Southerly by David Haywood


Late for What?

When you're in a supermarket, and you hear an irate mother chastise her children with the words "Padmé, stop hitting Anakin!", you know that it proves something.

Maybe it proves the non-existence of God. After all, if God existed he would surely strike dead a woman who names her offspring after the main characters in three of the worst pieces of cinematic drivel ever produced. On the other hand, perhaps it proves that creationists are correct about the theory of evolution. It seems to me that -- long before she had a chance to breed -- natural selection should have eliminated anyone so stupendously cretinous.

Still, I suppose it's a consolation that there isn't a more idiotic way to spell Padmé or Anakin. Of course, there's Pahd-may and Annakkyn, but that's only equally as daft. It doesn't even begin to plumb the depths of illiteracy required to produce Krystyl, Britnee, Jeyzikuh, or Deztini.

What goes wrong with people's brains when they have a baby? I knew a perfectly normal couple who announced that they were planning to call their son Mungo. Even prison isn't sufficient punishment for people like that.

Then there's the middle-class fashion for unspellable Celtic names. The parents who discover a thimbleful of Welsh ancestry, and then promptly decide to call their son 'John'. At least, it's pronounced "John", but it's spelt Ysgrifennydd. Or the couple who find out that her grandfather was 1/2048th Manx, and so bestow upon their daughter a Manx name that's pronounced "Katherine", but is spelt Myparentswereapairofovereducatedwankers.

Some people, of course, have almost a genius for names that will get their children beaten up at school. This is best illustrated by the so-called 'double handicap', where both forename and surname manage to achieve a kind of horrific synergy. My mother worked at a high school for many years, and compiled a special catalogue of such victims of parental insanity. This is her top five list (all genuine names of real people):

  • Dugmore Mango (male)
  • Titty Maxi (female)
  • Cary Mellow (male)
  • Delbert Spangler (male)
  • Bland Woofter (male)

Despite the potential for lifelong psychological damage, the really worrying thing is that coming up with a name is the easy bit of having a child. In fact, the whole issue of human babies leads to further questions about the validity of religion and/or natural science. It seems to me that a loving God, or a believable evolutionary process, would surely produce a newborn that's more appealing than your standard infant.

Take kittens and puppies. Who doesn't want a kitten? What sort of monster doesn't find puppies adorable? If human babies were as appealing as kittens or puppies then I'd want dozens. I'd even look forward to parenthood if my offspring were merely as winsome as foals or lambs. But frankly, the cutest human baby that I've ever seen is no more endearing than, say, an average-looking rat.

Don't get me wrong, I think children are great. I can talk for hours about the charms of my nieces and nephew (very clever, very handsome, and extremely well-behaved and polite). It's just the baby years that worry me. My concerns about early infanthood could perhaps be summarized as follows:

  1. Frighteningly hideous (see above)
  2. Makes an appalling noise
  3. Boring
  4. Goes wrong too easily

The thought of being responsible for one scares the bejesus out of me. Even visiting friends with babies is like going to see someone in prison: they're unable to leave; there's no privacy; and, given half a chance, the inmates attempt to suck your nipples. You come away thanking God that it's your friends instead of you.

But it's not that I don't want children -- far from it. It's just that I'd rather they didn't go through the baby stage. Or, at the very least, that they started off as something more acceptable, such as a meerkat, or perhaps an echidna. Of course, it's said that everyone finds their own babies appealing, although somehow I doubt that I would be so easily fooled. Babies have always struck me as a failed experiment.

At any rate, my fear of babies has become somewhat irrelevant. A few months back, Jennifer came home and -- as I suppose millions of women have done throughout history -- plonked herself down on the settee, and announced: "Hey, dude, guess what? I'm late."

And I, as I suppose millions of men have done before, replied: "Late for what?"

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