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23 responses to 23 awful statements made to childfree people
There appears to be a bizarre stigma around people – especially women – who voluntarily decide not to procreate.
There appears to be a bizarre stigma around people – especially women – who voluntarily decide not to procreate. I asked my Twitter followers what kinds of reactions they received and got some expected answers. The Huffington Post did the same (twice) and obviously had a much bigger pool. I want to examine these responses, curated by the HuffPo, and offer responses to these harsh claims that reinforce an unnecessary stigma.
(Though the HuffPo article are directed at women, specifically, I hope you don’t view this as me speaking for or on behalf of women. This is to do with all childfree people, in general, though women appear to receive the harshest due to being nothing but baby-factories, in many people’s eyes.)
Here are my responses.
1. "What a bad decision."
According to what measure of “bad”? You simply declaring something bad doesn’t make it so – nor is it “bad” just because you disagree with the decision.
(If this person can give a reasonable argument – justified and ethical – for why you should have children, do let me know. I’ve not encountered a good reason for procreation – and very good reasons not to.)
2. "Now that I have children, my life has true meaning!"
So before you had kids, it had no meaning? I’m sad to hear that. But that surely can’t be true. Similarly, your life isn’t my life: We all find meaning in different ways. Mine, for example, is partially about critiquing terrible arguments or sentiments.
Also, you might as well declare your love of chocolate, for all the worth this sentiment has on childfree people. This is an autiobiographical exclamation.
3. "You're a crazy cat lady in training."
I take offence to that. I am not “in training”.
Also: so what?
4. "You think you're tired? You don't know what tired is."
Very glad to know you have a magic meter than can measure “tiredness”. Also, I’m glad this is a competition.
5. "You're being selfish."
Huh? For deciding what to do with my body parts and my life? For not caring about non-existent children? What?
(For women, I believe this about “denying” your partner, I think, the right to access your uterus whenever s/he wants. Or you are selfishly keeping a magical baby away from someone? I don’t know. It’s a popular but never explained response.)
6. "You'll change your mind when you meet the right man."
Probably not, as I’m not that interested in men and it wouldn’t biologically work out – and even surrogacy and adoption isn’t an option. Also, just because I meet someone doesn’t make it right. Your scary Nostradamus crystal-ball gazing isn’t a justification.
Also, unless my partner is very rich, it simply makes no sense for me to look after a child – even ignoring the biological aspect.
7. "What are you waiting for?"
Right now? For the kettle to boil. But, assuming I wanted a child, it would be about waiting for financial and home security and ascertaining I could accommodate a child.
But I don’t want a child - so asking why I am waiting for what I explicitly have stated I don’t want is illogical.
8. "Your mom had you!"
Thanks for that fascinating lesson in biology. We both regret that, as do many Internet commenters.
9. "You're missing out on one of the best things in life."
According to who? Shall I show you the endless studies indicating unhappiness in becoming a parent? Shall I indicate the number of parents who are honest about regretting being parents? How about all those who can’t afford a child and thus end up regretting the child and make his/her life worse?
10 "Tick tock."
Is the kettle finished boiling? Why are we making object noises?
11. "It's a mom thing."
Having children is a “mom thing”? Er, I’d think so. (Also, sometimes there are dads, too.)
12. "That's a shame. You might regret it."
13. "What's wrong with you?"
A lot: What specifically do you mean? You mean why am I not giving into social pressure to pump out endless numbers of babies? Yes: clearly there’s a problem with me.
14. "The size of that house and just the two of you? It's a waste of space."
Cats and books fill up things just fine.
Also: what an awful reason to have kids. To fill space? Yikes.
15. "But you would be such a great mom!"
But even if I would be a great, er, parent, that doesn’t mean I should breed. It just means I should raise kids. Which means I can do that for existing children.
Yet, that's still not a reason to be a (good) parent – for example, I don’t make enough money to even support myself comfortably.
16. "Just find a donor and have kids. I'll babysit."
