1 Shot, 2 Kills

Snipers from the Israeli Defense Force like to print up their own T-shirts to commemorate the end of training or of field duty, according to this article from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. And the shirts feature images like this:


image courtesy of Haaretz

In case that’s not clear: the belly of a pregnant woman is in the crosshairs of a target. She’s armed, but I’m not so sure that makes a difference when it comes to the many IDF T-shirts that celebrate killing Palestinian women and children.

According to the article:

Dead babies, mothers weeping on their children’s graves, a gun aimed at a child and bombed-out mosques – these are a few examples of the images Israel Defense Forces soldiers design these days to print on shirts they order to mark the end of training, or of field duty.

The slogans accompanying the drawings are not exactly anemic either: A T-shirt for infantry snipers bears the inscription “Better use Durex,” next to a picture of a dead Palestinian baby, with his weeping mother and a teddy bear beside him. A sharpshooter’s T-shirt from the Givati Brigade’s Shaked battalion shows a pregnant Palestinian woman with a bull’s-eye superimposed on her belly, with the slogan, in English, “1 shot, 2 kills.” A “graduation” shirt for those who have completed another snipers course depicts a Palestinian baby, who grows into a combative boy and then an armed adult, with the inscription, “No matter how it begins, we’ll put an end to it.”

There are also plenty of shirts with blatant sexual messages. For example, the Lavi battalion produced a shirt featuring a drawing of a soldier next to a young woman with bruises, and the slogan, “Bet you got raped!”

Other examples, as recalled by a former soldier who once drew such designs:

‘There’s all sorts of black humor stuff, mainly from snipers, such as, “Don’t bother running because you’ll die tired” – with a drawing of a Palestinian boy, not a terrorist. There’s a Golani or Givati shirt of a soldier raping a girl, and underneath it says, “No virgins, no terror attacks.”

Ha ha, isn’t that just so clever? Those harmless cads, they don’t mean anything by it: “Psychologically speaking, this is one of the ways in which soldiers project their anger, frustration and violence,” says a sociologist. And don’t you go overanalyzing it, either: “I don’t see what you’re getting at,” one sharpshooter tells the Haaretz reporter. “I don’t like the way you’re going with this. Don’t take this somewhere you’re not supposed to, as though we hate Arabs.”

What is perhaps even more disturbing about this targeting (whether psychological or actual) of women—especially pregnant women—and children is that it has a deep, rich history across the world, in pretty much every culture, for millennia, and continues to this day. That is, it’s nothing new.

These snipers—who, it must be said, are a small fraction of the IDF—may be twisted, potentially psychotic assholes, but they aren’t creative. To use just two relatively recent examples: in World War II, the bellies of pregnant women in Nanking, China, were bayoneted by Japanese soldiers. Today in the ironically named Democratic Republic of Congo, women and girls—even babies as young as 10 months old—are gang-raped by soldiers from various factions. If they survive, often to live with severe physical problems, they are frequently ostracized by their communities for it.

But this type of violence isn’t exclusively a wartime phenomenon. Right here in the U.S., according to at least three studies, the most recent published in JAMA in 2001, murder was the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S. in the 1980s and 1990s. That same year, a study by the CDC put homicide in second place, behind car accidents.

Wow, progress!

So before you think this behavior is something specific to Israeli forces or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, think again. It’s just good old brutal humanity, doing what it does best: murdering itself.

The Bun at Six Months

For a couple of vain folks, we have been taking surprisingly few photos of the bun. In fact, none—until now.

Presenting Dr. Awesome, pointer extraordinaire, me, rocking the belt way up at the new waistline, and said bun, cozy in the oven.

The bun at six months

What's the Freaking Hold-Up?

Sunday night I decided to clean my desk. I’ve been avoiding it for months, working instead at the kitchen table, on the couch, even on the floor. Bleh, a tedious job. To distract myself, I powered up my laptop (the other creature I’m umbilically connected to) and called up hulu.com. Recently Hulu added the first season of Angel; for you Jossheads out there, most of the episodes are post-Doyle. I choose “Expecting,” in which Cordelia spends the night with a new guy and wakes up the next morning eight and a half months pregnant.

