The Sex Ed Diaries

By reader request (the Missus) I’m re-posting an encore entry from my old teacher blog. While not quite squarely in the realm of Babydaddyness, it is germane to parenthood, especially considering how it ends, and yes, I wrote that before I had any notion I’d be a father one day.


I have been informed today that I am going to teach Sex Ed to the fifth graders.

I shouldn’t say I was ‘informed’- technically, I was asked to do it, and technically I could’ve had said no.

Technically.

But the reality is, I’m still new at the school, less than 60 days in, and taking over a job from someone who was well liked. It’s an awkward situation, and I’m finding I really have to hustle to get accepted into the fold here. There is a word for this- I was   “voluntold”.

You remember Sex Ed. It was that time where things were implied, where the class was divided into boys and girls. The girls went with the popular elementary teacher, the nurturing one, the one that is embarrassingly honest and forthright about her feelings, the one kids would go to if they had real problems, because she was an emotional rock they could tether too. The boys went with the gym coach, the same one that called you ‘girlies’ went you were running too slow during gym laps.  I don’t really know what happened with the girls, but the boys were sat on a cold gym floor and shown slides of line drawings of genitalia, of penises and vaginas, of the internal plumbing of ovaries and vas deferens and all the odd canals- all of this alluding to, but never saying, that somehow babies and sex and some sort of illicit adult activity was involved.

Roped-in.

They called me down to the organizational meeting where the fifth grade teacher, the elementary Asst. Principal, the kindergarten/P.E. teacher, and- duh- the gym coach were all seated. I can’t say I know much about the gym coach- he seems nicer than I remember my own coaches to have been, but that isn’t saying much. He is a little red-faced and paunchy, which is an odd characteristic that all gym teachers seem to share. I don’t know why physical education jobs are given to people who couldn’t run a mile if chased by a tank, but there you go. Its true, things really don’t change.

Before I can explain how this meeting felt, I need to make a relevant point; being a schoolteacher is odd enough as is. Every time you bring the fact up at a social gathering, people will start recalling their own school days, and the pictures they paint are clearly in soft-focus. A hazy memory is implied, and it’s difficult to listen to, as you are still, for all intents and purposes, in high school, and the distance and nostalgia they attribute to these visceral images is not one you get to enjoy. We, as teachers, all full well remember what it was ‘like’ in high school, because we just got to leave a few hours ago, and have to go back in just a few more.

This meeting, though, was different. I DID feel that odd nostalgia- although ‘nostalgia’ implies a pleasant sensation, whereas I just had a flood of awkward emotion, sweaty palms and other unmentionable physical reactions to the subject matter-  and it made it peculiar to sit in a room with a closed door discussing the education of sex for small children.  I am embarrassed to admit that I spent a good part of the meeting breaking out into 12-year old snickers. I couldn’t help it. The fifth grade teacher, a middle-aged mother who clearly loves children, was putting forth most of the ideas, being rather blunt and unembarrassed, as someone who spends every minute of every day with kids is wont to do. She’s coaching me as to how I should talk to the boys, suggesting I say things like,

“Well, you may start feeling different about girls as well, and perhaps you are noticing their boobs more now, and that’s OK.”

It was difficult enough to suppress a huge 12-years old guffaw at this point, but she had to choose to day to be wearing a rather low- cut blouse, and it felt as if someone had filled my eyeballs half-up with liquid mercury, such was the gravity of my line of sight swinging directly to her cleavage. I was sitting directly across from her, so I just had to muscle through it, but it wasn’t easy, and I’m not entirely sure I succeeded, but at least I didn’t linger long enough to warrant comment or blushing. Not that I could embarrass this woman. I meant me blushing.

I really wonder if they chose the right person to do this.

I’ll admit, I did entertain a small hope that they would rethink their decision to ask me to do this and pass it along to the gym teacher- present at the meeting, of course- but there was some measure of just dumb fart-joke, penis penis penis vagina residual juvenile humor that I have not yet been able to expunge from my personality. I figured I’d give it a shot. I can’t believe I have to talk to 10-year olds about wet dreams.

And so I am about to check out the DVD’s given to me, the ones I must show on the metaphorical cold gym floor. I hope they don’t suck.

