The Curious Case of Bristol Palin

03/26/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My niece declined a glass of wine at dinner, beamed and announced she is pregnant. I am thrilled for her and her husband. I am amazed at the implied optimism - they are going to be able to afford food, shelter, Hello Kitty clothing. They'll save money under the bassinet mattress. They will be able to afford vaccines, braces, dance lessons, pre-K college tutoring, tuition, treatment for that rare skin problem, therapy for the behavior problems, lawyers for drug busts, a large enough fallout shelter.

But that's just where my mind goes.

When we first moved to New York, my building was like an ambulatory assisted living facility. I flirted madly with the old women and men in the elevator and loved their stories while we drowsed and waited for the laundry room dryers. Thirteen years and many early morning sirens later, instead of walkers and three-pronged canes, the elevator is jammed with state-of-the-art, plastic encased, dual purpose jogger-strollers.

A recent newsletter announced there are now thirty-three kids in our building, including six sets of twins, with two more kids in the hopper. With the new surveillance cams, I'm concerned how the board got that last bit of info. Everywhere in my neighborhood there are double-wide strollers. When a friend told me her partner was pregnant, my first thought was, "Just one?" and I realized I'd had the same thought when my niece announced. I find myself looking at women pushing single strollers like they are somehow slacking.

And that was before the saga of the Octomom. While grimly enumerating the details of the story - Nadya Suleman is Iraqi, single, disabled, unemployed, on food stamps, obsessed with Angelina Jolie, in graduate school for pediatric counseling, lives with her parents, has six other children - commentators look relieved to be covering a story about unscrupulous fertility bankers and absentee octodads rather than the collapse of banking in the fatherland.

Has Bristol Palin weighed in on the Octomom? In her FOX news interview with the tiny, deconstructed Greta Van Susteren, Bristol's 'likes' and 'y'knows' certainly disqualified her for a New York State Senate seat. She said she wants to be an advocate for teen pregnancy, even though we already have a pretty good record in that category.

Just before her mom, Governor Palin, inserted herself in the room, Bristol said that telling her mom she was with Tripp [after Linda?] was harder than the actual childbirth. Bristol also said that she wished she had waited ten years, that teens should wait for marriage but that abstinence is not realistic. They had an interesting family dinner table discussion that night. You betcha. Good thing Grandpa Todd is away on another of his snowmobile idiotrods.

It is all a very Curious Palin clan. The thirty year crusade for family - the straight is understood - makes a young girl derive identity and meaning from her offspring. As a young mother she takes on adult responsibility. Conversely, lack of responsibility and self-regulation infantilizes adults. Tax cuts, endless wars, assaults on mother earth? Trust us, we know what we're doing. Go out and buy yourself something pretty.

For the last few years, I've been fascinated by a growing trend at my local grocery. The produce department is stocked with misted bins laden with baby carrots, baby spinach, baby arugula, baby brussels sprouts. They should call the produce department 'the nursery'. Once I inadvertently spied a bunch of fully-grown adult carrots. I quickly looked away in baby beet red embarrassment.