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Perhaps by now—if not within minutes or hours—most discussion of George Zimmerman’s acquittal for shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, will be crowded from the news cycle. What on earth could be more compelling to Americans than serious talk about the role of bias in jury deliberation, or gun laws and cultural codes of firearm manliness, or voting rights, or who really gets to stand their ground in America?

As it turns out, Ashley Judd looks somewhat chubby or bloated lately.

I hadn’t noticed.

In fact, I had somewhat forgotten that she existed.

But apparently she is out promoting a new project, and at some point during the press junket, she was characterized as looking “puffy” or as if she’s gaining weight.

Little did they know, boy-o, the press had objectified the wrong Hollywood-actress-who-has-posed-nude-to-help-sell-magazines-and-fronted-a-cosmetic-line-but-also-objects-to-patriarchal-beauty-standards*:

Mother’s Day is a yearly obligation, like taxes, that sneaks up on me, fills me with dread and guilt, and forces me to tell a short series of little and white, only moderately willful–though potentially disastrous (at least if I get caught)–lies.

I know people who live for these things–these holidays and way-markers on the calendar.  I’ve felt and done it myself–even tried to do it on purpose in the manner of a deliberate outward-turning “lifestyle change.” I know that these things parse the metronomic passage of time into a reliable series of meaningful events, thereby turning the calendar into digestible avocational cycles of preparation, payoff, clean-up, and recovery.  The next life goal and feeling of accomplishment need only ever be as far away as the next major or minor holiday, birthday, or anniversary, and you can set your own cycle period by choosing to observe more or fewer of them, significantly reducing–if not eliminating completely–awareness of mortality and the indifferent siege of time.

What has happened to gay male porn? What has happened to gay male self-image? Not that either has ever been built on an overly strong sense of self, but I’d be amiss not to notice the growing trend from within gay culture to look like gay male porn stars, while gay male porn stars are, more and more, looking like über-masculine dudes. Let’s get one thing straight (no pun intended): Gay male pornography of today is not filled with mages of “gay” men; gay male pornography of today is filled with projections of the aggressive, competitive male, suppressed of emotion while engaging in one sexual conquest after another: they are images of a hegemonic masculinity fucking itself.

October 2027

My Dearest Ann, Michael, Caitlin, Patrick, Nancy, David, Judy, Bill, Helen, Martin, Shelley, Travis, Gail, Hart, Melanie, and Stacey –

I know you’re surprised to find paper letters on your pillows, in the dorm, because we don’t use paper except for special occasions. And today’s just another warm day in late October, 2027. Nothing special, really, except that this week, in much of our country, parents are telling children your age something very important. I wanted to write it on something that would last, so you can pass it on to your children.

The story begins before any of you were born.

The Obama-Biden victory over Palin-Jindal back in 2012 was a narrow victory after a brutally hard-fought, dirty campaign that nearly destroyed both parties. Everybody was alleging irregularities, corruption, tainted results. People were angry. There was street fighting. Some said the country was on the brink of another civil war.

The President, in an attempt to heal the wounds, invited the Palin entourage to the Inaugural Ball, and they accepted. It seemed a good sign. But when they entered, people noticed that Sarah’s gown wasn’t as revealing as usual, Todd’s suit seemed especially ill-fitting, and Bobby Jindal was positively round.

The three explosions killed not only the President and Vice-President, but most of the Democratic Senators and Congressmen, and half the Supreme Court.

With everybody in the direct line of succession gone, there was political chaos. What was left of Congress chose Michele Bachmann as president, with Christine O’Donnell as her vice-president. Bachman nominated the likes of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh to the Court, and they were quickly confirmed by the overwhelmingly Republican senate.

Out of this mess emerged the political party first known as the “Palinistas,” which gobbled up what remained of the Republican Party after its savaging by the Tea Party. The Tea Baggers merged with the Palinistas and dropped their name, having finally understood what a “tea bagger” was.

