Modern sex: Baby to order, hold the cigar

Sunday, October 4, 1998

The Cincinnati Enquirer

The first time I ever saw a cigar, it had a blue band around it. My father bought a box of them to celebrate the birth of my brother, Steven. Myself, I couldn't imagine what all the shouting was about. I would rather have had a monkey.

My mother said monkeys were smelly. I was sure that the average monkey smelled far better than the average cigar. But I digress. The point is that my generation ruins everything. What do you think of these days when somebody mentions a cigar? A new baby? I don't think so.

You think of the Oval Office and you-know-who doing you-know-what.

The boomer curse

We baby boomers are a scourge, a curse, a great big market with a tiny attention span. You show us something, and we'll conspicuously consume it until we utterly exhaust its commercial possibilities. Then we move on to something else, and the formerly hot item goes on the discount table.

Barry Manilow. Tickle Me Elmo. Beanie Babies. Stocks.

Or -- as in the case of the formerly innocent, celebratory cigar -- we completely misuse it.

I do not think that we can be trusted with the latest scientific discovery.

Doctors at a fertility center in Fairfax, Va., have discovered a way to determine the sex of babies. Not just before they're born. Before they're conceived.

It was one thing when it became possible to know the sex of our babies before we met them for the first time in the delivery room. This allowed parents to plan ahead. Because no matter how enlightened and politically correct we think we are, there's not a family in America that dresses its little boys in pink.

Gender identity

For some reason it becomes critically important to new parents that the sex of their children be recognized. Otherwise, why do we see so many baby girls with little bows mysteriously affixed to their bald heads? And newborn baby boys in numbered jerseys? Parents-to-be generally claim "we don't really care if it's a boy or a girl as long as the baby is healthy." But they care. You know they do. In our hearts, we really have a preference.

And what if we could indulge this preference?

Thanks to the folks at the Genetics & IVF Institute, sperm may be sorted in advance of fertilization to give parents a choice of the sex of the child they are about to conceive. The investigators, led by Dr. Edward Fugger (his actual name), have released an account of their success with couples who asked for girls.

Of 14 pregnancies that progressed far enough for doctors to determine the fetus' sex, 13 had female fetuses. Dr. Fugger said a group of couples who requested boy babies has produced similar results.

So, the next thing you know, we will be able to decide whether we want boys or girls. And even though baby boomers are getting a little long in the tooth to be spawning their own children, we will be nagging our children for grandchildren.

Boys, we will want boys. Because most people suspect that girls are more difficult and expensive. They do not carry on the family name. Pretty soon, there will be too many boys.

This will force Madison Avenue to react, because the entire economy would collapse if there were not enough little girls to demand Barbie dolls. So then television commercials would be filled with evil little boys, until we get the subliminal message and switch to girls.

Everything will be out of whack. My prediction is that all of America is going to long desperately for the days when a baby was a little surprise package from heaven. And a cigar was just a cigar.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at, call 768-8393, or fax 768-8340. She can be heard Monday mornings on WVXU radio and on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular columns and commentaries, is available at (800) 852-9332.