Oh no, I have the rottenest sinus infection ever and it’s all because I’m PREGNANT. Who knew all the terrible things that befall pregnant people? You think it’s just that you get huge and swollen and waddle around, and then have to push a small person out your genitals. But no. There are swollen labia and intense discharge and now, a sinus infection.
I guess it’s because the pregnant body produces so much mucus, and also everything -– like my whole body –- is sort of swollen, and voila, you have a sinus infection. My sister tells me she never had a sinus infection in her life until she was pregnant, and then she had like eight of them. I feel somewhat vulnerable to them, as a result, I think, of my former careers of sticking all kinds of sketchy powders and liquids up there in my youth. I hope this isn’t the start of nine months with an eyeball headache.
We have an appointment at the fertility clinic for an ultrasound peek. Sandra, the receptionist who is sort of obsessed with us and whom we are now of course sort of obsessed with, squeals with glee when she spots me and Dashiell. It’s the first time we’ve seen her since I got pregnant, and she is so happy for us it’s like we’re about to make her a grandmother or something. She peers at my face with her heavily eyeliner-ed eyes.
“You’re having a girl,” she predicts.
“It’s in your face,” she nods, fingering a medallion dangling around her neck. She flashes it at us. “St. Benedict,” she explains. “I’m Catholic.”
Sandra might think she’s Catholic, but like my mother and most of the other Catholic women in my family, what they really are are witches. Spooky ladies who are a repository of stuff like how to tell what sort of baby a person is having by the shape of their pregnant face. How to sell a house by digging a statue of St. Joseph into your yard. How to hit the number (that would be the lottery) by looking up what you dreamed last night in some ancient numerical dream book that long ago lost its cover, and then playing the numbers ascribed to whatever you dreamed. Sandra may be Mexican, and my family may be a bunch of Euro-mutts, but she might as well be my aunt or something.
As it happens, both my mother and my sister think that I’m having a girl.
“Oh yeah?” is my response.
The thing about people guessing what you’re having, or being really, really certain about what you're having, is they have a 50/50 chance. Odds aren’t bad. I pretty much don’t think much about anyone’s guesses, and then my mother gives hers a perfectly spooky Catholic-witch twist – “I had a dream that I had a third grandchild,” she says. “A girl. And they say you have the opposite of what you dream.”
“So now you think I’m having a boy?” I asked her.
“I don’t know..." her voice trails off in a sort of spooky sing-song. Who are "they" anyway?
At a support group for alcoholics that I attend, a woman I’ve never met holds my hand while we all pray to some sort of god to help us know when we’re being control freaks and when we’re wallowing and let us know when to chill out and when to stop being whiny babies, because alcoholics have an extra-hard time figuring these things out. I’m super attracted to this lady in the particular way I am drawn to women of a certain age who look they were crazy pill-popping sluts in their youth but are now sort of mellow and rich and have had some plastic surgery and wear interesting jewelry and keep their nails done and talk a little too loud. Possible narcissists, but something about them makes me want to be their audience, their little pet.
This woman is so excited that I am pregnant, though when I tell her I am but two months pregnant she screams like Yoko Ono, and clasps her silk-scarf-draped chest.
“Only two months?” she cries, looking at my bulging belly.
“Yup,” I say, and try to resist going into my spiel about how I did IVF and have been off and on fertility hormones for nine months and they really bloat you and even before that my gynecologist made me gain weight so I could get pregnant easier -– none of it is any of her business and all of it makes me sound like I weirdly feel bad about looking more pregnant than I am, when really I don’t give too much of a shit.
“You’re going to have a big baby,” the woman predicts in this somber tone, as if she had predictive powers and was not just making the natural conclusion one would make at the sight of my belly. Anyway, because I was right and she was a narcissist, the focus doesn’t stay on me for too long, and she goes on to talk all about how she had her daughters the Ayurvedic way, which I’ve frankly never heard of –- I’ve had Ayurvedic facials and heard of Ayurvedic diets, but not Ayurvedic childbirth. I make a note to look it up but never do.
