Women's News & NarrativesSpring 2004
Faking enthusiasm is a staple of modern society. Like when you receive socks for Christmas when you asked for a leather jacket. Or when the boss sits you down to recount the details of his fishing trip. Or when a prospective significant other tells you he or she just wants to be friends. Actually, I'm not so great at that last one-we all have areas in which we can improve.
One situation in which I inevitably fake excitement is when friends tell me they are expecting a baby. I will offera smile with a nice hug or hearty handshake, while frantically hoping they won't invite me to the shower.
Don't get me wrong. I like kids. Not so much babies-they can't talk and barely move-but kids between the ages of two and six can be a lot of fun. Especially since I'm not responsible for their upkeep. Kind of like playing in the snow without having to shovel it from the driveway.
I have no brothers or sisters, no nieces or nephews. My exposure is generally limited to kids when they are at their most charming: for instance, when they test their lung capacity while sitting in the cart ahead of me at Target.
And new parents, God bless them, can be a little dull. You know, it is great that they spent the weekend painting the walls of the nursery sunshine yellow, but I don't need to know how it matches the Winnie the Pooh furniture.
I wasn't always this jaded about babies. The first, oh, dozen or so times my friends told me their good news, I was legitimately excited. About twenty babies later, however, the thrill was gone.
Right or wrong, I always have thought that people with children consider themselves more evolved than people without. It's a subtle distinction but one that annoys me. It is as if there is a velvet rope between parenthood and nonparenthood.
I was not thinking about any of these issues a couple months ago when I dropped by a friend's office. It was a slow day, and I hadn't seen her in a while. Sitting across from her, we chatted about work, cool music, and what we had for dinner the previous night. Then she said,"I'm pregnant."
My first reaction was to glance at her stomach. (I generally try to keep my eyes off my women friends' waistlines whenI speak to them; doing so just seems polite.) Then I jumped out of my seat to hug her, much more warmly than I normally offer.This news was surprising to me on several levels: she never had mentioned an interest in having children; she had just taken a step back from her Emory work to refocus on her music career; she is a lesbian.
It is that last thing that has made me think-not only about her but also about myself. Despite the fact that she is intelligent, giving, artistic, nurturing, and a homeowner-all ideal qualities in a parent-I never pictured her as one. And certainly not someone who would become pregnant.
I probably should have been more open minded. She has been with her partner for six years-certainly enough time to know when to start a family. Both have stable, successful careers. Why shouldn't she have a baby?
She will be a great mom. Hearing the happiness in her voice talking about her soon-to-be-born son made my excitement real. And that joy about being pregnant isn't any different from what my other friends experience.
My reaction, though, is a 180-degree turn. The fact that I never pictured her as a parent only intensifies my enthusiasm. Maybe somewhere in the back of my mind that enthusiasm is payback for not including her on my list of prospective parents. Despite her many positives, and through no fault of her own, raising a child will probably be a challenge for her and her partner. Still, she has at least one very supportive friend. I can feel my jaded exterior cracking just a bit.
But I still hope I am not invited to the shower.
Eric Rangus is senior editor of Emory Report and a member of the editorial advisory board for this newsletter.FDear Friends of the
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