GEORGE CLOONEY has discovered his altar ego, Amal Alamuddin, has become the world’s most talked about woman. She’s even eclipsed Kate Middleton in the style stakes. However, once the honeymoon is over, how long can it be before the media’s myopic eye turns tummy-ward? The predictable speculation about a “baby bump” gives a whole new meaning to “navel gazing”.
All women over 30, no matter how successful, are invariably reduced to little more than a life support system to a womb. Jennifer Aniston only has to eat one too many cupcakes for the headlines to screech around the world that she’s “expecting”. And then, when her publicists invariably deny the myth, oh the sad sighs at poor Jen’s barren state.
Despite making up 50 per cent of the workforce, women are still perceived to have failed in some way if they don’t produce offspring. Yes, it’s so hard not to pity all those childless women floating on their yachts on Sundays, anaesthetising their sadness with Dom Perignon and pate. My heart bleeds!
When I hit 30 all my aged relatives began pestering me about when I was going to produce progeny. It seemed so ageist. Just because they were in their 80s didn’t mean I kept going up and asking them when they were expecting to get their first incontinence pads, now did I?
But then I awoke one morning to a very peculiar ticking sound. Yep. The snooze alarm had gone off on my biological clock. Taken hostage by my hormones, I suddenly found myself with an uncontrollable craving for kids. I spent hours envisaging my future kinder frolicking at my perfectly pedicured feet. It was time to find a sperm happy to get egg all over its face.
But what if the snooze alarm doesn’t go off on your biological clock? Some women just don’t feel the urge to dilate their cervixes the customary 3km for the pleasure of spending the rest of their lives in bathrooms applauding bowel movements. A close girlfriend of mine would make Medea look like good mother material. She only knows how to look after dogs. If she ever did procreate, the kid would be cocking its leg on trees within days. She just doesn’t like ankle-biters. Which is understandable. I mean, how can you not dislike someone who can eat sweets all day without putting on any weight?
Besides, she already has five godchildren. And is expecting a sixth.
But when she announced at a dinner party recently that she prefers a career to a crèche, a board room to a baby’s bottom, she was chastised for being “selfish” and “unfeminine”. And yet the men at the table who said they didn’t want a family were not criticised as unmanly or egocentric.
And, as any exhausted mother can tell you, there is an upside to childlessness. Just think of all the walkathons she won’t have to sponsor… The games of Monopoly she won’t have to play… The Mayfairs and Park Lanes she won’t be beaten to… Nor will she ever be seated down table at dinner parties, in case she has “baby brain”.
And that’s the irony about motherhood. Women are perceived to have failed in some way if we don’t produce progeny and yet, once we do get pregnant, suddenly society hands you an eviction notice. When waddling along in your maternity jeans it’s like being swathed in the Invisible Man’s bandages. As soon as you’re pregnant, people instantly deduct 20 points from your IQ. (In my case these are 20 points I could not afford to lose!) Maternity shops insist on dressing you like a little girl in pinks and pastels, frills and florals, and pussy bows. No wonder your husband no longer fancies you. Oh sure, he keeps saying that you’ve never looked so fabulous – but every time you feel like a Close Encounter of the Carnal Kind – he suddenly feels an urgent need to bleed the radiator or de-clog gutters – jobs he’s been putting off for, oh, a century.
It’s astounding that the Missing Persons Bureau isn’t inundated by mums searching for the people they were B.C. – Before Childbirth.
So, let’s avert our collective gaze from Amal’s abdomen. It’s time we took the pressure off procreation and left it up to each individual woman to decide whether she likes her eggs boiled, scrambled or fertilised.