Re: Sundry Trivialities Noted While Traveling

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I hate fedoras. I went to a burning man-type party in the spring and everyone was wearing these fucking fedoras, as if they were all cool jazz cats from the nineteenfuckties. It's such watered-down through-the-years hipsterness, it's what the prom committee would propose if the theme was The Beat Years.

But yeah, for the most part.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:14 AM
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There's a hat store near my office. I'm sure the hats are expensive, but a nice hat might be a worthwhile investment. Maybe I should go over there sometime.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:16 AM
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Now I don't know what came over me, and Labs is going to ream me (again!); of course hats make many people look utterly douchey. If you can rock a hat, you should rock a hat. There, that's better.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:18 AM
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You did say "or at least more interesting"; douchey could be a type of interesting.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:19 AM
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Indeed, indeed.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:19 AM
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--The two young boys playing Uno against each other, and the two college-aged women doing the same a few seats away.

--The young woman sitting next to me softly singing Rossini.

--The large number of people traveling with small dogs.


Posted by: feldspar | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:21 AM
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It seems to me that men can generally ignore the ideas that women have about how we should actually looking at how we look in clothes to see what kind of clothes suit us best. We can wear any clothes depending on the situation we are in, and the clothes don't say that much about us, and it takes far too long to figure out what is appropriate and what is not. Even though women say "SHOES ARE IMPORTANT. I LOOK AT HIS SHOES AND THEY TELL ME WHAT HIS PRIORITIES ARE.", it is impossible to decipher from this what type of shoes should be worn to appeal to the woman who just made this statement, let alone women in general.

But there is an exception to this rule -- hats. Look at yourself wearing a fedora. Do you look like an idiot? You should be able to tell right away. If so, don't wear them, ever. Repeat this procedure until you find a hat in which you don't look like an idiot. I've never found such a hat for myself, personally.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:46 AM
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Having regurgitated the best of 90's standup comedy, adding to it the special zest of incoherence, I will now go to bed.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:47 AM
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It seems to me that men can generally ignore the ideas that women have about how we should actually looking at how we look in clothes to see what kind of clothes suit us best.

I agree, especially when it comes to bling. Bling is a very divisive accessory - much better than shoes. Women who are into bling, are really into bling Women who are not into bling, are Really not into bling.
Bling is a good way to weed potential dates out.


Posted by: Scizor Cyster | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:52 AM
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Even though women say "SHOES ARE IMPORTANT. I LOOK AT HIS SHOES AND THEY TELL ME WHAT HIS PRIORITIES ARE.", it is impossible to decipher from this what type of shoes should be worn to appeal to the woman who just made this statement

Some kind of Rosa Klebb 'knife sticking out the toe' things, I think.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:57 AM
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Fedoras are always worn with western style duster coats and always by male geeks who've sort of notice most wimmin, even geeky wimmin, do not go for the jeans and black scary devil monastry t-shirt look but who still want to look distinctive.

Steel toed boots are optional.


Posted by: Martin Wisse | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:18 AM
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I thought I didn't care about a guy's shoes, but then I left the law school where dwelleth the hold-out hipster and the Euro dudes, started hanging around other grad students, and was shocked and appalled.

But I don't think they're that important. They're functional. I care about my shoes looking good a lot more than I care about a guy's shoes.

In general though, I suppose you can't go wrong with thin-soled Euro-style sneakers, Converses and sporty brown leather sneakers for most of the time and real quality (tapered toe) dress shoes when the occasion warrants. Avoid those monk-strap thick-soled things, or shoes from Skechers or the like. I don't think Kenneth Cole makes great shoes, but a lot of guys wear them. I advise my brothers to get Bostonian or Bruno Magli shoes.

I like black Adidas Sambas and Campers on a guy, but then I also like old school Air Jordans, and the shoes of my teenage lust: Airwalks, Vans, etc. So do not trust this last endorsement, as I am not sure I speak for all women.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:19 AM
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Fedoras are always worn with western style duster coats

Yes! I see that look often. I have a friend that wears it. It's fair to say, I think, that it's not generally a good look.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:26 AM
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The young, married woman waiting next to me at the gate who looked straight ahead, except when a dramatically dressed woman walked by, when she'd look them up and down and follow them with her eyes.

And you wanted to know how women figure out what to wear? Duh.

Women who are into bling, are really into bling Women who are not into bling, are Really not into bling.

Manifestly untrue. A little bling once in a while amuses even the most tailored types. I myself own a pair of baby phat gold cork-soled wedge thongs, which look great with linen pants and a neutral-colored tank top or plain white cotton blouse.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:30 AM
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I'm looking to get a winter hat for when i head north in the near future, what kind of cap are the cool kids wearing this year?


Posted by: Gibbons | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:32 AM
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Men wear knit stocking caps. Women wear fuzzy knit stocking caps.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:35 AM
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Have ear flaps run their course? My clothing is generally semi-hipster. Oh, and I'm a male.


Posted by: Gibbons | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:00 AM
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re: 17

I can't speak for where you are, but I don't see them much around here in winter any more. Years back, you saw loads of ex-Warsaw Pact army surplus furry hats with ear flaps.

Normal woolly hats are the standard. Women are wearing the loose, beret style knitted hats.

This sort of thing:

http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2378/1746449560_df9f9987e5_o.jpg

[which is totally hot]


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:13 AM
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re: 18

That's not my photo, btw. It's from someone else's flickr stream.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:15 AM
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But there is an exception to this rule -- hats. Look at yourself wearing a fedora. Do you look like an idiot? You should be able to tell right away. If so, don't wear them, ever. Repeat this procedure until you find a hat in which you don't look like an idiot. I've never found such a hat for myself, personally.

I have a thing for hats and periodically will go into a store and try on hats thinking I would like to be the kind of person who wears hats. I, too, have neve found one that doesn't make me look like an idiot.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:51 AM
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real quality (tapered toe) dress shoes

??

Tapered toes? For real? I must admit I prefer a boxier toe. Helps keep my feet from looking really small.

I have had a pair of Kenneth Coles - they looked just OK but they wore like slippers. Fell apart pretty quickly, though. I prefer Cole Haan and Allen Edmonds. I've looked for a pair of those euro sneakers that I didn't think looked ridiculous on me, but I haven't found them. I'm sort of a shabby prepster over all, though.

I need a casual black shoe, though, and I generally hate black shoes. This kind of thing may work, though.

Good lord, I do not get the air jordan thing though. And that's my era, too.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:07 AM
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Several impossible points during breakfast:

Re: Hats
The other day I saw a men's hat offered for sale that was a black felt porkpie, which had little bands of white stitching about 3/8 of an inch apart running concentrically around the brim and continuing up the crown. Weird!

Re: Shoes
Do not buy Bostonian. They are shitty, shitty shoes. Johnston and Murphy represents the low end of what you should buy when shopping for men's dress shoes. (Last time I checked. Standards are slipping.)

Re: Fedora + Duster
Well duh, anybody you see wearing this outfit (who is not Terry Gilliam) is a dork. Probably a gamer, occasionally an ATVer, but always a dork. Someday, with the love of a good woman, he may be encouraged to dress like a normal human being, until then, ignore him.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:08 AM
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Luckily my wife manages a high-end shoe shop, so I have a very nice pair of tapered toe black dress shoes.

My taste in trainers runs more to classic trainers in muted colours with thin soles, though. Nothing too bulky.
e.g.

http://image.www.rakuten.co.jp/mathy-mathy/img10463975291.jpeg

I have the top pair. Also, Campers, that sort of thing.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:19 AM
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occasionally an ATVer

Presumably, this does not mean all terrain vehicle, because somehow this does not seem to fit with the outfit.

Do not buy Bostonian

Gotta second that.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:21 AM
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24: No, I do mean all-terrain vehicle (or "four-wheeler" in the usual parlance) aficionados. It's an odd cross-cultural stylistic cognate. In the city, guys with fedoras and dusters are RPG/LARP/WoW fanatics who divide their time between gaming store, comic store and mother's basement. In the country, they're ATV fanatics who divide their time between ATV trail/hunting expedition/ice shanty/mother's basement. Usually the country dusters are a bit buffer, with healthier skin, but they still manage to A) Not talk to girls. B) Not talk to anyone about anything except their 2 or 3 geek passions and C) Never wear anything but their uniform, regardless of temperature or precipitation.


Posted by: minneapolitan | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:29 AM
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20 et al: I have the same instincts as you. My solution is soft flat caps like these, which give off that "hat" aura but remove much of the dorkiness inherent in solid hats like fedoras. I see the occasional hipster wearing them as well, but not too much to worry about.

I'm also thinking of a quixotic effort to bring back the straw hat in summers.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:31 AM
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Oops. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flat_cap


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:32 AM
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I have and wear a summer hat: straw with wide brim and a ribbon. It doubtless looks costumey, but it's highly functional as well as pretty.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:42 AM
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Luckily my wife manages a high-end shoe shop, so I have a very nice pair of tapered toe black dress shoes.

Does she have any shoe salesman stories? My brother worked at a shoe store decades ago and has several, mostly about women who try on shoes wearing miniskirts and no underwear.

It was a low-end store, or perhaps you could say bottom-end.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:51 AM
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I concur with 26/27. My father came of age before Kennedy abolished hat wearing by men in 1960, and he never leaves the house without one. His workaday hat is usually a feedstore cap of the type you see when the network news is interviewing an Iowa caucus-goer. For most other occasions, he wears a tweed flat cap that, combined with his weather-worn features, makes him look a lot like Farmer Arthur Hoggett. He pulls off the look quite well. In warm weather, he often wears a straw hat, and that look works quite well for him, too.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:55 AM
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27: I adore the flat-cap in principle, and on a fella I find them unbearably charming. On me, though, still looks stupid.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:00 AM
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re: 29

She has a fair number of stories featuring middle-class and/or rich people being horrible. But nothing of that sort.

Flat-caps are nice. My grandfather -- stereotypically working class man from the north of england -- always wears one. They can look quite cute on women, but it's a hard look to pull off. Berets, on the other hand, look hot on women.

I'd quite fancy rocking the fedora, but it'd have to be in combination with classic high-waisted suit, for the 1940s look. However, that's nearly impossible to manage without looking like a dick, and it'd help if I was over 6ft and thin.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:09 AM
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Topical.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:11 AM
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Flat caps in the U.S. always seem hipster-ironic to me, like a reference to some movie. It would take me awhile to get used to a place where ordinary guys wore them.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:11 AM
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I wore a Wham-style fedora, way back on my head, for the better part of middle school because I've got my finger on the pulse of fashion like that.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:13 AM
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33 is brilliant.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:14 AM
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35: Yeah, I rocked the middle school fedora, too. Mine was Duran Duran stylee.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:15 AM
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Matt Drudge ruined that kind of hat for me. When I thought Digby was a guy I imagined her / him wearing a hat like that. That would have been cool.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:15 AM
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Also, I recently found an AWESOME ski cap at a church rummage sale that says "EPCOT CENTER" in big blocky letters that let you know that it is hand-made.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:16 AM
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re: 34

There'd be a bit of that here, too. Older men still wear them, as a matter of course, but it'd be rare to see someone younger wearing one without it being a bit hipster-ironic. Or some kind of odd reference to the early 80s golf-chic of soft-jazz influenced pop bands.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:17 AM
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Or some kind of odd reference to the early 80s golf-chic of soft-jazz influenced pop bands.

That would be Level Two irony, and I don't want to see Level Three, thank you very much.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:18 AM
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Sifu's cartoon is awesome and about right. White boys in hats really do look like they collect swords. A stylish black man can really work a hat, though.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:20 AM
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of course hats make many people look utterly douchey. If you can rock a hat, you should rock a hat. There, that's better.

I prefer your original statement. Most people do look good in a hat. It's just a matter of finding the right hat.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:20 AM
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The trouble with wearing a hat is that then the rest of your clothes have to live up to your hat. I like those flat caps and don't even look entirely stupid in them (I think), except they look wrong with my clothes. And I can't figure out quite what would look right. The knitted beret works better, because you can wear it with pretty much anything.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:22 AM
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re: 41

That kind of level two or three irony would be not unknown among a certain class of urban UK hipster type. People can get into Nathan Barley territory quite quickly.

Described by his own creator as a "meaningless strutting cadaver-in-waiting", the character originated on Charlie Brooker's TVGoHome - a website parodying television listings - as the focus of a fly-on-the-wall documentary called Cunt.

Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:27 AM
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Thanks for ruining my day, ttaM.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:29 AM
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I rocked a middle school fedora, but it had nothing to do with hipness of any kind. I thought I looked like Bogart.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:32 AM
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When I was in 9th grade, the cool kids wore what were called "Alpine hats" with a little feather, a litle like these but with a smaller feather. The fad lasted less than a year.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:34 AM
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re: 46

Heh.

re: 47

And you weren't beaten, repeatedly?


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:36 AM
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49 wasn't meant to sound nasty.

While bullying wasn't particularly widespread at my school, there would have been consequences for someone dressing way outside the mainstream.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:48 AM
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I can't believe no one has realized that by "dramatically dressed woman", ogged meant "slutty". Nice work, ogged.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:57 AM
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by "dramatically dressed woman", ogged meant "slutty"

I don't think that's right. Slutty dressing isn't particularly dramatic, though it is excellent. I'm guessing it refers to color choice or cut.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:01 AM
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26/27 Brad Pitt has been wearing a flat cap almost constantly recently. Which could reflect badly on you somehow. I kind of like him in it, but a flat cap is an old man's hat to me and I don't suppose that will change.

I don't wear hats, I get too hot in them. Although I have bought myself one (in lilac with cream flower - there you go, read) for my north american Christmas, because that will probably be colder. I probably look a complete idiot in it, but who cares.


Posted by: asilon | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:07 AM
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The cadet cap looks delightful on many younger-type women (and the occasional dude). I have two. Actually, I lost one of them by leaving it on the bus, but I'm pretending I still have it because it was so awesome and every time I wore it people lavished praise upon me.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:17 AM
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56: Since my media consumption protects me from involuntary Brad Pittage, I am blissfully ignorant of such concerns, and I think that helps somehow.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:19 AM
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55 to 53.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:19 AM
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It doubtless looks costumey, but it's highly functional as well as pretty.

Embrace it, rfts! As long as you're not being highly selfconsciously look-at-me with it, costumey is awesome.

[Note: the trenchcoat and fedora and ponytail look on guys is not indicated here. I mean something more vintage looking.]


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:25 AM
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Noted while traveling: A woman reading one of Ann Coulter's books. I've never actually seen anyone reading one. Part of me wished I was sitting next to her so I could say "So. Who's this Ann Coulter person I keep hearing about?"

I'm fond of newsboy caps and the hipster keffiyeh, but maybe this winter I'll try to bring back the Phrygian cap.


Posted by: Populuxe | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:25 AM
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but a flat cap is an old man's hat to me and I don't suppose that will change.

Well, Brad Pitt is getting pretty old.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:27 AM
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re: 54

Yeah, I have two of those myself. Plain colours, though.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:27 AM
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49.2: of course. I could have fought back, but I'd also decided I was a pacifist.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:28 AM
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For whatever reason, I have the right head for hats, and over the years have collected a ludicrous number of ridiculous hats that I'm too self-conscious to wear outside. Out of necessity I do wear my berets in the winter and my straw hats in the summer, though.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:29 AM
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Trying to buy a hat on eBay: frustrating. Sellers either aren't familiar enough with hat terms to call their wares by the right names, or they mention a lot of hat types to try to get more hits. And then the beretclochefedorabucket hat turns out to be a little knit stocking hat. Come on, people.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:32 AM
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I wear big floppy straw hats in the summer, but purely for sun protection rather than esthetics. They end up looking like the sort of hat a mule would be wearing in a 1940s cartoon.

On the 'looking costumey' front: there's a whole range of goofy clothes that I'm very happy that people wear, because I'd rather look at people dressed in hats or whatever than an airport full of people in jeans and nondescript shirts, even if they do kind of make the wearer look like an idiot. I think of being willing to dress extravagantly as a public service.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:32 AM
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like the sort of hat a mule would be wearing in a 1940s cartoon

With holes cut out for your ears?!


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:33 AM
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I look awesome in hats. They're like frames for my face, to put it nicely, or they cover up my ridiculously high forehead, to put it honestly.

Trouble is, my hair does not like hats at all.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:34 AM
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That's the general type of hat, yes. Ear location doesn't make it work literally, of course.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:35 AM
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I had short curly hair for many years, which is the perfect haircut for most hats. Now that my hair is longer, I'm finding that the best way to wear it under hats is in a low bun. I really, really wish I could find (and figure out how to use) hatpins.

Yes, I know I could probably locate some hatpins online. Shut up.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:37 AM
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Back in freshman year of college I had a lot of hair (before the Unfortunate Haircut of Christmas Break 1988), hats, and a couple of literal hatpins that belonged to my great-aunt Mildred. I don't think they're likely to be much use to you -- I think you really need a seriously back-combed, architectural kind of hairstyle to have the stability you need for sticking hatpins into. A modern bun twisted together out of clean hair without buckets of product on it isn't going to hold the pin well.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:42 AM
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I do have the kind of hair that can be held up in a knot with a single bobby pin, though. Obviously, the hell I'm going to backcomb my hair, but I was hoping to add just a little resistance to the wind.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:47 AM
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Being at Sunny State, I have to wear a hat pretty much every day, the alternative being teh melanoma.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 7:48 AM
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Threadjack: Do any of you classicists have a recommendation for a history of the Peloponnesian War that wasn't written by neoconservative lunatic? (Apart from Thucydides, of course.)


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:00 AM
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de Ste Croix.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:05 AM
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Do You Like My Hat? I Do Not Like Your Hat.

Go Dog, GO.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:13 AM
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There's some real relationship advice in that book.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:17 AM
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My Dad wore a Fedora in the late seventies/ early eighties. It was lovely and nice protection from the rain. He was, and is, fairly unhip, but he'd gone to college in the beginning of the sixties--before the sixties had hit-- when young men still wore blazers to class.

Yesterday, I saw a woman in church wearing a hat with practically an entire bouquet of flowers sticking up on the top right side, pointing straight up to the sky. It was definitely dramatic (not in a good way) and not slutty at all.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:20 AM
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75: Go, Dog, Go! or Origins of the Peloponnesian War?

Back on topic, I wear a fedora. A felt one in winter, a straw one in summer. I get lots of compliments on it, mostly from black men.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:23 AM
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Af years ago woman in Minneapolis (originally from around here) retired as a hatmaker (millenarist?) -- she made those old-fashioned lady's hats. She was about 80, and two of her customers (from around here) recently died at age 102.

Her customers had to be not only old, but traditionalist. My mother lived to age 87, but she was a modern chick and didn't wear those hats.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:27 AM
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There's some real relationship advice in that book.

Communicate simply and directly?

Dogs like to party in the trees?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:27 AM
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a fedora.... a straw one in summer

Surely you mean a Panama, right?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:29 AM
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78: Milliner?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:31 AM
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The cadet cap looks delightful on many younger-type women (and the occasional dude).

AND my aging self, thankyouverymuch.

the sort of hat a mule would be wearing in a 1940s cartoon.

I have one of these! It even has cowrie shells around the crown. I so love it. I also bought myself a picture hat with the most enormous brim--oddly, large brims seem to suddenly look fine on me, when they used to be a terrible idea.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:37 AM
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82: You still count as one of the younger-type women, B.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:40 AM
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80: It was my understanding that a Panama doesn't have the characteristic "pinch" on the front of the crown that a fedora has. But I'm not terribly knowledgeable about hat nomenclature.


Posted by: zadfrack | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:41 AM
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Living in Oxford there are still quite a few places where, if I wanted, I could buy all kinds of traditional men's hats [and every kind of old-school clothing, too].

I need to investigate this more: ever enlarging forehead.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:42 AM
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83: I'm beginning to feel like I shouldn't; I mean, surely 40 is not exactly "young" by anyone's standards.

This is part of my campaign to get the fuck over it, already, by the way.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:43 AM
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86: I stopped complaining about birthdays when I visited Ground Zero on my birthday in 2001.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:45 AM
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I'm beginning to feel like I shouldn't; I mean, surely 40 is not exactly "young" by anyone's standards.

Yeah, but I think 'younger' was the wrong term for the idea being expressed, which was something more like 'at least sometimes dressing to attract, rather than having decided that sexuality is a thing of the past,' which leaves you comfortably within the relevant category.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:46 AM
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surely 40 is not exactly "young" by anyone's standards

Hence, "younger type". Sort of like those food labels like "Parmesan-style cheese" and "Black Forest brand ham".


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:49 AM
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I wish men still wore fedoras so I could wear one without looking like I'm trying to stand out.

It seems like the stereotypical sysadmin sporting a fedora usually has a long ponytail, which invariably makes it look ridiculous. You need to have the right kind of hair for a fedora (i.e., cut short and greased up enough that the hat is required to keep detritus from sticking to it when outdoors).


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:52 AM
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78 hatmaker (millenarist?)

Specializing in distinctive headgear for the apocalypse.


Posted by: JP Stormcrow | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:52 AM
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surely 40 is not exactly "young" by anyone's standards

I find that my standards for defining "young" have been inching steadily upwards. But also what LB said about "young" not being solely a matter of age. I went out this weekend with a woman in her late 40's and her 50-something friend and, at 34, I was clearly the tired old hag of the bunch.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:53 AM
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Yeah, what I really meant is "dressing kinda young and paying some attention to fashion", rather than "under 35".

In which case, B obviously counts. Although I think she counts under "young" anyway.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:53 AM
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re: 90

Yeah, that's right, I think.

Now, to discover a short, greased up hair style for men with expanding foreheads.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:53 AM
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After posting my comment this morning, I was all excited and going to wear my black-with-white-pinstripes cadet cap out, but my new haircut has actual volume and makes the whole thing look weird.

You know what I want? A cadet cap with a baseball-style hole in the back, so I can put a ponytail through it. I think that would be cute.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:56 AM
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I mean a baseball-cap-style hole. I don't know what a baseball-style hole is.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:57 AM
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95: Scissors. Problem solved.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:58 AM
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re: 95

Both the ones I have have a hole. With a velcro strip for adjusting the tightness of the band on the hat.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:00 AM
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I mean, surely 40 is not exactly "young" by anyone's standards.

Back off BitchPHd! 40 is still young.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:00 AM
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This hat talk is worthless when I don't know what people look like (other than the boyish looking LB).

On a somewhat related topic, I went jeans shopping this weekend at Lucky. Every single person emerges from the dressing room, turns around and presents their butt to their friends and says "How does my butt look?"

Every single person.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:03 AM
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100: male and female customers alike?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:07 AM
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Sort of like those food labels like "Parmesan-style cheese" and "Black Forest brand ham".

cracked my shit up.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:09 AM
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101:

yes. both.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:09 AM
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100: But what do the coupled-up people say?

A partner at my firm has a favorite pair of jeans from Lucky. After a few too many drinks recently, he found it important to prove to me that the inside of the fly says "Lucky You!" Lucky for him, from him I found this more sadly embarrassing than creepily disturbing.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:10 AM
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re: 100

http://www.mcgrattan.f2s.com/public_html/me-recent.jpg


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:16 AM
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I don't know what a baseball-style hole is.

Reference.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:21 AM
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40 is still young.

If you're 60, maybe.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:22 AM
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100: But what do the coupled-up people say?

I may not ask, but this is all my wife comments on when I try on jeans.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:23 AM
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If 106 isn't a goatse reference, it ought to be.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:23 AM
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105: 404.

I love hats on men and women, and too few people wear them. One saw them much more often in Chicago, partially because, as oudemia noted above, black men are given a free pass on hat-wearing.

I, alas, suspect that I could not rock a hat, though I did just get a cap.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:24 AM
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The link in 105 doesn't work.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:25 AM
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Now I am wonder what sort of footgears I should be wearing around the ladies.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:28 AM
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Yes, that's right. I am wonder. Behold me.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:28 AM
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But what do the coupled-up people say?

A partner at my firm has a favorite pair of jeans from Lucky. After a few too many drinks recently, he found it important to prove to me that the inside of the fly says "Lucky You!" Lucky for him, from him I found this more sadly embarrassing than creepily disturbing.

Coupled-up people say the same thing.

As I was standing there, several women looked in my direction for approval or distaste.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:28 AM
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109: It's pretty close.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:29 AM
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100: What else is there to comment on? How every other aspect of the pants looks can generally be predicted before wearing.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:31 AM
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Well, I had an interesting Thanksgiving. Wednesday, I loaded up the three kids, Roberta, and the ex-wife (who calls Roberta her wife-in-law) into a van and headed down to Florida to visit my 86-year-old grandmother, who had never met the two little ones. Driving down Wednesday, driving back up on Saturday.

About halfway through Georgia, my mom (who had flown down a couple days earlier) called to say that my uncle had taken my grandmother to the hospital after she vomited up lots of blood. Never a good sign, really.

So we get there about 2 am Thursday morning. We don't go visit that day because they've got her all sedated and hooked up to various tubes, but we have T-giving dinner there at the house. Friday, we take the kids to DisneyWorld all day. Saturday, we get up and load the van for the return trip, figuring we'll stop at the hospital on the way out of town for a while. But when we get there, they have just taken her down for an endoscopy.

My uncle, a former RN, says that with the drugs they give for that, "she could see God and not remember it the next day." After spending an hour or so in a waiting room with a rambunctious 2-year-old, we decide this just isn't going to work and head back to NC without ever seeing my grandmother. Turns out it was a bleeding ulcer and gastritis and she's feeling much better now. Maybe we can get back down there over spring break.

Sigh.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:44 AM
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Sorry about all the chaos, apo.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:46 AM
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I mean, surely 40 is not exactly "young" by anyone's standards.

Shut up, B. And get off my lawn.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:46 AM
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117: But it sounds as if she's okay, so everything's good?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:48 AM
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117: Sorry to hear it, Apo. Glad she's feeling better.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:52 AM
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But it sounds as if she's okay, so everything's good?

Well, she's 86, with many of the attendant health issues that come with being 86. My mom thinks the time of her living by herself has come to a close. But this is easily treatable and not stomach cancer, so that's good.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:57 AM
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Geez Louise; some holiday.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:58 AM
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Your grandmother is still alive?

My last grandparent died when I was 18. THe other three all died before I was 8.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:01 AM
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77: Back on topic, I wear a fedora. A felt one in winter, a straw one in summer. I get lots of compliments on it, mostly from black men.

Ditto.

When picking out fedora-like hats, it's very hard to find one that doesn't have the total geek/gamer vibe, but they're out there. The trick is that a very small brim makes you look like a hipster douchebag, and a broad brim like an Indiana Jones wannabe. But there's a sweet spot in between. Material helps, too - keep it sober, like you're not trying to stand out.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:01 AM
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Your grandmother is still alive?

Three of my grandparents are still alive (I knew three great-grandparents, btw); the fourth died when Keegan was a baby. I'm the oldest child of two oldest children who had me when they were 22, so the generational gaps are smaller than they are for many people. Also, we have a picture of Keegan as a baby when we went to visit my ex's family in Michigan, where he's seated with his mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:06 AM
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My grandfather, the coolest man I ever knew, was a Vietnamese import/export official from the Indochine era and thus very natty and elegant. He wore seersucker pajamas, linen suits, glen plaid, smoked Dunhills (but didn't die till age 86, go fig) and opium, and all sorts of hats: houndstooth flat button caps, straw panama hats, and fedoras. He was awesome.

Towards the end, when he was suffering from Parkinson's and liver failure and was doped up on morphine, the hats seemed to remind us of his dignity and gravitas, and added a touch of formality to the day.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:07 AM
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127: He wore hats in bed?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:10 AM
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. Also, we have a picture of Keegan as a baby when we went to visit my ex's family in Michigan, where he's seated with his mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and great-great-grandmother.

Wow. When was great-great born?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:10 AM
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Three of my grandparents are still alive; I knew three great-grandparents.

Short generations or super-longevity?

My recently-deceased final grandparent was a great-grandfather through my uncle and his firstborn for like 12 years - maybe more. He was a great-grandfather through my mom and me - the second-born - for 3. Long generations.

My 3 YO has 3 grandparents around 65, plus a step- at 55. She will have living grandparents for a good long time, but I'll be shocked if any of them (except the step-) last to be greats.

Hey, is it a Safari update or an Unfogged update that I can now scale the comment box? Wild.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:12 AM
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Fun fact: Apo never had but four great grandparents.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:12 AM
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126: My immediate mental image was them all nested - great seated on great-great, grand seated on great, and turtles all the way down.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:12 AM
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My MIL just the other day suggested a Tirolerhut for me, but I think she's just gaslighting.


Posted by: JRoth | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:15 AM
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131: Thanks to the wonderful institution of divorce, I have 7 grandparents living and dead.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:16 AM
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Oh god, Apo, that sounds insane. Especially the Disney world part.

My grandfather died a few months ago, at the ripe old age of 97. Smoked for about 40 years, that man. Then again, like Apo, I was born to young parents (20 and 24). I'm just praying that PK knocks some girl up in high school so I get a chance to hang out with my grandkids.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:16 AM
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128: Not in bed, but whenever we took him to and from doctors. And at outdoor family gatherings, when he was propped up in a chair, of course he wore a hat. He didn't wear them inside the house, but a hat was like a pocketsquare to him: unimaginable to leave the house without one.

I have a habit of carrying around a handkerchief in each purse/backpack (I get men's handkerchiefs and monogram them myself) and wearing hats (although I wear cloche hats and wool felt short brim hats), and I credit him for these sartorial tendencies.


Posted by: Belle Lettre | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:16 AM
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UnfoggeDCon travel question. Is anyone planning to drive from NYC. I didn't quite follow what he was saying, but it looks like mrh will be able to drive me down, but that on the return trip, I could only go as far as Philadelphia w/him. Getting to Boston from New York would be much easier for me because of the Chinatown bus.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:17 AM
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There was a women's magazine article about a baby girl and here five living direct line female ancestors, ranging from 16 to 80. The article didn't spell it out but it seemed clear from some evasions that the five women were not really role models.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:18 AM
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I'm just praying that PK knocks some girl up in high school so I get a chance to hang out with my grandkids.

How soon are you planning on dying?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:18 AM
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Don't fall for B's line, Heebie. Sure, she's got "plans", but she procrastinates. Also, she tells everyone that they get her heirloom jewelry, not just you. So don't get your hopes up.

My son is 34 with no kids and no immediate likelihood of kids.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:20 AM
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139: I figure I can count on a decent quality of life up 'til I'm 80. But if PK waits until he's in his mid-30s to have kids, that means I'll be out of it or dead by the time they're the age he is now. Fuck that shit; I want to take 'em on trips to the Grand Canyon when they're adolescents, visit them in college, and attend their damn weddings, same as my grandparents did for me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:22 AM
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Oooh! I have unfoggedycon travel and lodging questions too. How late are people planning on sticking around to de-fog? At some point we're making our way up to New Jersey, but I wasn't sure if we should leave on Sunday or Monday.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:23 AM
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141: If he's still too young to conceive, perhaps he could adopt?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:24 AM
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My son is 34 with no kids and no immediate likelihood of kids.

