Is This Real Life?

I've been plotting ways to get a baby. I don't want to father a baby; I just want to be around a baby. Sometimes. Today. Tomorrow I may want to be around a trapeze artist or a box of bagels. But today? Today I want a baby. I don't want financial responsibility for a baby; I do want to have the right to dote on a baby. Like a niece or a nephew. I don't want to have to change a baby's diaper; I do want to take a baby to New York for its 16th birthday. I don’t want to wake up to calm it in the middle of the night. I do want to post pictures of it on my Facebook page. I don’t want to change a baby’s diaper. Have I said that before? That’s because I really don’t want to do it. Diapers, I’ve been told, are like envelopes full of poop. I have no intentions of subscribing to that mailing list. I don't want a baby. I've been plotting ways to get a baby. I'd like to, maybe, Netflix a baby.

My brothers, like much of the free world, refuse to bend to my iron will. I mean, how many boxes of expired condoms do I have to mail to these people? True, wishing an unexpected pregnancy on either of my two brothers—both of whom are in their early twenties and just starting out potentially prosperous careers—is, well, rude. But it’s for a greater good: mine. My parents, too, keep insisting that the laws of nature prohibit them from giving me another baby sibling and they seem completely turned off by my suggestion that they just adopt a little Somalian diva (Zahara Jolie-Thomas?). I am, however, undeterred. I’m not a quitter. I never give up. Except on things that are hard. And things that I don’t want to do. And things that occur before 9 am, things that make me feel awkward, things that make me feel comfortable, things that require bending my knees, things that require clothing I don’t currently own, and the television show Heroes. This, however, is none of those things. I am resolute. I am. I kind of want to be around a baby. For like an afternoon. But not in a creepy way. Not sitting next to the ball pit at McDonald's. Is this weird? I don't have a biological clock that I know of. So maybe this is all for naught. Like a phantom pregnancy. I don't have any actual plans for a baby. I don't want a baby. Maybe.

I don’t know why. There is nothing inside of me that is even remotely suggesting that me and babies ought to have anything to do with each other. I don’t even know if I like babies. I mean, they’re squirmy and awkward and helpless. They are essentially small versions of me. Babies, as a widely accepted concept, don’t make a bit of sense. Babies grow inside of you! They feed on human milk! Babies are aliens! They start off as an egg and a sperm! (Earmuffs Zahara). They are attached to a feeding tube at birth! They do not speak English! At all!

In my adult life I have only even held one baby. And that was a less than successful experience, to put it mildly. Lisa and I were at a rehearsal dinner for one of her friends. Another of her friends had just given birth to the most beautiful girl in the whole entire world. I mean, this child is a miracle. She gets lovelier and smarter every day. Naturally, I am terrified of her. At one point during the dinner the baby started being passed around the table. As she neared me, I started looking for the nearest exit. I buried my head in my drink. I cut off my hands. Somehow, someone managed to thrust her toward me and so I grabbed her ever so gently and prayed. Hard. Lisa took out her camera and captured the moment.

How happy do I look in this picture? So happy. Like insane happy. Like the mother of those octoplets. The house all overrun with children and cats and plastic surgery bills and US Magazines with Angelina Jolie’s face angrily crossed out. Look at my eyes, though. You know what you see there? Bone-chilling terror. (The baby doesn't look too sure of this particular exercise, either.) This child is alive, I’m thinking. Anything could happen right now. What if there’s a fire drill or the Rapture or my hands suffer sudden paralysis? This is not a good idea. I stood up suddenly and started screaming, “I have the baby! I’m holding the baby!” I was essentially Sean Penn in I Am Sam. The mother-of-the-bride, who was giving a very nice toast at the time, gently asked “Can someone please take that child away from the special gentleman?"

My hands started to tremble and my eyes started darting around the room in search of a place to put the child. I was like the least coordinated 3rd grader during the final seconds of Hot Potato. Again.

The baby moved ever-so-slightly in my hands and I said to myself, Rowdy, you will not drop this most beautiful, precious creature. And so, panicked, I set her down on the table in front of me. Which is a shame because I had just filled my plate up at the buffet for the third time. What does not come out of baby clothes? Barbecue sauce. You know what also does not come out of baby clothes? Absolutely everything else. Hence, bibs. I’m not really sure why people even clothe babies. Just tie a body-length bib on it and call it a day. This makes sense to me. Here’s what doesn’t make sense: bibs on adults. Are people sitting down at Red Lobster, tying the plastic bib on and then pouring entire bowls of melted butter down their shirts? Eating seafood should not be a daunting experience.

When I worked at The Chart House people would always ask for bibs. And then act shocked that we didn’t have any. I’d be like, “Ma’am, you are on a fancy date with the Governor. Even I, your server, am wearing a tie. This lobster costs $100. There’s no way in New Jersey I’ll be tying a plastic bag around your neck this evening. You’re 57 years old. Work it out."

