Tuesday, June 28, 2005

WTF: The GH Edition

Remember when I watched that Pamela Anderson sitcom, “Stacked,” so you didn’t have to? I have taken another hit for the team. This time, I read the July issue of Good Housekeeping, featuring 54-year-old Joan Lunden and her four toddlers and babies. I bought the magazine (a title from the genre I refer to as “married-lady magazines”) to basically find out WTF was the deal with Joan Lunden. Ah, but the magazine offers so much more…

I picked up the issue to pass the time while sitting with Ben in front of the TV (those Fisher-Price Little People videos offer nothing of interest to adults but the Aaron Neville theme song). I knew I was in for a treat right off the bat, on the letters-to-the-editor page. There was feedback on a recent article about a couple who lost a child to a dreadful genetic disease and opted for IVF with preimplantation screening to avoid a repeat of that tragedy. “Many readers wrote in, some concerned that the unhealthy embryos had been disposed of. ‘…I was…sad to learn that life had been destroyed to get the end result.’” Yep, that’s right. That reader would prefer that an embryo with a fatal genetic malady be transferred into a womb. WTF?

Another thing that caught my eye was the Venus Vibrance battery-powered razor, which appears to be a disposable razor crossed with a vibrator. WTF? If vibrator technology really facilitates a close shave, wouldn’t the folks at Gillette have introduced the vibrazor (I gotta trademark that!) concept in men’s razors first? (Ah. The Gillette website shows the “M3 Power Nitro” battery-powered razor for men—no mention of “vibration,” though. Guess vibrators aren’t manly.) Or are women supposed to shave their pits and their legs with this doohickey, and then flip it over to use the non-razor portion? Seems like a lawsuit waiting to happen—you could totally cut your hands on the razor blades.

Looking for a T-shirt that’s dressy enough for the office? What could be more practical than the Piscotta tee? It’s made from 100% organic milk, freeze-dried and spun into a silken yarn. Hand-wash, line dry—like I said, practical! (And yes, I did say “organic milk,” and no, I’m not mixing this up with cheese.) WTF?

Then there was an ad for the Tide to Go instant stain remover pen. Somehow, you press it on the stained clothes you’re wearing and the stain disappears, but your flesh is not chemically burned—that seems to be the gist of it. It seems too easy to be a good idea, doesn’t it?

Moving on to the article, “Does your husband need training?”—you’re supposed to tear out the article and give it to your husband so he knows how to make shit up when you ask insecure questions like “Do you wish I still looked the way I did when we first met?” or “Do you think that woman’s attractive?” Yep, read the canned answers, then give the article to your husband so he can feed you the canned answers right on cue. That won’t piss the woman off, will it? Sheesh.

“What about Joan Lunden?” you ask. She has three grown daughters (aged 17, 22, and 25). Five years ago, she married a man 10 years her junior. She was closing in on 50 when she started fertility treatments. IVF failed—big surprise—so they moved on to surrogacy and donor eggs, plus her husband’s sperm. (No one will be surprised to hear that the article didn’t mention the word “egg” or “donor” anywhere. These articles seldom do.) The surrogate got pregnant with twins, and then did it again 21 months later. Now, Lunden, age 54, reports, she is just so darn full of energy and enjoying parenting again. (Of course, having two nannies and a baby nurse on staff helps prevent exhaustion.)

Lunden argues that it’s unfair to criticize older women for having babies, given that older men father children all the time without incurring judgmental reactions. She answers the “Isn’t it selfish to have more babies” issue by saying, “having children is a lot of work. It involves tremendous amounts of time and emotion to create a kind, even-keeled, educated, spirited, happy person to send out there into the world. I mean, this is our gift to the future.” Not that I want to be hurling mommy drive-by judgments at another woman, but I don’t know if I buy this rationalization. Lunden had already sent three people “to the future”; if she felt the need to nurture more kids, why not adopt or take care of foster children? I just can’t even imagine trying IVF at age 49 or 50. If Lunden’s babies and tots are lucky, she’ll live until they’re about 40; there’s certainly a reasonable chance that she’ll die or be incapacitated long before that.

What do you think—Joan Lunden: Hero Mom? or Joan Lunden: Selfish Narcissist?