See? If the kids wait too long to reproduce, you turn out like Emerson, all bitter and shit.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:25 AM
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143: What? He'll be conception-ready in less than ten years.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:26 AM
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137: Bave and I are planning to take the DC2NY wifi bus on the way back. Want to come with us? It's not car travel, but we can live-blog it!


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:28 AM
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No, my intent is to spread the joy of non-relationship all over the world. People with issues interpret it as bitterness.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:28 AM
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I believe that he'll be able to donate at about age 14 or so.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:29 AM
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146: What day? And does the bus make Jersey stops on the way?


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:29 AM
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Wow. When was great-great born?

I don't know exactly, but this was Christmas '97 and she was in her late 90s.

Short generations or super-longevity?

The former.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:31 AM
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146: AWB, how much does that cost? I took Greyhound from DC to Boston once. It wasn't terribly cheap.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:34 AM
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My nephew is nearly 16 and has a great grandfather. So it's not inconceivable -- given that virtually everyone where we grew up has kids by about 18 -- that a great-great-grandchild might happen.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:35 AM
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how much does that cost

$22 one way.


Posted by: Matt F | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:42 AM
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"So. Who's this Ann Coulter person I keep hearing about?"

I love this.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:47 AM
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BG, there's a Chinatown bus from DC to NYC.

I'd be happy to get at least another 7-8 years down the road before becoming a grandparent. Not so long that I can't ski with a 5 year old grandchild though.


Posted by: NĂ¡pi | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:48 AM
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My nephew is nearly 16 and has a great grandfather. So it's not inconceivable

It's more like hyper-conceivable.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:48 AM
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re: 155

My mum was a grandparent when she was still in her 30s (just).


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:53 AM
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My mother oscillates between wanting a grandchild and not being ready to be known as a grandmother. I'm thinking it might be a fruitful line of inquiry for a perpetual motion machine.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:58 AM
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157: See? This postpone-babies-until-you-have-a-career thing is bullshit. Everyone should have kids while they're still in school, and tote the babies to the campus daycare.

I blame the patriarchy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:58 AM
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Buck's family has generations like that. The upcoming baby that will make me a great aunt will make my 65-ish mother in law a great-grandmother.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:59 AM
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159 is totally correct. If popular feminism went beyond the Sex and the City ideology of replacing nasty ol' family with groovy career, we'd mobilize nationally to reorganize institutions to make career compatible with childbirth at reasonable age.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:02 AM
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My kids had, until last week, three great-grandmothers. Now they have two. No great-grandfathers, though.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:04 AM
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161: A lot of feminists are doing just that, actually.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:04 AM
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One of my great-grandmothers was 40 when she had her only child in 1910. She died about 10 years, before I was born, but she'd made it into her 90's.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:05 AM
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142, 146: hey, can I ride the bus too? I'm heading up to NYC after DCon too (for New Years).

Maybe Emerson will come along, if he can find a place to stay in NYC (sorry Emerson, don't think I can put you up there).


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:06 AM
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163: I know, I work with some of them. But I still say it's not near as advanced as it should be. So my right to troll and fulminate on internet comment threads remains intact, damnit.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:08 AM
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166: Then don't say dumb things like equating popular feminism with Sex and the City. I'm not aware of any actual feminist who thinks S&tC is a feminist show.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:10 AM
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Where I keep on getting stuck on early childbearing is the two-parent family. The have-a-kid-or-two-in-undergrad; preschool years in entrylevel jobs or grad school; by the time you're working seriously the kids are in school; in your peak professional years they're off on their own, life plan makes perfect sense to me. But being stuck with someone you were involved with in college, even as a co-parent if not a spouse, seems like an awful idea for most people I've ever met.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:14 AM
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I'm not aware of any actual feminist who thinks S&tC is a feminist show.

This doesn't refute that S&tC may be what the typical person equates with pop feminism.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:17 AM
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But being stuck with someone you were involved with in college, even as a co-parent if not a spouse, seems like an awful idea for most people I've ever met.

Obviously, arranged marriage at the age of 11 is the answer.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:17 AM
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See, the point is, you're not stuck with them; by the time you're 40, the kids are in h.s. or college and you're free to file for divorce. And if you divorced earlier or never married, that would work just fine *if society weren't so damn punitive towards single parents*.

Also, I met Mr. B. when I was 18.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:18 AM
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169: Yeah, the typical person also thinks that feminists hate men and murder babies. So what?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:20 AM
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The Chronicle a few years back had an article about how much smarter it was to have children in the early years of grad school. I could see the merits. But it annoyed me because it was being presented as an alternative to the universities actually having to do something about the system assuming a young male professor with a stay at home wife as the average tenure-seeker. Didn't get married when you were twenty? Your own damn fault, woman.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:20 AM
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And if you divorced earlier or never married, that would work just fine *if society weren't so damn punitive towards single parents*.

In a society where divorce wasn't a painful, hostile thing, maybe, but in ours it is and that seems tough to change. Which leaves parents not married to each other making parenting decisions with someone who (often) at least strongly dislikes them.

Also, I met Mr. B. when I was 18.

True, it can work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:22 AM
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I think the real point is (should be) that people will have children *at different stages of their lives*, and that ambition shouldn't require women to postpone having kids until they're in their mid-30s. Plus, of course, not everyone in graduate school is in their early 20s.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:22 AM
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Yeah, the typical person also thinks that feminists hate men and murder babies. So what?

So the original statement, "If popular feminism went beyond the Sex and the City ideology of replacing nasty ol' family with groovy career, we'd mobilize nationally to reorganize institutions to make career compatible with childbirth at reasonable age."

is justified, (if you read it as "typical person's perception of popular feminism.")


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:23 AM
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A less contentious thread would say that feminism has been more successful in advancing the idea that women can work just as hard as men in the event she doesn't have children than it has been in transforming the workplace into a place where she can do that and have children. That seems true. Personally, I think this is more the fault of corporate America. It's easier to be "feminist" if all that means is hire more women and expect that they've given up having a family for their career. If we're all just cogs, who cares if the cog has boobs?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:23 AM
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127: Opium? Seriously?


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:23 AM
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177: Yep, particularly with the blaming corporate America part of it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:25 AM
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B, you're talking about *unpopular* feminism, while like Heebie said I was talking about the pop culture variant.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:25 AM
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177 is correct in every particular. And yes, I agree with 176, I was just putting pressure on the difference between "popular feminism" and "the popular *perception* of feminism," because, you know, different things.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:26 AM
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Didn't someone mention not long ago an on-line store for high end perfumes (J-Mo, maybe)? Could someone post a link?


Posted by: SeekritKR | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:26 AM
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Personally, I think this is more the fault of corporate America. It's easier to be "feminist" if all that means is hire more women and expect that they've given up having a family for their career. If we're all just cogs, who cares if the cog has boobs?

Agree totally. Especially good idea b/c (I suspect) the boobed-but-childless cogs will help keep the system in place if you move them up the chain. Hooray for the Wo/Man!


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:27 AM
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175: With respect, that wasn't the point. The question in the article I read was "how can women succeed in the academy?" and the answer was "have your children early in graduate school, it's so much easier if they're in school when you're tenure-track", not even speculation about family leave or flexible tenure requirements. I mean, great advice if you can swing it, maybe, but it's a bit like answering a question about financial security by advising someone to use their trust fund wisely.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:27 AM
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Hooray for the Wo/Man!

Good call on the google-proofing.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:31 AM
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175: With respect, that wasn't the point. The question in the article I read was "how can women succeed in the academy?" and the answer was "have your children early in graduate school, it's so much easier if they're in school when you're tenure-track", not even speculation about family leave or flexible tenure requirements. I mean, great advice if you can swing it, maybe, but it's a bit like answering a question about financial security by advising someone to use their trust fund wisely.

As always in such discussions, the premise here is that only women face work-family choices. This is why we have the word "hegemony."


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:33 AM
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Whoops, my posting crossed with the discussion above. I agree almost completely with 177, except that I would not assign agency to "corporations"; seems conspiratorial to me. What I'd instead say is that ordinary people see that given the market-based social arrangements we live under, their best most realistic chance for happiness is investing in some careerist individualist version of autonomy. So the version of feminism that makes intuitive sense is all about womens' equal right to be as careerist and individualist as men (which I don't question, at all). There is underinvestment in pulling men and women together to make communal non-market arrangements work. Such arrangements are necessary for childrearing.

I'd argue that some elements of trad feminism do accord with this ideology, but it's true that many others do not. But going further into that really would be contentious.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:33 AM
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184: Not quite. I mean, it's a lot easier to have kids in grad school (even if you're not married) than it is to acquire a trust fund.

Anyway, I assume that what was meant was "how can you succeed (under current conditions)" rather than "how should things work." Both questions are pretty important ones, and since so much ink gets wasted telling women to postpone having kids (and so many women in grad school are under the impression that they shouldn't have kids in grad school) it seems worthwhile to me to occasionally publish something that points out that, of the choices available to most academic women right now, breeding while you're still in school is better than waiting until afterwards and hoping you land a job where they've got parental leave and the ability to stop the tenure clock.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:34 AM
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I agree almost completely with 177, except that I would not assign agency to "corporations"; seems conspiratorial to me.

That people who own and manage large organizations systematically make decisions in an attempt to offload costs onto their workers seems conspiratorial to you? What do you think they get paid for?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:35 AM
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But after being snarky, this:

There is underinvestment in pulling men and women together to make communal non-market arrangements work.

is very true. This is a real problem, because there's no obvious leverage to make men as a class assume an equal share of unpaid domestic labor, other than their individual senses of fair play and decent behavior. Changing societal norms is hard.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:39 AM
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Actually, rereading 187 I'm not sure about it, may have tried to express a complicated intuition too simply. My basic point is that popular ideology tends to follow immediate material interests. If we changed institutions so that peoples' material opportunities changed, ideology would follow.

But I'm not sure I'd say that peoples "best chance for happiness" is careerist individualism -- happiness is a weird and ill defined concept here. It's more that material rewards are what the system most obviously offers, and the life-course to get those rewards is defined very clearly and very early. That life course is highly individualist and in many ways anti-family.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:40 AM
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Bits of the above are somehow timely --- I just found out that at guy I haven't seen for 15 years or so just became a grandfather, at 38.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:40 AM
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That people who own and manage large organizations systematically make decisions in an attempt to offload costs onto their workers seems conspiratorial to you?

No, no, of course you're right about that. But there are no cabal meetings to redefine feminism through TV advertising. Corporate imperatives define rewards to workers, the apportionment of both material rewards and status (a non-material reward). These reward systems in turn shape peoples' "common sense" about what kind of ideologies are reasonable and which are not. It hangs together, but it's not centrally managed.

Also, the people who manage corporations don't necessarily have that much freedom to deviate from the imperatives built into the system (especially not in publicly held corporations, where shareholder interests are systematically elevated over those of other stakeholders).


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:45 AM
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I agree almost completely with 177, except that I would not assign agency to "corporations"; seems conspiratorial to me.

No need to posit a conspiracy. Corporations already treated men like cogs. Feminism's early message certainly contained 'women can do anything men can do'; it follows pretty straightforwardly from there.

188: I agree with the probable intent of the advice, but the women in my department pretty much universally had the snarky reaction of 'silly me, should have married my college boyfriend!'

I think you're right that there's a bad presumption towards a delay... "when you're done with school" is great advice when you're talking high school, but I'm going to be 29 when I get my Ph.D. Having a baby keeps getting pushed back. Can't be pregnant on the market. Not good to be pregnant at your new job. Can't get pregnant now since I think my health insurance runs out in seven months. Can't self-insure and then get pregnant since most individual policies have limitations.

And this is all predicated on me getting a job, which ain't going to happen anyway, so either we say fuck it and just have a kid, or we rationalize it away until I'm too old.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:53 AM
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182.---Didn't someone mention not long ago an on-line store for high end perfumes (J-Mo, maybe)?

I didn't post the link originally, but it was Lucky Scent. I ended up ordering some samples from there since I didn't recognise many of their perfumes (they didn't have the very high end, old-fashioned French perfumes I crave). So far, the samples have been very nice, although none of the five (!!) I got has made me insane with covetousness.


Posted by: Jackmormon | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:55 AM
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194: You can adopt a kid through some charities, I think. He or she even sends you letters monthly. Not quite the same, but still.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:56 AM
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so either we say fuck it and just have a kid

"It"??!?! Way to impersonalize the process. "make love" or "get our groove on" even sounds better.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:01 PM
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I agree with the probable intent of the advice, but the women in my department pretty much universally had the snarky reaction of 'silly me, should have married my college boyfriend!'

This was certainly my reaction. Along with, Oh, guess I should have put 'find a babydaddy (preferably with $$)' on the to-do list in my first two years of grad school.


Posted by: Blume | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:06 PM
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find a babydaddy

Hey there.

(preferably with $$)

Wait, nevermind.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:10 PM
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Well I don't even own a hat.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:15 PM
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That's ok Ned, it probably wouldn't look good on you if you did.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:22 PM
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the very high end, old-fashioned French perfumes I crave

I would kill for an ounce of Lys Bleu. Okay, not kill. Hurt, though.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:24 PM
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I'm not sure I'd say that peoples "best chance for happiness" is careerist individualism

See, the problem with this line of argument--she says, as one of those careerist male-identified Hirshman-defending feminists--is that the point isn't *happiness*. It's *economic security*. Having a career--i.e., training and a series of related jobs that you've held long enough to be marketable and be able to find employment that pays more than entry-level wages--is really fucking important. Especially if you have kids. The happiness thing is secondary, and so much argument about women's "choices" talks about it as if the only thing that were at stake is personal preference. It isn't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:27 PM
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203: Well said.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:31 PM
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I agree with the probable intent of the advice, but the women in my department pretty much universally had the snarky reaction of 'silly me, should have married my college boyfriend!'

Well, I get that and I don't know which article you're talking about. But I do think that we all have a tendency to react snarkily to practical advice about crappy situations, which is part of the problem. The situation isn't going to change if we don't recognize that the problem isn't "I should have married my college boyfriend" but "why is the child/career thing still a choice for professional women (and why do professional women continue to assume that marriage is a prerequisite for having children)?"


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:33 PM
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But I do think that we all have a tendency to react snarkily to practical advice about crappy situations, which is part of the problem.

Unless the entirety of the advice presumes that you have the ability to do something that you don't.

Sometimes I get into discussions with older and wiser people about how to get out of grad school in a timely fashion. They always say "The most important thing is picking the right adviser." Well, I already failed to do that, and logically a good proportion, maybe a majority, of grad students have done the same. None of us know how to research the available bosses before entering the program, and even if we do we don't have control over whether the desired lab has a place for us or will be able to fund us for four years. Please be more cynical and face reality, O wise one.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:37 PM
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Unless the entirety of the advice presumes that you have the ability to do something that you don't.

One article isn't the entirety of the advice, ever. And obviously the "pick the right advisor" advice (which is true) depends on a series of follow up questions ("how? what does "right" mean?).

And again, it's still part of the problem to merely say "that advice is no good, o wise one." The point is the "facing reality" bit you identify--that time-to-degree has increased a great deal, and the system needs to acknowledge that and fund people accordingly. I.e., recognize that grad school is, in fact, entry-level *work*, and grad students should make enough money to live on, plus benefits.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:41 PM
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203: yes, well put. So much is fueled by fear and anxiety here. Which is odd for the wealthiest society in the history of the planet.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:44 PM
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Please be more cynical and face reality, O wise one.

Don't go to grad school.


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:46 PM
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and why do professional women continue to assume that marriage is a prerequisite for having children

Because trying to balance a professional career while raising a child is fucking hard even if you do have a full-time partner to help out and desparately difficult if all you've got to depend on is yourself.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:47 PM
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I.e., recognize that grad school is, in fact, entry-level *work*, and grad students should make enough money to live on, plus benefits.

Well, I do.

People similar to me who are not students but B.S.-level technicians have stable jobs with benefits that are enough to live on. Yet nobody stays in said job for more than five years, they're always moving around. I think it's an underrated job choice for the seondary earner in the family, or for a single person too.

I'm not sure why roughly sixty out of sixty of the lab technicians I've met are women, but they are.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:48 PM
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205: What was causing the reaction was that we were wondering why the child/career thing was still treated as a free choice, and the advice assumed it was a choice, and the problem with balancing work and family was that we had made the wrong one.

On marriage being a prerequisite: I wouldn't say that one can't have a happy and fulfilling life as a single mom, but getting pregnant while single on a single grad school stipend doesn't seem like a good plan, as opposed to choosing single motherhood after having established a career, or even compared to getting pregnant younger when you have an extended family network around. It's a weird combination of alleged independence + lack of cash + no marketable skills.

197 is chortle-inducing.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:49 PM
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One of my friends, shortly after the birth of her first child, said she had a new respect for single mothers because she was exhausted all the time with her husband helping her with the baby and paying the bills, and couldn't imagine doing it all alone.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:51 PM
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One of my friends, shortly after the birth of her first child, said she had a new respect for single mothers because she was exhausted all the time with her husband helping her with the baby and paying the bills, and couldn't imagine doing it all alone.

I cannot imagine being a single parent. Entirely too difficult for me. I give them credit.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:52 PM
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I cannot imagine being a single parent. Entirely too difficult for me. I give them credit.

I'm sure credit would help, but an ample trust fund would probably be better.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:54 PM
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Actively promoting single motherhood is kind of another way of fragmenting social life still further and making things even more individualistic than they already are. We can't get even two people to cooperate in raising a child?

I guess that is my "conservative" side speaking up. But the conservative/liberal divide here seems less and less meaningful.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:54 PM
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I did grad school much older than most of these young and newfangled UFers, and I did have my first kid while a student.

One thing I never considered in my final choice of grad schools was grad benefits. I lucked into health coverage that covered our daughter's birth, which I wouldn't have had at the other program.

Thanks grad student union!


Posted by: spaz | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 12:54 PM
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217: On the other hand, this works fine at any school in countries that have a decent health care system.


216: You could always promote communal living for single moms.... why limit yourself to 2 people cooperating?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:00 PM
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182, 195: Yeah, Luckyscent is more modern, niche perfumery. For old skool I would try something like here for some old school Guerlain and Caron, or here for samples and decants of the very rare or non-import.


Posted by: oudemia | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:00 PM
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Eh, 216 comes off wrong. I mean, "single parenthood" as we currently define it will happen in the sense of a divorce and so on and should be respected, etc., and that's all people were talking about. But I just sort of feel like in a reasonably organized society kids should not be limited to just one single adult as a consistent, regular loving presence in their lives.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:01 PM
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Actively promoting single motherhood is kind of another way of fragmenting social life still further and making things even more individualistic than they already are. We can't get even two people to cooperate in raising a child?

I'm kind of with you on this. I mean, realistically, it can in fact prove impossible to get two people to cooperate in raising a child (so I hear), but unless Daddy is a sperm donor, it's entirely possible you're going to have to deal with the co-parenting issues whether the parents are together or not. Maybe "marriage" shouldn't be a prerequistie, but having a responsible co-parent you can count on to help raise your child certainly seems better than trying to go it alone.

Of course, equating single parenthood to going it alone makes some decided assumptions about the role of the extended family which need not necessarily be the case. Bottom line, it seems downright masochistic to choose to birth and raise a child alone. (She said, from her wholly objective perspective... )


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:04 PM
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220: That's exactly where I get stuck. If you have a kid, you're either tied to another person who can make major decisions affecting your life-course and that of your child, or you've signed up to take care of a kid all by your lonesome. The second seems like in many (not all, but lots of)circumstances a lousy decision from an economic, practical, and emotional health of the child perspective -- something that you have to do sometimes, but that you'd want to think about very hard before doing on purpose. The first involves (if you're a cautious type) being pretty damn sure they won't make your life miserable, and so seems really incompatible with early marriage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:07 PM
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I think that a person is crazy to want to have a child all by themselves.

But, I feel strongly that a man or a woman should be able to have a child even if they do not have a partner.

A good friend of ours got pregnant the artificial way when she was heading fast toward 40 without a man in sight. She even continued trying after two miscarriages.

She met a man while 6 months pregnant, got married and now they have two kids.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:08 PM
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You could always promote communal living for single moms.... why limit yourself to 2 people cooperating?

Promoting the "it takes a village" philosophy of child-rearing seems like a definite good. Still, the idea of "promoting" single motherhood just gives me this vibe of undervaluing the importance of dads, which seems like a very bad idea. A friend of mine raised three kids as a single mom, and she did a terrific job, and they are terrific kids -- but they are all very much affected even as adults by their father's absence.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:13 PM
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Because trying to balance a professional career while raising a child is fucking hard even if you do have a full-time partner to help out and desparately difficult if all you've got to depend on is yourself.

Absolutely, and even more so if you don't have a professional career and are trying to make ends meet on shit wages. But all the things that make it hard to have a kid on one's own are the same bullshit that make it hard to have kids, period; the problem isn't aloneness, it's that we treat kids as some kind of exotic pets, the expense and trouble of which is entirely their own affair.

And of course single parents shouldn't be raising kids all on their lonesomes. Then again, neither should couples.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:18 PM
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224: I really should have edited to `single parents', but was riffing off the `single mom' thing.


221 is an imporntant point. There is a huge, huge difference in terms of effort, etc. between a single person raising a child (or children) by themselves, and two `single' parents who are not together but share parenting duties for a child.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:18 PM
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A good friend of ours got pregnant the artificial way when she was heading fast toward 40 without a man in sight. She even continued trying after two miscarriages.

I've thought about this (in the abstract!) myself as my well-laid plans for the happy family with a litter of kids have undergone readjustment. I can see how the point could come where the desire for another child coupled with the ticking of the clock could lead to a choice between desparately searching for a man to make babies with or making a little visit to the sperm bank. If I'm still commenting here in, say, 3 or 4 years, I am counting on at least one of you reminding me of how masochistic I said it would be to try to conceive and raise a child alone and how doubly masochistic it would be tied for another 18 years to a man who was not well-chosen.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:23 PM
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She met a man while 6 months pregnant, got married and now they have two kids.

I've seen this show.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:28 PM
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making a little visit to the sperm bank.

DC Unfogged 2012: Donate to Di.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:45 PM
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DC Unfogged 2012: Donate to Di.

Coming soon: the world's first child raised by a collective of pseudonymous parents. Author Di Kotimy publishes her book, "It Takes a Blog to Raise a Child."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:49 PM
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230:

I'm going to have to get my gf's permission before I donate. How much room is there at the Flophouse freezer?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:53 PM
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It Takes a Blog to Raise a Child

...when you've been impregnated by a bedspread.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 1:54 PM
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174: LB is tactful to a fault.

Mr. B was a sucker for wholesome virgins, obviously.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:16 PM
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174: When I was a kid we knew a pair of (married) couples who just swapped partners and shared the kids.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:24 PM
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"It Takes a Blog to Raise a Child."

Makes me think of this song which, in an embarassingly wholesome moment, my dad sang at Thanksgiving as, more or less, a lullaby for my grandmother (age 93 to reference the other thread) was starting to fall asleep.

They rolled out the gurney and brought in the two, / Both mother and child doing fine, / When the nurse asked the question, "Whose baby is this?" / All three of the men answered, "Mine!" / Then Tony and John went on down to the pub / To get them a jug of the brew, / And they told all the folks who were drinking around / The story I'm telling to you.

Posted by: NickS | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:32 PM
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Single parents: My sister raised her kids alone, with very little help and a lot of sabotage from the father. I have enormous respect for what she did, and in some respects the experience strengthened her by forcing her to learn to do things she wouldn't otherwise have learned to do, bu my ultimate feeling is sadness that she had to strive so hard and was deprived of so much. Her two kids both bear the marks, though it wasn't the divorce per se but the sociopath father (who never lost his share of custody) that was the problem.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:36 PM
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I have friends who are considering having kids even though they are on the fence about staying together. She's in her early forties, so time is a factor; he's in his early thirties; they aren't married or engaged. Neither has any doubt about parenting. It seems as if it could work, but I don't quite know what to make of it.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:40 PM
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Mr. B was a sucker for wholesome virgins, obviously.

Hardly.

I agree that divorce is hard on kids, and that yes, dads are important. But I don't think that either of those issues is the point of the question whether or not to have kids young. The point is you can't control everything in your life or your kids' lives, and there are a lot of advantages to having children younger than we professional hypereducated types consider proper, and it would be good for us and the world if we didn't dismiss those things as easily as we (and society at large) tend to do.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:44 PM
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I think that the ideal is for a kid to have continuity, and especially not to have traumatic changes during the period from about ten years old to about eighteen years old. If there are two parents, they should try not to hate one another, and show it as little as possible if they do. You can't fool a kid, but you can avoid having him experience screaming fits and can avoid trying to recruit the kid against the other parent.

The rosy-toed one, under one of her names, wrote an eloquent and passionate piece about no-fault divorce, which she believes was a disaster. I tend to agree with it, though I can't remember every detail.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:46 PM
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236: Yeah, in my reading etc. on the subject, the damage to kids associated with divorce is really the damage to kids that results from parents in constant, toxic conflict with one another. When parents are able to cooperatively co-parent following a divorce, children of divorced parents can thrive even better than kids in traditional "intact" families. If I had my file with me, I'd give you a cite to the reference material on this point provided in the mandatory seminar for my divorce.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:47 PM
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238: The "kids or not" controversy would be less fraught if grad schools were more accepting of returning students.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:48 PM
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Like getting married, having kids with somebody seems like a quick and efficient way to learn how deeply one can hate another human being, judging from the only marriage I've observed in person.


Posted by: Flippanter | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:48 PM
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especially not to have traumatic changes during the period from about ten years old to about eighteen years old.

Are you suggesting that ten-to-eighteen is a more vulnerable age range than under-10? I'm no expert on this but I think the research is pretty squarely against that.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:50 PM
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When parents are able to cooperatively co-parent following a divorce, children of divorced parents can thrive even better than kids in traditional "intact" families.

This definitely matches my limited observational experience. And it goes double compared to `intact' but unhappy marriages.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:53 PM
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I second the skepticism in 243, biased by my own parents' mostly benign separation when I was 15.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:55 PM
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But I don't think that either of those issues is the point of the question whether or not to have kids young.

Not directly, no, but having kids young can have an impact on the ability to make good choices about the type of person with whom you are going to parent a child for the next 18 years. Choosing to make a baby together is, in many respects, a more binding commitment than choosing to get married. Dividing up a bunch of marital property is a helluva lot easier than figuring out how to cooperatively coparent with someone you no longer can abide.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:57 PM
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243: I think that little kids recover better. Several of the really messed-up people I've known experienced family disasters during their early teens. I have no non-anecdotal data.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:57 PM
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243, 245, 247: Okay, I'll bring in my materials tomorrow and provide some cites. I know alot of the data can be found in the book "The Good Divorce."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 2:59 PM
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the damage to kids associated with divorce is really the damage to kids that results from parents in constant, toxic conflict with one another

Agreed. Damage to kids comes not from divorce but from conflict.

The people who think that divorce is the problem are idiots. They assume that the parents will be nice to each other and the kids if the parents remain married.

Also, preventing divorce does not prevent people from living apart. It simply stops them from getting remarried to other people. There are many situations that are horrible, but do not amount to the level of abuse that would allow a fault based divorce. Your spouse can ignore you, call you fat, not have sex with you, be mean to you, and do all kinds of things. Still, you do not get a fault based divorce.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:02 PM
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I think that little kids recover better.

This makes sense to me.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:02 PM
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Your spouse can ignore you, call you fat, not have sex with you, be mean to you, and do all kinds of things. Still, you do not get a fault based divorce.

No, they do --- after you stab them repeatedly with a carving fork (for all of the above).

Conflict and petty immature behaviour of the parents seems to me to be the real damaging factor for kids.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:04 PM
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It's really hard to take care of a tiny child without a partner's time and/or income, though, especially if you are young and don't make much money. I partially supervise someone who is in this position right now, and it sucks for her. She just doesn't have enough time, money, or paid time off to deal with things like times when the baby gets sick.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:05 PM
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There also can be intrinsic problems with divorce, though. For example, if one parent disappears (perhaps without explanation), or if there are disruptions like moving, or if the kids live in reduced circumstances, or if custody sharing details are disruptive, or if the custodial parent is overburdened (my sister's cae: she's giving a lot to her grandson because she couldn't give it to her kids).


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:10 PM
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Mmmm, I don't think divorce is the issue; the issue is parental conflict. I speak as someone who wished to god my parents would divorce throughout my high school years.

I'm also not convinced that little kids recover better. I think the games my sister's ex played when their daughter was 3-6 (not showing up when he said he would to pick up his daughter, moving to a different state and telling her he was going to do so "but don't tell your mom yet, she'll be mad", etc.) were absolutely awful for her. I think the main difference between little-kid trauma of that nature and adolescent trauma is that the little-kid trauma gets folded into personality more obviously as the kid grows up, whereas adolescents are a lot better able to articulate their anger and the before/after break is more easy to see.

Also, anecdotally and based entirely on my own life, I think the thing that helped my sister and I turn out pretty okay despite the fucked-up shit that went on in our house when we were older (and my parent's divorce when my sister was midway through high school) is that they were still a happy couple and excellent parents when we were very young. I honestly believe that that helped the two of us establish expectations about how to treat ourselves and other people that helped us negotiate the fuckeduppedness later.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:11 PM
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Your spouse can ignore you, call you fat, not have sex with you, be mean to you, and do all kinds of things. Still, you do not get a fault based divorce.

Really? I mean, you're the expert, so I'm inclined to trust you, but don't most states recognize mental cruelty and/or withdrawal of consort as a cause of action?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:11 PM
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253:

Those are not problems with divorce. Those are problems with two people living in separate places. Their status as divorced or married is not relevant.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:12 PM
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don't most states recognize mental cruelty and/or withdrawal of consort as a cause of action?

Mental cruelty is actually relatively difficult to prove. In my 15 years of practice, I've been involved in two cases.

Not having sex also isnt a grounds for divorce.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:14 PM
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257: If you don't mind another question Will, how do the various states tend to sit on this: would a person who refused sex to their partner have adultry grounds against that parter if they were to go elsewhere?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:16 PM
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Will, those are problems commonly associated with divorce. It's true that divorce itself is only a legal event, and if a couple divorced but stayed together and left everything else the same, there would be no effect at all on the kids.

Here is the no-fault piece I mentioned. It's a real can of worms, believe me, but what she says about no-fault is worth a look.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:18 PM
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258:
yes.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:18 PM
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257: This may vary state to state (or county to county). I'm led to believe it's not that hard to prove in my jurisdiction, if necessary. Or maybe my lawyer just meant that UNG is just that obviously an asshole...


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:19 PM
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Not having sex also isnt a grounds for divorce.

