I am so glad that we had a little girl.
Don't get me wrong, little boys are cool and I hope we eventually get to have one, but once we saw the penisless fetus in Wood's uterus, I pulled my fist down out of the air like a golfer and said "hoo-wah!" Fear #1 had been instantly alleviated. Fear #1 was that we would have a little boy, and then another little boy, and then another, so on and so forth. This happened with my aunt, who wanted a little girl but kept having boy after boy after boy. Sometimes it seemed like there were eight or nine little boys in that household, biting at each other's ankles and growling at each other and yanking hunks of meat away from each other with their teeth. So like wolves, little boys are.
And it doesn't get any better when they're in high school. Everyone says to me, "aren't you worried about when she starts dating" and I always say, "yeah, but at least she'll never have to do the impossible sit-up."
"What's the impossible sit-up?" they ask. The impossible sit-up is Fear #2.
Let me back up. I weighed 98 lbs as a high school freshman and I stood 5'2" tall. Yet inexplicably, I wanted to join the high school ice hockey team. It wasn’t like you actually had to try out for the team and survive cuts or anything like that. No, our hockey team took anybody who was willing to change into the awful-smelling equipment and sweat for an hour on ice every day. They even took kids who couldn’t ice skate. I was one of them.
I was a complete failure when I got out on the ice. I'd like to blame it on the equipment. I bought some skates for ten bucks from an ad in the paper and paid ten bucks more for the shin pads. The cheapness runs deep, people. The coach loaned me a pair of shoulder pads that must have been leftover from the seventies when most of the guys on the high school hockey team had mustaches, like they did in the pictures outside the locker room. Those shoulder pads had generations of sweat soaked into them. What had been white once now had a yellow patina of shoulder sweat. I felt like it was giving me rashes. I thought of the words the wrestling team threw around: Scabies. Ringworm. Hookworms. Roundworms. Tapeworms. Pinworms. Whipworms. Bladder worms. Porkworms. Flatworms. Flukes.
Even worse than the fear of worms, I had to wear a boy's-sized jock strap. The elastic on the men's wasitbands wasn't small enough for me. The real problem with a boy's sized jock strap is that the "cup" corresponded to the presumed "size" of the user. The seniors on the team wore cups the size of birdbaths. They could have been filled with honey-sweet mead and passed around at a great Viking feast, they were so big. Meanwhile the cup inside my jock strap was hardly bigger than a hotel ashtray. The day I went out and bought an adult-sized jock strap (with cup) was one of the best days of my life.
Although right-handed, the stick I bought was a left-handed stick. I never corrected myself, and I thought my left-handed status would make me more useful somehow, like a lefty pitcher in baseball. I imagined there might come a need someday for a scrawny left-hander with virtually nonexistent shoulder-pads and scabies whose nuts were protected by an ashtray-sized jock and who couldn’t skate at all to go out on the ice and squeak through the legs of some colossal defenseman to score the winning goal in the Thanksgiving tournament.
Alas, there never was such a need.
I learned about the impossible sit-up before the season even started. They start you out at the beginning of your freshman year, when they have off-ice training like jogging and calisthenics. They start talking about the impossible sit-up then. They stand in a semi-circle, sizing you up.
"I think he can do the impossible sit-up."
"I don’t know. He’s a little scrawny."
"He can do it."
"There's no way he can do it."
This keeps up until you’re practically begging to prove you can do it. Scrawny as I was, I considered myself a very talented sitter-upper. Sitting up didn't involve ice skating. It didn't involve knocking shoulders with a guy (literally) three times my size. I was sure this would be my best chance to impress them. I could do the impossible sit-up. I was sure of it.
Four months later, near the end of the season, they tell us it’s time to do the impossible sit-up. They wait until it has been an exceptionally grueling practice. Everyone is sweaty, tired. They usher all the freshmen into the hallway and one by one you go into the locker room to try the impossible sit-up. I had no idea what it was. When it was my turn, they led me into the locker room where everyone was gathered around an open space in the middle of the floor. You look at the freshmen who have gone before you but they won’t meet your eyes, they stare down into their laps, ashamed. You sit there in that open space on the smelly rubber locker-room floor tiles and two seniors come over and get down on their knees right next to your face. One of them takes a damp towel and covers your face with it, and then they both put their knees on the towel so it is taut over your face. Then they ask you if you want a couple practice runs. You say yes. They keep their knees on the pillow and you try to lift your head. You can’t. You hear sniggering. Then the two guys ask if you are ready. You say you are. They say, "Now!" and suddenly they let go of the towel and your nose is flung straight up into, well, if all goes according to plan, right up into the crack of Paco Perez’s sweaty, hairy Mexican ass. Paco was the goalie, and I think the reason he was the goalie was because he had such an incredibly fat ass, once they stuffed it into the goalposts it was virtually impossible for anyone on the other team to shoot past it.
I was oblivious to what was going on when they let go of the towel. And so I tried to sit up and they yanked the towel away and somehow by the grace of God, Paco wasn’t quite in position as he hovered over me and my head just glanced off his sweaty right butt cheek. There were shrieks of excitement then disappointed groans from the gathered team. Then they brought in the next kid. Poor next kid. They were chanting for him. Paco put himself right down there and the kid caught wind of what was going on he tried to squirm away but Paco just sat right down on his face. There was no escape. And I just sat there and watched, knowing full well what was going to happen.
Why didn’t I warn him? Why didn’t I say anything? I think about the other freshmen who went in before me. Why didn’t they warn me, sitting there with that ass smell on their faces? What is it about men and locker rooms? The impossible sit-up has its more homoerotic derivations. Circle jerks. Cum-on-a-cracker.
I know girls do all kinds of horrible things in high school too. I know they can be incredibly catty and emotionaly destructive. But it was with a sigh of relief that I learned we were having a girl and I realized I would never have to worry about Juniper doing the impossible sit-up. Fear #2 averted.
And if we have a boy, someday, I'm not sure what I'm more worried about: him having to do the impossible sit-up, or him doing the sitting.
I am so glad that we had a little girl.