As you Buffy, Angel, and Firefly fans well know (Dollhouse is still eh so far, so I’m leaving it off the list for now), Joss is one of the most openly feminist writer-directors out there. So it’s interesting to see how Cordelia reacts to finding herself with a belly full of baby (actually, as it turns out, a belly full of seven demon babies).

Considering this is smart but inch-deep Cordelia, she of the short skirt and bitchy comeback, I expected the scene to be played comically, with her waddling into Angel’s office and demanding that he get rid of the thing inside her. Instead, it unfolds with an almost 19th-century sense of womanly tragedy; even the lacy white robe she’s wears hints at a Victorian aesthetic. Angel and Wesley find Cordelia lying in bed with a thousand-yard stare. She is cowed and humiliated, bespoiled, and the evidence is there for all to see. She is a fallen woman, and she’s so, so sorry about it. She never meant to let you down.

While the surprising way the scene was played cemented my love for Joss once again, it’s not even why I’m bringing it up. What struck me was the idea of waking up 90 percent through the pregnancy process. Hmmm. If I could, would I?

See, I have a bit of a patience problem. Though I’m six months along now, I feel like I’ve been pregnant for-freaking-ever. This is not because it’s been a torturous process; when I speak to other women who’ve had children, and read the books and websites that outline the various symptoms most women have, I’m having a pretty damned easy pregnancy. Morever, my impatience predates The Kid’s conception by, oh, 35 years or so.

It’s not just that I want things to happen stat. It’s also that I want so much of them. Not material things: I can skip most of those. Instead, I am an experience glutton, a curiosity slut, an obsessive for newness and knowledge and change and the unknown. When I’m in the midst of all that—most intensely while traveling—time takes on an expansive quality, because every moment is stuffed to the gills with sensory input. This glut is what I want. Now. In the daily grind it’s so easy to slip into the unexamined life, and this is what I fear most. Because then I’m going to miss something.

I’m not sure where this comes from, but I have a theory: impatience in an adult is what we call a temper tantrum in a child. Me me me mine mine mine want want want now now now!

Oh Christ. I just realized that I am pretty much Veruca Salt: I want the world/ I want the whole world/ I want to lock it all up on my pocket/ It’s my bar of chocolate/ Give it to me/ Now!

See Veruca upturning baskets of ribbons and kicking over stacks of shiny boxes? That’s kind of what I want to do when the F train (the F stands for fucking finally) takes forever to arrive.

Early on I predicted to Dr. Awesome that for me, pregnancy was going to be a lesson in patience. And I was right. Too soon I wanted to be through the nausea and exhaustion (in my defense, who wouldn’t?). Too soon I wanted to be sporting a bump. Too soon I monitored my belly for signs of movement, even though I had little idea what that might actually feel like. (Tumbleweeds. Bumblebees. Like my belly was a fish tank full of finned swimmers blowing bubbles.)

Every day I expect something new, something changed, something unknown. Because I’m on high alert, trying to pay close attention to every aspect of this process—can’t miss anything!—time has taken on that expansive quality once again. So here I am, impatient to get through pregnancy not because it’s bad but just because what’s the freaking hold-up? Yet I’m slowing down my subjective experience of it through my very focus on it.

Hey, it’s my own kind of special relativity! Einstein would be—well, I’d like to say proud, but it’s more likely he would be deeply unimpressed.

Anyway, it makes a lot of evolutionary sense to have pregnancy unfold over time. First of all, of course, because nothing in nature, at least on a nonquantum scale, happens in an instant; every event unfolds over time. But the relatively long gestation period common to the mammals with the highest intelligence—including our primate relatives, elephants, dolphins and whales—also encourages a slow, subtle bonding process between mother and fetus (at least in humans; I can’t say I know how a whale mom “feels”). And that’s pretty crucial, considering that the offspring of highly intelligent mammals aren’t prepared to be independent for years and years. That’s a lot of time to invest in caring for the young.

Before you think I’m saying “Nature” planned it this way, let me just say: “Nature” didn’t plan anything any way. But it’s certainly an advantage for the propagation of the human race for we pregnant hairless apes to begin feeling all soft and fuzzy toward the youngin while it’s still in the womb, rather than view it as an unknowable Other or, worse, an invader. (Which does happen frequently enough, by the way. Not all women want children, or want them at the time they get them.)

