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Delusion, Not Honesty, Is The Best Policy
Well, at least for a number of LA Times readers. Heather Havrilesky wrote a fantastic piece about pregnancy -- the kind of piece I'd subscribe to the LAT daily to read. Here's an excerpt:

I'VE NEVER KNOWN a thing about pregnancy, so once I got pregnant, I quizzed every mother I knew about what Mother Nature had in store for me. Instead of taking time out from their busy mothering lives to relive the biological roller coaster of creating another human being, every single one advised me to purchase "What to Expect When You're Expecting," a hideous descent into the hell of gestation that outlines every possible malady and gruesome side effect ever experienced by any pregnant woman anywhere.

The grotesqueries listed therein, from heartburn to hemorrhoids to chronic dependence on adult diapers, are divided into monthly sections so that future mothers can savor a little dose of suspense-horror thrills and chills before bed each night.

But the most unnerving thing about "What to Expect When You're Expecting" is the cover. Perhaps in an effort to offset the bewildering and unpleasant-sounding ailments inside, the book is pink and yellow and covered in some kind of flocked, flowery wallpaper or quilt pattern clearly meant to evoke the sort of stuffy, overheated, split-level homes in the Midwest that have "country" decorations everywhere, from porcelain milkmaid statuettes to framed pictures of white ducks with blue ribbons around their necks. A mere glance at that cover is clinically proven to give pregnant women hot flashes, cramping and suicidal ideation.

And that's before their eyes rest on the main illustration. There, perched amid all those tiny yellow and pink flowers, is the expectant mother of every woman's nightmares. On my copy, she has a perky bob haircut, the sort of molded, unmoving mom-hair that only a woman who stayed up all night baking brownies for the PTA sale would have the audacity to wear out of the house. Not only that, she's clad in a yellow, Mr. Rogers-style cardigan and red polyester slacks that call to mind your fourth-grade Social Studies teacher, the one who gave an entire class of 9-year-olds night sweats by telling them that the Iran hostage crisis was sure to develop into World War III.

But that's not all. The woman also has on terrible geriatric penny loafers, and she's perched primly in a rocking chair, with this filthy, chipper smile on her face, like all she's done for months is sit there, rocking back and forth, only occasionally stopping to peruse the "Debilitating Symptom of the Month" or to order more whimsical milkmaid statuettes for the dining room. You could pass out copies of this image at local high schools and instantly cut the teenage pregnancy rate in half.

The fun goes on. The readers used to the LAT as a form of sleep aid must not have been the least bit pleased. This lady managed to take it very personally, reminding me of my parents stern intonings, "Just be glad you have two arms and two legs." Um, yes, we are glad, but can't we kind of move on from there? Here's the lady's letter:

Painful reading

Re "One mad mamma-to-be," Opinion, Oct. 12

Heather Havrilesky's vitriolic Op-Ed article slamming the book "What to Expect When You're Expecting" did not strike me as funny.

A normal, healthy pregnancy is a gift, not a "hell of gestation." Talk to any woman (or man) who has lived with the pain of infertility. She would gladly take on the heartburn, dizzy spells and hormone-induced mood swings for the joy of a healthy fetal heartbeat.

Compared to hands-on motherhood, pregnancy is but a hormonally charged walk in the park.

Los Alamitos

You know, every time something bad happens to me -- like the death of my Advice Lady partner Marlowe, I don't write angry letters to the newspaper about articles that relate to what killed her but that treat the subject matter somewhat under-solemnly.

Look, we're sorry you appear to be humorless, Mrs. Wagner, but, on the bright side, if you don't like funny, entertaining reading, the LAT is still running Al Martinez, Howard Leff, and Chris Erskine.

By the way, how come so few editors at daily newspapers have figured out the not-exactly-particle-physics idea of putting the ACTUAL FUCKING LINK to the story in the letters to the editor online? Still not hip to the Internets, huh, boys and girls?

Irate reader link via Kate Coe/FishbowlLA

Posted by aalkon at October 18, 2006 9:14 AM

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I HATED that book too. Especially the dietary advice (no fat AT ALL except maybe a teaspoon or two of low-fat cream cheese on your whole wheat bagel half). Funny article!

Posted by: deja pseu at October 18, 2006 5:59 AM

That wasn't a commentary on the values of fertility, it was a book review! A pretty damn good one too.

Posted by: Abby at October 18, 2006 6:25 AM

Well, at least it doesn't sound like Miss Wagner will be passing on her stick-butt genes to too many little Wagners.

Oh, and that book. I couldn't read it for the first three months of my pregnancy because its horror Q&As literally made me ill.

Posted by: Kimberly at October 18, 2006 8:14 PM

The description of the book jacket reminds me of maternity clothes. When I was pregnant with my first child (I have 2) I couldn't believe how hideous they were. Choices are slightly better now, but when I was pregnant my options weren't all that great. And all seem to be designed to make you look like a virgin - flowers and ruffles and that kind of crap. Excuse me, but how do you think I got pregnant to begin with?

Posted by: Angela at October 24, 2006 2:47 PM

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