c. Mark Chambers 2001

c. Mark Chambers 2001

The first pregnant peer of mine had to tell me to walk more slowly EVERY SINGLE TIME. She was kind and patient about it, though I routinely found myself half a block ahead of her in the middle of what had seemed to me a conversation but had turned into a monologue.

Once I myself was pregnant, a switch flipped, and I finally understood. Every part of my body was different, and I had to walk slowly for all sorts of reasons: my feet were swollen, my bladder hated being jostled, my belly hated waistbands, and I felt like I had the flu for several months.

Pregnancy, I learned, is not an experience confined to the belly. I was pregnant in the sensitivity of my hair follicles, in the way odors stuck to the inside of my nose, and in the customary cravings (simply cooked salmon) and revulsions (toast, coffee), as well as a heightened sex drive. Basically, the stuff you don’t learn about in health class.

Some health classes, I understand from TV-world, involve carrying around an uncooked egg or a baby android to expose teenagers to the horrors of broken eggs and dolls that cry in the middle of the night. I can’t speak for all of them, but I imagine that sort of assignment might give kids a tiny insight into what being a parent is. What it won’t do is give a male person the experience of being pregnant.

My first pregnant friend woke up one morning and punched her husband in the arm. Hard. “What was that for?” he asked. “So you know what I’m going through,” she replied.

Not only no cigar, but nowhere close. I don’t care how many times you get punched, you’re never going to know what pregnancy feels like until you feel it. I’m sure that’s true of a lot of bodily experience (kidney stones, open-heart surgery, tattooing), and I would never claim to know another’s pain, physical or emotional, within direct experience.

Here’s a direct experience: Another friend, currently pregnant, attempted to buy beer at a Duane Reed store in NYC. They would not sell it to her, either as a matter of policy or out of simple-minded mistakenness — either way, she was embarrassed, thwarted, and patronized. A grown woman was unable to make a legal purchase for whatever reason.

It was after hearing that story that I decided it’s no longer cute for a man — or other non-pregnant partner — to announce, beaming, “We’re pregnant!” We are most certainly not, and we are not amused.

This is the place where I’m sposedta put a call to action, but I have no idea what action I want you to do. Make me feel I’m alive? Share your own rant? Tell me to piss off? Any and all are welcome.