by Dana Och
I always knew that I didn’t want a child, but at 17 I found myself mother to an egg.
Some women dream of being a mother since childhood—a desire that is rewarded and acculturated through toys, media, etc—but I was not one of them. I never played mom. I was always a teacher or a therapist or one of those ladies from Cannonball Run. I was much more likely to care for a Gummy Bear in an Avon box than a baby doll with a pretend dirty diaper. Of course, Cabbage Patch Kids were all the rage when I was 10 so I did have one or two of those. I renamed mine Jon-Erik after Jon-Erik Hexum (Voyagers! was so awesome), who shortly thereafter ended up accidentally killing himself with a gun loaded with blanks on the set of Cover Up.
For my entire life, I have stridently not wanted children. I never thought this was strange, as my mom (one of five children) is the only one of her siblings who had kids. Staying single and childless always seemed normal to me, just as being divorced with four children, single with children, or married with no children seemed like totally cool options too. When my three siblings and I would talk of the future, I would imagine a future where I went to medical school and lived with my long-term boyfriend until the end of the world in the year 2000, which conveniently would wipe out my student loan debt. It was the 1970s, stop judging. If pressed to imagine a wedding, even as a young child, I insisted that my bridesmaids would wear black. But marriage was never really on the horizon (and me marrying my dude after 18 years of living together only happened because we were turned down for domestic partnership. Don’t get me started on that. And my female witness at the wedding did wear black). I have no children. The only thing I got wrong was medical school, but I don’t think I even knew what a Ph.D. was at 6 years old, especially a Ph.D. in film studies where I could look at and talk about blood in horror movies all day but never have to, you know, actually touch it.
Fast forward to 1989. Living in Kentucky, I discovered The Replacements while watching 120 Minutes and seeing the video for “I’ll Be You.” Swoon. That scrawny dude with red hair sure was the bee’s knees. Clearly, my taste had changed in the years between Cabbage Patch kids and Alternative Nation. Ahem. The competition for title of Imaginary Boyfriend between the dude from Gene Loves Jezebel and Daniel Ash from Love and Rockets faded to the background as I went all in on Tommy Stinson, the dreamiest man in the world.
When we moved back to Pennsylvania, music is all that I had. It was my refuge from the nightmare of a tiny high school with students who had gone from Kindergarten to high school with the same social parameters in place. It surely couldn’t have been that bad, I sometimes try to reason retrospectively. Except that the student body put together a petition to demand that I not be valedictorian since I came from another school at the end of junior year. It was common knowledge from eighth grade forward that the most popular male in school, the quarterback of the football team, would be valedictorian. How could some Freak Nerd (a mixture of Ally Sheedy’s and Anthony Michael Hall’s characters from The Breakfast Club) from Kentucky, where the classes just couldn’t have been as difficult, waltz in and disrupt this perfect scenario? Tears were shed over this situation, and they weren’t mine. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I have never been invited to a class reunion.
The animosity was so high because my GPA, given the weighted grades of my advanced classes, meant that nobody could catch up to me in class ranking no matter what they did, not even if I failed an occasional assignment. The “Dana Sucks” petition seemed like a lame plot device in a bad movie or television show. Being forced to mother an egg also seems straight out of a television show (I am pretty sure it happened all the time in late 80s media like 90210. Also, Willow and Buffy totally had evil egg babies on Buffy in Season 2, which sort of counts).
1991-1992, my senior year, was basically the peak of the teenage pregnancy rates in the United States, when there were 61.8 births to every 1000 adolescent females vs. 31.3 per 1000 in 2011.[i] While only one teen in my (admittedly more affluent and suburban) 2000+ person high school in Kentucky was pregnant, over half of the females in my high school in Pennsylvania were mothers or pregnant. While they weren’t the first, once the cheerleaders started getting pregnant, it resulted in a domino effect throughout the high school and middle school of girls from every social group getting pregnant. A friend of mine went into labor while I gave my speech at graduation. Another friend was pregnant with her second child at the ceremony. In a social situation where pregnancy seemed to generate popularity, being firmly set against having children was just one more instance of hopeless non-conformity. But, at least I got used to being judged for this choice early, at 17.
