The Wendy Effect

This page written at the end of January 2012.

Merinda said recently "Oh my god, I do not want to have chldren". Neither did I, up till quite recently. I always liked Gore Vidal's advice: Never have children, only grandchildren. What went wrong?

Looking back, I have done all sorts of things I thought I would never do. I was amazed when my friend Peter left Oz in the early 1980s to work in Silicon Valley. I could not imagine leaving my life in Sydney behind. As the years went by SUEE decayed around me, Amelia came into existence and then left for Brisbane, I watched smart students I taught leave for better jobs overseas, I found myself with friends scattered all over the globe, and Australia became ever more apallingly managed and regulatory, and of course the internet upgraded the letter-writing experience. In the end I left too. Mostly, if one looks carefully enough, there is a pattern in my actions. My favourite movies, Clockwork Orange, Bladerunner, Good Year, and Watchmen, on the face of it quite different, are underneath about the important moral issues so often misconstrued, goodness, freedom, and responsibility. Nevertheless, it is difficult to find anything to which I can point that substantiates my change in willingness to breed.

At the time I decided I was willing to have kids (and Kay came on the scene), I already had my daughter Amelia, but that had not proven to offer many of the anticiapted upsides of the deal, as noted for example, in When Did You Stop Beating Your Wife?. That adventure barely involved me. I had not really had a child, not with any effect.

One factor I took into account was Melissa's observation of the one factor that was common to people who faced death well: Having had kids. With hindsight this might reflect exhaustion and resignation as much as satisfaction with a life lived well. At the time, that was not the meaning we understood, but who's going to up and say something deflating to the people most likely to hold your hand as you expire uneasily in some hospital bed?

Come to think of it, why did Wendy leave Neverland, and Peter whom she loved? Even without taking into account that it amounted to passing up immortality, it looks like a dumb thing to do. The answer was that it was an adventure, just as much as her trip to Neverland in the first place, just as much as Kay and I leaving Oz. Adventure exerts a lot of pull, upon me especially. Major weakness? Of course, Wendy's alternative also shaped up a bit boring, especially sexually.

I was rewatching Rake with Merinda this evening. How come my hero is so moral, so honest and admirable, and yet such a train wreck? I guess he is too busy having fun to look after himself. Perhaps I have been too busy having adventures. As Warwick comments with a nod to Tom Lehrer's comic summary of Alma Mahler, the body that reaches my embalmer will be one that has known how to live---if not how to resist an opportunity for adventure.

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