This is from the bar exam, but I think it is in NY.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:19 PM
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No, really, little kids in general have a much harder time with parental separation/divorce. I don't have citations but know enough to know this isn't a controversial point. Under the age of 1 or so they won't remember anything, but once they start forming strong attachments disruptions hit them pretty hard, and people get better at coping with disruption and change as they get older. I'm guessing that B is probably right that little kids tend to fold this stuff into general neuroses and personality disorders, which may make it less obvious.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:20 PM
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(263 shouldn't be read to say that separating isn't often a good idea, and yes of course parental hostility is really a bigger problem.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:22 PM
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253, 256, 259: Yeah, those are problems somewhat intrinsic in divorce -- but I think kids deal alot better with moving, financial struggles, etc. when they have a stable emotional environment. Those things are costs, but in a great many cases they are less damaging than the alternative.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:23 PM
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203: Maybe that was what I was thinking. When teenagers act out, it's very dramatic.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:24 PM
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259:

John, I just skimmed through the article. I've seen similar arguments elsewhere.

If you eliminate a no-fault divorce, you do not eliminate couples splitting up. You simply encourage people to spend time and money fighting about fault grounds. They are hard to prove.

An example. Husband is an ass. He calls wife fat, refuses to let her family come over. He never comes home at night. He spends no time with the kids. When he is around, he treats the kids poorly.

She cannot leave him without being at fault for desertion.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:25 PM
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This may vary state to state (or county to county). I'm led to believe it's not that hard to prove in my jurisdiction, if necessary. Or maybe my lawyer just meant that UNG is just that obviously an asshole...

I dont know any jurisdiction but Virginia, but you might want to look at the reported cases for mental cruelty. See how many there are. This is just a guess, but I suspect not many.

Lots of lawyers talk a big game about mental cruelty and threaten it. But, they can never prove it.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:27 PM
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This is from the bar exam, but I think it is in NY.

So how many times do you have to put out each month in NY?

Is it a number of times or do you add up the total hours of sex each year?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:28 PM
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259: It's not that it makes everything she says unconvincing, but the link is to an explicitly insincere devil's-advocate anti-SSM piece.

This conversation is always no fun to have, because I get all weird simultaneously believing that divorce is generally lousy for kids (not that plenty, probably most, kids don't do just fine anyway), and that making it more difficult again would be much worse. If there was more societal acceptance for an explicit joint-custody-planned-from-the-beginning-co-parenting relationship that was never meant to be a marriage, that would probably have the potential for working great, but that doesn't really exist.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:29 PM
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For what it's worth, John, I do not believe that it has ever been shown that the empirical fact of an increase in divorces what matched by an net increase in damage to children. I know that isn't the point of Belle's article, but it's an implicit claim that is waltzed over.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:30 PM
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269: Once a year.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:30 PM
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Lots of lawyers talk a big game about mental cruelty and threaten it. But, they can never prove it.

Is it really that they can't prove the charge to the prevailing standard of evidence, or that the complaining party gets bitten by recrimination and examination of comparative rectitude?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:31 PM
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Eliminating no-fault divorce is a little like banning abortion -- people trying to legislate the shiny happy world they want to pretend exists at the expense of people who don't have the luxury of living in that fantasyland.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:32 PM
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do you add up the total hours of sex each year?

And if so, do they assume a standard 7.3 minutes per PIV, or does the individual piece rate have to be empirically ascertained?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:34 PM
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I wouldn't point to that piece as well-researched. A strong argument about another topic, yes, but not a study of the effect of divorce on children by age.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:34 PM
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270:

I think that parentings position in law should be seperated completely from marriage. I think a couple of details are difficult (disagreement about parenthood, etc.)

Howeve, I also I think marriage as an institution should be torn down and restructured as purely seperate civil parts (available to SS couples as well, some of which should be available to non-couple relationships too) and religious parts (they can sort that out).


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:35 PM
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Basically I've known cases when individuals and couples made their personal arrangements in the sublime assurance that what would be best for them would be best for the kids, when it was clearly not best for the kids. As I said, Belle's piece is a can of worms,

I do not know how it would be shown as an empirical fact that increases in divorce causes harm to children, or doesn't cause harm. There have been multiple enormous changes during the period when divorce increased.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:35 PM
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I wonder about just how hard being a single parent is supposed to be and whether my perception is different because of the existence of state health care and somewhat more generous financial benefits here. Both my mother and sister are single parents and while it was certainly difficult at times, it wasn't always that hard.

I'm not trivializing how difficult it was/is for them, but more pointing out that single-parenthood is partly difficult for the single-parent because of reasons that the state is quite well placed to do something about. Via health-care funding, subsidized nursery and day-care places, social housing, etc.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:36 PM
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21: I have two pairs of Kenneth Cole shoes that are smoking hot and feel fantastic. I thus rarely wear them because I want them to last. Their look is sufficiently classical that I doubt they'll age out of fashion anytime soon.

I'm totally with you on the boxer toe, too. Right now I'm wearing el cheapo boxer toe dress shoes from Target. They make me look like a misplaced scuba diver (size 13, that toe is huge) but they are very sturdy and very comfy and sufficiently generic for day-to-day work wear.

My tennis shoes are many and varied. Actually, come to think of it, I own kind of a lot of shoes for a guy.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:36 PM
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The beauty of no-fault is that it gives you the opportunity to get out without proving mental cruetly (or adultery or whatever other nasty thing) and spares the spouses and children alike the grief of a public record as to what a jackass one or more of the parties was.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:36 PM
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Constructive abandonment occurs when one spouse refuses to engage in sexual relations with the other spouse for a period of one year. To prove constructive abandonment, the spouse attempting to obtain the divorce must also show that he or she made repeated requests for relations during that year, that the other spouse refused those requests and that the other spouse was physically and mentally capable of having sexual relations.

How do you cite wikkipedia to a court?

How many times do you think this case been used?

I cannot imagine litigating such a case.

Direct: "Did you rub her leg with lascivious intent?"

Yes.

"Did she respond?"

No


Her: "I wouldnt have sex with him after he told me he was thinking about my sister when we did it!"


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:37 PM
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272: can you make advance payments now so you don't have to pay in subsequent years? Getting all 55 or so nasties out of the way in one year wouldn't be fun, but you could live the rest of your life undisturbed at least.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:38 PM
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278: Yeah, that was part of my point --- how would you ever prove such a thing, but B's article sort of assumed it was true.

On the other hand, she's pulling a devils advocate, and the point is tertiary at best.

But I've heard often the refrain that `divorce is hurting the children' but it's not at all clear to me that this is true. Individual cases, sure. But you can match those up with cases where staying together has created a damaging environment. How would you even begin to measure the net effect? If it's possible, I've no idea how.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:39 PM
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I have a great idea! Why don't we focus on people learning how to communicate better instead of focusing on making divorce harder?

If you really care, teach people how to problem solve better. Focus on issues, not people. Shockingly, many people can learn how to do it better if they have an incentive.

I am a huge fan of helping people learn how to problem-solve better. Collab practice is a much better way to resolve family law disputes.

http://www.collaborativepractice.com/


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:40 PM
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whether my perception is different because of the existence of state health care and somewhat more generous financial benefits here.

That's a large part of it, but there's also the sort of issues that kept on coming up in all the dicussions of feminism and women's careers -- if there's no other parent to help out, your kid's needs are awfully inflexible, and you have to arrange the rest of your life to make that work. Obviously a single mother isn't going to be able to (pick something vocationally challenging, or even maybe paying a securely middle-class wage), where a parent in a couple could.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:41 PM
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279: All of that infrastructure makes a huge difference. In the worst case (low income, no benefits, no other parenting support) here the situation is pretty dire for a single parent.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:41 PM
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spares the spouses and children alike the grief of a public record as to what a jackass one or more of the parties was.

Don't the courts routinely grant requests to seal the records in these cases?


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:42 PM
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http://www.constanceahrons.com/the%20good%20divorce.htm

Divorce does not have to be damaging for children. Divorce can be good for children depending on the circumstances. Parents can (in theory) behave like grown-ups and make things work for the kids following a divorce.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:42 PM
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282: I assume it would normally be used collusively, at least these days -- in NY, which doesn't really have no fault, it'd probably be your fastest way out of a marriage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:43 PM
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286: Oddly enough, I know a group of people (from roughly high school) of which 4 out of 7 or so men have ended up single fathers. The effect on their carreers is, unsurprisingly, similar. I haven't spoken to any of them for years though, and have no idea how much thwarted ambition there was, etc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:43 PM
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I used to believe as gospel that a conflicted family was worse than a divorce. Based on the anecdotes of my first- and second-hand life-experience, I'm not so sure any more. Beyond the NFD legalities, partly I'm just thinking of parents who, together or apart, are so committed to their personal needs and whims that they make their kids' lives unpleasant.

I separated from my son's mother when he was about three. We shared custody in a relatively friendly way, though it became more unfriendly as time went on. I've recently wondered whether my attempts to avoid bad-mouthing my ex might not have meant that he had nowhere to go when she was being genuinely weird.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:46 PM
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I assume it would normally be used collusively

Oh what fun a cross-examination would be in NY on those issues.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:46 PM
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I've recently wondered whether my attempts to avoid bad-mouthing my ex might not have meant that he had nowhere to go when she was being genuinely weird.

There is a difference between not bad-mouthing an ex and lying to your child. You cannot pretend that the other person is something that they are not.

You can only help your child deal with that person in the most healthy way possible. Often, that involves you learning how to be a therapist.

Just the other day, I had to remind my son that although his aunt (my sister) is crazy, she makes an amazing chocolate pecan pie. If we dont allow her into our house because she is crazy, then we do not get to have her delicious pie.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:50 PM
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293:

counsel: Mr X., you claim you did not have sex with your wife from the period of January 11th, 2006 to January 12th, 2007?

Mr X.: I did not have sexual relations with that woman.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:52 PM
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292: I really don't know. My parents were very unhappily married for as long as I can remember, but I think their staying together was easier for my sister and I than if they'd divorced. They did split up for a year while I was in high school, and that was unpleasant.

On the other hand, they had the most polite and low-conflict possible unhappy marriage. Very few of anything that could be characterized as arguments, no raised voices, and so on. So they really aren't representative of most unhappy marriages.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:53 PM
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280: My tennis shoes are many and varied. Actually, come to think of it, I own kind of a lot of shoes for a guy.

McManly, I first read this as "for a gay."


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:53 PM
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I'm not really advocation the abolition of NFD and I don't think that Belle was. I also don't think that divorce is always a bad thing for kids. Maybe not even usually. I'm not saying that people shouldn't get divorced.

But there was a time there when divorce was presented as a wonderful liberating thing, and it isn't always. And the effects on the kids are often assumed to be neutral or positive, and they often aren't. And a lot of people are too blithe about starting families and also about breaking up families.

My anti-relationship ranting is of a piece with my anti-divorce ranting. Obviously.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:56 PM
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297: Hell, so did I. For a gay, though, I suspect I'm at worst running about average.


Posted by: Robust McManlyPants | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:57 PM
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296: This is the thing that makes it so situational. It's easy to point at a house where crockery is regularly flying around and the police get called in a few times a year an say `that's not good'. It's also easy to point at a broken marriage where the parents work out a low-conflict, minimum impact on the children sort of arrangement and say `that works pretty well'. I'm sure most broken marriages are somewhere in between, and some will be better off living seperately (but coparenting effectively) others together (and minimizing conflict)


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:58 PM
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And a lot of people are too blithe about starting families and also about breaking up families.

Agreed. Maybe it's a difference in our ages, but I've more often heard the argument that divorce is hurting children than the one that it is neutral or positive. I assume this was a backlash against the jump in divorce statistics.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 3:59 PM
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294: I never lied to him. I didn't even know about the things that might have been happening (bursts of irrational rage) because I had made it clear that I didn't want to get involved in bad-mouthing her. He knew that we didn't usually get along, but I wanted to avoid starting bitch sessions. I now suspect there were problems there that I didn't find out about.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:03 PM
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302:

it is a delicate balance. it isnt easy. Neither is marriage.

Kids are tough. There simply isnt a magic solution. We do the best we can and hope for good luck.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:06 PM
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A lot of this stuff would be easier if most people didn't suck most of the time.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:09 PM
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There's a fairly strong non-Republican anti-divorce trend among people under 30, I think.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:10 PM
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305: Maybe, but they're not marrying till they're 28, so.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:12 PM
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There's a fairly strong non-Republican anti-divorce trend among people under 30, I think.

Of course there is.

Havent you heard the dumbasses?

"I'm not going to get divorced."

Why?

"Because I dont believe in divorce and will only marry someone like me who will work out our problems."


HAHAHAHAH simpleton.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:12 PM
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Don't you remember?

Only people who get married and expect to get divorced get divorced.

Oh, and the bad people get divorced too. Nice people who try hard do not get divorced.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:13 PM
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Maybe under 40? I think my cohort (up to five-ten years older) is the oldest where divorced parents are common, and the suckiness from the kids' point of view is therefore conventional wisdom. (I'm still absolutely not saying that divorce isn't often better than staying together, just that it's one kind of lousy option among a menu with nothing that isn't lousy.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:13 PM
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309: That can break both ways though. I know a fair number of my people who just don't want to get married, period. Kids or not. Some of them end up doing it for reasons related to kids (benefits, etc.) but only under duress that way. This may be another reaction to haveing experience a lot of crappy broken marriages as kids 1st or 2nd hand.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:17 PM
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As I've said, the anti-marriage and the anti-divorce arguments overlap. I think that people should be more careful about both, but that if there are children they should think of the children first.

It's not dumbasses:

This article examines trends in divorce attitudes of young adult women in the United States by educational attainment from 1974 to 2002. Women with 4-year college degrees, who previously had the most permissive attitudes toward divorce, have become more restrictive in their attitudes toward divorce than high school graduates and women with some college education, whereas women with no high school diplomas have increasingly permissive attitudes toward divorce.

Will, divorce isn't going to be abolished and I don't object to your career. I don't think that Di did the wrong thing. On the other hand, even though they were unhappy I think that LB's parents did the right thing.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:17 PM
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My Mother had an affair with my best friend's older brother. For two years I was the only one in my family (at age 8), who knew. My parents divorce followed two years later, with my Mother picking the brother over my Father. What followed was several years of her displaying uninhibited insanity, while my Father fell apart.
I often wonder what my life would be like if I didn't have to put so much energy into negating the damage of those early years.


Posted by: Fleur Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:18 PM
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Whether a couple should have divorced or stayed together is not something I can get my head around easily. Too many conflicting factors. I think my parents probably would be happier if they had divorced, but it's hard to say.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:20 PM
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Yeah, I was kind of terrified of getting married for those reasons -- much as I thought I was sure Buck was reliable, it just seemed like something that could go wildly wrong, and be absolutely impossible to unwind completely. I did it anyway, and it's turned out great, but I'm always surprised by people who get married and aren't frightened by it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:20 PM
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This may be another reaction to haveing experience a lot of crappy broken marriages as kids 1st or 2nd hand.

This seems like a pretty silly reaction to me. "Maybe I shouldn't have kids" seems the logical reaction to a deep knowledge of divorces that are hard on the children, not "maybe I should have a legally indeterminate relationship."


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:23 PM
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312:

There is certainly damage from the break up of a family. I am not implying that there isn't.

However, the no fault divorces law do not stop people from having sex with people who are not their spouses.

Emerson:

Even among otherwise highly intelligent people, the young assume they can avoid the problems in a marriage. Just go back to an earlier thread here. Several of the youngsters had the same attitude about divorce. It isn't for them; divorce is for "the others."

This is what young people do. They assume that they are different from their parents.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:23 PM
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313 to 310.

312: Man. But of course the availability of divorce doesn't cut one way or the other on that. If a parent loses it like that, the kids are screwed no matter what happens.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:23 PM
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wonder about just how hard being a single parent is supposed to be and whether my perception is different because of the existence of state health care and somewhat more generous financial benefits here. Both my mother and sister are single parents and while it was certainly difficult at times, it wasn't always that hard.

Ttam gets it 100% right.

if there's no other parent to help out, your kid's needs are awfully inflexible, and you have to arrange the rest of your life to make that work. Obviously a single mother isn't going to be able to (pick something vocationally challenging, or even maybe paying a securely middle-class wage), where a parent in a couple could.

I don't see how this follows at all. If you have health insurance and state support for, say, getting an education, what career is going to be closed to you as a single parent that you wouldn't be able to pursue as half of a couple? One of the only ones I can even begin to think of is the military, and the fact is that there are actually a lot of single moms in the military--probably partly because the services provide some of the social support that civilian society doesn't, ironically.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:26 PM
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I did it anyway, and it's turned out great, but I'm always surprised by people who get married and aren't frightened by it.

I agree. Furthermore, not to be an ass, but it has turned out great for you, so far. I hope it is great for the rest of your life. But, life is complicated and throws curves that you do not expect or are otherwise not prepared for.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:26 PM
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315: Perhaps. But among a lot of people my age, with no stigma in living together, getting married is often a signal that they intend also to have kids, or, if they've been living for a while together, that they intend to have kids soon.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:26 PM
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Heh. I've been watching and have wondered at the opposite possibility, that couples who are getting divorced after twenty-plus years of marriage and their kids off to college shouldn't just stay married. I don't think they know how to be single, and I don't think they have realistic expectations of what an isolated elderly life will look like.

There are so many ways to go wrong.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:27 PM
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but that if there are children they should think of the children first.

Given this, I'm absolutely certain that it doesn't imply the same solution for every couple.


312: That sounds rough Fleur. I had several friends growing up in similar situations, it sounds like. As for wondering `what if', it always has the problem that you can't really know. I had let's say a rough patch as a teen ager, which gives rise to the same sort of wondering. I sometimes have wondered if I would have turned out basically the same regardless though.

Most who knew me when I was 8-10 seemed to assume I'd end up being a professor or something (they usually picked english for some reason!?!?). Most who knew me at 15-17 thought I'd probably be dead soon. Most who knew me at 23-25 assumed I'd end up being a professor.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:27 PM
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Not good to be pregnant at your new job. Can't get pregnant now since I think my health insurance runs out in seven months. Can't self-insure and then get pregnant since most individual policies have limitations.

Yeah, basically there's no good time if you want an academic career. But in a way that short-circuits the problem. Because there's always a reason not to have a kid, you might as well just go ahead and do it. If you want a child, taking each don't-do-it reason at face value is the worst choice.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:29 PM
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I don't think they know how to be single, and I don't think they have realistic expectations of what an isolated elderly life will look like.

Getting divorced isn't some quick and easy thing that people do.

Most people do not just wake up one morning and get divorced that afternoon.

It takes time and it takes courage to get divorced. Why do we presume that they will be alone or that a life alone isn't better than one still married?

Many people enjoy the freedom of doing what they want to do when they want to do it.

I am not suggesting that people do not make mistakes. They do.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:31 PM
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If you have health insurance and state support for, say, getting an education, what career is going to be closed to you as a single parent that you wouldn't be able to pursue as half of a couple?

Anything with erratic enough hours that you can't be certain of making a pickup time from daycare, or where you'll be penalized for, e.g., staying home with a sick kid. No?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:31 PM
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318: Just time in the day and exhaustion. Even if you have health care, and day care, balancing enough of a job to pay the bills and enough of schoolwork to get through in a reasonable amount of time (which is what leads to the nice career & advancement) is tricky.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:32 PM
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maybe I should have a legally indeterminate relationship.

I don't think it's that, I think it's more: Why let social norms dictate what will work for us, that didn't work well for all our parents.

Also, I know several couples who don't see any need to get married, but accept that when there are kids involved some things become easier. Most of these would probably jump at a non-marriage solution to some of the things that boil down to contract law, and avoid the word `marriage'. Others just don't ever bother. I definately get the sense that some notable percentage of the people I know regard marriage as outmode or otherwise broken as an institution, but for various different reasons.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:32 PM
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I do not know how it would be shown as an empirical fact that increases in divorce causes harm to children, or doesn't cause harm

No law permitting divorce existed in Chile until 2004; it's not a perfect laboratory but, along with the Philippines, there might be some data out there.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:34 PM
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Why do we presume that they will be alone or that a life alone isn't better than one still married?

Even if your spouse hates you, they'll still drive you to the hospital if you fall down the stairs. Usually.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:34 PM
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I actually think that the idea of a contract is healthy in a relationship, whether it be married or otherwise. Each should have responsibilities to the other. Those responsibilities should be defined so that the other knows what to expect.

I am just not convinced that we shouldnt have ways to get out of such contracts without a litigated trial on fault.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:35 PM
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321: There's something to this, and it's very sad. My parents eventually split up in their mid-fifties, getting close to fifteen years ago now. And it looks to me as if they left it too late; neither one of them ever really developed a separate social life, or seems terribly happy.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:35 PM
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There is a difference between not bad-mouthing an ex and lying to your child. You cannot pretend that the other person is something that they are not.

Serious question, Will, since you are sensible about these things: what in god's name do you do when the crazy person is the child's grandparent? I really want him to have a relationship with my mom, and god knows I don't want to reproduce her own fucked-up constant bitching about her parents as a way of explaining why we don't see grandma. But I seriously believe my mother is a narcissist, and I worry about her impact on him if they see each other more often than occasionally. E.g., his asking "why doesn't grandma come to see me on my birthday?" It's a little hard to explain to him that she won't show up if grandpa's going to be there because she's too caught up in her own (fictional) drama of victimization to deal with him.

For now I just say she was very sorry not to be able to make it. But this is something that gnaws at me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:36 PM
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Even if your spouse hates you, they'll still drive you to the hospital if you fall down the stairs. Usually.

No they wont. They will call an ambulance.

Privatization of care.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:36 PM
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I understand the lack of interest in marriage, as a word and institution. But if you have the substance of marriage—a monogamous, cohabitating couple raising children—it doesn't matter what you call it, or what your attitude towards the institution is: it's going to be hard on your children when it disappears.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:37 PM
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I'm sure Will will always have plenty of business. But the truth is that divorce rates have plummeted among the college-educated since the 1970s. In other words, for that group at least, kids who saw divorce at first hand have succeeded in significantly reducing their own risk of divorce.

http://www.divorcereform.org/nyt05.html


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:40 PM
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Anything with erratic enough hours that you can't be certain of making a pickup time from daycare, or where you'll be penalized for, e.g., staying home with a sick kid. No?

How is this different from having a career, a kid, and a partner? Tons of married women change jobs or cut back on hours for those exact same reasons; obviously having a husband doesn't solve this problem.

Plus, you know, one makes friends. My single mom friend calls me when she can't pick up her kids, or if her babysitter's out of town (i.e., last week and this week).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:41 PM
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330: make them short term, renewable with clauses for what happens if either choose not to renew?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:41 PM
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321 and 331 are very right. My parents got divorced in their 40s after being married for twenty years. They both immediately latched onto the first people they could find, and now it's evident to all except them that they're going to spend the next twenty years no better off, only with the added misery of being unable to conceive of escape.

(Generally I wouldn't think 40 is too old to divorce; being formerly devout Catholics made it more apocalyptic than it would be for most.)


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:41 PM
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312: I recently heard a story almost exactly like that, and at age 60 the guy still feels the effects. (It was a very ordinary, poor, small-town woman).

The states with the lowest divorce rates are all eastern and northern -- not the states where people talk about "covenant marriage". (Maryland is the farthest South, and North Dakota the farthest West). Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and NY are among them, with MA at the bottom. Catholicism, Judaism, and Lutheranism seem to be factors.

Fundamentalism's ties to the charismatic gospel churches lead directly to rock and roll and honky tonks, and from there to lewdness and divorce. Some cycle through sin and redemption multiple times.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:42 PM
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It's a little hard to explain to him that she won't show up if grandpa's going to be there because she's too caught up in her own (fictional) drama of victimization to deal with him.

I've got similar situations. I just told my kids the truth. I repeated that they love them very much, but that they had issues. Your child will not really understand very well yet.

But, I just continued to stress that they were loved very much, but that sometimes relatives are weird and do not act the way we want them to act. I repeat that life isnt always fair. That we cannot make people act any certain way. But, that most importantly, only they [my kids] control how they feel. They are responsible for their own feelings. If they want to be happy, then they can be happy. Never cede control of your happiness to another person.

Who decides whether grandma is happy? Do you [child] decide whether grandma is happy? No. She does. Who decides whether you are happy? You do.

Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it.

That discussion has appeared to work well for me.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:42 PM
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a monogamous, cohabitating couple raising children

well for one thing, several of the cases I'm thinking of have varied different parts of this.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:43 PM
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335:

all kinds of groups use divorce as a tool for whatever point they want to make.

I like to think of myself as a problem-solver. It just happens to be in the family law context. People get into a dispute. How do we best solve it? A two party solution is almost always better than one mandated by a judge.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:45 PM
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Re. the link in 111: John, have you read "Promises I Can Keep"? My sense of the difference between college-educated and non-college-educated women's attitudes towards divorce since the 70s is this:

College-educated women have a lot more options, are much better able to delay marriage, and have more power of choice in picking partners than our mothers did. It's also true that many of us lived through some shitty-ass parental divorces (and marriages), but I believe it is the former, not the latter, that's been shown to make a significant difference in the change in our attitudes from "more permissive" to "more child-centered" in that regard.

Women without college degrees, on the other hand, have a lot *fewer* options, economically and w/r/t partner choice. Interestingly, this seems to cause a lot of them to have kids while postponing marriage--they want kids, but the men they have to choose from aren't acceptable to them. On the other hand, I would be willing to bet that women who, as a class, have less (economic) independence and control over their lives, are going to favor the option of getting the hell out of a bad relationship much more than women who have the means to avoid (or salvage--by paying for housekeepers, therapy, separate vacations, etc.) that kind of relationship in the first place.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:46 PM
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How is this different from having a career, a kid, and a[n uncooperative] partner?

It's not. A woman whose husband (or a man whose wife) isn't taking part of the parenting load whether because their career forbids it or out of intransigence is in pretty much the same position as a single parent, career-wise. But most couples do split parenting some, even if not equitably.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:47 PM
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Even if your spouse hates you, they'll still drive you to the hospital if you fall down the stairs. Usually.

Not worth it. You want one of those "I've fallen and I can't get up" intercom things.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:48 PM
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343:

excellent points.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:48 PM
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several of the cases I'm thinking of have varied different parts of this.

Which parts, exactly? (I'm expecting: non-monogamous or not raising children.)


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:48 PM
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I actually think that the idea of a contract is healthy in a relationship, whether it be married or otherwise. Each should have responsibilities to the other. Those responsibilities should be defined so that the other knows what to expect.

I tend to think just the opposite at any level of detail beyond "be respectful and decent to each other." People change, circumstances change, relationships change, and conversations that start from "But you agreed to always..." seem like a pretty good way to end up seeing you professionally.

E.g., his asking "why doesn't grandma come to see me on my birthday?" It's a little hard to explain to him that she won't show up if grandpa's going to be there because she's too caught up in her own (fictional) drama of victimization to deal with him.

Why not an age-appropriate version of the truth? "Grandma doesn't come to parties when grandpa's there because sometimes she doesn't like being around him; it has nothing to do with how she feels about you." Over time you get more questions and have to explain more bits and pieces (and correct more misunderstandings) as the kid gets older, but with some care (starting with making it very clear that those conversations don't get shared with third parties) it works. The reality of adult conflict is less scary and more boring than what kids construct for themselves from the bits they pick up on their own.



Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:50 PM
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311: Will, you said it was idiots, and it wasn't idiots. That was my point.

What I'm talking about is people who go into marriage and have kids thinking "Well, if it doesn't turn out, we'll just get divorced". Or people who are unhappy with their lives and want to get out, and convince themselves that it will be best for the kids. People start families and break up families with amazing casualness. At this point, I think that "staying together for the sake of the kids" makes sense more often than people think, especially if it also involves "being as nice as possible to this person I don't love". Thpugh it usualy doesn't.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:50 PM
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342: Sensible enough. I wasn't trying to push for the group, it was just the first link to that data that showed up on Google.

I think the drop in college grad divorce rates is a combination of changes in attitudes and a rise in the age at first marriage, plus a lot more dating around first.


Posted by: PerfectlyGoddamnDelightful | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:50 PM
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isn't taking part of the parenting load

Yeah, I've also seen couples where one adult is not only not helpful with the babies, but is him/herself a burden. The thought of the other adult adding work on top of childraising nearly makes my knees buckle.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:51 PM
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347: actually, I think I know people in all possible permutations of this.

i.e., discounting no children as being less interesting in this context, I've know non-monogamous couples, monogamous couples but child rearing and habitating with more than 2 people, non-monogamous non-couples raising children, co-parents raising children while not cohabitating (by choice, and from the beginning), etc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:51 PM
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340: Thanks. Soon it'll be time to say that sort of thing. Thankfully, for now, "she couldn't make it" seems to work. But yes, soon; he can't be blind to the fact that grandpa calls and writes and comes to visit and is allowed to babysit, whereas grandma, well, no.

ids who saw divorce at first hand have succeeded in significantly reducing their own risk of divorce.

I'm repeating myself here, but again: this assumed causation ignores a lot of more likely reasons for the shift, like the fact that women have a lot more economic power and independence than we did a generation ago.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:52 PM
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"Grandma doesn't come to parties when grandpa's there because sometimes she doesn't like being around him; it has nothing to do with how she feels about you."

No. Because this introduced the idea that Grandpa is the problem. Which he isn't. And I don't want to color PK's relationship to Grandma by explaining that, well, Grandma is a self-dramatizing pain in the ass--or, more realistically, by saying that she doesn't like Grandpa--because PK *does* like Grandpa, very much, and I don't want him to dislike Grandma on those grounds. It's not like he's not going to ask "why".

people who go into marriage and have kids thinking "Well, if it doesn't turn out, we'll just get divorced". Or people who are unhappy with their lives and want to get out, and convince themselves that it will be best for the kids.

Honestly, John, I think that the former exist more in the popular imagination than in reality--they live right next door to the girl who gets an abortion so she can fit into her prom dress. The latter, yes, those people exist; but they are going to convince themselves that what*ever* they do is "best for the kids."


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:58 PM
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352: Interesting. I've always assumed that the standard relationship model was, in the specific case of child-rearing, standard for a reason. (It's not like the existence of viable alternatives necessarily puts that belief into question—standard doesn't need to be normative—but it makes me very curious about what features of the relationship environment make alternatives desirable.)


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 4:58 PM
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the standard relationship model was, in the specific case of child-rearing, standard for a reason.

It is; the reason is that you need a man + a woman to make a baby.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:00 PM
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Heteronormativist.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:01 PM
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357: Nope.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:04 PM
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355: Well, my circles of friends etc. certainly overlap with some pretty experimental people, but this:

I've always assumed that the standard relationship model was, in the specific case of child-rearing, standard for a reason

is a bit off anyway. The current `standard' model (i.e. US nuclear family is what I expect you mean) is very unusual as I understand it, historically speaking. Child rearing has typically been more likely an extended family endevour.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:06 PM
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358: Nihilist.