When health class announced that we had to parent eggs, I freaked. I tried to get out of it, arguing for another type of assignment that didn’t go completely against my being (I was always up in arms about sexism and projected expectations of normalcy. Still am). I was denied; obviously, everybody will be a parent even if they have no interest. Indeed, “you’ll change your mind” has been said to me more than you can ever imagine. Even worse was that the teacher was linking together female and male students as couples to raise the egg. I was still stinging from students literally moving their chairs away from me after I said I was agnostic when the teacher asked if anyone questioned religion.
I was quite bitter about being forced into this situation so I took control in the only way I knew how: I demanded to be a single mother and decided that my egg was the lovechild of Tommy Stinson, conceived at The Replacements show I attended shortly before they broke up (conveniently, around 9 months prior). And this, finally, is how I came to mother Tommy Stinson’s lovechild egg. We probably didn’t need a story, but I made up one up anyway.
My story of the scandal of loving The Replacements (none of this obviously happened other than me loving The Replacements, going to one of their last shows ever, wearing that concert tee for 10 years, and shaving half my head in study hall): I had gone to see The Replacements right after moving back to Pennsylvania, and from the stage of the Metropol Tommy had been winking at me all night, impressed clearly that I knew every word to every song that the band had ever recorded (seven studio releases between 1981-1990). He knew that I loved them so much that I would write their lyrics down emphatically on pieces of paper that I would eventually find in a closet 20 years later.
Tommy came and found me after the show, and I—in a diabolical moment of storytelling deliberately devised to shock my health teacher—decided that my virginity wasn’t all that important. I did make him use a condom, but unfortunately it broke. Because he was in a band, I was more concerned about STDs initially. Many months later, I finally realized that I was pregnant with an egg, little Tommy Jr. I tried to contact Tommy Stinson to let him know about the situation, but considering he was dealing with the break-up of the band and drinking super hard daily, he denied that this egg was his child. It certainly didn’t look like him. Well, he was right about that, but it also didn’t look like me. A baby egg looks only like a baby egg.
My teacher was seriously not amused.
I didn’t do well on this assignment because I didn’t have time for a baby egg. I had schoolwork to do. I had a job after school at the supermarket that was decidedly not cool with me bringing my baby lovechild egg to my register. My mom wouldn’t babysit the egg for me. She had other shit to do, like helping out my sister with her real baby. My journal entries were lies upon lies, but how couldn’t they be? I kept getting busted by teachers for leaving my egg to sleep in my locker (trust me, he was really safest there). Forced to carry him around, I cracked him a little and gave him a band-aid. I gave him up for adoption in the final journal entry.
Some people, you see, really aren’t supposed to be parents, not even if it is Tommy Stinson’s lovechild egg. I took no pictures of my little egg.
The moral of the story is one of the following:
- Don’t lose your virginity to Tommy Stinson at a Replacements show. He will deny your egg lovechild.
- Assignments that imagine the same “normalized” future for all students suck.
- Real babies are more difficult than egg babies. They cry. And poop. And they can’t be left in your locker all day.
- Real sex education in a school overwhelmed by pregnant teenagers probably would have been more effective than caring for an egg.
- If someone tells you that they don’t want children, leave it at that.
- If I had taken a picture of the egg lovechild, maybe Tommy Stinson would have gotten a tear in his eye at the Guns n’ Roses show 15 years later where I annoyed Axl fans by yelling “Tommy” over and over. Little Tommy Jr. surely has his own garage band somewhere out there now. I bet they are called All Cracked Up or Over Easy.
About the author
Dana Och lives in Pittsburgh where she teaches film and tweets while watching games shows. She bottle-raised a kitten once and became even more convinced that the egg assignment was stupid. The tagline on her blog is a lyric from The Replacements “I’ll be you.”
[i] These numbers can vary a bit depending on what ages are included. If 15-19 is specifically looked at, the peak is 1990 with 116.9 per 1000 in 1990 and 67.8 per 1000 in 2008 (http://www.guttmacher.org/media/nr/2012/02/08/). All studies do agree that the early 1990s are the peak of teenage pregnancy rates in America and that there has been approximately a 42% decline in this rate.