We’re having a girl. The news has left Kenny glassy-eyed in the middle of Baby Gap, clutching tiny pink ephemera to his endearingly maudlin heart. I, the pragmatic curmudgeon, can only freeze, unblinking and mouth breathing in terrified anticipation of 2028-2037.
I’m half-joking. Of course I am elated to rear a flag bearer of the new wave of feminism. To nurture a loving and empathetic human. To puncture the tender soles of my feet with hexagonal doll accessories (to be fair, this already happens). I also know that, in most ways, it will be no different than raising a son–just wipe from front to back, prepare for the magnetic siren song of Disney princesses, and invest in the collected works of Judy Blume. But I’m also no dummy: I was once a ‘tween girl preternaturally skilled in histrionics. I know my daughter’s adolescence will leave me a broken woman.
The extensive, unembellished, and genetically predictive evidence below augurs high blood pressure and, if I drank, quarterly pilgrimages to Napa Valley:
Exhibit A: When I was in sixth grade, I threw a toddler-style tantrum over the grade of cedar chips we purchased to make a pallet for our English Springer Spaniel. (I was very passionate about pet bedding.)
Exhibit B: In the fashion desert of 1980s Dubai, my mother found me a highly sought-after denim jacket for Christmas. And with crushing 4th grade disdain, I rejected its patterned cuffs. This incident is karmically documented on Betamax.
Exhibit C: If I expended half the energy on improving my jump shot that I did on perfecting the two-tiered bang, I’d be on the front of a Wheaties box.
Exhibit D: At my seven-year-old birthday party, during a heated game of Ice Skater Barbie, I tyrannically laid claim to the Barbie short program championship. I also ejected Laurel’s Barbie from the competition on (fabricated) grounds of subversion. I’m so sorry, Laurel. (This is, of course, also documented on Betamax.)
Exhibit E: I once ironed my Umbros track shorts the night before a meet, lest an invisible wrinkle impair my long jump performance. Do you know what happens when you apply direct heat to nylon? A $20 deduction from your allowance, that’s what.
Exhibit F: I have long battled anxiety, depression, and abysmal self esteem. My heart already breaks at any suffering I will be powerless to heal–for both our children–even though I know it is inevitable, and I know it will be painfully important.
Exhibit G: “Mom, yeah, hi, sorry, I know you’re teeing off. What’s a subsidized loan?” “I think he likes me. He said, ‘Hi,’ but it was like, ‘Hi!‘” “So, that mole I told you about last week? It’s oblong. O-b-l-o-n-g. Like a squash.” Etc. etc.
When my mom was starting to leave, I would curl up at her feet on the hospital bed like a large and cumbersome cat and stroke her calves and ask her questions. On bad days she would respond breathlessly in non sequiturs, but on good days she would look at me tenderly, sadly, already distantly, and murmur words that are etched into my memory like stone. Did she mind that I called her incessantly and indiscriminately to diagnose my every ailment?
“Baby…I loved every minute of it.”
I’m going to dig down deep and believe with all my grief and my tiny kernel of nascent maternal wisdom that she meant it. And I’m going to dig down deeper and believe that she loved being mother to all 46 of my neurotic chromosomes–even (especially?) the XX ones. As I know I will when mothering my own daughter.
Make room on the moon bounce, Beluga. I’m ready for this party.