22 May, 2012

Nothing else for it, I guess. (Part one.)


 ‘Evening Karp it’s good to see you.’

‘Mitchell my friend, you know it’s always a pleasure.’

‘Thank you Karp, now what can I get you?’

‘Not at all Mitch not at all, how about the usual?’

‘It would be my pleasure Karp.’



‘Well now Karp you look like a man with a shadow cast upon his soul.’


‘You could do with a little airing of the mental storage closet, in other words.’

‘More or less Mitch more or less.’

‘Well shoot then brother. You know I’m always glad to lend a hand in the unpacking of some mental baggage.’

‘I would say your reputation precedes you in that regard, Mitch.’

‘Thank you Karp, that’s kind of you to say. But so what’s on the old mind.’

‘Well Mitch it’s about the children.’

‘Oh not this again Karp.’

‘Yes Mitch I’m afraid so. My beautiful wife Eleanor has been making the case again for having children.’

‘That she is Karp, beautiful, I mean to say, if I may. As a brother not her lover, of course.’

‘Why thank you Mitch, I know Eleanor would appreciate that as much as I do.’

‘My pleasure Karp entirely my pleasure. But now I didn’t mean to distract in any way from what it was you were starting to say about feeling pressure to start a family. Let me just say up front that I acknowledge your concerns here as one hundred percent valid, and recognize that the sharing you’re doing and about to do here is not at all easy, even if outwardly you present as calm and composed. I completely support your endeavour to be just as emotionally open as you can and desire to be here with me this evening.’

‘Thank you Mitch, I appreciate having you in my emotional corner.’

‘If you need to spit I’m here to catch it brother.’



‘Well as I was saying Mitch, the Ellester has lately been going on about when are we going to start a family already.’

‘I see - now Karp, would I be correct to infer from your choice of words just there that the Ellester bypassed the if and went straight to the when?’

‘Mitch she didn’t even check her blind spot.’

‘Well then.’




‘And Karp am I further correct that notwithstanding the Ellester’s clever rhetorical elision, that you were opposed to the course she was proposing, by which I mean you and she starting a family, at least until the reasons you had for that opposition could be shared and considered and in some way satisfactory to both parties resolved?’

‘That would be correct Mitch, I did have some reservations about the course she was proposing.’

‘You’re unsure about the when but also the if.

‘Like two hearts beating their uncertain beats in my chest of understanding.’



‘OK Karp well so how did the Ellester react to your sharing these particular feelings re the possibility of starting a family?’

‘At the outset Mitch she was enormously kind and understanding and respectful of my feelings, which is precisely what you would expect given the Ellester’s being a kind of Yoda in the emotional awareness department. As I’ve detailed for you on previous occasions, over the five years of our very happy marriage the Ellester has shared with me much of her wisdom, including the importance of getting clarity about what it is that I desire in the world, including both of and for other people, and accepting my desires as perfectly formed for me and not inherently grotesque or outrageous just because they represent things that I want, and then being honest and as clear as possible with people about the content of my desires, and making clear that I’m supportive of others’ attempts to be this same way, because I’ve never met a mind reader Mitch, so how can people know what I’m feeling and what I really desire if I don’t tell them and vice versa?’

‘Karp I’m a choir and so far you’re preaching right to me.’

‘I knew I would be Mitch. But so of course the Ellester was an absolute champ about the whole thing, at least initially. She immediately acknowledged and affirmed that my uncertainty here was perfectly normal, indeed not just normal but beautiful and healthy, and in fact my uncertainty actually showed that I recognized the true significance of what she was proposing and that I was treating her desire to have children with appropriate and respectful seriousness, which made her feel good and appreciated and respected.’

‘Yet another example of an investment in emotional openness paying immediate and substantial dividends.’

‘Mitch it’s the kind of investment advice on which everybody should be required to trade. Plus further note that all the Ellester’s good feelings re my uncertainty about having children were of course amplified by the fact of my sharing that uncertainty in the first place, which sharing was obviously difficult for me under the circumstances, which circumstances include the Ellester’s previous statements to the effect that her desire to have children is a deal breaker for our relationship.’

‘The stakes are getting high on the children issue, is what you’re saying.’

‘Mitch the air up there is getting very thin indeed. But of course I’ve always been grateful to the Ellester for having shared this and other of her desires so clearly and early in our relationship, so that I was always one hundred percent aware of her desires and thus able to think clearly about the fit between those desires and my own desires, including my desires about her desires, and vice versa w/r/t [sic] my sharing of my desires with the Ellester and her ability to respond in kind thereto, all of which has redounded to our mutual benefit, it’s pretty fair to say.’

‘Personally I’d say it’s more than fair Karp, and if you don’t mind I’d like to honour your sharing by demonstrating my attention thereto via a brief recapitulation, to wit: it sounds to me like what we’ve got here is the pre-natal version of the -marital jitters, otherwise known as getting cold feet. You have an idea that having children would be a good thing and the Ellester clearly thinks it’s a good thing and wants to go ahead with it and you care deeply for the Ellester and want to see her happy, but there are some lingering uncertainties giving you pause.’

‘Now that’s a straight flush of understanding Mitch.’

‘Well Karp you’re one hell of a perspicuous dealer.’

‘That’s kind of you to say Mitch.’

‘It’s my pleasure Karp, but so how did the Ellester propose to warm-up those cold feet of yours?’

