Maternity Shopping: Way Less Painful Than a Kidney Stone

The day after we made our “official” Facebook announcement to the world that Erin was having a baby, she asked me to go maternity shopping with her. This was, surprisingly enough, not an arena in which I had a great deal of prior experience. The truth is, like menstrual cycles and getting out of a speeding ticket by unbuttoning our shirts, maternity shopping is something your average male will never have first-hand experience with. Still, I’ve never been the kind of guy who runs away when his wife needs to buy traditionally “girly” things, so I had no problem going along with her.

I was pleased to learn that shopping for maternity clothing really is no more painful than shopping for any other kind of clothes. In fact, I quickly fell into my usual role: waiting outside the fitting room as Erin tried on outfits, occasionally peeking out to ask my opinion on a shirt or jeans or pair of “capris” (“capris” is a French word meaning “fruit beverage in a foil pouch”), then returning me to the more familiar environments of talking to people about Superman on Facebook.

In fact, if it weren’t for the fact that all the models in the pictures on the wall were pregnant, I may not have even realized we weren’t in any other clothing store until the attendant asked me if I wanted to wait in the “daddy area,” indicating a small section with a few comfy-looking chairs pointed in the general direction of a television. This was next to what I assume was a “kiddie area,” which was an area surrounded by a short, padded wall with a few tables and some toys. She said I could sit in the daddy area and watch sports. I wanted to say I’d rather be in the kiddie area,” because there were Legos there, but she was a complete stranger so I elected to stick with Erin.

I did get slightly nervous, as the attendant spent what seemed to be an awful lot of time checking on Erin and bringing her different shirts and blouses (there is a difference between the two, gentlemen, but it can only be detected through the use of university-quality electron microscopes). This bothered me, as I don’t usually buy clothing in the type of store where attendants bring you clothing unbidden and point you towards waiting areas and offer you little bottles of water because “we need to keep that baby hydrated.” I usually buy my clothes in a store where there’s a legitimate chance that I could find a half-thawed chicken from the frozen food section that somebody dumped in the fitting room.

This woman was actually very helpful, though, bringing Erin several articles of clothing in different colors and patterns, locating some black shirts after Erin told her that’s what she has to wear to work, and suggesting a few pairs of pants that not only weren’t so long that Erin could fashion a denim tarp out of the excess length, but didn’t even conclude with her calling me a liar when I told her I thought she looked good in them.

As we checked out, the attendant signed us up for some club that will supposedly result in lots of coupons and gift cards for the sort of places that new parents will have to do their shopping, then gave us a goodie bag that left Erin twitterpated when she realized it included a baby bottle, because it was our first one and made her so happy that I’m slightly convinced she’ll try to have it bronzed when I’m not looking.

(“I’m not gonna have it bronzed, you asshole,” she said when she read this post.)

All in all, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with the maternity store. They seemed to do good work there, which is important in a retail environment, because so much of their company’s livelihood depends on repeat business. Unlike most customer service jobs, of course, this is one of the only ones where you have to hope your customers are out there having enough sex to have to come back again.

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Beezwax, None Of Yours

About a month ago, Erin and I learned the gender of our upcoming little bundle of joy. I wrote what you’re about to read just before we found out what we were having. Turns out it’s a baby. Erin was hoping for a kitten.

Erin and I were in a long-distance relationship for quite some time before we got married. She’s from outside of Pittsburgh, I’m from outside of New Orleans, and we met online. Not through a dating website, I never would have signed up for one of those, but on a message board for Stephen King fans. I’ve always said it was, for me, the online equivalent of picking up a girl in a bookstore. That’s where I always had the most game anyway.

(Erin: You never had any game! Me: Relatively.)

But as with any couple, as time went on we started to get plagued by rather invasive questions from friends and family who didn’t quite comprehend that just because we were linked on Facebook didn’t give them the right to pry in our relationship “When is one of you moving? How long are you going to do this? When are you getting married?” That last question, I don’t mind telling you, was the most annoying, especially when it came from someone who’d been living with her partner for 20 years without so much as the slightest tinkle of a wedding bell. I’m not judging you if you choose to live that way, I’m just saying you have sacrificed your “When are you getting married?” privileges for life.

We did get married, of course, but we were also smart enough to know that this wouldn’t stop the questions, just change their target. “Are you going to have kids?” Or, even worse, “When are you going to have kids?” The first question is rude because it’s none of your business. The second is rude because it presumes we’ve already made a decision about this important issue that corresponds with your own and, furthermore, because it’s none of your business. I know lots of couples who don’t have children, many of my best friends, people I would trust with my life, people who I would trust to help me move a Lego Millenium Falcon without dropping it, but I have never asked any of them any of those questions.