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:06 PM
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354: I'm dealing with an actual case in my own family. A young family member had a kid with a guy we weren't sure about. He didn't seem compatible, and no thought seems to have gone into the way it happened. Now we've gotten to like the guy, but she's fallen in love with someone else and we're having to choose between them or deal with a lot of messy situations. The kid is wonderful and hasn't been touched by this much yet, and we're just sort of trying to figure out how to shelter him as best possible.

Given my biases, a almost put "falling in love" in scare quotes above.

This really isn't about no-fault at all -- they never got married at all because she didn't want to commit. It's just about thoughtlessly starting and breaking up families.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:07 PM
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I came across this Wikipedia article the other day and I still wonder whether it was written by anti-feminists or actual lesbian utopian separatists.

Regardless I think they should call it 'fallopian utopia.'


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:08 PM
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I'm repeating myself here, but again: this assumed causation ignores a lot of more likely reasons for the shift, like the fact that women have a lot more economic power and independence than we did a generation ago.

It used to be said that educated career women with options were more likely to divorce. Now it's said that women with more options are more likely to stay married. The argument needs fine-tuning.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:08 PM
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It's just about thoughtlessly starting and breaking up families.

Did she deliberately try to become pregnant? Or is it actually about the fact that sexual activity between men and women has a remarkable tendency to cause pregnancy?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:09 PM
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363: The point of your original link, to which I was responding, seemed to be what people *said* they believed, not what they actually did. Or did I misunderstand the excerpt you quoted?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:11 PM
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No. Because this introduced the idea that Grandpa is the problem. Which he isn't. And I don't want to color PK's relationship to Grandma by explaining that, well, Grandma is a self-dramatizing pain in the ass--or, more realistically, by saying that she doesn't like Grandpa--because PK *does* like Grandpa, very much, and I don't want him to dislike Grandma on those grounds. It's not like he's not going to ask "why".

Eh, handle it your own way, but it's useful to understand that A may dislike B even if there's nothing wrong with B, and maybe not even much wrong with A. And if Grandma's a self-dramatizing pain in the ass, the kid is going to figure that out, and IME that understanding need not ruin the kid's relationship with either party.

This does all assume a reasonably subtle touch in communicating with the kid and a kid who's OK with complications and subtlety.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:13 PM
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This thread is making me feel weird that growing up I don't remember anyone in my families circle of friends, even extended circle that had ever had a divorce. At least outwardly they all seemed happy as well, and are all still together. I had one aunt that had a divorce and has had another one since then and I know as a kid I found that very odd.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:17 PM
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The argument needs fine-tuning.

It isn't difficult to fix it by specifying the cohort: Women who got married when they didn't have power/options, gained power/options, now more willing to divorce.

Women who had power/options before marriage, exercised them in making choices, now less willing to divorce.

One hopes this is a pulse of bad marriages clearing the system.



Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:17 PM
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Child rearing has typically been more likely an extended family endeavor.

This argument always pisses me off. I heard it a lot back in the day, when people were talking about "alternatives to the nuclear family".

The extended family has more obligations, not less. But people using the extended family analogy were always talking about reducing the nuclear-family obligation after the extended-family had already been more or less destroyed. It was almost exclusively individualist personal-liberation stuff.

In the family case I've been talking about, the extended family (uncle, aunt, grandmother, two or three cousins) has been tremendously supportive of the new parents and their kid. But we're pretty pissed off that our relative is effectively using us to help her dump her son's father, whom we now like. With the extended family you get expectations.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:18 PM
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This thread is making me feel weird that growing up I don't remember anyone in my families circle of friends, even extended circle that had ever had a divorce.

Mine didn't either. That was because it was illegal, though.


Posted by: Gonerill | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:18 PM
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364: I don't know. We suspect that dumping the father was always considered as a possibility.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:20 PM
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Mine didn't either. That was because it was illegal, though.

It would have been legal for all the people I know.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:20 PM
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One hopes this is a pulse of bad marriages clearing the system.

Oh, Megan, sometimes you really are just a little too nice for this world.

369 is wise.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:21 PM
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I am 100% in favor of fewer marriages, fewer kids, but more permanent marriages even when the parents aren't too happy.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:22 PM
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367: Most of my parents' friends and neighbors, and most of my classmates at school, had not divorced. A few have in the ten years since I've lived there.

368: I suspect it's a bit of both. Making it easier and more socially acceptable to divorce makes it easier for someone to walk away when it's bad, but probably also reduces the incentive to try to work things out in cases where it probably could have been just fine. On balance, I'd rather it be easier for someone to escape a bad marriage than to have them trapped so some other couple can have a happy reconciliation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:28 PM
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In the family case I've been talking about, the extended family (uncle, aunt, grandmother, two or three cousins) has been tremendously supportive of the new parents and their kid. But we're pretty pissed off that our relative is effectively using us to help her dump her son's father, whom we now like. With the extended family you get expectations.

How is this different than the nuclear family? Fathers or mothers can get pretty pissed off at the person who's helping to raise the kids--isn't your point that they should suck it up, for the sake of the child?

We suspect that dumping the father was always considered as a possibility.

So? The point is, did she get pregnant on purpose, while always intending that the father would be temporarily in her life? Because that's what you're implicitly saying too many people do. If the pregnancy was accidental, then her intentions w/r/t the father are irrelevant, unless you're arguing that people caught in unintentional pregnancies should either abort or marry.

In any case, given your own caveat that the parents should be mature and considerate, whether or not this couple breaks up won't matter--if they're mature and considerate, they'll both recognize that they need to maintain friendliness for the kid's sake. If they're not, they won't; but this would be a problem if they stayed together anyway.

I'm not saying it isn't an unfortunate situation--I know a similar one, compounded by more than one accidental pregnancy with more than one woman. But I don't see what precisely you're trying to argue here, other than that adults should be more considerate of their children, which seems unarguable.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:35 PM
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And what's needed isn't changes in law to make it harder to divorce, it's more social pressure to treat your spouse well (even--or especially--when he or she is treating you badly). We live in a world in which vast amounts of money are spent to convince us that we deserve to have rose petals strewn at our feet all the time. Living with another person isn't always exactly like that.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:36 PM
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377 to 375.2.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:36 PM
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My very-nearly-ex-wife just asked me if we could postpone our final paper-signing for a month so she can have some dental work done on my insurance.

People talk a lot about staying together for the sake of the children, but very little about staying together for the sake of the teeth.

I feel like I should have some useful experience here, but in the absence of kids, I don't have a lot to add. I will say that while I would have loved for my erstwhile bride to have taken our continued partnership more seriously, I don't think legal sanction would have helped much.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:42 PM
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But I don't see what precisely you're trying to argue here

Actually, I was speaking to the gallery. I don't expect to convince you.

Whether the pregnancy was accidental or not, her choice to keep the baby was a choice. And she kept the father in her life as long as it was convenient for her. If she'd showed up pregnant with no father in sight, we would have been supportive then too. But she brought him into the family.

We will indeed suck it up, for the sake of the child. But we're pretty pissed at our relative, and we feel used. We don't all feel that it's "an unfortunate situation". Many (not all) of us feel that she's working us.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:42 PM
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our relative is effectively using us to help her dump her son's father

So why not maintain a relationship with the father? That seems to be as likely a role for the extended family in a situation like this: being supportive without joining the antagonism.

How is she using you, and why is it hard to not be used?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:49 PM
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380: Convince me of what? That your relative's a selfish person? I'm perfectly willing to believe that, but it seems to me that you're saying she should have had an abortion, or not let the father in the child's life at all (which seems to me wrong), or that if she decided to have the kid and let the father in, she shouldn't have fallen in love with someone else (which seems to me naive).

I also still don't understand whether it's the father or the relative that's the problem, as far as the child itself is concerned. Is either of them saying that with the other guy in the picture, the father can't be any more? Because whichever of them is saying that, to me, is the person in the wrong. All the rest of it sounds like life happening without a clear plan, which is pretty much how life happens.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:51 PM
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why not maintain a relationship with the father?

That's what the grandmother and aunts in the family I know where this happened (three times, to the same son) have done. It's difficult, of course, and certainly not ideal for the kids to have little contact with their dad. But what else are you going to do? And how is it helpful to blame the dad for flaking on the first two women he got pregnant, and their kids?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 5:54 PM
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369: My only point about extended families for child rearing was that you cannot argue that the nuclear family is same how `natural' based on the idea that it's `always been that way' when in fact, it has hardly ever been that way. I guess I didn't make it clear that the post was supposed to be agnostic about the value about all the various options.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:00 PM
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381: We probably will. But either party could make it difficult for us, and it's tended to split the family.

382: Convince you that what you said about the "extended family" is just utter bullshit. The extended family is not meant to make it easier for people to slop around more in their pursuit of their own personal goals.

It would have been if our relative had done things in a more thoughtful way and had taken more responsibility for the things she was doing. To you it's apparently unthinkable that we should have any opinion about any of the things that she did and didn't do. But that's what extended families are all about; they're not just free money making it easier for people to screw around.

None of the people involved are sophisticated metrosexual types, unless I'm one. The father seems unlikely to be a good sport and accept his lot. Even if he did, the rest of us would still have our own opinion.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:05 PM
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And how is it helpful to blame the dad for flaking on the first two women he got pregnant, and their kids?

The blame game can be a good thing sometimes. etter than enabling.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:06 PM
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sophisticated metrosexual types, unless I'm one.

The term is "retrosexual," old man.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:08 PM
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etter than enabling.

S/B "Better Than Benabling"?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:10 PM
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This thread is making me feel weird that growing up I don't remember anyone in my families circle of friends, even extended circle that had ever had a divorce.

I also feel a bit weird. When I was a kid, I knew that one of my mother's first cousins was divorced, because one of my gr-aunts (who was a nun) used to ask us to pray for her. That was the only divorce I had ever heard of, and it was considered a source of shame and a pretty big scandal.

Even now, looking at my extended family (which includes dozens and dozens of married cousins), I count one divorce, which is way below the national average. I can think of at least one cousin who would be better off divorced, but I doubt that will ever happen.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:28 PM
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The current `standard' model (i.e. US nuclear family is what I expect you mean) is very unusual as I understand it, historically speaking. Child rearing has typically been more likely an extended family endevour.

you cannot argue that the nuclear family is same how `natural' based on the idea that it's `always been that way' when in fact, it has hardly ever been that way

There is another kind of 'natural' defense to social norms: that they are environmentally, not historically natural; that they are in some way conducive to the current social environment.

That's what I was trying to get at: my hunch is that monogamous cohabitation is the best lifestyle for child-rearing in the current milieu. I'm not strongly attached to that conclusion, so the fact that people might be increasingly turning towards other arrangements intrigues me—it might be an indication that the social structure is changing.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 6:30 PM
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389: I'll compensate. Among my parents, three aunts, three uncles, and four bio-grandparents - twelve principals - there have been sixteen marriages and ten divorces, including one uncle who married the same woman for marriages #1 and #3, and is now on #4. Plus the one unmarried cohabiting-and-childrearing couple that is now on the verge of virtual divorce of their non-marriage as their son is about to finish college.


Posted by: Nathan Williams | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:04 PM
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The current `standard' model (i.e. US nuclear family is what I expect you mean) is very unusual as I understand it, historically speaking. Child rearing has typically been more likely an extended family endevour.

I understand why people want to de-naturalize the contemporary nuclear family by historicizing its structure and etc. But I find it less than fully persuasive when people invoke the extended family of bygone days in order to argue for the elimination of the nuclear family of today. The extended family, after all, was an extension of, or an extension outward from, a conjugal unit that looked very like a nuclear family. Or, to put it another way, when the extended family still mattered (hadn't yet been destroyed) there was more family, not less. I find it a bit bizarre when people use this historical example to basically argue for no family at all. (Not that anybody has done that here, but I've certainly seen arguments that run in this direction).


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:08 PM
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Emerson:

I think that many jurisdictions are pushing for fathers to play a mor active role. Your relative's babydaddy doesnt need to play a passive role. He is just as much a parent as she is. He needs to get off his ass and be a parent.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:21 PM
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392: This is a good point. Often the next stage in the argument is something like concluding that since the neolocal nuclear family is a relatively recent invention, there's no reason that a single parent can't XYZ. And while the consequent may indeed be true, it's a weird argument given that where there's a non-nuclear family model of childrearing, it's everyone's mother-in-law in conjugal couple's business, not extended networks of social programs and friends.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:31 PM
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349: What I'm talking about is people who go into marriage and have kids thinking "Well, if it doesn't turn out, we'll just get divorced". Or people who are unhappy with their lives and want to get out, and convince themselves that it will be best for the kids.

361: I'm dealing with an actual case in my own family.

See, I don't mind you talking about a specific couple you actually know-- though it's always easy to judge from the outside when there is surely much going on from the inside that you really don't know. I do, however, think it's harmful to generalize about people making the decision to marry or divorce lightly or to pontificate about how it would be better if more people stayed together for the sake of the kids. I know you're not talking about me or anyone else here personally. But I do take it personally because knowing how quick people are to question whether you are really thinking about what's best for your kids and who are going to question whether you tried hard enough puts a shitload of pressure on people (i.e. me) who are already in a difficult enough position.

Now, my reaction is colored because the primary person challenging whether the divorce would destroy Rory's life irreparably and whether I really tried was the Ugly Naked Guy himself. And in retrospect it was a plainly manipulative tactic designed to convince me that I am a terrible person and incompetent mother and to use the baby girl he knows I would give my life for to coerce me into doing what was best for him. But having this set refrain that everybody and their cousin likes to spout about people not taking marriage seriously made his job alot easier.

I hadn't consciously ruled out divorce, but even after a year of marriage counseling I felt powerless to pull that trigger because had I tried hard enough? Was I just being selfish and not thinking of Rory? I sank steadily into a serious depression as things grew more and more miserable and I couldn't see my way out. I called UNG up one day at work and told him he needed to pick Rory up from daycare because I couldn't function. He came home 'to see if I was okay' and tried to put the moves on. I found myself having suicidal thoughts and it scared the shit out of me. If I had done something stupid, this was the man who would be raising my child. No. Hell no.

I made an appointment with my doctor the next day and started on an antidepressant. A few days later, I started meeting with potential divorce lawyers. Yeah, I did fucking try hard enough, thanks. Yeah, I was thinking about what was best for Rory. My best friend's husband saw fit to chastise me for not finding a way to honor my vows, because marriage is supposed to be forever you know. When I told him to go fuck himself, his wife chastised me for my "hatefulness." We are no longer friends.

Are there people who get married without taking it seriously? Probably. Do people rush into divorce witthout considering the children? Maybe -- though, from my experience with the process, I would love to know how anyone accomplishes this shit, with kids, on a rush basis. Is it in any way useful to have a knee-jerk presumption that divorce is too often about people not taking marriage seriously and that staying together "for the sake of the kids" is the best idea? I don't think so. I really don't think so. This shit is hard enough without a bunch of shaming presumptions about the kind of people who get divorced.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:50 PM
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well said Di.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:52 PM
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And what's needed isn't changes in law to make it harder to divorce, it's more social pressure to treat your spouse well (even--or especially--when he or she is treating you badly).

For the reasons stated above, I think the last thing on earth we need is more social pressure to more graciously accept bad treatment from your spouse. Believe me, there's plenty of that social pressure there and it is really, really not helpful.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 8:55 PM
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Di, you just didnt love UNG enough. If you had, then you could have stayed married.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:02 PM
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The thing is that it takes two people to make it work. One can pretty much fuck it up solo. I think it's possible to sympathize with the situation you were in and support the decision you made while also saying that a strong mutual commitment to treating each other decently and working things out is really important. No doubt there's a gendered part of it as well. But if you're married to someone who isn't an asshole--which is a good thing to avoid--it's pretty destructive to get too hung up on keeping track of the stuff that pisses you off.

What's hard is that situations like yours do exist. But there are lots of other situations where one's spouse really isn't an asshole but it's easy to get to thinking that they are when work/kids/life/whatever is temporarily screwing up home life.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:05 PM
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393: He needs to get off his ass and be a parent.

He is a parent, that's why we like him. He's probably going to have problems being dumped. One of the messy things is that he doesn't know it's hopeless yet, so he's trying to make things work.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:22 PM
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398: And, oh, if only we could have stayed married. To think, I let him get away. =(

399: It's also very easy when looking at someone else's situation to think they are just giving up too easily and that they don't have the sort of situation that makes divorce a fully understandable decision. IME, people on the outside of a bad marriage often have little to no idea what's going on before it's pretty much all over. And even then, they probably don't know the half of it.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:23 PM
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I think my feelings about divorce are coming around to more or less where they are with abortion. I really, really wish they weren't necessary, and I vehemently believe in giving people all of the tools (communication and conflict resolution skills, comprehensive sex education, etc. etc.), preferably years before they are likely to be needed, to make them less common.

But I don't think I'm going to live in a world where they aren't necessary. So the flip side is that I want obtaining them to be safe, straightforward, affordable, and non-intrusive. Meaning: the government or its stand-ins have no/minimal say in it.

And regardless, I want there to be copious social support (emotional, practical, and financial) for people who are dealing with an unplanned pregnancy or marital strife.

Also, I'd like a pony. Preferably spotted.


Posted by: Witt | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:24 PM
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395: Is it in any way useful to have a knee-jerk presumption that divorce is too often about people not taking marriage seriously and that staying together "for the sake of the kids" is the best idea?

Denouncing "knee-jerk presumptions" is the easy part; we all like to sign up for Good Things and denounce Bad Things. The hard part is convincing people that a reasonable amount of skepticism* about whether people take marriage and kids seriously enough is a "knee-jerk presumption." It's a little hard to rule out the skepticism tout court, since it's likely that most people who know a reasonable number of other people know someone whose approach to that sort of commitment has at least given them pause. So it becomes a question of what amount of skepticism is justifiable.

And while I don't doubt the horridness of your own experience, arguing that some people will make cynical use of a social norm or trend is not the same thing as having a convincing argument that the norm or trend is on the whole a bad idea. (I'm not lining up with any particular view here, just saying that if you want to knock out the argument for social pressure, that alone isn't going to do it.)

(* Defined, you know, however.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:33 PM
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401: Agreed. Life is complicated, and as I said somewhere way upthread, it would be a whole lot easier if people were better than we generally are. The stuff you're talking about is very real. I think the stuff I'm talking about--all the marketing and peer-group messages telling us to be sure that life is delivering all that we, perfect snowflakes that we are, deserve--is also real. But this isn't a good conversation to be having while you're in the place you're in now, and I've said my piece, so I'm happy to drop it at that.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:37 PM
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Di, both my sisters are divorced, and for good reason, and I've supported them. I'm pretty confident that you have good reasons too. I really didn't / don't want to make a global anti-divorce statement. But in the specific case I'm thinking of I have very grave doubts, and over the years I've run into a lot of people who had a rather cavalier attitude about the whole topic WRT the effects on children.

And as I've said one of the issues in the specific case is a sort of casual attitude both about getting together and about separating.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 9:39 PM
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404: But this isn't a good conversation to be having while you're in the place you're in now.

Look, NPH, I know your intentions are good and I'm not saying this angrily, but this kind of statement is pretty patronizing. I'm in the place I'm in and I'm perfectly capable of deciding for myself what I'm up for. I also kind of think being in the place I'm in now gives me a perspective on the subject at hand that people who've not been in such a place might not have.

405: John, I know you fully understand that there are some very good reasons for divorce and you are in a better position than any of us to assess whether you are in a position to be able to effectively assess the merits of what's going on with your relative. And given your involvement in her son's life, it's arguably even your business.

403: arguing that some people will make cynical use of a social norm or trend is not the same thing as having a convincing argument that the norm or trend is on the whole a bad idea

My point is that people seem to be operating on the assumption that there is a "social norm or trend" for people to cavalierly enter into marriage and divorce. I'm questioning the basis for making such a sweeping conclusion about the intentions and character of a large and surely diverse group of people. I'm just trying to say that it's really very easy to pass judgment on the decisions other people make about their own lives -- and particularly when it comes to marriage, children, and divorce, I tend to think people on the outside are unlikely to really have all the relevant facts.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:17 PM
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I'd go further and say that probably the most likely people to pay attention to what I've said are probably the ones who need the message least.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:30 PM
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Look, NPH, I know your intentions are good and I'm not saying this angrily, but this kind of statement is pretty patronizing. I'm in the place I'm in and I'm perfectly capable of deciding for myself what I'm up for. I also kind of think being in the place I'm in now gives me a perspective on the subject at hand that people who've not been in such a place might not have.

Umm, OK. You might consider that others' views might also be shaped by their own life experiences. And you may be up for a large ugly fight, but it's clear from your posts that you're not up for to accepting less-than-complete agreement on this topic as anything but a personal challenge, which I'm very much trying to avoid.


Posted by: Not Prince Hamlet | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:33 PM
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Wow. Okay, then. Let's you and me not have a conversation, NPH.

I'm just going to echo/co-opt John's observation in 407 and go to bed.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:39 PM
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Fight! Fight! Fight!


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 10:47 PM
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The extended family is not meant to make it easier for people to slop around more in their pursuit of their own personal goals.

Where did I say this? I've said (not in this thread, I don't think) and I believe that extended family networks are better for *kids* and *childrearing* most of the time. I don't think I've said they're better for people who are pursuing their own individual goals, like, ever.

It would have been if our relative had done things in a more thoughtful way and had taken more responsibility for the things she was doing. To you it's apparently unthinkable that we should have any opinion about any of the things that she did and didn't do.

Again, what? I don't think there's a damn thing wrong with you or the rest of your family having opinions at all. People tend to do that. People also sometimes do things unthoughtfully and irresponsibly. I don't think I've ever said otherwise.

Honestly, John, you're one of the last people here I expect to make assumptions about what I believe or to misread me. I'm surprised.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-26-07 11:05 PM
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re: 325 and 336

Actually, I think LB is sort of right here. Certainly in my experience there are ways in which being a single-parent does make certain careers near impossible. My mum used to be a nurse. She had to give that up because the hospital she worked for decided that, instead of having dedicated night-shift workers, they'd make it a requirement that all staff worked nights 4 or 5 days a month. As a single parent that was just impossible for her.

However, for jobs that don't specifically require unsociable hours, I think B. is right, too.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:49 AM
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In terms of poverty rates, single mothers and their children make up 60% of all the households that live below the poverty line (earmarked as total family income being under $20K/year.) Single fathers make up 32% and the rest (8%) are single people with no children.

Single mothers are by far the worst off, partly because a majority of women are still stuck in feminized, i.e. low-wage jobs. Single fathers have a difficult time too, but it's a little easier for men in this society to find decently paid work.

For instance, Hostital cleaners (mostly women) make (on average, accross Canada) $13.50/hour. Janitors (mostly men) make on average $18/hour. What's the difference between a "cleaner" and a "janitor". They both mop the floors and take out the trash, don't they?


Posted by: Scizor Cyster | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:10 AM
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I mean hospital, not hostital, not to say that hospitals don't get hostile sometimes...


Posted by: Scizor Cyster | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:12 AM
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Yeah, I was thinking of it a bit tonight and realized I was being overly blithe; obviously being a single parent is harder than having a partner around almost all the time. I think I'm pushing so hard for the "eh, no big deal" thing to try to make the point that it isn't singleness per se as much as it is social norms that make it so difficult, though.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:21 AM
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It might be worth distinguishing, too, between "single moms" like me who don't have a cooperative partner but do at least have a reasonably involved father contributing to childcare and single moms in situations where the dad is largely absent.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 5:41 AM
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Right -- you're heading toward being single in the relationship sense, but as long as UNG is around and involved and doing a significant part of the parenting work you're not in meaningfully the same position as a 'single parent'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 5:50 AM
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416:

Because you can date the former but not the later?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 5:59 AM
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it isn't singleness per se as much as it is social norms that make it so difficult, though

That makes no sense to me. For singleness and child-rearing to be compatible you also need a particular set of social norms (and sociopolitical institutions) which are quite rare and historically contingent (basically, a Northern European welfare state). This is a case where you can sweep away all the cultural relativism and make a State of Nature argument: child-rearing is hard, time-consuming work, and mortal human beings are hard-pressed to do that AND earn a living in a 24-hour day. This is as true in a modern capitalist economy as it was in the Neanderthal cave. The Murphy Brown model is a historical and anthropological rarity because it's fucking hard to do, and can only be accomplished by replacing the partner with the some other institutions of support.

Now you can argue that creating those institutions is a worthy political endeavor (and by and large I agree that this is so, though probably for different, non-feminist reasons), but to attribute their absence to "social norms" seems an oversimplification.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 6:03 AM
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you also need a particular set of social norms (and sociopolitical institutions) which are quite rare and historically contingent (basically, a Northern European welfare state).

This applies to a vast swathe of other things, too. Northern European welfare states are pretty much sui generis if we are looking at the global/historical range of human societies. I don't see that means very much here.

There are lots of features of the modern world that specifically make child-rearing harder: the requirement to work fixed hours at a place that it is not your home, to take one example.

It's by no means unreasonable to expect that the state (or employers) should do things to help enable people to work within that system and raise children and if those things make it easier for individuals to raise children, fine.

The State of Nature argument seems like it won't work. Child-raising in 'state of nature' type societies is generally easier than it is in the West. It's less resource intensive and the load is spread wider. There are things about our society that make child-rearing harder, not easier.

I can see that an argument could be made that it's not the state's business to 'interfere' here; it's not an argument I am likely to buy into, but I can see how one might make one. But invoking the rarity of societies structured on a particular model or comparisons with the state of nature ain't going to cut it.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 6:26 AM
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Framing this as state of nature vs. social norms is as unlikely to be helpful here as it is in the usual nature vs. nurture arguments. Some things that are social norms (or nurture) are relatively easy to change or ignore. Some things are a lot harder. It may be true that the modern employment where people travel to work and leave their children behind is 'just' a cultural artifact, but it's not as easy as ignoring a wedding custom to try to get rid of it.

The State of Nature argument doesn't really work, but neither does the Sweden Does It So We Can Too. (As a side note, it's interesting that with all the social support, Sweden still barely meets replacement rate on its population.) This isn't a reason not to support state programs that would make child rearing easier. But "be like Sweden" may not be the best model for something like the U.S. Too big, too much pioneer spirit, too many Christianist moralists. It may not be an intractable difference in social norms, but it's still pretty hard to, um, tract.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 6:50 AM
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As a side note, it's interesting that with all the social support, Sweden still barely meets replacement rate on its population.

Interesting in the sense of 'almost certainly not connected with each other'? Pretty much all European states barely meet the replacement rate. This applies whether or not they have substantive welfare states or not.

Anyway, I don't think anyone is saying 'do exactly what Sweden does' but more that 'given certain intractable facts* about our social system, perhaps we really ought to think harder about how we, collectively, can make life easier for people to raise children'.

* I don't think industrial/post-industrial capitalism is about to go away any time soon.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 6:57 AM
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There are lots of features of the modern world that specifically make child-rearing harder

Yes, but also some that make it easier (ready availability of cheap store-bought food and manufactured clothing, for example). And whatever the net balance of easier/harder, it was always difficult for a single person to raise a child alone, and indeed, most people in most places throughout history have tried to avoid it, and many considered it a tragedy. So I think the state of nature argument does carry some weight.

I'm not making the argument that the state has no role to play here; on the contrary, given the existence of large numbers of single parents, I see a pragmatic case for extending more support in the interest of their children. But there is enough Burkean in me to resist the impulse to normalize the deliberate creation of single parent households. Mind you, I'm not in favor of stigmatizing single parenthood that happens incidentally. But I see no reason to endorse single parenthood as a lifestyle choice, as if there were some entitlement to it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:00 AM
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419, 420, 421, 422 are typically shortened to "the gays make things bad for society."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:01 AM
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I don't think KR was framing it as state of nature versus social norms. I read him as saying, no matter what the social norms, or no matter what kind of society, there's no escaping a set of natural or material conditions (out of which, and because of which, emerge the various social norms) about childrearing: i.e., that's it's hard work and takes time and energy and resources and etc.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:04 AM
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To further clarify 423, as a policy matter, if you're going to make it easier for families to raise children (a political goal I support), it's pretty much unavoidable that you will make it easier for people to choose single parenthood as a lifestyle choice (a choice I do not endorse). I'm prepared to live with that. But I don't have to like it, and I think that social disapprobation in this regard is a proper and useful response.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:05 AM
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typically shortened to "the gays make things bad for society."

Huh? Who said anything about gays? A two-parent household can have two female or two male parents. I'm not *that* Burkean about it.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:08 AM
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419, 420, 421, 422 are typically shortened to "the gays make things bad for society."

"It's hard work to raise children" is an expression of homophobia?


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:11 AM
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422: As against the argument that the state can easily take the place of other family arrangements, maybe. Sweden's social programs work remarkably well in a society where women have one, maybe two kids. Does that scale to the U.S., where women have more children and the government is allergic to contraception?

What I'm arguing against mostly is the idea that if a problem is just social norms, then it's an easily solvable problem. Again, this is not saying that we shouldn't think of collective ways to make it easier to raise children. I don't think anyone here would disagree with that. But it seems like we're drawn to saying 'Well, it's a mere social norm that it's hard to raise children solo because look at Sweden' as if it's just a matter of arranging the unicorns properly to get those social norms.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:12 AM
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427, 428:

Not by you two. Marriage protection is all too often a ruse for anti-homosexual lobbying.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:14 AM
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Well, if that's the new game, you're horribly sexist, will, and IA is horribly racist. You haven't said anything about women, and IA hasn't said anything about race, but I haven't said anything about two-parent families or sexual orientation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:18 AM
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re: 429

Actually the person mentioning Sweden is you. All of my comments above about social programs and single parent families were based on my experience as a member of a family that contains a couple of single parents in the UK. Further, there are some ways in which the UK is more like the US than it is like Sweden [and vice versa too, naturally].

There's a fair bit of straw-manning going on here.

'Well, it's a mere social norm that it's hard to raise children solo because look at Sweden' bears no relation to anything I've said.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:20 AM
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406: My point is that people seem to be operating on the assumption that there is a "social norm or trend" for people to cavalierly enter into marriage and divorce. . . I'm just trying to say that it's really very easy to pass judgment on the decisions other people make about their own lives -- and particularly when it comes to marriage, children, and divorce, I tend to think people on the outside are unlikely to really have all the relevant facts.

Fair enough, but doesn't this sort of tack in the direction of "well, what do people ever really know about each other"? At some point -- particularly if there's a chance of becoming entangled in the relationships or their aftermath -- people are going to have to make judgments about each others' actions and choices from limited information. And in so doing, they're likely to at some point take people's apparent attitudes and discourse about the issues in question into account.

