Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Madeby Mary F. Pols
At thirty-nine, movie critic Mary Pols knew she wanted to have a baby. But never—not in a million years—on her own. To take on the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of motherhood without a perfect soul mate/husband would be absurd, kind of like not bothering to use a condom during a one-night stand with an adorable but jobless guy ten years
At thirty-nine, movie critic Mary Pols knew she wanted to have a baby. But never—not in a million years—on her own. To take on the physical, emotional, and financial challenges of motherhood without a perfect soul mate/husband would be absurd, kind of like not bothering to use a condom during a one-night stand with an adorable but jobless guy ten years her junior.
Pols spends the ensuing weeks despairing over everything, from the financial nightmare of single motherhood to the end of her hopes for a traditional life. Not the least of her worries is finding the right way to drop the bombshell on loved ones, including her five siblings and eighty-four-year-old father, who has a German temper and an Irish Catholic attitude toward babies out of wedlock. Yet faced with the frightening, lonely truth that this might be her only chance at motherhood, she plunges ahead with the pregnancy and an Odd Couple version of a co-parenting relationship that looks like one more disaster in a long line of romantic disappointments. But even as she tries to give her son’s young father a radical makeover, she realizes that his devotion and love for their child matters more than his spotty résumé or his inability to remember to put oil in the car. With humor, insight, and compelling honesty, Pols reveals what it means to compromise in the name of love and to find joy in an accidental life, suddenly brimming with purpose.
First-time author Pols fashions an earnest, endearing memoir about how she hit her late 30s without a mate, but still managed to beat her biological clock. Finding herself pregnant at 39 after picking up a cute 29-year-old named Matt at a Bay Area bar, the author, the youngest of a large Catholic family from Maine, resolved to make a go at single motherhood. A successful film critic, if not exactly rich, she nonetheless figured out (with the help of her devoted circle of friends and family) a plan to live and raise the baby, including residing for a spell in a friend's trailer while pregnant. She barely knows her "baby daddy," whom she portrays as sweet, if mostly directionless and unemployed. Her book good-naturedly traces some of the early hurdles of her experience, such as "telling the Grinch" (her father), finding out the sex of the baby and trying to sneak into a film screening with her infant. Candid and unaffected, Pols provides an important lesson about not being willing to compromise herself, and that being brave can bring the richest rewards. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Read an Excerpt
Accidentally on Purpose
A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made
The Trojan on the Floor
I stood in a backyard hung with streamers, trying to talk myself into a good mood while I waited for my hamburger to cook. This was my friend Dave's fortieth birthday party. I ought to be cheerful. There were balloons, for God's sake, and a homemade cake, and I was surrounded by plenty of people I loved and others I liked and others I imagined I'd like if I knew them. But while it wasn't even my fortieth birthday—not for ten months anyway—I felt each and every one of Dave's years. I was almost middle-aged. Ancient. The damp, foggy wind that is the specialty of a San Francisco summer whipped through my hair, and I could have sworn it whispered Spinster in my ear.
The passage of time was evident on all our faces and bodies. There was the former playboy novelist, grown thick around the middle; his boyish good looks were finally going to seed. He looked happy, though, chasing his young son around the backyard. An old flame of mine, the one we thought would never settle down, stood with his arm wrapped protectively around his vastly pregnant wife. My friend Kir joked about her crow's-feet, yet her oldest daughter stood nearly level with her shoulder, green-eyed and beautiful. Milestones seemed far less traumatic when you were bringing new life to the party.
The hamburgers were still raw in the middle. The cute orthopedic surgeon my friends had promised would be there had been called into surgery and wouldn't be coming. I went inside to the bathroom and stared into themirror. My hair was frizzy and the gray was showing, although, sadly, not in a glamorous Emmylou Harris kind of way. I felt so left behind. I was the same person I'd been for the last fifteen years. I could be counted on to be fun, wry, and sarcastic. But I was also chronically lonely, sick of myself, sick of my sad stories, and even sick of my funny stories. I contemplated going home to soak in my sorrows. I'd put Kieslowski's Blue in the DVD player and break out my bottle of Irish whiskey. The cats would comfort me. The wind whistled up through the cracked bathroom window to add a fresh taunt: Cliché, it hissed.
I decided to go to Liza's house instead. She'd recently separated from her husband, Hugh, and he had their two young sons for the weekend. Liza and her brother John would cheer me up. I'd known them for more than half my life. As college students, we'd worked together at a funky old summer resort in Maine, the kind of family-style place that liked to hire waitresses and busboys from liberal arts schools with names the guests recognized. Twenty years later, there wasn't much we didn't know about one another.
We made pasta and discussed our various romantic plights. John thoughtfully stroked his goatee and nodded sympathetically. He was single, but Liza and I assumed it was only a matter of time for him. He sold wine, bought French soap, baked bread, and was nice. He was a catch. Not for me—he was practically my surrogate brother—but for someone, someone lucky.
I found myself prowling the house after dinner. I wanted to wash away the gloom of birthdays and the absent orthopedic surgeon. Usually it was easy to persuade Liza to set out on an evening's adventure. Up until the last few years, she had been fairly demure. Always elegant, but hidden away in baggy jeans. All that changed when she and Hugh moved to San Francisco. Her jeans got lower and tighter as her spirits grew higher and the marital bonds looser. Now that she and Hugh were apart, John had moved into their flat to keep Liza company.
"Just one beer," Liza had said finally, shrugging into a suede coat.
When we got to Finnegan's Wake, she flatly refused to advance past the first empty barstools. She was wearing a kerchief over her impeccably maintained blond highlights. She looked as though she'd rather be scrubbing the tub than going out for a pint.
"I'm Hagrid," she kept saying. Her older son was deep into Harry Potter. "I don't want to be seen."
So John and I perched at the end of the bar with her. The walls were brown and there was a pool table, and that was about the extent of the decor, the perfect blank slate for an evening. If we didn't run into someone we already knew at Finnegan's, we could usually count on making some new friends. A doughy middle-aged guy on the adjacent barstool had instantly perked up at the sight of us. But between Liza's charwoman headgear and John's barely suppressed yawns, I doubted it would be a late night.
I looked out the window. A guy in a baseball cap smoking a cigarette caught my eye. Cute, I thought. Really cute. Young, though. Maybe thirty-five, probably younger.
The cute guy flicked his cigarette to the ground and walked into the bar. He sat down beside us, taking a coaster off the top of a half-drunk beer. He knew the doughy guy, who had been attempting to engage Liza in conversation from the moment she sat down. This often happened when we were out. When it came to men, it was almost as if Liza emitted one of those whistles that only dogs can hear.
She sat up straighter in the presence of the cute guy. He had an infectious smile and wide, sexy eyes. Within minutes Liza had got him to lift off his green A's cap, revealing short, dark blond hair and a receding hairline. I could tell she was doing age calculations in her head based on the hairline. I was doing them too. She asked his name. It was Matt.
"Now, how old are you, Mr. Matt?" she asked. "Because we're quite old."Accidentally on Purpose
A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made. Copyright � by Mary Pols. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Mary F. Pols is a longtime movie critic and freelance journalist based in northern California. She has written for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Self, and Gourmet, and her film criticism appears regularly online at MSN and Time. A former Knight Fellow at Stanford, she is an adjunct professor at the University of California, Berkeley.
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