Thursday, January 13, 2005

What to get for the childless couple

Now that mid-January is here, I am clearing up the holiday detritus--putting away J's very silly Christmas tree candle, which he has kept, unburned, since junior high school; the white lights and the few ornaments are going back in a bottom drawer that won't be opened again till next November. The wrapping paper is mostly put away. Our Christmas gift haul from family--the Punch Out the President paper doll book, the Falcon Guide to Birding in Northern California, the Cunning Linguist paperback, the Hopper calendar, the new cotton sheets--all are appropriately stowed in their allotted locations.

And now I survey our mantel, ready to plow through the rest of the holiday reminders. There are cards--a dozen or so. Most of them are photocards with pictures of happy families, mom and dad and baby Joe, smiling gleefully for the camera. One is a picture of a man and his enormously pregnant wife; a terrible picture, really, that I believe to have been sent for the specific purpose of proving her fecundity. Which is unfair, doubtless, but still. So, these are not cards that I want to display on our mantel forever, much as I may like and respect the photographees. Personally, I think the right course of action is to feed them into our roaring fireplace and watch their perky little edges curl up like the Wicked Witch of the East's be-slippered dead peds. But then I feel mean and petty and also J. would think I had lost what's left of my loose infertile grip. Instead, I will place them in a tin box full of last year's holiday photocards--the kind I thought that I might, myself, be sending this Christmas--and vow not to think of them again till next year.

There is one particular item on our mantel, however, that is the height of egregious thoughtlessness, and I don't know what to do with it at all. You see, I have this friend, an extremely fertile friend, who has two children, pregnant with number three. I love her, love her children and value her friendship immensely. She is beautiful and smart and observant and thoughtful and funny and independent and again with the beautiful. I do not normally resent her good fortune because of the smart, observant, thoughtful, funny and independent. The extremely fertile and mind-blowingly beautiful are a little harder to love without reserve (read: "jealousy"), but that's not exactly her fault.

And she was very understanding when I told her about the infertility struggles back in early December. Wanted to know what it was like, whether I was on any fertility drugs, what exactly was an IUI. She has another friend who had terrible struggles with infertility--a third-trimester loss followed by two years of negatives followed by a difficult pregnancy that resulted in a tiny (but healthy) preemie. So, I figured, she'll really get it, even though she's so fertile. She'll be sensitive.

Umm....yeah.

Every year she sends one of those family photos--her blonde hair gleaming, the two kids scrubbed and perfect, the weimaraner sitting patiently, the handsome husband in his dapper suit. And there's always a newsletter detailing the trips they've taken, how the little ones have been excelling at gymnastics or karate or soccer, the medal she won in a triathlon, the promotion hubby received. The usual self-congratulatory drivel. But I don't normally give it much thought, so when this year's eight-by-ten envelope arrived back in mid-December, I stuffed it in the pile and let it sit. Figured I knew what was in it, so what's the hurry?

A few days ago, I thought I'd send her an email to check in. She's due later this month, and as it's not entirely her fault that I am infertile, I figured I owed her a base-touching. So, I pulled out the envelope in hopes of having something un-baby-related to refer to in my email--a "Sounds like you had a great time in London!" or a "Congratulations on hitting the seven-minute-mile mark in your last race!" Something innocuous and friendly.

So the envelope? Surprisingly, no newsletter this year. Nah. Just pictures. A photo collage, to be precise.

OF HER BELLY.

Her naked belly framed by her naked self wrapped strategically in a diaphanous white scarf. Her daughter's pretty blonde head RESTING ON HER NAKED BELLY. Her son with his upturned nose ON HER NAKED BELLY. Her husband glancing lovingly AT HER ENORMOUS, NAKED BELLY. A close-up of her own hands CRADLING HER HUMONGOUS, NAKED BELLY. Professional shots, studio lighting, black and white.

And there was a little note attached: "A gift to you from Mom, Dad, Kids, Dog and Baby New Year!"

I think she expects us to frame it.

18 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooh. Can I have it? I could write a book and put that in the chapter of What. Not. To. Do.

I don't get it, but apparently neither does she.

Mandy

2:44 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

That is incredible. I can't believe the insensitivity--oh, wait, yes I can. We have friends who conceived 2 naturally (both boys) and wanted a girl. Rather than risking getting another boy--they have decided to adopt a girl from China. We received a detail Christmas letter with ALL the details of their adoption, including the cost and a request to participate in their adoption quilt. Not quite as insulting but, in my mind, close. WHO CARES?????

2:48 PM  
Blogger Galloping Cats said...

Even if it wasn't a totally insensitive thing to send to an infertile person? Ewwwww. Seriously. No one wants to see a naked pregnant belly. No one. Not even fertile people. And definitely not 8x10.

4:28 PM  
Blogger Soper said...

*Gag*

Cut out pictures of your pets' heads and glue them over the kids, your own and J's heads over hers and her husband's, and stick it on your fridge.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Jen P said...

I'm stunned. Really, really stunned. Even if I were fertile, and living a charmed life...wouldn't that just be a bit too creepy? Ick, ick, ick.

