Today’s New York cover story on parenting at 50 comes with a new Newsweek-style conversation-piece cover and with one high hurdle of a lede.
“The first time they had sex, during that initial exploration of unfamiliar flesh, John Ross uttered words to Ann Maloney that would sound to her like prophecy. ‘You have the body of a young girl. You need a baby.'”
We don’t think we’re being ageist when we say that is a disturbing thing to say to a consenting adult mid-coitus. He says, “You have the body of a young girl. You need a baby,”; we hear “I’m a pedophile and I’m about to forget to pull out.” Nonetheless, we applaud our friend Mr. Ross for sticking the landing on a risky combination.
Once the reader gets through that thicket of revulsion, the weirdness continues.
There is a lurid little anecdote about how W editor Stefano Tonchi’s friends think he is crazy to have twins at 51.
Now that their daughters have arrived, the couple’s acquaintances are wondering how Tonchi (who declined to be interviewed) is coping with the addition of two barfing babies to his fastidiously posh apartment.
He’s probably coping with the help of family, nannies and maids, just like the wealthy people who did not decline to be interviewed. One of the piece’s most important points is that it doesn’t matter much to children how old their parents are–if they’re wealthy enough to afford the reproductive technology, the kids will be more or less fine no matter what.
And it wouldn’t be a story about a human biological function without a personal disclosure:
I should note at this point that I realize how lucky I am. I had my first and only baby when I was 40 years old, and joyously brought her home to the brownstone-Brooklyn neighborhood where we live. Thanks purely to the fluke of my inhabiting that particular moment and our particular place of residence, my age has been an unremarkable fact of our lives. No one has doubted my mothering abilities or questioned my motivations because I had my child later than most people; lots of the moms in my daughter’s class are around my age. But it’s only because I happened to fall on the acceptable side of the line that I was spared the bigotry directed at parents who dare to cross it. Had I waited a little longer to get pregnant, or lived in an earlier era, I would have been one of the freaks.
The freaks. Just one final head-scratch moment, on the matter of the hypothetical stereotype from which the author was luckily spared:
The self-centered female, drinking wine and buying Jimmy Choos for decades, who one day awakens—alone, wrapped in high-thread-count sheets—and remembers the baby she never had. She goes to her doctor and sobs. If she succeeds in achieving her heart’s desire, she’ll just hire a nanny and go right back to work and, in one blog post I saw, refuse to sit on the floor and play with blocks.
Sure, some women are materialistic bitches. But most delay children because they want the independence that comes with work as well as the nontrivial benefits of professional success: a good salary, health insurance, and a stable place in the world.
Gratuitous use of the b-word aside, it sounds like the moral of chick flick to us. Maybe now they’re writing them with the magazine-to-movie deals in mind.