Monday, February 2, 2015

Why Women Freeze Their Eggs

I would like to tell you that Jillian Dunham told us the real reason why women freeze their eggs in her article thus entitled, but unless she wants us to believe that women do it in order to become totally independent of men, I am still not sure what the real reason is.

Either way, Dunham’s article offers a picture of the women who are choosing egg freezing.

The women who wish to undergo the procedure are, Dunham says, attractive, professional, successful and self-possessed. They do not, in other words need men for anything more than a small donation:

A week later, instead of walking into a room full of couples, I arrived at the information session and saw only myself. Myself, nine ways. There were no men. We all appeared to be in our 30s or early 40s. Most of us were white, but not all. I noticed that every woman in the room was attractive, dressed for work in the way that successful, self-possessed New York women dress for work: appropriately, but with some signal to the world about who we were — a worn leather jacket, an unusual ring. I caught myself wanting to be friends with all of them. But we barely spoke to each other, aware of the delicacy of our decision to be there, the probable reasons why, and the privacy we were entitled to.

How did Dunham find herself at this impasse? When, at age 32 she received a marriage proposal from her long term boyfriend, she turned him down. Undoubtedly she loved him, but she wanted more out of life:

Matt asked me to marry him not long after my mother’s death. I had pressured him to propose while she was still alive, but with her gone, the ring stayed in my jewelry box. Everything I thought I knew about my life had changed. Sometimes I think about an alternate universe in which I marry the guy I met at 25 and have children in my early 30s. But what I realized in the wake of my mother’s death was that my sense of what the right relationship for me was — or wasn’t — lacked the normal range of experience. My sense of who I was lacked the normal range of experience. We broke up, when I was 32, because of what I didn’t know as much as what I did.

Excuse me for sounding churlish about a deeply moving emotional experience, but did you notice that the two penultimate sentences in the paragraph are syntactically and semantically askew.

The first: “my sense of what the right relationship for me was-or wasn’t—lacked the normal range of experience.”

The second, repeating the preceding sentence, almost as an echo: “My sense of who I was lacked the normal range of experience.”

And, why repeat exactly the same phrasing twice? It does not get any better in the repetition.

Dunham might have said that she lacked the normal range of experience, and that would lead us to ask what that could possibly mean. Does she mean that she had not had enough men in her life, that she was short a few hookups?

What experiences was she missing?

She doesn’t tell us. She does say that her sense of who she was lacked experience. Unfortunately, your “sense” of who you are cannot lack experience. Not in the English language, it can’t.

The sentences are poorly written. This tells me that she had no good reason or no reason that she wants to tell us. Or else, that she is unwilling to admit to herself that she made a grievous error based on culturally approved psychobabble.

Later in her article she offers a therapeutically correct explanation. She rejected Todd because she wanted more for herself. She set out in search of her desire:

….the decision I made at 32 — to take a risk, to know that I was okay, to believe in my right to desire more for myself, to desire anything at all.

She does not say that she wanted to find a better man or a more suitable husband. She wants to have experiences. She is in it for herself. In the end she will discover that self-actualization does not bring her the love that she wants. It does not bring her a marriage proposal, either.

In her quest for experience Dunham found herself making mistake after mistake. One assumes that she suffered repeated relationship traumas. Why she or anyone else thinks this is valuable is beyond me.

Here is what she found:

I flirted heavily with someone I had dated in my early 20s, only to remember how futile that time had been. I went out with the guy I always had a crush on and had the assumptions of my fantasy scrubbed away. I did everything the hard way: moving in too soon, dating a co-worker, getting involved with a cheater. The mistakes I made were obvious and absurd. The bullshit that some of the guys pulled was ridiculous. But like a child who climbs recklessly in an attempt to understand risk, I couldn’t stop myself. And while it was true that with each new person and relationship, and with each new parting, I learned something, it felt a little like learning a dying language. Was there a point?

Of course, there wasn’t a point. The notion that a woman should experience a variety of sexual experience and a passel of failed relationships before getting married has damaged a significant number of women. It’s a bad idea, worthy of a misogynist.

Different women have different reasons for freezing their eggs. After summarizing them Dunham arrives at the unpleasant conclusion that these women, attractive, successful, professional and self-contained… had not found suitable mates:

Then there were the stories of women who were perhaps not desperate enough for a baby — not yet!— women who postponed pregnancy out of a desire for what was called “social freezing,” as if the reason to spend a week injecting thousands of dollars of hormones into your belly was so that you could have a few more Thursday night martinis. Less offensive on the surface were the professional freezers, personified by the “willowy 35-year-old media-company executive” who stood out because she had risen “so high professionally at her age.” While some women certainly encounter job discrimination when they get pregnant, none of my single friends were delaying childbearing because of work. My bosses were universally supportive of employees who became pregnant. I suspected that, for many, careers were a socially acceptable excuse; if you froze your eggs because you simply hadn’t found a partner to have kids with, well, that was embarrassing.

