Ready for another childhood story?
One bright, hot morning, when I was seven years old, my family went to the Wisconsin State Fair.
There's just the four of us, and we all couldn't decide what we wanted to do first, so... as families often do, we split up.
I went with my dad, 'cause I always went with my dad, and we were gonna go to the livestock barns, and the fattest pig in the state was being displayed.
Shelley, who was 10, went with my mom - presumably to do some kind of boring shit, like look at local artisan handicrafts, you never knew with those two.
Dad bought me some bright blue cotton candy, and I stickily took his hand as we walked through the dust to the livestock barns.
I remember there were roosters with freaky-looking cockscombs and Budweiser horses champing on carrots and nosing out of their stables.
The big pig blew. my. mind.
Eventually, though, I began to whine. I'd been promised a Ferris wheel ride.
I wanted to win one of those giant stuffed dogs.
In a minute, Dad said. First we had an errand.
We wandered over to a little white wooden building, with a low paddock in front.
Inside the circle of fencing, lambs - real baby lambs, brand new baby lambs, as bright as jesus's robes - were frolicking.
There were about twenty other little kids crowded around, chubby elbows hanging over the fence.
The lambs, little woolly baaing babies, were sticking their wet noses into our hands and trying to gum on our fingers.
Some girls were inside the fence, holding the lambs and giving them bottles.
Little girl heaven.
Could I hold a lamb?
Dad opened the gate for me, and I went into the paddock, where a stumbling lil' guy, all grey, tight curls and funny long tail, came wobbling towards me.
A bottle appeared out of nowhere, and suddenly, there I was:
On my knees, like a real farm girl, snuggling a baby lamb who was sucking greedily at the bottle, getting milk all over his fuzzy pink mouth.
I was in ecstasy.
(Keep in mind that I had just finished reading Charlotte's Web with Mom.)
I was Fern.
I looked up to see if Dad was watching.
He was. I waved.
He waved back. Then beckoned me over to the fence.
Reluctantly, I let my lamb go. He cantered over to the other lambs, and I lost him in the crowd.
My dad was watching me with that face that grownups get when they think you're being cute.
"Pick one," he said.
I looked at his face. He was smiling, but I didn't think he was fucking with me.
I dug my nails into my palms to steady myself.
Took a deep breath.
I got to have a baby lamb.
My dad was going to let me have a pet lamb.
I was the luckiest girl in the whole world. My dad was going to let me have a baby pet lamb, and I would have a lamb.
My own lamb.
And everybody at school would be jealous and want to come over to my house and Jade would be my best best friend and not Elizabeth Hammer's and Alana would be so mad she'd probably throw up.
And I could tie ribbons around his neck and shampoo him with baby shampoo and sleep with him and he would only love me, not my sister.
Let me tell you, I spent forever choosing my lamb.
This one was too big. This one was too grey. This one was too hyper, and this one didn't want to cuddle.
Dad was starting to look impatient. And sunburned.
Worried that he would change his mind if I kept dithering, I suddenly, in one big rush, decided that the lamb I was currently holding was It.
Extra small (so he wouldn't grow up too fast), white with translucent pink skin, dainty hooves, and a needy-sounding cry.
I carried him over to my dad, with his legs dangling out of my arms.
"This one," I said. "His name is Fleecy."
Dad gently took Fleecy from me and gave him an appraising look.
We went into the white building, where Dad paid for Fleecy.
A very tan man with a cowboy hat took the money and winked at me. He had an Indian maiden on his belt buckle.
We had to pick up the lamb at the end of the day, Dad said, so why don't we go meet up with Mom and Shell?
We could get some lunch and hit the roller-coasters. Maybe I was tall enough this year, who knew?
I don't remember anything else about the rest of the day. I was beside myself.
Literally skipping with glee.
I told Shelley I was getting a lamb, but she told me not to be stupid.
At the end of the day, as the sun was setting, we went back to the white building to pick up Fleecy.
The same man with the hat came out with a big box.
"Here's your lamb, sir," he said, and set the box down. He tipped his hat at us and walked back inside.
Shaking with excitement, I pushed Shelley out of the way and opened the flaps of the box.
Inside were white paper bundles, tied with string.
Dad chuckled. "That is your lamb, honey. You picked a good one."
I looked at him.
Shelley laughed. Mom looked horrified.
And then it hit me.
I didn't get to have a pet lamb.
Dad asked me to pick a lamb so we could eat it.
I killed my baby lamb. I killed Fleecy.
Selected him for death.
I burst into tears. Stood there bawling in front of the white building.
Mom and Dad were having a heated argument.
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her to pick a lamb! This is a slaughterhouse, for chrissakes!"
"How would she know that?"
"I just - I just assumed she knew that! That it was for eating! We have dogs, why would she think she was getting a lamb for a pet? We eat lamb! All the time!"
"She's seven! She is seven and I can't believe you did this."
"I thought she knew!"
Skanks, for years after this incident, I used to call up this memory as further proof that my parents didn't love me.
Later, I could laugh about it.
My dad had so obviously overestimated my ability to understand what was going on.
He didn't mean to do it - he just thought I was more with it than I was at the age of seven.
Really, I spent most of my time pretending I was a fairy named Whisk, fashioning dandelion-leaf outfits for my tiny alter ego.
