Decision time: Team Edward or Team Jacob? Okay, Team Edward fangbangers head to the left, Team Jacob furry freaks to the right. See that line in the sand? That line separates you. You can talk about what you once had in common with the other side – a love of all things sparkly and emo, DUH – but there’s a divide between you now, and unless one of you wants to cross that divide by becoming like the other, I’m sorry to say this is how it has to be from here on out.
This, sadly, is my example of what happens to those who spawn nublets versus those who do not. The Team Edward faction – let’s call them the fruit bearing folks – head over to their corner and do their thing which inevitably includes Crayola, lots of glitter, poopy murals, and Playskool. The Team Jacob childless crew go to their corner and have a beer, stay up too late, watch a soft core porn on Skinemax, and actually have time to write a blogpost wondering where the crap all of their friends from ten years ago went.
Oh right, they had children.
Before I get started on the challenges of being a shriveled up pair of ovaries in a sea of breeders, I want to say to those who have children “I salute you”. Because I do. I get WHY you guys go away, and how busy kids are, how much of your time they take, and how it’s way easier to befriend Tommy’s mom because you go to Tumblebugs together and for the twelve minutes you’re allowed adult conversation for the day, it might as well be with another beleaguered, overworked parent who can understand your gripes. If you talk to me about little Samantha swallowing a penny, I might say COOL! I SAW THAT ON HOUSE LAST WEEK. That’s probably not the answer you’re looking for. At least another parent would understand why it’s a bad thing and react appropriately. Another parent, too, might not spend a half hour straight saying the word “leper” to your two year old in hopes of expanding the child’s vocabulary early.
True story, I did that. And yes, she said leper. I’d apologize to Melissa, but I don’t mean it.
So I get why folks with gut goblins go form their own gut goblin brigade. Children are time consuming, and it’s probably pretty goddamned hard to muster up a lot of enthusiasm for a bar crawl with someone who can’t relate to your kid stories beyond a chuckle and a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. When you tell me your offspring laid on the floor and talked to the ceiling fan for a half hour, you probably want me to say your baby is brilliant and funny. I’m secretly thinking “he’ll make a good drunk”. At least I’m smart enough not to vocalize that. Unless I’ve had two or three drinks, then all bets are off.
The easiest way for me to express my Team Jacob perspective on how I lost my friends to their children would probably be to follow the chronological progression of events, so let’s rewind about five years ago or so.
Phase One: Congratulations, your friendship at this juncture survived its first major hurdle already – someone got married before someone else, and yet here you are! Conversing together! One of you might not even be married, but at least you’re dating someone and that’s LIKE marriage, so you can talk about who left the toilet seat up, the crazy furniture breaking sex you had in the dining room, and how you should do more couple things together (ALL THE THINGS) like go to dinner and a movie, and maybe travel. And who cares if your friend’s husband has nothing in common with your boyfriend. Boys don’t have feelings. They’ll just bond over the fact that they both have jangs and deal with it, cause your BEEEEEST Female Friend married that other guy and thaaaaaat makes him awwwwwwesome, and if your boyfriend ever wants to get laid again, he better figure it out faaaaaast.
Phase Two: You’ve done lots of cool things with your friend and her husband, and made your boyfriend play nice under controlled conditions with the other male in the mix. They didn’t even fight to the death like cocks in a hen pen. Your double dating has become a wonderful staple of life! And then there’s the announcement: Friendzilla who was once Bridezilla is now going to be Momzilla, and isn’t that great! At this juncture, you don’t quite understand how everything is going to change, so you express glee and give hugs and order a Diet Coke to show your support of your friend’s alcohol free ways, though secretly you’d like nothing better than to celebrate by opening a bottle of Pinot.
Phase Three: This is where you start to figure out something might be off. It’s not SO bad yet, but the things that made you friends in the first place – certain personality quirks, conversation pieces, hobbies – none of those things are discussed anymore because everything is about what your friend’s baby is going to be like, look like, and what it’s like to puke non-stop for days at a time because morning sickness is SHITTY. You’re still in the early stages of denial about your friendship, though, so you nod and say “that sucks” and try to be supportive, even though you can’t relate to a dream of parenting an astronaut, and really, you miss ordering wine at lunch but doing that would make you a dick, so . . . more Diet Coke. Yay?
Phase Four: She’s big pregnant now, like having trouble navigating around furniture pregnant. You’ve stopped trying to talk about what life with her was like before because this is very, very hard for her. You can see that she’s uncomfortable, and talking about that time both of you were ass up and puking in shrubs in Tahiti is probably sort of disrespectful of her condition.
