February 17, 2005

Dear Mr. Bush,

"So she means I should pick the baby up by his head?" the guy sitting next to me asks his wife, his balding head keenly disguised by moussing its few remaining hairs straight up, his meaty hand gripping a plastic doll's skull as he lifts the poor toy off the table.

"No honey, pick him up by the neck," she responds, matter-of-factly.

We are at a "Baby Care Basics" class and I am trying to stop myself from laughing out loud--it probably wouldn't help Janice and my reputation, which, judging from the looks we've been getting, is already pretty low.

It all started as we went around the room introducing ourselves: We were the only couple with different last names and the only one working with a nurse midwife instead of a doctor. It continued when we were the only two people to raise their hands when the nurse leading the class asked if anyone was going to use cloth diapers. Ditto when she asked about not circumcising your baby and when we were the only ones asking questions about storing breast milk instead of formula.

By the mid-class break, while the pregnant women congregated in the bathroom and the dads stood outside idly chatting about due dates, Janice and I were left standing by ourselves, passing a bag of trail mix back and forth, swearing under our breath and feeling like we were back in high school.

It's moments like this that I realize just how small the world I normally live in is. Decisions that seem perfectly normal within my circle of friends and colleagues, when brought out into a group of strangers, seem foreign and strange. It's in these moments when it dawns on me that, no matter how old I get, I will always get the funny looks that have followed me throughout my life for one reason or another. This is when I realize that raising my son, loving my partner, living my life, will continue to always be a struggle.

And yet, when I look around the room at the couples sitting around me--the women's hair all bangs and feathers, the men's all slicked back or stuck up, each couple hoping to appear more flawless than the next--I know that I'd rather choose a life of struggle than one of bland complacency.

Smokin' in the boys' room,


PS. In case you weren't sure, you supportthe head and neck, but lift the body.


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