……………………

OK, they sucked. They sucked BAAD. Really, they were exactly as I remembered them to be, and frankly, given the mid-eighties feather hair-dos with they kind of heat insulation usually reserved for ear-muffs, they probably are exactly as I remembered them. This just got a lot more daunting.

I mean, I guess the whole thing about deodorant really is important- the current7th grade certainly has a few reliably pungent members, so much so that you can tell who taught them last by the almost physically tangible ‘7th Grade Funkä’that remains after they leave a room. But really, the focus on hygiene just seems like a filler, a way to avoid saying the words “wet dream” in front of a bunch of snickering 10 year olds.T he whole film was soooooo ham-fisted and predictable. Even the name was predictable, if a little confusing. I don’t know who thought of “Always Changing About You”, as a title, but it sounded exactly correct for a film of this ilk- a vague allusion towards content while still being grammatically perplexing. Is ‘Change’ always around you, or are you “all about Changing?”  I don’t get it. I prefer something more descriptive and less vague, like “You’re Changing, and That Sometimes Feels Kinda Fucked-Up, but Don’t Worry, It’s Supposed To.” Or something like that. I can’t even finish watching the video.

…………………………………………………….

I finished watching the video. Good lord, it even has some of that “Saved By the Bell” type of soundtrack. And it does, in fact, have a line drawing showing a cross section of the human penis and vagina, ovaries, testicle, all the business. It even shows a stop action drawing- and by this I mean cheap animation- of an erection and ejaculation, little teardrop shaped globs of sperm moving up the urethra with the animation quality of a flipbook, and splashing in all directions upon egress from the penis, like broken sprinkler head. I’m going to giggle, I know it.

The Parent Meeting.

I was asked, as a part and parcel of the whole Sex Ed thing, to attend a parent meeting. I think the idea was that they could check out the curriculum, view the video, and be generally assured that we aren’t totally incompetent. I represent the boy’s half- I’m supposed to be calm and reassuring, the sort of educator that can say ‘erection’ as naturally as ‘radial tires’.

So, yes, we showed the film to the parents. In it kids are talking about increased sebum production, odor, hygiene, and all sort of topics during their class presentations. At other times, they cut to kid-parent conversations, having perfectly natural unembarrassed dialogues about periods, the efficacy of winged maxi-pads, etc. If you haven’t guessed yet, the video was sponsored by an unnamed feminine hygiene product company.

We are pausing the movie at points telling them that this is what we intend to focus on, they’re in fifth grade blah blah blah, hygiene hygiene hygiene. We are avoiding direct allusions to sex, babies, anything they might deem awkward. We are describing how we will give every kid a ‘puberty’ kit, pads and deodorant for the girls, plain old deodorant for the boys. I’m gleaning that hygiene is clearly a focal point of 5th grade Sex Ed.

Here’s the problem:  Frankly, I stink. Mind you, this is at around seven o’clock in the evening, and I’ve been at school for nearly 11 hours, but it’s the damn California hippie no aluminum deodorant that has me humming- it has no harmful chemicals, inorganic ingredients, uses locally grown hops to stave off competing bacteria, etc, but the fact is the shit really doesn’t work that well. It’s fine for about 6 hours or so, but I’ve been ripening for a good 11 at this point and the whole time I’m clamping my armpits shut like someone taped my upper arms to my torso. I can’t imagine I’d inspire a whole lot of confidence in the parents smelling like a used sock on the locker room floor. I hope this doesn’t foreshadow some dire circumstances.

Friday In-service.

We- all the teachers- are sitting in the computing lab. We have just finished some sort of training that I’m not entirely sure about, and we are bantering back and forth. The conversation turns toward all the school events happening soon. Sex Ed is brought up. I am suddenly receiving all sorts of interest, even though I’m not saying anything. I don’t have to- everyone knows I was roped into it. This is called ‘hazing’.

Dave, the middle/high school director that had to do this last year, is having great fun at my expense, although he has the right, as he gave the ‘talk’ last year. He steadfastly refused to do it this time around, and he’s dropping bits of dialogue from last year’s meeting, much to the amusement of my colleagues.

Kid: “ So …I woke up with all this sticky stuff all over my pyjamas. What is up with that?”

