Dear Abby: My Man Has 6 Kids by 6 Women

The advice columnist Gay Best Friend received this amazing letter recently:

I have been seeing a man from Nigeria off and on for about 15 months. I am seven months pregnant by him. I have been pregnant once before by him, but I had a miscarriage early on. He was mad the first time I had gotten pregnant and told me all kinds of horrible things on the phone. Then when I miscarried he was back up in it two weeks later, raw. He told me that he had a vasectomy after the first time I got pregnant and I believed him because he has six kids from six different women and always talks about how he's always broke because of them.

When I got pregnant again four months later he said, "I don't want you to mother my child because you don't have a driver's license, high school diploma, or any of your other kids, what's going to happen to mines?" Then why would he get me pregnant or not use protection? I always have condoms. He never wants to use them and even takes them off when we're having sex.

I think he got me pregnant on purpose. ...

I am a very pretty woman and I get a lot of attention. I feel like he tried to trap me so I would be pressed to be with him forever. Can a man love you that told you this big of lie about having a vasectomy?

If these two can't make love work, what hope is there for anyone else?

I Fill Random Target Employees with Rage

The seven-week break I took on Workbench, which just ended 11 words ago, is the longest since I began my personal blog in 1999. I'm doing some work in social media these days and thinking about launching a new company to commercialize software I've been developing for my own use the past six years. I also am deep into the manuscript for a new edition of Sams Teach Yourself C++ in 24 Hours.

My absence did not make Target employees fonder, as a recent comment to my five-year-old tale of shopping humiliation demonstrates:

Lady,

You and your disgusting, obnoxious kids are the reason people hate working at Target. You come in, with your head up your ass, while your kids act like monsters, and then are offended when an employee has the audacity to mention it to you. Is it your goal to come into the store and make everyone else around you miserable? Please, do us Team Member's a favor and take your business elsewhere.

Sincerely,

A Fed-up Employee

Sorry to tell you this, Fed Up, but my kids and I still shop at Target. I'd rather be harangued by teen-aged girls every time I visit the store than get within a mile of Wal-Mart. With your attitude and the fact you searched Google for the term Target sucks to find me, you're never going to become a Leader on Duty.

Professor Wants to Raise His Own Clone

In a draft of his upcoming book Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, the economist Bryan Caplan mentions that he'd like to clone and raise himself:

I confess that I take anti-cloning arguments personally. Not only do they insult the identical twin sons I already have; they insult a son I hope I live to meet. Yes, I wish to clone myself and raise the baby as my son. Seriously. I want to experience the sublime bond I'm sure we'd share. I'm confident that he'd be delighted, too, because I would love to be raised by me. I'm not pushing others to clone themselves. I'm not asking anyone else to pay for my dream. I just want government to leave me and the cloning business alone. Is that too much to ask?

I'm surprised that Caplan takes it as a given that his son would be "delighted" by such a scenario. His clone wouldn't be raised by the same parents that he was, but instead would have a father with an extreme sense of his child's likes, dislikes, talents and flaws. That influence -- likely to be domineering and a little creepy -- would produce a much different person over the span of a childhood than how he turned out.

Caplan writes that he has twin sons, but they must not be very old yet or he'd realize that his clone will reject some of dad's traits on principle. Kids have a natural inclination to do things differently than their parents. With my three partial clones, if I'm trying to persuade them to try an activity or a hobby, the least persuasive argument I can use is that I liked it when I was their age.

So no matter how many genes we share, none of my sons will watch One Life to Live with me.

Parenthood: So Heart-Warming It Hurts

I posted a review on Mister Television of NBC's new drama Parenthood:

The Parenthood pilot on NBC was the most exhausting television I've endured this season.

The show begins with Peter Krause jogging down a Berkeley, Calif., street. The jog has left him wheezing for air, in spite of the fact that Krause is physically fit and doesn't appear to have an ounce of fat on him. (I make this observation in an entirely heterosexual way.) He's sitting on his taut buttocks (OK, that was a little gay) when he gets a call from his sister Lauren Graham. She's moving to Berkeley with her teen-age daughter, who is acting out sexually with boys out of frustration with the fact that her mom is hotter. Graham needs to know that she's making the right decision by moving, and if she's making the wrong decision she wants to blame Krause. In between his dying breaths, Krause agrees to this deal.

I challenge anyone to write a more detailed review while missing the last 50 minutes of the episode.

