Archive for the ‘Sex of the Baby’ Category

Last week I doubted that daughters cause divorce. “Having a boy” and “being happy” appeared to be correlated, yes, but I wasn’t convinced that one caused the other. Well, Steven Landsburg is:

But in this case, correlation does imply causation, and here’s why: If you take 3 million people, have them all flip coins, and divide them into two groups according to whether their coins came up heads or tails, then the two groups are going to look statistically identical in every way—same average income, same average intelligence, same average height. That’s called the law of large numbers, and it works for two reasons—first, the sample size is huge, and second, coin flips are random. Now do the same thing, dividing your 3 million people according to the gender of their last-born child. The same thing happens—parents of boys are going to be statistically identical in every way to parents of girls, because you’ve still got a huge sample size and because the sex of a child is as random as a coin flip. Since everything else is equal, the only thing that can be causing the difference in divorce rates is the gender of the children.

Still, I’d like to see the cross tabs. If you adjust for all the factors that tend to make people happy (and therefore less likely to divorce) – stuff like income, education, marital status, health, etc. – is the effect still present? In other words, do married women with $100,000 jobs, and Master’s degrees, and husbands, and clean bills of health, and daughters still get divorced more often than women with $100,000 jobs, and Master’s degrees, and husbands, and clean bills of health, and sons?

If so, then I will quietly begin to weep.

One tangent before I change a diaper: a number of studies suggest that boy fetuses are more likely to miscarry under times of stress. Natural and social catastrophes (like 9/11), unemployment, extremely hot climates, and poor diets have all been show to lower the boy to girl birth ratio. Call women “the weaker sex” all you want, but exactly the opposite is true in the womb. Boy fetuses need more support and are less likely to survive without it. Might this tie back into the notion that parents of boys are happier on average than parents of girls? If they’re less likely to live in high stress environments or have experienced any of the above calamities, then it would make sense.

Now, on to yellow-green poop.

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I guess it’s a good thing we had a boy:

Oh, No: It’s a Girl!

If you want to stay married, three of the most ominous words you’ll ever hear are “It’s a girl.” All over the world, boys hold marriages together, and girls break them up.

In the United States, the parents of a girl are nearly 5 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of a boy. The more daughters, the bigger the effect: The parents of three girls are almost 10 percent more likely to divorce than the parents of three boys.

Hard to believe, but it doesn’t stop there. The few surveys of parental happiness I found on the web show that mothers of sons are “happier” on average than mothers of girls. And unmarried couples are more likely to tie the knot if they learn their unborn child will be a boy. And, as if that weren’t enough, divorced women with daughters have a harder time remarrying.

The question is why. Are daughters really such an albatross? Do sons really cause happiness?

Slate’s Steven E. Landsburg kicks the tires on some explanations. Maybe men stick around to raise their sons? Or maybe women stay with men so their sons can have fathers? Or maybe it’s the “everybody stays happy” theory: Dad invests in making son happy; so Mom invests in making Dad happy; so everybody stays pretty happy.

On the other hand, it could be that sons are more vulnerable to the effects of divorce, thus raising the stakes of splitting up. You want your kid to wear a trench coat and skin cats? Leave his mother. Or maybe women with daughters depend less on their husbands emotionally? Why bother talking to that blob on the couch playing Halo when you can go shopping with your daughter?

Either way, I’m probably the wrong person to make sense of this. I love just about everything there is to love about women. The way they walk, talk, think, feel, smell, taste, smile, cry – all of it. The first 25 years of my life, in fact, were a love affair with women in general. The last 10 have been a love affair with one woman in particular. So when you tell me that bringing a woman into the world ruins your life, I call bullshit. That’s like someone telling me that Ben & Jerry’s tastes bad. No. No, it doesn’t.

Could it be there’s something else going on?

Rich Mother’s Have More Sons

Rich, married and well-educated women tend to have more sons while those who are unhealthy and poorer tend to have more daughters, according to a study.

Researchers studied 50 million people and found that mothers in ‘good condition’ – those who were married, better educated and younger – bore more sons than mothers in ‘poor condition’.

I am no number cruncher. The last math course I took was freshmen year of college, and I still have recurring nightmares about trying to operate a TI-85. But if nature really does hedge its bets this way, then why is everyone so surprised that women with sons are happier on average than those with daughters? Of course they’re happier. They’re statistically more likely to be rich, married, well-educated, well-fed, and healthy. The whole thing about their kid having a penis has nothing to do with it.

With some luck, one of the 3 people who read this blog is a closet statistician and can tell us if the “daughters cause divorce” phenomenon holds true when you adjust for the parent’s income, education level, marital status, etc.