Phase Five: It’s BABY SHOWER TIME. This is a breaker for some people, largely because you go to this party with little booty party favors, and everyone around you is talking about babies, birth, labor, toddlers, teenagers, and sometimes if you’re really unlucky, placenta and vaginas. You have nothing to contribute here beyond “I saw a baby once!” You’d actually take the vagina conversation over what comes next, though, because it seems like every eye in the room turns to stare at you as your hugely pregnant friend asks “SO WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO GIVE MY BUTTERCUP A LITTLE FRIEND?” The pressure is on. If your mother hasn’t asked you that question already, she’s psychically bombarded you with it, and now this gaggle of strangers is expecting you to commit to spawning more overlords.
If you’re me, you say something creepy like “I’d devour my own young, so for now it’s best I wait” and eat a cocktail shrimp, maybe pointing out “hey look if you turn it this way it looks like an embryo.” If you’re someone else you make a feeble excuse about a full bladder and lock yourself in the bathroom until the baby shower is over. You weren’t going to muster much enthusiasm for a diaper caddy, anyway.
Phase Six: The baby has arrived, you brought your friend flowers and a big, ugly stuffed toy for the astronaut-to be. She decides to share with you the experience of thrusting this wriggling watermelon from her loins, and you learn things about your friend’s body you never wanted to know. Even if you drunkenly made out with her at one point, there’s limits to the “hot factor” of her anatomy lesson. It doesn’t help that she’s sitting on the couch with a tit hanging out. It’s not like breastfeeding isn’t natural, it’s just . . . not something you ever wanted to get this close to.
If the baby shower didn’t freak you out, this experience will, as you figure out that you have a major decision to make regarding this kid:
A) You can choose to become one hundred percent entrenched in this child’s life and become Auntie _______. You’ll change diapers, offer to babysit, share birthday cakes and get vomited on. You’ll be invited to family parties.
B) Back the fuck off and pretend the baby changes nothing, though this path will lead to disappointment.
There’s two challenges with option A. The first? Is if your friend wasn’t that close to you in the first place, trying to BE Auntie ________ is just plain awkward and probably not welcome. The kid’s probably got real aunts, after all.
The second challenge is that you weren’t ready to dive headlong into having your own baby, so how the hell are you emotionally mature enough to commit to being a positive role model to someone else’s? What if you decide that the drunken Tahiti parties are more your style, but you’ve already been playing at the whole Auntie _______ thing and failing spectacularly? The answer is you’ve potentially fucked your friend’s kid up. Well done, Asshole.
Not that it matters. Most people will unconsciously decide that B is the better choice anyway. Your friend will eventually be comfortable getting a babysitter and having drinks, right?
Phase Seven: If we were talking about the stages of grief, this would be the acceptance phase. The baby’s been around for a year or so and your friend still isn’t keen on babysitters, which means your delusion of martinis on Friday nights and talking about the good old times has dissolved into a pile of smoldering ash. The few hours your friend CAN give you during the month is likely mid-day, when Grandma’s got junior, and all your friend talks about is how tired she is and what junior did that was spectacular that week, like grow a tooth. You cheer for the tooth, and then announce that you did something awesome yourself – like beat Assassins Creed: Brotherhood. Your friend says something like “when are you going to grow up” and you realize that somewhere along the journey, your friend joined Team Edward.
This will sound fatalist, but the cruel reality is, the real life meet ups will probably dwindle from there on out, maybe until Astronaut is in first grade some years later. Friend-Mom will take stock around then, see that she now has the time she didn’t have before to rekindle her friendships (and man, she could really use that martini now). She’ll make a friendly overture, usually by a digital medium as it eliminates that whole pesky “having to have inflection in your voice” thing. The fleeting promises on facebook to “get together soon!” begin, but soon roughly translates to “never”. Inevitably even the cursory digital messages will one day end with your friend asking “so ARE you ever going to join Team Edward?” and despite it being years after the baby shower, you’re still hoisting a cocktail shrimp and comparing it to an embryo, hoping this will buy you enough time to change the subject.
I understand that my experiences being the “fruitless womb” are not everyone else’s, and I don’t try to speak for the non-breeder crew everywhere, but I can say that the scenario I’ve outlined above? Has happened to me more than once. And I suppose I could be less of a dick and actually go through with the promised Facebook meet ups, but having done that, it’s like you’re visiting a bizarro version of your old friendship. You’re both different people than you were, and reliving drunken shrub puke stories five to ten years after they’ve happened is pathetic, sort of on par with the 50 year old guy that can’t stop talking about all the tang he got in high school. It doesn’t work anymore, and as much as you can feign joy for a glowing report card or sports prowess story? You’re so far removed from your friend’s kid’s life that it’s hard to react with anything remotely earnest, and that makes you feel like a shitty person.
Do I resent my friends going off and having their lives and letting their children become the all-consuming things they are? NO. No because that means they’re doing the parenting thing right, and I am all for loving the snot out of your gut goblins. We want those kids to become productive members of society, and if we’re shooting his ass up to the moon in thirty or so years (ahem, if we have the /funding/) I want to know that kid is as mentally and emotionally stable as (s)he can be. On the other hand, do I miss the drunken Tahiti makeouts and the martinis?
Hell yes. You bet.