never married, over forty, a little bitter

the middle ground

I’m at a midway point, checking out some tourist attractions, and I’ve run into several people (all couples thus far) who are making their own moves across the country.

One couple is in the process of moving back to L.A. after five years in the area of the country I’m heading to. They have no family in that area and were afraid of getting too “settled in.” Now they feel like they will be starting over in L.A., as their friends have all had kids and scattered.

I told them I felt the same, and we wished each other well on our journeys.


Before urbanization, children were viewed as economic assets to their parents. If you had a farm, they toiled alongside you to maintain its upkeep; if you had a family business, the kids helped mind the store. But all of this dramatically changed with the moral and technological revolutions of modernity. As we gained in prosperity, childhood came increasingly to be viewed as a protected, privileged time, and once college degrees became essential to getting ahead, children became not only a great expense but subjects to be sculpted, stimulated, instructed, groomed. (The Princeton sociologist Viviana Zelizer describes this transformation of a child’s value in five ruthless words: “Economically worthless but emotionally priceless.”) Kids, in short, went from being our staffs to being our bosses.