The chicest, newest, grooviest thing you can do right now? Get knocked up and not tell anyone. So what if people think you are growing a beer gut? Let them take you for a big, fat pig. It simply doesn’t matter anymore, because the under-the-radar pregnancy is the new black!
The unrelenting obsession with childbirth—celebrity babies in particular—was bound to create a backlash among the Manhattan cognoscenti. It was only a matter of time before the penny dropped and we all remembered that TomKat did not actually invent procreation and that, unless it’s your own baby, the whole palaver is somewhat less than scintillating.
Things reached a screeching point with the recent Brangelina spawn and the attendant multimillion-dollar baby pictures. Though laudable from a philanthropic standpoint—apparently the shekels went to UNICEF—an obscene amount of attention has now been focused on a little entity that is not even old enough to throw a tiny finger at the paparazzi. It will serve everyone right if she grows up with a messiah complex or joins a punk band and changes her name from Shiloh Pitt to Pile o’ Sh …. Ladies, let’s not go there.
Last week, I encountered several post-Brangelina, laissez-faire mothers who have embraced the new oh-by-the-way-I’m-expecting attitude.
Literary super-agent Tanya McKinnon sent me a businesslike e-mail punctuated with a throwaway P.S. which read, “By the way, I’ll be on maternity leave in July.” When I called to screech congratulations down the phone, she replied: “That’s sweet, but I’m not into fetishizing gender-specific activities.” You go, girl!
Barneys art director and new mother Suzi Jones feels that baby mania is profoundly unhelpful: “The worst thing are the little notes which tell you to ‘savor every precious moment.’ Meanwhile it’s 4 o’clock in the morning, you’re feeling completely suicidal, your nipples are screaming and you are hallucinating from lack of sleep.”
What has caused us all to insert our heads into society’s collective uterus with such deranged fervor? As a gay man with no childrearing experience whatsoever, I am convinced that I possess the objectivity to comment with great authority on all aspects of human reproduction. It seems to me that the current Wow! that surrounds childbirth—even among the lesbians on The L Word—speaks to a general discomfort with the whole procedure. It’s as if all you baby makers cannot handle the crude, humiliating biology of birthing unless you camouflage it with a million doilies.
I thank the Lord that I arrived on Earth in the 1950’s, when babies were completely and utterly unheralded. As long as one had most of one’s extremities, nobody was overly concerned. This indifference created a psychologically healthy environment: Being ignored and treated like a farm animal allowed me to create my own grotesque little universe—it’s called childhood!—without any adults getting up in my business and making pointless attempts to optimize my existence.
Baby-raising laissez-faire probably peaked in the 1970’s. During this period, a friend of mine owned a busy frock shop. One day, she gave birth. She marked the occasion by emptying all the hangers out of the hanger box, szhooshing some fabric scraps into it and turning it into a crib. She then returned to the shop floor—à la the rice fields—and went on serving customers.
During the same period, I recall running into a pal, a cabaret singer, on the King’s Road in Chelsea. She and her teenage sister Millie shared a bedroom in her parents’ nearby house. Before we parted, I enquired after the buxom sibling.
“Oh! Funny you should ask—Millie had a baby last week,” she replied.
“I had no idea she was pregnant,” I said.
“Neither did I,” replied my pal.
“Boy or girl?” I asked.
“It’s a lovely little girl: black as the ace of spades. Must dash!” cooed the new aunt, before hopping on a passing bus.
Along with the fetishization of reproduction, the other thing that needs to go is the self-flagellating “look-how-quickly-I-got-my-figure-back” exhibitionism. (Again suggesting a namby-pamby impulse to draw a veil over the animalistic realities of childbirth.) Premiere maternity designer Liz Lange encourages her customers to cut themselves some slack and to keep wearing her clothes post-delivery. “You just carried a baby for nine months—why not give yourself a break and be a chocolate-cake-eating slob for a few weeks?” she opined when I spoke to her recently, adding thoughtfully, “When you’re breastfeeding, you can totally handle the calories.”
Re tattoos: If any of you new mothers find yourself tempted to copy Angelina Jolie—a.k.a. Womb Raider—and get the longitude and latitude lines of your child’s birthplace inscribed on your arm, take a breath and remind yourself that it was not too long ago that it said “Billy Bob” in the same spot.
Re Namibia: New York University Law professor Amy Adler—my sister-in-law and the mother of my gorgeous new nephew Harry—feels that Brangelina got it all wrong: “They should have had the baby here, surrounded by First World medical expertise, and then raised it in Namibia, away from the toxic insanity of Manhattan or L.A., where we are all over-parenting and turning all our kids into total freaks.”