Book Review: I Can Barely Take Care of Myself

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Jen Kirkman has always known she didn’t want to have kids. In her new book, she’s endlessly entertaining as she finds witty comebacks to the questions she gets all the time:

Questioner: If you don’t have kids, who is going to take care of you when you’re old?

Kirkman: Servants?

Questioner: Men have to spread their seed. It’s in their DNA.

Kirkman: He can spread his seed all he wants. I have a magic pill that prevents it from growing.

Kirkman is better with the zingers than most of us, since she’s a comic who writes for Chelsea Handler’s shows. But her book isn’t just a series of one-liners. She’s calm and clear about her decision not to reproduce: “I’m not mother material but I’m a nice person, sure. And I’m a nice person because I’m usually in a good mood and I’m usually in a good mood because I’m not responsible for raising a child I don’t want.”

Kirkman delights in turning childfree phobias on their head. She’s not worried about dying alone, because it would be annoying to die surrounded by young, healthy people. She also writes about her affection for her friends who are parents, and for their kids, and how her love for them has no bearing on her own decision not to have a baby.

If you’re childfree by choice, this book will crack you up and make you feel like you’ve got a strong, eccentric ally in your corner.

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Dating Advice: Six Ways to Be the Guy

I know you single straight guys get mixed messages about 21st-century dating rules. As a single straight girl, I’m here to offer you some help.

When I talk to other women about their dating woes, one complaint rises to the top: the guys they’re dating refuse to “be the guy” as the relationship kicks off.

So what does it mean to “be the guy”? It means being brave enough to take on certain responsibilities. It’s similar to gallantry. But being the guy takes more guts.

If you can step up and be the guy, you’ll win big dividends. You’ll impress the woman you’ve started seeing, and you’ll have a better sense of how she feels about you, too.

Here’s how to do it.

1. If you’re interested in a woman, ask her out. Now that it’s acceptable for women to do the asking, a lot of guys avoid this awkward and embarrassing task. Don’t be one of them. Having the confidence to ask a woman for her email or phone number will gain you her respect. And it’s exciting for us when a guy is clear about his interest.

Bonus for you: if you ask her for her number, and she says, “Sorry, I have a boyfriend,” “Sorry, I date women,” or makes a lame excuse, you’ll know for sure that she’s either not interested, or unavailable. This lets you get on with your life.

DON’T send her a friend request on Facebook, and hope that this will inspire her to do YOUR job and ask you out.

2. Drop the chemistry bomb. You know how annoying it is when a woman won’t be upfront with you about her feelings? We ladies find it irritating too. More importantly, lack of clarity can lead to wasted time and emotional confusion.

Attraction, or lack thereof, isn’t a value judgment. It’s just about chemistry, which neither of you can control. So if you’re not attracted to a woman, just say, “You seem awesome. But to be honest, I don’t think we have much chemistry.” Is this comfortable to say or to hear? Of course not. But it’s way better than dragging things out.

Speaking of which–

3. Reply to emails and texts in a timely manner. In the age of the smartphone, there’s no excuse for going a week before replying to a message. If you’ve gone out a couple times, and you’re not feelin’ it, and she emails you to ask you out again–review Step 2 above. Don’t leave her hanging. It’s not manly, and it’s not classy.

So what is this “timely manner” that I speak of? Emails and texts should receive a clear response within 24 to 48 hours.

4. Pay for the first two dinner dates. No, it isn’t the 1950s, and yes, she has her own income. Later, you can start splitting the check or alternating who pays.

But we’re talking about the first two dates here. During those dates, she’s watching closely to see if you’re a gentleman, and if you can take care of her–even if it’s just for the length of an evening. She may offer to split the check with you, especially if it’s an expensive dinner. By no means let her do this! You will lose all credibility as a viable man if you do so.

Six magic words: “Let me take care of this.” Don’t make a big deal of it–just pay quickly and unobtrusively. If she INSISTS that she pay for coffee afterwards, that’s cool. But dinner is your manly duty.

5. Go in for the kiss. If you want to kiss her at the end of the first or second date, make it happen. But do it carefully. Again, remember, you’re winning her trust.

So I’m not talking about shoving your tongue down her throat. The proper kiss to end a first date can be on the cheek (your safest option), or a brief one on the lips. It shows interest without getting aggressive.

I know this can be nerve-racking. But again, this is part of your job if you like her. And her reaction will give you so much valuable information! It’s worth the risk of rejection to KNOW, for sure, what it feels like to kiss her and how into it she seems to be.

6. After the first two dates, let her know where she stands. This might be by asking her out again, if you like her, or by doing the “thanks, but no chemistry” thing (see Step #2). This is your job–not hers.

See how easy it is? These simple acts of clarity and generosity will save you time, and preserve your reputation as a datable fellow–after all, you know we ladies talk. By following these rules, women will see you as the man you are…and won’t mistake you for the boy you used to be.

Childfree Celebs

Here’s a terrific slideshow about celebs who’ve chosen not to have kids. They offer some interesting reasons: wanting to keep a marriage strong without the pressures of parenthood, loving their work and not wanting to put it on the back burner, enjoying getting eight hours of sleep at night.

Cameron Diaz puts it this way: “I have an unbelievable life. In some ways, I have the life that I have because I don’t have children.”

George Clooney: “Even one kid running around my villa makes me nervous.”

The theme of “I work too hard to be a good parent” emerges in many of the quotes. And Lara Flynn Boyle says she’s too selfish to be a good mom. That’s a brave statement, but it also makes me cringe. One of the stereotypes about childfree women is that we’re too selfish to offer up the love parenting requires. And I just don’t think that’s true.

The slideshow also reminded me of a long-ago interview where Gwyneth Paltrow talked about her mom, Blythe Danner. Danner is a talented and successful actor who gave up acting for many years to raise her kids. Paltrow said she had all kinds of respect for that choice. I do too–that takes devotion. But again, I have mixed feelings. If Danner had really wanted to, could she have done both acting and parenting? Only she can answer that.

As annoying as it is for us regular ladies to get quizzed about our choice to be childfree, I bet it’s even more annoying when reporters are asking you about it.

And the media is still touchy about the topic. A recent issue of MORE magazine profiled Marisa Tomei, who doesn’t have children. They made sure to include quotes along the lines of, “Well, in real life she’s not a mom, but she often gets cast as a mom because she’s such a warm and loving person.” There’s a hint of apologizing or justification there–she doesn’t have kids, but if she did, she would totally be great at it.

Maybe as the childfree discussion spreads and grows, more celebs will “come out” about their parenting and non-parenting choices.