While I now have a humorous "top that" story to tell at parties when we're competing to see who has the best fucked-up childhood memories...he will feel guilty about The Fleecy Incident for the rest of his life.
Now, don't get me wrong, here, hos.
I don't like babies, and watching toddlers eat is the worst thing I've ever seen, and kids smell awful.
Sarah, the Gayest Straight Girl I Know - the one with the expert coffee nose - has precisely pinpointed the smell of children: it's wet Cheerios.
Children are a bad idea for me, because, while fairly cheerful about most things, I'm incredibly selfish with my time and I know I would resent any child I had, even if I loved it, just because it was taking up all my attention.
But it might be nice to have regular interactions with a kid.
A kid I was in some way related to.
This is why I want my sister to get knocked up.
Any day she and her husband have an "accident", I will swoop in with ironic onesies and tiny, useless Pumas, the kind that cost $50 and have cloth bottoms.
I can't wait.
I don't want kids of my own, but I'm like a pushy mother-in-law who just. wants. to be a Grandma, goddammit.
Auntie Mame is my all-time favorite book, and I think it might have seriously warped my ideas of what it means to have influence over a child.
Anyway! The reason I've been thinking about this so much lately is:
1) It's my birthday on Monday, and soon I'll officially be a year older, and everyone in the whole universe of Facebook is suddenly using their baby's ultrasound picture as their profile picture.
I've never been friends with so many fetuses before.
|(hey dawn - this is fucking creepy.)|
Gay men and a baby.
Sounds like Two and a Half Men.
In the book, there's a chapter where Dan struggles to answer the question, "Why have kids?" to all his friends.
Among the myriad of answers he comes up with, he says something that chills me to my bones: "Well, what am I going to do for the next 50-60 years?"
Dan figures gay couples can:
a) Continue being DINKs (that's "dual income, no kids") and living their amazingly fun lives. Continue going out, continue fucking, continue drinking, continue hitting the gym. Get old. Stop thinking those things are fun.
Eventually, either you or your partner dies first, and both options suck.
Either way, distant relatives come to town to take your ashes and sell all the stuff you worked so hard for.
b) Go places. See shit. Use your DINK buying power to travel the world, have wonderful fucktimes in Amsterdam, eat beautiful food, make beautiful friends, take beautiful pictures and start some kind of
irritating "I travel a lot" collection, like African masks or deity statues of many-armed gods.
Eventually, you die, and distant relatives come to town to take your ashes and sell off the collections you spent years combing Indonesian markets to find.
c) Become one of those gays that's really, really into their house.
Pour all DINK money into the perfect home.
The perfect armchair. The perfect hand-selected ambient-heated teak planks underfoot.
Invite all other homos to come over a lot. Drink wine, feel smug, wear flowy outfits, die.
Distant relatives come to take your ashes and squabble over your house.
You guys, this chapter in The Kid scared me shitless.
I knew, vaguely, that I was going to die at some point, but I've never had things clearly outlined for me like that.
Now, I'm aware that I freak out right around my birthday every year, and I'm aware that children are not a hobby and not a plaything and only something to have if you really, actually like children...but what if Dan is right?
At least if you have kids, you have fun with them until they hit the tween years, and you get to pretend that you're only going to Justin Bieber: Never Say Never because your kids are dragging you there.
I'm just...afraid of being old and alone. This country treats old people like shit.
What if you were old and alone and you didn't have much money and you didn't have anyone you even knew left to help you?
I don't want kids. But I don't want to be somebody's old gay somehow-we're-related-three-times-removed relative that they have to invite to dinner.
If I'm going to be a burden in my old age, I want to be a serious burden.
The kind you can't ignore.
This one time in 2007, CJ and I moved to Taiwan for a year, where we were each handed a kindergarten class to teach, no questions asked.
From the time we casually googled "teach english in asia" to the time we got on a plane for Taipei, 29 days had elapsed.
No background check. No teaching experience. All you needed was a degree, a passport, and a beating heart. Which is actually terrible - what if we had been an escaped convicted criminals?
As a completely, shockingly unqualified English kindergarten teacher in a foreign country, I learned that:
1) Kids are smarter than me and I don't like that;
2) Watching a 4-year-old try to put his coat on is literally like being in a time warp;
3) You can make a kindergartner do anything if you make up a song about it first, and
4) there is nothing nicer than having 17 five-year-olds scream "Teacha KRISSA!!!" at the top of their lungs when you walk into a classroom in the morning.
There are sweet things about kids.
They climb in your lap and absentmindedly stroke your forearm. They giggle when you make fart noises.
They appreciate when you use different voices for every character in the story, and they genuinely believe that the puppet is talking, even if they can see your mouth moving.
They gently poke and prod you, and they say funny shit, like "When you have long hair, then you will be a girl, Teacher Krista."
But what else do people do with their lives???
We're lesbians. We can't have accidental babies. There are no slip-ups.
Unless I want a kid, the future is an open road of free time, with zero toddler speedbumps.
So, what, should I learn Portuguese?
I need options.
I don't know many older, childless dykes, and I wish I knew what everybody does.
Do you learn to sail?
Get involved in volunteering for some cause?
Do you get some kind of non-denominational religion?
Teach sex-ed classes to the local homeless gay youth outreach center? What???
I don't want kids.
But I do want someone to give a shit when I die.
Deep breaths, y'allfags.Nooooo big deal.
Juuuuuuuust my yearly existential crisis.