Black Swan last night, by far the most over-rated movie of the season. You know you are really in trouble as a movie viewer when the character you like the most is the predator ballet master who just swaps in one prima for another, asserting that ballet skills are all well and good, but what really makes you a star is getting in touch with your inner f**k-bunny. "Go home and touch yourself," he advises the Natalie Portman character, after a particularly uninspiring rehearsal. Ho-kay!
Trying to come down off the dreadful high of that movie, I turned to the New York Times Magazine and found myself literally dumbstruck for the next half hour at the story of how Melanie Thernstrom solved the heartbreak of childlessness after five rounds of infertility treatments. She and her husband bought some ova, had them fertilized with his sperm, hired two other women to carry the embryos to term, and now they have (wait for it) "twiblings." There are many things to shriek about in this piece. Here's a taste:
After our son, Kieran, was born, the hospital set up something called a supplemental nursing system by taping a tube to my breast so that the baby could suck to get the first milk — the caramel-thick colostrum — that Melissa expressed.
When the nurse put Kieran on my breast to feed, I was in a daze of ecstasy and so focused on the astonishing strength of his newborn fingers curled around mine, I hardly noticed. But by the time he was hungry again, I was coming out of the trance and wondered about whether this feeding system made sense.
The nurse urged me to stick with it. “We don’t want you to feel like you can’t nurse,” she said. I suddenly felt cross. Did she really think I couldn’t handle the reality that my body was not producing milk after it didn’t give birth to my baby? I knew she was trying to be supportive, but her concern made me feel diminished, as if she thought the truth of my infertility were unbearable (yet so easily disguised with plastic tubing). I looked down at my breasts, and they looked awfully small, whereas Melissa’s were enormous, dripping with fecundity, like a relic of a fertility goddess. I ditched the tube.
Please, read the whole story yourself. It's just insane.
The answer to childlessness is, of course, that if you have enough money in America you can do anything you want, but if you are poor you can't. Like get an abortion. But now everyone who gets an abortion is not just responsible for moral decline, but also for the fact that people like Thernstrom have to go out and make complicated arrangements to buy babies rather than just go to the BabyMart. Ross Douthat (don't you just want to say Douche Hat?) follows up today on the editorial page with a plaintive appeal on behalf of the unborn and grave concerns that TV and media representations about unwanted pregnancy, in which the situation is almost uniformly resolved by the baby being carried to term, is covering up the reality that abortion is all too common in America. Only four out of five pregnancies are carried to term, he laments, and no one knows it because of feel-good stories like Juno (in which a teenager gives birth, gives the baby away to a couple of her choice, and then returns to her life as if it never happened) and Madmen (in which the ever-luscious Joanie is pregnant by a man other than her husband and plans to pass it off next season as her old man's baby.)
So what is deceitfully good about these media fictions, you understand, is not just that the embryos will get to grow up into real fetuses and live, a ridiculously uncommon scenario in a country where we wade through fetuses just to get to the bus stop. It is that one woman will suppress the fact that she ever had a baby, and need massive amounts of therapy later; and a second woman is planning to live the rest of her life lying to her child and it's two fathers.
Douthat then goes on to lament the effects of the Pill, which cause women to "forget" to have babies until too late, and argue that it is just too bad that Thernstrom had to go through all those in vitro treatments, and then resort to renting other women's bodies to have babies for her, because if those selfish women who she does not know would just stop having abortions, she could have had their babies instead.
This idiocy reminds me of those economists and policymakers who think that if 500 men become unemployed in a Kansas City meat packing plant and a box factory opens outside Savannah that has 500 jobs, you should be able to just swap the unemployed workers into the new jobs. Therefore, unemployment benefits are a bad idea because it will de-incentivize those fellas in Kansas City to take the box factory jobs.
Click here for the economists who won the Nobel prize for arguing persuasively that this is a stupid idea, as opposed to the rest of us who instinctively thought it was a stupid idea but couldn't say why.