Thursday, May 4, 2017

Someone to take care of you

I won't elaborate too much on the rest of this interaction, but once upon a time, some extremely bizarre man contacted me with some kind of language tangle that he had mistaken for a reasoned perspective. The initial contact included such gems as opinions on trans people's gender-affirming surgery counting as "mutilation" and thoughts on how the decrease in the number of churches has probably caused the increase in violent crimes in the nation (and no one's noticed and no one's talking about it!!!). But when I engaged with this fellow confused about his message and why he'd sent it to me, he also offered the following judgment:

"As an asexual person who will not marry or reproduce, you're irresponsible, because you surely have no plan for supporting yourself when you're old."

This was the only thing this jackass said to me that really made me think.

Not in the way he believes me made me think, but I digress.

Mostly, what I thought was I can't believe marriage and children is considered an old-age plan. Especially marriage! Theoretically, you are going to get old at around the same time as your spouse, and if one of you needs to be "taken care of," what happens when/if the other one needs that help too? It's amazing to me that this fellow thought he'd rubbed a trump card in my face by stating that I was screwing myself over by not getting married because no one would be there to take care of me when I'm old.

If I can take a nice sharp turn into straight-up feminist commentary for a moment, let me say that this is a typically male perspective, unfortunately. Men in our culture do frequently see women as their caretakers (of them, of their children, of their home), while they are "providers." So it isn't that surprising to me that this guy thinks getting married is partly so he can be assured a caretaker when he's old. Women do typically outlive men by a pretty large margin. So when guys like him say "someone to take care of you when you're old," he's really thinking "a woman will take care of me when I'm old." Who takes care of her? How is this a good insurance policy if you're banking on becoming infirm but you have no way of knowing who it will happen to first and whether the other will be in any state to do the caretaking when it happens?

But. Furthermore. You can argue that when someone marries you and says some variation of "in sickness and in health," they are indeed agreeing to become your caretaker if you are able to care for yourself at the time of marriage but later can no longer care for yourself. But children? They agree to no such thing. They don't agree to take care of their parents the way their parents "agreed" to take care of them when they created them. It's not part of the deal.

I would argue that it's nice, and maybe to some extent expected. I plan to take some kind of active role in caring for my parents (and am already doing so for my mother where she needs it, but she doesn't need active daily care--just help with some things). It's a tad "ungrateful" (to use a word I hate) to figure it's fine for your parents to raise you and then you don't help them when they need you to return the favor, but the difference there is consent--your parents participated explicitly in creating you and your parents are, by law, responsible for you and obligated to provide for you until the age of majority. There is no such law to obligate children to care for their parents. And I don't believe having children as a strategy to obtain old-age care is very sound. If you want security and relative assurance that you'll receive what you expect, you'll do much better if you start a fund for it.

The guy who offered me this condescending perspective was almost smug about it--he gave me this I bet you haven't thought of this fatal flaw in your lifestyle attitude throughout the barely lucid scrawl of his rant. But I'd argue that if your plan for old age is "get married and have kids," it's not sound at all. As mentioned, you don't know if your spouse will need you before you need them, and you don't have any guarantee that any children you have won't need long-term care if they're born or later become disabled. Far from being the ass-covering strategy this jerk portrayed it as, getting married and having kids is what everything in life is: fraught with unexpected outcomes. How dare this ignorant person grinningly assign me a failure to cover my bases?

As an unmarried woman with no kids, I have no one else to support and no one depending on me, and no legal obligations to provide for anyone. I am therefore quite well equipped to create my own savings and future plan for retirement and old-age support. I'm actively doing that, actually. The fact that this guy could sneeringly evaluate my situation as dangerously poor planning without even asking me (and that he thought it was his business!) speaks far more to his own failure to consider options than it does to my supposed failure to secure my future.

Getting married and/or having kids isn't a path to obtaining old-age care. And not being married and/or having no kids isn't a sign that you've been lax in planning your life.


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