Dave: “Umm, it’s called a wet dream. It’s perfectly normal.”

Kid: “ So what’s it called, you know, when your penis fills with blood?”

Dave: “It’s, umm, called an erection. It is perfectly normal.”

Kid: “MAN, I get like 20 or 30 of those a day!”

Dave: “Um. Yes. Uh, that may not be perfectly normal. But you may not be perfectly normal, and that is perfectly normal. Next question.”

I know they chose the wrong person to do this.

The Day of.

10:37 AM, Day 1 of Sex Ed.

And so it’s the day of Sex Ed, the day where we show The Video, and it’s really a train wreck. The first meeting, ole Larry the gym teacher- whom I now love like a brother, such is our shared trauma- asked if our upper school classes would be taken care of.

“Oh yes!”, they promised.

“Not even an issue.”, said they, assuaging our fears.

“Consider it done.”, they pledged.

They didn’t do it.

The kids are arriving at 2:00. They will be late. We will struggle with the projector. We will show the video with the line drawings of the penises and the erections and all the little globs of sperm traveling up the urethra. It will go until 2:30.

At this point Larry will leave, as he has a golf match. Well, he coaches the golf team, so it’s more legitimate than it sounds, but still, I wish I played golf so I had the excuse. They didn’t take care of his duties like they promised, and so I will be left with a bunch of 5th graders, alone, with something I only just found about today: the Transparencies.

I don’t know what the Transparencies are or what they show. On some level I really wish they had mentioned the Transparencies earlier, but on another, I guess it’s just as well that I don’t know. I just know it’s something awful, though, and I will be left alone to have to make sense out of them.

Just like a real brother, I want to f**king kill Larry right now.

I get to show up late tomorrow- they ‘forgot’ to get me a sub, and so I must teach me life science class-  but I’m guessing all the most embarrassing stuff will happen today. All I really wanted was Larry’s presence- just to look on approvingly as I give all the speeches. Alas, it may not be so.

2:00 PM: The Talk.

They arrive. They are seated. The fifth grade teacher outlines the game plan to me. She is earnest, she is trying to exhibit full confidence in Larry and I, and she’s faking it pretty well, but I do detect a hint of concern, one that may not be unwarranted. I’m trying to act casual, but I’m not sure how well I’m faking it. She hands me the Transparencies in a plain beige folder. I don’t look at them.

Class begins.

I start giving the introductory speech, hey, here we all are, let’s get right into it shall we? Larry looks on approvingly. This is his role much of the time.

Now, I remember puberty talks being awkward and hesitant, and I’ve got this idea in my head that it really shouldn’t be that way, we should say what we have to say, be forthright, say it all out loud, break the ice, the tension, tear down that forth wall right away. This is what leads me to say,

“OK, well were going to have to say it sooner or later, so here we go.”

“PENIS PENIS PENIS.”

As you may have foreseen, it worked really well. That is to say, we sure broke the ice. To say the kids were amused would be an understatement. They started HOWLING, slapping their hands on the desk, rolling over into fits of laughter, now shouting PENIS PENIS PENIS at the top of their lungs.

Larry looks at me and stage whispers,

“Wow. Things went downhill really quickly, huh?”

He is not looking on Approvingly, as I really need him to do right now.

Despite all this, once the kids settle down, it has the intended effect, as least for me. We show the video, we talk about what we need to talk about, we bring up wet dreams and the importance of washing your junk. We talk about why wet dreams aren’t like wetting the bed- I seem to recall some vagueness about the topic myself at their age, and weirdly enough, it isn’t that weird. We are actually doing OK.

Possibly it isn’t entirely as freakish as I thought it would be because most of these kids haven’t hit puberty yet. It’s still just factual- they aren’t, on the by and large, experiencing any of the peculiar hormonal episodes that usually accompany these sorts of talks. In fact, they are rather unembarrassingly asking some questions that they must have gleaned from somewhere else.

“Mr. Bean,” starts one kid- notably the younger brother of the 20-30 erections a day kid,

“My brother says girls’ attitudes change when they hit puberty and they get mean.”

At my core, I really don’t know how to answer this, and Larry deftly swoops in.