The Palinistas were strongest in what we called the Red States – states that had historically right-leaning politics. Some influential Palinistas thought their name “too Hispanic” and so – lacking any sense of history or irony – many Palinistas began calling themselves “Reds.”

We on the left called ourselves Blues, because we were the majority in the so-called “Blue States.” Of course there were Reds in Blue states and Blues in Red states, but the country began to polarize, with Red States getting redder and the Blue states, more blue.

We Blues believed that good sense would prevail, our educational programs would succeed, and if we simply waited out the bad times our country would revert to its pre-Palinista political state of competing parties, which we still thought was workable if a bit rough.

We failed to understand that the Red strategy was to build their base by producing more Red babies, even in Blue states. They meant to quickly increase the size of their voting bloc by ramping up their reproductive rates.

Red theorists knew that drastically shortening the interval between births quickly adds bodies to any population. Small bodies, yes, but if you’re only counting heads that doesn’t matter. And you can do it quickly, pumping out babies as fast as possible – as soon as one is born, you get started making another. Because Red mothers rarely nursed their infants (too “animal-like”) they resumed ovulation rapidly, and were ready for a new pregnancy in a month or two.

A determined couple can make four babies in three years. Two parents . . . four babies . . . two into six . . . you’ve tripled your population in three years.

The Reds got to work immediately, but were quiet about what they were doing. It was only later they began to talk about the “Red Brigades of Women.” The media reported the skyrocketing birth rate, but we didn’t interpret it correctly. Some of us thought the Reds were behaving as many animals do, increasing their reproductive rate when times are good – a kind of ecological explanation. Others saw Reds as profligate, hypocritical breeders – a kind of cultural explanation. What the Red strategists wanted was that we should not take them seriously, and that’s exactly what happened during the first critical years, as we wasted time arguing ecology and culture.

It wasn’t clear how badly they had tricked us until they made their Constitutional move, which was in the dreadful year 2014.

First, the Red-controlled Congress lowered the voting age to eight, claiming this was only “taking away a one.” Unsurprisingly, the Supreme Court upheld the law.

Next, Congress passed the “Patriarchal Proxy Voting Act of 2014.” This allowed male parents to cast ballots on behalf of each of their children. Women kept their single votes. The Palinistas claimed that the PPVA merely recognized Judeo-Christian parental authority, and was consistent with “family values.” Of course the Supreme Court upheld the PPVA on the grounds that it was an obvious extension of “One Man, One Vote.”

Suddenly it became clear.

All along, the Reds had been planning to swamp us at the polls in 2016, and they did. Most Red families had already produced another three children. Even families who had no children before the Red Brigade of Women laid into their task with a vengeance would have at least six votes to cast: Mom, Dad, the one on the way, plus the 10-month, the 20-month, and the 30-month olds. Five votes for Dad, one for Mom. The Reds were in a state of rapture.

Now, the Blue states had always had the all first-rate universities and research centers. In 2015 we put those researchers to work on the only task that mattered – reproduction. We put our best minds, our best technologists and engineers, our medical people, to work. And although it was a very Red thing to do, we relaxed all controls and regulations and allowed researchers to do as they wished, subject only to their own consciences. The order was simple: find ways to out-reproduce the Reds.

That’s when men started having babies.

I was an early adopter. Getting pregnant was no fun. Yes, it was exciting to watch the in vitro fertilization of your mother’s eggs with my sperm, but to be abruptly taken from the microscope to have the eggs implanted in me, not so much.

Carrying the baby was no fun either. The first-generation artificial uteruses were clumsy Teflon things that I could feel inside me when I bent over or stretched, but the stem-cells-to-uterus technology matured quickly and soon I was able to grow my own.

Giving birth was difficult. My first delivery was Caesarian, but because I couldn’t have very many of them, I had to think about delivering two or three infants each time. I thought I could have half a dozen babies before my abdominal wall gave out.

But fortunately, before another year had passed I’d grown my own vagina (stem cells, again, with a little help from the surgeon to get it connected to my uterus). That was a relief – I delivered you younger kids vaginally.

