I am blessed to have many friend who are in the same place as I am in life. We're all hovering in this strange in-between. We're adults, but we certainly don't act like it. None of us have children, and we all kind of feel like we're the last people on earth who haven't spawned. It, of course, doesn't make sense considering that we're surrounded by friends who have very clearly not spawned. BUT THERE ARE BABIES ALL OVER FACEBOOK.
I asked a very close and very old friend of mine to throw together some words about his experience in the in-between. (To be clear, "old" is not a comment on his age. We've known each other forever. Oh, he's also ANCIENT.) He'll be stopping in occasionally to give a male perspective on not having kids while not knowing what exactly the next step is.
World, meet The Manny.
"We gotta talk."
Those three little words always carry a lot of weight, especially when followed by the words: "We are pregnant." They can come as quite shock to any guy, but were especially a metaphorical kick in the nuts for a guy like me.
For one, I was very young, twenty-six at the time. I had no immediate plans of fatherhood, let alone adulthood. I was more of a "see every movie, go to every concert, and play as much Xbox as I can" kinda guy. I was also unemployed. I was tutoring part-time, which would free me up for the many duties that lay ahead, but, obviously, didn't cover the necessary expenses. Things were being thrust into perspective. I didn't plan for this. I was not ready for this.
My life had come to a screeching halt in that moment.
Oh, and I was also single and not married. And the aforementioned "we" didn't include me. I was living with my best friend and his wife, and they had brought me downstairs to tell me THEY were pregnant. I was included in that "we" because, well, I was the live-in chef.
You'd think "we are having a baby" is cue for me to leave; that the high life in West Hollywood had come to a close. Pregnancy is one of the most intimate and personal times a couple can share, so why would they want some unemployed, scruffy bum hanging around and invading their privacy? Which begs the question: did they make the baby when I was there? Because… um...
"Two questions," I said.
"We were on vacation. It wasn't when you were asleep."
"Oh great! Question, number two…"
"We'd really like you to stay. To help out. It's going to be tough, and you're already such a big help." Cue the big puppy dog eyes.
Three reasons kept me there:
1. Necessity. I was in it for the long haul. See, the husband (my best friend of many years) was leaving town on business and would be in and out for months at a clip. I was the answer to his problems: a person he could trust to look after his wife. I cooked, cleaned, built stuff, and had very long arms to reach cabinets. Not to mention, as Richard Gere (or Chris Farley) so eloquently put it : "I got no place else ta go!"
2. Street-Cred. Like in a video game, I was leveling up. I was looking at this as a cheat code for life. I was getting the crash course in parenting long before my own kids. Forget having been a teacher, camp administrator, and uncle prior to this. I was going to be de-facto Dad. And as I learned, dad-skills are very attractive to women. Nowadays, being a single dad is like being able to take down a mammoth single-handedly in the paleolithic era. Instant loin cloth dropper. (Note to self: Why are the girls I am dating wearing loin cloths? Evaluate life choices).
3. Curiosity. I was in for some freaky shit. Yeah, yeah. I'd seen the movies. I'd heard the horror stories from friends and relatives. But I had no REAL idea what I was in for. My friend had something growing inside her, and it was changing her, and I was able to study it. I was like a crew member in "Alien." Or the Doctor in "The Thing." I didn't want to die… but it was a risk I had to take.
I really over thought this.
What I underestimated, however, was what the next nine months had in store.
“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” -HP Lovecraft