“Well,” he starts, “Girls are going through a lot of emotional changes, like you guys, but they’re probably a bit different in the way they react to them. We, as males, have to be sensitive to that.”

Go Larry. I did not expect him to pull that out at all.

We carry on, do OK as far as I can tell, and it isn’t until we’re finished, watching some educational video to pass the rest of the time, when I realize I totally forgot the Transparencies. They are just sitting on my desk like an IRS audit. They have to be opened, I know, I just don’t want to do it now. Well, we do have two more days of this. It’ll happen sometime.

Day 2.

It’s the day the boys are supposed to learn about the girls. I’m blessedly not required for the first half of class- I have 7th grade to teach- and so the fifth grade teacher and Larry are taking care of the first part. I’m supposed to leave the transparencies on the overhead projector, and just for fun I leave the penis diagram cast on the screen so the kids will have something to talk about when they get there.

I spy in a few times, as I’m right next door, and the fifth grade teacher has really got them going. She’s throwing a ball around the room, and if they catch it, they get to answer a question. It’s brilliant, this Tom Sawyer approach, and the kids are all ape-shit about wanting to answer a question and get the ball. How come this doesn’t work in my high school classes?

I duck out, finish class, and join them. They’ve moved away from the pituitary gland and all the relatively benign stuff, and are full on taking about the Parts, and their names. This woman has not an ounce of shame, and more power to her, because she’s got them saying everything.

“Say ‘cervix’ ,” she’ll command.

“Cervix,” they’ll reply.

She does defer to us on all things male, and at one point, sort of alludes to the scrotum being the same thing as the testicles. I interject- we should be anatomically accurate here- and explain that it’s the sac that holds the testicles. I may even have made some comparison about marbles and the bag they come in, which may have been a good analogy circa 1909, but sort of fails here. Still, though, I’m getting the hang of what fifth graders will understand, and bring up something that will cross the age gap- shrinkage.

It works- we naturally roll into a discussion of why the testicles need to be kept at a lower temperature, and how the scrotum modulates that by alternately bring them closer and farther away from the body- the heat source- hence the shrinkage in cold water. Even typing this, I realize I’m becoming the embarrassingly honest male version of the Sex Ed teacher. It should feel a little creepy, but in fact, feels fine. They are actually understanding this stuff, and don’t seem too scarred by the discussion

We’re on a roll, and the fifth grade teacher deftly switches to female anatomy by way of the Transparency, rather abruptly for my taste.  One minute were just getting comfortable with saying ‘ejaculation’, and the next, there it is, on the screen in black line anatomical correctness, the female organs, hovering above us like the disembodied head of a praying mantis, ovaries on what look like alien eyestalks, and conspicuous labels with words like ‘fallopian tubes’, ‘cervix’, and the dreaded ‘Vagina’.

“Who can say Vagina?”  She asks, “Teddy, say ‘Vagina’.”

“Vagina!” extorts Teddy.

“You can say that really well!” she compliments.

“It’s like saying Spaghetti!” offers Teddy.

She goes on for a bit, and asks me if I have an overhead pen. I’m scrambling through my desk drawer- the one you were only allowed in if you were the teacher’s pet, although that I think holds true more for women than men, because mine is essentially a school supply junkyard. I finally dig up a black marker and hand it to her, and there is just a touch of derision in her face, as if the pen were encased in a rubber chicken. For some reason rooted back in my elementary school days, I really want to please this lady, and so I’m scrambling around for a different color. All I can find is red. Her face lights up.

“Perfect!” she says, and immediately starts coloring in an ad hoc menstrual lining on the uterus.

“This is the menstrual lining. Everyone say ‘menstruating’”, she commands.

“Menstruating”, they chorus.

She goes on for a bit, ad libbing her speech as well, and I’m just watching, wide-eyed and a little disconnected, although I’m shaken a bit out of my own private thoughts when she starts talking about boobs.

“Just like you have a penis that grows, girls have breasts that grow.”

I thought that was going to be the show-stopper, but no. She actually throws down       The Line.

“You may start feeling different about girls during puberty, and perhaps you are noticing their boobs more now, and that’s OK.”