I do have reason to believe that some people enter into marriage, if not exactly cavalierly, then certainly not with an understanding of what "til death do us part" really means. I find this plausible because I know several couples, post-divorce, who have told me as much, and admitted to getting married because they hoped it would fix things in long-term relationships otherwise broken. I don't need to pretend clairvoyance about every detail of their relationships to find their account plausible, and it's not an uncommon story.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:26 AM
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I was picking up on Knecht's northern European comment, and yours, Matt, and B's intentionally hyperbolic comments that the only reason it's hard to raise children solo is mere social norms. I picked Sweden as an example. I mean, look, I don't think anyone here is against government intervention or social programs to make it easier to raise children, solo or otherwise. The question seemed to be whether the only reason it was hard to raise kids alone was due to a lack of social convention, and my only concern here is to distinguish saying 'Yes, it's only a social convention' from 'That makes our policy path clear and simple.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:28 AM
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Well, if that's the new game, you're horribly sexist, will, and IA is horribly racist. You haven't said anything about women, and IA hasn't said anything about race, but I haven't said anything about two-parent families or sexual orientation.

I wasn't accusing either IA, KR or you of being anti-gay.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:29 AM
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Okay.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:31 AM
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It is hard to raise children because they do not do exactly what we want them to do.

Plus, tt is hard to raise children because they are expensive, time-sucking little bastards. Just wait until your kids play sports. Practices are 3 or 4 nights a week. Games take up your entire Saturday. Then, you have extra team activities. "Team outing at laser tag!" "Team dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings!" "Team birthday party!!"

And that is just with one kid playing a sport.

Unlike our parents, parents now are expected to be at every single soccer, football, or baseball practice.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:33 AM
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Okay.

Of course, until I see you deny the fact that you spray painted bathrooms with anti-gay slurs, I cannot be too sure.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:34 AM
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You'll need more proof than that. I shall have to photograph bathrooms.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:36 AM
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You'll need more proof than that. I shall have to photograph bathrooms.

This is where I suggest that Apo would request other photographic proof that you do not object to homosexual activity, right?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:38 AM
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I wish to further clarify that my disapprobation of single parenthood "as a lifestyle choice" is not directed at couples who end up divorcing, or women who accidentally get pregnant, or widows, or any of that. I'm referring specific instance of a woman (or man) deliberately deciding to have a child without a reasonable assurance that there will be another parent in the picture (the Murphy Brown model). I don't know how common this case is; I do know that there are those who would de-stigmatize this choice, and I hold to the conservative view that this is an irresponsible choice in almost all circumstances.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:39 AM
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Cala's been waiting for an excuse to photograph some bathrooms. Hmmm.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:42 AM
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The foot-tapping is just practice for my dance recital!


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:43 AM
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(442 before 440, and I hope Will is washing his proverbial mouth out with soap.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:43 AM
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I do know that there are those who would de-stigmatize this choice, and I hold to the conservative view that this is an irresponsible choice in almost all circumstances.

How about when the woman has been in the work force for 15 year, making $125,000.00 or so, and she has her parents and sibling with kids living close by, and her work hours are essentially 8 to 5pm?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:45 AM
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(442 before 440, and I hope Will is washing his proverbial mouth out with soap.)

Not me!! Apo!! Blame him.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:45 AM
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(And Cala, you've got your work cut out if you plan to excel the greatest bathroom photograph ever.)


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:46 AM
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A historical note that gets overlooked sometimes in these discussions -- while divorce is much more common than it ever was, children being reared by one parent, with or without the assistance of an extended family, probably aren't any more common than they in, say, the nineteenth century or earlier. Death from accident or disease is so much less common in middle life today that a young widow or widower with children is now quite uncommon, where it used to be perfectly normal.

I don't have much useful to do with this, just mentioning that it would be mistaken to think of single-parent households as historically unusual -- this is something that societies have been dealing with forever.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:47 AM
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parents now are expected to be at every single soccer, football, or baseball practice

Wait, really? When I was a kid (not that long ago), it was standard for parents to come to the games, but never practice! (unless he/she was a coach, obv). Moreover, my single-parent dad didn't even come to the games most times. Though I guess I was a bit sad about it at the time.

If parents are supposed to come to practice, too, well, fuck it, that put the nail in the coffin. I'm never having children.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:48 AM
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449:

It is true. Some activities do ban parents from actually watching, but you are still expected to wait outside.

When I was a kid, we would ride our bikes to practice. Now, the whole family gets to go watch one kid practice and eat hamburgers and fries.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:50 AM
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I agree with 445. I had a couple teachers in high school that adopted infants--american women in their early forties living in a country (Egypt) where they could easily afford to hire someone to care for the child during the day, they got home at 5 or before, and had all summer off. Those kids were spoiled rotten and happy as fucking clams.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:51 AM
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I don't have much useful to do with this, just mentioning that it would be mistaken to think of single-parent households as historically unusual -- this is something that societies have been dealing with forever.

But "single" meant something very different then, what with the presence of extended family.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:51 AM
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Not to mention a much stronger culture of communal child-rearing.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:52 AM
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But "single" meant something very different then, what with the presence of extended family.

Maybe, if you mean 13 kids when you say "extended family."


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:53 AM
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But "single" meant something very different then, what with the presence of extended family.

So many of the things that make sense of "single parent" have changed. I don't know how prevalent marriage was in the history of those who don't normally get recorded, the nature of relationships between husband and wife, the extent to which single female parents might latch on to a man for simple protection from other men, what child rearing means, when kids are considered sufficiently adult to get pushed out, etc.

There are probably less well-developed countries out there in which accidental death remains a significant problem, and perhaps there's useful information there.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:57 AM
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But "single" meant something very different then, what with the presence of extended family.

Well, yeah, but people have been talking about extended family as if it was always or usually a supplement to the nuclear family, where it was actually very often a support for a single parent. The difference between a young widow and a young mother intentionally or unintentionally raising a child without the father's participation isn't a practical one -- practical solutions that work in the one situation work in the other.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 7:57 AM
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it would be mistaken to think of single-parent households as historically unusual -- this is something that societies have been dealing with forever

Yes, but it considered them tragic (e.g. widows) or scandalous (bastardy).

How about when the woman has been in the work force for 15 year, making $125,000.00 or so, and she has her parents and sibling with kids living close by, and her work hours are essentially 8 to 5pm?

I would still think it less than ideal for the child, but I think that child would have better than average odds of emerging unscathed. Keep in mind, though, that $125K puts her well into the top 5% of the individual income distribution and the top 10% of *households*. For the other 90-95%, I am uncomfortable with the belief that it is a positive good for society to step in to facilitate that choice. (As I said earlier, I support a lot of policies that facilitate that choice as an unintended consequence, but I disapprove of the choice.)

I had a couple teachers in high school that adopted infants

I consider that a special case because one loving parent is better than no parents (or better than being the unwanted child of a biological parent). If those ladies were getting sperm donors, I would see it differently.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:14 AM
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The difference between a young widow and a young mother intentionally or unintentionally raising a child without the father's participation isn't a practical one -- practical solutions that work in the one situation work in the other.

Exactly, which is why I noted earlier that I don't disagree as a policy matter. In much the same way, I am in favor of unemployment insurance even though I disapprove of layabouts.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:16 AM
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Yes, but it considered them tragic (e.g. widows) or scandalous (bastardy).

But tragedy didn't mean that society wasn't capable of coping with it. Being the child of a widower or widow was a disadvantage, but it was a perfectly ordinary sort of disadvantage -- we're not entering uncharted territory in which large numbers of children are raised by only one parent for the first time ever. That's always happened.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:17 AM
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Anecdatum: My wife and I live next-door to my mother-in-law, but MIL has been travelling for the last couple of months so my wife has been alone with the baby while I'm at work over that time. This arrangement has proved to be hugely more stressful for both of us -- just being able to depend on the grandmother to provide wife and child with a little support and company, for an hour or two a day, makes the difference between happiness and hopelessness.


Posted by: mano negra | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:17 AM
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practical solutions that work in the one situation work in the other.

Well, sure, but the point is that one historically significant practical solution (support from extended family) is, for most people, no longer available and therefore not a practical solution.


Posted by: Invisible Adjunct | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:18 AM
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I would still think it less than ideal for the child, but I think that child would have better than average odds of emerging unscathed.

This is where I have a problem. What child emerges unscathed from their parents? I do not have an objection to trying to improve people's parenting skills or with improving services to help children thrive.

I have a huge problem when we start discussing a person's ability to become a parent. Preventing access to being a parent, so to speak. A single mother can get knocked up by normal means. Why not through sperm donation? The cost is already a barrier to entry for low income people.

(As an aside, how you parent your child is a constitutional right.)


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:22 AM
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Anecdatum: My wife and I live next-door to my mother-in-law, but MIL has been travelling for the last couple of months so my wife has been alone with the baby while I'm at work over that time. This arrangement has proved to be hugely more stressful for both of us -- just being able to depend on the grandmother to provide wife and child with a little support and company, for an hour or two a day, makes the difference between happiness and hopelessness.

Absolutely. I blame suburban sprawl. Friends and family living close by to give you a break is essential for many (not all) parents.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:24 AM
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Which loops back around to Bitch's point that social norms are more of the problem than single parenthood per se -- there have been social norms in the past that made single parenthood more workable than it is now.

(Something which I'm finding interesting, although I don't have an argument based on it yet, is that historically single parenthood, resulting from death of the other parent, wasn't gendered -- there were as many widowers with kids as widows, if not more. The modern version of single parenthood, though, is predominately a mother raising kids without the assistance of the father, whether through her own choice or his. As I said, I don't know what to do with this, but it's interesting.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:24 AM
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But tragedy didn't mean that society wasn't capable of coping with it.

Uh, I'm going to go out on a limb here and contend that widows and orphans have better life prospects in the contemporary U.S., even post-Reagan/Bush/Bush, than in most of human history. Also, society has always had a weak spot for widows and their children (cf. Levirate marriage), but harlots and bastards have always had it rough.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:25 AM
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464 to 461.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:25 AM
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Also, society has always had a weak spot for widows and their children (cf. Levirate marriage), but harlots and bastards have always had it rough.

I'm not getting what this has to do with social policy going forward.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:26 AM
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social norms are more of the problem than single parenthood per se

And here's where I come back to my original point: to the extent that we create sociopolitical institutions that make life more bearable for the inevitable single-parent households (a set of policies that I wholeheartedly favor, BTW), we create an unwanted moral hazard to single parenthood, to which the best counterweight is social disapprobation of "avoidable" single parenthood.

The drawback to social disapprobation, of course, is that it tends to catch a lot of innocent victims (e.g. Di) in the crossfire, so it's important not to overdo it. But to actively celebrate the Murphy Brown lifestyle choice is to err in the direction of moral hazard, and that's a mistake from the perspective of children's well-being, IMO. Stigmatizing abuse of social resources is an important precondition of successfully providing them.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:34 AM
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re: 468

I'm just going to have to disagree with you on the values you want to promote. Disagree strenuously.

I am coming from a fundamentally different value system, I think, and where the approving use of 'stigmatizing' and 'social disapprobation' vis a vis single-parenthood [intentional or otherwise*] is so far out of whack with my own value system that it's hard to know what to say, short of lobbing insults.

* and, fwiw, the 'lifestyle' single parent, is, in my experience, vanishingly rare. And I come from a place where single-parenthood is really common.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:39 AM
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Social norms have some part to play here, but I'd have to think that the one to worry about more is the one that normalizes abandonment of their children by men no longer in marriages or relationships with the mothers of those children. While a lot of the discourse around this is about child support, because money payments are what's legally enforceable, stronger social norms around full parenting participation by single fathers in their children's lives would be a good thing.

I think we're moving in that direction, some, but more would be better.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:42 AM
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It is now much harder to limit the non-custodial parent to just every other weekend.

The norm exceeds that. And we are moving more and more toward shared physical custody being the norm.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:44 AM
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And yeah to 469. I couldn't quite figure out how to express disagreement with 468 that was both vehement and non-hostile, but I do disagree with it both practically (I don't think 'stigma' is going to do anything toward reducing the incidence of single parenthood unless we're talking about inflicting real practical injury on single parents) and morally.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:45 AM
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there have been social norms in the past that made single parenthood more workable than it is now.

That seems unlikely, given comparable meanings of "workable." I'd be relatively surprised if it's true.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:46 AM
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Somewhat along this topic, I get pissy when I hear people having these discussions and they start to talk about women being natural parents and men having to learn how to parent. ARARGGGAGGGGG


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:47 AM
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I do have reason to believe that some people enter into marriage, if not exactly cavalierly, then certainly not with an understanding of what "til death do us part" really means. I find this plausible because I know several couples, post-divorce, who have told me as much, and admitted to getting married because they hoped it would fix things in long-term relationships otherwise broken. I don't need to pretend clairvoyance about every detail of their relationships to find their account plausible, and it's not an uncommon story.

Right. I have no (well, fewer) gripes with anyone talking about actual people whose situations they are actually familiar with. My complaint is with the (all-too-human) instinct to want to generalize outward from a few specifics, transforming "Mike and Susie didn't take marriage seriously" into "too many people don't take marriage seriously these days." Which then gets treated as popular wisdom, where everybody knows that this is the norm or trend or what have you.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:48 AM
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473: I'm not talking about anything tricky here, just the conventional geographically contiguous extended family; stronger economic bonds within the extended family, allowing for more shared child care, and so on stuff.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:48 AM
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And I come from a place where single-parenthood is really common

Believe me, so do I.

fwiw, the 'lifestyle' single parent, is, in my experience, vanishingly rare

I don't know any statistics, but I that sounds perfectly plausible to me. Which makes it all the more cost-free to adopt my position as a political posture, thereby making support for social welfare programs more palatable in the eyes of the 2/3 of the population that adheres to my value system or something even more conservative. Because if you take the "change the policies to liberate women from the yoking of childrearing to the oppressive institution of marriage" approach, you might muster a bare majority of the Berkeley city council and that's it.

I'm not getting what this has to do with social policy going forward.

No relevance at all. Just a counterargument to LB's contention that "society [was] capable of coping with it."


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:49 AM
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I get pissy when I hear people having these discussions and they start to talk about women being natural parents and men having to learn how to parent. ARARGGGAGGGGG

Hang in there, Will. You'll catch on eventually, and there are plenty of moms here who I am sure would be more than happy to give you some advice.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:50 AM
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474: Amen, will. Single dads who are really good with their kids are often treated with a great deal of suspicion, which only serves to promote the myth that dads don't have parental instincts anyway, so who cares if they stick around? Plus the usual crap B notes about how if a dad is good with his kids, everything he does is like a little miracle. "You fed them food? More than once today? It's like you're superman!"

Meanwhile, it seems to be assumed that white bourgeois women are natural parenting geniuses. Need I note that there is always the assumption that poor women and women of color are not granted the same benefit of the doubt?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:52 AM
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Hang in there, Will. You'll catch on eventually, and there are plenty of moms here who I am sure would be more than happy to give you some advice.

I am very pro-moms in their late 30s and early 40s. Sorry, young twenty-something ladies, but, one day, you might be as fun as they are.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:52 AM
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474: Oh, you betcha. This conversation is one that sets my teeth on edge because of the (sometimes present) implicit assumption that childrearing is the natural function of women only, and men's participation in the parenting of their children is sort of an accident. A single mother is a social problem; the child's father is invisible. (Obviously, this is an assumption that comes from both men and women, and irks me wherever it comes from.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:52 AM
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Which makes it all the more cost-free to adopt my position as a political posture

?! If you're position is that single-parenthood ought to be stigmatised I don't see how that is cost free. Especially given that there are a lot of single parents. You've acknowledged yourself that:

The drawback to social disapprobation, of course, is that it tends to catch a lot of innocent victims.

Your view [whatever it's merits as a moral stance on single-parenthood, and I'm convinced it doesn't have any] is going to catch a lot of 'innocent victims' in the crossfire, especially given that 'innocent victims' are likely to greatly outnumber the 'guilty'.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:53 AM
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I agree with 479 and 481. Good points.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:53 AM
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479: Need I note that there is always the assumption that s/b Need I note that


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:54 AM
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I never knew any kids with divorced parents growing up, and I was born in 1982 so the baby-boomer divorce wave should have been exploding all around me. My parents, all my aunts and uncles (well, two of each), and two out of four of my cousins married people they met at college and have stayed together happily, although my one cousin married a big loser. My one male cousin was feeling really bad about being six years out of college and still not met a girl he thought he could marry, although he's a Southern Baptist type. I wonder how concentrated in certain geographic areas divorces are.

This discussion has been edifying.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:56 AM
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And again yes to 482. If you're going to stigmatize single parenting enough to discourage people from choosing it purposefully, the stigma is going to hit everyone who might concievably have been able to avoid it. Which includes everyone who wasn't actually thrown out of their home by their spouse. That's a whole lot of collateral damage.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:56 AM
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I have a bunch of statistics on much of this stuff, but I am too lazy to get it and post it.

So, please, just accept whatever I say as The Truth.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 8:59 AM
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What's the difference between a "cleaner" and a "janitor". They both mop the floors and take out the trash, don't they?

Yes, heavy lifting shouldn't explain that much difference between the roles.

Wait, really? When I was a kid (not that long ago), it was standard for parents to come to the games, but never practice! (unless he/she was a coach, obv). Moreover, my single-parent dad didn't even come to the games most times. Though I guess I was a bit sad about it at the time.

Same here. Never practice. Why, sometimes we would carpool to GAMES, so that not all the parents even SHOWED UP at the games, let alone were there for the entire thing. What would happen if you weren't there for practice, will?


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:01 AM
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Honestly, I don't know people who choose single parenting, not really. There are people who realize they want to have a child, but they're 40-something and don't feel like it's a good time to find a partner, so they adopt or have insemination. These are usually people with a lot of social and financial resources, and it probably wasn't their #1 choice of a way to do it anyway. But they're not producing social disaster.

Single parenting is difficult, but most people really do make it work. For people without a lot of social and financial resources, this often means raising really self-reliant kids. Are there bad single parents? Yes, but there are also terrible married parents.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:02 AM
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489 has probably been multiply pwned above.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:02 AM
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Somewhere upthread someone made the analogy to the abortion debate, and I would add that Clinton's formulation of "safe, legal and rare" probably captures the feelings of a lot of people about single parenthood. Since almost everyone knows someone who has gotten out of a marriage for a good reason, or who has otherwise suffered a misfortune that left them caring for a child alone, it is not hard to paint a sympathetic portrait for public consumption. Moreover, many of the same policies that make single parenthood more bearable (family leave, etc.) also make life easier for two-parent households, so you can package them as something for "working families". Then you paint a verneer of moderation on your program by distancing yourself from the more radical formulations, and preaching the (true, IMO) message that two-parent households are a desideradum. That's how you craft a progressive program with majority support.

And to underscore: I never said I wanted to stigmatize single parenthood as such (though obvs many people do just that). I merely stigmatize the (probably rare) Murphy Brown model, a signficant rhetorical concession to the traditionalist majority that has the added benefit (IMO) of being right on the merits.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:03 AM
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I'm not talking about anything tricky here, just the conventional geographically contiguous extended family; stronger economic bonds within the extended family, allowing for more shared child care, and so on stuff.

I think that part of "workable" at that time might mean that you might get to dump Sally on a husband when she's thirteen, and Newt might be working rather attending school at the same age. Or you might remarry to someone you really didn't like for the express purpose of increasing household income. Parenting strategies include beating the shit out of your kids when they just won't learn. And "workable" might be defined as simple survival.

My broad general belief is that the past sucked.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:03 AM
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Same here. Never practice. Why, sometimes we would carpool to GAMES, so that not all the parents even SHOWED UP at the games, let alone were there for the entire thing. What would happen if you weren't there for practice, will?

It is a RULE that must be obeyed. I am guessing mostly shame and humiliation.

Actually, one parent is required to be there in case your child gets hurt. So technically, I guess that they could kick your kid off the team.

But, it is mostly just peer pressure.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:04 AM
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I was raised by a single parent, and I turned out fine! [goes back to gnawing on human bones]


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:05 AM
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I merely stigmatize the (probably rare) Murphy Brown model, a signficant rhetorical concession to the traditionalist majority that has the added benefit (IMO) of being right on the merits.

Again, I don't get it. But I think that's because I'm not seeing things from the socially conservative point of view. I don't get that the small number of single-parents-by-choice are that threatening or that dangerous or that immoral that we need to worry about stigmatising them at all.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:05 AM
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My broad general belief is that the past sucked.

As the first-born male child of white, upper middle class parents, I disagree.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:06 AM
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My broad general belief is that the past sucked.

This explains so much.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:06 AM
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I was raised by a single parent, and I turned out fine! [goes back to gnawing on human bones]

Was your mom involved in a tight-nit community?


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:07 AM
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Actually, one parent is required to be there in case your child gets hurt.

This is so foreign to my experience. This rule never could have worked when I was growing up because the schools were so far apart, sometimes you had to ride the bus for 3-4 hours for away games. There were a few parents who always made the trip, but they were the exceptions.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:07 AM
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My broad general belief is that the past sucked

Sure, but single parents managed to make life suck not all that much more than couples -- life sucked for couples too.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:07 AM
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you might get to dump Sally on a husband when she's thirteen

yea, my first ancestor in Virginia married a 12 1/2 year old girl. He sent her to England for a year or two to get educated.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:09 AM
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I heard once in an everyone-knows sort of way that single parenting (at least for periods of time) was more common years ago than it is now, due to death. But no nuclear family or widow or widower or single mother was on its own; uncles, aunts, cousins, grandparents were all nearby. That's not an insignificant change. The single mothers I know who are doing well are doing well mostly because they live at home with their parents, or did for a while, and their mothers are providing lots of free babysitting.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:10 AM
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I know lots of people raised by single parents. The kids tend to grow up not to be scarred by single parenting, but sometimes a little fucked up by feeling abandoned by the parent who left/died/gave them up for adoption. That is, I think a kid growing up in the "Murphy Brown" situation is going to be a helluva lot more emotionally healthy than the kid whose mom disappeared suddenly when he was three. (I've dated two such dudes, and man, talk about issues.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:11 AM
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I thought I would contribute that I know a "lifestyle" single parent who got artificially inseminated. She's a coworker of my mother's, an elementary school teacher in a small farm town cum bedroom community in the CA's San Joaquin Valley. There are a ton of SAHMs in that town (though I don't know how welfare reform affected some of them; I lived there before AFDC became TANF), and she found a woman who was already staying home with her children to take care of her twins for $800 a month, I think. My mom helps her out a fair amount too, and is excited to be around babies again. She has family not too far away, though not in the same city. If anything happened to her, her family would take the kids.

My mom reports that she is delighted to have the children she always wanted and is supporting them successfully. I don't imagine having twins is going to get harder when they're no longer infants. I really don't understand by what reasoning she ought not to have had children that she's supporting just fine, and imagine if she were here she'd tell anyone trying to lay on the social stigma to screw off.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:12 AM
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Sure, but single parents managed to make life suck not all that much more than couples -- life sucked for couples too.

I'm not sure that's true. The difference, it seems to me, is resources. More resources, the longer you can keep Newt in school and Sally out of the clutches of Creepy Old Husband. As Emerson suggests above, extended family involvement--and this is largely ex recto--imposes as set of (sometimes brutal) claims on the parent and the children as well as offering resources. The more dependent you are on the extended family, the more they will feel the right to fuck with your life.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:13 AM
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and imagine if she were here she'd tell anyone trying to lay on the social stigma to screw off.

Quite.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:13 AM
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And to underscore: I never said I wanted to stigmatize single parenthood as such (though obvs many people do just that). I merely stigmatize the (probably rare) Murphy Brown model, a signficant rhetorical concession to the traditionalist majority that has the added benefit (IMO) of being right on the merits.

I can sympathize, to the extent I've had similar feelings about other parenting choices (like breastfeeding, or disciplinary practices, etc.) You form a strong opinion about what's "best" for kids, and you care strongly about the welfare of kids generally, and it's very hard not to think "there should be more pressure on people to ___." BUT, the fact is that people do make their own family decisions and even have certain constitutionally protected rights to make those decisions and istigmatizing those choices is likely to do anyone any good.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:15 AM
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The new boogie man is the study that showed that children living with people not their biological parents are more likely to be abused. In other words, boyfriends and stepparents are more frequently reported to have sexually or physically abuse kids than biological parents.

I am certain that you are all shocked.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:16 AM
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499 gets it right. I wouldn't have played any youth sports in that scenario. Let's make the perfect the enemy of the good, since our society is rich enough to afford perfection, or something.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:16 AM
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extended family involvement--and this is largely ex recto--imposes as set of (sometimes brutal) claims on the parent and the children as well as offering resources.

Sure, but you were probably much more enmeshed with your extended family than people now tend to be whether coupled up or not.

I'm not saying that there were no negative effects from widow/erhood in the past, of course there were, along the resource scarcity lines you mention. But dealing with them in ways that people at the time found acceptable (which, considering that the past did suck, are often unacceptable for us) was a normal, ordinary part of life, not some kind of freak emergency that's only come up since divorce has grown common.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:17 AM
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I guess when I think of "involved extended family" I think "Queens in the 1940s", not "medieval England." Not especially idyllic--I think it's easier for a single woman, at least, to be financially independent, and I'm sure the extended families did imposed costs, & did plenty of stigmatizing themselves if you were a single parent for the wrong reasons. But not so much with the 13 year olds marrying creepy old men.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:18 AM
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Single parenting is difficult, but most people really do make it work.

If there is a signficantly higher probability of bad outcomes for the child, the fact that "most" make it work isn't really the relevant measurement.

Are there bad single parents? Yes, but there are also terrible married parents.

It would be foolish to think that every two parent household is superior to every single parent household. Obviously the exceptions are legion. But that does not invalidate a strong presumption in favor of the superiority of two-parent households from the point of view of child welfare.

I am arguing against throwing out the baby with the bath water. To a certain extent, it is good that social norms favor the two-parent household. Though clearly there is a lot of middle ground between the false extremes of "two parents always better" and "single parent just as good".


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:23 AM
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But dealing with them in ways that people at the time found acceptable (which, considering that the past did suck, are often unacceptable for us) was a normal,

My own belief is that the things that make communal parenting so hard today are largely a result of or a response to things that make the present less sucky than the past. For example, it might be that people don't live near their extended families in part because it is easier to escape--where "escape" really is the right word--localities today.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:27 AM
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My own belief is that the things that make communal parenting so hard today are largely a result of or a response to things that make the present less sucky than the past.

Paging Dr Pangloss ...


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:29 AM
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512: And I'm just arguing that stigmatizing people doesn't make them better parents, ever. And stigmatizing them doesn't make them stick around and make marriages work. And if the only stone in your craw is wealthy older women getting knocked up and raising their kid via social co-op, I'm just wondering why that's such a scary prospect to you. Do you have any evidence that those kids are (a) in any way common, or (b) in any way a social danger? If it's not hurting you or society in general, why stigmatize it? What I fear here is that the real issue is that it is distasteful or something.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:30 AM
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515 is not meant as a personal dig, Knecht. I'm just not seeing what the big social problem of a few single 45-year-old moms is. They probably don't consider the situation ideal either, but they have the right to make decisions about procreation without some kind of generally-sanctioned looking-down-the-nose at them for punishment all the time.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:33 AM
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515 & 516:

I really like AWB.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:36 AM
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Paging Dr Pangloss ...

Barring that, see if you can't scare up Dr. Dobson. It's not like the family values strain of conservatism--along with several other strains--isn't explicitly on the idea that past was a much better time, especially for kids.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:36 AM
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Barring that, see if you can't scare up Dr. Dobson. It's not like the family values strain of conservatism--along with several other strains--isn't explicitly on the idea that past was a much better time, especially for kids.

But, most importantly, a much better time for white males who can help guide their family.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:39 AM
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And it's possible I'm being defensive because I can totally see myself in that situation. My mom keeps asking me what I'll do when I am 45 and single and suddenly realize I'm going to die alone and that having kids would have been a good idea. I tell her, well, then, I'd probably adopt. Would that be such a tragedy for society?

One of my most influential undergrad profs was adopted as a baby by a 50-year-old single woman. She said it was hard sometimes, but her mom was mature enough to let her make a lot of her own decisions, and that it wasn't bad, just different from other kinds of childhoods.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:39 AM
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There are a lot of issues in the air. Socialism: I'm pro, but it doesn't seem in the offing, as Cala says. Single parenting, extended family, gay marriage, childraising practices, scheduling children, career and childraising, etc. Many cans of worms.

I originally posted Belle's piece because it surprised me so much when I read it. I surmised that, whether or not she had data (she didn't), her own personal experience of family breakup had been horrendously painful. This reminded me of troublesome anecdotes from my own life (I am of the parental generation). So I wanted to put that on the table.

But I didn't actually want to lay down rulings as to what was specifically good and bad or allowed and prohibited. I was more trying to shift the context within which people lookat things.

There's an enormous tension in the lives of young ambitious folk between career, lifestyle, personal freedom, gender equality, political idealism, personal freedom and happiness, childraising, hot sex and sexual freedom. Everyone has to make choices, but by and large I think people underestimate the difficulty of having it all. For example, a lot of high-powered careers demand almost total commitment. Maintaining an upper-middle-class lifestyle is tremendously expensive. Raising perfect children is horribly time-consuming. Etc.

I just think that the generic younger aspirational unfoggetarian (standing in for Young People Today) underestimates the unlikelihood of having it all and takes something that's almost impossible as a kind of normality and a goal to aim for. And not really anyone here, but out in the general community, this kind of striving often ends up pinching hardest at the childraising end.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:40 AM
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they have the right to make decisions about procreation without some kind of generally-sanctioned looking-down-the-nose at them for punishment all the time

This isn't actually a right. They may have a right to do it, but they have no right to have society look kindly on it even if it would be nice.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:41 AM
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520:

Sign AWB up for the Di Kotimy frozen special at DC Unfogged.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:41 AM
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419 is introducing a completely unnecessary straw man. No one is opposing some mythical "state of nature" to "social norms"--certainly not I, who introduced the concept of social norms in the first place. There is *no such thing* as a human society without social norms.

As to this,

I see no reason to endorse single parenthood as a lifestyle choice, as if there were some entitlement to it.

Um, having children is pretty much the most basic entitlement there is; living things reproduce, by definition.

Give these facts--human societies have social norms, and living creatures reproduce--what I am saying is that we ought to have social norms that make reproduction and childrearing central, rather than marginal, to our conception of people's basic needs and goals. Parenting should be easier, period. This would mean that yes, single parenting would be easier as well.

What, precisely, is the problem with that? Why the opposition to single parenting?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:42 AM
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I originally posted Belle's piece because it surprised me so much when I read it. I surmised that, whether or not she had data (she didn't), her own personal experience of family breakup had been horrendously painful. This reminded me of troublesome anecdotes from my own life (I am of the parental generation). So I wanted to put that on the table

I brought this up before, but you do remember that she wasn't writing that straightforwardly, or endorsing what she wrote? Given that she was trying to construct the most convincing argument possible against something which she actually supports, that doesn't mean that subsidary parts of the argument aren't valid or from personal experience, but there's no particular reason to think that they are.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:44 AM
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523: Hell, I'm liking AWB's comments here so much, I'm thinking I'll just press the scientific community to work a little harder on making it possible for me to have her baby. (Or maybe she could have mine -- I'm getting older, and labor did kind of suck back when I was still young and vital... )


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:45 AM
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526 (sweet.)


