What I Saw in a Selfie

A friend’s daughter’s selfie stirs contempt for social distortion.

Notes from a Non-parent 9_Where Excuses Go to DieSomewhere around age 11, most kids stop thinking of themselves as children. In fact, with some, there might even be a first taste of contempt: an inaugural disdain for one’s own image in light of the year’s more celebrated models. That was my experience, and I’m guessing it might also be that way for Ray (short for Rayna), the 12 year-old daughter of my friend Ruby. One of Ray’s selfies, in which she’s wearing thick eyeliner and lipstick, took me by surprise this morning.

Now, I’m a non-parent by choice, so these remarks are made knowing that my own being caught off guard can’t compare to the urgency felt by Ruby and other moms. But the photo made me sad, nonetheless: sad for the marketing designed to strategically divide and conquer women that’s already being aimed at this kid, this baby held by me in a picture above my desk.

What I saw in this selfie took me by surprise, ‘cause I wasn’t prepared to equate Ray’s face with my anger for how dumb adults can be. Read more

A False Image of Solid Parenting

Taking responsibility for your children doesn’t work in silhouette

Notes from a Non-parent 8After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick threw herself off an abandoned concrete silo tower last month, her friends and schoolmates came forward in droves to tell police she’d essentially been bullied to death. Guadalupe Shaw, 14, and another girl (aged 12) were charged with felony aggravated stalking after Shaw posted a new message stating in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t care less that her cruelty had resulted in the girl’s death. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd reacted to that arrogance swiftly. He has since been adamant in his intent to jail the two minors, and he’s not staying silent on the responsibility their parents should bear, either (“I’m aggravated that [they] aren’t doing what parents should…Responsible parents take disciplinary action”).

I won’t get into the particulars of the backstory since, for instance, the intimidating coercion by Shaw of one of Rebecca’s friends to join in the bullying is all over the Internet. But I will note that an examination of Rebecca’s computer revealed search queries for “What is overweight for a 13-year-old girl?” “How to get blades out of razors,” and “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die?” That’s a kicker that feels like it just hit your chest.

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Notes from a Non-Parent 5: The Parent-fetish Trap

Q: Are we, who admit to being too selfish for childrearing, freer to enjoy the company of others’ children?

A: Damn right we are, especially with so much predatory marketing keeping parents’ envious eyes on each other. As moms and dads everywhere condemn the current wave of weirdo parenting while trading assurances that their own kids are free of transmissible dysfunction, it’s only gotten that much more entertaining.

I don’t really care about last week’s Time magazine cover of a confused oaf takin’ a pull off his ma’s tap. I don’t care about extended breast feeding’s quasi-cat lady proponents or this beyond tragicomic “pre-mastication” trend. Yet it’s all fodder for the current national yakkety-yak and it’s overtaken my parent-friends’ usual election year/Facebook/reading list talking points. I listen in, but all I seem to hear is how superior they feel for not going to extremes themselves (while their kids kick shit over and scream “shut up!” when someone interrupts their iPhone game).

My wife and I laugh about how parenting can be as extreme as energy pills made from dehydrated placenta. We see the decision to spawn as extreme to begin with, and no cultural child-worship (or pressure from my wife’s mom) is gonna convince us otherwise. Read more