I spy out the two kids who I thought may just barely be in the early throes of puberty, to see if they had the same response as I did to this statement. Sure enough, they were wearing that universal male expression of trying very hard to look as if they are not looking at boobs. I felt immediately vindicated and, a beat later, a little mortified that I shared this impulse with 10 year-olds. What can I say? Boys will be boys, even when we’re supposed to be men.

Day 3.

I’m not sure what happened. I got the email from the 5th grade teacher, saying today’s session would be short, half an hour, could we do it in your room again? I read it, understood it, but I don’t know, I somehow managed to forget it was happening. This is what they call ‘denial’.

So when she showed up with all the boys in tow, I was a little taken aback. Fortunately, this lady had a plan. They were to sit down with scraps of paper, and on each one write down something they learned. When they were finished, after a 15-minute time limit, and we would go from group to group and they would read one of their scraps of paper. If they mentioned something no one else came up with, they got a point. If they didn’t, everybody would have to tear up their scraps and move to the next group. It was like a game, you see. The 5th grade teacher would leave, and do the same activity with the girls. Notably, Larry hadn’t shown up yet.

So, needless to say, the first 15 minutes went great. They wrote, I checked my email and graded papers. They did ask if they could write things they learned about girl puberty and I said this was fine. So far, so good. Time for the game.

They really wanted to give the groups names, and I said sure, that sounds like a fine idea.

It was not a fine idea.

They were as follows:

Team 1: The PLA, standing for The Puberty Learner’s Association. I thought this was cute.

Team 2: Somewhat inexplicably, The Pizza Men. I dunno, I guess 5th graders like pizza.

Team 3: The Puberty Association Underdogs. They like to copy each other.

Team 4: Dr. Puberty. Again, cute.

It was all fine and good, but Team 3 was in mired in some sort of intense debate. I asked what was up. They asked if they could use the word ‘Penis’ in their title.

Ahem.

It seems obvious that I should have said no. I’m not quite sure what was going on in my head, but it something to the tune of, ‘well , sure, I mean we have to say the word all the time anyway, and let’s just be honest and open, and if that was what they wanted to use, how could it hurt?’

This is how Team 3 came to be called “The Penis Bandits.”

And Team 5? Once they heard this, they, of course, had to trump this and called themselves “P.P.P” which stood for, you guessed it…

Penis Penis Penis.

I brought this upon myself.

On to the game.

Now, humans are a competitive breed, even the youngest of us. Brother of 20-30 Times a Day’s group has employed a strategy that is called a ‘squirrel’ in debate circles- that of an obscure argument, or in this case, a set of facts. They’re basically going with the girl puberty stuff, like “girls have a vagina.” They are trying to score points by being brave enough to say things that no other group will say, and it’s working for them. They are racking up the points.

And they all are doing well. Despite the fact that I’m praying no other teachers are hearing the cries of “Penis Bandits ROCK!” emanating from my classroom, I’m rather impressed with how much stuff they remember- they even get the scrotum notion correct.

In college, when we found ourselves milling around the living room, beers cracked and our bellies laid out for fresh air, my roommate would don the occasion a ‘sausage party.’ It’s a crass title, to be sure, but women do the same thing. They drink wine and call it Girls’ Night, but it really just amounts to being free to saying whatever you want and need to without the social pressure of being genderifically correct.

It occurs to me that this, in essence, is what is happening – I’m kind of walking them through their first sausage party. In a profession where men are an oddity- especially elementary school- we are suspect strictly on the basis of our gender. Many people would ask “What kind of man”- save a pervert or a pedophile, as is the unspoken undercurrent for male educators- “would want to do women’s work?”  I would argue that it’s not women’s work- kids need male role models as well- but it is often considered so. It is never said, but it’s always there, and it is a leverage point often used to manipulate us- don’t think that elementary teachers are all sugar and spice and everything nice. Sometimes they are just plain Bitches. But it’s fun, really, helping these kids out, and when all the changes come to play in what I remember to be a difficult- and at its worst, miserable- time of life, I hope they remember the weird guy who let them call their team the Penis Bandits, and that it wasn’t actually too mortifying of an experience. And mostly I hope that all the lumps of puberty, when the come barreling down the hormone chute,  at least don’t come as a surprise. I am feeling kind of protective of my charges, and dare I say it, a little…..paternal?

