I suppose it’s possible that most MRAs on the internet are all just extremely skilled and subtle satirists attempting to offer a display of exactly what it looks like when an overly testosteroned bully crawls so far up his own ass that he can no longer breathe through all the shit. Somehow, though, I doubt that’s the case. I doubt that’s the case, specifically, because every time I run into an MRA he’s so very serious and mean-spirited that I can’t believe he has enough human empathy to actually engage in satire. So either every MRA is dead serious, every MRA is a pitch perfect satirist, or all MRAs are one or the other. I’m forced to assume that it’s the first option, mostly because satirizing that sort of bullshit would be exhausting.
I bring this up because of Fred Clark over at Slacktivist. See, a couple of years ago he got married to a woman who already had kids from a previous marriage. From time to time he writes about his adopted daughters and gives off the impression that 1.) he’s adjusted to fatherhood quite well, thankyouverymuch and that 2.) he’s rather proud of his adopted daughters and pretty much treats them as if they were his own. He is, in short, a mensch in this just as much as he is in pretty much everything else he does.
I think that Fred’s example here is important. A couple of months ago I tossed in a bit about my realization that at 31 I was seriously limiting my dating options with my blanket ban on single mothers. This is a phenomenon that we as a society will have to deal with more and more, as there are a lot of people out there who have kids and are also not in committed, long-term relationships with their co-parent.
This isn’t a problem from a moral standpoint. This is, however, a problem from a logistical and emotional standpoint. Getting into a relationship is, by itself, fraught with complications. Getting into a relationship with someone who has kids through another person is far, far more complicated.
I actually tossed a question about the whole thing into a post a couple months ago. It was a thought experiment because I’ve run up against the problem a couple of times and I’d thought about it but hadn’t actually put myself into a position to deal with it. So I solicited advice. I got a comment from Mike Timonin that was definite food for thought:
The thing you need to keep in mind in regard to kids in a family is that families are exponential, not additive. So, if you meet someone and form a relationship (any relationship, but let's assume romantic for the moment), that 2 - your relationship with hir and hir relationship with you. Add a kid (or any other person - poly relationships are complicated in the same way) and you're not just adding one new relationship, but 3 - the kid's relationship with their parent, the kid's relationship with you, and the kid's relationship with your relationship with hir parent. So, it's complicated. You need to consider how you feel about the mom, and about the kid, and about how your relationship with the mom will affect the parent-child relationship and so on.
It was really thoughtful and I meant to respond to it at the time, but, um, I didn’t. Mostly because I’m easily distracted by – hey! Look! A squirrel!
I actually think that Mike understated the problem. If you get into a relationship with someone who has a kid you have to manage your relationship with that person. You have to manage your relationship with that kid. You have to be aware of how they relate to each other. You also have to be aware of the fact that you now have a relationship with the biological parent with whom you are not in a relationship. You also now have two sets of biological grandparents and you have to deal with the fact that you’ve now made your own family into a collection of in-laws and grandparents, aunts, and/or uncles. It’s all crazy go nuts, basically.
You also don’t get an easy mode. I’ve spent most of the last decade in easy mode and, I’ve got to tell you, it’s been pretty easy. If I want to sit around and drink beer and watch TV and not give a shit about anything I can. If I want to go on a couple dates with someone somewhere I can. Since I’ve mostly been dealing with women who are also childless I’ve been able to make and break last-minute plans without too much difficulty.
Bring someone with a kid into that and it’s totally different. At least, I’d assume it’s different. I mean, I have a dog. I can’t go anywhere without putting some amount of thought into the question of, “What will I do with Daisy?” If I’m going to the store I just let her run around and play with her toys. If I’m going to be gone for a few hours I have to crate her. If I’m going to be gone longer I have to make arrangements to take her somewhere. You can’t leave a child alone for any length of time (or, at least, you can’t do it without risking a visit from your friendly neighborhood DCFS case worker). So something as simple as a coffee date ends up being a major investment (at least, I assume).
If I were to date someone with a kid I’d have to be aware of that and sensitive to it. If it were to get more serious than a couple dates and then an, “I don’t think we’re really compatible,” I’d then have to be willing and able to incorporate this woman and also her offspring and also all of the baggage that comes with this woman and her offspring into my life. That might be a major sacrifice on my part, too. Am I dealing with someone who has an actively involved father who pays alimony or am I suddenly taking on the burden of paying for all the kid’s needs when I’m accustomed to blowing my extra money on craft beer and chicken schwarma at Naf Naf? Am I going to have to start putting my pita money towards a college fund?