They didn’t need a man for anything more than a sperm donation, and men, perhaps not strangely, did not react well to being thus demeaned and diminished.

Such men were, regrettably or not, more than willing to exploit the desperation of the late-thirtysomething independent professional women:

The dude was cagey. He acted erratically, pursuing and then retreating. He was evasive when confronted with our wants and needs, or agitated, or defensive. Sometimes he simply disappeared. Of course, not all of the men we met and dated were commitment-phobes. But the numbers were significant enough to present a serious problem for those of us who wanted a partnership and children.

But why shuld these men, such as they are, be attracted to women who refuse to take any responsibility for their predicaments?

Dunham writes:

None of us were responsible for the fact that so many men see relationships as a giant albatross.

Even my single male friends, who I knew respected me and other women they were close to, seem to have absorbed cultural tropes about needy, pathetic women and the ever-alluring, ever-evasive single male.

Of course, the man who wanted to marry her several years previously did not see a relationship as an albatross. Dunham should have mentioned that men see relationships with certain types of women as a burden.

Naturally, women who refuse to take responsibility find physicians who are happy to tell them what they want to hear. That is, that it’s all the fault of men.

He [Dr. Keefe] leaned forward and paused. “There’s something wrong with the men in your generation,” he said. I was stunned. Here was a doctor who had just been talking about the importance of considering statistical significance, and now he was chalking my dating problems up to the broadest of generalizations. But he was articulating two forms of truth: the mathematical and the personal.

“It isn’t you,” he said. “All day long, I see patients like you. You’re smart, beautiful, accomplished, nice. It makes no sense. I go home to my wife and I say, ‘There’s something wrong with the men in this generation. They won’t grow up.’”

Women make independent decisions about their own lives and their own reproductive potential and when men are unwilling to play their appointed roles, these women blame men.

The doctor notwithstanding, it makes perfect sense.

Naturally, Dunham attributes it to misogyny, that is, to men’s refusal to play within the drama that these women have been living. One suspects that such thinking does not make her more attractive to the eligible men out there.

Freezing my eggs did not change my dating life. What it did do was expose me, again and directly, to the ways we treat women when there is a decision to be made about their bodies: We judge, pressure, and publicly debate a woman’s ability to direct her own life. We fret about women’s susceptibility to “false hope,” about their being manipulated by the egg freeze industrial complex, rather than believing women to be capable of assessing information and understanding risk. We judge women who pay thousands of dollars to freeze their eggs, rather than spending that energy advocating for those who can’t. We criticize women for not being able to control variables that are necessarily out of their control, something that is insulting to everyone involved.

A friend’s husband comes up with a perfect solution, the one that was perhaps underlying Dunham’s quest. It sounds like a vote of confidence in her independence. It might also be read as a negative judgment about her prospects:

The other day, Brian and I were talking in my kitchen. His little girl, not yet a year old, lay across his arms. “I think you should just do it,” he said. “Have a kid.”

“You do?” I asked. I wasn’t that resolute, and assumed he had his doubts, too.

“You can do it. You want to do it, and you can't rely on men,” he said. He was smiling mischievously, liberated too, at the prospect of a desire at least partially met. “Forget them,” he said. “You should wait for no one.”

Next stop, parthenogenesis.

[Addendum: For some comic, or perhaps not so comic relief on this topic, try the blog, called Crazy Jewish Mom, reported by The Daily Mail.]


Ares Olympus said...

Parthenogenesis or hermaphrodite?

I remember Asimov's Robots and Empire stories had an elite 50 "spacer worlds" that lead humanity into space, and 10,000 years later it was found only one of the 50 remained, where humans were gemetically modified into hermaphrodites, and each had 10,000 robots at their service for each estate.

I thought it was a sly idea, that humans might thrive in the chaos of mass humanity, and might also thrive in the order of isolated technology, at least thrive in the sense of genetic transference.

It is easy for people of both genders to say "things are not working for us", but maybe there's also some "survial of the fittest going on", and for many families things are going great, and its just easier to see all the tragic stories of people whose plans didn't work out.

It seems like companionship is definitely within reach of everyone with any sense of kindness, while raising kids is a different level of challenge.

If I knew how, I'd be 100% for authoritarian controls, like outlawing pregnancy outside of marriage, and I'd outlaw remarriage for anyone who has kids under age 18.

Once you have kids, your options are SHUT. Of course accidents will happen, and outlaws will win, but if a child loses a parent, we should require society to find new parent(s) to adopt the child.

Good thing I'm not in charge, but another alternative might be to follow B.F. Skinner, and take kids away from amateur parents into the hands of experts, and teach them by cold repetition of scientific sticks and carrots.

It is funny to think back to Skinners ideas in Walden II. Its at least as bad as Feminist's dreams for freedom.