What are these changes that are happening to me?

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Published in: on August 24, 2010 at 5:18 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Birth Plan Part III: Denoument

We scooted in close for our very first pregnant-couple heart-to-heart in our very first discussion groups about our very first babies.

“Be Honest!” implored GBNK woman, our fearless leader.

We looked at each other uncomfortably. I don’t recall what we were supposed to be talking about, only that I had other things on my mind, namely my gut. I was about to blow.

“So….you guys know what you got yet?” , someone said, possibly the Missus.

“It’s a girl, for us.”, someone replied, also possibly the Missus.

I can’t be sure who was talking. My eyes were filling up with water, the internal pressure pushing liquid out my tear ducts. I was trying REALLY HARD not to, as we now call it in our blessed-with-child days, “make a stanky’, and the reason was this: farts, even in normal polite societal functions, are a dicey way to introduce yourself.

Now I’m juvenile. I think bodily functions are funny, and I know I’m not alone. I think often the best of friends are post-30 people who can still admit they have an adolescent  streak to each other outside of the cubicle. That said, I’m sure we could have all gotten over it- had a laugh in the future even- if it weren’t for two scientific equations at play here.

The first is this: Pregnant women have Spiderwoman senses of smell. They can detect a 45-year old opening a bottle of Dr. Pepper in an apartment three blocks away, and also smell if he had an argument with his cat in the last week.

I tried to be polite, I really did. I even synergized my ‘I’m going to mask the sound’ with ‘I will also cover the smell’. I thought I had a great maneuver, one that would allow both a polite fiction about an audible fart, and also an alternative smell.

“Hey Honey,” I said in awkward, stilted, and disingenuous capital letters, “ Are You Hungry? I Will Get You The Rest of the Sandwich!”

My plan was this: I could grab the rest of the sandwich, lean WAY over to her, let the greasy folds of wax-paper-soaked-steak’n’cheese goodness emanate a smokescreen cloud of fast food love, while I delicately released an undertone, hopefully unnoticed by our intimate quadrant of happy parents. I could even slyly place one of the pillows atop my lab for absorbency.

I thought I was doing pretty well, thinking on my feet, as it were. We certainly needed new parent friends. The Missus probably knew this acutely, but I at least had a vague outline of the future. Having a baby is akin to showing up to your first day of High School dressed in full Goth regalia- you understand with absolute clarity that you had better find people of your ilk really quickly. I wasn’t prescient enough at that moment to understand this- that came about a week after the baby- but I knew I had better not blow the opportunity to make friends (pun unintended.)

In retrospect, I realized I made two rather grave mistakes in my planning. The first, I should have realized- Greasy folds of steak’n’cheese  do not emanate love to pregnant women. They emanate nausea.

The second equation, I feel I can be forgiven for, at least in terms of foresight. It has been a long time since I sat in the molded plastic chairs of the elementary-school classroom (or in this case, the birthing class) and I had plumb forgotten how well they amplify sound. The pillow maneuver just drew attention to my lame attempt at covering up the incident.

I don’t really want to describe the alarmed looks and the cocked eyebrows, nor the heavy eyelids that accompany naked human repulsion, so I will stop right there. Suffice to say, we never really hit it off with any of the other couples enough to maintain a relationship with them, and I fear that may be my fault. Or the Cheesesteak Shop, depending on how you look at it. We had to make friends other places.

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 11:29 AM  Leave a Comment  

The Birth Plan Part II: Class Begins.

“This is a very impore-tant and special aspect of the birthing process, which you should note as you come in to this special time.”, said the woman teaching the birthing class. This was the exact moment I decided I loathed her.

I didn’t loathe her. I was just nervous about the whole thing, and feeling a little put out. I needed a scapegoat for my anxiety and she was handy, as the teacher. Sure, she could’ve just said ‘important’ the way it’s said, without the over- enunciation, but that was no reason to hate her. She was just a little boring and heavy on the special, that’s all. She certainly looked the part. With her wide hips, enormous bazongas, and soft-spoken, motherly cadence, she clearly had the most important credentials.

