I read this article the other day by Polly Vernon. You can read it here:
It’s one of a number of articles that she’s written about her positive decision to be child-free. And good for her. “Good for you, Polly!” I thought. “Good for you! This is great! Outspoken! Clever! Ama…” and that’s where I stopped because I was being buffeted about the face mercilessly with a bazillion Daily Mail tactics. And they worked.
A quick google of “Polly Vernon child-free” lists an article she wrote for the Guardian in 2009. That was five years ago. Five. And I remember it coming out then, because she got a proper backlash of parental trolling on the back of it. And it seems as though she’s desperate to ride that wave again. The bits in the latest article that raised my hackles, like a moist-palmed perv being ‘incensed’ by Holly Willoughby’s cleavage on This Morning, are:
“if your buggy didn’t cost £1000 and your blankies aren’t cashmere and your four year old isn’t being expensively and ferociously hot housed, then you’re failing as a parent”
Do you think she might be pointing to the kinds of mothers she might see in Kensington? Around Primrose Hill, maybe? Do you think she’s considering the parents she might see, say, on the Tube? Or in Croydon? (Does she ever go on the Tube? Or to Croydon?) Then there’s this bit:
“I’ve felt years of antipathy on account of their buggy-wielding, pavement-hogging entitlement, their tendency to monopolise the very best seats in the very best coffee shops with the rest of their NCT groups…”
This makes me want to track her down and plonk her on the front of my pram and take her into Bath just so she could witness the gangs of (posh) schoolgirls who don’t move an inch as you try to manoeuvre around them, the bastards on the bus who studiously ignore you and refuse to make space for you or your child, the people who work in shops who listlessly watch you sweatily wrestling through door-frames that are too narrow. Maybe then, she too could experience the full gamut of unpleasant looks and comments just because your child might be hungry, or might have hurt himself, in a public space – sneers, comments, grumbles, shoves to the pram. I have friends who have experienced strangers telling them, “perhaps she’s hungry?” when their six-week old baby is making merry hell because they’ve just had their first jabs.
And coffee shops? Firstly, where else do parents go, when they’re subsisting on two hours sleep and are crawling the walls? And what do they find when they get there? Unpleasant, unhelpful staff who appear dumbfounded if you breastfeed and, in one infamous case in Bath, send you packing if you try to feed your child home-made baby food. On the back of this, surely I should think that all people without prams are utter cretins. But I don’t. And not just because I’m amazing and live on a higher moral plane (that just goes without saying).
Finally, there’s this:
“The more I meditate, they less capable I am of drumming up unchecked loathing based on a shed-load of assumptions about a group of people I don’t actually know. The more I meditate, the more inclined I am to recognise even their humanity.”
So the whole point of it was to explain that she doesn’t feel that angry about it anymore, while still pointing out all the things that made her peeved in the first place in a desperate attempt to gain a few more column inches. Aww, thanks, Pol. Even their humanity. And this, obviously, is balls on a grand scale. The more Polly Vernon meditates (I put it to you, m’lud), the more she realises that the highlight of her career was back in 2009 when she wrote an article in the Guardian about not having children. Now she’s reduced to talking about how angry she used to be on a blog (and who reads blogs?).
Still. I’ve been thinking about this for a while. To begin with I thought, poor Polly Vernon, trying to make a living from defending what she’s not. How pathetic. Because of course it doesn’t matter that she chooses not to have children, no-one cares – or at least, if anyone decides to care about it, they’re probably a nutter, and Polly should pay no heed. In fact, I bet no-one cared – not even the nutters – until she started tarring everyone with the same Bugaboo brush in the first place. But the more I thought about it, the more I realised that she was just doing what everyone else does when they’re defending human rights – they’re defending themselves to be recognised as what they’re not: not white, not thin, not male, not powerful, not heterosexual.
So I can see why she feels the need to rage. No-one should give a monkeys about who she is and whatever life choices she makes. That’s how it should be in our supposedly democratic and free-thinking society. And that’s how it should be because, Polly, it’s boring, and no-one wants to hear you banging on about it. Still. FIVE YEARS LATER. Hush now.