When I was in my early twenties, I got into an argument with some chick about my lack of desire to have children. I contended that there was an overpopulation problem on this planet and that adding more people to the mix wasn't going to make things better. She either called me a "selfish shit," or a "selfish fuck." I forget which. The point is she got angry. Really angry. Like I just told her that her ass looked fat in her jeans angry. I was stunned by her outrage - even a bit scared. All these years later, I can still see that little bit of spit hanging off her lower lip, as she barked at me like a pissed-off, rabid dog whose ass looked fat in its jeans.
"Don't give me that overpopulation bullshit. You just don't want the responsibility," she said.
And then she called me a "selfish shit," or "fuck," or maybe she called me a "selfish douchebag." I don't remember if people were calling each other douchebags back then. For some reason, I feel like that's a relatively recent phenomenon. Anyway, when I asked her why she was so insistent on having kids, she told me how she wanted a family with whom to share her love, and that she wanted to be taken care of when she got older. She was seconds from bitch slapping me, so I didn't bother trying to explain to her that her reasons for wanting kids were more selfish than my reasons for not. But I knew back then, even as a young twenty-something dopey kid that arguing with someone about this subject was tantamount to arguing with someone about religion or politics. The person with whom you're arguing really isn't interested in your opinion - they just want you to believe in theirs. I ultimately extricated myself from what turned into a lecture given by a woman who fifteen-years later is divorced with four kids, who's more bitter now than she was on that day a decade and a half ago, and who doesn't look any better in her jeans.
But she was right. I didn't want the financial and emotional responsibility that comes with spreading one's seed. For years, I couldn't sleep if the woman I was dating was five seconds late getting her period. As I got older and more experienced, I realized that you really need to give it a few days before you run out and spend the thirty bucks on an EPT test. And by extension, I also learned that the CVS brand test is just as good as the name-brand at a fraction of the price. Enduring the mockery of my fifth-grade classmates for bringing Waldbaum's cola from home was not for naught. My mother tried to teach me the hard way that it's not always necessary to pay for a name - except when it comes to soda because Waldbaum's cola tastes like warm piss even when it's cold.
I hadn't thought about the lecture I received all those years ago until a recent conversation I had with a friend's wife who is a mother of two. The conversation started off innocently enough with her asking me if I was seeing anyone. When I told her I wasn't, she told me I should really get moving on finding a potential mate because raising kids at my age would be difficult, and would only get more difficult the older I got.
"I'm not worried about that," I said.
"Trust me," she said, "kids are a lot of work."
"I know, but I don't want kids."
She looked at me like I told her I hated kids and that I tortured cute little puppies for fun. I probably should've just said that I'd be up to the task of raising kids at any age, or that I'd make sure to reproduce with someone much younger than me, but for some reason I felt like telling the truth.
"I didn't know that about you," she said, like I just told her I'd done time.
I half expected her to scream to her kids to run to their rooms and lock the doors before the monster who doesn't want kids could hurt them. Instead, she pressed me on why I have no desire to be a father. "It's so beautiful...having a family...people to love" was what I thought I heard her say, but she sounded like an adult in a Peanuts cartoon - all I was really hearing was the unintelligible sounds of the trombone going "woh-woh-woh." I was starting to prefer the guilt trips my mother takes me on about not contributing to her desired brood of endless grandchildren. At least I could openly roll my eyes at my mother. With my friend's wife, I had to do it mentally.
"I really think you should reconsider," she said to me before I left, like I'd said no to a time-share she was trying to sell me.
My friend called me the next day to thank me for the two hour conversation he was forced into with his wife on the subject of my reproductive future - or lack thereof. Luckily for me, his wife unloaded on him instead of me.
"She was really upset about it," he told me. "She thinks you're pretty damn selfish."
Maybe I am selfish, but at least with all the money I'm gonna save, I'll never have to drink Waldbaum's soda again.