The “Sperm Into Ovum Conversion” (SIOC) process was huge advance. Figuring out how to make sperm produce mitochondria (complete with DNA) was extremely difficult. Getting that working was a lot harder than anything else, but it meant that men could fertilize themselves if they wanted to.

In SIOC’s early days, the sperm were converted externally and then introduced into the man’s uterus through his vagina. In homage to the past, we called that device the “turkey baster.”

Within a year I could produce workable ova internally, needing only a hormonal trigger and some muscle contractions to pump eggs from my testes up into my Fallopian tubes to be fertilized by my sperm. (I needed a bit of surgical re-plumbing to make that work.) SIOC technology remains a closely-guarded secret.

For ethical reasons – yes, even in the rush and excitement and danger people worried about ethics – no one wanted to deprive women of their small, fixed store of ova. Before SIOC, population growth was limited by the number of ova. But sperm are a commodity item! SIOC made “Male-Only Reproductive Events” (MORE) possible, and thus for the first time in human evolution reproduction did not require women. This felt very strange to me, but even so I bore four MORE babies.

At that point – about 2018 – a man had an interesting set of choices: self-fertilization, fertilization of another man’s SIOC ova, or fertilization of ova flushed from a woman. More adventurous men combined them.

When somebody said to me, “Little Caitlin looks just like you,” I said proudly, “She is me!”

We kept SIOC secret because if the Reds ever accepted in vitro fertilization, they could press their infertile women into service. We didn’t hide the male pregnancy technology because we knew the Palinistas would never use it. They found it repulsive. Their men never allowed themselves to become pregnant. That would be, as I heard one of them say, “so gay.”

The numbers tell the story, children.

A human woman, Red or Blue, unassisted by advanced reproductive technology, can’t maintain 10-month birth intervals for very long. The Red Brigade of Women’s “Big Red Push” lost momentum after 2016, and by 2020, most Red families had only added another child or two. This meant that the Reds would go to the polls with eight or nine votes, about half what we Blues expected to have.

A Blue couple, starting in 2015, could have as many as 16 children going into the 2020 elections. To beat the Palinistas, we’d need only eight or ten. Even so, your mother and I worked hard to produce 16, which meant we cast 18 PPVA votes.

But we had to move our voters where they were needed. Hundreds of thousands of Blue families migrated to Red states, although we didn’t bother moving people into Utah. Your mother and I moved from Cambridge to Tupelo, Mississippi early enough to register for the elections, and after the elections we moved back. Tupelo wasn’t our kind of place. We were tolerated but certainly not welcomed.

We Blues were surprised by the lack of Red aggression, especially in the South. Some  think it was because Blue Christians had succeeded in convincing many Red Christians to pay attention to what Jesus actually taught.

Needless to say, we swept the 2020 elections – Congress, the White House, every State governorship and most of the statehouses too. Out of courtesy, migrant Blues didn’t cast votes in local elections.

We had nothing to do with the bunker-buster bomb that was accidentally dropped on the Supreme Court building when the Court was in session.

Congress quickly repealed PPVA. Many migrants moved back, and relative calm prevailed in our country. In the seven years since then, we’ve contested elections in the old way, although the Democratic and Republican parties have disappeared. It’s just Reds and Blues now, and I’m glad to say that power’s been mostly in Blue hands, but we’ve never shut out the Reds as they shut us out. Both parties agree that there should never be another reproductive race, but that it’s not the sort of thing anybody should legislate.

My girls, it’s time for me to tell you our greatest secret. It’s been kept until this year – kept even from ordinary Blues. This week, the last week of October, Blue parents are revealing the secret, and that’s why I’m writing this letter.

The first group of Blue babies are now about 12, and you girls know what that means. Although we’re hoping you’ll wait a long time, you could begin to have babies soon.

I know you’re wondering what effect this great population bulge may have on the country and the planet. It worries us all. There have always been more young people than old, but there’s never been a difference like this. There are millions more young people between 7 and 12 than there ever have been. If they all go on to have two or three children, our population – and that of the world – will explode. It would be immoral to let our race for political control destroy not only our country, but others.