If you want kids to look after so much, find a donor yourself. Or, better, adopt an existing child.
17. "You think you don't want children, but once you have them you'll change your mind."
Dear god, the sheer broken logic in that assertion makes me wonder how often reason bleeds when travelling through your mind.
18. "Don't wait too long."
But I don’t want kids.
19. "You'd better hurry up and give your husband a child before he finds someone who will."
Wow, then that’s a test of a what crappy husband he is. If he only wants me for my uterus (I mean, if I had one), then he can find a uterus with legs somewhere else - but he'll probably find that none exist when there's a person attached to it.
20. "You don't have children, so you won't understand."
You don’t not have children, so you won’t understand.
Not very persuasive, is it?
21. "You don't know what real love is."
Oh really? Please tell me. Also, please do tell this to the numerous abused, abandoned, isolated, dying, starving, lonely, hurt, broken, rejected, molested, beaten, bruised children who are made so by the hands of their parents.
I hope you’ll use the same instrument to tell me about love that measures “true tiredness”.
22. "Wait until your biological clock kicks in."
I believe it kicked in the day my mother gave birth to me. You remember that fact don’t you? You reminded me of it earlier.
23. "Aren't you worried there'll be no one to look after you when you're old?
Yes, all those abandoned, lonely elderly folk are all childless.
HuffPo had a related follow-up: “12 Questions Childfree Women Don't Want To Hear”
Here’re my answers.
1. "Who will take care of you when you get old?"
People I pay.
2. "So you hate people?"
Yes: my efforts at not increasing the population, advocating adoption of existing children, etc. are all anchored in hating the species.
If I truly hated this species, I’d be spawning.
3. "Do you only think of yourself?"
See previous answer: It’s precisely that I’m not which underscores my decision. There exist children needing homes and there are plenty of people in the world. What makes me so damn special?
4. "What will you do with your life?"
Lots of things, I hope.
5. "Is it because you don't want to pass your genes on to someone else?"
Don’t really care about my genes, as long as they keep me healthy and alive.
6. "Won't your [partner] leave you when [they] find out?"
If she does, then she’s not a partner I should be with. Having kids should be one of the first discussions you have. (And "they" don’t need to “find out”, she knows and agrees, but whatever.)
7. "Are you even a woman?"
I am not. But if you asked a woman that question, I’d be wondering what kind of person you are – let alone what kind of parent you are.
8. "You don't want them or can't have them?"
Considering this is under the view of voluntary, I assume the former. If it was the latter, that would be a personal matter – though I see no reason why infertility should be something to be ashamed about, it still isn’t my business to “out” someone as being infertile, nor is it yours.
9. "You're just being selfish. Who's going to give me grandchildren?"
If you wanted my left hand, should I give that too? If I refused, would that be selfish – due to me making decisions about what to do with my body and life? If it’s not selfish to have control over my own body and life, then this nonsense assertion must cease.
10. "Are you sure [your partner] is okay with that?"
If she wasn’t, I’d hope to know. That would not be a relationship to be in. And it’s not dependent on what my partner wants, but what we both want and can reasonably afford, do, etc., with our lives and current income status.
11. "How can you ever hope to be a family?"
Who says I want one? Or, rather: Who says my friends and current partner(s) aren’t enough?
12. "That's what we were put on earth to do. Have children and love them, what else do you want from life if you don't have that?"
"Put" on Earth? I was born here. And who says that's the reason?
What else do I want from life? To write, to read, to travel, to breathe in different countries; to sail, to dive, to fly, fall in love with different people from across the world; to study, to publish, to speak; to teach, to be loved by others, to be hated by more; to play games, buy new technology, save a life, care for abandoned cats; build a home, maintain it, learn about cars; conquer a new language, find a lover who only speaks it; swim with sharks, win a Nobel, write for the New York Times or Guardian; laugh at a million stupid things, hate everything Adam Sandler touches, create a comic book with an artist who is so gifted s/he takes my breath away; win my war against chronic pain, never walk with a cane, learn to run; get financial security, donate time to making people better in even a small way; learn how to sleep.
