Feeling Sexy at Harvard
And The Gap is here to serve.
By C. R. Hardy
The last time I lived in Cambridge with kids was four years ago. Back then I had just two of them — and was pregnant with my third. According to my fair-minded fellow Cambridge residents, I was an overpopulating nut-case. The snickers and sneers were insufferable — most especially when I was out with my boys in a double stroller, pushing them along with my pregnant, over-sized mid-section. You could see the astonished eyes looking first at the stroller, then at my belly, then quickly at my face (to see if I was real, I assume), and then embarrassingly shifting to a store front or a passing car. Then the person would whisper to a smiling companion, well within my hearing, “She’s having another one!” As if it weren’t already obvious.
That was the fall of 2002. Though we left Harvard just before my third son was born in 2003, we are back again this year, living in Harvard graduate-student housing — now with four children.
It’s even worse this time. I had figured Cambridge was already about as anti-natalist as it could be, but this is the city where progressives never sleep. In point of fact, election 2004 showed Cambridge had become even more “blue” than it was when I was last here. Middlesex County, to which Cambridge belongs, voted Democrat by an extra 2.5 percentage points in 2004 over 2000.
My favorite sign of the times is that in my absence the GapKids that used to occupy the second floor of one of the Harvard Co-op buildings in Harvard Square was replaced with a GapBody. For those of you uninitiated into the world of Gap-lingo, allow me to explain. The Gap is a ridiculously trendy apparel company that caters to young people, and adults who want to dress like young people. GapKids is a spin-off division of The Gap that sells ridiculously trendy (and incredibly cute) clothing for kids. BabyGap is a related spin-off store that sells ridiculously trendy (and even more incredibly cute) clothing for babies. GapMaternity outfits pregnant women in, you guessed it, ridiculously trendy styles. You get the idea.
GapBody is the newest spin-off. It peddles ridiculously trendy undergarments and comfy apparel for women, because, as goes their motto, “there’s no secret to being sexy...feeling good is the sexiest thing of all.” And so, considering that those marketing majors at The Gap are well aware that Harvard Square is student-territory, and since students don’t have many kids, out goes GapKids and in comes GapBody — all of which seems to be good reasoning.
Yet consider the assumption behind the exchange: While students aren’t having many kids (naturally enough), they are, apparently, having a lot of sex — or, if not, they are at least really interested in feeling sexy. And GapBody is here to serve. According to their website, GapBody provides everything a young woman needs to help her feel sexy, including, to my great astonishment, “playful intimates for under your daytime outfits.” Why in heaven’s name students should want something playful under their daytime clothing, I have no idea. The demand for playfulness in classrooms and labs never seemed to me to be particularly high.
But I digress. The point of all this is that the shift from GapKids to GapBody is reflective of Cambridge and blue America more generally. Simply put, maternity has become for them an exotic, often baffling, custom. I remember the last time I was in the GapKids store in Harvard Square before we moved away. I had my two little boys and was five months pregnant with my third. A customer behind me in line, looking me over and observing the two little ones in the stroller, asked me in all seriousness how I was going to get around once I had my third. Surprised, and mildly humored, I explained that I fully expected that my oldest would be able to walk by the time my third was born. It was a partly facetious answer for a mostly absurd question — my eldest son could already walk, of course, but, like all kids, preferred to ride if he could. Yet it was a revealing question. I’ll be the last to make light of the difficulties involved in transporting three little kids all about Cambridge. But the tone of the question bothered me, as if it was meant to imply: “Didn’t you think over the transportation issue before you got pregnant again?” As if getting around by stroller would ever figure into my calculations over whether to have a third child.
Perhaps that’s just the way in which blue America looks at childbearing — as a cost-benefit analysis performed with the most rudimentary and imbecilic tools of measurement. The benefits are somewhat obscure: How, for example, do you measure the benefits for society of a child that grows up to join the Sisters of Charity of Mother Theresa, ministering to the poorest of the poor around the world? Or how do you measure the benefit to society of a child that will spend 18 years studying and 50 or more years thinking, producing, working, and paying taxes? Or what about the child that will grow up to cure cancer, negotiate peace in the Middle East, or discover a renewable clean source of fuel? The fact is, it’s impossible and silly even to think about it. What’s the value of a human life, considered ex ante?
But the costs — oh, the costs are so easy to calculate! So many diapers, so much formula, so many inconvenient trips around Harvard Square with one extra little guy who doesn’t fit into my double stroller.
With no more GapKids, my trips to Harvard Square will be less frequent. Instead, I’ll have to throw all the kids in my big, gas-guzzling, liberal-infuriating Suburban and drive out of Cambridge to where people still have kids and still want them. Those places seem to be getting fewer and further between in Massachusetts, though they still exist. By and large they are high-immigrant areas and poorer areas. Children are still the wealth of the poor in Massachusetts, but not the wealth — or the ambition — of the rich.
Harvard students are more interested in sex — or in feeling sexy — than in kids. Feeling sexy, however, often leads to sex, and sex often leads to kids. Ahem. Or at least to pregnancies. Which is why blue America sweepingly (and coercively) supports choice. They want the sex, but not the kids. The kids are much too costly. To the pocketbook, yes, but most of all to a particular lifestyle more interested in today’s consumption than tomorrow’s production.
Enter defense of illegal immigration (workers need to come from somewhere), abortion and the Pill (for the sexiness without the kids), and support for gay marriage (because what does sex have to do with kids, anyway?). I'm reminded of Walker Percy’s 1971 summary of what the left stands for: LEFTPAPASANE —- Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, The Pill, Atheism, Pot, Anti-Pollution, Sex, Abortion Now, Euthanasia. Think much has changed?
So it is poignant that GapBody has replaced GapKids in one of the most highly charged centers of left-wing idea-production. Another generation of Harvard students will be weaned into adulthood on a steady dose of feeling sexy (even during the day) and covering up the consequences of all that sexiness by whatever means necessary. And it probably never will occur to many of the young women at Harvard that a legitimate (and even fun!) way to use their above-average talents is to bring new people into the world with above-average talents and nurture them with all the above-average gifts they possess.
— C. R. Hardy is a mother of four small adorable kids and a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Harvard University.