Dear Big Daddy,
My work takes me to the Capitol several times a week. The other day, I casually remarked to my boss how all the crowds of school kids this time of year make it hard to get around. I won’t repeat her response, but she took it wrong. Now she thinks I’m an anti-kid bigot. So do several other women in my office. Help.
–Didn’t mean it that way
Dear Playground hater,
Not long ago, the Internet had a reputation as being mainly an arena for, how to put this, amateur human anatomy enthusiasts. But a funny thing happened on the way to eGomorrah. The bunnies. The LOLcats and Daily Puppies. The hamsters, guinea pigs and baby pandas. Nodding off, jumping around in mindless enthusiasm, running into things, eating, drooling, what have you.
Yes, a new type of content has come to dominant the Internet. And unlike the kind of men like (if you’re reading this with your wife or girlfriend, yes, you’re an exception), the fans of this kind of this explicitly non-salacious material weren’t content to hide their enthusiasm. They happily evangelized their addiction, forwarding video after video around the office with creepy headlines like “Watch what he does with his feet!” Screenshots were printed, websites bred like the animals they depicted, and the rest of us were left feeling like Hello Kitty had come to life and, stinking of carrion, crushed us under her adorable little paws.
What does any of this have to do with your problem? Quite a bit, perhaps. Because I would argue that this widespread enthusiasm for big eyes and bushy tails is a symptom of something larger and more insidious: a totalitarian cuteocracy that demands we bow down to anything smaller and more adorable than we are. Which I find particularly disturbing, because in my case, that includes just about everything with a pulse.
Back when I was siring my brood, kids occupied a different part of the hierarchy. In the 1950s, when my first showed up, children were mainly in the background until they became vaguely threatening teenagers. By the 60s and 70s, even toddlers were often seen as a menace. Movie theaters abounded with tales of possessed children with forked tongues. Those bowl haircuts Hollywood still loves for some reason? Sign of the devil. Look it up.
Maybe it’s because this current infestation of rug-rodents are largely the spawn of this maligned latchkey generation that they’re turned their toddlers into totems. Or, perhaps in your boss’s case, idealized the infants they wish they had. People with their own kids don’t seem to engage in this same worship of the helpless and fuzzy. They’re too busy wiping off the spit-up and trying to sneak in more than four hours of sleep a night.
Now I don’t want to go around spewing some stereotypical image of workaholic women who say they want kids but spend fourteen hours a day at the office rather than making it happen. Because a lot of these people are men. Even though two or more kids seems to be as much of a requirement for becoming a legislator as a stint on a city council, they’re more than made up for by legions of childless staffers, consultants and spokespersons, working away into the night while the electeds are home with their progeny.
Simply put, our political class is like Europe: without fresh immigration, we’re just not breeding at replacement levels. Though, as with just about every other team sport, Republicans seem to do better than Democrats.
When you walk around the Capitol, you see a lot of loud roadblocks who who’ve mastered the art of mindlessly stepping in your way while you’re already late to meet Senator So-and-So. Not to mention their ability to bring new colds and flus into the building that then pass through the halls faster than rumors. Rather than giving people inoculations before they go overseas, they should just have them teach a semester of Kindergarten. If you’re alive at the end of it, you can probably survive whatever pestilence the Third World has to throw at you.
But what your boss might feel instead is an urge to grab one of these whiny tykes and take them home and love them and feed them and call them George. Like a lapsed Catholic who always wears a crucifix, there might be real pain and indecision behind her admonitions.
So what do you say when she puts on her best Whitney Houston voice and tells you the children are the future? I’d be tempted to note that so are death, bad fashion trends and the obliteration of our sun. But the politic thing might be to say you now realize you wish you had some of your own.