Getting Older

Throughout my teens and twenties I was terrified of “growing old”. Most of the “adults” in my life seemed to live boring lives that didn’t appeal to me at all. I love my parents, but I never saw them explore hobbies, go on vacations alone, have passion for anything, or really have close friendships. Their lives revolved around work and raising kids, and that is about it. Outside of my parents the adults were very similar (this is likely because my entire life was a middle-ish class, white, protestant Christian suburb). Adulthood meant the end of freedom and the end of fun… at least until retirement, but by then your body and mind would be failing you.

I’m sure a decent therapist could link many of my decisions back to this fear of adulthood, this fear of growing up, this fear of becoming my parents.

Things have changed though (as they often do).

Now that I’ve seen “adults” who don’t let their kids and family dominate their identity I see getting older as an amazing adventure. I’m stronger and healthier now than I was in most of my 20’s. I have passion for more things and the opportunity to explore them at my leisure. I have a partner who is catalyst for new experiences (travel, sexual, friendships, intellectual, etc) instead of restricting my opportunities for variety.

In some ways I know I lucked out. If I had stayed in Oregon or decided to marry my first fiance then my life would have been very, very different. I guess that isn’t really “luck”, but you know what I mean.

I also think my younger fear of growing old could have been avoided if I had more adults in my life who lived lives different than my parents. I don’t think my folks were intentionally shielding me from variety, I just think they started a family young and naturally gravitated towards like-minded people. When you are still in college when your first child is born it is difficult to make friends with people who don’t have the same backgrounds. My parents turned to the church for support and community, but the church was very much like them.

If I had seen adults who were in their 40’s and happily single, or who had passion for art and creativity, or who made fitness and health a priority in their lives it would have shown me the options for adulthood and given me a little guidance when I realized I didn’t want to be like my parents. I think there is a lot of value in having friendships and bonds with people who are different than you, especially if you have children.

Now that I’m in my mid-30’s (and the internet exists) I have lots of models for how my 40’s-120’s can end up. There are centenarians who run marathons, there are authors who started in their 40’s, there are PhD students in their 50’s. I can look upon all these people and be inspired, and pick-and-choice the traits and paths that appeal to me most. I only wish I would have had all that when I was younger.

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Childless Among Children

Well, I stepped in a big pile of online poop a few days ago. I posted a question online and it touched a few nerves. I shouldn’t be surprised, the subjects involved were two things that seem to create the post passionate responses: veganism and child rearing.

My inquiry was relatively simple, I was curious how I (as a childless person) should answer children when they ask why I am a vegan. How honest should I be? Do kids know that meat comes from live animals? Should I discuss how a plant-based diet is healthier? Should I talk about how I think it is wrong to kill animals for human pleasure? Basically, how do I handle questions from kids about my alternative lifestyles when I don’t want to piss off parents.

I received some good advice. Several parents gave examples of how they would like that situation handled and some language that would be appropriate for children. In general, I am probably overthinking much of this but I am fascinated by child-rearing (and terrified of pissing off parents who are my friends). Most parents even said they would have no problem with me explaining my beliefs, even though those beliefs contradicted their own.

There were some people who were more passionate though, some who did not like the idea of sharing ideas with their kids that ran counter to their own. How children are raised is a grey area in all societies, and one in which there doesn’t seem to be a perfect answer. Most people don’t see their children as property that can be treated as they see fit, parental rights don’t extend to abuse or neglect. But we also don’t like the idea of non-parents stepping in to tell parents how to raise their kids, and rightfully so. Parents, in theory anyway, have the best intentions for their children and have the most localized knowledge. That means they should be the ones in the best position to raise the children, but we don’t always agree on what counts as abuse or neglect.

Some would see permanently removing a part of an unwilling infant’s genitalia as part of an ancient religious ceremony as harming a child and violating that child’s autonomy, while others think male circumcision is fine. Others would say using religion to try and heal a child from a disease is appropriate, while others see that as neglect. Some see raising a child along a certain religious or ethical path as the parent’s rights, while others think that closing your children off to differing opinions is brainwashing and damages their ability to function in the adult world later on.

Parenting is hard, and it shouldn’t be entered into lightly. It might be one of the most important things a person can do with their life and, as such, I think people should be educated about the best practices to raising children. We also shouldn’t shame or stigmatize people who decide not to have children, instead we should use childless people as a resource to provide a more well-rounded education to children and provide support. I don’t want kids of my own, but I will gladly help my childbearing friends by living in a communal system with them, babysitting so that they can get a date in with their spouse and bump uglies for a night, have conversations with them that the parents are uncomfortable with, or take them on an adventure over the summer that will open their minds to new experiences.