And for all my impatience, this is what’s happening to me. I’m, um, starting to get to “know” this protoperson inside me—when he wakes, when he sleeps, how he reacts when I eat spicy food or drink cold water or gorge on a jelly donut. (Mmmm. Donuts. Is there anything they can’t do?) And I’m increasingly feeling the soft and fuzzy toward him.

I’m almost embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve started, um, talking to The Kid. Not carrying on conversations—I’m not exactly soliciting his opinion on the economic stimulus package—but I do find myself verbally responding to his movements. An impressive series of what seems like Cirque de Soleil acrobatics will have me laughing and asking, “What are you doing in there?” (“Building a bird house,” Dr. Awesome mystifyingly suggested the other night.) The comforting little thumps I feel first thing in the morning while still in bed, when I roll over and he rolls over and, I like to imagine, we both yawn, makes me murmur, “Good morning, belly kitten,” and give the bump a rub. (What can I say, we have three cats. We see things in terms of kittens.) When I haven’t felt him move in a while, sometimes I drum the hard, round volleyball that is my abdomen and urge, “C’mon kid, do something! Perform for me!”

Which is kind of rude, I guess.

Many people have asked, “Are you excited?” Well, no. I haven’t been excited. That’s a feeling I get before a long-awaited vacation or dinner with a friend I haven’t seen in a long time, or when a favorite band walks out on stage and I know they’re going to to rock my face. This growing-a-person thing—it’s an entirely different matter.

Others have urged me, “Enjoy every minute of it!” I’m sorry, but what the hell does that mean? This comment was particularly galling to receive in the early months, when vomiting was a 24-7 possibility and I constantly felt only a single nap away from a coma. Even later on, when most women feel better, I don’t see how—or why—one would “enjoy every moment” of pregnancy. I mean, it’s not a waterpark, for chrissakes. I’m not on a log flume. I’m growing a person inside me. And anyway, is nonstop fun the end-all be-all of existence?

Mostly I’ve been fascinated. Pregnancy is providing some of the new and changing and unknown that I crave. A lot of this has been physiological: I’m fascinated, for instance, with the purple network of blood-dense veins now visible beneath the skin on my chest, which, ancient-treasure-map-like, all point to the tips of my breasts. I’m fascinated with how firm and hard and strong my belly is; it’s like a freaking bomb shelter. But much of it is emotional, too, as with the growing familiarity with The Kid, or the unexpected humor and peace there is in watching Dr. Awesome put headphones on my belly and blast Yo La Tengo. (“The Kid likes phat beats,” he says.) And I can feel myself acclimating to the idea of being a parent, of looking out for someone all the time until he can look after himself a bit.

So, just like Cordelia, I don’t think I’d want to wake up 90 percent into a pregnancy. I wouldn’t have time to adjust. Maybe this is a strange admission coming from someone who wants today and wants tomorrow and doesn’t care how but just wants it now, but there it is.

I really need to learn how to be patient if I expect to be any kind of decent parent. Yet for the moment I’m tempted to thank my impatience for keeping me alert. If I weren’t so wired to want something to happen all the time, if would I be paying attention so closely?

Moderation, Metaphysical Hangovers and the Modern Mom

This entry is less about pregnancy than about bitching—and not, actually, bitching about pregnancy. I’m really tired of that freaking word.


The latest installment of the NYT’s Proof, a blog ostensibly about drinking (more on why I qualify it later), is called Moderation and the Modern Mom.  Anna Fricke writes about how after years of downing shots with 23-year-olds and being escorted out of the side doors of establishments by her husband, she completely gave up the sauce when they began to try to conceive. Even before he was pregnant, she entirely stopped drinking (and eating sushi—evil, evil sushi! Oh, I had some the other night, by the way).

In response, she says,

I felt maternal, wise and frankly relieved. I had worried for years that the alcoholism that ran in my New England stock had snuck into my veins and it was good to know that I could painlessly, easily, give up alcohol when necessary. And so, for 13 months, I didn’t touch a drop. And then I had a baby.

While I’m not abstaining entirely, I do understand why she felt relieved; alcoholism runs through my family’s veins too, and it has worried me that this tendency might, like a tumor, metastasize one day, and that would be the end of me as a sober, functioning member of society. It’s unlikely, though. I have always been the type of drinker who has fun and fun and fun until it gets late and I get tired and I suddenly realize that I am ruining my entire life. The next day, I don’t just wake up with a hangover. I arise to greet an existential crisis.

