Until Monday

Annie Reid steps in tomorrow and most Fridays. She’ll class up the joint, as always.

Thanks for your patience with the slow posting this week. There are the predictable reasons: I’m getting slammed at the cubicle farm; I’m obsessed with Mark Twain’s nonfiction; I’ve picked up the pace on the novel again (yes, my self-imposed deadline for a complete draft passed, and no, thank you, I do not want to fucking talk about it).

But it’s also a seasonal problem. Everyone I know seems to have a birthday, seance, holiday party or other once-in-a-lifetime gathering scheduled between November 10 and the end of the year. So my liver is very, very sad, and you should probably expect the slipshoddiness to continue through the holidays.

I’ll be reading a one-page short story at Magnetic Field this Sunday night at 7:30.

Since I don’t seem to write short fiction anymore — only 75,000-word, unfinished bloody manuscripts — I’ll read a story written by the divine Stephany Aulenback. You’re the first to know. I haven’t even asked her permission.

(The other readers are: Gina Zucker, Matvei Yankelevich, Deb Olin Unferth, Andrea Girolamo, Nora Fussner, Michael Hearst, Joe Garden, Michael Buscemi, Kate Trainor, Nick Preziosi, Jane Avrich, Joe Garden, Andrew Richmond, Lee Greenfeld, Lacy Schutz, Jonathan Dixon, Philip Kadish, Richard Nash, Stephen Clair, Margaret Parker, Devon Nevola, Ian Bickford, Ted Kemp, and Steve Reynolds.)

Strangely, that’s not the only Stephany Aulenback-related event in New York City this weekend.

While Ms. Aulenback sits by her fire with cranberry-apple pie or some other Nova Scotian delight (God, has it really been nearly a year and a half since I visited on the Aulenback Writing Retreat Plan?), Andi Buchanan will read on Saturday night from It’s a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons, an anthology featuring a contribution Steph wrote while she was pregnant.

I’ve posted a brief excerpt after the jump.

Steph’s essay begins:

Long before I got pregnant, I began to fantasize about my imaginary daughter. I rarely imagined having a son. So a few weeks ago, when the ultrasound technician’s pointer indicated my unborn son’s own rather obvious pointer, I was as shocked as I have ever been in my life.

Although the rational part of me knew that statistically there was pretty much a 50 percent chance of having a baby of either sex, the superstitious part of me believed that, while baby girls were of course born naturally of their mothers, baby boys required work. In the tradition of old wives’ tales, you had to do something difficult and deliberate to conceive them — it involved an esoteric kind of meditation, maybe, or an unusual physical technique, perhaps, or both. Obviously, female had to be the “default” sex. Look at Henry VIII. Look at all those millions of Chinese people, casting aside all those unwanted baby girls in the streets. Some part of me must have had the smug, secret notion that I would be cosmically rewarded for valuing what so many others on the planet had historically devalued. It seemed clear. Because I wanted a girl, I would get her.

My fixation on the sex of the baby was ridiculous, I knew. I’d had four miscarriages prior to this pregnancy; I should have been overjoyed and grateful to have finally achieved a healthy, viable pregnancy at all. And I was. Oh, I always was. At least, the logical, rational part of me always was. I have to admit, though, that for a few days after that ultrasound, I reeled.

In the car, on the way home from the fetal assessment clinic, I tried to explain — ostensibly to my husband — why I was so disappointed. “I feel like I’d know what to do with a girl,” I told him. “I know how it feels to be a girl. I’d be able to help her through the tricky stuff. I don’t know anything about boys and their tricky stuff.”

“Oh, boys don’t have any tricky stuff,” said David, trying to be reassuring. He laughed. “They’re really easy. Once they hit puberty, all they think about is sex. They don’t care about anything else. And that’s pretty much it, until they die.”

I was not reassured.

Seven months after her son’s birth, Steph told Buchanan that her gender concerns seem ludicrous now.


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