Back to my belly. Two months in, and my jeans aren’t fitting me anymore. Slowly, through the past near-year of hormone shots in my ass I have been acquiring larger and larger pairs of $9.99 jeans from the Urban Outfitters sale rack, so some of my recent buys work okay but most don’t. I need a belly band, or a bella band, some sort of wide elastic loop that you pull up over the fly of your unzipped jeans so you can keep wearing them. Where do you get such things?
Dashiell and I live near a mall that was recently called "worst mall in America" on a Judgmental Map of San Francisco, and it has what is probably the worst Macy’s in America, which is a cocky claim, I know. But a Macy’s seems like a great place to find one of these belly bands, so we set off to our sad neighborhood mall.
I’ve been to this mall three times: Once, in the ’90s, on a sad date with Tali when we thought maybe we would sadly date one another, and she bought me an Orange Julius, which I pretended to like because they seemed like campy things to enjoy but I don’t like when fruit flavors are mixed with dairy flavors and those Orange Juliuses taste like Creamsicles.
The second time I came to this mall was in the later half of the ’90s, after I had discovered crystal meth and had stayed up all night snorting it and then came to watch the "X-Files" movie in the theater, catching a ride from a girl who had only just gotten her driver's license and had also been up all night and consequently almost killed us multiple times.
Finally, I went to the same movie theater on New Year’s Eve, when I was sick with my mysterious holiday illness and couldn’t really go anywhere but there, to watch "Blue is the Warmest Color" in a theater that has had no upgrades since they screened the "X-Files" movie way back when; a theater that appeared to have been snorting crystal meth continuously from that time until now, with rows of busted seating roped off with yellow caution tape as if a crime had been committed.
Aside from me and Dashiell, the only people at the 9 p.m. New Year's Eve screening of "Blue is the Warmest Color" was another lesbian couple and a single man who was probably masturbating. The lone theater employee would periodically walk up and down the aisles, sweeping his flashlight across everyone’s laps to make sure no one was getting too into the film.
So, my hopes weren’t high for Macy’s, and that was good because it was a pretty pathetic Macy’s with a miniscule maternity section cramped in a corner of the kids’ floor. Amidst the fugly clothes our woman-hating culture punishes pregnant people with I did find a belly band, and marched it over to the cashier, talking Dashiell out of trying on pairs of children’s Levis along the way.
“But they’re so cheap,” she said. I think we were both in the throes of low blood sugar, so I steered us into the food court, which I expected to be as rundown as the rest of the mall, but lo and behold, what did I see but a trio of lemonade bubblers colored, for some reason, the hues of the Rasta nation, green, yellow and red. Lemonade being served by smiling teenage girls wearing ridiculous, clown-striped hats on their heads. I clutched Dashiell’s arm.
“They have Hot Dog on a Stick!” I yell-whispered, immediately pulling my phone out of my tote to Google if I could eat corn dogs while pregnant. Because right then I couldn’t imagine anything being as wonderful as a Hot Dog on a Stick corn dog plonked into puddles of ketchup and mustard. With fries. And a gigantic icy lemonade.
My Googling swiftly brought me into contact with yet another sisterhood, this one of pregnant women who are positively craving corn dogs and must eat them no matter what risk it may pose to their unborn child. But, guess what? As long as they’re cooked nice and steamy, pregnant women can eat as many fucking corn dogs as they can fit in their corn holes! I almost weep.
Dashiell does not understand the glory that is Hot Dog on a Stick, and I am so excited to turn her on to this glorious fast food chain that is, like, worker-owned or something radical like that. We take our bounty to an empty table deep in the food court, feeling the suspicious eyes of America upon us. This mall is so shitty, even though we are in San Francisco in 2014 we might actually wind up gay bashed before we leave the place.