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Keep your ‘family’ away from me 

Children are unhealthy for adults and other living things

Another Independence Day has come and gone, and it’s now officially safe for 20-something non-revelers who loathe sticky-fingered young cherubs and their loud, domineering families to leave the security of their apartments. Independence Day 2005 was an unmitigated nightmare, with young children and strollers blocking sidewalks, bumping into people, and generally disrupting a day that should be filled with adult pleasures like hamburgers, wine coolers, and sunshine.
 
The fact that many of the children were armed with miniature explosive devices that whirl, twist, and shoot sparks certainly didn’t help the situation. The worst part was that nobody made any apology for the cacophonous discord that filled every restaurant, shop, and beach in the county. Had I been sporting a green Mohawk or walking down the street holding hands with another woman, I probably would have been asked to justify my place within society. Or maybe some self-righteous do-gooders would have been satisfied just to roll their eyes at me. But unleash a four-person family unit that physically disrupts the flow of pedestrian traffic and fills the sidewalks with temper tantrums, and everyone complacently accepts that all is right with the world.
 
But even if Independence Day has passed, it’s still summer. School is out, and there’s no escaping the fact that families are out in full force. As most of SLO grumbles with relief about the departure of Cal Poly students, I can’t help but think that the college students are less physically disruptive than are the families that replace them.
 
It’s remarkable how often grown adults are told to change their behavior in the name of family values. Every week, there’s a new store that parent groups are boycotting—which I don’t quite comprehend, because if the parents aren’t driving their kids to the devil stores that carry “adult� products, then how are the little mites getting there? Child proofing the world makes it a lot less fun for adults. You don’t see 20-something groups advocating the inclusion of adult products in children’s stores, so why expect a store that isn’t marketed toward children to remove all adult material? Doesn’t it make more sense for the parents to take a more active role in monitoring their children’s behavior so the rest of us don’t have to?
 
Of course, parental censorship extends beyond products that stores carry. If you’re having a conversation with friends and a curse word happens to slip out, parents give you dirty looks, but then expect you to tolerate their children wandering in front of you, bumping into you, screaming in public, and generally making the whole world sticky. Most people don’t stand on public benches screaming inappropriate phrases at passing innocents, so whatever is said during a conversation between adults really isn’t intended to scar young children. And, as difficult as it may be to believe, the presence of adult stores or stores with adult content isn’t a personal attack on families. Last I checked, stores don’t suck unwilling passersby into their merchandise-filled lair, nor do adult stores trick people by calling themselves ice-cream or toy shops. Of course, the fact that I know that families aren’t really under attack makes it a little strange that I feel that I—and many other people like myself (those who choose not to form a heteronormative family unit)—are under attack.
 
With their strollers, their long-term exhaustion, and their I-don’t-have-time-to-think-about-luxuries-like-clothing outfits, most parents have begun to look like upper-middle-class versions of Stepford fem-bots. They’re programmed to talk about children and nothing but children, and somehow the fact that they have children is supposed to be endlessly fascinating. I’ve actually overheard conversations that began with one friend telling another that she had just been offered an exciting new job and then segued into a discussion of the other friend’s daughter’s school play within minutes. People seem quick to criticize the workaholic who has no life outside his or her career, but what about the parent who has no life outside his or her family?
 
My distaste for family values doesn’t stem from a dislike of all families, parents, or children. It’s possible that sitcoms from the early ’90s have had too much of an impact on my concept of family values. But doesn’t the term “family� always seem to pertain to the middle- or upper-middle class heterosexual couple with one dog and anywhere from two to three children? What happens to the less-traditional families, the many families who don’t have one mom and one dad conforming to strictly defined gender roles or the families that don’t include children? And why aren’t the friends who stay by your side through years of hardships considered family? A lot of “family� groups politically lobby to limit the legal definition of family to one male, one female, and their snotty kids. Family values become, not the values of all families or individuals who are part of a family, but the values that certain people think should be applied to all families, among which conformity seems to play a huge role. The term “family� seems to have been hijacked by right-wing religious patriarchs eager to shape the country into their version of the happy little Christian family, and anyone who doesn’t happen to fit in with that plan had better cease using adult language in public, smile contentedly when a little cherub knocks into them on the side of the street, and start making their own objectionable adult materials at home. ∆

Arts Editor Ashley Schwellenbach thinks that babies taste like chicken. Criticize her palette at aschwellenbach@newtimesslo.com.

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