* For the Children *
In this installment, Dr. Why shares some of the back story to #15: “Last Valentine’s Day.” Enjoy!
We’d been having such a good time together, and I was so thoroughly enamored with her, that I wanted to ask her some serious questions (despite having only just met her). I decided to jump right in.
“Do you want children?” I began.
She looked away to stifle a grin. “No,” she said, plainly, “I don’t.”
“I don’t mean now,” I clarified, “or with me. I mean ever. You never want children?”
“No, no children,” she said again. “I want a career.”
I wondered why she couldn’t have a career and children but didn’t want to suggest the possibility. “Really?” I pressed.
“Really,” she insisted, narrowing her eyes. “Everyone has children. I want to do something different with my life. Is that so hard to believe?”
She sounded both certain and sincere, but something in her answer made me wonder whose it was. So I continued.
“Ok, but come on,” I provoked, “do you really even know if you want children? Can you? I mean, you’re what? Twenty-seven?”
“Thirty-one,” she retorted, raising her chin.
“Thirty-one,” I repeated, thinking that might be old enough but wanting to know it. “Which means your biological clock will strike alarm in just a few years, and then you’ll start demanding children immediately.”
She blushed at me and sat back a moment, then rocked forward again and stabbed a finger in my face. “Look here!” she preached: “I’m a person, not a machine! I don’t have a biological clock! I make decisions! And I decide no children ever!”
For my part, I had known for over a decade that I didn’t want children. I wanted them once but had found the prospect terrifying ever since my first great heartbreak at nineteen. Then I studied the Holocaust in college and learned that the world is no place for children. And I imagined that I was to have some heroic career that would preclude children. And when I started to lose my childhood fundamentalism against my will, I condemned anyone who thought their children might burn in Hell one day (as my mother and I then feared I might) but went ahead and made them anyway. This last reason had sorta burned itself out, but the others remained, more or less. And besides, everyone has children, and I wanted to do something different with my life.
So I was impressed by her answers, even if they did seem studied. She had clearly thought the matter through, and she was old enough to know, or close. She didn’t want children! But those curves sure needed to nurture somebody.
She’s the one for me, I thought.
So I let myself fall in love with her, planned a future with her, and invested several years through thick but mostly thin. And then one day four-ish years ago, seven years or so since we met, she put a finger to her face, rocked forward, sat back, blanched, and said, in effect,
“I’m a machine after all! With a biological clock! And it says, Give me children immediately!”