What exactly is the deal with proud parents anyway? I mean what are they so proud about? Okay, so you went ahead and got yourself a 20 pound piece of raw, blubbering steak. That's fine with me - I'm a tolerant person, I don't judge. What you do in the privacy of your own home is none of my business. But you could at least be suitably ashamed of the little monstrosity, keep it hidden away at home, in the garage maybe, next to the beer empties and the spare tire. What's with all this celebration? If all you want is something that goes off at all the most inopportune times, wakes you up at night, embarasses you in public - then get a cellphone without a silent mode, for God's sake.
And what price the smugness? I mean if I spent my time wandering about the city carrying something that was a cross between a car alarm and mashed whale blubber I'd either get arrested by Homeland Security or put in a strait-jacket by those nice men over at the local nut-house, right? Except everywhere you look there are these glowing mothers pushing their prams about, and no one so much as bothers to stun them with Mace. Even when they invade our offices we smile at them indulgently, when they thrust their little ghouls in our faces, we manage to restrain our instinct to hit them with our wireless keyboards (purely in self-defense, of course). How lovely, we say, just what I needed to make my cube more fun - a drool machine to slobber all over me! Now I don't have to build my complex analytical models in silence anymore, I can do it to the accompaniment of caterwauling puppy fat! What's that? You want to use the conference room to change the baby - go right ahead, that's what it's for. Think of it as your own personal diaper altar. We just pretend to have meetings in there every now and then so no one will suspect. (And while we're on the subject - what is it about diapers that makes changing them a quasi-religious experience for women. I mean, would you like us to all come stand around and watch while you went to the bathroom? Is there some biblical precedent for this sort of thing? Was the first thing Princess what's her name did for the baby Moses after she pulled him out of his basket of bulrushes to get him a fresh diaper? Did the three wise men stand around in wonder, clutching their precious gifts, while the virgin mother changed the infant Jesus?)
Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that parenting is easy - I recognise that being a good parent is one of the hardest things in the world (and something I'm way too chicken to try). But what's so tough about having babies? I mean, okay, so if you come and tell me you're proud of your daughter because at 16 she's over at John Hopkins finding cures for cancer and setting the text of Dante's Inferno to a piece for solo violin-cello in her free time, then I can see why your pride may be justified. But if all you've managed to do is procreate, I don't see what the big deal is. It's not like you've suddenly become model parents. This little monster you're dandling about is probably going to turn out to be a psychotic axe murderer, or (even worse) a Britney Spears fan (you can see it in its face already).
So where does this sense of achievement come from? And it's not just self-delusion. Other people buy into this. There I'll be at a family get-together telling everyone about the seminal contributions I'm making to business strategy, or trying to have a conversation about Hegel's dialectics, when some stupid cousin of mine will walk in with his wife and three month old baby and instead of telling them to can it, everyone will cluster around them cooing in incomprehensible voices, and casting sly glances at me that say "Why couldn't you be like this? Why are you such a failure? Where did we go wrong?". I don't get this. I mean, look, I'm the one with the Ivy League education, I'm the one who's read all of F Scott Fitzgerald's books, I'm the one with four different recordings of J.S. Bach's Art of Fugue on my iPod; this guy has some dead end job as a sort of glorified help-desk, he reads books for the illustrations, neither he and his wife could hold a conversation if it fell into their laps - and he's the successful one? Why? Because he figured out how to get a woman pregnant. What a discovery! The world will never be the same again! I can see the Nobel Prize committee rushing to the phone to call him and give him the good news. Yup, anyday now.
Oh, and if all this wasn't bad enough - we have to be nice to these people? Make way for them as they walk slowly out of the auditorium making cooing noises because the baby started crying in the middle of Beethoven's Sixth Symphony (again)? Sit at the table next to them at a restaurant and listen to their brat howl without sticking your fork into it or at least pouring some tabasco sauce into its eyes? (Why is it that more restaurants will ban dogs and not babies / little children? I'm okay with dogs. Dogs are decent and well-behaved and if they trouble you too much you can always shove them away; if a fiery Doberman comes up to your table and bares his teeth, it's okay for you start back in panic and ask the owner to keep him under control and no one says, "Oh look! Little Adolf made a new friend! Aren't they cute at that age!") Give up our seats on the bus / train to them? (you get to have sex and I have to spend a thirty minute journey on my feet? Great.*). They get tax breaks for inflicting these horrors upon us? Why don't we just let the Martians take over - at least they reproduce through cloning.
Personally I think this whole parenting thing is one big consolation prize. The basic idea is that any given point of time some 90% of people are going to be losers, so if you don't want total anarchy you have to give them something that will let them feel a sense of achievement. Hmmm..let's see, what is it that it takes no intelligence, no talent, no taste or maturity or education? How about making babies? Yes, that's a good one, let's go with that. Never mind if you can't spell, are hooked on your old ABBA recordings and have the street-smartness of a piece of roadkill. You too can be a REAL GROWN-UP! Just as long as you don't manage to figure out how to use a condom.
*I'm convinced, btw, that half the women riding the Philadelphia transit system with babies had the damn things for the express purpose of doing me out of a seat