Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘children

Thought Catalog

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The best thing I am reading lately, consistently, is Thought Catalog. It’s one of the few things I always check in google reader before marking all read. One of the few open tabs I go back and read after re-opening my laptop in the morning and making swift determinations on all the tabs left open from yesterday. It’s what I always wanted The Awl to be.

This brings me to the awareness that I’ve been really trying to identify things that separate Gen Y writers, parents and filmmakers from their Gen X counterparts. Those three groups, specifically, but also a little bit the generational differences Writ Large, too. I am 28. I am a cusper. I am, technically speaking, the leading edge of the Millennial generation (high school class of 2000, baby!). I keep having the same conversation, about marriage, and babies, and expectations, and dichotomies, etc., etc., with every f**king person I know, seriously. We’re at a stage where we’re poised to come into our own, I think. We’re at the point where we start mattering more. And we’re at the forefront of defining what it is that makes us not Gen X. Of maybe I’m just being narcissistic and grandiose. It’s possible.


Written by ENB

March 22, 2011 at 1:14 pm


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Would you share a farm with this girl?

(In Which I Declare What I Could Have Said A Lot Less Complicatedly As An 8th-Grader Who Idolized Hippies …)

It started with reading this Sandra Tsing Loh article in The Atlantic, I think.

Loh notes that today’s “creative class” mother – with her flexible, creative job; her city life; her egalitarian marriage and child-rearing ideals – actually has it worse than her previous-generation counterparts, because of the absence of a built-in family and community structure.

Working for the AARP, I come across a lot of things about multi-generational households, and I’m convinced that they offer a lot of benefit, for all parties involved; that our nuclear-family model of housing and living (which was, in so many ways, engineered in early- to mid-20th century America to push housing sales and create demand for railways and street cars)—our method of splintering off into smaller and smaller household units, of aging parents on their own back in Midwestern cities and suburbs, or shuttled off into nursing homes and retirement communities, of modern moms and dads raising kids in isolation—is all just a mess.

At this same time, I’ve been reading Laura Kipnis’ Against Love: A Polemic, which rails against the modern conception of marriage and monogamy on its own merits (or lack thereof). It’s a fascinating book that looks at what, exactly, is supposed to sustain marriages now that property ties and lineage concerns and gender roles aren’t all tied up with them; how marriage, as it stands, is a failing institution; how our conceptions that our spouse (or boyfriend/girlfriend/lover) is supposed to be everything —friend, lover, domestic and child-rearing partner, therapist, creative consultant, etc.—is ruining our lives.

Kipnis gets into this whole explanation of earlier revolts against marriage (or examinations of it, at least) in the U.S.—of the pamphlets and townhall meetings and intellectual discussions about the issue in 1800s America; of the transcendentalists and others who sought alternative forms of marriage or companionship and domestic life. These ideas used to be taken seriously, she writes, but the whole 1960s commune/free-love movement and the subsequent backlash and mockery that created have relegated any questioning of this sort into a hippie cliché.

Flash to last night, and I’m talking with my friend Morgan about yurts. Specifically, that her and her roommate, Sam, have been, for years now, looking into and researching and dreaming about getting a lot of friends together on a farm, out west, or in a college town, and living in yurts off a main house and practicing communal farming and living, etc.

And I laughed, because this is exactly the conversation that keeps playing out, over and over again, amongst me and my boyfriend and my friends in Brooklyn. We have a few friends who’ve actually started, who’ve left the cities (New York, Cincinnati) behind and ventured out to California, to Alaska, and started apprenticing at farms. We have other friends with family ties to maple farms in Scandinavia, avocado farms in SoCal. We’re tentatively and dreamily exploring our options. We’re starting with hallway gardens and kombucha brewing classes and volunteer sessions at the Greenpoint Rooftop Farms. We’re engaging in grand conversational fantasies with one another whenever we see things like a 15-room hotel for sale in upstate New York. We’re discussing these things with friends in other cities—like Morgan and Sam in Chicago; but also friends in Boston, friends in Cincinnati, friends out in California already. Everyone’s feeling this vibe.