Now, we foresaw this problem early on. I led the team that developed what we call JOB – “Just One Baby.” It’s a DNA sequence that suppresses the ovulation-controlling GNRHR gene, and when it does, egg production shuts down. We inserted it into a retrovirus that finds GNRHR (it’s on chromosome four, in case you’re wondering). The retrovirus cannot insert itself into in eggs or sperm, so it cannot pass to the next generation. It works by monitoring hormone levels, and when it recognizes a live birth followed by lactation events, it permanently suppresses GNRHR.

The JOB virus was usually inserted during the SIOC process. It can also be inhaled, ingested, or picked up by contact. We made sure it was present in all Blue maternity hospitals.

It won’t affect anybody outside of the bulge, because we found a way – using tooth enamel isotope ratios – for it to sense whether a girl was born in North America during the time of our reproductive surge. In those girls – yes, my daughters, that means you – it arms itself and waits for them to reproduce. In anybody else it does nothing.

We have put it into all of you. It cannot be disabled.

I should tell you that we’ve taken special care to test its delivery in substances Reds prefer, and in places they typically go. I’ll say no more than that. We accepted responsibility for what we were going to do, and that meant dealing with the consequences. Helping Reds do the same is a simple favor.

Well. We can talk about all this after dinner, if you want to.

Love,

Dad


Start with typical.Stand in front of your kitchen cupboards wondering what you’re going to make for dinner.Something quick and healthy and delicious and still quicker to clean up.Haul out the same pots and pans you just washed from lunch.Get the food into small, yammering mouths through concerted negotiations or last-ditch ultimatums, then remind three times about both the importance of brushing teeth and not unrolling the toilet paper.Then shuffle the little bodies now emitting their last crescendo of energy into bed where you read a book and sing a song and answer correctly a question about what you will do to save everyone if a volcano full of sharks erupts in the middle of the night and then kiss goodnight.The lights-out silence that follows reverberates against the walls with such a contrast to the uproar of the day that you’re left too disoriented to clean the kitchen or speak in complete sentences.Wake up the next morning much earlier than you thought possible and immediately throw together a breakfast and dress everyone and comb hair in a way that must be as painful as a Civil War hospital amputation because of the wails that accompany each stroke, and then speed up to get the shoes and coats on in time to reach the school entrance before the final bell, after realizing you didn’t match the socks with the top and never combed your own hair which might explain some of the looks from the teacher’s assistants at the door.But it doesn’t matter now because you’ve got a day of folding the socks (the ones that do match) into neat piles ahead of you and now it looks like mildew is growing in the shower which you’ll need to be on your knees scrubbing before it’s time to get the littlest one, who has developed a cough in the two hours since you last saw her that you should probably make a doctor’s appointment for just to be on the safe side.Before that though, it’s lunchtime where you’ll be back to the cupboards pondering the exact same question you didn’t have a good answer to yesterday.The only thing you can say, to yourself and your starving children, is “be patient.”

When I was married to my first wife, I kept thinking about having a vasectomy. I had lived in a place where there was a population problem, big-time, and as an undergraduate I’d been taught by Paul Ehrlich, who wore a little broken male symbol on his lapel. I believed that population control should be a priority for everyone, and that by foregoing reproduction, I was doing my part.

My wife agreed, but every time I talked about getting an appointment with the urologist she said, “No, please don’t do it, because it’s going to make me feel as though you’re mutilated,” so I didn’t get snipped and tied off until after we divorced.

This went on until we were both nearly 40 and she said, “I want a baby.”

Surprise! But I’ll skip over everything between that and the first contractions.

It was time to go to the hospital, yes, so we went, but the nurse said, “You’re having contractions yes, but enough dilation no, so go back home.”

Bummer! We went back home for a while, and when we came back, yes, it was clearly underway. So we sat in a little room waiting.

We knew it was a boy. We even had a name for him, no problem there. I did tell a full-of-himself neighbor that we were going to name the kid Lud, and he believed me for a long time, at least until we got back from the hospital with the kid.

