesbian co-worker how she got pregnant!
A: NO. When I say "friend," I'm talking about someone with whom you hang out socially, on a voluntary basis. Just seeing someone at work functions, PTA meetings, or the post office doesn't count.
Q: Oh, good--so I can tell my lesbian daughter that her son needs a male influence?
A: NO. The aforementioned ban on unsolicited, pop-pseudo-psychological opinions about someone's child-rearing decisions applies to friends and family members as well.
Any queer parents out there want to add something I missed? Drop me a line or post a comment below!
Okay, I'm hesitating to post this because it makes me seem way more curmudgeonly than I actually (think I) am. Oh well.
I should also say that at least for me, and maybe for other people, none of this applies if you're a close friend or close family member. It's more when acquaintances or (godfuhbid) strangers offer their advice that I blanch.
What you say: There are soooo many options for people who want kids!
What I hear: You're probably too stupid to figure this out, but you can procreate without having sex with a man!
What you say: But you'd be such a good parent!
What I think: I'd also be a good race car driver, occupational therapist, or professional shoeshiner. Natural predilection does not a destiny make.
What you say: Some people are too selfish to have kids.
What I hear: You are selfish and shallow. Unless you have kids. In which case all is forgiven. But I thought better of you. Now you just make me sad.
What you say: You could always adopt!
What I think: No sh*t.
What you say: Lots of lesbians are having kids these days!
What I think: Lots of lesbians are also chain-smokers, alcoholics, drug users, glue-sniffers, head cases, doctors, truckers, and couch potatoes. So?
What you (usually another lesbian) say: My mom didn't fully accept my partner and me until we had kids. But now that she has grandkids, we're closer than ever.
What I hear: Your mother will never fully love you until you procreate.
What you say: There are SO many children out there who need good homes.
What I think: So why didn't you adopt instead of having biological kids? Oh--you're scared you'll end up with a crack baby or a psychopath from a Russian orphanage who's never been held? But I should go for it? Thaaanks.
What you say: NO one thinks they want kids. Then they have them and they're glad they did.
What I think: Am I the only person in the world who's ever heard of cognitive dissonance?
What you say: Are you thinking of having a family?
What I think: So, me + DGF + slightly swollen canine ≠ "family?" Screw you.
What you say: You haven't lived a full life unless you have kids.
What I hear: Your life is invalid. There's only one way to redeem yourself, and it smells like diapers.
What you say: You may think you know what love is, but you don't really know what love is until you have kids.
What I hear: All your feelings are pathetic, shallow, and invalid--mere shadows of what they could have been. Alas!
Okay, so I'm being melodramatic, but you get the idea.
I actually don't think the pressure is nearly as bad for lesbian and gay couples who don't want kids, as it is for straight couples who don't want kids. People basically assume that opposite-sex couples are going to have kids, and that if they don't, it's because there's something biologically "wrong" with them. Instead of just getting asked, "Do you think you'll have kids someday?", people will ask questions like, "Do you think you're going to... start trying?"
I once asked my friend Erica what it felt like to want a kid. She said that when she saw other people's babies, she just wanted to steal them and have them for her very own.
I have never felt this way.
Although, admittedly, I want to steal other people's dogs and take them home and have them for my very own. When I confided this to Erica, she was not especially impressed by my puppy-mothering instincts.
"But doesn't that mean something?" I asked, forcing my mouth into what I hoped was a beatific maternal smile.
"It might, um, mean that you should have dogs instead of children," she said.
Of course, she is right. Baby dogs are cute to me in a way that baby children have never been. People say that babies are cute and smell wonderful. I maintain that even though babies *can* be cute, this is not always the case, and that they typically smell like poo.
My lack of desire to procreate is something I've been thinking about lately, as I am solidly in my mid-30s, and it's now-or-never time if I want a tiny human to spring from my loins. Originally, my mother didn't want kids, but changed her mind and decided she was okay with it, and then she loved having them (and, truth be told, was the best, most engaged mom ever). So I have kind of assumed for most of my life that although I never wanted children at the moment, there would come a time when having children would go from seeming wretchedly inconvenient to seeming kind of fun.
But this time has not come.
If I had a partner who (1) was dying to have kids and (2) was willing to do four-fifths of the work, having kids might sound fun. But my DGF feels the same way I do, meaning that in tandem, we would still be sixty percent short of a parent.
Don't get me wrong--I like kids, particularly after the age of fiveish. I've done a lot of teaching and coaching of various types and at various levels, and I think kids are awesome (my favorite being high schoolers). And if someone gifted me a baby, or something happened to a friend and he or she left me with custody of their kids, I guarantee I'd throw my whole heart and soul into parenting--I really would--and I'd probably love parenting, too. I can guarantee I'd be both open-minded and overprotective.
And yet, I have no special desire to proactively become a parent. Not only does this make me feel like kind of a bad person, but it's also a little odd. After all, tons of babies need good parents and are up for adoption. Why don't I just adopt one? Is it really all that different from a friend leaving me their kid? Somehow, it feels that way.
I also keep feeling as if, one of these days, the desire to have a kid is going to grab onto me, and then I'll "get it." But for now... I don't get it.
Can anyone else relate to how I feel about all this?
Next post: Well-Meaning-But-Obnoxious Things People Tell Lesbians Who Don't Have Kids. (Anything I should be sure to add to this list? Tell me!)
I just received a note from a reader who's having trouble communicating with her butch DGF ("dear girlfriend"). She asked if I could "translate" some common butch idioms.
One mistake many butch-lovers make is assuming that butches are just like the stereotypes they have of heterosexual men. If you Google "what men really mean," you'll find hundreds of sites purporting to explain exactly this. Let's leave aside for a moment the offensive nature of most of those articles, and assume for the sake of argument that there's some truth to them. Even so, [non-male-identified] butches are not men, and "rules" of "understanding men" apply to us only sometimes.
It's impossible to write something like this without giant, whopping dollops of stereotype. I figure I'll get flak for this, but I went ahead and made a list anyway. I'll will be interested to learn whether any of it resonates with you.
(Writing this, I realized that while I would like to think that I'm incredibly straightforward and literal practically to a fault, that's not always true...)
How about you? Did any of these examples sound familiar? What's some other "butchspeak" that needs to be translated?
You've probably heard of the "half your age plus seven" rule of age differences in dating. The idea is that you divide your age by two, then add seven; that's the youngest person you're "allowed" to date. It's silly, but functions as a supposed "guide" to "acceptable" age differences.
Tons of people reach Butch Wonders by searching for things like "lesbian age differences," "age difference formula gay," and "what's the rule for gay age differences?" I can yammer on for days about how it's silly to have a "formula," how all relationships are unique, and yada yada yada. But at the end of the day, people want an easy answer.
So here's your easy answer. In the gay community, we get a bit more leeway. The acceptable age difference for us is wider than it is for straight people, and the difference grows as we age.
The age difference formula for same-sex relationships is graphed below. We are in blue; opposite-sex relationships are in red. (I know this doesn't take into account bi-gendered people and many other shades of queer, but that involved parabolas and was just too complicated.) The formula is one-third your age plus ten years.
This took extremely difficult, comprehensive, and painstaking research on my part--not to mention, many sleepless nights. Now let's practice.
If you're straight and 30, you can date a 22-year-old. If you're gay and 30, a 20-year-old. 48 and straight? A 31-year-old. But 48 and gay? a 26-year-old. Ka-bam! You've got it!
So, now you know. There's your formula. One-third your age plus 10. If you deviate from it simply to make yourself "happy," or because you've "fallen in love" or whatever, know that you're contravening science itself.