I’m not sure that I am comfortable lying to children though, or even really sugar-coating things (though, I will be tactful and attempt to use appropriate language for their age). I guess this is a warning, if you have kids and don’t want certain subjects discussed please let me know ahead of time. If I’m not warned then I will openly answer questions about veganism (or atheism, anarchism, sexuality, non-traditional relationships, vagabond life, or anything else that comes up). I’ll honor the parental request about keeping silent on these issues, but to be honest, I won’t be comfortable with it, and I’ll probably ask about it later when the children aren’t around. On the flip side, if parents are uncomfortable talking about things with their children (I’m sure this is true for some subjects, particularly sexuality which should really be discussed in an appropriate form very early on) feel free to make me the eccentric uncle that they can turn to with their questions. I’m always open to explaining things to all ages and am available via email, text, etc.

Side note: The discussion on my Facebook wall made me realize that being vegan is kind of a privileged position in the United States. In order to go without eating animal products you either need extra money or extra time. Most parents, particularly parents of multiple kids, don’t have either. If your meals are primarily fast food because your weekly schedule doesn’t allow for any breaks too cook then it can be incredibly burdensome to have a child with ethical problems with meat consumption.Vegan fast food tends to be more expensive and cooking meals for a large family is very time consuming. I can sympathize with that.

“Why Your Top 10 Reasons For Not Having Kids Are Stupid”

Sometimes I read articles that infuriate me and get me in the mood to write. This was one of those articles. I am intentionally childless, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. When people basically call me stupid for making the decision I did it pisses me off. I am sure I think a lot of what you do is stupid, but it doesn’t harm me so I don’t get involved in your life.

You want kids? Great! I love for other people to get what they want and be fulfilled in their life. I love my 8 nieces/nephews (some genetic and some not), but I would hate their parents if they tried to convince me to follow in their footsteps. Let people live their lives. Also, why is this in The Federalist?

 
1. Ew, diapers? Gross. This seems like a silly reason for intentionally childless to make. Personally, I’ve never encountered someone saying this. Him bringing this up is pretty superficial. It is weird that this on the list at all, much less in the first spot.
 
2. I Hate Kids. His counterargument is basically “don’t worry, you’ll love your kids even if they are a shithead because at least they will be your shithead!”. That’s a stupid argument.
 
3. I Just Don’t See the Appeal. He didn’t even bother putting a counterargument. He clearly does not actually have any respect or interest in the reasons people remain intentionally childless. And for the record, I have smelled a lot of baby’s breath in my life and it has not changed my mind. 
 
4. Only Egomaniacs Have Kids. Appeal to Nature. Just because we have a natural drive to do something doesn’t mean we should do something. In fact, he is basically saying he is a slave to nature and is trying to encourage everyone else to just give in too. And yes, it is selfish to have a child when there are half a million kids that need to be adopted. I have no problem with you being selfish. And saying you are too busy to be selfish makes no sense.
 
5. I’m Too Selfish. Similar to 4. Saying that nature will provide you with the strength and that our species evolved to have children that are, at times, both annoying and adorable is hardly a good reason to have them.Nature tells me to eat all the fucking food I can, but that doesn’t mean it is healthy for me or society. 
 
6. The World is Overpopulated. This is the one argument that he could have actually countered with facts, but he didn’t. His counterargument is terrible. Overpopulation is not a legitimate concern It also doesn’t justify not adopting if you want a child. And yes, he sounds like a eugenics nut when he basically says “white kids good and Indian kids bad”.
 
7. My Parents Were Horrible and I Don’t Want to Repeat That. Some people came from abusive and terrible homes. Some people struggle with mental health issues. These are legitimate reasons for not having children. Fuck this guy for basically saying “get over it”. Also, “In fact, the opposite is true. My experience has been…” should never be in an article. Truth and your experience are not really relevant, though I guess he admits that he only cares about a white, middle class audience.
 
8. It’s No Big Deal if I Don’t. Umm, this is another really terrible counterargument. It really doesn’t matter if I don’t reproduce. It doesn’t. Trying to guilt people into doing something because other people a million years ago fought a saber tooth tiger is stupid. And yeah, there is a little bit of bigotry in here. Again, lots of children need to be adopted and he is saying to create more because something about his audience’s genetic line (as he says, white middle class) is superior and needs to be continued.
 
9. It’s Too Expensive. This is another argument I’ve never really heard from the intentionally childless. But, if they are making that argument, it is kind of lousy. It might be too expensive to have kids if you want to maintain the exact same lifestyle, but it really isn’t “too expensive” overall. You can provide your kid with a lot for very cheap.
 
