A+ A A-

Be fruitful and multiply. Now


Ive just celebrated a significant birthday. How significant? Hint: I am now eligible to buy the orange bus tickets instead of the fuchsia ones, and the orange ones cost less.

Dear visitor:

Please put a little something in the CERC stocking this Advent.

The elder Barbara Kay

Also, it seems the government wants to lift the financial burden of my cappuccino budget from my shoulders.

I’m glad I’m not a Baby Boomer ( just missed the wave). If I were, I’d perhaps be playing tennis through pain, or still bravely imagining that a Spandex top featuring deep cleavage is an appropriate fashion choice. Happily I’m from the old school, where 100 isn’t the new 90 and so forth. I yam what I yam, as Popeye would say, and what I yam not is young.

I’ve decided I’m an “elder,” which has an agreeable cross-cultural ring and, unlike the word “old,” which conveys fatigue and superannuity, conjures up one with a few social aces still up her sleeve, and enough little grey cells left to distinguish a hawk from a handsaw.

To my delight, a crucial youthful projection of an older self materialized: That is to say, I yam also wise. That’s because I actually learned from experience — my own and the experience of intellectually trustworthy others. I can distinguish the transient from what endures. I can’t be conned or flattered into compliance with dubious projects. I’m like a homing pigeon in choosing the people and ideas and institutions worth spending my increasingly precious time on. I do not suffer fools gladly or otherwise anymore. (Strung end to end, my gladly suffered fools of yesteryear would girdle the globe.)

You can’t imagine what a convenience and a timesaver wisdom is. I recommend it. When you are wise, every minute of your day is productive in one way or another. Your priorities fall instinctively into place.

Which brings me to my point: Some wisdom can be procured through one’s own experience; some other kinds, such as if and when to have children, are timesensitive, and must be taken on faith from wise elders like me.

So may I just say — well, actually I believe the Charter of Rights allows people of my age to give unsolicited advice whenever the fancy takes them — that in the unlikely event that you, reader of this column, are a twenty-something woman, here is some wisdom gleaned from experience that you will never get nowadays from male authority figures (they wouldn’t dare!) or even from most other women: Nothing you ever achieve in that precious career of yours will amount to a hill of beans beside the accomplishment of raising decent and constructive children.

Don’t wait too long. Voluntarily courted infertility is an “if-only” nightmare. Repeat after me: My fertility will peak before the age of 25. By 35, I’m a gambler. By 40, I’m playing the Lotto.

There is no single Mr Right. When you decide it’s the Right Time, you’ll find him. If you start looking at men as potential fathers rather than lovers, you’ll end up living harmoniously according to nature’s, not feminists’ plan.

My well-educated female cohort turned out a raft of highly successful Canadians in business, professional and cultural life. Most are still active in their careers, but the tension-filled slog to the top is over. When we meet socially, they don’t want to tell me about their latest accomplishment. They’re accustomed to who and what they are (or have made their peace with who and what they aren’t). What stimulates them now are the unfolding dramas of their childrens’ lives and — if they’re lucky enough to have them — their grandchildren’s.

You will be where I am sooner than you think. You can change your policy on fools at any age, but in biological matters, time is a ruthless arbiter. The most poignant of Shakespearean laments is “O Time, turn backward in thy flight.” Here endeth the wisdom for today.



Barbara Kay "Be fruitful and multiply. Now." National Post, (Canada) 12 December, 2007.

Reprinted with permission of the author, Barbara Kay, and the National Post.

The Author

kay Barbara Kay is a Montreal-based writer. She has been a Comment page columnist (Wednesdays) in the National Post since September, 2003. She may be reached here.

Copyright © 2007 National Post
back to top