I am with Soper! Would love to see the collage with pet heads!! Maybe decorate her belly like an easter egg and send it back as an Easter card? Dogs and all? I dunno.

Best wishes.

5:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

AAAAAaaaaaarRRRRRRrrrrrGGGGGGgggggg!!!!

And that is all I have to say about that.

Moogielou

6:19 PM  
Blogger chris said...

What is it with all the semi-nude pregnancy photography? And why is it okay to send out nude pregnant photos but not nude non-pregnant photos? Really, no one wants to see that shit, probably not even her own husband. It's kind of embarrassing for the woman in question, a desparate bid for attention.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah what soper said but my addition to this is to send it back to the fertility friend.....That would be funny!

-alex from the kitchens of the infertile gourmet

9:19 PM  
Blogger The Barrenness said...

Please tell me there were at least some stretch marks on that belly? Or the black line down the midline? I think you should draw those things on there if they're missing. I bet the bitch photoshopped/photochopped those pics.

5:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ew. Just ew.
Seriously, what DOES she expect you to do with those pictures? Frame them and hang them around your house? Put them in a photo album and leave them on the coffee table for all your guests to enjoy? What a jackhole. I'm sorry that your friend is so insensitive and self-absorbed that she would do such a thing to you. It simply boggles the mind.
Danae/Hardscrabble

7:05 AM  
Blogger April said...

It's hard when someone you care about hurts you without (at least we hope) intending to.

I just wanted to pop in and say that I'm sorry.

Of course, you could always paint a lovely target on it and play darts with your sharps/needles. Infertility darts, if you will. Or, you could paint devil horns and tails on all the family members and draw a picture of the "spawn of satan" in utero. You know, maybe I'm a little too bitter today.

10:01 AM  
Blogger Barren Mare said...

Mind-blowingly crass of her. How would she feel if you'd sent her a picture of your used BFN peestick? What she did screams out that she is so focused on MEEEEEEE that she didn't stop to think. Shame on her.

10:03 AM  
Blogger Suz said...

Yuck! Yuck! Yuck and then again, yuck!

12:55 PM  
Blogger Orodemniades said...

Clam.

3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey bug, you should post that photo here if you have image hosting available in blogger (sorry but I am painfully ignorant of the mechanics of blogging).

She probably sent it out to so many people that she would not be able to trace it to you. I'm probably not the only person here dying to see it now that you've described it.

It was insensitive, but on the other hand, she had them prepared to send to all her friends and family, and probably wanted to include you. It was more thoughtless I'd wager. There's also the simple fact that beautiful people don't develop a finely tuned sense of empathy. They've spent too much of their lives dressing for the party to notice that other people are in the room.

8:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops, you've already done it. Never mind. Too bad about the photoshopping though.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was squeeved out, but not for the same reasons.

I think it's unbelievably self-absorbed and narcissistic to focus your holiday cards on photos of one part of your naked body. It's also sort of disrespectful of others' boundaries. (I don't really want to see any person naked, except sometimes, my husband, and even then I like to have a little warning and the option of declining.) Plus, it's sort of icky for adults to impose their naked bodies on their kids.

But I don't think it's insensitive for her to celebrate her happiness.

If her holiday card had talked about the wonderful tenth-anniversary party she & hubby had enjoyed (even though she knew someone on her list had recently been widowed), or if her card celebrated the fact that her 17-year old got accepted to Yale (even though she knew someone on her list had a teenager who'd recently been incarcerated), etc., I wouldn't feel it was safe to conclude that she was "mind-blowingly crass" or "incredibly insensitive."

I wouldn't be surprised if someone on her list did, in fact, feel pain at the sight of the card, and even choose to avoid the card's sender, but I wouldn't think it fair to conclude that the card's sender is a horrible person who needs to be sent to remedial etiquette classes.

People celebrate their successes in public all the time, and their friends feel envy, hurt, loss at the sight of the successes all the time.

It's natural, and normal, and inevitable for all of us to be relatively self-absorbed, and to lack awareness of others' experience. You know, in a way, to say that the woman who sent the photo is "mind-blowingly crass" is self-absorbed in the same way it was self-absorbed for that woman to send out photos of her huge pregnant belly. The pregnant woman assumes everyone's fascinated by her belly. The infertile assumes that everyone is (or should be) sensitive to her infertility.

So yeah, I thought the whole, "Look at me! I'm naked! No really, here's another naked photo! OF ME!!" part of it was a little squirrelly. But the whole "I'm so happy to be pregnant!" part of it was not crass or insensitive.

I thought the celebration part of it fell within the normal range of self-absorption that characterizes most people's actions.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gee, I'm *still* not pg either but I didn't know it was in vogue to send out pics of naked body parts! What a doll she is for letting you know this and opening this wonderful door! Next year I'll photocopy my ass and send it out on all of my Christmas cards - & make sure there's one with Dh's handsome head resting on my ass too, nice and close up. 8x10's to everyone. Send me her address and she'll get the first one.

(Pissed off, bitter & apparently barren)

7:55 PM  

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