I was christened Baroness Barren by my husband. It was a light moment, really, spurred on by another demonstration of my laser sharp technique of making small children cry when I am trying to be friendly with them. This time my unwitting target was the angelic Hugh, child of some neighbors. We had been at the local wine bar much of the afternoon when Hugh and his dad arrived. Perhaps emboldened by the quantity of white wine I had consumed, I ignored my previous track record and engaged in the wide-eyed, overly expressive small talk customary with toddlers. I hadn't gotten much past "Well hello, Hugh," when he let out a yowl and ran into the arms of his father, prompting my husband to comment, "Baroness Barren strikes again."
At first I objected to my new title. I was not, after all, barren in the traditional sense, at least as far as I knew. (I had never actually tried to get pregnant, but I assumed the downstairs machinery was working.) I was childless by choice. Then I looked up the definition of barren, which includes "not yet or not recently pregnant" and, my favorite, "habitually failing to fruit" -- birth control pills will have that effect -- and realized I could legitimately be called barren.
Better yet Baroness Barren. I liked the regal air, infusing a heretofore ugly word with a new grace and haughtiness. I like to think in assuming my new title I am reclaiming barren à la the female reclamation of the word cunt in The Vagina Monologues. Everyone who saw that show remembers getting to yell it at the top of their lungs. Now it's the turn of the childless. Shout it loud, shout it proud: barren, barren, barren!