This morning my orthodontist informed me that my lower teeth were now in just the right position, and I would no longer need to wear the orthodontic elastics. (Those are the little rubber bands that connect the upper braces to the lower braces. For those of you who do not have orthodontic experience.) This is good news, but I’ve had the elastics off for…about six hours now, and I have to say, it still feels wrong. Also, I had fluorescent elastics and it was kind of fun to decide which color I was going to wear every day. I will have to get used to my teeth being slightly lower-profile. I suppose it is good practice for when the braces finally come off, which I’m sure will feel much wronger.

The orthodontist also said that it will be four to six months before my upper teeth are in the right position for me to go ahead with my jaw surgery. I have to say, I am looking forward to having the jaw thing corrected. I’m not looking forward to being on a liquid diet for six weeks (yes, I know, not a liquid diet the whole six weeks, but a liquid diet for so long and then an ultra-soft diet, blah blah–“significant texture deprivation” is the operative phrase I’m looking for), but I am looking forward to having my jaw in the right place. I’ve always known my jaw was messed up, I’ve been living with it for years, and I had gotten used to it. But now, not only have I had all my jaw-related problems laid out for me by professionals, but my teeth coming into their proper positions is making those problems all the more noticeable. Particularly the problem of my lower teeth rubbing against the soft tissue behind my upper teeth. That is annoying. Also, I am constantly aware of my overbite. It doesn’t look any worse, but it feels worse. Partly because of the lower teeth-soft tissue problem, but also because without my teeth being tipped out, I’m very aware of the gap and I find myself wanting to correct it by moving my jaw forward, and that makes my jaw sore.

The airway problem (the fact that as a result of my lower jaw being too far back, I don’t have much of one–an airway, that is) is not really any more noticeable than it was before, but that was my primary motive for getting the surgery in the first place, and I’m looking forward to seeing how a larger airway will improve my life. I’m hoping that it does improve my life. I’m hoping that it means I will sleep better and have more energy during the day. Having more energy during the day would improve my self-esteem because I’d get more done. And I could look back and think, “The fact that I got anything done at all during those years of restricted airway-having is nothing short of a miracle!” and my self-esteem would be retroactively improved as well.

I hope I am not setting myself up for disappointment. I’ll be really happy when I’m no longer aware of my overbite. (Happy about that small fact, anyway. I’m sure I’ll find reasons to be unhappy about other things. I don’t want you all to worry about me turning into some kind of Stepford Madhousewife.)

Anyway.

I was on the Facebook this morning and Slate informed me they’d published this “lovely essay about not having children and being proud and happy about that fact.” Usually–in my observation–when people are “proud” of not having children, it’s because they’re environmentalists who believe that not producing more humans to destroy the earth is a more responsible decision than churning out planet-killers. That’s a really obnoxious reason to be proud, but Slate told me this essay was “lovely,” so I thought I’d see what this person’s deal was.

Personally, I always assume that if a person doesn’t have children, it’s because they can’t have children (for whatever reason) or they don’t want to have children (yet or ever). I don’t really care because whether or not they have kids is no skin off my nose. I understand that other people feel more invested in other people’s reproductive lives. I have several friends who are childless/child-free. One of them feels hassled by her parents because they think she just doesn’t want a family enough to do what it takes. Which in her case, I guess, would be in vitro fertilization and single parenthood, but I don’t think that’s quite what they have in mind. Also, I used to be single and childless. I know, I was still young at the time–I got married at 26 and had a baby before I was 27–but I was also Mormon, so that makes a difference. In Mormon culture 26 is like, say, 34 in the normal world. Technically there is still time to avoid dying alone, but you shouldn’t bet on it. I jest only a tiny bit. So I sympathize with childless/child-free (whichever term one prefers) people who feel “judged.” The fact is that you are being judged. Some people are judging you openly, others in secret. Hence, the need to write some manifesto explaining yourself.

The problem is that people who care about the fact you don’t have children–the people who are judging you openly and irritating the crap out of you–aren’t going to moved by any of your reasons for not having children, no matter how good you think they are, because the kind of people who would tell you your business are the kind of people who think they know better than you. So you think they would listen to you because…? They just never thought of why you might not want to have children? Unlikely.

When someone says they don’t want to have children, I assume one or more of the following to be the case:

1. They aren’t prepared to make the financial or emotional sacrifice children require.
2. They don’t enjoy children.
3. They prefer a more flexible lifestyle than is possible with children.
4. They are afraid they won’t be good parents.
5. They just haven’t felt the burning desire to have children.

I used to not want children. My reasons were numbers one through five, but the most important one was 5. If you have a burning desire to have children, reasons 1-4 for not having children are relatively small hurdles. Yes, even the one about not enjoying children. I didn’t particularly enjoy children before I had mine. When you are struck by the burning desire to have children, you always assume that your children are going to be better than other people’s. (Usually you’re right. Ha ha. Well, it’s true, isn’t it?) I liked other people’s children much more after I had my own, and I like them even better now that mine are getting older and the developmental stages that used to annoy me I can now view with detached bemusement. (Especially since I don’t have to take them home with me.)

I didn’t think the aforementioned essay in Slate was all that “lovely.” It wasn’t un-lovely or anything, but I just didn’t find anything particularly compelling about her story. So she doesn’t want kids, never has. Okay. I’m glad she’s at peace with it. She doesn’t exactly dispel any stereotypes, though. She says she can sometimes see the charm of children, but also that children can be annoying. (Newsflash!) She says it’s taken her 32 years to learn how to take care of herself, so she isn’t convinced yet that she can give her life over to taking care of someone else. Frankly, it was easier not to judge her before she explained herself. (32 years to learn how to take care of yourself? Isn’t this what’s wrong with our country?)

Maybe it’s just sad that people feel the need to justify such a personal decision. In my experience, I’ve felt the need to justify decisions I was insecure about, but maybe I’m just projecting here. Maybe it’s been too long since somebody hassled me about a personal decision. Maybe I just don’t pay enough attention to people anymore. Probably because I was tired of feeling hassled by The Man.

Maybe this whole blog is a justification for all of my bad decisions and I’m just not self-aware enough to know it.

Except I AM self-aware now. Does this mean I’m still insecure? Well, I already knew that.

Well, now I understand everything. This woman didn’t write to explain herself to people who care too much. She’s just commiserating with other people who feel hassled about not having kids. Which means this lovely essay wasn’t written for me at all. Which, if I’d thought about it, I could have guessed. I guess I’m just a sucker for the word “lovely.” Well played, Salon. Well played.

Now I have to get spinach out of my braces. Not that I feel the need to explain why I’m ending the post here. I just want you to feel sorry for me.

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