It’s one of those moments that’s happened so often in poorly written tv shows and movies about newlywed couples that I would have sworn it’d never happen. All through the decades, hundreds of thousands of fictional characters have been asked a question and the ensuing confusion and uncomfortability was fodder for humor. I thought it had been going on so long that people would just know better, even those at the point where they probably shouldn’t drive anymore.
This is turning into a Penthouse Forum setup of sorts. “Dear Internets: I never thought this would happen to me, but…” This weekend, I recieved that famed line of inquiry. “So, when are you going to make your parents…grandparents?”
When this happens in television, someone plays a “record scratch” sound effect. Maybe someone does a spit take. When it happens in real life, you start looking around for a bottle of water, or at the very least some sort of turntable to jostle. (Ah, that we were still living in the late 70s.) There was a palpable beat of time that passed between the three of us, that being myself, the loving wife, and the elder who shall remain nameless.
In retrospect, I wish I was counting. I think we would have gotten to a standing 4-count before one of us stammered out a response about employment or money or time or something stupid like that. Actually, it was the loving wife who sputtered that out, managing to cut me off before I spat out something like “What the everloving hell, lady?”
Other options I was considering in that magical moment of time post-pregnancy-query included an extended discussion as to the lack of personal virility, a detailed medical explanation of underperforming testicles, an extended conversation about how my current position at a “woman’s medical facility” had soured me on the idea, or finally – the possibility that we would actually birth the Antichrist. (My experience with crazies has left me with a decent amount of information about who the Antichrist could be, and on a moments notice I could probably bullshit enough to make it believeable.)
Naturally, I was restricted from any of these lines of discussion by my wife’s wise intervention. But the thought process of such a question deserves to be dissected.
Possibilities: Could it be, despite all the talk about the constant coarsening of our culture, that there are still boundaries that exist between polite company? Have we not lost all of our sense of decency, sir? At long last, have we not lost that sense of decency? Is it entirely possible that it remains uncool to ask, no matter how politely, when I plan to impregnate my wife?
Maybe people, back in the olden days when there were fields to plow and butter to churn, were more forward with any discussion of knock-uppery based purely on business. More kids onhand mean more people to shuck corn and pick beans, after all. The “when you gettin’ preggers” question isn’t so much of a personal bother as it is a question of labor distribution. (Ha – labor! Get it? Get it?)
Or, it could be that I am a square and just aren’t cool enough to engage in relaxed and groovy conversations about “putting tab A into slot B” with aged members of society that I only barely know. It’s fine – I’m slowly making my peace with a total lack of coolness. It’s rough, but me and my pocket protector will have to make do with what we’ve got.
Oh – but as the conversation went on, after one of us had sputtered something about “not wanting to bring something into the world without the ability to provide for–”
Insert record scratch #2:
“Because of the socialized medicine!”
This is when I started feeling a lot better. It’s nice when someone can inform you quickly that they’re operating on a different level than you are. It’s not that an argument about the socialization of America’s medical system doesn’t have its time and place, but when you throw that on top of a baby question compounded with a bare minimum of contact in the history of the universe, the context gets a lot clearer. Following that:
“Oh, it’s on its way! I’m sure it is! And don’t get me started about the media, and can you believe what they’ve done with General Motors, and–”
Since my pump had been primed, I didn’t manage to catch the hammer falling on the firing pin in my brain. (I’m mixing my plumbing and firearms metaphors here, but I don’t particularly care.) And what should my wondering ears a-hear coming forth from my mouth? This is where I am unable to prevent myself from doing a little stick-poking right back.
“Well, we’ll probably just move to Sweden where they’ve got all those kinks worked out.”
I didn’t stop to think about the widespread dissemination of Sweden’s current political democratically socialist makeup. I think that referring to Sweden just kinda sounded like a pinko Commie thing to say, which was good enough for me. I was shoved out of there quickly after that, with a “he’s just kidding,” and “he doesn’t mean it” thrown in for good measure.
Which is true. I didn’t mean a word of it. But it felt good.
Is there any over-arching lesson to this sad tale of my personal experience? No. Save that there’s still a place for the spit-take in this world. My question: How many other people thought that the breeding question had faded from the face of the earth? And how many others have been proven wrong?
And how many others can bring democratic socialism into the same debate, as well as make puns about labor? I can answer that: Only one that I can think of.