I run the site with television's Jonathan Bourne. We're going to start up a TV death pool there in the fall that's 10 percent better than the competition.

IMDB Strikes Crude with 'Year One' Content Advisory

Jack Black in Year One

The movie reference site IMDb has a parents guide feature that's useful when determining whether a movie contains sexual content that would be inappropriate for your children. (Like most Americans I'm much more comfortable exposing the younguns to movies that contain bloodshed than any film that makes even the slightest reference to sex. I blame my Catholic upbringing and spaghetti Westerns.)

The feature is edited by users in the manner of Wikipedia and does not get editorial oversight from IMDb.

When considering whether to see Year One this weekend, I found that the users had been incredibly thorough in describing scenes that had anything to do with sex or nudity. There's so much raunchy material in the movie that the IMDb warning is 1,048 words long.

We didn't see the film.

The Tale of the Naked Neighbor

Occasionally, my kids surprise me with something that I didn't know about them. I've worked out of my house for their entire lives, aside from 90 days as a university webmaster I'll never get back. Spending so much time under my watchful eye, my children ought to find it impossible to acquire even a scintilla of independent life experience. But sometimes kids develop lives of their own, as I was reminded recently when telling my mother about the first time I saw a nude woman.

This is my first letter to Penthouse Forum. I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me -- er, actually, it wasn't like that at all.

Shortly before I entered school in the '70s, my family moved from Wichita Falls, Texas, to an apartment off Central Expressway in Dallas. The apartment had a fenced-in back porch barely big enough to hold a barbecue grill, as did the adjacent apartments. I became fast friends with a girl my age next door, and we visited each other by climbing our back fences and dropping in.

These visits were, of course, unannounced. One morning I scaled the fence to the neighbor's apartment per the normal routine, opened the sliding-glass door and stepped into their bedroom. As I did, the girl's mother walked into the same room, naked and dripping wet after a shower.

The sight of this pale red-haired woman wearing nothing but condensation would not have been a jarring experience, I don't think, except for what she did next. My friend's mother let forth a blood-curdling scream of terror as if I were the Zodiac Killer. I met that scream with one of my own, vaulted the fence like Bruce Jenner, and returned home to sit hunched over in front of the television, talking myself back to my happy place with the help of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

Afterward, the woman and I pretended the event never happened. I didn't tell the parents and she didn't either. After 35 years I decided to break my silence -- I'm in my 40s, she'd be in her 60s and I couldn't pick her face out of a lineup. My mother had no idea this took place.

When I got a little older and began attending Sunday school at my Catholic church, I didn't have to be told that the sight of the unclothed body fills you with panic, nausea and shame.

Adam Rogers Failed His Wisdom Check

20-sided dieI've read a lot of tributes to Gary Gygax, the late Dungeons & Dragons cocreator who inspired me to spend my teen years with 20-sided dice, graph paper and painted metal half-orc prestidigitators. Although I mock myself as a former dungeon master -- and not the cool kind -- I disliked Wired editor Adam Rogers' tribute to Gygax in today's New York Times.

Decades after his own adolescence, Rogers still feels defensive about playing D&D:

Even in the heyday of Dungeons & Dragons, when his company was selling millions of copies and parents feared that the game was somehow related to Satan worship, Mr. Gygax's creation seemed like a niche product. Kids played it in basements instead of socializing. (To be fair, you needed at least three people to play -- two adventurers and one Dungeon Master to guide the game -- so Dungeons & Dragons was social. Demented and sad, but social.) Nevertheless, the game taught the right lessons to the right people.

My sons are approaching the years where peer pressure is huge, and one of the things I try to teach them is that you don't have to apologize for liking something because other people think it's uncool. The safest posture as a teen is to rag on everything. When I raised the possibility that liking [insert hobby here] didn't make you a nerd, and in point of fact the people who mock it are themselves the true nerds, the near-teens in the car retreated into their happy place. And one of them called me a nerd. I suspect this is one of the things you have to learn for yourself.

Rogers needs to attach a high-minded purpose to playing a game he liked, as if sending your ninth level elven fighter thief through the Fortress of Badabaskor wasn't an accomplishment unless it was a learning experience. When he suggests that "the realization that everyone else was engaged in role-playing all the time gave my universe rules and order," it reminds me of journalists like Bob Costas who wax poetic on the deeper meaning of baseball, lest they be taken for rubes who just like to see grown men play with their balls.

