Comedian Jen Kirkman Is So Determined Not to Have Children That She Wrote a Book About It
Robyn Von SwankJen Kirkman
Ever laughed at the song "Pregnant Women Are Smug" by Garfunkel and Oates? ("This Zen world you're enjoying/Makes you really annoying.") If so, you'll really like fellow comedian Jen Kirkman's new book, I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales From a Happy Life Without Kids (out April 16), in which she makes clear that she doesn't want to be a mom. "The urge that most people feel to have kids is the exact same as the urge that I have to not have kids," she writes. "I do not want to raise a child."
Kirkman, 38, has worked her entire adult life to get that point across, and her book is filled with funny, sometimes deeply painful stories that delve into why she is child-free by choice and also the way our culture judges women who've made that determination.
Growing up, the regular on Chelsea Lately and parody spinoff After Lately showed all the signs of a future in stand-up: depression, anxiety, Prozac use.
Kirkman later would make the connection between trying her hand at improv and her lack of maternal feeling. "Improv requires one thing I lack that I think most mothers need — the basic instinct to put someone else first," she writes.
But Kirkman first got that "non-feeling" back in college after a breakup with an ex-boyfriend who wanted to get married and have children. "That's when I first realized," she says during a phone conversation. "A lot of relationships have ended for me in my 20s because I knew that eventually those people would wanna settle down and have kids."
Explaining her stance to the rest of the world hasn't been easy. Kirkman has heard it all — you're selfish; you'll change your mind; who'll take care of you when you're older? She's heard it from family, friends, even cabbies and manicurists. "I didn't realize it was Buy One Manicure, Get a Fucked-Up Fortune of Doom Day," she says in the book of a trip to the salon.
In her book, Kirkman makes some wry social observations, mulling our obsession with celeb baby bumps and rappers like Jay-Z, who decide to clean up their lyrics after becoming dads. "Were there no bitches in his life he held near and dear? It took making a baby for him to have basic empathy and social conscience?" she writes.
Kirkman maintains she's never wavered from her decision to keep her womb vacant. She insists she's content with her life; her musings are as much about not fitting into society as not having a baby. But please: No more "bullying from breeders."
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