JP said...


There was a spacer world left?

I forgot about that.

My favorite of all his books is Nightfall.

That being said, my current favorite science fiction story is "The Machine Stops".

The future casts a shadow on the present, you know.

Ares Olympus said...

During the period from 5,000 AD to 20,000 AD, the Solarians had extensively modified themselves through genetic engineering to become hermaphrodites, thereby removing the need for sexual contact.

Sam L. said...

I don't remember that about Ike's books, but it's been a loooooooooong
time since I read them.

"The Real Reason Women Freeze Their Eggs,": Sure it is. Whistling in the dark past the cemetery, I calls it. She stars in her own real-life drama, and she turned down the one man willing to take her on as his drama queen.

JP said...

@Ares - Thanks.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

Look, this woman made the wrong choices.

When you make the wrong choices, you get outcomes that are worse than you would have gotten if you had made the right choices.

This article is a warning to others.

Ares Olympus said...

OH, Here's your favorite JP:
Many of the characteristics of Solaria bear a strong resemblance to those described in E.M.Forster's 1909 short story, The Machine Stops.

And yes, back to the subject at hand, I'm tempted to say this woman knows she actually doesn't want to be a mother, and keeping the eggs just allows her to believe otherwise a little longer.

Meanwhile she can be a helpful aunt if she's lucky.

The real fearful thing is to see those who do have kids late have one kid and spoil him rotten.

I think Skinner's Walden Two is wacky, but I rather like any ideas that can expand beyond a nuclear family, like it seems better for two families of 4 adults (and add aging parents as needed?) to live together with 2 to 4 kids of whatever parental relations.

OTOH, with social media these days, it does look like parents ability to network across wide neighborhoods and share duties, like babysitting exchanges allow much more flexability to people inclined for social cooperation.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Self-possessed" seems like a fitting descriptor for Dunham, while not in the same realm as poise. Seems like she's totally possessed with herself and obsessed with everything she doesn't have (all these "experiences" she claims she wants to have). All I hear are desires, and that she feels validated by people who are just like her: lonely. It sounds like a very troubled life. Children aren't gifts from God, they're objects that one produces at the "right time" -- as if there is s right time to have a child. A child having two parents --a mother and a father -- involved in their life is also now optional. Does the adult or the child find that more convenient? Funny how the doctor-sociologist comments on the problem of young ment never growing up, seemingly amusing themselves to death. Dunham seems occupied with her own amusements and desires ("experiences"), and that life must wait until it confirms to her schedule. I feel compassion for her, because she seems so miserable and preoccupied with being the author of her life. I also hear her as a spoiled brat, and feel some pleasure that she has not had a child, as her lifestyle seems to only have room for one person. Sad.

Dennis said...

This is a little on the raw side, but I think these two women get it far better that most.

Dennis said...

I forgot to add this:

Excuse me, but I just get a great laugh out of people are their own worst enemies. Does it not occur to them that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction that may i fact be more important with larger ramifications. As the old sage once stated, "Watch out for what you wish for for you might actually get it."
I am old enough to remember when feminists stated that we are your mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, et al and then completely forgot that me were their fathers, brothers, sons, et al.
I cannot help myself because I see the humor in most of this and even the irony on display by feminists. One electrical outage or catastrophy and one no longer has a chance at future progeny.

Sam L. said...

Dr. Keefe is in the business of freezing the eggs; schmoozing with the customers is a sideline he's good at.

Props to Dennis for great comments.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

When did self-loathing become so mainstream, yet shamelessness makes it a pathos that is to be paraded around for all this attention? People have so much, yet they're miserable. They want more, more, more... When does it end? Does Dunham vote Democrat and worship at the feet of the all-powerful government sugar-daddy? Everything is free, so nothing has value. Not even people. We seem to marvel at our own magnificence, but loneliness has never been more prevalent. We pretend to have friends, while all we have are images on a glowing box.

Anonymous said...

"I paid good money to have those eggs frozen! Since you've been with me for five years and refused to fertilize them, I'm suing you for the cost."

In the future, men will be paying child support for children they didn't have.

-- Days of Broken Arrows.

Dennis said...


Men ought to realize that once they fertilize those eggs they can be held liable for child support. Nothing a man does with a woman is free. There are always costs. Courts tend to nullify contracts when children are involved no matter how they were conceived.

Dennis said...

Sam L. and IAC,

Thanks for the kind words and consideration.

Anonymous said...

These Liberals/Progressives really make me laugh.

On the one hand, they claim to be egalitarians who value the equal worth of all people. They say they are opposed to hierarchy and exclusion.

But when it comes to finding a mate, they can never settle down since no one is that perfect man.

Paradoxically, they choose to have more 'experience' not because they like everyone but because they realize they can't stand anyone and therefore must move to the next guy in the hope that he will be perfect.