Dana Pettinelli's helpful slideshow for Babble asks the question, "Will these stars regret not having a baby sooner?" They're then helpfully categorized into those at "low risk" or "high risk" of a lifetime of regret — based, it seems, entirely on age. Winona Ryder's 38, so Pettinelli is worried she might steal a baby (get it? Shoplifting? Get it?). Kristin Davis is 45, so it's time to adopt (I'm sure she consults Babble for all her family-planning needs). Even those who have never mentioned a desire for kids get the Babble concern-troll treatment. Of Laura Linney (zomg 46!), Pettinelli writes, "Linney has no shortage of mom-roles to play, but we can't find evidence anywhere that she wants to play the role of mother in real life. Jury's out on this one." So why is she high-risk? Then there's Rachael Ray, who's actively talked about her desire not to procreate: "Food personality Rachael Ray cares about cooking healthy meals for kids, but she's not too concerned about putting a bun in the oven. (Sorry, we had to.) At this point, Ray has said she doesn't even have time to be a good mom to her dogs." Apparently not even really having time for your pets means you're poised at the brink of baby despair.
Of course, there is a "cure" for the terrible scourge of doing other things in your life besides having kids: a baby, silly! Pettinelli lists a number of celebs (all women, of course) "cured" of their baby-fever by the balm of poopy diapers, and in an accompanying article, Rachel Lehmann-Haupt brings up the most terrifying part of so-called "Aniston Syndrome:" its secrecy. You see, no one is talking about women's dwindling fertility. Lehmann-Haupt pays lip service to women's expanded reproductive choices (artificial insemination, donor eggs) before revealing that these supposed choices obscure the awful truth:
There is, however, a darker, extremely painful side to these new choices that isn't talked about as much at cocktail parties or over lunches with girlfriends. You could call it "The Aniston Syndrome" - the grim reality that it's possible to wait too long. Because we don't want to sound anti-feminist, anti-career or all together un-empowered, instead we smile, and say, "Oh don't worry, I have a friend who got pregnant at 42," and avoid the talk of miscarriages, failed IVF cycles, and the pressures on our relationships. These are the more painful and economically stressful consequences of starting later.
Of course, supportive friends may be kind about reproductive prospects because we know women rarely just forget to have kids if they really want them. Life is complex, and it can take time for women to find the financial and emotional security — and the partner — they want before they start a family. Few real women think so abstractly — or have the luxury to — that they put off kids because, in Lehmann-Haupt's words, "the choice to wait really is the most empowered one." Mostly people are just muddling along, trying to balance the realities of relationships and career with the limitations of their fertility. And since most women are already well aware of these limitations, there's little point in labeling them "high risk."