Warning – This becomes a really savagely ranty rant about ten paragraphs in. I am not kidding. I fulminate. Proceed with a blue helmet on, and cup of soothing tea at the ready. OK? OK. At your own risk…
Do you know what pisses me off? Apart from lots of things, obviously. But today and chiefly, it’s the ‘maybe you weren’t meant to have kids…’ thing.
Not that anyone has said it to me personally of late, I hasten to add. No need to rustle up the Cow-Shit Avengers’ Posse (hi HFF!)
But it has been said, many times, to many of us. Family members say it to their nearest and dearest. Friends say it to people they’re supposed to deeply care for. Complete bloody strangers say it to people whose lives they haven’t the first snibnet of a clue about – never read the comments on a newspaper article on infertility for starters (seriously, don’t. You will have A Rage). And for why, do they say it? What is the purpose of this remark? And do any of us know anyone who finds comfort in it? Anyone? Bueller?
… *crickets* …
Anyhoodle. So. Why do people say this in the first place? Do we say to cancer patients, oh, well, maybe you weren’t supposed to have a left breast? A house burns down – do we leap in to say ‘It’s God’s way of saying you should live under a bridge and eat out of bins!’? Man loses his job – it’s all for the best! Not everyone has the strength and patience to deal with a regular salary! Develop alopecia totalis – eyelashes are overrated! Some people shave their heads on purpose! There’s too much hair in this world already!
There seem to be several possible motives behind the ‘Maybe you’re not meant to have kids’ remarks. Firstly, most innocently, we have the clueless, who want to say something comforting and reassuring about our great worth and potential future as all-around kick-ass heroes/heroines despite our lack of sprog, and just fuck up the delivery. Not everyone is articulate. Not everyone thinks before their cake-hole flops burbling open. But they mean well. It’s worth asking ‘why do you say that?’, and if they then witter frantically on about your general kick-assery and other great contributions to human-kind, you can either give them a pass, if you’re tired and want to talk about Downton Abbey/Doctor Who/politics/knitting/marmalade now, or you can gently explain that as much as you appreciate the sentiment, the phrasing sucked great big green steaming ones.
Secondly, you get the Smug. They usually have several children of their own, and darling little Flymo will be practicing Khachaturian’s Concerto-Rhapsody in D minor on the violoncello while Mezzanine puts the finishing touches to a Soufflé à la Milanaise in the Kenner Easy-Bake. ‘Well, maybe you weren’t meant to have children…’ they murmur, sweetly, as they sip their decaf skinny wet vanilla latte. Oh, and what possible reason could they have for saying such a thing? I think, actually, they still resent you bitterly for getting a better degree than them when you were all at Uni together, or maybe they are harbouring a secret crush on your spouse. Something in your un-smug existance is sticking under their skin like a burr. Their own lives are sink-holes of stark, shrieking, Betty Friedan Mystique-style horror, and they don’t have the nous to realise that this is entirely due to the narcissistic wasteland between their ears, which would be just as wastelandy if they were living it up as a child-free career storm-trooper or grand high Vulture of the Culture. So, they attempt to bolster their sadly brittle self-esteem by poking you in your vulnerables. They’re not very nice, the Smug. (And Flymo will run away to Bogatan at 19 and get a facial tattoo, and Mezzanine will marry a harpy, fail utterly to keep a job for longer than a year, and dress like Whistler’s Mother, even at weddings. Poor kids).
So, yeah. Unless the Smug is your sibling, I’d advise deleting their email address. Maybe even if they are a sibling. Maybe especially if they are a sibling.
Speaking of siblings, you also get the sort whose own lives are a tad crash-and-burn, and who use the fact you are infertile (and they’re not) as evidence that they are, contrary to all appearances, better people than you. Because remember! No matter how intelligent, affection, empathic, decent and caring you are, no matter how much you love your family/partner/friends, no matter if you recently threw yourself infront of a speeding car to save a completely strange-to-you child, you don’t know what love is unless you’re a parent. Even if their loving parenthood is mostly channelled into shrieking at the beloved kid for wanting a hug or a kleenex or their dinner. Yes. About those email addresses we were considering deleting…
The next class of Not Meant To Be-spreaders are, I think, morally, the lowest. The clueless mean well, the Smug and the Damaged Family Members may be arseholes, but they’re actually being arseholes because deep down they know they’re full of shit and you are, well, less full of shit. So from our vast and draughty moral high ground, we shall forgive them. Which has the added bonus of annoying the living fuck out of them.