10. We’re Not Ready. Oh man… this is infuriating. He is basically saying “hey women! You started menstruating at 14 so you should probably get prego as soon as possible! Also, ignore all anecdotal evidence even though I used anecdotal evidence a couple paragraphs ago!” Basically, if you have a uterus your sole purpose in life is to pop out children, so you should neglect your career and education to get started as soon as possible.
 
I don’t know the author, but he seems to be clinging to some sort of Leave It To Beaver world and wants us all to pretend it is the 1950’s again. Well, it isn’t. Technology and society have changed. The need for people to have 2.5+ kids before they turn 30 doesn’t exist anymore (if it ever did).

Selfish, Shallow, and Self- Absorbed

I just finished reading (well, listening to) “Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids”. Overall, I really enjoyed it. As an intentionally childless adult it was nice to listen to likeminded individuals explain their reasons for deciding not to have children. Many times I found myself nodding and smiling as the audiobook progressed, but mostly I was surprised at how diverse the reasoning was for many people. Even as one of the childless I still see the issue primarily through my own lens and hearing the authors (primarily women) discuss their situations opened my eyes to how easy I have it when it comes to this issue (and many others) primarily because I am a man.

The main title (Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed) is a bit tongue-in-cheek. Those accusations are something most intentionally childless people hear from time to time, and to some extent they are accurate. But, they are also accurate of people who have children. Isn’t it “selfish” to have a child because you’ve always wanted one or you get pleasure out of being a parent? Isn’t it shallow to have a child because that is what is expected of you from society? Isn’t it self-absorbed to require a genetic copy of you when nearly half a million children in the US alone need to be adopted or fostered? In the end, we are all selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed to some extent. It is our reasoning beyond those adjectives that I find much more important.

Some of the authors had abusive parents, some did not. Some were focused on their careers, but some did not. Some regret the decision, but others did not. The authors are individual humans, and as such they are complicated people and their reasoning reflects that. It is so easy to just label an intentionally childless person as selfish (or a Trump supporter as dumb or a Christian as foolish etc etc etc) but that removes their humanity. It reduces them to a small, inaccurate box based on one thing you know about them. It is like Dan Savage says about telling someone you have HIV… “When you tell someone you have HIV you are telling them one fact about you, but the way they respond tells you a lot about them”

We need to just cut each other a break once in a while. If you are truly interested in why someone chose not to have children (or why they did have children, support Trump, call themselves Christian, etc) then the proper thing to do is ask in a private and respectful way, and realize they don’t have to tell you if they don’t want to. I certainly wouldn’t ask those questions of strangers, it is kind of rude to ask a stranger why they do or don’t do the things they do with their genitalia, finances, vote, or soul.

So, if you are interested in hearing a small sample of the reasons people choose to be childless I highly recommend this book. Some of the authors are snarky and harsh, but so are some parents. It is a good read and can really open your eyes to how and why other people do the things they do.

Undie Run Complete!

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On Saturday I completed the incredibly easy and incredibly fun Cupid’s Undie Run here in Los Angeles to raise money for the Children’s Tumor Foundation. Overall the organization raised $1,000,000 to help fight cancer and provide support for children in need. My part was incredibly small but I am eternally grateful to my supporters who gave the money they could. My impact was small but I did earn an open bar which certainly helped give me some liquid courage. Overall I ranked #40 out of #480 in Los Angeles which isn’t half bad.

I had an incredible time meeting people and coming together for this event. One of my partners was by my side and though both of us are a bit introverted we managed to speak to a stranger or two. Hopefully next year I will get a team together and we can make an even bigger impact. Hanging out with beautiful people in your underwear, drinking, dancing, and celebrating all for a good cause is just a win for everyone. Thank you to all my supporters and I hope to see you next year in your skivvies.

My supporters:

  • Derek Langsley
  • Alec Weisman
  • Jimmy Goicoechea
  • Leah Miller
  • John DeGratto
  • Stephen and Julie Taylor
  • Kelly O’Keefe
  • Anonymous
  • Brian Reiswig

UNDIE RUN!!!!

Cupid

If there are three things that I like in this world it is love, not wearing clothes, and helping others. For once, all of them are coming together in one glorious event, the Cupid’s Undie Run on February 9th in Los Angeles (it’s actually happening all over the place but LA is where I will be participating). I think it is best for us to come together and help those in need instead of relying on the state, plus, it feels awesome to help (and run the streets in your underwear).

My personal goal right now is to raise $250 for the Children’s Tumor Foundation but I’d love to raise even more! So, if you have a few dollars to give towards this event I’d love your support. I will also be allowing the largest donor to pick my outfit for the run. And of course, there will be many, many pictures posted after the event.