I don't want to make a big deal out of this because it isn't a big deal, but I do think it's worth noting that being an only child is one of the things people still think it's totally OK to basically talk trash about.*
The only part of this that is a big deal is the way in which it connects to a larger issue: you'd hope that once people started to figure out (or be forced to figure out) that you're sort of not supposed to make generalizations about groups or discriminate against them, they (people, not the groups) would be able to universalize this principle rather than having to relearn it group by group by group—but this does not appear to be the case. Like, you'll learn that you're not supposed to say shitty things about people of different races or cultural backgrounds or sexual orientation, but then you'll still think it's OK to make fun of midgets (preferred term: little people).
The big difference between the above mentioned prejudices and prejudices against only children is that there's no history of discrimination or violence against—or oppression of—only children, which means the worst that can really come out of it is probably thoughtlessness resulting in bruised feelings. But it's still fucking stupid: it's still giving people grief about something that they can't help, based on uncritically received wisdom (read "prejudice").
Like one time, maybe a year ago, I was talking to a woman whom I liked and respected (and still do like and respect)—smart, nice, all that jazz—and when she found out I was an only child, she said, clearly meaning it as a compliment, "Oh!—but you don't seem selfish, fucked up, and obnoxious!"—or something along those lines. And I came very close to saying, because she's gay, "Thanks! And you're not a fat, short-haired man-hater!" (I restrained myself: I've learned not to make that kind of rhetorical gesture because it's inevitably misunderstood—enough so that I'm not sure I should even be saying here. But you see that my point would have been that that would be an analogously ignorant thing to say, yes?—and quite specifically not that lesbians are actually any of those things?†)
So I took the above photograph in a CVS, briefly (irrationally) excited about it and specifically thinking, "Hey, I'll put this shit up on Alt85 and write about how people are sometimes jerks about only children."
And as I was taking the picture—I swear this is 100% true—this CVS employee wandered up behind me and started talking to me, and the following totally real (and impressively well-reported, verbatim) dialogue took place.
CVS: Oh, no! Only child! I don't want that!
S.R.: What do you mean?
CVS: Only child? It's terrible! I grew up with four brothers and sisters...
S.R.: I'm an only child.
CVS: Who did you play with?
[very brief pause]
S.R.: I turned out OK. At least I'm not rude.
CVS (reassuring me): No, it's OK! I had brothers and sisters I could play with—
S.R.: Yeah. And you're rude.
But now, see, what begins as an amazing, almost too-perfect illustration of exactly my point does lead into a bit of a change of subject, or redirection, because if there's one thing I think being an only child did do to me in a negative way, it's that it made me too goddamned sensitive. My ideal me would not have engaged with that guy, at least not like that. I mean, who fucking cares? There was no need for me to get huffy about it.
With brothers and sisters making fun of me all the time, I imagine I would have (1) gotten used to it and, more importantly, (2) learned that when people say stupid shit to you, it (a) doesn't matter and (b) doesn't mean they're your enemy.‡ See what I'm saying? When I got to grade school I had an awful time because every time a little kid bumped into me or was otherwise dismissive, I was basically like, "What the fuck?!" And as I said once about paranoia...
Actually, I don't think I ever did, not on Alt85. Here: I once told my imaginary friend "Gottlieb" that I didn't think I was paranoid: I didn't imagine things that weren't there, I told him, but instead perceived real, present things and just blew them out of proportion. "That," he said, "is what paranoia is."
Similarly, when people were jerks—thoughtless or even cruel—I was very bad at putting that in its proper place. Still am, surely. [See Alternate 1985.] To be totally frank, I sort of wish I had a brother or a sister. That's probably why I enjoyed The O.C. so much (first and second seasons only, please): it was sort of a dramatization of a "Hey, I've got a brother after all!" fantasy. And if/when I ever reproduce, I'd like to have multiple offspring—like probably two?
Still from Check It Out! (via)
All that said, I do wish people would pull their heads out of their asses as far as only children are concerned. Next time you meet an only child, how about you keep your stereotypes to yourself? They're ignorant and wrong. And besides, the only child you're talking to is probably an oversensitive baby.
BY THE WAY, you assholes... (click to enlarge) (Wiki-wikipedia)
* Another is New York. Tell a stranger—at least an American stranger—that you're from New York, and she'll likely have no qualms at all about telling you how much she dislikes the City, how noisy it is, how she wouldn't want to live there, what a terrible place it would be for raising kids, etc. Imagine the reverse: "You're from Iowa? God, does anyone actually live there? I can't even imagine it, living so far from anything that matters." Jaws would drop, tempers would rocket...
† Of course, the place where the parallel breaks down is where a history of oppression and marginalization comes in, as I discussed above: just as black people have worlds more legitimate cause to be upset about the word nigger1 than white people do about the word cracker (q.v.), so a lesbian would have much more reason to be upset by my making dumb assumptions about her than I would to be upset by her making dumb assumptions about me. Although of course in this particular instance the one would be deliberately ironic whereas the other was evidently sincere...but whatever. Let me note again that the person who said this to me was very nice and smart and likable and surely just not thinking.
‡ It also might have been helpful if my parents were emotionally abusive.
1 I have lost the ability to write "the N-word." Thanks a lot, Louis C.K. [q.v., NSFW].