I can’t finish this magazine right now. It takes too much out of me. I haven’t even gotten to “Burning Questions for Michael Bolton” yet. (I am not making this up.)


Emma Goldman said...

As part of my research in a former life, I read a LOT of women's magazines (and let's not forget that that's what Betty Friedan was reading and on which she wrote "the Feminine Mystique." It's this bizarre alternative world that just creeps me out.

Anonymous said...

Oh, Orange, my friend. You've hit a personal sticking point with me on this one, seeing as how I'm a cancer survivor, with active disease nonetheless, who still harbors hope (very guarded, mostly shattered hope, mind you) that I'll be able to adopt or have kids via surrogate some day. Obviously, the mortality issue weighs on my mind heavily -- particularly the ethical ramifications. I have lots of thoughts on this, which I'll leave for an eventual post on my blog. But suffice it to say that I don't harbor any ill-judgement against our Joan.

Anonymous said...

I'm leaning on the "selfish narcissist" side for Joan, but I'm sure she would lovely and nice and all that if we actually knew her. My burning question for Michael Bolton is, "How did you ever manage to have a career with that voice?"

Orange said...

Cancerbaby, your circumstances are so different from Joan's. Only a cruel nincompoop would give you any crap for wishing to adopt or use a gestational surrogate someday. If you were 54 when it happened because you waited a good, long while to make sure you were really cured, then fine. Hopefully it will all happen sooner for you—good health, and a relatively smooth route to motherhood.

But Joan already had three kids, and opted to have four more at an advanced age. Like I said, I don't want to be guilty of a drive-by. I did find it odd that she didn't say "My husband really wanted children" or "I really wanted to be a parent with my new husband"—I would have expected her to emphasize those. The helping-the-world-by-making-babies slant was new to me.

Psycho Kitty said...

Argh, Good Housekeeping makes me bleed from the eyes and ears. If it's the only thing to read in a waiting room, I will choose to sit and stare into space instead. I find that more mentally challenging.

Anonymous said...

Oh, heee, Orange. I wouldn't wait until I'm 54. If I make it to 54, my kids will be in their late teens/early twenties.

I guess I just mean that my circumstances have taught me not to criticize women who have babies (surrogacy, adoption) when they are much, much older. One of the concerns people have under these circumstances is that the mothers are too old, and may not see their kids grow up. I have a vastly different insight than most into the ethical questions that particular charge raises.

Anyhow, her whole "making the world a better place" is a bit of an odd reason to claim that you want kids. I'll give you that. But I wouldn't say that Joan should have considered her age-related looming mortality before she went forward with her surrogacy plans. I would venture to guess that both she, and most mothers of a younger age, have a better chance of dying tomorrow in a car accident than dying in 10 years of age-related disease.

bitchphd said...

I don't see how Joan can be a "selfish narcissist," given that basically what she's doing is raising the children her husband had with another (two) women. It's kind of like that story in the bible about the barren woman who sent her slave to sleep with her husband in order to give him kids.

What's interesting is that the story sounds like it was presented as "evidence" of women's innate nurturing abilities, their overwhelming desire to be mothers, when really what it sounds like is that it was her husband who desperately wanted his own children. I agree, it's weird that she didn't say that--but that weirdness seems to me part and parcel with the way our culture views these issues--including, if you'll forgive me, criticizing her for not adopting, which, from the sound of it, is pretty much what she did--she's the mom, so somehow the existence of the children is her responsibility.

So at worst I'd say she's just not a real deep thinker.

Orange said...

Who knew Good Housekeeping could spur such meaty discussions?

Gosh, maybe I should read that other article, "Do You Cry Enough or Too Much?" I bet there are a lot of assumptions about women floating around in that piece, just waiting to be dissected by the non-GH crowd.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Maybe I'm getting old, but the thought of two sets of twins under the age of, what, five?, would drive me to drinking...heavily...every minute of every day.

But a question about that organic milk shirt...how do you wash it? Wouldn't it just turn to a vat of low-fat cow juice in yer washing machine?

Orange said...

The milk shirt is hand-wash, line-dry—though I don't know what's left to dry after the tee forms a milk bath in your sink.

Psycho Kitty said...

Stop. I'm begging you.