Down Syndrome Parents Wrestle with Extinction

There's an interesting hot-button issue on the Drudge Retort this morning: Parents of children with Down syndrome are concerned about a new trend some liken to eugenics -- 9-in-10 prospective parents, equipped with safe tests that detect the condition in the womb, choose to abort rather than raise such a child. "We want people who make this decision to know our kids," said Lucy Talbot, the president of a support group. "We want them to talk to us."

From what I've learned through limited experience with people who have Down syndrome, some of them function at a high level with a measure of independence and undeniable quality of life. This is a very complex issue, but I think its valuable to convey that message to prospective parents after a positive Down test.

I vivid recall a relative's experience when a prenatal test detected a possibility of severe abnormalities in her first child (unrelated to Down). Researching the worst-case scenario on Google, based on what she'd heard from her doctor, was a gut-wrench for me, and it had to be a hundred times worst for her. It proved to be a false alarm, thankfully, but it underscored the difficult decision faced here by any parent in such circumstance. We're flying blind on this, as the first generation of breeders equipped with genetic screening.

I've learned enough about Down syndrome that faced with such a decision, I'd oppose abortion because it was detected in the womb. But unlike most of the Republican field in the next presidential election, I would not force that choice on others.

The Seminal Moment at the Academy Awards

Philip Seymour Hoffman and his mother Marilyn O'Connor in separate photos.

I watched the Oscars last night even though I haven't seen a single film for which an actor, director or screenwriter was nominated. I have to go all the way down the list to "best achievement in makeup" before reaching a winner that I've seen, the Chronicles of Narnia.

I had the same experience with musicians at the Grammys and TV actors at the Emmys. At some point raising young kids and working obsessively have robbed me of all pop culture that isn't aimed at children. I was more excited to see Chicken Little and Abby Mallard present an award than any of the big winners.

This lack of entertainment knowledge could have been a good thing, but I took all of that empty space in my brain and filled it with the minutiae of blogging. I can't wait to find out what Joshua Micah Marshall and Jason Kottke wear to the Bloggies. If Mark Nottingham and Robert Sayre don't win for "best achievement in specification" it's a complete traveshamockery.

My favorite moment last night was best actor Philip Seymour Hoffman making the capstone of his acceptance speech a thank you to his mother for raising four children on her own. My parents divorced and primary custody went to my mother, so I go blubbery whenever someone with an award in his hand praises mommy.

Hoffman's mother Marilyn O'Connor is a family court judge in New York, where she issued one of the most controversial rulings in a custody case in state history. In 2004, she ordered a homeless drug-abusing couple not to have any more children until they were capable of regaining custody of the four they already had:

It is painfully obvious that a parent who has already lost to foster care all 4 of her children born over a 6-year period, with the last one having been taken from her even before she could leave the hospital, should not get pregnant again soon, if ever. She should not have yet another child which must be cared for at public expense before she has proven herself able to care for other children. The same is true for the father and his children. As to both parents, providing care for the children includes providing financial support. This is a practical, social, economic and moral reality. In effect, Bobbijean was born to a "no-parent family". She is for all practical purposes motherless and fatherless. This is not acceptable.

Wikipedia's a Sticky Wicket

Step away from the wiki and keep your hands where I can see them The neutrality and factual accuracy of this article on Wikipedia are disputed.

The Los Angeles Times gave up its wikitorial experiment after three days. Someone got their goat by adding one of the web's most infamous gross-out photos to the site.

Jeff Jarvis defends the honor of wikis, blaming the Times:

They didn't get that wikis are a collaborative medium where, even when people disagree, they try to find common ground, knowing there can be only one outcome, or else the wiki will, by its very nature, fail.

Look up any hot-button subject on Wikipedia, the most well-known and successful wiki, and you'll find a lot of contributors in the common ground, looking for a place to plant mines.

As an example, check out the entry on the mercury-based vaccine additive thimerosal and the ongoing nine-month flamewar among people removing each other's edits.

Any parent reading Wikipedia to learn about the suggested link between thimerosal and increased autism in children will be either reassured or alarmed, depending on who edited the page last. (Our highly recommended pediatrician in Jacksonville has signs declaring the practice "thimerosal-free.")

Here's how one of the warring thimerosal editors describes the work of another:

It falls into a pattern that is becoming all too familiar: he disputes everything he finds disagreeable as being false or biased; deletes whole sections if he disagrees with one word in it; asks for citations; disputes that the references provided are legitimate; deletes references if he feels there are too many; and then starts revert wars. On the thimerosal issue, I've repeatedly asked that if he's so confident that thimerosal is harmless that he wants to withhold information about the controversy, he should voluntarily inject himself with equivalent doses to what babies have gotten to prove his point.

