Sex & The City: Pioneers of the Childfree Message?
When I was in grad school, a group of us single ladies used to get together once a week to watch Sex and The City. Now, an embarrassing number of years later, I find myself getting sucked back in to the SATC rerun vortex. The hairstyles, the clothes and the jokes are pretty hideously dated. But you know what’s not? The themes that these four women in their thirties and forties without kids (at least in the earlier seasons) experience on a daily basis.
The episode that really drove this point home for me is the one where Miranda accidentally goes to her gym during “family day”. Late for a meeting and hurrying into the elevator, Miranda is asked by a single dad if she would mind letting his child hit the button for Miranda’s floor. Predictably, the little monster presses them all. Miranda then acquiesces to a date, only to regret it weeks later when an incident makes it abundantly clear there’s no room for her in all the Daddy/child relationship drama. The episode closes with Miranda in the same elevator, once again being asked if she would allow someone else’s child to push her button because “he likes pushing the button.” Miranda’s reply this time? “So do I,” before pushing it herself.
I realize that this little scene taken out of context might sound petty. After all, what’s the harm in giving up your right to push an elevator button if it brings more joy to a child than it possibly could you? Probably none. Unless this is just one in a string of a thousand other things you’ve done for someone else’s kid recently. Maybe you had your view blocked at the fireworks from a toddler on his uncle’s shoulders. Maybe you reached for the last cookie at the picnic only to be beat out by a tiny, trembling chin. Maybe you nearly had a Depends Moment waiting in line for the public bathroom at the Neil Diamond tribute band concert in Polliwog Park, and then had to wait an extra 30 nail-biting seconds when somebody’s kid behind you just couldn’t hold it anymore. (I type, of course, from experience.)
The subtle, underlying message from society is pretty clear: You are no longer as important as they are. And if you’re a parent, that makes total sense. It’s really no big deal for you to take a backseat to the fireworks, give up your cookie, or do a harrowing little pee-pee dance in public while your kid goes first. Because you love that kid and you’d do anything for them. You want to sacrifice for them and make them feel like they’re more important than your own wants and needs. The rewards you reap from being a parent completely overshadow any feelings you might’ve considered having about that last delectable snickerdoodle. And for centuries, it was just considered the passing of the baton. You get all the treats as a kid, and then transition over to making sacrifices for your own brood later on.
But what if you don’t want kids? What kind of psychological damage is done when you’re reminded on a continual basis that you no longer really matter as much as others in the grand scheme of things? That your needs are no longer as important as those of the little people around you? That you need to sacrifice your experience, your comfort, your desires for others you don’t even know?
There are times where special treatment based on age is entirely called for. We should always be giving up our seat on the bus for the elderly. And though it sucks for us, we should probably let the little kid cut us in line for the bathroom when they’re on the verge of peeing their pants because they haven’t yet figured out the bladder warning signs. But getting the final cookie? Pressing the elevator buttons? Why is preferential treatment being given in these situations? I have to wonder if it winds up doing more harm than good in teaching a whole crop of kiddos that they deserve something more than someone else for no real reason other than being “cute”. When and how do they learn to eventually shut that off? Maybe they don’t. Maybe it’s why I see so many girls at the bar letting guys they have no intention of talking to buy them drinks. Or people thinking nothing of nudging their way in front of you in line to nab the last empty overhead compartment space on your flight.
I’m not suggesting that we all run around like selfish maniacs, grabbing up the last scratchy blue blanket on the United redeye. In fact, I think it’d be fantastic if we all did a little more of the why-don’t-you-take-it, no-you-take-it, no-I-insist dance over the final pink Starburst in the pack. The key is making sure that we’re doing it indiscriminately. That everyone’s getting a piece of the generosity pie.
Otherwise I fear we might be headed for a lifetime of lengthy elevator rides, compliments of a generation who believes that everything should be sacrificed for them – not only by their parents, but by the rest of society as well. So thank you, Miranda, for reminding us that we ALL deserve to push the button once in a while.