“So this is Lud,” he said, and I said, “Nope.”

But although we had decided on his name we had not decided what to do with his little dick. Some said the father and child’s dicks should match, and since I was born the child of middle class WASP parents in the forties I was cut.

On the other hand we had been living in the rain forest with men and boys whose dicks had not been cut, and had gotten used to seeing boys with intact foreskins, and I, at least, had gotten used to seeing grown men with their foreskins, such as when we swam across rivers or had to piss.

One time this old guy died and when the women were washing his body I noticed that he had been circumcised, which surprised me, so I asked how that had happened. They said that during the war with Japan he was up at the American base for a while, and he saw Americans with no foreskins and he liked the look, so he convinced an American doctor to cut his off. If I had heard that story without seeing the guy’s dick I would not have believed it, but there it was. Wasn’t, actually.

So we were in this little room at the hospital waiting, and in came this nurse. I thought she was very pretty and I liked her long hair and she was shapely, too. She reminded me of an R. Crumb woman, except she was normally-sized and not weird.

She hopped right up on the bed next to my wife and said, “What are you going to do about circumcision?”

My wife said, “We haven’t been able to decide one way or another.”

And the nurse said, “Well, I can never predict what anybody’s going to do unless I know they’re Jewish. Otherwise I never know and then sometimes when I think I probably know, I’m wrong. I get a lot of heavy-duty natural people in here and I figure they’re going to leave it alone, but then they say, all surprised that I would ask, ‘Oh no, of course we’re going to have it cut off.’ And I’m polite so I never say ‘What, you’re heavy-duty natural people so you should leave it on, what’s wrong with you?’”

I said, “You asked us.”

She said, “I asked, but I didn’t give my opinion. I never say anything, because it’s none of my business, and I’m only telling you so that you won’t think that just because you look like sort of natural people, you know, long hair, beard, I’m assuming that you’re automatically going to let it stay.”

And we looked at each other, actually all of us, and I was thinking, Well if this isn’t a clusterfuck I don’t know what is. Am I being told I’m a light-duty natural person so it’s OK to circumcise my son, or am I being told that since I’m at least light-duty maybe I shouldn’t, or am I being told I’m not heavy-duty even though I spent years in the rain forest with people who didn’t wear a lot of clothes and only one guy was circumcised, or just what am I being told here? If I do it does that elevate me to heavy-duty? Do I even want to be a heavy-duty natural person?

And I had other questions, too. If it’s my wife’s baby then at least is the kid’s dick mine? Am I being the patriarch by controlling his little wiener or is she being the matriarch and controlling his wiener herself, in which case that’s not a very good thing since it’s not her dick. Of course it’s not mine, either.

It was confusing.

I looked at my wife but I couldn’t judge what she was thinking so I said, “We’ll decide later, but thanks for the tip.”

And then of course everybody started laughing, but I hadn’t meant it to be funny. Even so I pretended I had, so as to be thought of as wittier than I really was.

The labor was long and hard and she went for the epidural block and I had no criticism of that, Lamaze or no Lamaze. But I have to say that when the midwife grabbed these big scissors and made the episiotomy I was a little taken aback. I knew it was likely to happen but it was so matter-of-fact, grab from the tray, open, snip and there’s a huge fat cut, which of course made me think of the foreskin even though I knew it wouldn’t be done like that, since I had at one time held a little Jewish infant while the mohel did his thing.

Then eventually he starts coming out and my most enduring memory of that is looking at my wife’s pudendum and thinking, Oh my God, that’s what it’s really for, which forever changed the way I thought about a woman’s sexual parts.

Then he was out, OK, head first and that was fine, here’s the umbilical cord, fine, and then Jesus Christ here are his genitals, hugely swollen, and I thought, Is that what we men really are, mostly dick?

Then when he was out and lying on her chest and I realized that no matter what I did he would always be more hers than mine, I said to the nurse, “We won’t be circumcising him.”