Letters to the editor

The have-kids vs. the have-nots Plus: Log Cabin Republicans will get what they deserve; David Foster Wallace parody is "viscerally painful."

By Salon Staff
Published April 11, 2000 4:00PM (EDT)

Nonparent trap?



I'm delighted to see someone who finally seems to understand this "family-friendly" policy for what it is: employers giving their employees perks for nothing more than using their genitals in the approved way.
Should gay women be paid less than straight women because they are less likely to reproduce? Should disabled women be paid less than the able-bodied because they may either not be able to have children without incurring risk to their lives or not want to pass on their disability? Can no one see where this might lead?

-- Janis Cortese

I agree with Elinor Burkett in many ways. As a person who chose to remain childless, I feel that often my choice is not respected. If a co-worker needs to leave on time (i.e., not stay late to finish a project) to see his or her child play soccer, I believe that my desire to leave on time to drink tequila is of equal merit. If you can't take on all of the responsibilities of having kids, don't have any.

-- Neil Scott

There are more than just a few shortcomings in Elinor Burkett's arguments. For example, the Family Medical Leave Act does not just benefit parents with sick kids, it benefits anyone with a sick family member. Of the people I know who have taken leave to care for sick family members in the past year, not a single one was caring for a kid. In the case of a lady who had to care for her husband, the burden of her work was taken on by a pregnant woman!

Burkett also makes the mistake of assuming that the family benefits only help women. Guess what? In my generation, dads are also taking time off and leaving early to catch their kids' Little League games. I suspect that this trend will continue. Most of the conversations I have had about day care were with men.

As for the tax breaks, we got a much bigger tax break by buying a home than by having kids. Last time I checked, anyone with a big enough income could buy a home.

Society would be better served if Burkett would turn her skills toward improving the lot of the poor, rather than joining the already-too-long parade of victims.

-- Robyn Anderson

Burkett seems ignorant of the fact that well-educated
individuals like her
(presumably valuable members
of the white-collar workforce) are not produced in
a vacuum. They are generally
the products of stable, financially secure families as
well as government policies instituted over the past 50
years or so to make higher education more broadly accessible. For a corporation
or the government to enact policies that encourage such
workers to reproduce is an
investment in society's future
which also helps to ensure a
continuous supply of labor.

Contrary to her assertion that
childless individuals and couples are saving companies and the government money, choosing not to reproduce and
pass on the fruits of one's own opportunities will result in a long-term "brain drain" in the United States and other
Western nations.

-- James Hagan

Rather than pitting parents against nonparents, we ought to be asking how we can best balance work/life issues for both groups. After all, we all have a life outside of the office.

-- David P. Graf

Mothers who don't think



As I say to my own friends: Preach, girl! However, I am one of those nauseating moms you describe so aptly and that I dreaded becoming before I gave birth to the Most Wonderful Thing Ever to Happen on the Face of the Earth. I joked with friends while pregnant that I feared becoming one of "those" moms, yet (sigh) here I am.

I was in your shoes once and I'm sorry, you really don't understand. I am fascinated by my almost 2-year-old child. Others are not. I try to balance my fascination with other things that are happening in my life, but my daughter is one of the coolest works of art in progress I've ever seen and dammit, I'm excited.

One of my friends, now the mother of two teens, said that the best gift I gave her when her kids were little was my almost total disinterest in them. She told me it helped her remember that she was more than a mom. But it's a hard place to find balance.

So, I hear you. I hang out with other moms and we talk about our kids and I realize that this phase (I hope) will pass. In the meantime, be patient, and by the way ... how's your friend Hannah?

-- Karyn-Siobhan Robinson

Do you really think I am as interested in your job, your annoying boss, your series of boyfriends or girlfriends, what you are reading and thinking about as you are?

As your friend, I am.

Maybe I go on about my kids too much and maybe you go on about your career or your relationships or your mother too much. We can all be boring. But we need friends, not editors.

-- Susan Ochs-Scher

In her attempt to skewer obsessive parents, Lafayette succeeds, instead, in revealing herself as a
specimen of the worst stereotype of the childless adult: selfish, narcissistic and permanently trapped
in an adolescent insistence that her values and preferences must remain forever at the center of the

Sure, some parents become unattractively focused on their children -- but most don't, any more than
most childless people display the extremes of immaturity Lafayette exhibits in this nasty little piece.
Like it or not, parenthood changes people in profound ways, just as maturing without children has a
deep formative effect on a person's character. When Lafayette's acquaintances (they certainly
weren't friends, based on her contempt for them) tried to explain to her the changes that came to
them with parenthood, they weren't necessarily patronizing her. They may, instead, have been trying
to share discoveries Lafayette couldn't have made on her own. This kind of communication isn't
condescension -- it's friendship.

-- Catherine Murphy

Leslie Lafayette's article hit the nail on the head. I'm childless by choice, and also happy to be a brand-new aunt. People who assume that the child-free hate children, or will change their minds eventually about them, could not be further from the truth. I love my little niece to bits and am sure I will only love her more as she grows, but I'm not so blinded with adoration of this cute little baby that I suddenly must have one of my own.

I feel that my life's work is best served by my not bearing children. I'm happy the way I am, and tired of the condescension I face from others who just assume I'll magically change my mind once I meet
the "right" man. I've met any number of men, all of whom seemed right at the time, and they haven't budged me toward maternity any more than my new niece has! Please, parents and would-be parents, learn to accept us child-frees for who we are and stop talking down to us; after all, we gladly extend the same courtesy to you.

-- Sabina C. Becker

I was both pleased and terrified to read this article by Leslie Lafayette. My wife and I have been married for eight years, during which time we've watched friend after friend fall victim to just the sort of child-centered myopia described. As soon as their children came, their own lives stopped and they could not understand our choice not to reproduce.

