After Jennifer Aniston’s excellent anti-tabloid screed dropped on Tuesday afternoon, it received hundreds of thousands of likes and inspired what seems like a similar number of thinkpieces.
In her essay, Aniston went on the record as not being pregnant, and continued on to denounce celebrity journalism’s ritualistic body shaming and bump-watch obsession. She also made at least one statement—“We are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child”—that I believe should be emblazoned on a tasteful line of notebooks and coffee mugs, stat.
BUT, she also dangled the ultimate carrot: “Yes, I may become a mother some day.”
Obviously, I know as much about Aniston’s non-Aveeno-related desires as the next Us Weekly reader. In other words, sweet f-ck all. She could be doing everything in her power to get pregnant this very minute. (Here’s hoping it involves lots of hot sex with her hottie husband.) But as someone who is happily and very openly childless by choice, I would have absolutely loved if Aniston had just busted out and said “For the record, I am not pregnant… I actually don’t want to have kids. And that’s cool.”
We have long known the power of sharing our stories and finding community with other women in similar situations. Sure, choosing not to have kids is—rightfully!!—extremely low on the triage scale in terms of issues that need to be discussed. But at the same time, who can deny the comfort that comes from finding a community of simpatico peeps in similar boats to yours, whether that boat is parenting (see: all the mommy blogs) or adult thumb-sucking (eloquently written about in this week’s Lenny Letter).
Sure, the issue of being childless by choice trends every couple of years. Anne Kingston wrote about it in Maclean’s back in 2009, and I remember feeling a click-click-click of recognition when Lainey Gossip’s Elaine Lui recalled the moment she and her husband looked at each other and said, “We don’t want them.” In 2013, Time ran a cover story entitled, “The Childfree Life: When Having It All Means Not Having Kids,” much to the ire of conservative
dickwad pundit Rush Limbaugh. And last year, the American genius Meghan Daum (seriously, read her if you haven’t) edited a book of essays on the subject, called Selfish: Shallow and Self-Absorbed: Sixteen Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids.
Daum’s title is tongue-in-cheek, but the concept of not having kids is usually always couched in this type of antagonistic language (and similarly antagonistic imagery). The aforementioned Maclean’s article is defensive right out of the gate (its headline: “The case against having kids: They can hurt your career, your marriage, your social life, your bank book. Why bother?”), while the Time cover featured a photograph of a rather smug-looking couple luxuriating on a white-sand beach (a.k.a. the precise stereotype many people with kids hold about those who don’t.) For every Elaine Lui who straightforwardly outlines her decision not to have kids, there’s, well, Rush Limbaugh—as well as a clutch of pearl-clutching parents who don’t hesitate to call out articles such as these as “promoting yet another fad [in] the ultimate age of selfishness.” And don’t even get me started on the complete dearth of happily kid-free couples in pop culture: in low moments I sometimes wonder if my friends consider my husband and I to be the modern-day equivalents of Clark Griswold’s narcissistic monster neighbours in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
For all the good that a book like Daum’s does in exploring the many reasons—the good, the bad, the agonizing—why some women (and men) might choose not to have kids, its audience is limited. Daum will never appear on the cover of People, or Us Weekly, or Vanity Fair, espousing her stance. Yet, as she said last year in an interview with the Globe and Mail, “We need to start being honest about the nature of our choice.”
Which brings us back to Jennifer Aniston. As mentioned, for all I know, she could be actively trying to have a kid right now in the myriad ways available to modern-day, one-percent women. And she owes us absolutely nothing in terms of explaining the reasons why her uterus has thus far, to our knowledge, remained unoccupied. But if she really, genuinely, doesn’t want to have kids, and really, genuinely, wants to stick it to the bump-watch industrial complex, what better way to do so than to just say it?