I was working my section at Borders waaaayyyyy back in 1999 when in walked a gangly teenager, at least 6' 5", all knees and elbows, ribs everywhere. He had sparkly blue eyes and platinum blond hair and he started telling me jokes and making puppet characters with his supernaturally long fingers. I did not even know his name, but he was so funny and my face hurt so bad from smiling that it took me a good ten minutes to notice that he was wearing a Border's employee tag - and another five for me to infer that this hilarious creature, whose name is Entling, was in fact the new floor manager.
Can I tell you how excited I was by this news? It's not every day a girl finds out that her new quasi-boss looks a lot like the kid brother she never had. He made me laugh every single time I came to work for that $6.15 an hour -- for two years. How do you thank someone for that? Impossible, I'd say.
It is now 2007 (obviously) and Entling and I have stayed in touch. My life has changed and so has his. He's still in retail and God bless him, he's grown up quite a bit. He has filled out enough that he no longer resembles a puppy bounding across a meadow when he walks across a room. When he reaches for a beer, he can estimate the distance between his hand and the glass and avoid batting the glass onto the floor. And he weighs, by now, more than I do. (Thank God.)
He has also become, at the age of 27, a father. Good news, no? I mean, babies are nice. New people. Smarshy little faces and perfect skin, wiggly little fingers, feet that smell like heaven -- awesome, right?
Well... that depends very much on who owns the uterus in question - and whether the uterus-controlling half of the relationship is a psychiatric disaster.
Entling met the girl, who we will call Bugface, two years ago. It was (according to Entling) pretty sweet. They dated. They said I love you. They moved in together and since she was told by her doctor that she was completely infertile engaged in all kinds of super-fun reproductive behavior without a care in the world.
Of course I don't need to tell you that that doctor was mistaken about the fertility of Bugface (or that perhaps Bugface was lying?)
Well, they took the news hard at first. They panicked and paced. Then Entling, because he was raised right and is a good man said "You know what, Bugface, it is time for me to man up. Let's get married and have this baby and be grown-ups. What do you say?" Bugface, presumably under the sway of hormones and happily ever after fantasies, said, "yes" or something like that. Entling put Bugface on his insurance policy at work and went about planning a wedding and a baby shower. The plan looked scary, but this is America. He knew they were not likely to starve.
As the pregnancy progressed, however, Bugface got nervous. You see, Entling doesn't make a whole of money. He has been chipping away at college but has not yet finished. And Bugface, being under the sway of hormones (I presume) began running the numbers on feeding an infant and keeping oneself in cigarettes and People magazine and reconsidered.
Bugface moved out, cancelled that insurance policy, signed up for medicaid and told Entling that she thought she could do better on her own. My question at that point, if I were Entling, would have been "better than having insurance and a roof over your head that isn't paid for by taxpayers?" But Entling is a nicer person than I am. He made an appointment with a couple's therapist and asked that she consider coming to the appointment so that they could work out rationally what ought to be done, given her fears. Because he very much wanted to support her and their child, regardless of whether the relationship ended. Because he is a Man, capital M.
Bugface shows up once, says she just doesn't want anything to do with Entling anymore and doesn't want his money. And that he ought to buzz off.
Entling calls an attorney to find out if he has any rights concerning the child. Guess what he found out?
He actually doesn't have any unless she grants him visitation. And, uh, since he is listed in her OB-GYN file as the father of the baby, the state of North Carolina can sue Entling for the cost of her pre-natal care and childbirth - about $30,000 - because he is a first degree relative of the child.
On July 13th, when Entling's baby boy Calen came into this world, he Entling did not even know until the next day. And then it was because some friend of a friend of a friend heard about it and called him. Bugface permitted Entling to come to her squalid little apartment and meet the baby for exactly fifteen minutes before telling Entling that he could expect very limited contact with Calen. None, actually. Entling also discovered, during this 15 minute visit, that Some Other Guy is now living with Bugface and will be fathering (!) Calen.
*** let's just take a moment and breathe, shall we? ***
Due to the medicaid/welfare issue, Entling called his insurance company and had Calen put on the policy. Bugface be damned. And then he told Bugface that he was sorry about the demise of the relationship, but that he was going to have to sue her for the right to support her and their son so that he would not have to pay back the welfare system.
*** let's breathe again, shall we? ***
Picture having to sue someone for the right to give him or her money. Picture Some Other Guy living with your Bugface and pretending to be the father of your son. Picture being out $30,000 in the process.
Look, I know relationships fall apart. I have pulled a Bugface myself once or twice (sans infant). Sometimes a thing is over and you know it and you gotta go. But dammit, there is an INFANT involved. Bugface may not like Entling in that way any more, but she is broke and Entling wants to help her - and will in fact be in debt for the rest of his life if he is denied to opportunity. And yeah, I only know Entling's half of the story. But I know Entling pretty well, and I can guarantee that whatever the hell went wrong here, it wasn't because he was abusive or mean or even stupid. (He's pretty smart). I can't envision a scenario here in which Entling is a villian. All he tried to do was support his girl and his baby and do the right thing. I haven't even mentioned yet how badly he wants this child to know that his father wanted him and loved him. Because of Bugface, he may never get a chance to say those things.
This is why I say that although I talk a good deal of shit men, um, lacking the capital M, (some of them) this is one case in which I feel ashamed of my own kind. To use the fact that you are the owner of the uterus and primary caregiver to the infant to destroy another person emotionally and financially is just inexcuseable.
Bugface, you are bad one.
If you, reader, want to give some words of encouragement or advice to my pal Entling, comment and I'll forward.
Thank you for reading.