I suppose, then, I should at least learn how to hold a baby before Netflixing one. The looks of dismay around the table at the rehearsal dinner were a little embarrassing. Most of my friends have opted for bar tabs and beach time shares over babies, but it can’t last forever. And dear Lisa, it seems like every week someone else she knows is getting preggers. Sometimes I would look at her while she opened up birth announcements like she was the black girl in 28 Days Later. The last non-zombie in all of England. (We sometimes things we live in England.)

Not that parents our age are zombies. But it's contagious, the baby fever. Whenever I’d find her packing a bag on a Saturday morning, en route to a baby shower, I’d slip a surgical mask in her bag and whisper, “I’ll have my phone on me in case of trouble. And if they charge at you, go for the head.”

The world I live in is not a world where babies exist. Sometimes I wonder if the world I know ever will. It’s a strange thought, this sudden over-whelming desire to change the entire shape and size of your life. Not to mention the shape and size of your uterus. But, then, one wonders if its much a conscious decision in the end. It’s like Joan Didion says, “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.” One day you’re no longer a child. You're some other person, some adult, someone who wants to raise a child, someone who wants to sacrifice and plan. Somebody’s mommy, someone’s daddy. It happens, clearly, but it mystifies me. Still, it must be nice to have a plan.

When I got home last night, I sat on my front steps for about an hour just contemplating… where I’d left my keys. I spotted a homeless man who had secreted himself inside the locked subway station entrance at the end of my block. He spent the better part of the hour attempting to walk down the up escalator. Some adulthoods are not as fulfilling. Still, it must be nice to have a plan.

I do not have such a plan. Escalators bore me and children terrify me. Children get the measles. And report cards. And they all have a strange smell from 3rd grade until 5th grade—it’s like erasers, sweat and suntan lotion. Children think the sky is the end of the universe and that the ocean is the end of the world. Children do not know what Saved By The Bell is. Children think the Jonas Brothers are cool. Children get sedated at the dentist do this:

This is exactly how I act every day. I wake up, count my fingers, scream and ask, aimlessly “Is this going to be forever?” This is not Daddy behavior.

Maybe something will change. I mean, obviously, something will change. Everything changes. Most of all my opinions. But for now, I’m just a kid, too. 27-years-old and still unsure if this is real life. I’ve been plotting ways to get a baby. Maybe. But I think we’d just chill. I wouldn’t teach it about constellations or tying its shoes or help it find its nose. Not yet, at least. We’d just sit back and talk about how much we have in common. We both like naps and staring at the wall. Neither one of us understands how most things work. We can’t really walk without falling down; we cry; we want our mommies. And we both like drinking from a bottle.


  1. Oh, R. Eric. The thing is, Netflix works because people come back for more. It's not like they turn the movies back in because they want to give them up -- they just want another one. My husband and I had a baby 2 and a half years ago, and it quenched my baby fever for a year or so, and then I needed to see another one, love another one, blog another one. I Amazoned a baby, and ended up with another one by the time she was 2. And here I am in love again, and I don't know how much longer we'll last before seeking another out. In the meantime, Netflix away, but trust me that the real deal is totally worth it if the timing is right. I do still wonder when I'll feel grown up, though.

  2. I am so glad you are blogging again. I laughed ferociously aloud in public as I mooched off Panera bread's free internet.

    I too have had the baby fever and have written about it again and again. At first I was wondering if you were taking birth control pills cuz ironically I think my baby desires started once I started on them. One thing that particularly struck me in this post was

    "The world I live in is not a world where babies exist. Sometimes I wonder if the world I know ever will. "

    Which is, gah, so close to my feelings right now. I'm getting all old and panicky and sometimes think "I'm never gonna figure out how to make this actual love thing work, I'm too in love with my work (aka myself)". We artsy folks pour more energy into our creative babies, than you know, ACTUAL babies. So maybe your baby-honkering is just longing for creative change, a new project, or something like that. OR maybe you ARE on the pill.

    Still, I think the fear in your eyes thing is probably the closest you (or I) will get to the experience that real mothers feel. The responsibility for another life is a huge deal. I guess I'll start trying to be responsible for mine first before I lay off the Yaz.

  3. eric--oh so lolfunny, especially right at the homeless man "spending the better part of the hour attempting to walk down the up escalator."

    love your writing. while reading i thought of a nymag article i read a while ago, 'the science of gaydar.' have you read?


    long article. interesting but semi-dry (it IS sciencey), lots of talk of genomes and hypothalamuses--and this is nymag for crying out loud! well, anyway, fast-forward-flip to page 5, where a short snippet of the story posits that it makes good sense that you've caught the baby bug, and makes perfect sense that all you want to do with your borrowed, Netflixed baby is "chill."

    Miss you! Hope all is well!


  4. Eric, there is no word for how funny you are...seriously. i'm gonna hafta subscribe or something...i nearly pissed myself. my gawd...has keina seen this? can i post it a link on my page or something? wow.

  5. oh...btw...it's kenny, and can i call you eric or do i hafta call you R. Eric?