That’s not to say I’ve never discussed the issue with them. I have. But the discussion came because we’re close friends and one of us made the decision to share the information with the other unsolicited, not because the other shined a light in their eyes and started an interrogation. There are a million reasons someone may not have children. Maybe they don’t want any. Maybe they’re afraid to. Maybe there are marital problems beneath the surface or maybe one or the other of them is physically incapable of having kids. None of these issues are the sort of thing you want to discuss with someone casually, and therefore the only way you can ask this question without running the risk of being MTV reality show-level intrusive is if you already know the answer.

Since Erin is pregnant, these questions are no longer being asked, but I was ready for the next stupid line of invasiveness to start. I thought, however, that the next insensitive thing we’d be subjected to would be when (or if) we would have baby #2.

I was wrong.

FullSizeRAs I write this, my sister has an envelope in her possession from Erin’s doctor. In that envelope is a piece of paper, upon which is written our baby’s gender. At least, I’m assuming the baby’s gender is written on the paper, I haven’t actually looked at it. Heather, my sister, is making us a “reveal cake,” which I think is a fun and practical way to learn this information: you still get that big “surprise” moment, but you get it early enough to start buying clothes, planning how you’re going to decorate, and allow people on Tumblr to call you worse than Hitler because you’re recognizing the fact that boys and girls are different from each other.

For those people who don’t feel that way, however, we’ve seen a small debate break out over whether the baby will be a boy or a girl. I can honestly say I don’t care — it’s not just bullshit when someone says they only want a healthy child, no matter what your Great Aunt Myrtle says. But evidently, a lot of other people have uncomfortably strong opinions about what they’re hoping for. Honestly, if you can figure out the proper way to finish this conversation, let me know:

“We’re going to find out the gender on Saturday.”

“Ooooh, I hope it’s a girl!”

How the hell am I supposed to respond to that? Wait to see if the cake is blue and then give this person my apologies?

I honestly don’t mind people guessing if it’s a boy or girl, even if some of their methods are pretty ridiculous. (“Let’s see, Erin was born in June, the ambient humidity is approximately 47 percent, Rogue One is number one at the box office, and in Crabapple, Georgia, Ella Mae Stapleton’s French Poodle urinated on a pine tree. It’s clearly a girl.”) But when people actually start rooting for one gender or another, that’s when things get messed up. Of all of the “none of your business” things that people have thrown at us since Erin and I first started dating, this is the one that has most tempted me to whip out a “beezwax” on them.

We’ll be fine either way. The only reason we even want to know is to get ready. And by that, I mean whether I should get a Superman or a Wonder Woman onesie.

I know the questions won’t stop even after the reveal, so let me close with this: I know, no matter what we have, what the next question will be. “So, now that you’ve got a boy, when are you gonna try for a girl?” (Or vice versa.)

Let me just say, for whoever asks that question first, I will not be legally or medically responsible for having Erin’s foot surgically removed from your ass.

FB_IMG_1491094612626POSTSCRIPT: The gender reveal cake, which was awesome, informed us that we’re having a little boy. We’re thrilled — not because we were hoping for one or the other, but just because now we can really get started buying clothes and decorations and whatnot.

Yes, we have specifically purchased things that say things like “Boy, oh boy” or — horrors — are blue. No, we don’t consider this child abuse. Yes, we know some of you do. No, we don’t care.

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Free Comic Book Day 2017

fcbdIt’s almost one of my favorite days of the year, guys! On the first Saturday in May, comic shops across America will be celebrating Free Comic Book Day! Once a year, the comic shops, distributors, and publishers provide cost-free comics to anyone who pops in! For a list of this year’s comics, as well as to find a participating store near you, just head over to the Free Comic Book Day website.

But if you happen to be in the New Orleans area, may I make a suggestion as to where to celebrate? As I’ve been doing for several years now, I’m going to be at BSI Comics in on Severn Avenue in Metairie. The best shops, you see, have taken Free Comic Book Day from a single table of freebies like it was for the first few years, and blown it up into a full-blown mini-convention! Local writers and artists, costume contests, prizes, major sales on comics, graphic novels, toys, and other paraphernalia! Hell, this year BSI is even going to host Jason Carter, aka Marcus Cole from one of my favorite TV shows of all time, Babylon 5!

I’ll be there all day with copies of my books for sale ($10 each or all five for $40). Erin will be with me, we’ll try to record a podcast from the store as we’ve done many times, and we’re going to have a blast. We’d love to see you.

And wherever you go, remember, the comics are free for you, but not for the store. They’re made available for a reduced price, but every one of your freebies costs the shop a little money. So show your gratitude — while you’re there, do a little shopping. Find a new graphic novel to try. Get a t-shirt. Do you watch The Walking Dead? Psyched for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Wonder Woman? Are you currently wearing a Yoda t-shirt and posting “May the Fourth Be With You” memes all over Facebook? Then there’s going to be something for you at any shop that’s participating. Find the store nearest you, go out, and have a great time.