A FEW MONTHS AGO I WENT TO A KIND OF HIGH SCHOOL REUNION AT A BAR IN MY HOMETOWN. Back in the day, before smartphones and Twitterbots and M.I.A.’s middle finger, the evening would have been filled with little photos drunkenly pulled from wallets and purses, as proud parents showed off pictures of their children. Instead, my high school brethren all pulled out their iPhones, and flipped through endlessly mundane photos of their children: Kid with hair, kid without hair, kid wearing ironic T-shirt, kid sleeping, kid drinking inappropriately from mommy’s special juice. It was horrible; a digital picture book of a hipster’s afternoon.
Not having children, though not wanting to be left out, I showed off the pictures on my iPhone: Roommate’s cat using the toilet, ex-girlfriend’s left breast, former colleague inappropriately fondling someone who is not his wife. You know, stuff normal people have keepsake pictures of.
It was horrible; a digital picture book of a hipster’s afternoon.
My friends either felt sorry for me, or didn’t find my pictures as cool as I do, and I was ostracized the rest of the evening. And when I got back to my hotel room, and curled up in the bathtub with fourteen bottles of mini-bar gin and half a footlong sub, I realized that it was my friends who should have been ostracized, for their photos celebrated the pedestrian, and mine were awesome. Engaging digital stories full of intrigue and delight. Because of all the things people do after high school, getting married and having kids is the most normal, the most typical.
How many people have taught a calico to use a toilet, or taken the time to photograph an ex’s perfect areola? So as the gin and cold cuts gave way to morning, I found some hotel stationary and scratched out my rants, which appear below, edited by crack The Smoking Jacket staff for inaccuracies, actionable language, and mustard stains.
1. Conception is Pedestrian
Look, we’ve all had drunken nights of unprotected sex, it’s just that most people don’t brag about it nine months later for eighteen years. Most treat the event with shame and embarrassment and a visit to the STI clinic, not Facebook status updates, phone calls to parents, and parties with finger sandwiches and pink onesies. Super, you created life. Congrats. Happens every minute of every day. For eschewing a condom you’ve made yourself a little package of endless debt. Way to contribute to overpopulation, you selfish bastards.
2. Weddings are Normal
You’re young, pregnant, you collectively owe 200K in student loans for your MFAs in Sculpture and Interpretive Dance, you just bought a Kia, and now you’re going to drop 25K on a wedding. Good decision. But again, very normal. From the ages of 23 to 30, the average American attends 5.2 weddings per summer (source: me). And all of those weddings find their way, again, to my Facebook feed or casual conversation after an unfortunate run-in with someone I once knew at the grocery store when all I wanted was a jar of synthetic cheese and a six-pack.
Do you see me posting pictures of my gambling debts, or bounced rent cheques? No. So why are you bragging about your debt? At least my gambling debt comes with a good story about a one-eyed chicken and bad visit to Seattle.
3. Kids are Not Special
Look. I’m sure you love your children and are thrilled with every little thing they do. But, seriously, have some humility. Keep it to yourself. Don’t fill my busy life with photos or stories of your kids crawling or finally walking. If your kid was really that special, they’d win an Oscar or be on Ellen. You know how many kids crawl? All of them. And you know what that leads to? Walking. I mean, c’mon. How do you think you got here? They don’t know how to use a toilet or form full sentences, what are you celebrating?
Don’t show me videos of them making up their own songs while playing a toy guitar poorly. Call me when Bob Dylan records the song, or Kanye samples it, or some hipster indie band does an ironic cover of it. Until then, remember, when you celebrate mediocrity, you end up with a mediocre kid. You want your kid to top out at as a line cook at Denny’s? Because that’s where they’re headed every time you give them a treat for not soiling themselves for 15 consecutive minutes.
4. Kids are Not Interesting
Back at the high school reunion, before I was ostracized for my singledom and found solace in the alley with a bored barmaid, the conversation was about one thing: children. Davey did this, Sally did that, biting is just a phase, every kid gets stabby once in a while, we encourage his fire starting. You must have been interesting once, I mean, someone conceived a child with you. Why can’t you manage to go back to that for a few minutes, once or twice a year?
Read a book without pictures or that is over thirty pages. Watch a live action film. Go to a party without loot bags. And for god sakes, stop talking about feces in public like it’s normal. It isn’t. Hanging out with new parents is like being stuck in an outtakes reel from a Jack Black comedy, but without the respite of an adult interlude from one of the Wilson brothers.
5. Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You
Oh sure, it’s all soiled undies, plastic sheets, screaming, insurmountable debt, sleep deprivation, crying, cracked nipples, and miscellaneous stains now. But it’s going to get pretty bad pretty soon. Remember the hell raising, sullen, self-involved, money-sucking, prick you were as a teenager? Well, get ready. As soon as you’ve got them toilet trained and able to leave the house on their own you’re going to think the hard work is over. It’s not. I was such a horrible teenager, my parents tried to give me up for adoption at 15. They actually consulted a lawyer to see if they had any legal right to have me put to sleep. Oh, man, you think your kids are trouble after half a can of Coke? Wait until they discover alcohol and drugs. And your reward for managing to get them through their teen years? 30K per year for college. Post that on your Facebook wall.
Good work. Way to think that through. Bet a condom is sounding like a pretty good idea right about now, isn’t it? Suckers. Maybe at the 25th high school reunion you won’t make fun of my cat so much.
Mike Spry is the author of JACK (Snare Books, 2008), which was shortlisted for the 2009 Quebec Writers’ Federation A.M. Klein Prize for Poetry, and he was longlisted for the 2010 Journey Prize. His most recent work is Distillery Songs (Insomniac Press, 2011). He lives in Toronto.