Now, we are days away from becoming parents and are scared silly that we might become the monster we've fought against. My wife and I make daily promises to each other that we will not allow our adult lives to end. We also promise each other that we will do our best not to bore others with an endless stream of child stories, nor will we say things like "just wait until you have kids," or "you'd understand if you were a parent." How obscene!

Unfortunately, we have few good models to show us how to remain dynamic in our own right. Similarly, parents who continue to pursue their own lives seem to be looked down upon, as if they are neglecting their child or denying baby something in order to pursue some selfish interest. This prejudicial standard seems to be unfairly projected toward mothers.

It is a shame that caring for one's children has turned into a mandate to abdicate adult life or face chastisement. If a parent's role is to teach his/her child how to lead a fulfilled life once on his/her own, then we do children a great disservice if we demonstrate that the only vehicle for fulfillment is child-rearing.

-- Nels A. Nelson

I am the mother of two young boys, and I'm also sick and tired of women who only want to talk about their children. While it's nice to briefly catch up on the latest exploits of our offspring, I would like to discuss something else once in a while. Anything. Even politics. So here's my proposition: I won't babble on and on about my kids if you won't babble on and on about yours. Deal?

-- Nancy Ott

A Log Cabin divided

The Log Cabin Republicans are proof that politics is inherited and not a product of rational self interest. The LCR members are the only gays who are going to deserve exactly what a Bush presidency is going to do to them. As a hetero liberal, I would find this situation funny. Funny, that is, if it wasn't that a Bush presidency will be just as bad for the innocent gay people in this country as it will be for the self-loathing, self-destructive LCR members who are asking, in fact, literally campaigning, to bring so much misery down on themselves.

-- Jim Martino

Jake Tapper's article demonstrates the unfortunate truth about both Bush and the Log Cabin Republicans: Both have their head in the sand.
How pathetic it is to support a candidate who is against everything that gays and lesbians need to become first-class citizens. For the sake of all gay and lesbians, let's hope that Al Gore wins in November -- and send Bush back to Texas where he belongs.

-- Matthew Reif

David Foster Wallace: Ain't McCain grand?

I haven't read David Foster Wallace's McCain article, so I have no idea whether Wyman is correct in his evaluation of it. In fact, I'd probably have no idea even if I had read it, because Wyman insists on using the oldest, most hackneyed, most viscerally painful DFW-reviewing trick in the book: writing "just like" the author, except really, really crappily. This is a critical/parodic device approximately as incisive (and enjoyable) as that album by the Coolies where they parodied Simon & Garfunkel by playing all their songs really, really crappily, and basically does nothing but demonstrate how talented Wallace must be to be able to pull off such an ungainly style of writing. Please, no more. For the love of God, no more.

-- Jesse Fuchs

Wyman has misread Wallace's article. That piece -- which is the best I've read about the election so far -- isn't about why we (the "star-fucking" readers of Rolling Stone) should vote for McCain, but about the perceptual vertigo induced by the question of whether we can believe anything said by any candidate, including McCain, in a modern, media-fied election. In thoughtfully confronting primetime politics through the vehicle of McCain, Wallace finds not the evil big party conspiracies that Wyman alleges he does, just many layers of complexity and confusion. Basically he says: Here's the mess as I see it, now it's up to you to figure it out -- but whatever you do, you have to participate. I found this positive and more than a little terrifying at the same time -- but not condescending, as Wyman would have it.

Actually, I only started feeling condescended to when I started reading Wyman's piece. His simplistic reading of Wallace's difficult (in Rolling Stone? I'm afraid so) article seems more about serving his own ends, which boil down to the same old bullshit about counterculture selling out and postmodernism only caring for surfaces. Pomo is about doing a close reading of a text and it applies to both the text of politics and the text of Wallace's article. Wyman should look again. He's the one around here who's being superficial, and, in his own perverse combination of skulky grumblings about "famous writers" and his incoherent "parody" of Wallace's style, perhaps he's the one who's guilty of starfucking.

-- James Bennett

"Ready to Rumble"


The rest of the review on "Ready to Rumble" aside, I found the following rather interesting: "Quite seriously, I think it expresses some of Americans' finest qualities: We may be morons who revel in high histrionics and low slapstick, but we can always appreciate a joke at our own expense."
These are Americans' finest qualities? I'm not entirely sure on this, but does the realization that you're a moron count as a fine quality?

The "dumbing down of America" is an issue which has been debated ad nauseum and one which seems to be more or less accepted at this point, at least by the rest of the world. Still, it's a little odd to hear an American champion mental deficiency or at least the awareness of mental deficiency as a positive aspect of the American psyche. Perhaps admitting you have a problem is the first step.

-- Matthew Dorrell

"High Fidelity"


Did your reviewer and I see the same movie? I was in excruciating pain throughout this sophomoric sit-com of a movie. The direct-address technique was truly annoying and both Cusacks, whom I usually like, were at their worst. I am glad I missed the cult novel (I had never heard of it until the movie) but I am far sorrier to have wasted two hours of my life in arrested adolescent ramblings. If you are a pop music fan, then maybe this is for you. If you are a good films fan, rent "The Grifters" instead.

-- Harry Lime

Mini-Shakespeares and kitty-cat bookends



Perhaps Jenkins should calm down a bit and realize that sometimes, believe it or not, a bookmark is just a bookmark. It doesn't represent repressed literary shame or the power of commercialism. It's just a bit of thick paper to mark a page in a book. And if it has a cute picture of Wishbone on it, pass it along to me!

-- Marilee Hanson

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------