The lowest, really, are the ones who decorate the ‘not meant to be’ with a fat juicy ‘it’s God’s way of telling you you aren’t meant to be a parent’. They’re all over the internets, you know. And, what’s worse, they genuinely seem to mean it. They really think, they really insult and demean their own Deity by thinking, that Divine Providence specifically wants you not to reproduce, and instead of kindly giving you absolutely no inclination to reproduce and mayhap a sperm-count of zero to ease matters along, this parody of Ultimate Wisdom instead gives you a burning, desperate, heart-shredding yearning to reproduce, and perhaps a perfectly healthy spouse who could easily reproduce with someone else, only they happen to love you more than life. And then there’s the physical mess of it – PCOS, with concomittant anovulation, weight-gain, pre-diabetes, handlebar mustache, acne, risk of endometrial cancer, yadayadayada; or endometriosis, which is astonishingly painful and damages your internal organs; premature ovarian failure, with all the risks that premature menopause can have in terms of heart disease, breast cancer, and osteoporosis; testicular torsion; testicular cancer; mumps for fuck’s sake; or RPL. Especially RPL. If God doesn’t want you to have a baby, why would he let you get knocked up repeatedly only to watch the little scrap of life die, taking shards of your soul with it? Why would any God deliberately put a human being through all that shit to stop them reproducing, while letting a terrified 15-year-old get pregnant, or a woman gang-raped by soldiers get pregnant, or a crack-whore get pregnant, or a neurotic child-hating bad-tempered bitch get pregnant, for that matter? Why would God give children to people who don’t want them, can’t care for them, and are likely to abuse them, while denying them to people who long for them, who are kind and loving and ready? Why deny them in a prolonged, painful, ugly, messy, health-wrecking kind of way? What kind of a God is this, anyway?
‘Ahhh,’ say the God-bothering twatweasels, ‘God is teaching you/us/your family/society in general a lesson!’
Really. They believe in the sort of God who would take a decent, thoughtful man, and make him watch his much-loved wife collapse, screaming and bleeding, and be rushed to hospital, and have him be told his child, his child, is never going to be born, in order to teach him what, exactly? If he needs to learn life is unfair and ugly sometimes, why torture his wife to do it? If she needs to learn something, why torture him? If their families need to learn, why torture the couple? If society needs to learn, why pick on random people to ‘demostrate’ on? This is the sort of thing Fascist dictatorships do, along with ‘beatings will continue until morale improves!’ and ‘this shipment must be finished by 6 am or ten of you will be shot at random!’
And if God the Divine Creator exists, surely this is not what God is like. A Divine Creator God would not pick on people to teach ‘lessons’. This God wouldn’t decide this woman has to miscarry five times in a row because she hasn’t been to Church since she was 17, pour encourager les autres. Surely such a God would not give a man a varicocele because his religiously-inclined brother decides he deserves one for being a twat about Grandma’s will. God would not give a woman PCOS because she hasn’t accepted Jesus as her personal saviour. And for a mere, flawed, clueless-by-definition (for is not God Ineffable?) human to suggest they know God’s mind, and to suggest you deserve punishment in God’s Eyes… I am staggered by the sheer arrogance of these people. Never mind the petty, ugly, nastiness of their self-righteous (mis)judgement, and the fact they’re clearly missed the bits where pretty much all religious texts of all faiths warn against exactly this sort of thinking. It’s the breathtaking chutzpah-not-in-a-good-way of even being able to formulate the thought of a Deity reduced to a mere playground bully, making favourites and smacking people around just because they happened to ‘sin’ where a toady could tell on them, while ignoring the shatteringly massive derelictions of duty going on all around them.
I tell you, if I were ever to give over this jolly life of atheism and too much knitting and take up The Faith, it would be faith in a Deity so all-encompassing, so merciful, so vast and glorious and beyond comprehension, beyond worship, beyond humanity, and yet so full of love, and wisdom, perfection, and grace, the concept that It could even consider stooping so low as to pick out victims of It’s displeasure to torment for the edification of mere fellow humans would be so far beyond blasphemy as to be laughable. If there is a God, then we can have no idea why we are suffered to suffer, but again, if there is a God, God suffers with us, and for us, and through us, and God is also unspeakable, infinite consolation.
And therefore to reduce God to a stalking-horse so as to take sneering little pot-shots at fellow human beings in their grief and sorrow is disgusting. I am disgusted.
Here endeth the philippic. Now go and have a cup of tea.