“Well, I don’t have any children of my own yet, but wahwahwahwahwahahwah,,,” as she slipped away into Charlie Brown classroom mode. I was frustrated enough with the whole ‘pillow’ thing- which I’ll get to-, let alone the 15-slide power point presentation that she stretched out over four three-hour sessions, but no kids?!?! Couldn’t we have just downloaded the power point online and saved ourselves the trouble of coming all this way?

Seven months previous, I could not have ever imagined myself here. I was a free-wheeling bachelor, living large. And by ‘living large’, I mean I was renting a tiny in-law in North Berkeley after breaking up with the woman that I moved to California with. I was unemployed, and had just returned from the Midwest after staying with my parents for 2 months while my mother went through a series of operations removing increasing amounts of her breast, a series of undignified operations more tailored to doctors at the U of M getting published in interesting medical journals than to her best interests. I was depressed, angry at what these people were doing to my mum, sorry about being a failure, and coming off powerful anti-depressants.

Needless to say, I was not in good shape.

I was shaking off a month-and-a-half of Paxil- an awful drug- and had just gone on tour with my musical outfit, when I met the Missus at the walnut farm. We had been hanging out quite a bit, and enjoying ourselves. Still, I didn’t feel like I was in any state to be of any use to anybody.

“Hey, I ‘m having a great time” I said to the future Missus,

I said this to her after a long weekend of us just fucking off, going out, hanging about my tiny in-law, hunting for edible mushrooms in the park above my house, and eating slices of pizza at noon on the median of Shattuck St. It was relaxing, non-committal, and pure leisure. Still, I wanted to be clear about where I was at in my life. She was fidgety all morning, though. Could she sense what I was about to say?

“ I just wanted to let you know that. These last few weeks have been great fun.” I said, leading up to what I hoped wouldn’t be a bummer, “I’m just not quite ready to start a relationship. I still want to hang out and everything, but I’m just getting used to living on my own, by myself, you know? I need some time to get used to that idea.”

“I’m pregnant.” She blurted out.

I thought I responded appropriately.

“Is 9:30 in the morning too early to start drinking?” I asked.

I can’t remember how or where I found someone who sold me a bottle of champagne so early in the morning, but I did, and along with it, I bought orange juice and sparkling water. I came back to my little studio, where the Missus was waiting, and poured a mimosa for myself, and a virgin for her. I must have already known.

“Let’s go down to the creek.” I said.

We spent the rest of the morning and afternoon there, perched on a slab of concrete, not saying much. We expended a lot of effort to pull an old car battery out of the meager trickle coming down from the Berkeley Hills, an unconscious nod to the fact that we needed to make the world a better place if we were going to add a new citizen. I didn’t even know her last name, nor she mine.

We went forth, answering the question of ‘should we even’ by not answering it, ignoring the looming fact, probably knowing life was getting later for us both. She wasn’t even supposed to be able to get pregnant. I was still shaken up about confronting my mother’s mortality and my own recent shakedowns. We just let everything slip into being, through petty acknowledgements of our ill preparedness. She scolded me for lying on the couch; I scolded her for lane-splitting traffic on her road bike while four months pregnant. She asked if I intended on ever doing the dishes, while I had all day off, each and every day- I countered with…..something, I’m sure, but it escapes me now.  Time moved on. We found ourselves- ok, she found herself- extremely pregnant one day, or so it seemed to me. One moment I was napping in my favorite dream world, the one where fairies brought me frosting cakes spun from rainbows and I didn’t have a kid on the way, the next, she was peeing in her drawers at restaurants whenever the baby saw fit to kick her in the bladder, which was always. We had to get ready.

“We have to bring pillows to the first class,” said the Missus, “It’s for some special exercise.”

“Well,” I said, only aware that you certainly needed clean white sheets, hot water and a scalpel at childbirth, “ I guess there’s a reason for that.”

We had signed up for child birthing classes, which  is something you just have to do. A friend of mine was trying to explain them to me.

“It’s like Driver’s Ed,” he said, “Pretty boring, except when you get to the gory videos.”

We brought the required pillows. As we both had to meet up after work and head straight down there for the first session, we decided that I- not her, mind you, as her diet was carefully modulated at this point- could buy a famous greasy philly cheese steak from around the corner before we entered.

