This morning my son performed his first 1/2 “Nixon”. He started performing Nixons only a few days ago. The Nixon replaced “Fisticuffs” as his primary form of Super-Baby-Nijah-Powers. Imagine a six-month-old holding his hands out in front of his chest and slapping them, up and down, up and down against each other. The effect is something like playing patty-cake with a couple of sardines. That is Fisticuffs.
He performed Fisticuffs at any time of the day. Waking up he would furrow his brow and initiate a 5 minute Fisticuffs session. Pausing occasionally to take in his audience, he would huff excitedly, and then continue. Fisticuffs could follow or precede a feeding. A lengthy bout during diaper changes was not uncommon. His pediatrician had never heard of Fisticuffs, but didn’t seem to think they represented terminal illness, a special talent or even baby superpowers.
Nixons are much more of a show of strength. Both arms are stretched out head high, fists clenched. Forehead is tilted slightly towards the ground, lips pursed, cheeks puffed out with eyes somewhere between glaring and brooding. If his fingers held up victory signs he’d be the spitting image of our 37th president. He seems much more interested in his audiences reaction while in Nixonian revelry. Hysterical laughter only seems to increase the intensity of his concentration. This mornings 1/2 Nixon was performed while he clutched the edge of our couch, trying to hold himself up. If his first words are “I am not a crook!” we’ll know we’ve adopted the reincarnation of Tricky Dick.
I never knew how much I could love Nixon. Its not like I didn’t have time to prepare for him, we’d been trying to have a child for years. It all started with food poisoning. OK – it actually began 5 years ago with an acupuncturist piercing my perineum. I’m already fishing for pity aren’t I? Really it all started with Oprah and Barbra Walters. Fortunately neither of them had anything to do with my perineum.
Years ago, far away from my first encounters with super-baby-Nixon-powers, standing in my bachelors apartment in Berkeley, I watched my then girlfriend – now wife – Terry, undergo maternal neural shock treatment by the two great info-divas of our day. It was gut wrenching. Unsurprisingly, it involved a news report of a “new study”.
Have you noticed lately that news channels shop medical studies like they were the latest in footwear? They have become the pornography of aging American couch potatoes. According to this lascivious bit of scientific-info-freak-me-out, women who waited until they were 40 to have kids weren’t able to conceive. Terry sat in front of that box and was filled with misery. I tried to stop it, creating diversions, soothing her with all the “but you’re so young for your age” salve I could muster, but she was already in the clutches of a re-programming.
It became a kind of self-flagellation for her and millions of women who waited to have children later in life. They had been foolish “slap!”, they had been selfish “slap slap”, they had put careers before family “slap slap slap”, they were unfit to be mothers “biff baff!”, it was just too late for them “k.o.’d”. Of course none of the news-talkshow queens and kings said this outright. They didn’t have to. I suspect the same skeleton hangs in the closet of most modern women of my generation: the “I’ve been too successful in my own career/life and now God is punishing me” one. That subconscious guilt over not toeing the traditional line got poked, prodded, inflamed and inflated with semi-scientific newspeak hot air.
Day after day, for the next week, women who didn’t start a family when they were young were reminded over and over that they would fail if they tried now. If you were on T.V., you were required to talk about it. “Did you hear women over 40 who try to have kids are failing left and right? Yes, they’re sure regretting putting their careers before family! Thats it for the weather, now on to sports with Jim.”
It was often done with somewhat sensitive, serious concern. None the less our media industry was making big bucks off of women’s sorrow. Of course there was some truth to what they were saying. Its tough to get pregnant at 40. They could have just said that, but that wouldn’t have sold enough detergent and anit-restless leg medication. They had to create a news story by detailing the inevitable sorrow women in their 40’s wanting to have children would go through. What fools these women had been, to imagine they could have their freedom and family too!
Standing there, watching an enormous weight being mantled on to Terry’s shoulders, I knew the honeymoon was over. There are some issues in a relationship that just can’t be gotten around. At the root of these issues are primal forces that only the foolhardy imagine they can skirt or overcome. A woman who believes her only chance at pregnancy is right now, is such a force embodied. I knew our relationship wouldn’t survive if I wasn’t on board with having a baby immediately. I suspected I myself might not survive at all if I didn’t comply. This issue goes beyond sanity, beyond humanity, beyond the reach of any therapist. Either you’re giving her your sperm or your dead.
I could have run away at that point. Most people who know me would have advised me to. I tend to hold on way past the bitter end. Not only was our honeymoon over, but so too was the freedom that being in the “dating” stage offers you. We still had a lot of groundwork to lay if our relationship was going to last. Putting a family first, before the relationship even had a chance to blossom, was crazy. Contrary to all reason, I just knew this woman was my wife. That’s just who she was to me. Besides, nobody promised me marriage would be a smooth ride.
I signed up for Terrys 1st Battalion of Immediate Pregnancy. I was the peon, the private who would likely never be anything but a private. Time to get in line and lock step. Of course it wasn’t that bad at first. Having sex on a schedule wasn’t too bad. OK so I’m a romantic and it sucked. We did get married during this stage of early indoctrination. Turns out boot camp didn’t start until after the honeymoon.