#MeToo, participation trophies and all these people: How do I pick a path as a new dad?

So, I’m going to be a dad. I worked hard for it, spending months doing fertility tests and such and eventually undergoing a procedure to try to improve our chances. We had to keep things fresh and new all throughout our journey of trying. We went through numerous porn sites like this that moved here to help find kinks and fantasies so things didn’t grow “stale”. We found out the morning of the procedure my wife was pregnant.

I’m worried as hell.

A friend called me the other night to ask if I was scared out of my mind yet.

“No,” I said. “I’m nervous, but ignorance is bliss.”

To tell the truth, I’m not terribly worried about the infant and toddler years. I know there’s a lot of stuff I don’t know, but I also know that if we can keep the kid generally clean and fed and get into a decent routine, we’re unlikely to screw up too badly.

What I am worried about, however, is raising a kid who can make it in what is, right now, a world that allows for a very narrow range of mistakes, and, more importantly for me, raising a kid I’ll like as an adult.

I understand from being something of a jackass in my teens and twenties that there are some years when I may not like my kid, but I also understand from hindsight that the older I get, the smarter my parents get.

I also understand more as I age the things I like about me; if I can help instill some self-knowledge in my kid, maybe we’ll all (including the kid) start to like the kid a little younger in life.

Here are some of the things I’m most worried about.

We’re losing connections. The great promise of social media was one of connections. A year after I joined Twitter, I spent New Year’s Eve with people I’d met on the platform. Years later, one of those people officiated my wedding and another was the DJ.

But the promise of connecting with others across platforms – and I’ve been lucky enough to continue to meet people online and off – seems to have only led to interpersonal isolation. Sometimes I look around the room and most of the adults are on phones. We used to go to bars to socialize. Now we just go to bars to spend more money on our drinks, because frankly, we could drink a beer at home and be on our phone not paying attention to anybody else.

Maybe I’m just cranky, but I’m also guilty of it. I rarely keep Facebook on my phone for more than a day or two at a time, when I actually am using it intentionally, before deleting it. I don’t keep Twitter on my phone. Still, Instagram and email and web browsing can suck up time if I want them to.

This here is a great story about connection and how it’s really, really important.

Overpopulation. If we don’t figure out this lab-grown meat thing (and do the same with veggies) and figure out more sustainable energy and really just how to live in closer proximity to each other, we’re going to be out of space, air and food. And patience. In about 30 years, so really soon.

We’re already not nice to each other, by and large; what’s going to happen when we run out of room?

Of course we could always just eat Soylent, which, if you’ve read Make Room! Make Room!, you know is people.

#MeToo and associated movements. #MeToo started as a wonderful revelation that we could do things without assholes. Yes, it’s a more complex story about bravery and moving the conversation and changing the narrative, but I think the best thing that will come out of this is that we don’t need people like Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey to keep the film industry churning out millions of dollars.

It’s so very different from the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill days, even if men appear to have not learned very much.

What I’m really worried about is learning and honest mistakes. I’m worried that when people fuck up they’re not allowed to learn. Comedian Louis CK recently got back on stage; an opinion piece in the Times slams him for having the audacity to do so, and notes that he admitted to masturbating in front of women without their consent.

What he has admitted to, actually, is masturbating in front of women who gave half-hearted, I-guess-this-is-going-to-happen-if-I-want-to-be-a-comic, I-really-wish-you-wouldn’t consent. The word they said was yes; he didn’t understand what it really meant.

Should he have considered that maybe the women felt threatened and cornered? Maybe. Could he have? Maybe. Should he find this page in future when he wants to masturbate and do it alone? Definitely. I don’t know what level of mind-reading we should be expecting from people.

If we take CK at his word, that he honestly didn’t understand, does he get a chance to correct course? If he erred when he was 17 or 24 instead of 35 or 40, would it have made a difference?

I’m also worried about the Aziz Ansari, er, incident. If I have a son, will he know when’s he being an asshole? If I have a daughter, will she know the difference between bad (consensual) sex and actual assault?

Importantly, will it matter?

What about some of the sort-of-related things that have grown out of #MeToo? Like James Gunn getting fired in 2018 for stuff he tweeted in 2009? That’s not to defend what he said initially – the same way these questions aren’t to defend CK and Ansari – but if the company didn’t do it’s due diligence when hiring in the first place, isn’t that on them? I’m certainly not the same person I was nine years ago; why would you hold me responsible for that person now?

Further reading: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

There’s plenty of writing on this subject, but is it any good? Does it have any staying power?

Mediocrity and participation trophies. If I’m honest, I think the time for getting awards for showing up is going away. I think it’s a hand-me-down from the world of work. If you and I both show up for our jobs and do just adequately enough to not get fired, we take our paychecks. But soon, there will be enough people – and enough AI – that adequate won’t do it anymore, and those who excel will be rewarded, while the adequate will be left behind, quite possibly to receive a universal basic income. [Read more about that]

In 19 years, we could be looking at over 400 million Americans and a lot fewer jobs.

What will it take to truly stand out? I’m not sure. But I’m going to give my kid every tool I can.

Listen, if you have answers, ideas, etc., I’m all ears. I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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