The Awful Truth: Let it breed?

Cintra Wilson, who has always regarded babies as life-ravaging monstrosities, starts thinking about the unthinkable.

Published December 16, 1997 10:28AM (EST)

Babies love me -- especially those pre-verbal 6-monther adorable blob types whom most other women around 30 fawn over teary-eyed with their wombs throbbing and braying like air horns.

"Hellooooooooooo!" these women moan to the baby in some terribly large and cloying alien accent intended to be appreciated as "safe" and "loving" in the infant mind. The baby, faced with this hysterical specter, invariably screams and lunges for the scowling, disinterested figure of myself. Babies often scramble away from their own mothers and come to me, just like cats who
psychically suss out my allergy-meter and decide they want to kill me with specious animal love. Invariably I have a plateful of potato salad that I'm very excited about and have no interest in holding the little damp bag of humanity whatsoever.

I have always held that until children can speak in full sentences they are basically obscene -- after all, just think of where they were only five or six months ago. When people have asked me whether I plan to have children I have always said that I wouldn't even think about it until my biological clock started clanging its horrible death knoll and my ovaries were in the tumbrel cart, heading for the blade. Children are just so hopelessly unsexy, I've always reasoned. What a lousy deal: Expunge all tautness and glamour from your body in exchange for having two years of no sleep followed by 16 more years of ceaseless yowling and thankless extra responsibility involving special car seats and miniature boxes of juice and a thick coating of beige pasty mucus all over the living room and waking up well before 11 every day and socializing either not at all or with MOMS, choosy and concerned.

"No, I am not knocked up," I keep having to tell people after I tell them I'm marrying a guy I've known for eight weeks.

Last weekend we transplanted my house into his house. It took me about .0004 seconds to find new tenants for my West Village apartment. I didn't really even have to think about it consciously. It just fell into being like a well-timed conspiracy: I suspected I might want to move and was miraculously out within a week. Everything has accelerated freakishly since my last birthday, like I've suddenly hit that "Star Trek" point in my own terrestrial continuum where you step through some particular doorway and life thereafter is switched on fast-forward supersonic adulthood.

Moving is always full of endless boxes of postcards and paper -- flyers and clippings from past events, letters that cause some stinging pang of guilt when you think about chucking them out with the dreggy condiment jars. Normally it takes me days and days of hard memories and random sobbing to get through a move, but I was feeling reborn and ruthless; the joyful violence of new love can make you sociopathically disgusted with your own oversentimental past. Get rid of it all, says a spoiled little voice within. You are driving your fully loaded life brand-new off the showroom floor now; all that other stuff was some kind of factory-second emotional discount trash. Burn it all, burn burn burn.

But it was still impossible to get rid of anything, so I was in this fluttering paperstorm of infuriating personal debris when I realized I was a day or two Late, in the "oh shit" sense of the word. We'd only really technically been together for a month, which was all torrid, leaping concupiscence of the slightly less careful than prom night variety. I got a slight case of the Fear. The fiancé and I had to have the Discussion concerning the ramifications of an unplanned little smuggler. Kill it, said the little voice of self-preservation inside me. Kill kill kill. We sat there for about an hour while I burrowed through about a hundred rational mud tunnels figuring out why it was OK to kill the baby if there was one, until I finally convinced myself. Sure this was the guy I would eventually breed with, but not NOW.

"It's like an unwanted house guest, at this point. You have to apologize politely to it and then give it the boot," I reasoned, weakly ranting to myself about how no being other than myself is allowed to control my life. "It's my life!" I thought petulantly. The advent of another human being is not more important than my personal freedoms, blah blah blah. "Fuck it, if I'm knocked up, we'll go to Paris," I hollered nervously, not knowing how feasible the RU-486 plan was at all. "They aren't as horrible to women over there. It's a completely non-invasive procedure, not one orchestrated by white men to be shameful and daunting and a Judeo-Christian moral nightmare like it is over here. We'll see the Louvre and then I'll go get the pill and that will be all she wrote. Think of it as an impromptu vacation." That whole line of reasoning made my poor fiancé blanch six shades of snow, but I was convinced. I'll also visit the witch doctor and do a little voodoo just to patch things up on the karma side, I thought, unconvinced of my own divine, scot-free will and self-importance in the face of Fate, but convinced that there was no way I was ready for the ordeal of motherhood. There was simply no way.

We decided to waste no time and jumped down to the drug store for definitive results. So I pissed on this white plastic stick with splashguard and waited for little pink stripes and/or plusses and minuses to appear or not. In an astonishingly short period of time, I was able to tell my pal that I was not bearing his young, and we both were very relieved. A day and a half later he confessed that he was just a little bit disappointed. That was when I realized it wouldn't have been nearly so easy as just flippantly jumping on a plane to Paris. I realized, to my horror, that I actually would have had to seriously consider KEEPING the scary little rutter if the results had been different. How adulthood pounces suddenly on us from the sky! How Love quashes our slummocking tantrums and perverts us into maturity! Christ, I thought, what next? Will I want a sport perm? Maybe a pair of little white Keds to go with my colorful geometric running suit? A fucking subscription to Redbook for the coupons, maybe? Christ.

Oddly, the whole scare wasn't for free: The gods must have heard my deliberations and decided to let me get off with a different flavor of pimpslap. The second, the very second that the result came in via plastic stick, the phone rang. It was my doctor's office. I had had a complete physical the week before. "You really need to come in and do some more blood tests," said the nurse. "You have an abnormally high cholesterol level. We're concerned."

Figures. It runs in my family, on my father's side. But it was funny as hell, timing-wise. A real wink-wink nudge-nudge from the forces beyond. You think you're clever, but your own body is as strange and intractable as the bottom of the sea. Ha ha ha. Very humbling.

The other day a couple who are good friends showed me a book with a picture of a tiny four-week fetus, coiled into itself like a brine shrimp, with black glassy lumps for eyes. "We have one of these," she said.

"Are you trying to tell me you're pregnant?" I said. "Yes!" she said, and I went into a full hysterical squirting "Oh my GAWD!! That's WONDERFUL!" production, knowing that this kind of reaction is appreciated when people are doing a big Life thing, and also because I was really happy for them.

"We didn't expect that kind of reaction from you," they teased. What a horrifying 180-degree peeling wipeout skid into Embracing Life. Whoda thunk.

I had a dream last night that I was walking in a field on a college campus surrounded by harmonious animals -- all the ducks and geese and chickens were out in Busby Berkeley-type organized design lines: duck, chicken, quail, duck, chicken, quail, etc. I walked onto the lawn to frolic with them and looked down and saw that even the insects were organized into excited little nittering cliques; I had to be careful not to step on whole families of them out celebrating the sun. The birds were not eating the bugs; the species were all flush and vibrant and hanging out together. Nature was having a bright little fiesta, out on all its hairy little legs and webbed feet.

By Cintra Wilson

Cintra Wilson is a culture critic and author whose books include "A Massive Swelling: Celebrity Re-Examined as a Grotesque, Crippling Disease" and "Caligula for President: Better American Living Through Tyranny." Her new book, "Fear and Clothing: Unbuckling America's Fashion Destiny," will be published by WW Norton.

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