DAILY BRIEFINGCommon Sense (Preempted)
Jan. 29 - I've done a horrible thing. I'm going to be a terrible parent.
I know, I know: anxiety is normal, it's perfectly healthy to be a little nervous about your first child, blah, blah, blah.
I know I probably wouldn't be a very good father if I weren't already wracked with anxiety over the prospect of screwing up another life as badly as I've screwed up my own. And trust me, I'm anxious. But this goes beyond a mere state of mental agitation in the face of uncertainty. I'm not worried about uncertainty. I laugh at uncertainty. I spit at it. What I'm worried about is the the plain, cold fact that I'm gonna be a really, really lousy father—because I've already proved it.
Yes! True story! Read on and despise me!
What makes the horrible thing I did even more awful is that I didn't even realize what a terrible thing I'd done until I overheard myself joking about it.
I was talking to my sister-in-law about it being hard to believe I've only known about the pregnancy for a month-and-a-half or so. Harder still to believe it had only been a week since we got the ultrasound. Time seems so stretched out—weeks seem like months, months like years.
"Hell," I said, "I already got rid of the ultrasound image as my desktop wallpaper. I got bored with it."
"You got bored with it?"
"I was tired of looking at it," I said. It was all supposed to be a big joke about my limited attention span, but I suddenly realized what I was actually saying: it had taken me less than five days to get bored with the only existing photographs of the only child I've ever fathered. (Women disputing the exclusivity of my paternity are referred to my lawyer.)
I'm the proud uncle of two spectacular nieces and remain on good terms with their parents. A lot of my friends have had kids. One thing I've learned about being a parent is that you never get bored of looking at pictures of your goddam children.
Yet here I am, 11 weeks into a pregnancy it took us three years to get rolling, and I can't even look at the only existing photo of my own kid for more than five days.
In fairness to myself, these were not the best of pictures. Here's another look at the best of the bunch:
The best you can say is, hey, no red-eye!
You've got to admit it's not an attractive kid. In fact, I think our bean bears an eerie resemblance to Simon Bar Sinister from the old Underdog cartoons:
But it's not about looks. (And it's not about Underdog.) It's about that special bond I'm supposed to be feeling with this blurry blob, that paternal pull of love and awe and fascination that all right-thinking, right-feeling, right-minded fathers must feel toward their offspring. If I were a good father, I probably would have printed wallet-sized versions of the ultrasounds to show off at the bodegas between pints of Carlsberg.
I certainly wouldn't have bumped it off my desktop for a lousy Danish landscape after just five days.
And even if I did, I certainly wouldn't have joked about it.
And even if I did, I sure as hell wouldn't have thought, "Hey, cool, that'll give me something to write about."
* * *
It's Thomas Paine's birthday today. He was born in 1737. That's what I meant to write about before I was overcome by the tsunami of paternal guilt that led to the preceding paragraphs. You could comemmorate the occassion by reading (or rereading) Common Sense. You could also comemmorate the occassion by piercing an eyebrow or waxing your car. I don't care, it was just a suggestion.
* * *
Thomas Paine shares his birthday with my own father, who almost certainly would have left the first image of me on his computer desktop for more than five days if they'd had personal computers back then.
Hell, I bet he carved little pictures of me all over the goddam cave.
It's also the birthday of Heather Graham (1970), Greg Louganis (1960), Oprah Winfrey (1954), Ann Jillian (1950), Tom Selleck (1945), Katharine Ross (1943), Paddy Chayefsky (1923), John Forsythe (1918), Huddie "Leadbelly" Ledbetter (1885), W.C. Fields (1880), John D. Rockefeller, Jr. (1874), and William McKinley (1843).
If it's a holiday somewhere, I don't know about it.
© 2004, The Moron's Almanac