In this PC world where nothing is taboo and everything is flaunted, why do so many of us dither at the thought of saying publicly, “I can’t have children”? I resemble that remark. I haven’t told my mom. Nor my dad. My two sisters and brother. My grandparents. My cousins. My in-laws. Well, really, I haven’t told anyone. Rhys, my husband, and my (former) Infertility Buddy, Maeve, are the only ones who know.
Why is that? Why is there this nameless, faceless shame surrounding infertility? Personally, I can trace it back to my upbringing in the Judeo/Christian tradition. As a child, I heard stories about Samuel’s mother and John the Baptist’s mother, (temporarily) infertile women who suffered the sidelong glances and behind-the-hand-whispers of their culture. I didn’t think much about it as a little girl. Certainly, I’d have babies someday. But the message sunk in and haunts me to this day. As if infertility is somehow shameful. Stigmatized. Damn it!
But should we feel this way? I think it’s about time we dump the shame and shatter the stigma that envelops infertility. It’s not doing us one iota of good! Haven’t we suffered enough already!
Here, to help us cut the crap, are several famous Hollywood stars from the Golden Age (1920’s – 1940s), women who didn’t or couldn’t have children. Some of them did indeed conceive but chose (or their studio forced them into) abortion only to find later in life that they could no longer conceive or carry children to term anymore. Some of them contracted STIs. Some of them had hysterectomies. Some simply could never conceive. Some chose not to have children. The reasons are often shrouded in the unfortunate discretion of that day-and-age.
All of them did not have children for all of the reasons we women today don’t have children. And all of them are famous, talented, successful, long-remembered and drop-dead gorgeous! So take that, shame! Consider yourself kicked in the bollocks!
She of the smoky voice and sultry eyes never had children. The casting couch of the 1930’s was her nemesis. Condoms have been around, in some form and material, since the 1600’s, but Hollywood producers and leading men never used them. Between her many abortions and a gonorrhea infection that ended in a radical hysterectomy, Tallulah never had children. But did she want them? History is silent on that score.
Ah, but she was Tallulah. She was also one of the first Hollywood women to have breast implants and loved to dance, stark naked on the piano, showing off her new assets for all and sundry to see. Her legacy lives on in the one-woman play, Looped, in which Valerie Harper (as Tallulah) dramatizes a true life event where it took Tallulah eight hours to record one line of dialogue. She was the one, the first, the only Tallulah Bankhead. But she never had kids.
I really don’t know why I included her first name. Chanel. That’s all you need to hear. It conjures up the sight of an LBD and the wafting scent of Chanel No. 5 (which was all Marilyn Monroe wore to bed)! Yet Coco, whose real name was Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, never married and never had children. Certainly, she had many lovers, most of them in the aristocracy, one of them a Nazi!
Sometimes when the Spring and Autumn Fashion Week madness descends on London, I like to think I can hear Coco Chanel spinning in her grave. How she would blush if she could see eyebrowless heroine-chic models, all bony knees and bulging backbones, strutting in a bit of sheer fabric and a piece of dental floss for “modesty.” I hear her French accent saying scornfully, “And dey call dis fashion.” But she never had kids.
She didn’t just stop a passing car, she stopped the world when she sexily stuck out one shapely leg for that unforgettable hitchhiking scene with Clark Gable in It Happened One Night. For that, she won the Oscar! Twice married and twice divorced, Claudette was a take-charge woman. She was only allowed herself to be filmed from the left side, her good side, which brought film crews to refer to the right side of her face as “the dark side of the moon.” Often imagined, never seen. She did her own make-up and cut her own hair. Even on her deathbed, she was in full hair and make-up. But she never had kids.
And last…but certainly not least…
Or just, Garbo. Even if you’ve never seen the incomparable Greta Garbo on the silver screen, you’ve probably heard of her. She changed the world of acting. No more histrionics. No more over-emoting, over-gesturing. Just the camera and her eyes. Her huge gorgeous eyes. And you felt her joy, her pain, her love, her sorrow, her bliss, her romance. She never won an Oscar. Shunned premiers. She coined the phrase, “I want to be [left] alone.” Garbo slept with men, she slept with women and she left actor John Gilbert standing, red-faced and heart-broken, at the altar. But she never had kids.
These beyond gorgeous ladies never had children and no one gives it a second thought. There are hundreds and thousands more like them. We treasure their talent. Laugh at their comedy. Marvel at their beauty and will appreciate them forever, whether they procreated or not!
Photo by twm1340
Photo by chariserin
Photo by classic film scans
Photo by twm1340
Photo by www.brevestoriadelcinema.org
Photo by twm1340