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:46 AM
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I suspect families would be better off if we focused more on encouraging families not to have 4 cars and a huge house. Or improving public transportation so that it is safe and cheap. Or encouraging better use of our land (clustered living, etc).

Or, maybe, just maybe, encouraging people to resolve problems more productively. Hitting a child to make them behave? Probably not the best conflict resolution device.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:46 AM
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Her major argument about gay marriage was not meant seriously, but she did seem to take the contributing argument or example, no-fault divorce, seriously. That was my conclusion. She has talked about problems with hippy parents before.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:47 AM
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526: Working on it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:47 AM
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I don't get stigmatizing single parents, I really don't.

I sort of understand (but disagree with the efficacy of) stigmatizing[*] `bad' parenting, but a) don't know of any systemic way to remove those scare quotes and b) am certain if you could, the the number of two-parent households meeting the standard would vastly outnumber any single parents by intent, if not single parents, period.

[*] in the sense there is peer pressure against demonstrably problematic parenting practices ... but this is a very slippery slope. In my very indirect experience, there is an awful lot of social pressure (not to mention corporate pressure) around `how to parent' but most of it is bullshit, and some actively harmful, imo.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:47 AM
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Hell, I'm liking AWB's comments here so much, I'm thinking I'll just press the scientific community to work a little harder on making it possible for me to have her baby. (Or maybe she could have mine -- I'm getting older, and labor did kind of suck back when I was still young and vital... )

Back off Di! I implicitedly called her first!


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:47 AM
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the contributing argument or example, no-fault divorce, seriously..

Which wasn't made particularly well, in my opinion.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:48 AM
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Do you have any evidence that those kids are (a) in any way common, or (b) in any way a social danger? If it's not hurting you or society in general, why stigmatize it?

I guess I'm making two arguments. One is Moynihan-ish, the other Clintonian.

The Moynihan-ish argument is that efforts to destigmatize "unjustly" stigmatized deviance, however well-intentioned, end up creating license to greater deviance at the margin. In the case of single parenthood, this is not cost-free, because of the impact on children. Obviously, it's possible to overdo the stigma to the point where its disutility to adults outweighs its utility to children; I think of Di internalizing the social pressure to the point where she made herself sick. So it's not easy to draw the line, even as I think a line needs to be drawn.

The Clintonian argument is that political support for social programs is to a great degree conditioned on the recipients "working hard and playing by the rules". For better or for worse, those rules include respect for the institution of marriage, at least in the eyes of a majority of Americans. So I think it is essential that a liberal social-political agenda maintain a view that single parenthood is an often unavoidable misfortune rather than something to be celebrated or viewed with equinamity.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:48 AM
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I have to give credit to Family First (much to my chagrin).

They have regular radio ads (public service type) giving ideas and suggestions for how to spend time with your kids and your spouse. Some of them are over the top, but many of them are good ideas about which people could use some reminding.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:50 AM
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how if a dad is good with his kids, everything he does is like a little miracle.

I know I've mentioned this before, but I heard this shit ALL THE TIME growing up with my single (widowered) dad. All my friends' parents were constantly oohing and ahhing about how great my dad was. And you know what? He was great. But so the fuck what.

Also, this notion that back in the day, single parents had extended families around and today, they're just way out there on their own, is missing the point that today, a lot of people who have kids really young and single do rely a lot on their extended families. Even, yes, in America.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:50 AM
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531: Yeah, that's a tough one. By the time I was growing up, my folks knew they couldn't hit me or curse at me in public, because it wasn't "done" anymore. But that doesn't mean I was safe from it in my own house. I mean, it's sad to see parents screeching obscenities at their kids in the subway, but really, if I stare down my nose at them, I'm not saving that kid's heiney when he gets home.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:51 AM
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524: Particularly if `easier' means enabling more people to be involved. This may or may not include the other biological parent, but there is nothing particularly effective about that person, as far as I can see.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:51 AM
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Um, having children is pretty much the most basic entitlement there is

I never really understood this argument, at least in the way that I think you mean it. While I don't think society should stop people from reproducing, I don't see it as an entitlement that society needs to support either. Granted this is coming from a person who has no plans on reproducing.


Posted by: CJB | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:52 AM
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475: My complaint is with the (all-too-human) instinct to want to generalize outward from a few specifics,

Also fair. However, bits of "popular wisdom" also come about through the networking if specifics (I know two friends who X, and they know two friends, and so on, and so on). Obviously this can quite easily reinforce silly prejudices and stereotypes as transmit useful knowledge, but popular wisdom isn't always wrong or unfounded. In the case of "too many people don't take marriage seriously enough" meme, I personally am somewhere in range of agnostic-to-mild believer depending on the day.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:53 AM
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networking if specifics s/b "networking of specifics"


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:53 AM
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What struck me about Belle's argument wasn't its rigor, but the intensity with which she seemed to feel it. And as I took it, it was mostly about cavalier parenting and the various things leading to it. In particular, the idea that the personal interests of the parents are what marriage is all about.

If you frame it as a submission to the American Prospect, obviously it fails.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:54 AM
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Granted this is coming from a person who has no plans on reproducing.

Your kind deserve a pat on the back.

But, dont expect it from the Christianists (unless you are not white). They want you to reproduce lots of little white babies to offset the Muslim horde that is breeding like rabbits.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:54 AM
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532: Will, you are such a man. AWB is not some piece of property you can just "call" "implicitedly." (Is that like, "with implicit excitement" or something?)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:54 AM
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She fucks you up, your single mum
She means well, but she doesn't care
She wants a baby, just for fun
And Social Stigma doesn't dare

To tell her not to be a whore
and wait to be some fucker's wife
And if she weds a swine, or bore
remember that she's fucked for life

Men hand on misery, then fuck off
to sow their oats, or just get plastered
so look askance, politely cough
and disapprove, you selfish bastard


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:54 AM
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What, precisely, is the problem with that? Why the opposition to single parenting?

I don't think opposition is the right word. That said, the opposition exists for the same reason that people have previously lined up against SAHM roles as a choice: people believe that while it ought not be true, there are costs to the choice (assuming it is such) that the chooser doesn't quite recognize until she's committed to a course of action that lasts a long, long time.

529: I read the update to suggest the same. I don't think there's a firmly held conviction there, just a recognition that these things aren't straightforward matters.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:55 AM
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Will, you are such a man. AWB is not some piece of property you can just "call" "implicitedly." (Is that like, "with implicit excitement" or something?)

You are not butting in line with some vague, backhanded appeal to chivalry.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:56 AM
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545: Nicely.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:56 AM
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544: "Dibs" is how we get laid these days. It's like a dance card.

545: Lovely, D^2.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:57 AM
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people are going to have to make judgments about each others' actions

Well, people *will* make judgments about others. Whether or not they *have* to, and whether or not their doing so should have jack shit to do with social policy, is the issue.

I am having the hardest time seeing how this discussion isn't basically another version of "society has the right to judge women who breed in ways I, personally, wish they wouldn't." The abortion analogy isn't an analogy; it's based on the same fear of women making their own reproductive decisions. And like the "safe, legal and rare" formulation Knecht invoked, the *facts* are that women don't have abortions for fun, nor do they decide to have children on their own whimsically. They make decisions to reproduce (or not) in sub-optimal conditions because sub-optimal conditions *exist*, and because having kids is something women, by definition, *do*.

The idea that it's okay for a woman to be a single parent if her husband died, but not if she "chose" to do so, sounds a lot like the same ol' same ol' slut-shaming to me.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:58 AM
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"Dibs" is how we get laid these days. It's like a dance card.

I am a horrible father. I let my son see My Name is Earl. An older lady bent over and Earl's brother called "Dibs." Now, it is a household joke when my gf bends over, I shout "dibs" or when I bend over, she calls "Dibs."

My son regularly rolls his eyes.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:59 AM
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by the way, there are some pretty forced rhymes in there, but on the other hand the template had "it deepens like a coastal shelf". Yeah Phil, that's what it's like, exactly like a coastal shelf.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:59 AM
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So I think it is essential that a liberal social-political agenda maintain a view that single parenthood is an often unavoidable misfortune rather than something to be celebrated or viewed with equinamity.

I'm baffled by this. Given that people are going to get pregnant, because, hey, humans have sex, you are basically saying that people should either a) get married, b) abstain from having sex, c) get abortions. Are you really that pro-marriage, anti-sex, or pro-abortion?

If a particular state of affairs coming about is an unavoidable and frequent consequence of human affairs, why do we need to make people think it's bad instead of just, you know, accepting it?

Unless we're terrified that the mens are going to become obsolete. Not that I'm ascribing that view to you, but it really does seem one of the few explanations that makes sense.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 9:59 AM
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In one of my first posts, I was going to use the abortion analogy, but i didnt want to get banned.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:00 AM
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550: I'm not part of the single parenting discussion, B. So, so not part of it. And I do believe that little snippet came with a context.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:00 AM
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534: Your argument is poorly targeted then, for several reasons. It's not like excess conformity doesn't have costs either, and it's far from clear that the social accepted `deviance', as you put it, is currently at an optimal level. You admit this problem exists, but sort of assume that broader than current boundaries would be worse, which is a real jump. Furthermore, single parenting is pretty obviously a lousy proxy for poor parenting. If you want to exert social pressure to save kids from the impact of poor parenting, you should target poor parenting practices (assuming you believe social stigma is an effective technique, and not a net loss). Particularly, you should first target the most damaging practices first (and it is one hell of a jump to assume that single parenting is near this). Third, confounding co-parenting and co-habitating is problematic here, I think.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:01 AM
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The idea that it's okay for a woman to be a single parent if her husband died, but not if she "chose" to do so, sounds a lot like the same ol' same ol' slut-shaming to me.

This is something I wanted to say, but couldn't figure out how to say it.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:02 AM
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And I don't get where single-mom-hood is being "celebrated." If you mean the fact that single moms still have baby showers and stuff, fuck that; she shouldn't have to wear black for a year just because she's pregnant. If you're worried that there's not enough social stigma, I'll promise, there's plenty still going around.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:02 AM
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Also, this notion that back in the day, single parents had extended families around and today, they're just way out there on their own, is missing the point that today, a lot of people who have kids really young and single do rely a lot on their extended families. Even, yes, in America.

This is true. But there's a sense in which it's not perceived as an ideal or okay outcome, even when there is a supportive extended family. Even with a supportive family, it's hard to take care of the baby and work a job and try to get an education (pretty much the only semi-reliable ticket to the middle class..)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:03 AM
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And I don't get where single-mom-hood is being "celebrated." If you mean the fact that single moms still have baby showers and stuff, fuck that; she shouldn't have to wear black for a year just because she's pregnant. If you're worried that there's not enough social stigma, I'll promise, there's plenty still going around.

I agree with this and Bitch and others.

I dont recall Murphy Brown being celebrated as in "wow, that looks easy." I recall it as being doable.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:04 AM
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552: Personally, I think that's a metaphor that could stand up under being spun out for several more stanzas -- the growing darkness under the deepening water; decreasing biodiversity as the depth grows greater; those really scary-looking fish with the little fishing-rods dangling in front of their faces once you're out past the coastal shelf and in the depths of mid-ocean... parenting's pretty much exactly like that, no?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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"Dibs," huh? Got it. After a decade or so of the "grudgingly relenting" system, it's going to take some getting used to these newfangled ways.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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You know, I think single mom-hood should sometimes be celebrated. If the person in question is really happy about having a kid, and that's the way she wanted to do it or what worked best given her circumstances, I'm fucking celebrating.

For a country that supposed to be so baby-happy, it's odd that we often treat having a baby as a tragedy.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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B, we can't make half the human race immune to all judgment.

My own take on this issue is just that there is sometimes a liberated tendency to weight the needs of the parents so heavily that the needs of the children are neglected. It's not universal and the diametrical repressive or authoritarian tendency is also strong, on the right. I also think that a lot of people set impossible goals for their lives.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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We're descending into caricaturing the opposing views here. Knecht is trying to formulate the always-difficult-to-formulate "tolerate and support, but don't encourage" position as it applies to single-parenthood; and that's not about passing judgment on individuals, but about the incentives and structures that make outcomes generally more likely. Maybe we live in Dobson's world and the fact that kids are generally better off with two parents, rather than one, is unspeakable, but I don't think so.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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historically single parenthood, resulting from death of the other parent, wasn't gendered -- there were as many widowers with kids as widows, if not more. The modern version of single parenthood, though, is predominately a mother raising kids without the assistance of the father, whether through her own choice or his.

I think this was about two things: one, mortality rates from pregnancy/childbirth, and two, the fact that children in European societies were the property of the father, not the mother.

In the case of single parenthood, this is not cost-free, because of the impact on children.

Okay, so the argument is that single parenthood is generally worse for kids than a two-parent family, and that therefore it shouldn't be something one does deliberately.

This is an argument that requires evidence, you know. Especially because stigmatizing single parenting *already* exists, and therefore we need to assume that our "sense" that it's worse than the alternative(s) is itself a manifestation of that stigma.

FWIW, I remember a study of boys raised by lesbians and/or women alone which found that they tended to be less aggressive, more cooperative, and more considerate of women than their peers with fathers. To me, this suggests that there are advantages to raising boys without fathers around.

(Which does NOT mean that I'm saying fathers are bad or unnecessary; obviously there are advantages to fathers raising children as well. Just saying that I don't believe it's true that there's a single rubric for "optimal child-rearing." )


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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If a particular state of affairs coming about is an unavoidable and frequent consequence of human affairs, why do we need to make people think it's bad instead of just, you know, accepting it?

Doesn't that include too much? There are all sorts of things that seem to have existed forever that none of us think should be acceptable.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:05 AM
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Unless we're terrified that the mens are going to become obsolete.

As I understand the recent stem cell advance, this has already happened.

The four genes they have inserted into skin cells to turn them back in to stem cells seem to create totipotent stem cells. I haven't had the chance to read the original research, but when the Times described the Japanese team's early mouse experiments, they said that the Japanese used the genetically altered mouse skin cells to grow whole new mice. (20% of which had cancer.)

If this is right, and the cancer glich can be worked out, you don't need men any more. You can grow a fetus in your uterus using a genetically altered skin cell.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:07 AM
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Houston, Do You Read?

But the social implications of the science there seem to be nil -- a cloned baby with no father isn't socially in a different position than a child born of a sperm donation.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:09 AM
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534 is like some posting from an alien world, ffs.

Factually shaky, dictatorial, moralizing, judgemental fucking bullshit.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:09 AM
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If a particular state of affairs coming about is an unavoidable and frequent consequence of human affairs, why do we need to make people think it's bad instead of just, you know, accepting it?

I don't want to make people think it's bad. (Most) people already think it's bad. And precisely bcause it is an unavoidable and frequent consequence of human affairs, I would prefer that our sociopolitical institutions were more conducive to equalizing life chances for people who find themselves in that situation. From a purely pragmatic point of view, that is more likely to happen if liberals are NOT arguing "it's all OK, it's an equally valid reproductive choice".

LBJ got AFDC passed *despite* the existence of never-married mothers, not because of it (it was pitched as a way to help widows and innocent abandoned wives, naturally). Political support for AFDC collapsed when it became associated with a culture of illegitimacy (and, of course, the racial Other). If, by some miracle, we ever got a Swedish welfare state, and the result were to be Swedish levels of unwed motherhood, the ensuing backlash would surely destroy that welfare state. Hence, the continuing utility of a presumptive social norm against single parenthood.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:10 AM
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historically single parenthood, resulting from death of the other parent, wasn't gendered

I actually don't think this is true. In a lot of societies, men who were/are widowed would either get remarried right away, or mostly pawn the kids off on his sister/mother/daughter whoever. Which is why my widowered father was regarded as a hero. I had a Egyptian friend whose mom died when she was 11, and her older sister basically took over parenting. When the sister got married, my friend moved in there, away from her father. She would still see her dad and get money from him and stuff, but he wasn't really parenting her any more.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:10 AM
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568: Really, though, what gets me excited about this is organ transplantation. Imagine being able to get your own (liver/kidney/heck, even teeth) back, with no immune problems. The reproductive aspects seem secondary.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:11 AM
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If, by some miracle, we ever got a Swedish welfare state, and the result were to be Swedish levels of unwed motherhood, the ensuing backlash would surely destroy that welfare state. Hence, the continuing utility of a presumptive social norm against single parenthood.

This is totally circular. If the norm against single parenthood goes away, there's no backlash.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:12 AM
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LBJ got AFDC passed *despite* the existence of never-married mothers, not because of it (it was pitched as a way to help widows and innocent abandoned wives, naturally). Political support for AFDC collapsed when it became associated with a culture of illegitimacy (and, of course, the racial Other). If, by some miracle, we ever got a Swedish welfare state, and the result were to be Swedish levels of unwed motherhood, the ensuing backlash would surely destroy that welfare state. Hence, the continuing utility of a presumptive social norm against single parenthood.

This makes no sense. So because there's a stigma which will destroy the welfare state, we should endorse the stigma if we want to have the welfare state, so people can't accuse us of being ok with single parenthood?

This is like "people think it's wrong, so we should too."


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:15 AM
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Perhaps we should distinguish stigmatizing single parenthood, promoting policies that would make it easier to be a single parent, and promoting policies that would encourage single parenthood. Stigmatizing already goes on and it doesn't seem to stop babies from being born. Promoting policies that support parents and kids generally seem like good ideas regardless of the parents' marital status, and it's beyond stupid to get rid of those because someone might find it easier to have a baby alone.

That leaves us with the last category, and I'm having a hard time imagining what sort of policies KR's imagining would encourage single parenthood.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:15 AM
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571 troubles me, because if your point is that liberals have to pretend to be misogynist dickheads in order to win elections, I think this has been shown to backfire, especially in the case of abortion talk and gay rights. As long as Democrats sit around acting like, "We agree that the most horrifying choice a woman can make is having an abortion, but if it's not legal, there will be all these bloody alley deaths," or "We agree that man-on-woman PIV is the normal, best way for all sexual relationships to occur, but we must tolerate teh homos or there will be all these bathroom foot-tappings," it doesn't make society any safer for women or gays. Does that make sense, even not as an analogy, but as a rhetorical problem?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:15 AM
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534 is like some posting from an alien world

In an important sense, that is both true and apposite. The median voter in the U.S. looks a lot different from the median voter in Scotland, where, IIRC, there wasn't a single Conservative MP for a long stretch of the 80s and 90s.

That my personal value system differs from Nattar's is a secondary issue, and one that I hope does not preclude civil interaction in the future.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:16 AM
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I'm not part of the single parenting discussion, B. So, so not part of it. And I do believe that little snippet came with a context.

Wasn't jumping on you, Slack; I thought the phrase nicely summed up part of what's going on in the discussion, and wanted to call attention to that and to what I thought was wrong with it.

B, we can't make half the human race immune to all judgment.

I specifically acknowledged that judgment happens. What I'm saying is that judgment in the absence of facts is not a basis for good social policy.

Now, I will concede what I think Knecht and Emerson are aiming at here, which is that some people do, yes, hyperbolically say shallow, silly things like "yay Murphy Brown! Women don't need men! A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle!" And yes, young people often think that they're going to have the fabulous CEO career *and* the fabulous marriage *and* the three kids, etc., just like in the old Enjoli commercials.

But like, so? Those things are caricatures and no one here is actually promoting them as realistic goals or social policy. The facts are that very few women are going to deliberately or blithely set out to have kids without a partner, no matter what kind of supportive social policies we have in place, any more than men are going to go out and adopt willy-nilly without a partner. And those few who do will, yes, soon find out that they need to sleep sometimes and that it's helpful to have someone--if not a partner, then your sister or friend or whoever--hold the baby while you take a damn shower. It's not as though single women live in isolation, you know; they, too, are social animals and tend to have those things called friends.

And yes! Friends will sometimes let you down. Just like daddies will sometimes die, or take off. If what we're worried about is "what's best for the kids," then the focus should be on, well, what's best for the kids--not on whether or not it's okay to shame the mommies.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:16 AM
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I don't think I quite got my point across in 538, in part because the point I actually wanted to make was even less relevant to the single parenting discussion than the silly cloning point I did make.

Here's the thing that is really scary about this new stem cell advance: a lot of reproductive ethics is built around the idea of separating germ cells, which can become people, from somatic cells, which can't. That distinction is officially obsolete. Any cell in your body can now be made into a complete human being. (Once a few bugs are worked out.)

Honestly this should be fatal to any anti-abortion argument based on potentiality of the fetus. A fetus is a potential adult. So is a gob of spit. So is the organ you want to grow to replace your missing kidney.

It is a crazy new world, but this doesn't have much to do with single parenting.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:17 AM
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and the fact that kids are generally better off with two parents,

How much of this is socially constructed too? I think I understand where KR is coming from, even if he is having a bit of trouble articulating it, but the position rests on a couple of strong assumptions, and we should be clear about what is being assumed vs. known.

Further, this position has the difficulty of being strongly associated with some pretty awful social conservatives, so if you are going to articulate it you really need to distance yourself from them carefully (or be tarred with the same brush). For these social conservatives, 2 parent `traditional' households is just one stick they wish to beat you with into adherence to a set of social norms they like. Social norms which I believe do far more damage then single parenting is ever likely to do (and I agree that single parenting in practice, in this current social and economic mileau, often is far more difficult than it should be and that somemtimes has advers affect on the children)

If you can abstract it from the above baggage, there is omething interesting to talk about I think but I'm not convinced it's anywhere near the central issue around parenting. If you are saying 2 parents > 1 parent, does the gender mix matter? is 3 parents > 2 parents? 8? Is cohabitation important? How does the magnitude of the effect of these things compare with others (socio-economic, parents education, what have you)? Etc. etc.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:17 AM
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574: Not really. I think the claim is that you could get Swedish welfare without a big majority. Put another way, lots of libs seem to want non-means tested social programs because they recognize that means-tested programs go away or get cut to the bone over time. Programs do get passed and then taken away (or transformed).


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:17 AM
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one that I hope does not preclude civil interaction in the future.

Occasional heated language aside, not generally, no, I hope.

The median voter in the U.S. looks a lot different from the median voter in Scotland

And I'm fairly committed to the view that social conservatism is wrong and often perniciously so.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:20 AM
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Knecht, are you saying:

1) "two happily married parents are better than one"
2) people shouldn't voluntarily become single parents?

Because I don't have a special problem with (1)--the more loving adults around the better*--
but they're not synonymous, at all. The way the decision gets made in real life, it's not: "hmmm, kids are a given, should I get married or stay single." It's more: "single status is looking like a given. Should I have a kid anyway, or no?"

I suppose there are people who are single for ideological reasons, but that's got to be such a vanishingly small % of single parents that this is getting silly--unplanned pregancies and avoidable divorces have got to be a much bigger social problem.

*Of course by my logic it's also bad for the kids in the same sort of way if you don't live near your parents, siblings, etc. & that should be socially stigmatized. But in my family, it is.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:21 AM
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579.1: Cool.

Incidentally, having vowed to stay out of the single-parenting discussion, I'll dip my toe in to add that most of what I've seen in the way of data about single parenting indicates that the really disadvantaged situations are encountered by poor, never-married mothers. IOW the root problem is class and poverty, not single parenting. Single parenting probably does motivate people to have smaller families and more one-child families on average, which is only a problem if you feel the planet needs a bigger population.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:22 AM
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I'll tell you one thing that may be eroding the Swedish model, and that is immigration. I read just the other day a right-wing paper lamenting that somali fathers were abandoning large families because they could never hope to earn as much as the mother would get from the social services. This was couched as a tragedy for the mothers, but one can easily see it being reframed.


Posted by: Nworb Werdna | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:22 AM
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I was just looking at the lyrics to Madonna's "Papa don't preach" (1986, #1 in most venues). It strikes me as an example of what I'm thinking about. A teenager's pregnant, she decides to keep the baby, she and the father are going to try to work it out but there's no evidence they have their trip together. It's typically Madonnesque in the way it appeals to various niche audiences: it's an anti-abortion song, it's a pro-marriage song, it's a sex-friendly song, it's liberated, it's pro-teenager, etc. But from my Papa-esque point of view, her message is "You can't judge me but I expect support" -- an asymmetrical commitment. And the relationship doesn't look auspicious to me.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:22 AM
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582 is correct. I, personally, also think that social programs shouldn't be framed as charity because it's morally wrong to do so, but yes, purely in practical terms, it tends to make them pretty weak.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:23 AM
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papa_Don't_Preach

http://www.mad-eyes.net/disco/tb/papa-dont-preach.htm


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:23 AM
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I am wary of any social plan that involves finding a group of people to socially stigmatize as a way of preserving "rights" for everyone.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:23 AM
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The median voter in the U.S. looks a lot different from the median voter in Scotland.

In certain (social) regards, I can hope that the median voter in the US will learn and improve over time. I'm not at all claiming |scottish| > |american| by that.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:24 AM
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re: 591

I'm not at all claiming |scottish| > |american| by that.

FWIW, neither am I. I can think of a fair few things likely to be believed by your median Scottish voter that I disagree with fairly strongly.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:25 AM
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B., "So?" is not a killer argument.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:26 AM
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If, by some miracle, we ever got a Swedish welfare state, and the result were to be Swedish levels of unwed motherhood, the ensuing backlash would surely destroy that welfare state. Hence, the continuing utility of a presumptive social norm against single parenthood.

Why, so the presumptive social norm can feed the backlash?


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:26 AM
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"That leaves us with the last category, and I'm having a hard time imagining what sort of policies KR's imagining would encourage single parenthood."

Taking away AFDC benefits if you're married to your kid's dad & he has a job, presumably. But that's kind of moot now, no? I don't think our social programs should be set up to make marriage economically harmful, but by and large, they aren't. So what are we talking about--deliberately making things economically more difficult for single parents? Not a good idea.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:26 AM
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If you are saying 2 parents > 1 parent, does the gender mix matter? is 3 parents > 2 parents? 8? Is cohabitation important? How does the magnitude of the effect of these things compare with others (socio-economic, parents education, what have you)? Etc. etc.

I don't know the answer to any of those questions. I think there is an overwhelming body of evidence that a multiple-member household is a more economically efficient unit than every individual living by himself in a hut. It's a short step from there to conclude that a multiple memeber household will have an easier time generating the economic surplus necessary to provide for a child in a world of scarcity. It may be possible, if a society is wealthy enough and has some kind of redistributive institutions (either traditional kinship ties or a modern welfare state), that a single parent with child household can survive and remain integrated into the society.

But that will come at the cost of taxing the patience of the providers of the surplus and imposing some obligations on the recipients of the surplus. I think it is both pragmatic and good for children that said obligations include the obligation to not enter into such a situation lightly. In other words, it is NOT just an individual reproductive choice, but a collective decision to divert some of society's resources to make that choice possible.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:28 AM
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474, 479, 536:

For most of my career as a dad, I've tried to remind myself that I don't deserve a cookie or a pat on the head for doing every little parenting thing that women are expected to do automatically. Yes, I spent the day with the kids in the park, but moms do that every day of the week and it is taken for granted.

Recently, though, I've really started to appreciate the extra credit I sometimes get for being a halfway decent dad. I can say this in a joking way "Oh it sure is good for me that the bar is so low!" But I'm becoming more serious about it.

My work suffers when I go home on time. I told a colleague that I worked a strict 40 hour week, because I needed to spend the rest of the time with my family. She told me I simply couldn't do that. I couldn't get my job done working a 40 hour week. (She was right, my week is back up to 50 hours at least.)

So yeah, I am glad that I get extra credit for doing some things that other people do automatically. I can't justify it. Not really. But I like it, and I really want to justify it.


Posted by: rob helpy-chalk | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:29 AM
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you know what else imposes social costs? Everything.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:29 AM
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The way the decision gets made in real life, it's not: "hmmm, kids are a given, should I get married or stay single." It's more: "single status is looking like a given. Should I have a kid anyway, or no?"

Bingo.

*Of course by my logic it's also bad for the kids in the same sort of way if you don't live near your parents, siblings, etc. & that should be socially stigmatized.

Amen and hallelujah. If anything, encouraging adults to be mobile and job-centered is much more damaging to kids' interests than failing to stigmatize single parents.

587: Well, that's the role of a *good parent*--to support their child. In the song, the woman *admits* she's in trouble; the point is that judgment doesn't do a goddamn thing to change the situation, and will only make it harder. That's a message that needs to be heard, and (I'm sorry, John, but honestly) defensive residual patriarchal resentment of one's fatherly duties is a pretty poor foundation for the argument that women aren't responsible enough about their motherly duties.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:30 AM
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596: I think the disagreement is primarily about the description of the world as exists today. Most people (inc. me) think single parenthood--particularly, but not solely, as a choice--is stigmatized. So no energy need be spent in shoring up that wall. You, I think, disagree.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:31 AM
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587: The fact that people act frivolously or inconsiderately in some area doesn't say much about policy; or, to put it another way, there's not much use to a policy goal of making people not act frivolously or inconsiderately. People are often frivolous and inconsiderate, whether they're single parents, in couples, or anything else.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:33 AM
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That's a message that needs to be heard, and (I'm sorry, John, but honestly) defensive residual patriarchal resentment

I'm not sure it's the patriarchy that's being defensive here.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:34 AM
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So yeah, I am glad that I get extra credit for doing some things that other people do automatically. I can't justify it. Not really. But I like it, and I really want to justify it.

Eh, ideally it would just get spread around some more, not taken away from guys like you and Buck.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:34 AM
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597: I tend to think that it's hard for two professionals to raise kids unless they have enough money to hire a nanny, or unless one of them is already solidly established while the other one is getting started.

When you go from hourly to salaried work, which is what going from a job job to a career job usually entails, the 40 hour week is usually forgotten. Even in a lot of wage jobs there's often involuntary overtime.

A friend of mine concluded that every couple needs a wife, and if it's the man, fine.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:35 AM
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What's frustrating here, KR, is that you are talking in the vaguest of generalities. What *specific* legislation and/or social response are you advocating? Because if you don't have something specific in mind, then this is just so much sloganeering with nothing behind it.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:35 AM
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B., "So?" is not a killer argument.

No, it's a rhetorical introduction to the rest of that paragraph, which does present an argument, John.

596 is an argument that couples will be wealthier than individuals, which may well be the case--but unless you want to say that riches = good parenting, that still doesn't support the larger argument.

597: I don't begrudge guys credit for taking the hits women need(ed) to take to challenge the problems in the system. I just wish that when women performed that balancing act, we got the same praise, instead of the kind of second-guessing and blame that's the norm (even in this discussion).


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:36 AM
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Most people (inc. me) think single parenthood--particularly, but not solely, as a choice--is stigmatized. So no energy need be spent in shoring up that wall. You, I think, disagree.