Writer and committed boozehound Kingsley Amis called it the “metaphysical hangover”:

When that ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover … you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is.

Yep. It’s pretty much exactly like that. I don’t even need to drink much to feel this way; from what Fricke relates, I couldn’t have kept up with her. Still, this metaphysical hangover has served as a painful but effective check on excess.

So I understand where she’s coming from and where she goes with it. Once she felt like she had her mothering skills down and the baby was a bit older, she says:

I started to revel in taking a little of myself back. At night, after she was soundly asleep, I would cook my husband and myself dinner and pour a luxurious glass of wine. I sautéed, I sipped. It was just like the good old days. Except that it wasn’t. Because in the good old days, I would have had at least half a bottle by myself and would have started slurring non-sequiturs to my husband in the middle of “Damages.” And as much as I wanted to celebrate my newfound nighttime independence by getting pleasingly sloshed, I discovered that this was an impossibility.

I too have had a similar realization: that my drinking life has been irrevocably altered. I will not tie one on for a long, long while. I feel some relief about this, too. Because like Amis, I hate dwelling the next day on the conspiracy of silence you all keep about what a shit I am.

But! The point of this posting is: That’s just me. (Well, and Fricke.)  What I want to bitch about is this column, Proof, which every week features yet another entry about the woes and vagaries suffered by yet another ex-boozehound and how complex but ultimately satisfying it is to live the sober life.

I am so calling bullshit.

One of the things pregnancy has taught me so far is that sobriety can be seriously tedious. Unless you’re a master of the universe deciding the fate of nations or a bone fide Zen master, endless sobriety is, well, fucking endless. How I would love, just for a few hours, for reality to have the softened edges it has after you’ve had a couple glasses of wine or finished the last sip of an icy, tawny, sweetly biting Manhattan. How I would love for conversation to have that lubricated effortlessness, for the social bond to put on its fabricated but nonetheless pretty mask.

But if you read Proof every week, you’d think that our alcohol use—which archaeologists have physical evidence for going back at least 8,000 years—never offered these sweet reprieves. You’d think only misery, dysfunction and trauma were responsible for our tippling. It’s absurd, irritating and moralizing.

Why for the NYT is it the people who are unskilled at drinking, who suck at it, who fucked up its venerable traditions so royally that they had to give it up entirely, get to define it for the rest of us?

Bullshit, I say.

Sure, I’m grateful pregnancy has forced me to avoid the metaphysical hangover for the past nearly six months. But that doesn’t mean I don’t envy you your postwork drink. One of my cousins had a baby several months ago and many of her Facebook status updates mention her early evening wine. Ohhh, I can’t wait. I suppose I should be grateful for this as well—that after The Kid is born, maybe I’ll get to have my cake and eat it too: a couple of drinks but no next-day trauma.

But the rest of you: you should drink the hell on. Par-tee.

Can't Tell Nobody Nothin'

After sciatica and hemorrhoids, unsolicited advice may be the pregnant woman’s biggest pain in the ass.

That’s because you can’t tell nobody nothin’, least of all me.

If you think you don’t like people telling you what to do, well, meet me. If you tell me that hitting myself in the head with a hammer is a bad idea, I might grab one in each hand and start banging away at my temples just to be contrary. Part of me is still a surly 13 year old who think she knows everything until confronted with the clear and unavoidable evidence that she doesn’t. And then the fury starts, because how dare you point that out, you heartless bastard?

Charming, right? Poor Dr. Awesome.

Because of this tendency, I think I’ve been pretty restrained so far when dealing with the comments that are starting to roll in as predictably as my belly is beginning to grow out. Everybody’s an amateur going into parenting, but everybody’s also a goddamned expert afterward.

Most people are just being friendly; the bump is compelling, for whatever reason. (Personally I find it more comical than anything else. I hope I can maintain that perspective the more I resemble an egg on legs.) And I’m being perfectly pleasant in return. Generally that involves a lot of noncommittal nodding and polite noises. (“Hmm.” Oh yeah?” “Wow.”)

