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[FEBRUARY 2011.]

Real Life

My child and J.’s, who will be born in August, probably has until 2030 before he or she is likely to take much interest in digging through these domains to find out who his or her parents were in the time of prehistory. The Obama years. The Muslim world; the first smartphones; the last winters. You can already see the caricature drawing itself. I have exactly that cartoon of the seventies when I think of my own parents; but I can’t picture them as I am now, kids out of college packed close in an apartment. I thought of writing a letter to this child, but that’s a rhetorical cloak with nothing inside it. A generous letter, a letter worth sending, ought to say something to the recipient, and this recipient is just hope and fear: J. remembering her childhood, I remembering mine. Skull and spine in a sonogram. It's quickened; we watch it move on the screen. Even the pronouns don’t yet work: “it,” or else “him or her.” It's not until April that we find out the sex. People keep saying “find out the gender,” I suppose because the word “sex” makes them squeamish. Maybe it’s not even a usage error. It is the first pass of socialization, after all. You get a pronoun and a name.

If I were to write that letter, it would be some kind of exhortation to generosity and tolerance, eudaimonia, metta; as if it could stand in for J. and I practicing these things ourselves. They’ll be needed in the bad century we have coming. And one doesn’t have children to enlist them in an army, even an army of light; neither is it about waging some kind of demographic campaign against the intolerant. Still you want to arm your children with true weapons. They’ll realize one day it’s not themselves they are fighting for. As I’m realizing it. “I will no longer be the star of my own life,” a wise person blogged lately.

When I carry you I’ll walk upside down. It’s you who lifts us.

so many things about the history to come are saddening. THIS, i remind myself. THIS.

if anyone in these troubled times can raise a kind, caring, altruistic child, my sincere belief is it's you and J. if not, there is no hope. i admire you both for having the courage to try.

If they really meant gender as socially constituted (with pronoun and name), they'd be saying "choose the gender" instead of "find out". Actually, websites keep telling me to do that with my own gender, but I don't think they mean it.

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