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An Essay on Breeding As Influenced by the 80s Teen Flick ‘For Keeps’

This past week I found myself watching a VHS copy of what was one of my favorite movies of the mid 80s, the Molly Ringwald vehicle For Keeps, which is basically a lesser offensive version of Teen Mom where the teen parents (Ringwald and the bastard love child of Zack Galligan (Gremlins), Randall Batinkoff) are actually smart and not white-trash and don’t beat each other up.

It was kind of refreshing, but it lead to a series of questions about parenthood that I am starting to struggle with since I am in my late thirties and have not bred as of yet (and probably will not due to the fact that I refuse to share my toys with others).

Questions like how does one deal with the overwhelming responsibility of creating life?

Do you, as For Keeps illustrates, change your entire life plan by moving into a crappy apartment, taking a job at a fast food restaurant, and dying a little everyday, or do you follow the Bristol Palin Plan and have the kid but lecture about abstinence while netting yourself a hefty $266,000 paycheck making parenthood seem like a viable career option even though you are essentially telling people not to make babies (a hypocritical paradox if there ever was one)?

Who knows?

After the break I attempt to make some sense out of breeding which will hopefully help others, including myself, make a good decision about the whole “do-I-or-do-I-not-bring-forth-life” thing, and if I don’t well, I guess I failed just like the occasional birth control method.

One of adulthood’s little ironies is that, at some point, after all the years of being told to avoid it, you will start being questioned by friends and family as to why you haven’t begun to have children.

For a woman this comes as a complete surprise since you distinctly remember the “Whore” talk that your mother gave you about how no man will ever want the cow if you give away the milk for free (Which, looking back at now, was quite demeaning to you and your weight problem).

For a man, the protection of your precious seed has been a lifelong battle.  Through the close calls, the horrifying moments of hearing, “I’m Late,” to the sheer dumb luck of not knocking up the one-night stand, your man juice has been yours and yours alone.  Now, having to consider the possibility of giving it to another person, who will use it to trap you into a long term relationship with no chance to flee, is not only laughable, but could be construed as sperm terrorism.

As you progressed from awkward adolescent virgin to awkwardly adequate sex partner, the option to bring life into the world was on par with, say, boiling your nether regions in hot oil.  The idea that now, somehow, you are in a position to impregnate or be impregnated by someone both legally and morally is something akin to getting a well paying job immediately after college, meaning: unheard of.  After all, how could you possibly have a child when you can’t even figure out where your cat hides (an animal that you also frequently forget to give water and food to, or even clean the litter box for)?

Children are a commitment that lasts a lifetime and unfortunately one you can’t talk your way out of like a gym membership if you realize it’s not for you.  But what if the idea of children causes you intestinal discomfort and the desire to forgo children entirely is extremely appealing?  How do you reconcile with a mother who buys holiday gifts for her invisible grandchildren just to make you feel like a selfish ass?

How do you choose wisely?

How to Tell If You Are Ready for Children
1.    You never realized your dream of (insert activity here) and know that your offspring will accomplish all that you did not.
2.    You move to an area where you know no one and figure a kid will give you an opportunity to meet new people.
3.    Your sibling has increased the amount of gifts you a required to purchase throughout the years by pumping out child after child and you want to even the score.
4.    You find that the idea of a child leaking something so horrid and foul from its behind, that even feces is disgusted by the smell, has become “heartwarming” instead of disgusting.
5.    You’re bored.
6.    You are uncomfortable with having enough money to pay bills, have nice things, and living life to the fullest.
7.    You’re curious to see if a harelip skips a generation.
8.    The prospect of raising a child in the complete opposite way from which you were raised is amusing.
9.    You will be able to bitch and complain about something specific now.
10.    You have been too busy boozing it up to notice that you haven’t even seen your (or your girlfriend’s) period for three months.
How to Tell That You Shouldn’t Have Children (or be near them unsupervised)
1.    Everything you own is expensive, highly collectible, and sharp.  Most importantly, you will beat anyone within an inch of their life for even looking at your stuff the wrong way.
2.    At family gatherings you are known as Aunt/Uncle Leave-Me-Alone.
3.    You like to sleep.
4.    You will not, under any circumstance, put up with children’s musical theater.
5.    You prefer your clothing to be stained by your own vomit, not someone else’s.
6.    You do not want to be responsible for naming something that can talk back.
7.    When looking at a newborn you do not see perfect beauty or innocence, you see Ed Asner.
8.    You’re sure that the whole “parenthood thing” is a phase that people are going through.
9.    When children fall, you laugh.
10.    You have been too busy boozing it up to realize that you haven’t seen your (or your girlfriend’s) period in three months.

If, after all the deliberations and/or alcohol consumption, you have decided that children are indeed part of your future, congratulations. You are about to embark on a lifetime of joy and overwhelming responsibility…not to mention losing yourself entirely, questioning your place in society, and countless encounters with other parents who are positively convinced that their children are geniuses.

The first thing to remember when it comes to children is that even though you may have created this perfect little entity, it hates you.  Nothing is more devastating to a child than realizing that you are its parent.  From the moment this genetic version of you was brought into this world, it has been trying to figure out a way to destroy everything you hold dear.  Now, that does not mean that you a horrible parent, on the contrary, you are doing a great job.  Anytime your own child curses your existence and blames you for personally ruining their life, it means you are raising a child properly.  When any parent refers to themselves and their child as “best friends”, be afraid for them, for what they have created is a demon, not an offspring, and those parents will come to rue the day that they brought forth life.  It is inevitable that a “child friend” will become the “convict you visit on holidays.”

Maintaining the balance between warden and loving parent is a precarious one.  As your child moves from bastard toddler, to unbalanced pre-teen, to full blown psychotic teenager, you will seriously contemplate swallowing large quantities of pills just to make it through the day.  You will have never-ending fights over hair, music, friends, body mutilation, and truancy the likes of which you never knew were possible.

You and your partner will fall into bed at night filled with a sweet longing for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Finally, when your child is ready to leave the nest, you will be nothing but a shell of a human being.  But, there will come a day when your soul-sucking cretin will come crawling back to your door with their own horror of a child and say the words every parent dreams about: “I am so sorry for what I did to you.”  It is at this point that the wonder of parenthood is finally reached and you can sit back and enjoy the pleasure of it.

If you have decided that children are a curse you are unwilling to bear, you will be happy for the rest of your life, able to come and go as you please, and, most importantly, nap.  As a Childless-By-Choice person, friends and family will undoubtedly question your decision by accusing you of selfishness and of living an unfulfilled life.  Silencing your detractors is remarkably easy, simply present them with a copy of your bank statement, and when they exclaim, “What does it mean when a number is followed by a bunch of zeros?” you smile and say, “It means I can afford to wear unstained clothing.”  Learning to be hated by others is a cross that the Childless-By-Choice must carry throughout their life, a cross that gets easier when spending the summer in Venice just because you can.

The choice to breed and fill your home with little disappointments/great joys is a personal one, as is choosing to have pets instead of children.  Whatever your decision, it should not be attempted without a full list of Pros and Cons, a good hard look at your finances, and, should you decided to procreate, a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice…  Like selling your entire collection of Star Wars figurines just so your future children have a chance to go to sleep-away camp and have sex like you did.

Remember: planning for parenthood may make for a boring story you tell your kids but it is a lot less damaging to their psyches than finding out that they were conceived when the condom broke while you were having sex on top of a bag of frozen French fries in the walk-in cooler at Arby’s.

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