But yes. Kids. Totally. So much better to pump out babies.
Image Credit: Syda Productions / Shutterstock
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
In more than a dozen countries as far apart as Portugal and Russia, 'Smith' is the most popular occupational surname
- 'Smith' is not just the most common surname in many English-speaking countries
- In local translations, it's also the most common occupational surname in a large part of Europe
- Ironically, Smiths are so ubiquitous today because smiths were so special a few centuries ago
Meet the Smiths, Millers, Priests and Imams - the most popular occupational surnames across Europe.
Image: Marcin Ciura<p>Although very few people are smiths by profession these days, there are millions of Smiths by surname the world over. It's the most popular surname in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the United States, as well as the second most popular surname in Canada and the fifth most popular one in Ireland. And they're a thriving bunch, at least in the U.S.: the 2010 Census (1) counted 2,442,977 Americans called Smith, 2.8% more than in 2000.</p><p>Curiously, 'Smith' also is one of the most popular surnames across most of Europe –translated in the various local vernaculars, of course. This map shows the most common occupational surnames in each country. By colour-coding the professions, this map shows a remarkable pro-smith consistency across Europe – as well as some curious regional exceptions.</p>
‘Smith’ popular throughout Europe<p>'Smith', in all its variations, is the most popular occupational surname throughout Europe. Not just in the UK, but also in:</p> <ul><li>Belgium (<em>Desmet</em>) and Luxembourg, (<em>Schmitt</em>);</li> <li>France (<em>Lefebvre</em>), Italy (<em>Ferrari</em>) and Portugal (<em>Ferreira</em>);</li> <li>Slovenia (<em>Kovačič</em>), Croatia (<em>Kovačevič</em>), Hungary (<em>Kovács</em>), Slovakia (<em>Kováč</em>), Poland (<em>Kowalski</em>), Lithuania (<em>Kavaliauskas</em>), Latvia (<em>Kalējs</em>) and Belarus (<em>Kavalyov</em>);</li> <li>Estonia (<em>Sepp</em>); and</li> <li>Russia (<em>Kuznetsov</em>).</li></ul>
‘Miller’ on top in many Germanic-language countries<p>'Miller' is the most popular occupational surname in many Germanic-language countries, but also in Spain and Ukraine (perhaps because the grain in both countries is mainly in the plain):</p> <ul><li>There's <em>Müller</em> (in Germany and Switzerland), <em>M</em><em>ø</em><em>ller</em> (in Denmark and Norway) and <em>Möller</em> (Sweden);</li> <li><em>Molina</em> (in Spain – the map also shows the most popular surname in Catalonia/Catalan: <em>Ferrer</em>, i.e. 'Smith'); and</li> <li><em>Melnik</em> (in Ukraine).</li></ul>
Clergy surnames rule in the Balkans<p>Catholic clergy must remain celibate, so 'Priest' as a surname is rare to non-existent throughout Europe. Except in the Balkans, where Catholicism is largely absent. Here, the Orthodox and Islamic clergies have passed on the title from father to son, eventually as a surname, to popular effect. Orthodox clergy are addressed as <em>papa</em> or <em>pope</em> (which means 'father' – so the surname rather redundantly translates to 'father's son'). Islamic teachers or imams are known by the Turkish/Persian term <em>hodzha</em>. An overview:</p> <ul><li><em>Popov</em> (in Bulgaria), <em>Popovic</em> (in both Serbia and Montenegro), <em>Popovski</em> (in Macedonia);</li> <li><em>Popa</em> (in Romania); </li> <li><em>Papadopoulos</em> (in Greece); and</li> <li><em>Hodžić</em> (in Bosnia-Herzegovina), <em>Hoxha</em> (in both Kosovo and Albania).</li></ul>
Landowners and other professions<p>Austria and the Czech Republic have different national languages but are neighbours and share a lot of history. Could that explain why they have a similar most popular occupational surname, for 'landowner'?</p> <ul><li><em>Huber</em> (in Austria) and</li> <li><em>Dvořák</em> (in the Czech Republic).</li></ul> <p>Just four professions, that wraps up all but five countries on this map. Those five each have their very own most popular occupational surname:</p> <ul><li><em>Bakker</em> (in the Netherlands): 'Baker'</li> <li><em>Kinnunen</em> (in Finland): 'Skinner'</li> <li><em>Ceban</em> (in Moldova): 'Shepherd'</li> <li><em>Avci</em> (in Turkey): 'Hunter'</li> <li><em>Murphy</em> (in Ireland): 'Sea Warrior' </li></ul>