No, I don't think I necessarily disagree. I'm sure there are far too many folks whose tolerance of single parenthood is too low. But in promoting tolerance, let's not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Somewhere there exists an optimum level of social disapprobation. Whether the optimim level is higher or lower than the level that exists today I am ill-equipped to judge. But I strenuously disagree that the optimal level is zero.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:36 AM
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unless you want to say that riches = good parenting, that still doesn't support the larger argument

Not exactly. Time = good parenting, or, more precisely, time is a necessary though insufficient condition for good parenting. Since our modern economy is based on trading time for money (and traditional economies were devoted to trading time for sustenance), there is conflict between resource acquisition and good parenting. To the extent that a two-parent household is in a better position to master this conflict, there is a relationship between the two. And any alternative arrangements will place some call on social resources. I'm all in favor of that, but then it becomes a political question and no longer a matter of personal choice to which an individual can feel entitled.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:39 AM
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But from my Papa-esque point of view, her message is "You can't judge me but I expect support" -- an asymmetrical commitment. And the relationship doesn't look auspicious to me.

I don't get this. As a Mama, I recognize that my daughter is going to make choices down the road that I might not agree with (hell, I'm not totally thrilled with some of the friendships she's chosen even now), and it seems entirely natural to me to want to support her autonomy without having to either judge or endorse particular decisions.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:40 AM
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that will come at the cost of taxing the patience of the providers of the surplus and imposing some obligations on the recipients of the surplus. I think it is both pragmatic and good for children that said obligations include the obligation to not enter into such a situation lightly. In other words, it is NOT just an individual reproductive choice, but a collective decision to divert some of society's resources to make that choice possible.

No; it's a collective *recognition* that having kids is a fundamental human activity, not an "individual reproductive choice."

Look, almost all of us provide surplus in some way, and receive it in others. Parents are providing surplus in the form of *children*, who are economic liabilities in the short term, but in the long term are the very foundation of the economy itself. So okay, if we establish a fabulous welfare state, single parents will take more resources in the short term to help create massive payoffs in the long term, but we're still talking a massive net gain, on average.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:41 AM
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If objecting to the idea that parents are required to fulfill obligations but not allowed to make any demands, I'm a patriarch I guess.

And B., you always start the story after the problem appears. Once there's a problem, nothing can be done about it, so just accept it. But the discussion is about the whole time frame, including the time before the problem happened. In the song the girl is basically using that kind of argument to present an ultimatum to her father. But Madonna's song goes out to people who don't have a problem yet, and to me encourages a sort of heedlessness.

A lot of parents get stuck with raising grandkids, and it can be miserable. My own matriarchal sister has felt at times that she's being taken for granted by her daughter.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:42 AM
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it becomes a political question and no longer a matter of personal choice to which an individual can feel entitled.

I would say "it becomes a political question and no longer a matter of personal choice for which an individual should be stigmatized."

The point isn't whether or not parents feel entitled. The point is whether or not children are taken care of.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:43 AM
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Di, how much support will you be willing to give for how bad a decision? I'm not really talking about fine-tuning the kid's life.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:44 AM
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611: I start the story after the problem appears because I assume, in this case, that women are going to sometimes have accidental pregnancies.

I think the argument that that song "encourages" girls to go out and get knocked up is a silly one.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:45 AM
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597: could be read also as an argument against nuclear families.

The other bits of what I said (association with other, broken, ideas, etc) still hold --- if the problem is economics, we can address the economic effect in various ways. If the problem is lack of time spent with caring adults (arguably a problem with a lot of dual career married couples) we can address that in various ways. Holding up a single model and saying `this works better' when in manifestly doesn't sometimes and falling back on a vague `well, it usually does', so we should encourage it by providing *more* discincentives to the contrary is hardly a compelling position.

I suspect, for example, that a single parent living near (or with) siblings and other family who are willing and able to help rearing their child may usually be providing a much better environment for those children than a nuclear couple who live a fairly isolated suburban life and for economic reasons are forced to both work long hours. Should we take this as an argument against that married couple moving away from an extended support system? Should we stigmatize them because of it?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:46 AM
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Why is it silly? What conclusion will a 15 year old girl come to when hearing that song? It presents what is usually a bad choice as an OK choice, and it forbids parents to objects.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:47 AM
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So okay, if we establish a fabulous welfare state, single parents will take more resources in the short term to help create massive payoffs in the long term, but we're still talking a massive net gain, on average.

This is a staple argument of European social democrats (and certain categories of christian democrats as well), but there is precious little empirical evidence for it. You can only make the balance sheet total up by assuming a positive value to replacing the oldsters with young white children instead of brown immigrants, which is one reason that some christian democrats have adopted it. (Not that I'm accusing B. or anyone else of racism; it's just that this is the way the debate has played out in Europe.)


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:47 AM
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611 again: It seems to me that the problem you're pointing out--of grandparents getting stuck with the burden of taking care of grandchildren--would be ameliorated better by providing material support to single mothers than by relying on social stigma to keep women from getting pregnant in the first place.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:47 AM
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615 is right.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:49 AM
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613: It's a good question, and I think of the scene in the movie "parenthood" where the mom (Diane Wiest?) gives her pregnant daughter a kick in the pants to get her relationship shit together with her boyfriend (Keanu Reeves) and the son asks, "Why'd you do that if you think they'll never last?" And she says something like "He makes her happy and I want you kids to have what makes you happy." I'd like to think I'd make a similar choice in a similar situation.

(This all being purely hypothetical as I am wholly confident that Rory will alwys exercise good judgment and any differences in opinion I might have with her will be in the nature of "fine-tuning" anyway.)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:49 AM
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Di, how much support will you be willing to give for how bad a decision? I'm not really talking about fine-tuning the kid's life.

The problem, of course, is that irresponsible people with kids have hostages who shouldn't suffer, because they weren't the ones who were irresponsible. Obviously, it's irresponsible to have children and not care for them if you have the ability to, but punishing that irresponsibility by not doing what you can to support the children isn't going to do anyone any good. And it's hard to see what kind of stigma doesn't hit the children involved as hard as the irresponsible parents.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:49 AM
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Should we take this as an argument against that married couple moving away from an extended support system? Should we stigmatize them because of it?

Arguably, yes. Or at least we should do more to glorify the choice to forego that option.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:49 AM
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608: I was serious in 598. There are all kinds of things that impose social costs that we still feel are our choices to make. For instance, you want to talk about the efficiency of multi-family dwellings? Let's talk about energy costs: effiency dictates that we should all live in high rises. And yet people expect that society is going to provide interstates and streets & coastal communities will deal with slightly higher sea levels so that they can live in single family homes in the suburbs...


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:50 AM
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Why is it silly? What conclusion will a 15 year old girl come to when hearing that song? It presents what is usually a bad choice as an OK choice, and it forbids parents to objects.

Good lord. It's Madonna, for Christ's sake, whose music is all about "I do what I want, fuck all y'all." I don't think 15 year old girls are getting their notions about whether single motherhood is ok from Madonna songs any more than they are deciding whether to have sex based on whether they get abstinence-only sex ed.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:51 AM
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Knecht, I mentioned a specific person who had chosen to become a single parent a few comments ago, and I'm presuming her behavior is exactly what you object to. I would like to know what you propose she should have done differently? Should she not have had children? Married the best person she could find to agree to it, perhaps disregarding romantic interest, in order to form a two parent child raising coalition?

Precisely what measure of shaming should she receive for the choice she did make, and in what manner should she be shamed?

(Background: she did make extensive efforts to date before deciding to be artificially inseminated, without success. She was married once before, to a man who physically abused her and went to prison for something, I don't know if I remember exactly what. She is extremely overweight, although she lost some at her doctor's recommendation to be better prepared for the pregancy. The older single woman my mom knows in her geographical area have generally not found great success in meeting decent, unmarried men, though there are some exceptions.)


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:51 AM
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622: Should we then also glorify the single parent with a good support system too, if that is doing a better job than the average married couple can manage under todays economic realities? (for what it's worth, I don't see that as a bigger jump than some of the others made in this conversation).

If not, why?

You didn't comment on my cohabitation question, have you thought about it? Imagine two people co-parenting without living together (perhaps even never having lived together, even never been romantically involved) yet who both have good financial and personal support systems for a child or children. It's easy to postulate (without comment on how likely/common this is) such as situation that is better for the children than the average married couple can manage. Unless you believe there is inherent benifit in a married couple, which is by no means obvious. So should we glorify this sort of thing as well?


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:55 AM
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616: It's silly because it assumes that any isolated bit of pop culture is a primary cause that overwhelms everything else in someone's life.

Well, I was 17--not 15--when that song came out, but I didn't come to the conclusion that I should go get pregnant. I heard it, rather, as an appeal to papa/authority/society as a whole to recognize that *bad things happen sometimes* and to try to help when they do, rather than making things worse.

It presents what is usually a bad choice as an OK choice

It acknowledges that having a child is a bad choice *practically*, but not *morally*.

617: I'm actually thinking more on a global scale, but in any case I'd say that while entirely pro-immigrant, I don't think (again) that it's realistic to assume that women, white or otherwise, are going to stop having babies altogether. After all, those brown immigrants have to come from somewhere, and their place of origin, like that of the white babies, is from between mama's legs.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:55 AM
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I'm confused, if single parenting is worse because it's harder wouldn't that difficulty be enough of a disensentive that we don't also need social stigma? One of my friends who is considering having a child without a partner has worked at orphanages and clearly knows what she's getting into and is very competent and would make a great single mother. Sure I also know 16-year old single mom's who are bad at it, but one-size-fits-all stigma isn't appropriate.


Posted by: It's patentable and it's sharp! (6) | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:55 AM
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In many respects what I'm saying is keyed specifically to the US. I would have been glad to have seen a Swedish-type welfare state here. I've hoped for that for 45 years, but it's not in the cards. I have no idea what I'd be saying in Sweden.

I try to keep from playing the working-class card too much, but I often think that people here are only familiar with the top 20% or so of the class scale. Some of the people I'm told are imaginary are people I've actually known. Sure, anecdotal and not statistical, but not imaginary. My pool of anecdotes is hippies and liberationists 1965-1985, and ordinary less-rich people of various kinds 1975-2002.

When the kids come along, everything changes, and a lot of liberationist principles (various forms of liberation) are a bit tone-deaf WRT childraising.



Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:56 AM
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If I may opine about "what's wrong with kids today," it's not that they make actively bad life choices and expect the world to clean it up, but that they have no idea how to make contingency plans for a life that isn't storybook perfect. They know, absolutely, what the "right" path is and how they're supposed to make all these perfect decisions that will result, at least statistically, in a more perfect, easier life, but they seriously fall apart when something goes wrong, like getting pregnant or not getting perfect grades or whatever.

So Knecht's argument seems to me to be that only idealized life-choices with statistical correlations to minimal suffering should be modeled or socially tolerated, whereas that attitude seems to me to be the very cornerstone of why non-idealized life-choices result in so much tragedy.

What I learned from Madonna when I was a kid was that life isn't always going to go precisely right, and that a young woman really has to have the guts to make plans for when things don't work out perfectly.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:57 AM
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534 is interesting to me. Were Knecht arguing Clintonism alone, I would find that saddening. The argument that "politics is the art of the possible" is a truism; the Clintonesque model requires everyone to concede the first principles in order to strike the compromise. It makes a beggar of the political imagination, as if the greater tragedy were imagining good things we could not have right now.

But then you lead with Moynihan, which makes me think you really have this conservative belief about families and government. I wonder if, coming from that, there's a temptation to endorse the Clinton program because that makes everyone the least unhappy. Let me be generous and suggest that there there is a conservative way of imagining a politics around family and government, and propose that it is not served by the Clintonian compromise either.

611 is the first time I've understood what John's arguing in this thread, aside from grumpiness. Here I also feel that grumping against Madonna is a failure of imagination, but I think that I'm coming up on my puppy-rainbow quota.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:57 AM
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623: Exactly. This demonstrates how much of this stuff is socially constructed, and how laughable the idea that a principled optimization process is at the heart of it.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:57 AM
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There are all kinds of things that impose social costs that we still feel are our choices to make. For instance, you want to talk about the efficiency of multi-family dwellings?

I think those things should be both stigmatized (i.e. looking down your nose at SUV's and McMansions) and discouraged through public policy (e.g. carbon taxes). With single parenthood I wanted to stigmatize it while enabling it through public policy. So I declare myself innocent of the charge of inconsistency.

I would like to know what you propose she should have done differently? Should she not have had children?

I hope that everything turns out for the best for your friend and her child. I won't second guess her judgment. I am glad, though, that it was a difficult choice for her. That is, I think it is on balance a good thing that she was not able to make that decision lightly, because of the high likelihood that such choices will end up being bad for a child. That's what I meant by a "socially optimum level of disapprobation".


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:58 AM
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Further thinking of the movie "Parenthood" I'd like to think I would be the sort of grandparent that Jason Robard's character eventually must decide to be -- that if I wind up with a kid who turns out to be a total fuck up, I will do what I can to try to steer my kid back onto track, but if the kid makes stupid choices, I will know when and how to stop enabling the bad choices and will be prepared to take the responsibility needed for my grandkid.

I really do love that movie.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:58 AM
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My work suffers when I go home on time. I told a colleague that I worked a strict 40 hour week, because I needed to spend the rest of the time with my family. She told me I simply couldn't do that. I couldn't get my job done working a 40 hour week.

My career was certainly damaged by the amount of this I did when my children were younger. Also taking time off to take them to the doctor, or go to school take a sick one home.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:00 AM
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624: For a lot of people, Madonna is a role model, or was anyway. She thought of herself as a philosopher of liberation. We're talking about 14-year olds or thereabouts. People stupider than you are now, or even than you were at 14.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:00 AM
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629: 1975-1985 musta been some party. To bad it had to end.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:00 AM
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I am glad, though, that it was a difficult choice for her.

Well then I think we're all in agreement. Having a child, with or without a partner, is a difficult choice for basically everyone. I want to know where all these people are, just deciding to have kids and get abortions the same way they decide they'd like to eat eggs instead of oatmeal for breakfast.

For fuck's sake.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:01 AM
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This demonstrates how much of this stuff is socially constructed, and how laughable the idea that a principled optimization process is at the heart of it.

I'm not seeing the argument. Is there some important set of things effected by policy that isn't socially constructed?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:03 AM
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I want to know where all these people are, just deciding to have kids and get abortions the same way they decide they'd like to eat eggs instead of oatmeal for breakfast.

I had a fetus for breakfast. It was delicious.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:04 AM
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My career was certainly damaged by the amount of this I did when my children were younger.

My career is about to be damaged by the amount of time that I spend on this thread, so I'm going to make some calls to clients now. Perhaps ogged will step into the lion's den.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:04 AM
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629: John, I don't know how much I've seen of the top 20% or so of the class scale, but I have spent some time in the bottom 5% or so. There are an awful lot of parenting problems there. I'm pretty certain that single parenting (primarily mothers) is symptomatic, not causal, and way down the list as far as `things that would improve the childs environment'. If you are talking about child raising in poverty, it only shows up anywhere near the top as a proxy for income, anyway.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:05 AM
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The song does not recognize the choice as a bad choice in any way whatever. And it basically lays down an ultimatum to the patriarch.

And as I said, in the song the girl's already pregnant and the father can take it or leave it, but the audience of the song includes girls who aren't already pregnant who might become so.

Someday someone had to explain to me why music is so iportant and liberating when it actually has no influence on anything anyone ever says and does. "papa don't preach" looks like a pretty clear message song to me, and I don't like the message.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:05 AM
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Hallo, single mommies! You like my cologne, yes?


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:06 AM
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I want to know where all these people are, just deciding to have kids and get abortions the same way they decide they'd like to eat eggs instead of oatmeal for breakfast.

Well... I did meet a guy recently who seems to fit about half that bill. Three kids, three different moms, old enough by now to understand what a condom is and how to use it, flippant enough to -- three kids late -- still have a very casual attitude about the necessity for such precautions. A nice enough guy, generally, and at least reportedly responsible about paying the child support and (where permitted) being a parent to his kids. But the lack of thought going into the process of becoming a parent, stunning.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:07 AM
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642 is right, again.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:07 AM
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I want to know where all these people are, just deciding to have kids and get abortions the same way they decide they'd like to eat eggs instead of oatmeal for breakfast.

Daughter of a coworker. I've talked to her, and she's completely clueless. Her mother was effectively raising the kids while she partied.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:08 AM
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645: Did you do him?


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:08 AM
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645: Don't slut shame him, Di.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:08 AM
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I'm not really talking about the so-called underclass at all.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:09 AM
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high likelihood that such choices will end up being bad for a child

You need evidence to make this statement, Knecht, and you have offered exactly none. You can't appeal to what "everyone knows"--surely contaminated by the very stigma you're arguing for--or even what "studies show," you have to look at those studies, and what they controlled for, which should be too obvious to state. I am unaware of any evidence that it is bad for a child to grow up with one loving parent, sufficient economic resources, probably lower than median family conflict, and a supportive social network. What evidence do you have that it is?
And the phrase "bad for the child" is terribly unspecified there. Bad how? Compared to what? If there was no husband on offer, it's compared to not existing. What is it that you think is likely to befall these children that they ought not have been brought into the world?

With that, I'm out.


Posted by: Tia | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:09 AM
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648: Would I tell you if I did?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:09 AM
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645: It's kind of amazing the people I meet in this job, the men who have fathered a shit ton of kids. I have this new client, who when I was interviewing him, asked "do you have any kids?" "Yes." "How many?" "7."

WTF. None of them live with him, and he's not supporting them b/c he has no income (just got out of prison). But good god damn.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:09 AM
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This conversation has drifted into the lady track, but the irresponsible fathers are what I'm talking about too. They're more common, too, I think


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:12 AM
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Don't slut shame him, Di.

I'm not, actually. His choices are baffling to me and are not choices I would make for myself, but he still seemed to me to be a decent person and I don't presume his babies are going to be any more or less screwed up down the road than my carefully planned, conceived in the sanctity of marriage baby.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:12 AM
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A friend of mine who worked with homeless people in college eventually came to understand that you have to abandon foolish consistency in your approach to their issues and lives. To the Republican legislature, you argue that shame and blame are not useful tools of social policy, but interacting with them personally, it's worth calling them on their bad choices. (This does not exclude compassion.) A lot of us spend more time arguing to the Republican legislature on this, and that's mostly for the best; lord knows what this thread would look like if we were discussing what Those People In The Ghetto do.

But they sure do have a lot of extended-family child-raising is for sure.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:12 AM
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I want to know where all these people are, just deciding to have kids and get abortions the same way they decide they'd like to eat eggs instead of oatmeal for breakfast.

They are busy giving children too much Ritalin instead of spending their time being good parents.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:12 AM
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639: More an offhand comment than an argument. Any idealized social norm (e.g. imaginary 50s nuclear family) that is propped up with the idea that it has been `optimized' for is probably laughable. If we had ever collectively sat down an said `lets optimize society for the benefit of child rearing' we'd almost certainly end up with something very different than what we've got.

Social construction of norms works very differently than that (allthough there are stabs towards `improvements')


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:13 AM
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The song does not recognize the choice as a bad choice in any way whatever.

"I'm in trouble deep"? "We're in an awful mess"? "It's a sacrifice"? I realize that the song isn't central to anything, but you seem to be overrating its blitheness.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:14 AM
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627: It's silly because it assumes that any isolated bit of pop culture is a primary cause that overwhelms everything else in someone's life.

John was originally quoting the song as an example of an attitude, which makes sense to me. He's since started overselling Madonna's actual influence.

638: I want to know where all these people are, just deciding to have kids and get abortions the same way they decide they'd like to eat eggs instead of oatmeal for breakfast.

I don't know about "the same way they'd decide about breakfast," but there certainly are plenty of people who are unwilling to undertake parenthood if it involves financial risk or any disruption of existing goals or life patterns. I know several people who match John's description of his co-worker's daughter in 647, for example. If the rules are that we're not allowed to notice that such people exist, that's dumb.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:15 AM
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I'm not really talking about the so-called underclass at all.

Fair enough, and it really is a different set of problems than say, the middle quintiles.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:16 AM
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I think it is important to note as well that, in college, I won a karaoke contest singing Papa Don't Preach together with my two best friends.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:16 AM
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Any idealized social norm (e.g. imaginary 50s nuclear family) that is propped up with the idea that it has been `optimized' for is probably laughable.

Yes and no. I believe this is a strain of conservatism associated with (I think) Burke and Chesterton, and it claims that long practice is optimized for some (probably large) set of priorities. At some level I buy the argument; if some social policy seems to be working, I'm a pretty strong proponent of "Don't touch it." The problem is that no one's quite clear what is in the large set of priorities, some of which may be pointless or even quite nasty.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:18 AM
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I think I know an example of the sort JE's talking about. Friend of my sister; parents middle quintile; goes off to a branch of the state college and has a little too much fun with the alcohol, pot, and boyfriend; gets pregnant; moves back home; has the baby; works at McDonald's; goes to community college part-time; parties; has another baby by the same father (who doesn't seem to be in her or the kids' life otherwise.)

More stigmatization probably wouldn't help, but that doesn't make her choices non-careless.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:19 AM
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Not to expose too much, but Di went to Oral Roberts U.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:19 AM
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Personally, I think that the girl in Madonna's song is one of the people abortions are for. Twice above it's been suggested that that's horrible to say this.

I've seen the beginning, middle, and end of the story in the Madonna song, and on the average it's not a fun story. The ones who did the best seemed to be the ones who sucked up their guts and turned very conventional.

Yeah, I don't know about the causality, but it certainly can be taken as indicative of an attitude. It's sort of the expectation of the blank check from the patriarch: I defied you, and now there's a problem. Don't nag me, just give me what I need. What's done is done.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:21 AM
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But my friends keep telling me to give it up
Saying I'm too young, I ought to live it up
What I need right now is some good advice, please

Looking at the lyrics, I have to say the song hardly glorifies or encourages anything. It's "Shit, I'm knocked up and it's going to change my life and I'm losing sleep figuring out what to do and I want your advice, Daddy, but please don't make me fee worse than I already do."


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:23 AM
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I try to keep from playing the working-class card too much, but I often think that people here are only familiar with the top 20% or so of the class scale. Some of the people I'm told are imaginary are people I've actually known. Sure, anecdotal and not statistical, but not imaginary. My pool of anecdotes is hippies and liberationists 1965-1985, and ordinary less-rich people of various kinds 1975-2002.

When the kids come along, everything changes, and a lot of liberationist principles (various forms of liberation) are a bit tone-deaf WRT childraising.

Huh. Okay, here are my bonafides: first, my sister was a single parent, and yes she was on welfare, for about three years. Then she married the babydaddy and divorced him a year later. A couple years later, she married again.

Second, my father's current wife was the single mother of one daughter, who was grown up by the time dad and his wife got married. Said daughter has four children; their father, to whom she was married, was a fork lift driver who died of a sudden heart attack a few years ago. Her youngest is now 10, I think, and her oldest is in jail. Neither dad's wife, nor her daughter, nor probably any of the four grandchildren will go to college. My dad and his wife have had the family, with and without the now-dead father, living with them in their two-bedroom house on and off for several years. Now they live right across the street, in a rental house, but the kids pretty much come over to Dad's every day after school and often eat dinner there as well.

My sister's situation is *much* better than my step-sister's. And yet, my sister was the one who "chose" to have a baby out of wedlock after an accidental pregnancy. It's obvious that her better situation has everything to do with her own class/education background, and nothing to do with her choice vs. step-sister's being widowed.

And in both cases, my father was 100% fucking supportive. My sister lived with him during part of the pregnancy and for about a year afterwards; once she moved, he was always willing to drop what he's doing and drive from Stockton to Santa Monica to babysit; he's provided a home, obviously, to step-sister on and off and to all her children, and the kid now in jail was living with him for several months before the street racing accident that led to his jail time.

I think my dad is *both* a fucking hero, *and* is doing his job as a father. He would say the latter and deny the former. And I think that his unqualified support for his daughters and recognition that *once a child is there or on the way, fussing about how it got there is beside the point and counterproductive* has a lot to do with the difference between my sister's situation (after all, she was raised by him) and my sister-in-law's (she wasn't), and is probably the best damn thing in his grandkid's lives right now.

Now I'll admit that dad's wife's attitude is the kind of thing you're probably objecting to here, John: she sees her daughter's poverty and her grandchildren's schooling and her grandson's jail time as "the sort of thing that happens", and doesn't seem, to me, to devote much time to thinking about what might be done to make their situation better than it is.

But the thing is, that's part and parcel of her unthinking acceptance of social norms; she's the kind of person who doesn't think much about the big picture. She supports her grandkids because that's what you do. She and her daughter didn't post bail when grandson went to jail because they couldn't afford it, and they accepted the plea bargain because that's what you do. She and step-sister are *completely mortified* by my nephew being in jail, but she goes and visits him every week because that's what a grandma does. And in part *because* of her mortification and love of her grandson, she's also extremely defensive about his situation in ways that are, to my mind, not at all helpful.

My dad, on the other hand, isn't particularly mortified by grandson being in jail--he was *surprised*, and has since gone on to have several (annoying) convos with me about how, much to his shock, a lot of people have grandchildren in jail but no one talks about it! However, because he *does* think outside the box, a little, he was the only one who talked to the lawyer about the case, who tried to find out about rehabilitation programs in lieu of jail time (an option step-sister rejected), and who is thinking about what grandson will do when he gets out. And he's the only one who talks to the kids about college.

Step sister and grandmother do their best--but they don't have the opportunities, education or cultural capitol that helps them deal well with mistakes or setbacks. Dad and my sister do have those things. And part of that education includes the ability to *reject* social stigma and corresponding assumptions about what happens to girls who get themselves knocked up when they're not married, whereas I think a big part of step sis's and grandmother's limitations have to do with their acceptance of social stigma and the corresponding assumption about their lot in life.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:25 AM
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You know, stuff happens, women get pregnant and have kids on their own, but--and I haven't read the whole thread, so I'm not totally aware of his position--I think I might agree with Knecht.

I value all of this stuff about extended families, but I have serious problems with the idea of a single woman getting artificially inseminated. I'm saying this only because I know that if I were her child, I'd be angry as hell that someone who had the capacity to plan well enough to choose to have me in that way went ahead and did it without providing some sort of father.

I also have feelings about gay adoption. I want to see gay parents able to adopt, but I think that there is a real need for extra input from the extended family and community. I think that a gay (male) couple who want to adopt a girl should have some sort of woman friend whom they allow in on certain aspects of parenting. Being a teenage girl without a mother is just horrible.

I think that extended families should help with childrearing and that the exaltation fo the nuclear family is overdone, but that is the society in which we live. Even under different societal conditions, I still think that it's important for a child to have a father and a mother of some sort. I don't think that a straight old-fashioned nuclear family is the only way to provide them, but I still think that it matters.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:25 AM
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. The ones who did the best seemed to be the ones who sucked up their guts and turned very conventional.

I'm not sure anyone is arguing against this position. Rather, I think people are saying that sometimes people don't have choices, and that making them feel bad about not having choices seems needlessly cruel and probably inhibiting of second-best results.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:27 AM
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664: Right. My cousin recently had a baby by her loser boyfriend. She hid the pregnancy from her parents, and then showed up one day at their house saying, "There's a surprise in the car." Her wealthy folks are totally shocked, but my God, there's the baby, right there in front of them. Cousin says she and loser boyfriend are going to move into a hellhole apartment in a bad neighborhood because that's what they can afford. Wealthy Parents say, "Not my grandkid" and start paying for Cousin to live with Baby in a nicer place while she finishes college.

Oh sure, it sounds cushy, but Cousin's life as a new mom now sort of blows because Wealthy Parents feel the right to control every parenting decision she makes. Anyhow.

So Cousin has a Mentally-Ill Sister who is already getting into all kinds of trouble whenever she gets the opportunity. My mom says, "How dare Wealthy Parents make it so easy for Cousin when this is setting a bad example for Mentally-Ill Sister? They're teaching her that you can just screw around and Mom and Dad will clean up your mess!"

I'm inclined to say that what's done is done, and Mentally-Ill Sister is going to make the decisions she does nevertheless, and who knows what lesson she's taking from all this? Plus, let us not forget that there is an actual baby here, who will probably benefit from Cousin finishing her college degree since she has the chance. Is making an example of Cousin for Sister really worth fucking that baby over?


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:28 AM
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OK, I'll retract that about the song not recognizing a problem.

What I see is most likely the beginning of a sad and possibly unpleasant story, with no real evidence that she knows what's hit her (long term), and resistance on her part to criticism. It just seems ultimatum-ish.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:28 AM
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663: right, I've heard this argument. In a very weak sense, it's probably true. Overwhelmingly negative obviously incentives work (people tend to notice when things are a consistenly and obviously bad idea, and eventually stop doing them. Positive incentives work, but are often conflicting.

In a nod towards theory, any such argument has the problems of both consistency of the set of priorities (pretty clearly some goals are possibly contradictory) and of global vs. local optimal (even if you've found the best method out of ones like what you've tried, there may be a much much better method).

However, what is laughable is the inferences drawn from this. Even if you believe that you have found through local practice a (local) optimal for a vaguely described set of priorites, you cannot pick one of those priorities and say `look, it's optimal for X because of long practice'.

You have to be a little bit careful with your `if it isn't broke, don't fix it' approach to social policy. These are complicated things, and we don't have good measurements --- so `isn't broke' is really, really hard to assert, because cause and effect are often impossible to pin down.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:30 AM
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May I expand: "sucking up your guts and getting conventional" is not a good thing, just the best of the bad options, since it tends to mean accepting diminished prospects in terms of education, etc.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:30 AM
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669: But again, as with KR, what is your specific proposal for how to address this, either legislatively or socially? Restricting artificial insemination and adoption to married straight couples? I mean, I believe all children should eat, but that without a proposal for *how* to get them fed, that isn't a useful belief.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:32 AM
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accepting diminished prospects in terms of education, etc.

This I'm not following at all -- I mean, as a single parent your prospects are in fact likely to be diminished, but I can't see how accepting diminished prospects if you have the option not to is going to be better for the kid. I'm not meaning to argue so much as really not understanding the point here.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:33 AM
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664: Sure, but people do careless and stupid things, in all aspects of their lives. We can't legislate against stupidity or carelessless, and mostly it contains it's own punishment. It's risible to think anyone is celebrating the situation you are describing, or suggesting there should be more of it. There is no lack of social stigma for it already.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:35 AM
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What I see is most likely the beginning of a sad and possibly unpleasant story, with no real evidence that she knows what's hit her (long term), and resistance on her part to criticism. It just seems ultimatum-ish.

Dude. The girl in the song is an *adolescent*. Who is *well aware* of social stigma, and is therefore defensive. Of *course* young people don't see the long term very well, and of course they resist criticism. Duh.

What the song does well is present that point of view *and* plea for understanding. If we want girls in that situation to become good parents, imho, we oughta model for them what good parenting means. Which isn't yelling unconstructively at kids when they make mistakes.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:35 AM
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673: I don't think we disagree, we're just emphasizing different responses. Given that we don't really understand what's going on, "is broke" or "could be made better" is also hard to assert. Saddam's Iraq was bad for US interests, but the result of the invasion.....


