The only way I am going to get through this is to keep calm. I have been doing very well at not worrying about everything: about complications in childbirth, about defects, about college funds, about future heroin addiction. I recite to myself every day that people have been doing this for thousands of years without recourse to the most advanced hospitals and best-trained doctors in the world, hell, they drop ’em in deserts and rice paddies and keep on hoeing and picking and singing cute songs, that means everything is going to be fine, it’s going to be fun, in fact, lalalalalala.
And so why do people all around me do their best to make me worried? All they try to do is remind me of things I should be worried about. My non-purchasing of apparently essential objects seems to alarm people particularly. Have you got the crib set up? Have you got a changing-table, a car seat, a stroller – oh my god, the stroller is so important, do not just get a cheapo stroller, they are badly designed and they will bother you, you have to get this Swedish superstroller made of cesium alloy, no, this Japanese one, it’s made of zirconium, it was designed for the space program, it’s waterproof to 1000 metres and is efficient in zero gravity, it’s only $10,000 more than the Swedish one, believe me, you won’t regret it!
It’s weird, having to think about these things that, well, let’s fact it, are quite dull, one might even say killingly boring to think about. It actually changes your vision. It changes what you see when you walk down the street. For the past 45 years I have honestly not seen strollers. They have been invisible to me (as have, to be carelessly honest, most children, all families, old people and most men).
Leonard Cohen, in The Favourite Game, writes of his teenage protagonist, “Lust was training his eyes to exclude everything he could not kiss.” This training was completed in me at an early age. And now they have been opened, brutally opened, one might say ripped open, to a bizarre world of dull things all around me. I have just realized that the streets are in fact full of strollers, they are bristling with strollers, you can’t actually walk without kicking one. Where were they all before? Has it just rained strollers, like some kind of terrifying post-Biblical plague? And is it just me, or is one of every five women pregnant all of a sudden?
And if you’re walking with a pregnant woman, you have to slow down and carefully examine each one of these machines as it passes, maybe even ask the smug yuppie parents (what is it with those matching fleece hats?) what brand it is and how they are happy with it. And because the pregnant woman is so fiercely interested in this subject – a little bit scarily interested, really – you start taking an interest too, and before you know it you are staring at every piece of high-tech aluminum on wheels and wondering how much it cost.
I actually see playgrounds now, too: I walked past a park area with jungle-jim sort of apparatus and I actually saw, for the first time, the parents sitting chatting, the kids on the swings, falling, wailing, attempting to murder each other. The parents looked a little cold and they all looked bored. Or maybe that was just me – even on seeing this scene, I felt chilled by a deep and numbing boredom. I can’t really imagine spending my Saturday afternoon that way.
No no no no no, though. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to be fun. Lalalalalalala laaa!
Image courtesy of Kodachrome65.