outweighed by the upside. Should you complicate that primordial narrative with serious emotional reservations, you are History's Greatest Monster, and you may as well eat your child as evilly and cackley as possible with some sriracha aioli and a few stunned but still-breathing Labrador puppies.
So here's the bad news, for me at least: I'm having trouble mustering excitement about my son's arrival into the world, mere days from now. I'm happy for him, of course - come on out, fella! You'll never feel that sense of achievement again! - and I'm especially grateful that he's not entering a Mitt-ruled world, with its high-yield investing strategies and low opinion of lady parts. But the God's-honest reality is that a backflow of worries rises all the way from my heels to the back of my teeth, flooding out the groovy vibes.
There are many kinds of paternal worries. I have a rather extensive fear of fecal matter and its many malodorous forms. I worry about the absurdly expensive luxury versions of every imaginable piece of baby accouterment. (Am I a sonofabitch if young Henry Gregory Edwards-Weinstein doesn't have a Gant Rugger polo of his very own?) I worry about the possibility of having to poop while alone in my own house, and figuring out whether to take the baby into the loo with me... and if so, where he goes while I go.
But these are trifles. I am chiefly filled with the worries you're not supposed to voice, for fear of being labeled a self-centered Bad Parent. I worry about trading what little semblance of fashion sense I've cultivated in exchange for jorts, Crocs and lawn mowing-ready t-shirts. I worry about quitting drinking and tossing darts all night while psychobilly plays on the jukebox at the local smoky drinking hole.
What I mean is that I worry about the finitude of life. I worry that, starting now, I will sleeplessly work myself to the nub in order to nurture an eye-rolling, money-burning pissant who thinks my experience and wisdom and advice are so much smelly patronizing bullshit. And then I will die.
There's a dictionary of existentialism, and it has an entry that deals with finitude. Let me sum it up for you: You're going to fucking die. You're probably more than halfway there already, you overworked meatstick. At the heart of human existence, it says, there is "the dreadful, haunting consciousness of finitude."
There is a very real sense in which this whole death thing comes about because we have babies. Single-celled organisms, like bacteria, reproduce asexually: A cell divides itself, and voila, there is the next generation - no sex, no baby, no mess, and essentially no death. The parent quite literally lives on in its offspring. Us? We live, we come together to screw, we bear children, and we make pretty corpses. We say we live on in our kids and grandkids, but of course it's a metaphor; little Sally or Johnny can't carry us, wrinkly and tired but still stirring, into the last half of the 21st century.
And I swear, when I think about how my son wasn't there and then he was; when I think about how he'll need me and then he won't; when I think how my future seemed wide open and now it doesn't, I think about death, and how much closer it's gotten, and how little I did with all the time I spent up to this point, when I was not considering my beginning, middle, and end.
So what's the score here? How does one win this game? There are those dads-to-be who embrace their own lives by fleeing the one they've created. Some become deadbeat divorces. Some just live at work. Immerse themselves in man-caves. Retreat into their NFL Sunday Ticket.
These are all fine diversions, and tempting escapes. But I don't know. My impending fatherhood impels me to make better use of my time, however much I may have. For example, I should probably stop wasting time reading the dictionary of existentialism, even though it tells me that "far from being a weakness, anxiety commands considerable strength and fortitude."
Sign me up for some of that. Not the strength to coach tee-ball or wipe little Henry's strained-pea vomit or check the school districts and HOA fees before picking a future domicile, mind you. I want the strength to write that goddamn book and take my family on that Baltimore-to-Key West sailing-sloop vacation. I want to tell my wife how sexy she is, even when she isn't (and let's face it, if we didn't live in an age of science, I could be easily convinced that a fetus derives its life-force from the parents' gradual sacrifice of sexual allure through the gestation period.) In short, I want to start living, not stop.
I warned you earlier about the dads who talk in all clichés. I have one of these dads. You probably do, too. The last thing you need is another puffy, sleep-deprived dude with a Baby Bjorn telling you that the adventure is just beginning, or that when one door closes, another opens. I won't tell you, as my father told me, that everything changes for the better when you see that little cheeky monkey face for the first time, and all these questions fade every time you conjure the image of that face. That may be true; I'll find out soon enough.
For now, all I can tell you is that I'm buying into the live-forever metaphor: When I'm dead, I want my kid to think I was cool as fuck. And I'll die trying to make that happen. That, and getting this goddamned pack-n'-play to fit in the back of our Subaru.