Culture

Candace Bushnell’s Childless Misery

Candace Bushnell (Mike Segar/Reuters)
The sex columnist pines over never having had kids — illustrating a bit of conservative wisdom in the process.

Say what you will about Candace Bushnell, but she has never been one to mince words.

The sex columnist, whose body of work amounts to a narrative companion to the sexual escapades of upwardly mobile urbanites, recently expressed her regrets over never having had children.

“When I got divorced and I was in my 50s, I started to see the impact of not having children and of truly being alone. I do see that people with children have an anchor in a way that people who have no kids don’t,” Bushnell told the Sunday Times Magazine. You have to pity her, partly because she’s right about the “anchor” that children provide, and partly because there is no consolation one can offer beyond some derivative of “I told you so.” But we did tell her so. We told her that men and women are different — neither better than the other, but different nonetheless. We told her that children are a blessing, not a burden. She didn’t care.

Candace Bushnell will never be able to have children of her own. What has she done with her life instead? She had a career, and a good one at that. She had fame. She probably enjoyed all of the perks of childless life that Chelsea Handler promised her (you can stay in bed until one in the afternoon!). But she’s not 25 anymore. As she grows older, the promises of corporate feminism feel less like veritable calls to revolution and more like lies told by miserable people in perpetuation of their own misery.

It’s easy to be reductive and say that all feminists are anti-family. I’m not sure that’s fair. But there’s no question that some of feminism’s most iconic thinkers were virulently opposed to homemaking, marriage, and the nuclear family itself. Take Betty Friedan, who in her now-canonical tome The Feminine Mystique insisted that “women who ‘adjust’ as housewives, who grow up wanting to be ‘just a housewife,’ are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps . . . . they are suffering a slow death of mind and spirit.”

Feminist author and practicing witch Robin Morgan said much the same, declaring that feminists “can’t destroy the inequities between men and women until we destroy marriage.” And Linda Gordon, in an (often misquoted) article in the journal Women, cautions against destroying the family outright but longs for the day that “families will be finally destroyed” as “a revolutionary social and economic organization permits people’s needs for love and security to be met in ways that do not impose divisions of labor, or any external roles, at all.”

These are but three frequently cited examples in an intellectual tradition replete with anti-familial and anti-maternity sentiments. But it isn’t merely archival feminist literature that denigrates children and motherhood. It is the dominant cultural narrative: Go to college, work in HR, sleep around, don’t get married, participate in the Women’s March, and enjoy your childless twilight years as Chelsea Handler prescribes: “binge-watch[ing] ten hours of Storage Wars.”

But as Candace Bushnell has apparently discovered, life can be lonely when you’ve made a god of yourself.

“We’re all single women without children,” Bushnell said of her group of friends, “And you think about, what are you going to do when you get old? If you don’t have kids, you realize, ‘Who is going to take care of me?’”

The government, says Bernie Sanders. Civil society, says a think-tank employee. NARAL, says Kirsten Gillibrand. “My girlfriends,” says Candace Bushnell.

I hope, for her sake, that will suffice.