Teaching Kids to Leapfrog a Jackass

I've been ending each day by reading a chapter of The Great Brain to my sons, the first book in a series by John D. Fitzgerald that I devoured as a child.

The books, which detail life for three Catholic brothers in a Mormon town in 1890s Utah, describe a time when children weren't raised like bubble boys (my preferred technique). They explore caves, test their mettle with fistfights under rough and tumble lumberjack rules, and do demented things like this:

"We are playing Jackass Leapfrog," Sammy said as he led the immigrant boy to the center of the lot. He pushed the Greek boy's head down in position to play leapfrog. "You are the jackass," Sammy said as if the new kid understood English. "Now stay that way."

The rest of us kids lined up with Sammy in the lead.

"Whack the jackass on the rump!" Sammy shouted as he ran and leapfrogged over Vassillios with one hand while he whacked the Greek boy on the rump with the other hand.

The rest of us followed, whacking the jackass on the rump.

As it turns out, the term "jackass" is comedy gold to kids.

The protagonist, the narrator's brother who calls himself the Great Brain, discovers that Vassillios has formidable wrestling skills, solving his troubles with Sammy -- a dreadful child whose father derides immigrants for taking American jobs.

Reading this chapter, I wondered if Fitzgerald's 1969 book could survive the ideological cleansing that conservatives are waging in schools and overprotective liberal do-gooding that would purge fights and Jackass Leapfrog.

I Am the Ideal Mother

In an attack on gay marriage in National Review, David Frum complains that it undermines the gender roles of husbands and wives:

... one effect of this revolution -- and for many proponents, one of the revolution's aims -- is to make forever unthinkable the idea that husbands and wives each have special duties to one another, and that a husband's duties to his wife -- while equally binding and equally supreme -- are not the same as a wife's duties to her husband.

Once we lose that knowledge, we lose the basic grammar of marriage.

As a parent who has taken over the "house spouse" duties while my wife resumes a career after 10 years, I'd love to hear from Frum exactly how my family responsibilities differ because I have a penis.

My spouse is an accomplished journalist who is capable of financially supporting the family, which I presume is what Frum considers the primary duty of a husband.

I'm capable of taking care of my three sons at home, though my cooking is an ongoing health code violation and I run things by Malcolm in the Middle rules -- I do not intervene in a fight until somebody draws blood. In Frumworld, I guess I'm the housewife.

In Frum's own marriage, his wife Danielle Crittenden is an author, frequent TV commentator, and former New York Post columnist. She has primary care-giving responsibility for their three children and actively works out of a home office.

Running a household is without a doubt the hardest job I have ever taken on, thanks to a million small tasks that have to get done: homework, meals, finances, illnesses, clothes, dishes, sports, shopping, trash, potty training, and on and on. I haven't had a single chance in six months to take Oprah's advice and remember my spirit.

There are one million dads at home, according to the family weblogger RebelDad. Leave it to Beaver went off the air in 1963.

If there's a basic grammar of marriage that monogamous gay people are scheming to undermine, I can't find it in my own life, and it seems curiously absent from Frum's as well.

In her novel Amanda Bright@Home, Crittenden lampoons a liberal feminist (and her mother!) for her lack of knowledge that raising children at home is a worthy and satisfying pursuit.

She used the novel to chart a course for today's ideal mother, as she explained in an interview with Insight on the News.

For all of her distaste for feminism, Crittenden touts a version of motherhood that's a long way from June Cleaver. A satisfied woman doesn't choose family over a career; she simply does both:

... with the enormous flexibility of the economy attitudes have changed even within the past five years. Women feel more comfortable about going in and out of the workforce. Many women I know are doing legal briefs while their kids nap. They're adapting their work much more easily to their children in a way that 10 years ago would have been looked at as an either/or situation. You're either going out the door and laboring in the workforce 40 hours a week or you're at home.

Change the word "women" to "men" in the above quote, and she's describing my new life. I am apparently Danielle Crittenden's vision of the ideal mother.

As far as I can tell, in the "me Tarzan, you Jane" grammar of Frum's marriage, both spouses work but the obligations of home lie entirely with his wife.

I can see why Frum would be so determined to protect that, but it's ridiculously weak justification for stopping gay people from the life-altering experience of getting married.