Is that a son in your pocket?
One night, six months ago, my best friend and I lowered our inhibitions and got in bed together. Lo and behold, in three months, I’ll be a father. I’ve been clear about not wanting a relationship with her, but I get the feeling she thinks the baby will equal magical love between us. I’m living with her until the dust settles from the baby, but tensions between us are growing daily. If I even spend time with female friends, she gets jealous and stops talking to me for days. How can I get our friendship back to normal? And how do I handle it if I meet girls I want to date?
— Reality Ankle Bites
Bummer, baby’s on the way. How are you supposed to mack on girls?
As heavily as your future dating life must be weighing on your mind, when you have a moment, you might consider how you’ll handle the little things, like when your kid looks up at you and asks where he came from. Then again, maybe your partner in inhibition relaxation will be handling that one all by herself: “Mommy had a one-night stand with a man who used to be her friend. You don’t know him, but the government makes him send checks to pay for your therapists and defense attorneys.” Aww, how heartwarming.
For future reference, babies do not generate dust. Babies generate bills. Moreover, while condoms are not 100 percent effective as birth control, they still beat hope hands down. Unfortunately, the abstinence education crusaders seem to have missed out on human nature education, an important element in preventing unwanted pregnancies. There they are, telling kids to abstain from sex, which is fun, when they could be telling kids to abstain from debt, which is the opposite of fun: “Let’s see, boys and girls, you could put that $500 you earned into a new stereo system for your car … or a breast pump, diaper bins, and a stroller.” Hellooo, latex!
Yeah, yeah, so the little strip turned pink, what’s the big deal? Well, here’s a big, warm thanks a lot from the rest of us, who’ll probably be getting mugged at gunpoint by your 10-year-old. What could go wrong now? What couldn’t? For starters, emotional stress on the mother during pregnancy — for example, her continuing anxiety that Daddy’s going to dash out of the delivery room and start dating — gives the developing baby a bath in the stress hormone cortisol. Numerous studies link this prenatal stress to serious cognitive, emotional and behavioral problems, possibly long-term, especially in boys. Marriage and family researchers Alyson Shapiro and John Gottman noted that, after the baby is born, destructive conflict between the parents can cause the kid to suffer “depression, withdrawal, poor social competence and conduct-related disorders.”
It isn’t this baby’s fault that two idiots’ genitals got together. But all is not lost. Not yet, anyway. Enlist your parents and hers — in other words, bring adults into the equation to help keep you three kids out of trouble. Should you feel compelled to put more into parenting than your checkbook, recognize that you can’t suddenly say you’ve thrown enough baseballs around when the kid hits 11. If you do decide to dad, go with the mother before the baby’s born to one of the research-based Bringing Baby Home parenting workshops (BBHonline.org). There, you can learn to work together (even if you aren’t together) to meet the kid’s psychological needs and to keep conflict to a minimum. Tragically, parenting class is about the worst place you could go to find dates (just behind Lamaze) — but it is your best shot at keeping your mack-mobile free of bumper stickers like “My delinquent deals drugs to your honor student.”
Keeping her cruel
Why do some people alienate the person they care about? I love my girlfriend of two years, but I broke up with her because she became emotionally abusive. She says she still loves me very much and admitted that she always drives men away. Since she recognizes this, why doesn’t she change?
— Pushed Away
Unscrewing yourself up is so much work. Talking about how you really should is not only much easier; it has a very low deductible. Sure, your girlfriend was in some behavioral circuit she calls “love” — a term that always sells better than “You, over there, you’re the perfect size to hide my gaping wound!” Actually, messed-up people have a hard time giving or receiving love and often feel unworthy of it, which automatically lowers their opinion of anybody who appears to love them. On the bright side, your ex admitted she’s a mess, which is the first step toward cleaning up. At the moment, though, all you really know is that she means well. Mean being the operative word.