58: Wanted, American Baby


The day Anthony Bourdain died, I took a pregnancy test.

I walked a half mile to the Walgreen’s in a downpour—yes, even the weather was weepy that day. I reviewed my options in the family planning aisle with the same nervous energy I might have as a 17-year-old afraid to get caught standing there. I mentally prepared excuses if anyone side-eyed one of the bright pink boxes in my hand. “This is for Susan not me! She’s such a slut! I’m so sorry!”

Soon, though, I had bigger issues on my mind because one has a very specific internal battle when selecting a store bought pregnancy test. Do you go with the cheaper test and then worry that the outcome is incorrect? Or do you buy the more expensive choice and feel secure in the results for at least a few more days?

I went with the expensive test. Right now I needed something to feel secure. In fact, I think that’s why I took the pregnancy test in the first place. I shouldn’t be pregnant, I thought, I knew. I’m on ye old Nuvaring after all.

So what was moving me here? It was definitely something inside of me, but what was growing was, I think, rooted in my brain, not my uterus.

See, here’s the thing about Anthony Bourdain.

You know how they talk about finding your people, your soul tribe? The type of soul tribe Anthony Bourdain belonged to felt like it overlapped with the soul tribe I belong to, if you were to venn diagram it all out. He was my favorite kind of person—so sour and cantankerous and sharp-edged, but he had more heart and intelligence and perception in that quick-witted tip of his tongue than most people can hope to have in their whole bodies. I loved him, and his writing will go down as one of the best of a global American generation.

And right now, I’m really struggling with America. I’m struggling with how to go about my daily life when I feel like all the progress and attempts to right the wrongs this country, my country (which I’m still so proud to be a part of), has made in its past are being demolished by our president and Supreme Court.

Everything I do to help seems pointless. My privileges aren’t enjoyable in this environment that champions going backward and becoming self-protective over anything else; this environment makes my born advantages infuriating, and I am continually disassociating from any nugget of understanding I’ve cherished about what America means to me.

Here’s a quote from a recent opinion piece in the Globe and Mail titled “The Unspeakable Cruelty of Trump’s Child-Migrant Camps”: “‘This is not America,’ Republican politicians like to say about the imprisoned children, ‘this is not who we are.’ These statements ignore U.S. history – this was the United States for Indigenous children torn from their parents and sent to boarding schools, for African children sold into slavery, for Japanese families held in internment camps. One answer to ‘it can’t happen here’ is ‘it already happened here’ – children have been imprisoned in the United States, albeit selectively, through autocratic policies imposed over centuries by powerful white men upon the non-white and vulnerable.”

I’m overwhelmed by the stories of these migrant children. But really I’m just adding them to my mind’s pile of seemingly irreconcilable knowledge of how our country has been willfully wrong and murderous before. I include times when Democrats have been in power here, too; I am still trying to wrap my head around Obama’s use of drones.

But when we have a president in power who makes excuses for and spins our past, it’s hard to be positive. It’s hard to feel like there’s something to grip on to other than aware Americans similarly sounding the alarms.

I already understand all the ways our country has destroyed families before in the name of AMERICA, and when our people in power continue to violate our own most vulnerable citizens with zero repercussions, or enforce policies that are reminiscent of our/humanity’s most cruel historical tendencies… I just… man, I don’t know how to deal…

I still, almost two years after the election, don’t understand how anyone could ever believe in making America “great again” if you had any recognition or understanding of American history.

I’ve tried so hard to put myself in these voters’ shoes and understand the pain, fears, or struggles they were facing in 2016 and before. But I’m in just as much shock now as I was two years ago that anyone could vote for this man and his short sighted, dangerous plans.

I don’t know what to do or how to help. I feel powerless because I pretty much am, and I am furious that this is our America right now—one that harkens to the most shameful parts of our past.

I know writing about this here is also relatively pointless. But this is a platform for sharing “what’s on my mind” and my crumbling faith in our country’s potential and my alarm at the extremes we’re going to seems to be on my mind more than anything else these days.

Which sucks. I have shit to do.

How do we put our individual American Dreams on pause when our country is refusing to fix its nightmares and is, in fact, exacerbating them?

In the past, I have looked to writers like Anthony Bourdain for answers, or at least a few acerbic, feel-good lines. Anthony Bourdain offered so many of us catharsis. And hope.

His suicide was a real punch to so many of our well-fed guts. He represented the type of American a lot of us want to be: Open minded but opinionated, humble but confident, idealistic but realistic, brave in the face of bullshit with a keen eye for spotting it.

That Bourdain willingly left and is no longer out in this world somewhere, learning, eating, meeting others, means there’s one less good and powerful voice speaking for so many of us. A good and powerful voice that was also incredibly entertaining.

It seems counterintuitive that as anxiety spreads across our country and reaches its toxic, sticky fingers into my own psyche, that I would want to have a baby. I have never wanted one before—or, more accurately, I’ve just wanted one “eventually.” A family of my own felt like something I’d make happen long in the future, like a big bright event on the horizon with many miles between me and it.

All my logic tells me it’s irresponsible to want a child when there are so many in the world already who need someone like me. All my logic tells me it’s irresponsible to want a child when we don’t have enough room or resources for everyone as it is. All my logic tells me it’s irresponsible to want a child when that horizon’s brilliant colors could be courtesy the glow of nuclear war, not a beautiful tropical sunset.

But there I was, ruled by emotion, not logic, pulling down my big girl pants and squatting over a stick, getting more piss on my hand than the hard square tip.

I wanted a baby in that moment for so many reasons. I wanted to believe that life is not only worth living, it’s worth giving. And I wanted to be capable of making myself believe that because everything else in the bigger picture feels like it’s picking up speed on a slide down.

I feel powerless, and there is no more powerful thing on this planet than a woman making a baby.

I also, and this is hard to admit because it’s really selfish, wanted to have a baby in that moment, that day in particular, because I wanted, needed, cried out for more people like Anthony Bourdain in this world, not less.

The expensive pregnancy test came back negative, and my period came a few days later.

The blood seemed redder, stronger, and seemed to flow longer than usual. But I think that was in my head too. Maybe because for the first time in my life, I truly wished it hadn’t appeared. Maybe because I was thinking about bloodshed anyway. Maybe because for the first time, I wanted to feel capable of producing that new kind of hope.


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