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Outta Control
My wife has gone from being the consumer
to the consumed.
by David Holzel

We're going to have a baby, Sheri and I. When she told me the news, my first reaction was pure excitement -- A baby! Our legacy. Our bridge to the 21st century. Another soldier in the war for Jewish continuity, the ultimate fruit of our creativity, touchstone of our reality, great ego leveler, perspective provider of life's ultimate priorities.

My next thought was that this is a dreadful way of going about things. The worst possible way.

Today, when our metaphors are electronic, when reality is mostly virtual, when vegetables come pre-cut, beef is irradiated, chickens go down the assembly line like Chevys and everything we touch comes to us shrink-wrapped, pregnancy is practically incomprehensible. Like runes or Pat Boone's career.

To gestate seems so animal, so... unnatural.

Think how savage and archaic it is. They did it way back in Torah times, like animal sacrifice. It's the kind of thing you'd expect to see it in a colonial village reconstruction -- all that mortality and suffering -- or in earthy countries like Italy. You associate it with hippies, with teenagers, and the Rolling Stones.

They say babies should come with an instruction book. I say, get real. We've discovered there's no tech support whatsoever. No 800 number. No chipper young voice at the other end of the line ready to walk you through this simple but completely mystifying glitch. The whole concept is goofy. Can you imagine one of our fine multinational corporations running a nine-month project this way? No team leader. No needs study. No mission statement. No budget. No meetings, lunches, teleconferences. No incentives to bring the thing in early. It's a recipe for disaster. If this method were adopted globally, interest rates would skyrocket, Dow Jones would plummet and the rest of us would be on street corners by next Tuesday selling apples.

All this is fairly obvious. But I've learned there are some covert things happening that the ordinary citizen can't affect, even if he finds about them early enough. Like placenta. Sheri's manufacturing that versatile combination of bubble wrap and Burger King right now. As I'm writing this. And when we're driving to the mall. Even when we're solicited by the Jewish Theological Seminary for the third time in a month. She's doing it all the time. With no hope of outsourcing. She isn't the consumer anymore. She's the consumed.

If I haven't convinced you that pregnancy is a feral threat to our way of life, consider this: Sheri and I, through no fault of our own, are violating the biggest of all our cultural taboos. We are seriously out of control. I mean, I've spent most of my life trying not to get some woman pregnant. Making sure at least one of us is using birth control. For years, birth control has been my mantra, my hedge around the Torah. The failure of such control can be ruinous.

And as we've learned, the loss of control is ruinous. Think of that poor shmuck who lost control and propped a photo of his wife on his desk at work. His wife was in a bikini and that caused discomfort to a female colleague. Imagine if he hadn't been stopped from going down the slippery slope. He might have let it slip that he and his wife were exchanging bodily fluids. Perhaps without birth control.

We've reached a point where we can alter the temperaments of those we consider out of control. With a pill, we can bring people whose personalities make us uncomfortable -- too quiet, too nervous, too loquacious, too cantankerous, too impetuous -- into our comfort zone. Our technology allows us to rest assured that we will all be able to control ourselves.

But with this pregnancy, I'm embarrassed to admit, everything is out of control. Sperm shooting off like starships. Eggs transforming. Chemicals metamorphosing into life. Before you know it there's a heart beat. Ears, nose, gender (be careful who you show those sonograms). You keep fiddling with your remote control, but the show won't turn off.

We've kinda become Bonnie and Clyde with this thing. So what I'm wondering now is this: When they come for us, do we go quietly or shoot it out? And why is everyone so happy for us?

Copyright 1998 by David Holzel

Kangaroos from the Animal Photo Library of the National Zoo.

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