Four weeks ago, my girlfriend Melissa and I had gone to a friend’s house party, where I set about the serious work of drinking a discounted Malbec before dispatching it in short order and turning to vodka-water and Disaronno-Pepsi. Melissa drank nothing and was forced to watch me, yet again, get loud, flushed and inarticulately philosophical while losing badly at poker and intermittently spilling these drinks onto my sweater.
The following morning, she was angry. The ride home was a perilous one, across many semi-paved streets and the car’s jostling compelled me to vacate the liquor and finger food I’d consumed previously into the main floor bathroom of our new suburban townhouse.
Let me say this: It’s shockingly easy to miss the toilet – the target is so small and the fucker just won’t stop moving – just as it is easy to forget about said puke hardening around the toilet’s porcelain base and stumbling off to bed.
Being sober, and tidier than I, Melissa awoke while I snored loudly, my heart rate undoubtedly dipping to dangerous levels, and cleaned the mess. Though I could offer excuses and caveats, fundamentally, I got drunk in front of my pregnant girlfriend and left her to clean up the mess.
Would I provoke any sympathy if I were to say I felt terribly?
To my mother, a woman whose relationship to drinking lies adjacent to teetotalism – one must seek help if he or she asks the bartender to make his or her rum and Coke a double – drinking while Melissa is pregnant is the sort of selfish deplorability she has come to expect from her hapless baby boy.
I think that alcohol got Melissa and I into this pregnancy mess in the first place. I’m sure as hell not going to stop abusing it now.
Going by the unofficial referendum of friends and co-workers, my line of thinking is not a popular one. And who can blame them? Gender roles have evolved so rapidly that I can’t seem to keep up with it all.
We push for equality in relationships; an equitable sharing of the chores, finances and decision-making yet become confounded with pregnancies. Pregnancy, as one of the residual entirely feminine enterprises in this world, has proven stubborn to change.
The closest approximation to an equitable pregnancy would be for the man to closely mirror the woman’s sacrifices as possible. If the woman must endure weight gain, swollen ankles, sobriety, constant urination and capricious hormones, why should the man get to live his life undisturbed?
I can admit I am a selfish man, a man to whom generosity and empathy incite a reflexive disgust. I’m the guy who pretends not to see an eight car pileup because if I stop to help pulled charred bodies from the wreckage, I might miss the opening drive of a Philadelphia Eagles game.
But for all the outwardly selfish things I do and have done and the drinking I will continue to do, at the core of it, I’ve sacrificed a lot for this baby and the family we’re trying to build.
Whereas a woman’s most important commodity, her body, is sacrificed for the baby, I’ve sacrificed my bachelorhood, my freedom, my identity. Since the little stick from the drug store laughed in my face, and the second we’d peeled tire to be joined in chorus, I have not made a single decision without first thinking of Melissa and the zygote kicking inside her.
Weekends, once the scene of debauchery and sudden explosions of testosterone and impulsivity, have become Netflix movies and 9:30 bed times. Yes people, I’ve been arrested without pants at a Denny’s for the last time. More generally, I can no longer come home from work, put porn on surround sound and clip my toenails into the toilet while ashing a cigar into the bathtub.
I’ll admit without shame that comparing the luxuries she relinquished to mine will always end with mine on the debit side of the ledger, but to say I give up nothing is foolish.
At my core, I’m a savage, a bundle of wild instincts and half formed compulsions – often sexual and destructive. No part of me wants to clean toilets, dust counters or water plants. In my old apartment, a basement of a renovated bungalow situated in a dilapidated, heavily foot-patrolled neighbourhood, I lived among food bits, empty cartons and unidentifiable stains; the ambiance was dirty, aggressive, sweaty and corporeal. I loved it despite my guest’s reticence to sit on my sofa. For better or worse, it was me.
Now, I’m tidy, reserved and smell like canned strawberry/vanilla air freshener.
But that’s what love is, or at least the most sluggish corner of this ephemeral emotion I could pin down. You give up pieces of yourself to allow for your partner’s correspondent pieces to fit within you. And so, the next time we are at a party and the ice cubes shoulder each other in my glass of Jack and Coke and my voice begins to rise as I mourn the days municipalities could responsibly coordinate snow removal, I hope, in some weird way, it’ll reaffirm how much I love her.