"It was after our fifth child that I turned to her and said, 'Baby, is it just me? Or are we getting serious...?' "
I don't know how you feel about marriage nowadays. Hell, I don't know how I feel about marriage nowadays. I do know that stories like this, which emanate from Hollywood on a daily basis, increasingly make marriage seem like a superfluous vestige of a bygone era: The dude and his "girlfriend," who "began dating" last year, are "expecting their first child." No problem. No mention of any plans to wed or some other reasonably permanent arrangement between them. They're just expecting a child. Not only are such developments not scandals, but they're Authentic Gala Events, especially if the parents are A-list celebs. And then there's the occasional story like this one, which...well, one is at a loss for words.
There's even a web site dedicated to celebrating this latter-day phenomenon...though some of the "tributes" sound very tongue-in-cheek indeed. (It's really hard to tell: Barack's mom in the same sidebar with Britney Spears?) And I don't know why the site focuses so determinedly on moms, anyway, since it obviously takes two.
I'm no puritan or prude—trust me on that one—but when I'm confronted with this kind of news I feel very, very old. How well I recall my wife's stories about her one-time best friend and eventual maid of honor, who had to quit school and basically disappear from public view for a time because she got pregnant in her senior year of high school. (Today she'd probably upload her sonogram, maybe even her latest pelvic exam, to YouTube.) Then I think of movies like Splendor in the Grass, which I've blogged about...and I don't quite know how to capture the sense of dislocation that sweeps over me.
I guess my real concern here is the impact that these stories have on the rest of us regular people—like the teenagers down the street. This stuff might fly in Hollywood, where there's plenty of money to go around and (leaving aside questions of whether kids belong with their mothers/fathers) everybody can bring in nannies and other help as necessary to make it work. It's highly unlikely that anyone will end up on welfare or in a shelter. I'm just not sure it's a program for successful living for some guy who strings cable for Verizon and his girlfriend-of-the-week who works part-time at Target. I worry that we've legitimized behavior that we really don't want to legitimize on a culture-wide basis.
In the inner cities especially, stories like the one I cite here would seem to undercut, in one cheery birth announcement, everything about the message of responsibility that people like Bill Cosby, Barack Obama and other voices in the wilderness are working so hard to sell.
NOTE: Once again, if you think you already read this somewhere the other day, you're right. You read it here. But it was combined with another item, and the whole thing just struck me after a while as too much reading.