Read an Excerpt
In the Beginning...
Ambivalence doesn't even begin to do justice to what is happening to me.
It's 6:30 A.M. My wife is peeing on what looks like a scale model of the spaceship from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It's an early pregnancy test called something like First Alert, or Early Response, some name that sounds like a smoke detector or a piece of EMS equipment. I should remember the name, because I went to a lot of trouble to be the one to go out and buy it, so that I could show how positive I was about our plans to have a baby, to telegraph, to signal what a sensitive and "proactive" partner I was going to be.
I know as we peer at the little window that I am going to be required to display some emotion, whether the window remains light mauve, indicating negative, or turns darker mauve, indicating positive.
We synch up for a moment to decide with nervous giggles that whoever designed this test is either a sadist or a moron. Why can't the little window say "Yes" or "No," "Win" or "Lose," "Continue with Your Perfect Life" or "Risk Everything"?
With both of us raptly looking on, the window darkens. Mauve, dark mauve is storming across the window like a Panzer division. It's definite. Mauve has asserted itself. The dye is cast.
My wife looks up from our little science project, a smile radiating upward and outward from her lips, carried on a hundred million capillaries of happiness. "Well, what do you think? Aren't you happy?" she asks me.
I'm thinking: "Isn't that what Marie Curie said to her husband when she discoveredradioactivity?"
Let's just say my reaction is a little more subtle, a little more complex. What I'm really worried about is the fact that I can't seem to summon up any emotion at all. I know I'm supposed to feel something, but inside my emotional self is on a ventilator. To top it all off, I'm having an out-of-body experience like you read about as you're checking out of the supermarket. You know, those near-death testimonials: "There I was hovering over the O.R. while they operated desperately, trying to save my life." I'm thinking, perhaps the shock of all this has actually killed me.
I'm about to turn toward the "long tunnel of light" when I notice that what I've been watching is my expression reflected in the bathroom mirror. One look at my blank face and I realize that I have to do something to save myself. I pull an Ali "rope-a-dope" and pull Julie toward me with a hug, mumbling with as much conviction as I can muster, "Yes doll, of course I'm happy. This is so wonderful."
I glance at ourselves clinching in the mirror. Julie, her head tucked into my shoulder, is the very picture of mother-to-be bliss. And me? The expectant zombie-father. I give myself the eye. Whatever part of me is still alive knows I'm in deep trouble. "Women are creatures of biology and destiny with philosophies synchronized to a progressive vision of history with the same certainty as their uteruses are timed to the cycles of nature and the clock of the cosmos.
"Men are ahistorical, transitory, emotion-deferring, future-obsessed creatures whose only bonds with biology are hunger and libido -- mobile GI tracts with egos and penises.
"What makes women women makes them relationship-driven, life-perpetuating, and family-centered.
"What makes men men makes them self-intoxicated, death-seeking, isolationist..."
It's not easy living under the same roof with a Smith College education, if you're a man. My wife, who is better educated and smarter than I am, is telling me all this a few days later while standing in front of the mirror, naked, stabbing the air with her toothbrush, her breasts tremoring slightly with every thrust. I'm staring down past my slight paunch, so I don't have to look at Julie's face, watching my penis shrivel from some errant wintry draft. I'm having this weird out-of-body feeling again, except this time instead of being dead I am stuck in some installation put on at the Whitney Museum. Adam & Eve Argument. Morning After the Expulsion. I glance up for a moment to steal a look at Julie's face. On closer inspection, the foam at the corners of her mouth is only Tom's of Maine.
There are moments in a relationship when you feel that you are not just individuals trying to solve a personal problem, but representatives of your gender, acting out some social drama. Over Julie's shoulder I see a chorus of angry women, between the ages of thirty and forty, hundreds of thousands strong, all being channeled through my wife.
I can't quite make out everything they are saying, but I sure know what it means: revolution.
After decades of trying to get to the promised land, women have finally figured out that success, as defined by men, is not necessarily what they bargained for. Never mind pay parity and glass ceilings -- the dirty little secret that women have discovered is that the world of male work is a temple full of false gods. Its treacherous theology works like this: After years of killing yourself to get to the top of the pyramid, you arrive, expecting to find the celestial executive dining room, only to have your heart ripped out and eaten and the smoking hulk of your body tossed over the edge to be cannibalized by those coming after you. Yes, it's perverse, but for some reason men find pleasure in it.Women, of course, have the option of having better things to do -- like perpetuating the species, for instance. But here the problem becomes more complex. Pregnant Man. Copyright � by Gordon Churchwell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.