Even more Smiths<p>Judging from the popularity of these surnames, your generic European village of a few centuries ago really couldn't do without a smithy. It was a much more essential craft even than that of the miller (or the baker, who put the miller's flour to good use) – except in the Balkans, where spiritual sustenance apparently sated a greater need. On the outskirts of <em>Anytown, Europe</em> live the shepherd and the hunter, the skinner and the pirate.<br></p><p>A bit too simplistic? Perhaps not simplistic enough. This map could have been dominated by even more Smiths. As the original poster explains, he always picked the most frequent version of an occupational surname, even if multiple variants point to a more popular alternative. </p><p>In the Netherlands, for instance, people with the surnames <em>Smit, Smits, Smid, de Smit, Smet </em>and <em>Smith</em> collectively outnumber those with the surnames <em>Bakker, Bekker, de Bakker</em> and <em>Backer</em>. So, the Netherlands could be considered another win for 'Smith' – except that the variant <em>Bakker</em> is more frequent than any other single variant.</p><p>Same story in Germany: added up, there are more people named <em>Schmidt, Schmitt, Schmitz </em>and <em>Schmid</em> than <em>Müller</em>. Ditto for Spain: <em>Herrero, Herrera </em>and <em>Ferrer</em> together outnumber <em>Molina</em>. Also in Finland, where <em>Seppä</em>, <em>Seppälä</em> and <em>Seppänen</em> together have a higher count than <em>Kinnunen</em>. </p>
Smiths in other cultures<p>'Smith' was a crucial occupation in other cultures too, judging from the familiar ring it has in these languages:<br></p><ul><li><em></em><em>Demirci</em> (Turkish)</li><li><em>Hadad</em> (Syriac, Aramaic, Arabic)</li><li><em>Nalbani</em> (Albanian)</li><li><em>McGowan</em> (Gaelic)</li><li><em>Faber</em> (Latin)<span></span></li></ul>
Other most popular surnames<p>Take note, though: 'Smith' may be the most popular surname in in the Anglosphere, this map does not mean to show that its variants in French, Russian and other languages also are the most popular surnames in the countries marked grey. They are merely the most popular <em>occupational</em> surnames.<br></p><p>As this sample of most common ones for each country shows, surnames can refer to a host of other things. Personal qualities or physical attributes, for example:</p> <ul><li>Russia: <em>Smirnov</em> ('the quiet one')</li> <li>Turkey: <em>Yilmaz</em> ('unflinching')</li> <li>Hungary: <em>Nagy</em> ('big')</li> <li>Italy: <em>Rossi/Russo</em> ('red', in northern and southern Italy, respectively)</li></ul> <p>Another option: the origin of the name-bearer (be it a place or a person):</p> <ul><li>Sweden: <em>Andersson</em> ('son of Anders')</li> <li>Slovakia: <em>Horvath</em> ('Croat')</li> <li>Kosovo: <em>Krasniqi</em> (refers to the Krasniq tribe and their mountainous home region)</li> <li>Portugal: <em>Silva</em> ('woodland')</li> <li>Latvia: <em>Bērziņš</em> ('little birch tree')</li> <li>Estonia: <em>Tamm</em> ('oak')</li></ul> <p>But sometimes, even for the most popular ones, the exact origin of the surname is lost in time:</p> <ul><li>Spain: <em>Garcia</em> (originally Basque, possibly meaning 'young', 'bear' or 'young bear')</li> <li>Finland: <em>Korhonen</em> ('hard of hearing' or 'dim-witted'; 'village elder'; 'proud'; 'upright'). </li></ul>