Because I’m guessing it doesn’t. And until I see otherwise, I’m going to assume that the sex of the kid you have doesn’t determine whether or not you have a happy marriage.

Your marriage does.

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Circumcised Nanner

Photo: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

I have no foreskin. Either it fell off when I was too young to remember or, more likely, it was removed at birth by an evil man medical professional.

But the good news is that I hardly miss it. I enjoy the hell out of sex still. I don’t burst into tears when I catch a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. And, unlike those amputees who get itches in their phantom limbs, I’ve never felt anything in my phantom foreskin.

So I’m gonna circumcise my son too, right?


I’ve read the arguments for it. It protects against HIV (so do condoms). It reduces the risk of penile cancer (so does castration). It decreases the tendency to masturbate (didn’t work for me). And it would make my son look like his daddy (note to self: stop walking around the house with my junk hanging out). But none of those resonate with me.

More to the point, I think you’ve got to be pretty skeptical of any “medical procedure” that started as a religious sacrifice. I mean, far be it from me to doubt the word of God. But I may or may not take my son to the city gates and stone him to death the first time he calls me a stupid head.

And what if little Nathan grows up and wants to be circumcised, you ask?

Then he’ll have one more reason to look forward to his 18th birthday.

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You know when you’re in a large group of people listening to — let’s say — a presentation, and some wise ass in the back of the room cracks a joke? And then the poor guy giving the presentation shakes his head and says, “Hey, looks like we got a comedian here.”

Well, I have my own version of that now.

It’s called, “Hey, looks like we got an ultrasound technician here.”

Everywhere we go, people want to tell us the sex of our unborn child. I’m not talking about friends and family. I’m talking about random people. Like the crazy lady at Bath & Bodyworks (boy), and the crazy lady who pulled up next to us in her Mercedes (boy), and the crazy lady not wearing any shoes outside of the Beverly Center (boy).

By the way, notice a pattern there?

That’s right, I like talking to crazy people. And I like unsolved mysteries. And I like spending an incredible amount of time agonizing over something that can be determined both easily and definitively.

So here, my lurking ultrasound technicians, is a picture of my wife at 28 weeks:

What does that look like to you? Is she carrying high? Or low? Is she carrying wide? Or out in front? Are we having a boy? Or a girl?

Go ahead and be the wise ass in the back of the room.

I’m encouraging you.

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I know, Nathan is like the most-grotesquely-popular-name-in-the-history-of-the-world-ever. But hear me out. It’s from the Hebrew natan, meaning gift, and that’s what we feel we’re getting.

Not to ruin everyone’s day, but this is our second pregnancy. The first ended in the emergency room after 11 weeks. I’m not going to say too much about that experience now, except that it was as soul-crushing as it sounds. And afterward there’s nothing you can do really but cry and sleep, and neither makes you feel better.

But you do start to appreciate things beyond your control.

So here’s to “Nathan,” as his mother and I will call him when he brings home his first C.

Or “Nathaniel,” as he’ll call himself when he publishes a stodgy novel about suburban discontents.

Or “Nate,” as his buddies will chant when he shotguns his first beer.

I’ll take any of these. It’s all gravy from here.

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It has nothing to do with this gal . . .

. . . although let’s pause for a second to welcome the 16-year-old boys who just found this blog by mistake. What’s up, dudes?

No, my wife and I chose “Reese” for two reasons.

One, that’s the name of the building where we first met — Reese Phifer Hall at the University of Alabama. Check it out:

If I had any sense of staging, I would have asked her out on the front steps between those Doric columns. But, alas, I did not have any sense. So I choose a dim-lit fire exit around the side.

The second reason we selected “Reese” is because of these:

In college, my wife had a jar of these in her kitchen. I believe they were there for decoration. But little did she know she was dating THE WORLD’S BIGGEST FAN OF CHOCOLATE PEANUT BUTTER CANDIES. And so I ate them. All of them. And every time I came back over, I found the jar had been magically refilled, as if replenished by some other-worldly life force.

Also, this is how I got fat.

TOMORROW: The name we chose for a boy.

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We don’t know the sex of our baby.

On purpose.

Maybe there’s some really poetic reason for that. Like us wanting to keep the world full of possibilities. Are you a little girl? Or a little boy? Are you sweet? Or sassy? Are you quiet? Or loud? At this moment, you could still be anything.

But I suspect it’s also sort of a protest. Once upon a time, you didn’t get to know everything exactly when you wanted to know it. If you heard a new word, you had to look it up in the dictionary. If you had something mailed to you, you couldn’t track it across the country. And if you wanted your own recording of, let’s say, Michael Jackson’s “Beat It,” you had to sit at the stereo with your thumb on the record button and wait two friggin’ hours for the DJ to play it.

I miss that.

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