Friday, April 29, 2005

Mother Load

For any woman reading this who is not yet a parent or pregnant, but is considering the Life of Maternity, I offer some unexpected benefits to being a mother. For example, after becoming a mother, certain words acquire a new depth of meaning. There are the expected ones:




But there is also: Humiliation.

Sure, you’re all familiar with the occasional humiliation:

- Someone opened the dressing-room door, exposing you to the rest of the store while you were trying on a thong bikini for which you really hadn’t prepared for, wax-wise.

- During a staff meeting, your boss took a half-hour to explain exactly what a company liability you were.

- Your boyfriend decided the ideal place to break up was at Thanksgiving, at his parents table, where his hard-of-hearing uncle started demanding of his eight-year old niece that she repeat, loudly, the essence of the conversation:


We’ve all suffered the occasional awkward moment, but if you desire the constant possibility of gross public humiliation, may I suggest a child? A child who can sit quietly in her stroller as you walk through a department store and who, unbeknownst to you, can grab low-hanging items and hide them under her blanket, thereby setting off a whooping alarm as you leave the premises? Retail security guards are well-known for their open-mindedness and their willingness to believe that a not-quite-two-year-old would have both the agility and the motivation to grab seven pairs of ankle socks and a four perfume bottles off the displays. One security guard berated my friend at the exit near the food court for trying to steal things, and then switched to berating her about being a terrible mother. The people waiting at Cinna-bun had a marvelous show with their meal.

Not humiliating enough? How about the three year-old who waited until he and his mother were stuck in an endless grocery line, with nowhere to hide, when the boy decided to tell his new best friend, The Complete Stranger Next To Him, how he caught his parents having sex in the living room. He speaks quite clearly for a three year-old, but somehow, you already knew that. And of course, the shopper at the cash register had only Bulgarian currency and was quite insistent on being allowed to use it, so there was plenty of time for this child to do his entire monologue. After Sex I Have Seen, my friend’s son moved neatly into a medley of obscene songs his older brother had taught him. He finished his program with a physical demonstration of how their dog looked when it defecated. On the way home, my friend called her gynecologist from the car, demanding a tubal ligation that very afternoon.

And how about: Privacy.

How can I keep forgetting to lock the door when I enter the bathroom? More intriguing, perhaps, is what kind of compelling pheromones do I emit when I enter the bathroom at home, and why must everyone be drawn to them?


I walk in and shut the door. At moment of maximum need for personal space, the door bursts open and Daughter strolls in.


QUINN: What did I say about knocking before coming in to the bathroom!

Daughter tries to remember, decides whatever I said was superfluous, and cheerfully ignores me.

DAUGHTER: I want pizza for dinner.

QUINN: Well, this isn’t a restaurant, you had pizza two nights ago, and it’s nine-thirty in the morning. Did we really need to discuss this now?

DAUGHTER: I cut my leg. I need a Band-aid.

QUINN: Where?

DAUGHTER: In the medicine cabinet.

QUINN: No. Where did you cut your leg?

Daughter cannot find said wound on her leg.

DAUGHTER: It’s on my hand.

QUINN: Please go find your father and talk to him and let me have some privacy.

Daughter leaves. After a beat, there is a knock.

QUINN: Person in here.

CONSORT: I know, she said you wanted to talk to me.

QUINN: No, I want you to talk to her. I want you and me to have some mystery left in our relationship, so can I please have some time to myself?

CONSORT: Of course. Of course.

In the hallway, I hear Daughter approach.

DAUGHTER: What did Mommy want?

CONSORT: She wants some alone time, sweetheart. Let’s go for a walk.

DAUGHTER: I don’t want to.

The dog, having heard the word “Walk”, comes prancing over to Consort and Daughter. The dog needs her nails trimmed, so now, along with listening to my family debate a walk, it sounds as if the road company of 42nd Street is warming up outside the bathroom.

CONSORT: Put on some shoes, sweetie, and we’ll go out for a nice walk.

DAUGHTER: May I wear my new shoes?

Simultaneous, from two different sides of the door:

CONSORT: Sure, whatever. QUINN: Not the new shoes!

Daughter stands closer to the door and negotiates.

DAUGHTER: Pleeease?



QUINN: Not your new school shoes.

Door slams open again. Daughter and dog enter as one; Consort stands in the threshold, looking apologetic. The cat slips through the open door and starts batting around a disposable razor.

DAUGHTER: I want to wear my new shoes!

Seeing no hope of ever being alone, I offer a compromise.

QUINN: How about cowboy boots?

DAUGHTER: (After a sulking beat) Fine.

Consort tries to hustle everyone out, but Daughter stands her ground.

QUINN: What?

DAUGHTER: I have to go to the bathroom. You all have to leave.

Humiliation no longer holds much fear for me, but I would like a bit of privacy back. And two smooth legs at the same time strikes me as a reasonable ambition.


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