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:37 AM
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679: Comity!

The only thing I was trying to stress was that trying to act through vague and possible incorrect proxies (nuc. fam. good, single parent bad) for actual outcomes that we could learn something about in a targetted way is a bad idea. That, and generally stigmatizing things like this both already done quite strongly, and probably a bad idea.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:41 AM
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677: Not arguing for more social stigma or legislation, just against the idea that it's always a well-thought out decision. I also didn't say anyone was celebrating it. Just pointing out that my sister's friend's second kid was pretty much at the level of bacon and eggs vs. oatmeal in terms of her decision making. It's bad to pretend that all women who have kids out of wedlock did so out of a wholly free choice, but it's just as bad to pretend they all made a thoughtful decision after careful deliberation.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:42 AM
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my sister's friend's second kid was pretty much at the level of bacon and eggs vs. oatmeal in terms of her decision making

This, by the way, is what I mean when I say that pregnancy is a fact of life, not a choice.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:44 AM
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It's bad to pretend that all women who have kids out of wedlock did so out of a wholly free choice, but it's just as bad to pretend they all made a thoughtful decision after careful deliberation.

There is nothing special about wedlock here.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:45 AM
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I also want to add that I think that an awful lto fo people have children who shouldn't. I don't think that tehre's anything that public policy can do to change this, because plenty of those people are rich. What I do think is that just because someone wants a child, doesn't mean that it's a good thing to plan on having one. In fact, if you're not cut out to be a parent, I think that it's an astonishingly selfish choice.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:46 AM
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Being a teenage girl without a mother is just horrible.

Can I just disagree with this? It's not true across the board, i.e., in my case. Actually, the hardest thing about not having a mother has actually been being an adult.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:47 AM
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Of *course* young people don't see the long term very well

That's no reason not to let them vote, B.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:47 AM
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Who do you see as "not cut out to be a parent", BG?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:47 AM
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Right. I thought about adding an addendum on how pretending that kids are choices is bad, but I didn't want to inadvertently touch off a birth control debate. It's also a little weird to talk about kids as sort of an asset that gives back to the society after it has a nice welfare state. They're persons, not goods. Little annoying persons, maybe, but not exactly commensurate with welfare payments or college educations.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:47 AM
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636: It certainly doesn't seem to be a reason to prevent adults from voting.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:48 AM
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683: Fair enough. Still was focusing on my sister's friend, but fair cop.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:49 AM
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Furthermore, any time I see someone arguing that we need more social pressure to conform to some norm that already has a lot of pressure, it sets off a red flag. As does the idea that we should stigmatize anyone who is already socially disadvantaged.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:50 AM
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688: Oh, I totally agree on the persons not goods thing. I was just trying to point out that even on the limited terms Knecht was putting forth, his argument didn't work.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:50 AM
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682, 683: Exactly. It's not like married people all sit around saying, "Well, we've researched the data, and it's obviously sound and just that the most responsible decision in the world is for the two of us to bring a child into existence and raise it to stable maturity." A lot of married people talk about wanting kids the same way they talk about wanting a new car. "We want one." Is there any other or better justification for wanting kids, other than wanting them? It's not like irresponsible teens have the market cornered on impractical self-centered baby-wanting. They just have higher social and financial consequences, so it's stigmatized more.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:50 AM
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676: They survived and raised the kid successfully, but at a lower level than they might have, and at the cost of a lot of things they personally might have wanted to do with their lives.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:51 AM
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Here's a thought: we can have a poll test that requires a yes/no answer to the question "do you think that Madonna songs are an important contributing factor to teen pregnancy?"


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:51 AM
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It's also a little weird to talk about kids as sort of an asset that gives back to the society after it has a nice welfare state. They're persons, not goods. Little annoying persons, maybe, but not exactly commensurate with welfare payments or college educations.

You're practically Canadian now, aren't you?


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:52 AM
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I'm not sure anyone is capable of making a thoughtful decision after careful deliberation, simply because (unless you have been very closely associated with it, you can't know what single motherparenthood will be like in advance. My sister decided to keep the first nephew, firmly believing that she could make it work and she would never take a dime from the guy. She is incredibly resourceful and has every last advantage of the educated class.

She was wrong; it isn't doable. It has taken a large portion of the resources of our family to keep her living as a middle class family expects to. It is, for example, a huge part of moving me to a different city.

If I weren't watching her, I would likely have decided to go it alone already. I may yet make that decision, but I'll do it with considerably more apprehension. It is nothing to take lightly.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:53 AM
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Apo, I don't have specific policy proposals. In fact, I think that any policy proposals would probably do more harm than good. I think that it can be a moral matter without impinging on policy choices.

Having said that, I do think that any private adoption agency should require gay couples who wish to adopt a daughter to have some sort of contractual agreement in place with a woman who agrees to help with some aspects of parenting.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 11:57 AM
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Maybe we could have a contract for hetero couples adopting too, that they have to agree to involve gay people in the parenting. We could have race clauses too. What fun!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:00 PM
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Having said that, I do think that any private adoption agency should require gay couples who wish to adopt a daughter to have some sort of contractual agreement in place with a woman who agrees to help with some aspects of parenting.

Curious only because you seemed deliberately not to mention it: do you think agencies should require of lesbians adopting a boy a similar contract with a thrid-party man? (if not, what's the difference?)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:00 PM
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Note that I'm not specifically talking about Knecht's position.

678: Basically I don't think that stupid choices and casual pregnancies should be taken for given. Once they're there, you deal with them as they are, but this doesn't exclude trying to prevent the bad choices before they happen, or to try to discourage them, or to try to spread the word.

Personal autonomy, sexual freedom, and an accepting, non-judgmental attitude are good things up to a point, but I guess I'm saying that I see a big down side to too much of that. I used to believe in personal liberation ideology myself, but now I just don't. They can't be the only rules or the main rules.

And I imagine people will say that that's a truism and no one disagrees, I don't think that everyone fully realizes the problem.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:01 PM
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687": Who do you see as "not cut out to be a parent", BG?

My parents, for one Brock. They wanted me more than anything in the world, but I think that it was terribly wrong of them to have had kids.

leblanc, I don't really know what it's like not having a mother at all and whether it's worse during adolescence or adulthood. I suspect that, since your mother was dead, there were women who were willing to step in and help who may be absent now. I don't know.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:01 PM
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I also have feelings about gay adoption. I want to see gay parents able to adopt, but I think that there is a real need for extra input from the extended family and community. I think that a gay (male) couple who want to adopt a girl should have some sort of woman friend whom they allow in on certain aspects of parenting. Being a teenage girl without a mother is just horrible.

I havent read downthread. Would you require a woman to have a man waiting around also?

I think your idea is crazy.

Female reproductive organs does not make someone a parent.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:02 PM
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700: Brock, I haven't fully thought through the question, because I don't know what it's like to be a teenage boy. My answer is maybe.

Suppose that Brockling-to-be is a girl. Tell me what you think it would be like for you to take her to get her first bra.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:04 PM
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702: you'd have to give me more evaluative criteria than that--I don't know your parents or what you think makes them not cut out to be parents. Is this something that can be objectively judged?

I'll jump out on the opposite side of the spectrum and say that I don't think it's wrong for anyone to have kids, ever. The more the merrier!


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:05 PM
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701: Pregnancy isn't about "personal liberation ideology." It's about biological fact.

Anyway, John, I'd think you'd approve of single mothers and babydaddies following the No Relationship Policy.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:07 PM
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705: BG has said before that her parents have very severe mental problems which made it difficult or impossible for them to be good parents.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:07 PM
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Really, B? I did not know that.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:08 PM
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I suspect that, since your mother was dead, there were women who were willing to step in and help who may be absent now.

This sort of thing is often put well as a question, IME.

Bg, I sympathize with your parent-gender contract on a gut level, but I think it's best watered down to the level of strong advice. The idea that life will inevitably throw you Father Knows Best makes good theater, but humans can work their way around even this deprivation. As an assertion, I've found it only ever contradicted by the data and the anecdotes. The outcomes aren't different. People get by.

It's a good idea to have other adults you can go to when your parents aren't enough. Or when you don't like your parents much. Too few of us have these relationships.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:09 PM
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704: Remember Who's the Boss? I always thought that was an absurd show. If my dad had been my only parent, I'm guessing he would have had to man up and learn how to explain womanhood to me.

Besides, most moms are pretty crappy at that stuff too. My mom was queasy about female-reproductive-organ talk, and really never did it with me. And she was a nightmare about bra-shopping, too.


Posted by: A White Bear | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:09 PM
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BG, I think the problem is men who are all "oh god that's girl stuff I couldn't possibly do that," not some intrinsic thing about father-daughter uncomfortableness. When I first got my period, I was like "hmm. What do I do?" My sister had already gone off to college at that point. I figured I should just tell my dad. So I did, and he was like ok, let's buy some stuff. We bought a shitload, and he was like "next time you need anything, just tell me ok?" It really wasn't that hard.

Also, kids can be more independent than you think. By the time I was 14, I was like "I need tampons. Give me cash."


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:09 PM
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Tell me what you think it would be like for you to take her to get her first bra.

I'd tell her I have little other than aesthetic appreciation of various bras, but that the nice saleslady might be able to offer her more substantive help. And that I'd help her in any way I could. (All this presuming I couldn't find an adult female friend with whom she was generally comfortable, and with whom she might be more comfortable buying her first bra. But even presuming that, I don't think this would be so terrible.)


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:10 PM
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704. wow.

While admitting that too much gender (not sex) skew in the environment a child grows up in migh plausible make things more difficult for the child, I note two things:

1) like any minority group, messages at home are strongly modulated by a larger social context that is heteronormative, strongly gendered, patriarchical, racists, etc. You literally cannot get away from these messages even if you try really really hard. This will counteract the effect.

2) I consider any putative damage done this way likely to be very small relative to other factors --- and literally trivial compared to the damage meted out as a matter of course by many socially conservative fundamentalists on their children, something that as a society we seem pretty happy with.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:11 PM
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Pregnancy isn't about "personal liberation ideology." It's about biological fact.

Other biological facts that are experienced by humans in purely non-ideological, biological ways:

mating
nursing
pooping
armpit hair


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:11 PM
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711: Your dad seriously fucking rules, leblanc. He and Becks' mom should make babies.


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:12 PM
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It gets so exciting when someone's long-discussed spouse joins in the fun here. Have we ever had a commenter's parent or child get in the fray?

Dude. Ogged's mom in comments.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:14 PM
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You know what else is cool? Adult men have dealt with women before. Usually the ones they're having babies with, or if they're gay, with their female friends. So they already know about all that bras-and-periods stuff.

Although I do have to say that I may have benefited from the father uncomfortableness thing. Many of my friends' mothers would forbid them from wearing tampons, because It Goes Up There And What About Your Precious Virginity. I think my dad was way too embarrassed to bring up something like that, even though it may have been his opinion (although maybe not; perhaps I give him too little credit).


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:14 PM
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For a lot of people, Madonna is a role model, or was anyway. She thought of herself as a philosopher of liberation. We're talking about 14-year olds or thereabouts. People stupider than you are now, or even than you were at 14.

I suspect that "Papa preach a little bit, because we need to maintain the social stigma" might have affected record sales, while "I've made up my mind ... I'm getting an abortion" would probably have cost a couple of distribution deals.

There are probably loads of people who make stupid choices about having children for stupid reasons. But if you go around making blanket assertions about family styles, then my friend you had better pack your I-didnt-mean-you-saying boots, because you are going to be doing a lot of saying "I didn't mean you". Seriously, there's a strong social stigma against making blanket statements that necessarily involve offending people you don't know anything about, and I am not yet convinced it's a bad one.

I know that if I were her child, I'd be angry as hell that someone who had the capacity to plan well enough to choose to have me in that way went ahead and did it without providing some sort of father.

Query "know". I personally know that if I were a cat I wouldn't clean my arse with my tongue because it's disgusting, but if I were a cat I probably would because I wouldn't be me, I'd be a cat.

I want to see gay parents able to adopt, but I think that there is a real need for extra input from the extended family and community. I think that a gay (male) couple who want to adopt a girl should have some sort of woman friend whom they allow in on certain aspects of parenting.

The words "and a pony" no doubt will strike you as patronising and dismissive here, but really, what the hell else can one say.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:15 PM
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My mother still insists that I'm wearing the wrong bra size. "You don't look like that size," she sniffs.

I see where BG is coming from to the extent that I understand the impulse behind daydreaming about parenting licenses or mandatory classes or being able to say 'in evolutionary terms, probably never' when an annoying couple talks about when they should have kids. But legislating the ideal isn't the right way to go.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:16 PM
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Hey, Will has done a lot of raising his adult daughter, including (if I remember right) managing her menstruation. If it must be done, and you're a moderately empathetic person, you sack up and do it.


Posted by: Megan | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:17 PM
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708: Well, you seem to be under the impression that liberalism causes teenage pregnancy, rather than sperm + egg.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:17 PM
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They survived and raised the kid successfully, but at a lower level than they might have, and at the cost of a lot of things they personally might have wanted to do with their lives.

I think this statement applies to every decent parent anywhere who has raised a kid -- married, divorced, single, gay, straight, Democrat, Republican... Raising a kid means you give up alot of things you could have done or had without kids. Without Rory, "making partner" wouldn't sound like half as impossible an idea. But, eh, it's a tradeoff and part of what it means to have priorities.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:18 PM
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you sack up and do it.

No, no! You zip up your skirt and do it. Have I taught you people nothing?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:19 PM
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719: Well that, and even if you were going to go around legislating parenting behavoir adoptive gay couples is a pretty senseless place to start if you actually want a global improvement.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:19 PM
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I-didnt-mean-you-saying boots

"Nice boots, wanna fuck?"

"I'd love to. You have nice boots yourself."

"Aha!"


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:20 PM
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you sack up and do it.

No, no! You zip up your skirt and do it. Have I taught you people nothing?

Just be careful. You don't want to get your sack caught in the zipper.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:20 PM
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Have I mentioned that I have a stash of panty liners in my car? BFD.

You can raise your child that reproductive issue or bodily functions are things to be ashamed of or you can raise your child to learn that they are normal functions of a human being.

What the world needs is more family bathrooms.

Bra shopping? Did most women here admit that they wore the wrong size?


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:20 PM
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Can I add to 722 that raising a kid also means you *get* a lot of things you couldn't have had without kids, and that not having kids requires you to give up things you'd have had with kids as well? People talk about having kids in terms of sacrifice too much, imho.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:21 PM
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This thing is really getting up my craw, because what is the Big Fucking Deal about menstruation?

It's like there's this notion that men should be freaked out and squeamish about it. The notion itself gives rise to all this bullshit. I swear to god I have known men who claimed to not like having intercourse during menstruation because "I don't know, it's just not appealing..."

Dudes, if you have gotten into a routine with your lady friend/wife/whatever where you just don't have sex when she's on her period, unspoken or whatever (which is the way it often it), perhaps it would be good to have a conversation where you say "hey, I know we don't usually do this, but I'm actually ok with having sex while you're menstruating sometimes. Surprise!" Because a lot of time women just assume that men think it's EWW ICKY.

Stupid cultural norms.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:22 PM
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730

By the time I was 14, I was like "I need tampons. Give me cash."

I'm chuckling and thinking of leblanc pulling this move every couple of weeks or so because her dad isn't paying attention to the frequency. Also convincing him that tampons cost a hundred dollars.


Posted by: Becks | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:22 PM
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731

728: Sure, it's a trade off. I'm sure it's a trade off that hopefully most parents would agree was a good one for them.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:22 PM
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732

D^2, nothing personal. I didn't mean to say that they are stupider than you.

Someone above said something like "Who would take Madonna seriously?" and I said "Maybe not you, but other people." For example, my co-worker's daughter. Who did seem extremely stupid.

Actually, I'm not sure what point you were trying to make. To me Madonna's song was a message song, and to me, not a good message. Talking about social questions, you do end up saying things that apply to many individuals you don't know.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:23 PM
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733

Well, I'm sure glad BG has showed up to draw some of the fire. I'm with the majority that doesn't see any problem with having two opposite sex parents.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:23 PM
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734

Single fathers eventually require a woman to handle menstruation and related topics. Full House is particularly decisive on this point.


Posted by: Michael Vanderwheel, B.A. | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:24 PM
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735

It's a little eww icky. But so is a face full of coonty-pot-pie, and the benefits outweigh the costs.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:24 PM
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736

you *get* a lot of things you couldn't have had without kids

About half of which are viral infections.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:24 PM
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737

730: I'm embarrassed to admit that you're right, but it was only on the scale of "keeping the change" from the rather large bill given to me.


Posted by: m. leblanc | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:25 PM
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738

721: Come on, B.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:25 PM
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739

Hey, Will has done a lot of raising his adult daughter, including (if I remember right) managing her menstruation. If it must be done, and you're a moderately empathetic person, you sack up and do it.

This is correct. BFD. Blood. Deal with it.

M leblanc says it well. If you are an adult man, you shouldn't be freaked out by the fact that a woman bleeds, poops, or urinates.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:25 PM
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740

735 to 729, and not to fedoras, which have very little benefit.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:26 PM
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741

But legislating the ideal isn't the right way to go.

I agree, Cala. And mostly, what I'm saying is that if I had close gay friends adopting, I might (probably wouldn't, but might) suggest that they think through these things.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:27 PM
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742

732: I've been sympathetic to your position, if not in agreement with it, Emerson, but leaning on Papa Don't Preach seems like a mistake. Next you'll be after my Smiths in a move against casual violence within relationships.

For one brief moment, it may have been true that the zeitgest seemed to be all about personal fulfillment. But then college ended. I think the social message you're claiming exists either (a) doesn't, or (b) exists independent of social circle/class of most of the people here, and they/we can't meaningfully respond (or be held complicit).


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:27 PM
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743

I'm with the majority that doesn't see any problem with having two opposite sex parents.

As opposed to all of us who are arguing that two opposite-sex parents are the root of all evil? Come on.

About half of which are viruses.

Parents: doing their best to ensure biological diversity.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:27 PM
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744

730: Yeah, 'cause men are inherently stupid that way. Look, social norms do push men away from these topics but if you are an actual adult (as opposed to sexually mature) raising a kid and these things need handling, you learn. This isn't rocket science.

A couple of generations ago it wasn't uncommon for mothers to avoid as much as possible discussing any of this with their daughters too, but I'm sure that it's just genetics that allow more open discussion of menstruation, sex, etc. between typical mothers and daughters these days, not social convention.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:28 PM
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745

Tell me what you think it would be like for you to take her to get her first bra.

Titties! Hooray!

Oops, wrong answer.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:28 PM
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746

How can you parent if you cannot deal with bodily functions? Nose full of green boogies? Grab it with your fingers if you don't have a tissue. Take it in your bare hand to the bathroom.

Otherwise, the boogies are going on your sofa, friends, or clothes.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:28 PM
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747

736: Only half? From what I hear, you're doing well so far then!


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:30 PM
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748

Single fathers eventually require a woman to handle menstruation and related topics. Full House is particularly decisive on this point.

Similarly, some "single fathers" are not, but are merely pretending to have kids to chat up women. Or so Hornby tells me. (I feel like a fictive daughter would be particularly good toward this end.)


Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:30 PM
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749

And mostly, what I'm saying is that if I had close gay friends adopting, I might (probably wouldn't, but might) suggest that they think through these things.

Yes, they probably havent thought about what it takes to be a parent.

Be sure to remind them that children poop too.

(I say this with love, BG.)


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:30 PM
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750

Tim: Objectively pro-domestic violence!


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:31 PM
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751

743: I'm not sure, but I think KR meant two same sex parents. Reads better that way.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:32 PM
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752

About half of which are viral infections.

Indeed, she says with a pounding sinus headache, on her fourth pack of tissues and third liter of water for the day. Lousy rotten kids.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:32 PM
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753

I might (probably wouldn't, but might) suggest that they think through these things.

Let me suggest "I would love to be in your family's life" as a good way of going about that, with "if you ever want a woman around, I'll be there for you" as an upper limit.

Let me advise against "Have you thought about what happens when she hits puberty and there's no Mama Bear?" or any advice to think through anything, unless solicited.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:33 PM
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754

745 was a good try, but I think this thread is terminally earnest.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:33 PM
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755

Lousy rotten kids.

It is amazing that we still love those little bastards.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:33 PM
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755: I've always surmised they excrete some sort of addictive chemical. From outside observation, it's the only workable hypothesis I can come up with.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:35 PM
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757

Nose full of green boogies? Grab it with your fingers if you don't have a tissue. Take it in your bare hand to the bathroom UnfoggeDConII.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:35 PM
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758

I think maybe we are all losing sight of the question posed by the original post -- what's the story with Julie? Did they or did they not hook up? (And were they thoughtful about it, did they take appropriate precautions, how will her dad react ... ?)


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:35 PM
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759

I suspect that it I followed RnB I'd have more contemporary examples than Madonna. When my son left HS I stopped hearing any radio pop.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:36 PM
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760

Let me advise against "Have you thought about what happens when she hits puberty and there's no Mama Bear?" or any advice to think through anything, unless solicited.

Despite my essential agreement with this statement, I am always telling my heterosexual couple friends "WTF are you thinking, having more kids?!??!??!?! Don't you realize what they will do to you???"


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:36 PM
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761

745 made me laugh.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:36 PM
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762

I would worry about the preparedness of adoptive parents less than the preparedness of parents-in-general, just because adoption is such a pain in the ass, paperwork-wise.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:38 PM
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763

I am always telling my heterosexual couple friends "WTF are you thinking, having more kids?!??!??!?! Don't you realize what they will do to you???"

I, on the other hand, shamefacedly confess to asking both single and coupled friends if they want kids, and when.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:38 PM
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764

758: You're just trying to see if anyone already knows the answer to 648-645, "Julie".


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:39 PM
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765

Teenage titties are no laughing matter, B.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:39 PM
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766

762 is exactly right.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:39 PM
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767

764: Well?


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:40 PM
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768

763 : so long you don't try and change minds when the answer is `never'.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:40 PM
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769

You're just trying to see if anyone already knows the answer to 648-645, "Julie".

This blog makes sense now.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:40 PM
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770

confess to asking both single and coupled friends if they want kids, and when can they take one off my hands.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:40 PM
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771

Come the millennium, the earnestness shall be transformed. Only a few hundred comments to go. The end is near.

Oh, back hair—another fact of life.


Posted by: md 20/400 | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:42 PM
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772

763: I manage not to do this because I know that it's wrong, but I really want to.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:42 PM
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773

Teenage titties are no laughing matter, B.

Now, we can discuss something that has changed since I was a child.


Posted by: Will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:44 PM
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774

As opposed to all of us who are arguing that two opposite-sex parents are the root of all evil? Come on.

Er, um, my phrasing was a little ambiguous, I guess. What I meant was that I am with the majority of *commenters* who see no problem with a gay or lesbian couple raising a child of the opposite sex. That is, I was disagreeing with BG.


Posted by: Knecht Ruprecht | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:45 PM
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775

I know it's wrong, and I usually apologize for asking. But I can't help myself.

762 is absolutely right because paperwork, it turns out, is a huge part of parenting. Who knew?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:45 PM
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776

I have serious problems with the idea of a single woman getting artificially inseminated ... I also have feelings about gay adoption...

from 741:

And mostly, what I'm saying is that if I had close gay friends adopting, I might (probably wouldn't, but might) suggest that they think through these things.

You know, my least favorite thing about this blog is the moralistic generalizations that pass for debate. I realize that's at least a third of the traffic on these threads about gender and sex, but Jesus. Stuff like this is patronizing and does nothing to advance clarity or understanding, even though I'm sure it's offered with the best intentions.


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:49 PM
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777

775.2 = good-humored joshing, not sarcastic bitchery.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:49 PM
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778

775.2: Cute, but having someone evaluate your mental fitness, your income, your stability with an optional side of immigration fun at least assures you've thought about some of the ramifications of deciding to raise a child.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:51 PM
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779

You know, my least favorite thing about this blog is the moralistic generalizations that pass for debate. I realize that's at least a third of the traffic on these threads about gender and sex, but Jesus.

Well, it's about 100% of the traffic about gender and sex on almost every other blog/discussion board/whatever.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:52 PM
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780

I'm little Ms. Committed Heterosexual Monogamy & this thread is still annoying me. I think by some of the metrics suggested here, I should never have been born.


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:52 PM
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781

I thought 775.2 was serious.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:52 PM
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782

778 before 777.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:52 PM
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783

774, et al.

Well, since you've been gone I whipped up a complicated and proprietary optimization system to answer this question of `who should raise a child, and how, for once and for all'. After fixing a couple of bugs, it's just spit out the answer. It may take a little bit of work to adjust the societal norms, but apparantly all children should best be raised by a gay couple, three militant lesbians, a retired presbiterian mtf trans, two het couples, and either a chocolate lab, three mut dogs, or a couple of cats with sufficient attitude. In montana.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:54 PM
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784

Are those alternatives, or a collective? As a collective, I like it.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:55 PM
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785

A collective, I should have been more clear. They're also supposed to have at a nice kitchen garden.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:56 PM
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786

I like it as alternatives. Chocolate lab + cats + baby looks like a movie made for TV.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:57 PM
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787

775.2 was half serious. And I know what you meant, Cala, I was just funnin.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:58 PM
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788

Parenting does entail no small amount of paperwork.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 12:59 PM
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789

783 is useless without some kind of enforcement mechanism. I propose that all babies born under circumstances other than the ideal be sent out to sea on the rapidly melting ice floes. That'll learn 'em to try adding to the surplus population.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:01 PM
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790

I will note that the collective appears to be lacking the necessary herding dog. Someone's got to be biting the necessary ankles to get everyone moving in the same direction.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:01 PM
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791

Are your kids' immunization records up to date, Apo? PK's aren't.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:02 PM
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792

Someone's got to be biting the necessary ankles

Hello, three militant lesbians?!?


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:03 PM
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793

Militant lesbians like in the Montana militia, or just militant about lesbianism?


Posted by: Katherine | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:04 PM
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794

So we're talking very short militant lesbians? I guess that could work.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:05 PM
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795

Or they can crawl around on the floor, like a good woman should.

I ban myself.


Posted by: bitchphd | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:06 PM
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796

792:

HELLO


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:08 PM
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797

792:

HELLO


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:08 PM
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798

HELLOOOO!!!!!


Posted by: OPINIONATED GRANDMA | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:08 PM
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799

Are your kids' immunization records up to date, Apo?

Yes, because all of my kids were/are in day care and they don't brook no shit on that front.


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:18 PM
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800

800!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:18 PM
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801

my least favorite thing about this blog is the moralistic generalizations that pass for debate

It didn't pass for debate, Bave. It got floated and shot down pretty quickly. Generalizing moralistically, you need new least favorite things about this blog.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:26 PM
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802

The goddam font that makes numeral '0's indistinguishable from capital letter 'O's? I'm still brooding over that one.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:28 PM
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803

Whoops. That should be numeral '0's and lowercase letter 'o's.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:28 PM
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804

We don't make money on the food, I'll tell you that much.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:30 PM
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805

789: A prophylactic will be installed in every female at the time she reaches estrus. Any group which desires to have an offspring will have to go before the Fertility Board which will determine whether said group has all the necessary components.


Posted by: peep | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:35 PM
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806

789/805: Lets not be hasty. I'm trying to adjust the algorithm to allow partial matches and error bound calculations, but it's a complicated search space. I also managed to make a sign error and it spat out jerry falwell, but that's fixed now.


Posted by: soup biscuit | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:42 PM
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807

It didn't pass for debate, Bave. It got floated and shot down pretty quickly. Generalizing moralistically, you need new least favorite things about this blog.

Agreed.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:42 PM
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808

Can I dislike the moralistic generalizations, whether or not they pass for debate?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:58 PM
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809

As long as you reserve some ire for the ambiguity of our typeface, I don't see why not.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 1:59 PM
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810

808: No. That would be immoral.

783: I'm lovin' it.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 2:01 PM
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811

I didn't want to jump into this thread before because it would've meant just doing a drive-by, but this thing about supporting single mothers while discouraging the choice that some women make to have children on their own is really nagging. How are you supposed to do both as a matter of public policy?

The whole Murphy Brown thing is a case in point &mdash she was a fictional TV character, for chrissakes, and hardly representative of single mothers generally. But one of the most obviously cretinous figures in contemporary American politics was successful in making her example central to family-values politics. Granted, Quayle had significant help from the media, but 15 years later the same insidious bullshit is still part of the debate, even among intelligent blog commenters.


Posted by: Jesus McQueen | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 2:04 PM
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812

The 0/o thing is irksome, but I like the way some of the other numerals hang below the baseline. (I'm told this means they are "old style" numerals, which seems kind of nice on a computer.)


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 2:11 PM
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813

Yeah, I associate it with Bicentennial kitsch from my childhood: The Spirit of '76, with the 6 above the line and the 7 way down there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 2:31 PM
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814

Okay, just to be clear, I don't actually think that I'd say that to a friend, and I'm about the last person I'd choose to be the maternal figure in someone's life, so I don't think I'd offer that either. However, if I were a lawyer working on adoption issues with a couple, I might suggest that they consider the issue.


Posted by: Bostoniangirl | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 2:44 PM
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815

However, if I were a lawyer working on adoption issues with a couple, I might suggest that they consider the issue.

Mightn't be a tad presumptuous to assume they hadn't already?


Posted by: mrh | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 3:00 PM
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816

815: Nah, if you're a lawyer you never want to presume your client has considered something unless you've actually discussed it. In that case, it's pretty easy to just lead in with "Now, you two have probably already talked about many of these things, but these are alot of the issues that in our experience can come up in adoptions like this..." There's probably a tactful way to do that with friends, too. Me personally, I'd rather my friends approached me with all their thoughts up front (tactfully!) rather than assuming I'd thought of everything myself.


Posted by: Di Kotimy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 3:26 PM
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817

It seems likely that if you're lawyer working with people who've been accepted as adoptive parents, they would already have been asked that sort of question as a matter of course. Not sure if that works the same in the States as it does here.


Posted by: DS | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 3:56 PM
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818

If I ever get into an argument with ttaM in the comments here, I'm totally going to exploit the fact that he lives in such a radically different time zone. Like: "The fact that you haven't responded to 414 proves that you concede to me on all the points I've made."


Posted by: Walt Someguy | Link to this comment | 11-27-07 10:28 PM
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819

this thing about supporting single mothers while discouraging the choice that some women make to have children on their own is really nagging. How are you supposed to do both as a matter of public policy?

you could appropriate funds for an official post, like Office Of The Disapprover-General or something. Maybe put them all together in an Office Of Homeland Wowserism.


Posted by: dsquared | Link to this comment | 11-28-07 2:54 AM
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820

re: 818

Heh. For this purposes of this thread, I could probably have outsourced everything I'd have wanted to say to soup biscuit, who seems to have been doing a sterling job.


Posted by: nattarGcM ttaM | Link to this comment | 11-28-07 4:48 AM
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