Today is apparently the last day of my fourth month of pregnancy, and it’s one of those surreal pseudo-markers that sometimes give you pause. Well, not you, but me.
Do you know what I mean?
Sometimes we encounter these made-up milestones throughout life that truly mean nothing –because, truly, there is absolutely no difference between fifteen and sixteen; although in my experience, the true difference is between the dumb-puppy demeanor of most high school Freshmen, and the sudden willingness and happy humility of almost all Sophomores, but I digress. There is also no difference between 20 and 21– except maybe a massive hangover. There is also no difference between the day before you get married and the day after– except in some cases, when you awake $20,000 to $200,000 in the hole and with another massive hangover. There is no difference between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, except that we suddenly “feel” like time has moved forward and we’re supposed to write another number in the “year” space. For some reason, many of these events have to deal with hangovers. Why is that?
I digress, yet again.
The point is this: We’ve filled the Sweet Sixteen, the 21st birthday, the New Year’s Eve, and even the marriage date (*gasp* the Holy of Holies!) with all this added meaning. No one can argue that, even if during said milestone you do not actually feel differently, the effects will become evident sooner rather than later, but that the moment itself is actually, well……. actually a little empty of meaning except for the meaning we desperately try to give it in our heads (and I ad-libbed my own vows while choking in tears, even, so it’s not like I don’t know what I’m talking about. It’s just an observation). For instance, if you are reading this and are above 21 in the United States (or whenever your drinking age happens to be in other countries), I’m pretty sure that you don’t actually remember the frustration or the annoyance that surrounded your not being able to consume liquor legally in public. I’m suddenly reminded of being somewhere in Pennsylvania in the summer of 1995– which makes that ten summers ago. Or technically, eleven. Anyway, I remember the zeitgeist that summer was mostly about how EXCITING it was that Microsoft was releasing Windows 95 on the 26th of August, and how it was actually a pretty mild summer (then again, most things are mild in memories, and anything is mild compared to a Hawaiian summer– which is mild compared to a Colombian tropical getaway any day. Don’t get me started on the flying cockroaches). I do remember being in a near-empty restaurant with my mom and sister and feeling oh-so-grown up at 18. Then the waitress came around and they ordered a bottle of wine with three glasses. We all stared at her with poker faces, and thought we were in the clear when she asked me point blank for my ID. I pointed out that I had no purse, as I’d left it behind in the hotel. My mom and sister were clear to ascertain that I was, indeed, 21, and couldn’t a mother and a sister vouch for the little one’s age?
It’s a good thing we don’t play poker. The waitress did not sanction my libation; I was stuck with Coke.
Two years later, I didn’t get sublimely shitfaced, and my friend watched in annoyance as I sipped my B-52 instead of pouring it down my gullet as she’d done with two tequila shots she’d ordered. Suddenly, I was 21 and it didn’t really matter anymore. I wasn’t back in Pennsylvania in 1995, truly wanting to share a drink in a lovely place and with people who weren’t forcing me to down a shot. Maybe I wasn’t thinking about that particular moment in time back then, but suddenly being able to drink was meaningless. It was just one more thing I could do. How I got my jollies for a long time was by showing my ID to bouncers 9or to anyone who’d care to see it) so they could see that I COULD DRINK. And here I am, eight years after that, knocked up and crying over the seductive scent of beer BECAUSE I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO DRINK. The world is a cruel and irony-laden place.
So, in our eternal quest for meaning, we give these artificial milestones so much meaning. The waitress didn’t want to think about the possible repercussions of serving alcohol to someone whose ID she didn’t see; never mind that, while I looked possibly fifteen at the most back then, I was surrounded by responsible people and it was the middle of the day. Certainly this was not a case to require Joe Francis and his crowd of perverted sycophants; but the waitress wouldn’t have it. Bih. Wherever you are, lady, you still suck a little. Because 21 is just a number, and an incredibly disrespected one at that. As is 16 –while some of my students were really responsible kids, some of them should never ever in their lives have been trusted with a two-and-a-half ton weapon on wheels, let alone allowed to leave the house without a leash. But our society has deemed that 16 and a permit are enough to drive. And obviously, the unspoken biological conspiracy is there: if your genitalia are ready to start having sex, that must simply mean that your brain is not too far behind. And we don’t even require a permit for having children –because if we did, the ACLU would be all over that item quicker than you can say “violation of human rights.” But is having a child a right? Hmm….. that’s a conversation for some other time.
This is all just to say that sometimes it actually takes a fake milestone to realize that life has changed dramatically, and irreversibly–even if in reality, life does not change by virtue of actually crossing said milestone, really. Because it’s not the act itself of being five months along that gives me pause, but just the dizzying realization that I’m almost halfway through that makes me kind of want to freak out and possibly even throw up a little. Because the bun is halfway baked.
Because in a way, there is no way to cancel it, or take it back, or ignore it. Not that it was ever an option, but somehow almost being at the quasi-magical and just-as-arbitrary 20 weeks is an undeniable fact that halfway is more than half the battle won.
Which truly makes me wonder what I will be thinking when the also-arbitrary yet creepy 40 weeks are up.