Smith popularity theory<p>So why exactly is Smith – and not Miller, for example – the most popular surname in many English-speaking countries? The theory propounded by historian C.M. Matthews in <em>History Today</em> (July 1967) probably also holds for the other-language variants so popular throughout Europe:<br></p><blockquote>"The reason for (the) multiplicity (of the surname 'Smith') is not so much that metal-workers were numerous as that they were important and widespread. On the skill of the smith, both rich and poor depended for the most essential things of life, the tools of husbandry and the weapons of hunting and war. Every community in the land must have one, every castle, every manor; and so distinctive was his trade that he would seldom need another name".<em></em></blockquote><p>That does not mean all people with the surname have a forefather who forged iron into weapons and farm tools. Especially in North America, 'Smith' was adopted by many people precisely because it was already common – as a secret identity or to blend in, for example by natives, slaves and immigrants.</p>
A recent analysis of a 76-million-year-old Centrosaurus apertus fibula confirmed that dinosaurs suffered from cancer, too.
- The fibula was originally discovered in 1989, though at the time scientists believed the damaged bone had been fractured.
- After reanalyzing the bone, and comparing it with fibulas from a human and another dinosaur, a team of scientists confirmed that the dinosaur suffered from the bone cancer osteosarcoma.
- The study shows how modern techniques can help scientists learn about the ancient origins of diseases.
Centrosaurus apertus fibula
Royal Ontario Museum<p>In the recent study, the team used a combination of techniques to analyze the fibula, including taking CT scans, casting the bone and studying thin slices of it under a microscope. The analysis suggested that the dinosaur likely suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer that affects modern humans, typically young adults.</p><p>For further evidence, the team compared the damaged fibula to a healthy fibula from a dinosaur of the same species, and also to a fibula that belonged to a 19-year-old human who suffered from osteosarcoma. Both comparisons supported the osteosarcoma diagnosis.</p>
Evans et al.<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The shin bone shows aggressive cancer at an advanced stage," Evans said in a <a href="https://www.rom.on.ca/en/about-us/newsroom/press-releases/rare-malignant-cancer-diagnosed-in-a-dinosaur" target="_blank">press release</a>. "The cancer would have had crippling effects on the individual and made it very vulnerable to the formidable tyrannosaur predators of the time."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The fact that this plant-eating dinosaur lived in a large, protective herd may have allowed it to survive longer than it normally would have with such a devastating disease."</p><p>The fossilized fibula was originally unearthed in a bonebed alongside the remains of dozens of other <em>Centrosaurus </em><em>apertus</em>, suggesting the dinosaur didn't die from cancer, but from a flood that swept it away with its herd.</p>
Dinosaur fibula; the tumor mass is depicted in yellow.
Royal Ontario Museum/McMaster University<p>The new study highlights how modern techniques can help scientists learn more about the evolutionary origins of modern diseases, like cancer. It also shows that dinosaurs suffered through some of the same terrestrial afflictions humans face today.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Dinosaurs can seem like mythical creatures, but they were living, breathing animals that suffered through horrible injuries and diseases," Evans said, "and this discovery certainly makes them more real and helps bring them to life in that respect."</p>
Join the lauded author of Range in conversation with best-selling author and poker pro Maria Konnikova!
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Malcolm Gladwell was not able to make the live stream due to scheduling issues. Fortunately, David Epstein was able to jump in at a moment's notice. We hope you enjoy this great yet unexpected episode of Big Think Live. Our thanks to David and Maria for helping us deliver a show, it is much appreciated.