‘Well Mitch her strategy on this occasion [FN1] was to deliver herself of a seemingly endless list of reasons your thinking man and woman should want to start a family: a child is the most pure and sincere expression of the love between two people; children are a joy to have and to hold, and more joy is better than less ceteris paribus; this is our chance to make something significant and beautiful in the world; becoming a parent is exhilarating; reproduction is part of what it means to be human…’

‘OK Karp I get the idea, the gamut was run on the reasons for starting a family.’

‘Actually Mitch you won’t believe but she kept on going. When it rains it pours. It turns out that if you Google ‘reasons to have kids’ you can see some lady’s blog post in which there are enumerated no fewer than forty reasons for starting a family; and with all due respect to Mrs. A--- I think some of her reasons are more than a little specious, such as and I quote ‘Baby toes, need I say more?’ or the equally stunning, ‘How can there be too many children? This is like saying there are too many flowers.’’


‘No word of a lie Mitch you can check it out for yourself.’ [FN2] 

‘Not necessary Karp we all know truth is stranger than fiction, by which we mean that our expectations of what could be truthful are different (usually less fantastic, or hideous, or terrible) than our expectations of what could be fictional.’

‘Sage as ever Mitch, but so the problem with these reasons from the Ellester (and let’s just not even go near Mrs. A---’s knight errand into the blogosphere), is that her reasons seem pretty far removed from what any thinking man or woman would have to infer about what it’s like to actually have and raise a child.’

‘You’re saying the Ellester’s good intentions and genuine desires re childbirth and rearing are perhaps unconsciously romanticized?’

‘Mitch I’m suggesting that unbeknownst to the Ellester, the glasses through which she's taking her view of the situation have become indelibly tinted to the purest and most seductively vivid rose colour you ever saw, and thus her reasons do nothing in terms of reducing the uncertainty that’s giving us here so much pause.’

‘Well Karp tell me how that’s what you figure.’ 

‘My pleasure Mitch. So it seems to me incontrovertible that infants and even young children are dependent upon their parents in a way that is unmediated and constant and unbounded. Infants especially but also young children are a black hole of attention, a money pit, an emotional vacuum cleaner with no OFF switch.’


‘Just for a second Mitch try to imagine how many things you need in the course of a day – not just things you need, but everything you do – which of course an infant or young child is going to need help doing, if not done for them: wake up in the morning (help), get out of bed (help), general ablutions (help), dress (help), make bed (help probably the wrong word), make breakfast (help), eat breakfast…’

‘I see where you’re going with this Karp point taken.’

‘Mitch I’m telling you brother it just goes on and on. Anybody would have to agree that the early months and maybe, if you really pull the short straw, upwards of the first year-and-a-half of a child’s life are no picnic parenting-wise, what with the night feedings and the colic and the sleep schedule so erratic it probably shouldn’t be called a ‘schedule’, and the burping/barfing and just hideously smeared and defiled diapers that make you think about your wife what kind of toxic mutant breast milk are you pumping out over there honey, to produce this river of neo-natal sewage?’


‘I mean that’s just a for instance Mitch but you can ask anyone, and then it’s just same shit different pile as the kid grows up.’

‘Well possibly Karp, but brother I think you’re coming at this the wrong way, if you don’t mind me saying, although of course I respect your position and thank you so very much for sharing it so colourfully.’

‘My pleasure Mitch.’

‘Right but so Karp, it seems to me that part of wanting to have children is wanting to take care of them, in which case we’re looking at two sides of the same coin at the same time. Strictly speaking, if you’ve already said you want to have children, then you can’t really say that what’s involved in the having – in this case, the caring – is like a burden or a time-suck. Taking care of your child is just part of what it was you wanted to do in the first place, even if you didn’t think about it in precisely those terms.’

‘In other words Mitch, when people say that being a parent is the most significant you can ever be in the life of another person, what they’re referring to, primarily, is the caring aspect.’

‘Strike three and you’re out of the darkness of ignorance Karp, with the no-hitter still intact.’



[FN1] The suggestion’s been made a few times now that K and E have previously discussed starting a family. Rather than have K and M re-hash or summarize the substance of those earlier discussions, all of which discussions were elaborately post-gamed here in McGilligutty’s Tavern and so are ripe for re-hash or summary, just know that the two main lines of argument previously unpacked between K and E (with periodic post-game assists from M) are thus: (a) how various reasons against having children no longer apply to K and E (such as not having steady jobs, or a big enough house w/ manageable schedule of mortgage payments, or good schools in the neighborhood, etc), with K maintaining (with vigorous post-game affirmation from M) that the absence of reasons against doing something is not itself a reason for doing that same thing; and (b), an unexpected (and at first strange-seeming) argument from nature, sort of a corollary to (a), that having children is just what humans do, it’s like a biological imperative, and so really the if question is irrelevant (baring certain health issues that are thankfully n/a to K and E (but not M, long story)) and it really is only a question of when, in which case argument (a) could actually have been decisive, given that K eventually admitted that all the ducks seemed to be in a row family-wise. K’s response to (b) was kind of elaborate, but basically amounted to suggesting that the way things are in the world does not necessarily tell us how things ought to be in the world, and that he needed something more than a biological imperative on which to hang his moral hat, that something being (maybe) the reasons for having a child that K is about to recount to M back up top. 

[FN2] Seriously.