I’d never held a newborn baby before. Maybe that was my first mistake. I didn’t know what I was going to be up against. I didn’t know what I was in for. It wasn’t like I thought this would happen. It wasn’t as if I expected to feel this way. We all know where my head is at as far as babies are concerned.
So I went to see the baby on her second day of life. And I held her. She’s very soft and very small, two things one knows about babies but can’t really understand until you hold one. She has a full head of black hair, and her arms are constantly moving around, conducting a tiny song, wondering what happened to the walls of her house. Her legs kick out strong. She has a wicked naval piercing — a large plastic stick that’s bigger than most of her body parts. She’s still trying to figure out what her tongue is for.
I probably only held her for fifteen minutes or so. I was pretty nervous, as the only other time I’ve held something even close to being that young I dropped the baby on her head. Now, I was six and the baby was one, but I dropped the baby on her head and I’ve never forgotten that, so I stayed pretty still as this newborn was placed into my arms.
When my friend and I left the hospital, we were physically drained. We were exhausted from looking at the baby for an hour, for holding her for minutes. It made no sense. We drove home quietly, each of us lost in our own thoughts, wondering what kind of women we were, what kind of women we were going to be.
We quietly reminded each other that we were both real women who didn’t need babies or families to prove our worth. We told each other how wonderful and good we were. I don’t know why we needed that sudden pep talk, but we could barely keep our heads up, it got so depressing in that car.
I think newborn babies must release some kind of chemical that jacks up your hormones because the second I gave that baby back I couldn’t stop thinking of her. I was horribly, horribly, terribly depressed. Sad like, flat-on-the-couch-watching-television-but-not-seeing-the-screen sad. I couldn’t stop thinking about the baby, feeling like I should be doing something. I couldn’t stop feeling horribly sad.
“What’s wrong with me?” I wailed.
“I think you touched the baby for too long,” my boyfriend said.
“I must go back and hold her again.”
“I think that would be a bad idea.”
I brought over dinner to the new mom and dad the next night, their first night home from the hospital. The dad was out (Oh, man. He’s a Dad! My friend’s a Dad. This is a concept I’m still not really able to grasp.), so I finished cooking the meal and left.
This time I didn’t touch the baby. I watched her and saw her in her little bed, but I didn’t touch her. I thought it was best if I didn’t start weeping uncontrollably again. I told the mom what had happened to me, and she said that between the baby’s chemicals and her hormones out of whack, it’s only natural that I’d pick up on some of that, making me get some kind of baby blues.
My mom said it’s happened to her every single time she’s touched a baby; she suddenly wanted one. “But it’s not that I want one,” I said to Mom. “I just got really sad.”
“You spent so long raising your sister,” my boyfriend explained, “that you want to take care of babies. It’s just in your nature.”
But it’s not that I want to take care of babies. It’s not that I want one. I just got really sad when I was done touching the baby. It was a chemical, hormonal, emotional reaction to holding an infant. This is fascinating and frightening to me.
“Just go back there in a month when that kid’s screaming all day,” someone said to me this week. “That’ll fix it.”
There’s nothing to fix. I’m not craving a baby. Right? I’m just sad because… I don’t know. And although I could find plenty of research online for Couvade Syndrome, the male Sympathy Pregnancy that expectant dads often go through because they spent nine months waiting for a baby, I couldn’t find a name for a disorder describing someone who spent a sliver of a fraction of nine months with the new baby and then couldn’t seem to function for the next two days. That doesn’t seem to be a real disorder. My body seems to have made it up.
Then I find myself dwelling on things I have no control over, like the hostage situation in Russia, where it appears the “mysterious gas” the Russian troops released into the theater almost killed everyone. I just keep wondering what that would have been like, why we aren’t hearing about it on CNN, and why I just keep having to hear more Fun Sniper Facts every six seconds instead.
So to cope, I’ve been doing what any other girl like me would do: seeing lots and lots of movies. And luckily there have been many good movies to see lately. Comedian, Spirited Away (although, speaking as someone who’s watched hundreds of hours of anime over the past few years, there wasn’t really anything in this anime that I hadn’t seen in another film or television show. Although the mouse-baby was worth the price of admission (and at the Arclight that’s saying a lot — $14.00, to be exact.)). I even liked Red Dragon because I got to go very far away and not think about anything except how Emily Watson is a very good actress, but I’m getting tired of having to watch her work so damn hard to make a script better than it is.
Take Punch-Drunk Love. Now, if you haven’t seen this or Secretary, what I’m about to say will just bore the boobs off you, but I’ve had this conversation about five times this week, so I have to write it down now because that’s what happens when you’re a writer.
I liked Secretary much more than Punch-Drunk Love, and I think that’s because Secretary is a romantic comedy for women, where Punch-Drunk Love is for men. Both are about misfits finding love with other misfits, and how there’s a perfect person for everyone out there and even love among soulmates takes hard work and suffering. The reason I think Secretary works better than Punch-Drunk Love is because we see how and why those two people need each other and want each other. In Paul Thomas Anderson’s movie we’re just watching Adam Sandler stumble around having the world try to fix him. There’s no real reason for Emily Watson’s character to fall in love with him, other than the fact that she liked something about a photograph she saw of him. He mistreats her right up until the end and she forgives him without any real explanation. It would be nice to know why she’s drawn to him and what makes her stay when he’s giving her no real reason.
I say that Secretary is for girls while Punch-Drunk Love is for boys because both films deal with repression. Secretary is the very female struggle of holding back pain, while Punch-Drunk Love deals with holding back anger. When both main characters have to release their inner strife, the result is a very tangible physical reaction that effects everyone around them. In Secretary we see a bit of why the main character must hurt herself and why she finds James Spader’s character so irresistable. It appears that Adam Sandler wouldn’t have found Emily Watson’s character if everyone didn’t work so damn hard to keep them together.
Every moment in Secretary has a purpose that serves the love story, or the journey that Maggie Gyllenhaal’s character goes through. There are scenes and moments in Punch-Drunk Love that are only there to show off PTA’s directorial skills, give a wink to his earlier films or to let Philip Seymour Hoffman (a very talented actor, but got his time totally wasted in this film) have fun in a strange costume, shouting curse words at the top of his lungs, portraying a character that never gets fleshed-out stuck in an undefined world that serves no other purpose but as a distraction from the Emily Watson storyline.
But at least Dan and I stopped ourselves before we made a tragic mistake the other night. I can’t even imagine what I’d be writing here if we’d gone to see that movie instead. Check out that list of reviews. I’ve never seen a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes before. It’s almost impressive.
Hey, do you guys see that really gigantic black space at the bottom of these past few entries? I cannot figure out what’s going on. I’m not putting any height tags in my tables but it seems to be making extra table space as if there’s a nested table in my code somewhere that I can’t see. Anyone have any suggestions? Every time AB or I think we’ve fixed it, it breaks again.