Am I, in short, prepared to be both a boyfriend/husband and father when last week I wasn’t sure if I was even ready to be a boyfriend?
I bring all of this stuff up because I saw one of the most absolutely dickish things ever at Fred’s place last week. He’s been doing this ongoing series called “Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day” in which he copies passages of the Bible about families that look nothing like the Cleavers from Leave it to Beaver. The whole thing is a satire on the concept of “Biblical families” pushed by Evangelical Christians as an attempt to fight against things they don’t like by saying, “Won’t somebody please think of the children?”
Last Friday’s Chick-fil-A Biblical Family of the Day brought a commenter called Eric the Red. His first comment went thusly:
Are we really supposed to take family advice from an unemployed mangina raising a fitter man's seed? I bet you even think your wife's not cheating on you.
Everything about that comment set off every single one of the various, “Oh, holy hell, what kind of an asshole are you?” alarms in my head. Several commenters called him out for it, but a couple asked if he was responding to Fred’s post or Fred himself. At that point Eric the Red proved that, yes, he’s a complete and total shitheel:
Of course I was talking about Fred. Truly did Heartiste speak correctly of his kind (and the other snivelling manboobs here) when he said:
Your typical outrage feminist and limp-wristed manboob flirts dangerously close to the monster threshold. Humans recoil from manjawed, mustachioed, beady-eyed, actively aggressive women and chipmunk-cheeked, bitch tittied, curvaceously plush, passive-aggressive men as if they were the human equivalent of dog shit. The farther your feminist or manboob deviates from the normal human template, in physical and psychological form, the more monstrous it becomes to the average person.
Now imagine you stomp through life as one of these howling feminists or putrid nancyboys, like Grendel disturbed by the sights and sounds of normalcy all around him. You sense, in your darkest secret thoughts, that most people are repulsed by you, want to have nothing to do with you, would be embarrassed to be seen with you. How do you think that would affect your mental state? First, you would seek out others like you. Monstrosity loves company. Then, you would lash out at anything normal, elevating the wicked and deviant while eroding confidence in the good and beautiful, twisting cherished moral standards that work adequately to sustain a normal population into bizarre, exaggerated facsimiles manufactured solely to do the bidding of your freak cohort.
So…first of all…all of the italicized word salad is something Eric the Red was quoting from somewhere else. I’m not going to include the link, since, well, fuck that misogynistic asshole, that’s why. But, seriously, this guy is a total and unrepentant shitheel. And the guy he quoted with much admiration has all of the writing ability of a brain-damaged orangutan who has been handed a smartphone with a particularly glitchy autocorrect.
That said, there’s a certain horrible beauty to the awkwardly strung together words above. It’s almost a form of beat poetry, really. I imagine John Lithgow would do amazing work with “Then, you would lash out at anything normal, elevating the wicked and deviant while eroding confidence in the good and beautiful, twisting cherished moral standards that work adequately to sustain a normal population into bizarre, exaggerated facsimiles manufactured solely to do the bidding of your freak cohort.” It’s not exactly a Newt Gingrich press release, but it’s still potentially pretty in its self-important incoherence.
I think it’s important to talk about things like this. Divorce is a reality in our world. Extra-marital sex resulting in pregnancy is a reality in our world. Single parents are a reality in our world.
Those single parents, whether they had sex outside of marriage, got divorced, or had to bury their biological co-parent, meanwhile, shouldn’t be expected to suddenly stop looking to love and be loved. To expect that is folly. To mock someone who then decides to love a single parent and invite that person and that person’s kid(s) and all of the complications of biological parents and grandparents and all of that into their life a lesser being is the height of unabashed assholery. It’s also an admission on the part of the mocker that they don’t have anything close to the level of character of the person they’re mocking.
Of course using the word “mangina” in all seriousness is also the height of unabashed assholery. But that’s a story for another day.
It’s one of those things that goes back to my discussions of bullying and my theory that people end up choosing between empathy and resentment and that choice guides how they react to others. The example offered by Eric the Red above is obviously one of someone who has chosen resentment. It’s weird, too, since he obviously reads Fred’s stuff enough to know that Fred is currently unemployed and the husband of a woman who has children from a previous relationship. That means that he’s been sitting there, seething in his resentment about Fred for a while. That’s pretty sad, really.
There’s another level where it fascinates me. When I ask whether I could date a woman who already has a kid the question basically boils down to this: am I a good enough person to deal with this? Could I drop my basic self-absorption and accept a whole constellation of complications into my life without switching from empathy and love to resentment and hatred?
It seems to me that mocking someone who has made that choice and calling him a lesser being for doing so is a pretty good way to advertise that you’re a pretty massive jackhole.