There comes a time in all our lives when we hear the pitter-patter of tiny feet. The joy of new birth. That’s right: when our friends and work colleagues have children.
When they announce to the office the fruit of their disgusting, uncontrolled lust, we are socially obligated to congratulate them. I have always found this a bit awkward.
I don’t have a problem congratulating family or close friends on such a blessed event. (For reference, I define “close friend” to be one I would happily co-host a wife-swapping party with, or one I would ask to help me dispose of a body.) But casual friends or work colleagues are different.
I just don’t understand the socially-enforced practice of celebrating the pregnancy of people you don’t really have much to do with. I like to think that the English as a nation are fairly honest (often to the point of brutality) and don’t have nearly as many different greetings cards as (say) the US … but we do seem to go a bit nuts with this one. Even in the UK I am made to feel a bit of an office freak if I write “who cares?” on the card that circulates every time someone I vaguely know decides to push a new life form out of their uterus.
It seems that there are only a limited number of messages that are acceptable to write on such cards. Take it from me: “Congratulations on managing to locate the correct orifice, particularly with your eyesight!” is not one of them.
In particular, I don’t see why we should have to congratulate him at all. I mean, what did he really do? All he did was successfully poke part of himself into his partner. Knowing men as I do, I suspect that was both the beginning and end of his contribution. Do we really want to sign a card and have a whip-round to celebrate “Bucktooth Dave” from Accounts getting laid?
I am a father of two; therefore you may assume that I have done this at least twice. And although I enjoyed it very much (thank you for not asking), I’m not really sure that people need to congratulate me for it. I don’t seek any special recognition.
I don’t recall that my own responsibilities in the act of procreation were particularly onerous. My input was not weighty (if you see what I mean). I think my responsibilities in the process ended about the same time I helped her out of the handcuffs and made a cup of tea.
My unpopular opinion continues when the spawn-of-colleague is presented to the office – held up to the open-plan workplace like a twisted, call-centre adaption of The Lion King. Acceptable things to say apparently include “Precious!”, “Adorable!” and – for extra points – asking to hold it. “Ugly bleeder” is not appropriate. Neither is referring to it as “it”, it seems. Normal people can tell gender of a newborn just from looking. I (like Pratchett) just think they all look like miniature Winston Churchills.
This is not to say that I am vehemently against the idea of people having children (apart from anyone who has appeared on The Jeremy Kyle Show; who instead should be sterilised). I love it when other people have children.
Any parent of young children will tell you that there is nothing that gladdens our hearts so much as watching that young, rich, attractive, smug couple across the road transform into arguing, stressed, skint, sleep-deprived crazies. We just love to watch them trade in their Porsche Boxter for a tatty Mondeo and baby seat. We welcome the news that they have eschewed their regular winetasting holiday in northern Italy for half term breaks at Butlins.
Because that’s what you do when you’re a parent – you wish the blessing on your younger, child-free friends. Why should you suffer alone?
To conclude my lecture: may I congratulate our friends John and Julia on rutting like ugly, sweaty walruses and creating their new breast-fixated poo-factory. Or rather: I congratulate her. He just gets a “meh”.