But sometimes it’s intrusive. Take the livery cab driver who gave me a ride home recently. Having put in a 10-hour day at the magazine, I was yawning away in the backseat as we zoomed along the East River heading toward that amazing stretch of the FDR Drive that puts the skyline, the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and the harbor on a glittering display of light and reflection and height. I always think then that NYC looks like a dragon languorously sprawled across a horde of gold and jewels.

Two weeks before, his daughter had given birth to a girl at Maimonides Hospital in Brooklyn, so he was on the baby tip big time. In short order, I learned four incontrovertible facts about the world: girls only want to talk about hair and clothes; it’s “weird” that Dr. Awesome had initially hoped for a girl, because all men want a boy; epidurals are for the weak-willed and selfish; and male obs-gyns are infinitely better than female ones.

Take your pick as to which one of these assertions you would have been most annoyed by. I went with the final one. I wanted to slap the back of his head, but instead I said I had only ever chosen female ob-gyns (and here I considered how weird it was to discuss Intimate Fun with the Speculum with some random Israeli man my father’s age), and that they had been perfectly good doctors. Finally I ventured to ask, “Why would you say this, that men are better than women?”

He shrugged. “This is just the way it is. The truth.”

I rolled my eyes. “Look, would you take your car to a mechanic who didn’t drive one?”

“I don’t think that’s a good metaphor,” he said seriously.

And then there was the waitress at the diner a few weeks ago. That Sunday morning I awoke and decided that there was nothing I wanted more than some big honking breakfast involving pancakes and meat and eggs and coffee, and I wanted to be reading the Sunday Times while someone delivered it to me. Thus the diner.

As coffee jacks me up like a cracked-out gerbil, I rarely drink it. But that morning I figured the “lumberjack breakfast” before me—three pancakes, two eggs, bacon, sausage and ham—would soak up the jitters. The enormous platter did a fine job of keeping my blood sugar’s response to the coffee minimal, so I happily requested another cuppa joe.

As the waitress refilled my cup, she said, “You’re not supposed to have this, Mami,” and nodded at my belly.

“Really, it’s fine.”

She shook her head. “No, coffee’s no good when you’re pregnant.”

“No, really, it’s fine. You can have coffee. You just have to keep it to a minimum. People are so hysterical. And you can have a drink once in a while too. Oh, and I had a glass of wine last night. You’d better call child protective services.”

“Oh no, that’s fine,” she said dismissively. Booze in, coffee out. Noted.

She leaned companionably against the next table. “The doctor told me I couldn’t have children, so when I got pregnant I didn’t even know it,” she said. “The only sign I got was I had big boobs. My friends were like, ‘Did you get a boob job, Mami?”’

We both laughed. “I know, they get huge.”

“So I didn’t even know I was pregnant. And I was eating and drinking things I shouldn’t have and at five months I lost the baby.”

I winced. Jesus Christ. “Oh, I’m so sorry.” I was just about five months myself then.

“No, it’s okay, it’s okay. Because now I know that I can get pregnant. So next time I’ll do it right.”

I didn’t quite finish that second cup of coffee.

Most of the time the conversation is neither as macho as Mr. Men are Better or as unexpectedly personal as Ms. Mami. I apparently “look” like I’m carrying a boy for various reasons—because I’ve gained no weight in my face, because I’m carrying somewhat low, because I don’t resemble the speaker’s memory of herself (or of his partner) when she was pregnant with a girl. I’ve been advised to do stomach exercises. I’ve been advised to avoid stomach exercises at all costs. I should breastfeed til The Kid applies to college, or I should swap out the tit for the bottle ASAP. I’m clearly insane if I’m considering going for natural childbirth, or I’m clearly insane if I want to be as drugged up with painkillers as is medically safe. (For the record: I haven’t decided yet.) To my endless consternation, the first thing many people mention is the baby’s astrological sign, which, I have been well informed, will be Gemini—and which means fuck-all to me or to Dr. Awesome.

Still, people are being quite kind. In the same way we reflexively say I’m sorry to the bereaved, most default to saying Congratulations and You look great to the knocked-up. Which is lovely and sweet, even if mere form.

It’s winter. I imagine that as the weather grows warmer and I grow larger, so too will the number of comments expand. I’ll have to handle them as they come. But at least I know exactly what I’m going to say the next time someone questions my cup of coffee. “Oh, don’t worry,” I’ll assure them. “It’s just scotch.