From the yurt conversation, Morgan and I got on the topic of marriage, of children, of monogamy, spurred by the fact that the reason I’m visiting Chicago my best friend from college having a baby. She’s the first person Morgan or I are friends with —real friends, not high school friends, not the kind of friend who’s still in your home town and whose life bears no real connection or resemblance to your own—who has been married, and now, who’s having a child. Morgan and I were pondering the implications of this.

And then and there, I developed a philosophy on life and love and marriage and children and society (one that I didn’t even know I felt until I was espousing it to Morgan as if it was a long-held system of beliefs).

The only way, I realized, that all of this would work in my life is for it to take place within a multi-adult/couple/family communal living situation.

I’m not totally averse to monogamy, to marriage, to children even; but I also could never do it as part of a totally secluded nuclear family unit. I think a lot of people my age feel the same way. For whatever reasons, though, it’s not totally feasible or desirable to move back to our hometowns, to create multi-generational, communal households within our own extended families. But it may be feasible to do so amongst friends?

What if, as we age—as we reach that inevitable stage where people really do start wanting to pair off, to maybe make relationships legally and economically sanctioned, to start forming families—my friends and I all did it together? And combined it with our collective desire to be a part of the land, to create food and art together? How wonderful would it be to have those things—a life partner, children if you lean that way—without the confines of having to rely on the totally illogical goal of having one person meet all your needs in life? You could serve as each other’s companions, creative partners, domestic helpers, chefs, housemates, and friends. You would, of course, still get some of all of this from your primary partner. But you wouldn’t have to rely on them exclusively for all these things, and thereby diminish the primary love/sex bond you have with them.

I’ve pretty much decided in the past 12 hours that it’s the only possible way for me to live, create and grow old.

Written by ENB

December 15, 2009 at 9:45 pm

Men & Abortion

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Conor wrote last week about the role of men in abortion decisions.

A culture that tells men they shouldn’t have any part in decisions about abortion, as portrayed at the “abortion party,” inevitably discourages them from responding to a pregnant girlfriend by asking, “What should we do?” And the notion that at most men should signal mutual investment in the process, and graciously support whatever the woman decides, may sound wonderful to a lot of people, but is it really realistic? A societal norm that elevates the woman’s choice above all else can certainly safeguard widespread access to abortions. But I suspect that the same norm inevitably leads some men to ask — wrongly in my view, but understandably — if you think that abortion is ethically unproblematic, and whether to have one or not is your choice, why should I have to pay child support for 18 years if you decide against having one?”

Feministing reported this week on a proposed Ohio bill that would require a woman to get a man’s signature before obtaining an abortion:

Rep. John Adams, a Republican from Sidney, wants to change that and the legislation he introduced today, House Bill 252, would require the biological father’s consent before an abortion can be done. The bill would apply to any abortion and would require written consent before it can be done.

Let’s disregard the ridiculousness (it will never be passed with a Democratic governor, and doesn’t Ohio have more important things to be worrying about right now? (Yes)) and offensiveness of this bill even being introduced. But to juxtapose responses to the questions raised by the outrageous Ohio bill and by Conor’s more thoughtful question, it’s always just struck me as so obvious that:

a) we shouldn’t require a woman to carry a pregnancy to term, because it’s ultimately her body being required to support a fetus’ development, and therefore any laws requiring a biological father’s permission would be utterly absurd, but

b) there should be a way for a man to opt out of raising a child he’s conceived! Even if you’re anti-abortion, you can conceive a child and give it up for adoption. It does seem unfair to me to say to men, ‘you got a woman pregnant, she wants to have/raise the child and you don’t, now please support it for 21 years.’ I do think child support laws are unfair in this situation, and there should be a time period where it’s legal for a man to say, no, I do not want any responsibility for this child, legally, financially, etc., and I hereby sign away all legal rights to see/talk to/have any claim to this child or the child’s mother, and if the mother still wants to carry the child to term/not give it up for adoption knowing that, she will have no legal recourse for collecting support for the child. If a father signs away all rights/responsibility to/with the child, and at some point later changes his mind, then he’s out of luck unless both he and the mother legally agree that this arrangement can be changed.

Written by ENB

July 22, 2009 at 10:05 pm