I streamed an online video yesterday morning and the targeted ad that popped up before it played spoke in a soft, low, American-accented female voice. ‘Last year an Indian woman made headlines around the world after she gave birth aged 72,’ it said. ‘You may have heard how, with advances in egg freezing technologies, we’re no longer bound by nature’s patterns of time. Without the impending ring of the biological alarm clock women could gain ten years in deciding whether they want to have kids or not — time to further their education, find stable relationships and homes, build their finances. Not since the birth control pill have we been able to intervene so readily in family planning.* Studies of parents in Germany and the UK have shown that people who have kids after the age of 35 are the happiest.’ Then it paused for dramatic effect. ‘So, what next?’ It asked me.
The overall effect — as I sat alone in bed with a cup of tea and a half-eaten overripe banana — was quite menacing.
I have long since known that corporations are monitoring our every move: listening to our conversations through the mics in our smartphones, perusing the files we store in virtual clouds, watching us masturbate via our computers’ built-in cameras and possibly tracking our fertility with microscopic monitors they clandestinely insert in our cervixes during routine smear tests. Whatever, I’m not that bothered usually — not when they only want to sell me a handbag, £150 face cream or promote a digital subscription offer to The New York Times, complete with iPad. This is the price we pay for consumerism and twelve hours watching sponsored skin-care blogs. Yes, of course, being monitored by corporations 24/7 is pretty frightening when you think about it with any sense of the global political situation — the worldwide swing to the right indicates, to anyone with a grasp of history, that progressive, liberal ideologies and sporadic wanton sexual practices, documented as encrypted code, might one day be leveraged as an excuse to shoot us all up against a wall. But mostly I don’t think about that.
What I do think about, a lot, is having a baby. And it is most unsettling to me that the internet knows this, and is trying to offer me advice. Listen Zuckerberg or whoever the fuck is masterminding this surveillance project (and also my friend Michael who keeps telling me to ‘FYE’ (freeze your eggs), every time I lose my shit about the terribleness of men, and the ever-speeding passage of time): I am very confused about motherhood and don’t want to be pressured right now. Helpful advice about how I should deal with my rapidly declining fertility will only spin me off into unending panic.
I am already behaving very erratically. I am not going to freeze my eggs but I do keep having not-that-careful sex with men I don’t know very well, or like, as people, and then freaking out that they might have got me pregnant. I do have a nervous breakdown the week before my period is due and poke at my breasts wondering whether they are more or less tender than usual. I do keep having waves of nausea that might be fear, period or pregnancy related. I do daydream about the baby I might be carrying, and how his (or, preferably, her) little fat baby hands might grab idly at my long, beaded necklace while I’m breastfeeding. I do wonder whether a chemical or surgical abortion would be preferable if I do actually ever get pregnant by one of these losers. I do drink too much and cry at animal memes.
‘What if I never have a baby? Or sex again?’ I think, in the cold, witching hours of a Sunday night when PMS hormonal surges are prickling under my skin and raising my basal body temperature to a level where it is actually impossible to sleep.
And I don’t even like children that much. They can be all right company for an hour or so, I’ll admit. And some of them are quite endearing, with personalities that will definitely solidify, aged 20, into something I could work with on a regular basis. But it isn’t as if I think, in general, their inane yabbering, neediness and capacity to utterly derail your life from any routine that might be considered enjoyable is a good thing.
So what the fuck next?
I’ve decided that I am giving myself a year off from men and thoughts about babies. A dog is moving in with me next week and I’m going to focus on that lifestyle change and the many academic and creative projects I’ve had simmering on the back burner while baby and men/sex worries have boiled over on the front hobs. Her name is Edna and I am very excited.
*My friends, sex partners and long-term readers will know that I am very anti the birth control pill, and really, if I’m honest all hormonal contraceptives in general. So you would think, if they were listening properly, the targeted advertising algorithms would find a better way to sell me unnecessary medical interventions.