UCSF is an enormous entity, with buildings and hospitals spider-webbing the entirely of San Francisco. Even this modest incarnation- the Women’s Health Center- had five floors, and it was difficult to know where to go. Fortunately, there were other confused pregnant couples that showed up at approximately the same time. The swollen bellies were a good clue as to whom we all needed to meet, but what really gave us all away as fellow classmates was the fact that that each couple was carrying around exactly two pillows, as if we were all seasoned narcoleptics who met on a very specific dating website.

Someone must have known where the class was- I have a dim memory of following a two-pillowed couple onto an elevator and making the kind of small talk that one does when you are pregnant with two pillows on an elevator- and we settled into our hard plastic chairs.

The beginning of the first class- the first five minutes at least- I remember. What I remember most was that the cheese-steak was extremely drippy, emanated a delicious smell throughout the rather clinical room we were in, and I felt a bit embarrassed to be eating it amongst a passel of pregnant women with Tupperware containers containing organic vegetables that wouldn’t make them nauseous. I felt self conscious, the way you do  when you  are a man who’s life- down to what you chose to eat- had not changed yet.

We started class. The Enormous Bazongas Woman showed us the power point- in its entirely, that being all fifteen slides- in the first 30 minutes. I was beginning to get bored and I needed a distraction. At that point, my stomach was beginning to rumble. I stared at my greasy yellow fingertips, wondering about what I had just eaten. There were stains on my trousers, and not small ones, where the grease had dripped. I was doing calculations, figuring that if the radius of this spot was over three inches, and most of the grease actually made it into my stomach, then-

“So now, let’s get into groups and discuss”, said Giant Bazongas Woman.

“Especially note how you are feeling,” she added.

I was feeling awful, and not at all thrilled about the prospects of scooting in close to a bunch of strangers in a room that carried smell as instantly as Wi-Fi.

Fortunately, I had two pillows with me.

To be continued…..

Published in: on August 9, 2010 at 9:33 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Birth Plan: Part 1

“Oh my GOD, do you intend on doing nothing all FUCKING SUMMER?!?”

The Missus was looking at me, splayed on the couch like someone had removed my bones, for the third week in a row.

“I don’t think you understand. This is when I DON’T do shit. I’m a teacher, remember? I have summers OFF.

I didn’t understand how she could not understand that this was the time that I did nothing. Still, she had a point- we had a baby due in a short few months, and I appeared to be ignoring this. And I was. I would put forth that I was working hard, though, in my own way. I was steadfastly holding down denial on the couch, underneath my nap.

“Did you at least start reading any of the books I got you? “

“Sure, yea,” I lied “I read ‘em. Not too helpful.” I said, feeling just a twinge of guilt about all the excellent words I’d played on my online scrabble games. Then I said this:

“I mean, really, how many books do we need to read? Haven’t people been having babies for eons without experts?”

If you have a child now, and you weren’t the one subjected to massive doses of oxytocin-inspired guilt hormones coursing through your veins, then it’s a safe bet that:

a) You said something similar, and

b) You would willingly cut into one of your eyeballs with an Exacto blade to take it back, not because you were wrong- you weren’t- but because the repercussions trumped the satisfaction of being right. This is called a relationship.

In my mind, I figured I deserved a little slack. I had done the right thing, after all. You see, I was feeling pretty self-congratulatory for being a Good Man. By a  “Good Man”, I mean that I had moved into her apartment after learning she was pregnant.

“I’ll be there for you”, I said, shortly before falling asleep on the couch for two months.

I can’t say I inspired confidence in her from the get-go. We had met, like most couples, at a party. Unlike most couples- as we live in California- it was on a walnut farm, at a party where they slaughtered and roasted a grass-fed organic goat,  bisected directly through the anatomical centerline and roasted over the bonfire, looking ever-so-much like two meat-boomerangs with hoofs. This is de rigour in Northern California. Everyone attending was allotted a cut of meat.

“Do you want me to get your goat?”, I said, not understanding the irony that lay ahead.

We decided, after goat, to have healthy adult fun for the duration of the evening.

“So, you wanna do it again sometime?’ I asked her the next morning, not knowing the future.

“Sure!”, she said, inadvertently sealing the baby deal.

To be continued…..

Published in: on August 6, 2010 at 7:22 PM  Leave a Comment