I’d like to take a moment to sincerely thank the Harpies, charming and vicious they are, for extending me the opportunity to blog on their site. Apparently I’m the first man to blog for Harpyness, and I don’t take that position lightly. Thanks, Harpyness readers, for allowing me into your midst. So let me start from the beginning.
I am a man in my early 30’s currently going through a divorce. Thankfully it is not painful in the traditional sense. My ex and I are on good terms, speak regularly, and hope to maintain a true friendship when all is said and done. The pain has stemmed from the loss of my partner and best friend of nearly ten years, while figuring out how to regroup and continue on with my life. Recently I’ve dived back into the dating pool with mixed success (and some groan-inducing moments). Dating is stressful enough as it is, more so when you last seriously dated during the first Bush administration.
During the course of our separation, I confided in friends and family members about the emotions I was experiencing. I spent countless hours reading about divorce from those who had experienced it and emerged to find a brighter day. I ached for stories of people, like me, who had been divorced at a relatively young age, only to eventually meet their soulmates. I went through a phase where I hooked up with nearly as many women in three months than I had in my first thirty years. Partly because my ex and I stopped being intimate long ago, partly out of of loneliness, partly because I missed feeling a warm body next to mine at night. I am neither proud nor ashamed of this. However there was one issue which confused, frustrated, and surprised me.
One of the largest issues that led to our breakup was that of family. Bottom line, I was ready and eager to start one. My ex was not. This is not a fault of hers. Not everybody wants to have children, as is the right and choice of the individual. Yet we had discussed, as our relationship grew more serious and led to marriage, our mutual desire to eventually start a family together. As time passed, ‘eventually’ felt like it was moving farther and father away. Finally she admitted that she was not ready to start a family, and could not say for certain that she would ever be. Needless to say there were other issues that came between us, and I had shortcomings as a husband that I deeply regret. But hearing that we would likely not have a family together, to me, was the equivalent of dropping a relationship atomic bomb.
Having a family and being a father is a lifelong dream for me. I ache for the day where I can play catch with my son, or push my daughter on a swing. I long to watch my children grow older, to experience life with them, to help them learn from my mistakes. I want birthday parties and playdates. Prom and college. Yet when I told others about my sadness of fatherhood being put on hold indefinitely, their reaction was, unanimously, “Oh, don’t worry. You have plenty of time.”
I understand the rationale for this sentiment, from a technical standpoint. Men biologically are able to conceive for quite some time. It is far more common for men to become fathers in their forties and fifties than it is for women to become pregnant at a similar age. However, these responses felt stunningly hollow. Insulting in many ways. Just because I’m ‘able’ to have children for a long time does not replace the pain that came with realizing my dreams been put on hold, and that they would not be realized with the person with whom always thought they would.
We are bombarded by articles, tv shows and advertisements geared towards women who either want to start a family, or have one already. The only ads that seem to really target the younger male demographic are those insultingly misogynistic beer commercials where illiterate cavemen choose alcohol over women. My life goals have been dented. Not destroyed, hopefully, but certainly damaged in a way that will take time to heal. I found it surprising that my close friends and family felt they could comfort me by essentially letting me know that I could produce sperm for the foreseeable future. I do believe those reactions are a reflection on how society has pigeonholed what they see as the individual desires of men and women, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers. I do not believe my desires are uncommon. But it saddened me that people reacted as though my concerns were merely that of biology.
Not all of our dreams are tied to how our bodies function. Many of mine were emotional, spiritual, and one of the biggest ones was dealt a severe blow that I am still recovering from. That those closest to me did not or could not understand that the biggest pain was in my heart, not my groin, is one of the saddest byproducts of this situation. Life moves on. I will hopefully find the person with whom I’m meant to experience that joy. But for now, the heart wants what the heart wants. And my heart, to its chagrin, has been told to wait.