Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Her Ticking Biological Clock

A 35 year old woman writes to Ask Polly to ask for some thoughts on the metaphysics of time. Just when you thought things could not get more ridiculous, Polly chooses to answer by offering her empty-headed thoughts about time. As always, she drones on interminably about feeling feelings and some such. And she manages in the space of what must be over a thousand words to miss the point completely.

Let’s see if you grasp what eluded Polly. Here is most of the letter:

… When I first heard about this, I couldn’t believe it — entropy, the slow increase in chaos, the reason that eggs will never spontaneously reform themselves after breaking, will always increase, and this very fact sets time marching forward, inexorably.

I’m 35 years old. I have a job in the sciences that is really rewarding, if not really the exact job that I’ll want to have forever, but it’s exciting and important right now. I got married last year to someone who is perfect for me (we even had a reading from one of your columns at our wedding!), and we just got a cat who is nervous and sweet and doesn’t want to be held. I have really good friends, and I volunteer, and I talk openly and honestly about my feelings and I cook and clean and exercise. I am 35 and I am happy, I think. But, see, throughout all of this, I can’t help but think about how time slowly eats up the life that I have, turning the raw, beautiful potential of the future into the hollow sadness of memories in the past, forced through a focal point of the present that is gone too quickly. I am haunted by entropy even as I am in what I think might be the best years of my entire life.

I think, growing up, we’re taught that the most important thing is to cherish life, cherish being young and vibrant and active, cherish the time you have, cherish the people around you. And I took this to heart and spend a lot of time being present in any given moment, thinking about how wonderful it is to have this. It’s sometimes annoying, I think, for my partner, and my friends, to always have me trying to remind them of just how special it is that we’re wherever we are, a quiet bar, or a back patio on a warm evening, or a friend’s house for brunch, or whatever, because they can tell in my voice that I am so terrified that this is going to end at some point and it’ll just be a memory. Being told that life is precious, and that all I can do is work hard and love deeply in the time that I have, has made me realize that time is a quiet thief.

It eats at me. Time goes too quickly, and we have the capacity to just waste it without thinking. I can be looking at my phone and suddenly it’s 3 p.m. and that was one afternoon I had and now I won’t have it ever again, it’s lost. The internet, and really the whole modern world, wants to constantly remind us that time is passing, a fact that’s making my heart beat fast even just writing this. I lie in bed, thinking about just how privileged I am, thinking about just how nice I have it that this is my current major worry, but also I am terrified that time keeps continuing, that I’m just getting older and older, and everyone is getting older and older, and that time is just marching us all into the ocean.

Is this just how it’s going to be, for the rest of my life? Is it possible to forget that time will take everything from us? How do you hold on to something precious if it’s just smoke?

I trust that you noticed the scariest part of this story. This woman and her husband had a reading from one of Polly’s columns at her wedding. If that does not worry you, nothing will.

As for the metaphysics, the issue is not the Bergsonian theory of time or some such. It must have something to do with her biological clock. She does not mention it. Polly does not notice it. Therefore it must be the issue. If you go back and look at the first sentence I quoted from her letter, you will see that she is thinking about broken eggs. Hint.

Is she concerned that she is running out of time before she has children? What does she think about it? She does not tell us. What does her husband think about this? She does not tell us. Polly does not notice and does not seem much to care.

It’s another day in the life of one of America’s most challenged advice columnist. And yet another occasion for her to embarrass herself by missing the obvious point. Since Polly continually insists that she is opposed to shame, it is a good thing—because then she can numb herself to the fact that she seems incapable of offering any but the silliest of supposed advice.


sestamibi said...

Oh, Stuart, you are so retro. Didn't you notice she referred to her "partner" in the text? What makes you think that she married a man?

Stuart Schneiderman said...

Fair point... and likely a true point. This does not prevent her from worrying about her biological clock and her desire for a child. It might very well cause her to question her marriage. It will make the issue that much more complicated... and that much beyond Polly's ken.

Sam L. said...

This person of the female persuasion is, in fake German, upgeMESSED! I suggest we all all slowly stand up and rapidly proceede to the nearest exit.

Ares Olympus said...

It is strange that she doesn't mention children in her existential angst, and perhaps it is her unconscious biological clock, even if she's in a lesbian relationship, lots of couples adopt or find a sperm donor. It would be better if she could know that was an unconscious cause. I wonder how that could be tested? Perhaps if she had some children in her life, she could better explore those feelings. Too bad Polly was too into herself to see that obvious question.

UbuMaccabee said...

She’s 35. Her sad egg would only link with a sad sperm and create a sad, sickly child who, under ordinary circumstances would die before it was 3.