Here you go, Ross Douthat. Your poster girl for late-modern exhaustion and “decadence,” a woman privileging her “present over her future” and “shrugging off the basic sacrifices that built our civilization.” A woman who without any hesitation or seeming regret says she doesn’t want to have children. Actually she sings it in this video she made with the man who wanted to be the father of her never-to-be kids. Here’s how the song starts:
“I want to have kids.” (That’s Jonathan.)
“And I really don’t.” (That’s Ivory.)
You want to find this couple annoying because of the studied, scruffy aesthetic and because they made a video about their breakup. But in fact they are lovable and actually remarkable. Partly because of the total absence of drama and bitterness. Partly because of their obvious underlying decency and love. Partly because the simple equation of their breakup just seems like an immutable fact, stated so straightforwardly and simply that it doesn’t leave room to take sides or hate either of one of them.
And partly because they seem to be outing a phenomenon that we all suspect is out there but isn’t much talked about. Often men want to have kids, and the women don’t. Match.com’s latest “Singles in America” survey found that in every age category, men were more eager than women to have children. Even young men, points out anthropologist Helen Fisher, who studies love and attraction and consults on the annual survey. Among those between the ages of 21 and 34, 51 percent of men want kids, and only 46 percent of women do. (The men were also just as likely to want to get married and much less likely to say they needed their personal space.) Here, for example, is Slate staffer Aisha Harris on her philosophy of dating: “I’m still relatively young, but I’m dreading the point in my life when I have to start weeding out guys who want children. For me, that (and smoking) is the only dealbreaker I stand by.”
Recently in Slate we ran a series called “I Don’t Want to Have Children” in the interest of breaking through that particular taboo. Now it’s looking less and less like a taboo. If so, the Decadent Generation can steal the very catchy closing chorus of the breakup video as their theme song:
I wanna have babies
I don’t wanna
I wanna have babies
I don’t wanna have babies
A couple of babies
I don’t wanna have any
Couple of babies
No. Nonononono, Mmm-mm.