WRITING - Joe Bob's America

I can see it coming now. It's too late to stop it.

What person in America is soon to become more abused than the smoker, more passe than a Jimmy Carter liberal, more OUT OF IT than a cocaine user with gold neck chains at Studio 54?

The person with no children.

More important, the person who doesn't want to TALK about his children.

It starts when people move out of your neighborhood and talk to you like it's a MORAL decision.

"It's been nice knowing you, Joe Bob, but now that little Wilhelmina is on the way, we've decided to move to a town that's a BETTER PLACE FOR KIDS TO GROW UP."

And you're going "What? Is there something I don't know about the neighborhood?"

And they say, "You know, a place that's QUIETER, more laid back."

And if you try to talk to em, by saying something sensible like, "Roger, I've never known a child in my LIFE that liked QUIET places. Every child I ever met liked fireworks, baseball games, carnivals, subway rides, video arcades, hundreds of people, mud pies and CHAOS."

"Well, you're entitled to your opinion."

There's this THING that comes over people when they have babies--no, even BEFORE they have babies. They don't want any of you IRRESPONSIBLE childless people even BREATHING on the FETUS.

"Besides," says Roger, "we could never send Wilhelmina to school here. We've got to find a decent school district."

And perhaps you say something like, "Rog, we're dealing with a three-week-old fetus here that's about the size of an Egg McMuffin. I don't think you need to worry about what calculus teacher they're hiring this year."

And they get so MIFFED, because, see, you're TAKING THIS TOO LIGHTLY.

"It might surprise you to know that I want the very BEST education for this child," Rog will say. He always tells me it might "surprise me to know" things that it never surprises me to know.

It comes down to this: Once a person has a child, or even has the PROSPECT of having a child, or even DECIDES to have a child, he becomes a different species from the rest of humanity.

He orders the Lifetime Network. He re-ups his subscription to National Geographic. He starts talking about cholesterol, and how, after the kid is born, they won't be eating at McDonald's anymore, because they don't want the kid to get "hooked" on that stuff.

"Hey, Rog, what if it works the same way as crack babies. The kid will be BORN addicted to McDonald's."

Rog doesn't think this is funny.

And they all enroll in some kind of secret psychology class and start using words like "setting a good example" and "providing an environment that encourages freedom" and "displaying love as a healthy emotion."

And after a while you have to say, "Rog, are you studying to be a priest or WHAT?"

Whatever happened to buying the kid a baseball bat?

It gets worse after the kid is born. Ask Rog and Elaine to come over and watch a little TV on the weekend.

"Naw, with the baby, we just can't pick up and go like that."

"Go ahead, bring the baby. I like babies."

"It's not that easy. We've got all the diaper stuff, and she's got these nap times, and it's . . ."

"Rog! I've got places the baby can SLEEP! I've got ROOM DEODORIZER! It's NO PROBLEM!"

"Well, yeah, thanks, but, naw, not today."

Because evidently it would be like traveling to another planet. The planet of the Childless. The planet of the people who NEVER GREW UP and had children of their own. The people that sometimes still go eat dinner at ten o'clock at night and do other irresponsible things like DRIVE THEIR CARS TOO FAST when there are CHILDREN, strapped into their little car-carriers, TRAVELLING ON THAT SAME ROAD. The people that just DON'T UNDERSTAND. The SCUM. The LAZY PEOPLE. The SELFISH people. The people that only think about themselves and CAN'T STAND THE GROWN-UP RESPONSIBILITY of being fathers and mothers.

And so after a while--after a few years of this--after you think you've lost these people as friends forever, suddenly you make a NEW friend. Their baby is now six years old, and he wants OUT of the house. He starts visiting you, and he's MORE INTERESTING than his daddy. He doesn't wanna talk about cholesterol. He wants to play football and root around in the dirt and visit the NEAT PART OF TOWN where you live, instead of the boring part of town where his parents live. In other words, he's become exactly what his daddy was before he experienced the miracle and the joy of childbirth.

So, if you are one of the Ostracized, just hang around. Your new buddy will show up any day now.