i just completed my "Kissing Hands and Shaking Babies Tour" of San Francisco and Los Angeles. This consisted of meeting a lot of Hollywood people that my agent made me go see, and seeing the huge invasion of infants that my peer group has suffered in the last year. I have never been one of those women who could barely drive straight due to the ceaseless, bellowing reproductive agenda of their uterus. Having a baby has always seemed as distasteful to me as blooming patches of thick black hair under both eyes, and I'd probably rather gore my own foot off with a corkscrew than endure the birth process itself. I've read the testimonies of several women in South Central L.A. who have survived multiple gunshot wounds and without batting an eye will tell you that childbirth is far more physically painful. In short, there has never been much of anything appealing to me about giving birth to a child. There is an absurd amount of human beings already gleefully mutilating the planet by steamrolling asphalt over fields full of baby bunnies and boiling all the trees into Styrofoam and spiking the lakes and rivers and seas with pig shit and petroleum. Why have your own mewling, invalid flesh-tube of splattering goo when
you can adopt a fleshy, luckless little brute who is already here? Only egomaniacs would need a small replica of their own DNA, I have always reasoned. There's got to be a Tutsi moppet with a minor machete scar through its cheek that needs the complete and doting love of moneyed adults for every infertile couple in California, or enough glass-eyed Romanian whelps begging wordlessly for parentage to satisfy the procreative urges for at least an altruistic few hundred.
My friends don't seem to feel this way, judging from the abandon with which they have all gone ahead and recklessly birthed things.
The first baby I met last week belonged to a dear friend of mine I'll call Dino, a huge, tattooed body building freak with violently steroidal tendancies who is an expert in the most bloodlustful "I will whirl you over my head with my middle fingers in both of your eye sockets like a propeller" kind of kung fu. Dino drives a mufflerless muscle car and has been rumored to hurt people for money. He and his mate just had a baby daughter, and I hung out with them for a little while.
Dino entertained his child by making his pit bulls swing from a knot of black rubber attached to a chain on a tree in his yard. His daughter was a gorgeous dainty lump, with that obligatory grainy fruit laundry smell that infants get on the back of their necks, emanating off of her in visible waves, designed to confuse even the staunchest anti-baby campaigner.
"You get the baby you karmically deserve," mused Dino, when confronted with the idea that if he'd had a son, he probably would have overdosed it with so much machismo that it would have been instantly gay. It was great to see a guy who would easily terrify anybody in prison on sight and could kill a charging musk ox with nothing but a ball-point pen, a guy who normally goes around quoting the darkest passages of scripture available, holding a little tiny girl up under her arms and squeaking "Helloooo! Hellooooooo!" and other dippy baby-speakisms while carefully feeding her strained peas.
He and his stomach-flu-impaired wife were laughing because the UPS man had arrived at their door with a well-marked box of live ammunition and she had vomited in front of him before signing the clipboard. "They must think we're really dangerous junkies!" she chuckled weakly, wiping some gelatinous blob off her shirt with a pink bib. Ah, parenthood, I thought, it comes in so many different shapes and sizes, not one of them proven to be right.
Most L.A. "meetings" are more dumb and pointless than going out and meeting the daughter of a friend of your Mom's. There is no reason for either party to be in the room other than A) You are supposed to be a "writer" and B) They are getting paid to "meet writers." This is the typical Meet & Greet experience, which is what they call these things:
You walk in to the receptionist hall of the movie studio, which is covered with the posters of whatever films the company has done in the past few years, which are invariably sequels of everything you've ever skipped at the video store: "I Spit On Your Grave III," "Cornbread, Earl & Me III," "I'm Dancing As Fast As I Can II," "Short Circuit VII," "Bert Rigby You're A Fool II" and anything with a Corey in it, or some benign family robot.
"So! Tell us a little about yourself!" is the first question they ask you, the "writer." This is code for "I have no idea who you are, and I haven't read anything your agent has sent me." Once you have mumbled through your demoralizing tap solo and shown them your teeth and the papers that say you've had all your shots, they roll into the "Now, I should probably tell you a little about what We do..." monologue, which they have down to the economical, balletic level of a telemarketing pitch. This speech tells you which Big Star is the figurehead of the company, and that they, the speaker, are one of nine or 10 executives who can't do anything without the approval of nine or 10 other executives and/or the invisible star in order to make anything happen.
"So what's NEXT for you?" Is generally the windup question. Translation: Are you ever going to write something that I could possibly be interested in showing to the people who are my higher-ups? Because, what you have going on now is so totally unmarketable, you may as well be trying to sell me some reprint of a fiction article from Spanish Hustler.
You know when that question hits, you may as well pull out your parking ticket for validation; the meeting is essentially over.
Just what are they? I wondered driving two miles an hour at 6 p.m. on a Friday in Santa Monica. What are those important career things that I'd be missing out on if I suddenly became an unwed mother? Then I remembered having read Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions" and kept driving, this time with renewed 2 miles per hour vigor.
That weekend I saw around 45 babies at a birthday party for one of them, and virtually all of the mothers had tattoos running in sleeves all the way up to their necks and down their legs like Yakuza. All the outlaw types I had grown up with, doing drugs and being Anti-Everything, were suddenly calmed down, in stable relationships and beginning families of their own, finally deciding they had something to live for besides Bauhaus and "Dad's first Ampellang." My fashionable girlfriend Pam showed up with her new 6-week-old offering to the world, in one of those puffy fabric baby-sling things that I know she wouldn't have been caught DEAD with had there not been a baby in it.
The first thing we all noticed about Pam, after she squeezed out her progeny, was that her voice had changed. She didn't have a trace of cynicism left in her tone, so nobody recognized her voice when she called to tell us all the news. I realized all in a hit that this entire group of new parents, my friends and their friends standing around looking streetwise and drinking non-alcoholic beer, were the people who were always the most hard-core about everything: narcotic abuse, alternative sexual lifestyles, body manipulations, and had played further out in the margins than the rest of my friends. Babymaking was just the next extremely hard-core thing to do; they'd all gotten everything pierced and branded and inked up and owned motorcycles and slept with everybody else and been all there and done all that, and now they were all radically having children.
They all gave up on cynicism, because it was the weirdest thing to do, at a certain point.
"Shit," I kept muttering. "Someday I'll be forced to admit that having offspring is somehow Cool."
Not just yet.