The Referendum - Sizing Up the Road Not Taken


fork-in-the-roadEver size your life up against a friend who’s made different choices than you have?

Whenever we choose one road in life, we naturally leave the other undiscovered.  In an absolutely pitch-perfect essay, cartoonist Tim Kreider defines this phenomenon as The Referendum, or the time of life when you start looking at your friends — especially friends from your youth — and comparing their choices to your own.

In Kreider’s case, he compares his single, child-free lifestyle to the way his friends live — married with children, their “next thousand Saturdays are already booked.”

Kreider never wanted kids, he writes:

I have never even idly thought for a single passing second that it might make my life nicer to have a small, rude, incontinent person follow me around screaming and making me buy them stuff for the rest of my life.

(Kind of like Dana Carvey’s 100-year-old man, for example:)

But though he’s never seen himself as a parent, he acknowledges that The Referendum forces him to acknowledge what he might be missing:

But there are also moments when some part of me wonders whether I am not only missing the biological boat but something I cannot even begin to imagine — an entire dimension of human experience undetectable to my senses, like a flatlander scoffing at the theoretical concept of sky.

It’s a brilliant and hysterical read, no matter which side of the parenting fence you sit on.  Do you find yourself — especially those of you who are nearing middle-age — looking into the lives of friends who made the choices you didn’t?  What do you feel when you do … envy?  Or relief?

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