The Club

I’m not a fan of smoking. Smokers… it’s a mixed bag. Depends how cognizant you are that it’s a habit that affects people around you. One thing I gotta give smokers, though, is that they stick together. There’s an unspoken bond forged between smokers in the fires of shared ostracism and hardship. They share cigarettes and lighters. They gather together and stand around, chatting. They recognize one another in a crowd and nod, knowingly. There’s probably a secret handshake. I’m going to say it involves pounding one hand into the other like you’re settling a pack of cigs, coughing, spitting on the ground and then doing a chest bump. What I’m saying is that they’re in a club.

There’s another club. The Parent Club. It’s the same type of arrangement. You band together almost instinctually with other parents. They’re going through or have gone through the same things as you. Maybe they have supplies you need to borrow. Certainly they’re accustomed to the smell. In a time when you are very likely to be self-conscious about the new level of mess and noise that comes out of your little cabal when you are out and about, the Club will help you realize that you’re not alone and that, no, you can’t really do much about all the ado. There’s war stories to share and the kind of stories to relate that are only amusing to people who have lived through the experience.

Not everything about being in the Club is awesome. There are assumptions that will be made. One is that because you are a parent or will be a parent that you want to hear advice from and have conversations with random strangers concerning your and/or their child. Another is that at some point in time, once your partner has begun showing enough tummy for it to be clear that she’s pregnant and not just exuberant about HoHos, her stomach region will become public domain, like a park or the Old MacDonald song. It will belong to everyone. They will rub it and say hello to and place their hands on it and hold them there while they talk about the little baby inside. The thing about talking to someone when your hand is on their belly is that you need to avoid all Western notions of personal space to do this.

I’m trying to come up with a way to staunch the flow of belly touching. I have some front runners. Yelling, “She’s just fat!” as people lay on hands, for example. Or “She’s contagious!” Maybe I’ll just carry a riding crop and swat at hands.

You will also hear horror stories from pregnancy experiences of others. Tales of days-long labor and things ripping in ways that make me want to curl into a ball forever. The whole thing will be awkward for both of you, but mostly awkward for her. This is something a dude will never experience. Try and think about walking through a supermarket and having an old lady sidle up to you, rub your stomach and then talk to you about how horrible she had gas when she was pregnant right before she asks you if you’ve had any problems with gas lately. Horrifying, right? Maybe next she asks if it’s twins and then you realize you’ve just been told you look fatter than you already thought you were. Not exactly a party.

It’s worth coming up with a little system with your partner. Maybe it’s not a riding crop to the back of the hand, but quick look at a phone or a watch and a declaration of “Look at the time, we’ve got to get going” or simply an exasperated “Hey, let’s go, babe. I don’t want to be here all day.” People already expect you to not be sensitive about the pregnancy, so let your douche-flag fly to spare your lady the trouble.

The trick with The Club is not to make it exclusive. It’s all well and good to gravitate towards other parents or expectant parents, but your Club should include your friends. They can handle the occasional icky bit along with all the cute baby stuff, and if they opt to not want to put up with it, then it’s not terribly likely they were very good friends to begin with. It’s become an eye-roller to cite “It takes a village”, but it does, however I don’t mean it in the typical usage. I wouldn’t necessarily say you need a ton of people to raise the child, I think that gets you quickly into a too-many-cooks kind of situation. The village is your village, your support structure. You’ll spend all your time assuming that all your attentions must be on raising a baby and having everyone help with that. But remember that healthy, happy parents are a critical part of a healthy, happy child and for that, you’ll need your Club.

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