PEOPLE are queer, but that's not news.
Asking someone's salary in mixed company produces a sucking of teeth. Tell someone else they're carrying a little extra weight and you've committed a hellish faux pas. There's just certain things, society says, one doesn't like to discuss. It would follow, then, that a woman's ovaries – surely a private topic – are off the cards. Not so.
When you get to a particular age – oops, there's something else not to reveal – and you express an interest in children, you are immediately quizzed about why you haven't had any and when you plan to get the ball rolling, so to speak. It's a brave woman indeed who says she doesn't want any at all but I'll tell you another conversation stopper: revealing you'd like to adopt.
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I can't begin to count the number of clangingly offensive responses I've had to the words: "I'd like to adopt" but I can tell you the positive ones: three.
The most common words are: "You've still got time", ie to find a man and reproduce. The implication being that to want to adopt for no "good" reason – infertility – is some madness.
Then you get the horror stories. "My sister adopted a baby. He was a nightmare, she had to send him back."
"Our friends adopted two lovely girls but when they hit their teenage years they went wild."
And my favourite: "Our neighbour adopted a boy and he turned out to be gay." Heaven forbid.
While some women see husband and kids as the ultimate destination, others see Prince Charming and no children as the ideal. For me, I love children but the thought of marriage or co-habiting holds no appeal. It's not even something I can clearly articulate.
I feel, personally and not reflective of other women's choices, that to stay single and take heroic measures to get pregnant would be selfish when I could give a needy child a home. I also see no distinction between a birthed child and an adopted child. Perhaps it's because, having built a solid, extended second family from friends, I view blood ties as no necessary bolster to love.
A university friend suggests that, as an only child, I can't understand what it's like to love a biologically related child and offers up his feelings for his nieces as proof that adoption is but a second-rate relation. I would wrestle a freshly reincarnated and ravenous T Rex if it dared look askance at my godson so, no, he's wrong about that.
Ma Stewart, puzzled, says: "So, you want to stay single and raise someone else's child?" Yes, in a nutshell. She also, quite fairly and with millions of years of animal instinct to back her up, says I should have a baby because she or he might inherit her good qualities, a sort of living souvenir.
This week was Barnardos's Fostering and Adoption Week. The children's charity would like to get people thinking and talking about adoption. Personally, I would like to see a point where adoption is not a last resort but a completely mainstream action. I would like to say my plan is to stay single and raise someone else's child without a single eyelid batted.