I read your
article on dads. But what do you think about moms and their evolutionary
roles? My mom - jesus, how can I describe her? "Crazy woman who
let me do anything I wanted, even when I was 3, and had sex with all
my male friends when I was 12" is kind of a long title, but it's
still just the tip of the iceberg. How do you think her failings compare
with what she should have been doing, evolutionarily speaking?
Okay, great question.
And now that I've produced that stellar response it's time for me to
take a deep breath. Because moms are an overwhelming topic. You
can't get away from them! They're on TV, running loose in people's houses,
picking up their kids from school, having sex with your male friends
when you're 12, the list goes on and on. They can be found in almost
every corner of the globe, they run rampant through all kinds of
species, and it wouldn't entirely surprise me to find out there are
a few hanging out in interstellar space. Trying to tackle the topic
of moms is like trying to explain God. (hmmm...maybe that will be my
Okay, now that I've
whined a bit and tried to subtly imply that I'm not worthy without coming
right out and saying it - let's just dive right in. We may or
may not get around to explaining why your Mom was fucking your friends
and failing to exercise even miniminal guardianship during your tender
years (it was a resource issue) but we'll come up with some colorfully
entertaining theories as to how moms are supposed to operate in the
ideal evolutionary world and what you're supposed to do about the fact
that representatives from an ideal evolutionary world completely
failed to visit your neighborhood right when you would have liked them
to! Or at least we'll try to do that and see what happens.
righty - how Moms are supposed to work #1
start with when you are born. We could have started when you were conceived,
or when your parents were conceived or even back at the dawn of time.
I'm sure it's all relevant. But god help us all if I start going back
to the dawn of time and trying to explain string theory. So let's just
cut all that short and start with your actual birth.
were your Mother's first child. Okay, maybe you weren't, but it's
just too complicated for me to deal with if you weren't, so just pretend,
okay? You may actually have been her 9th child - but hey, close enough.
Here's what was supposed to have happened.
Mother was supposed to have endured a relatively difficult, yet not
actually lethal, labor involving tremendous effort to get you out of
her body - and then she was supposed to forget entirely what it was
like to have to do this.
is key. So we'll bold it again. And center it.
are supposed to forget what it was like to give birth to you.
is the first step towards them loving you and not hating you. Sometimes
this process goes wrong (uh oh!) and then somebody's going to pay and
as it turns out that person is most likely you.
let's back up a bit. Giving birth is often not easy for human females.
A lot of this is due to the 'head problem' and the relative size of
human infants compared to the people who are supposed to give birth
to them. This posed a bit of a problem for evolution.
evolutionary committee member whose pet project was humans was showing
off his handiwork one day to the members in charge of things like lizards
and so on and when they saw the human birth process, they all started
hooting and howling and laughing and pointing. They were guffawing and
shouting things like 'jeez, brother that birth process is painful!
You're never going to get them to do that more than once! And
you need at least 2 per female just to keep your project going! Hah!
hah! Hah!' And Joe Human Evolution's face was just burning bright
red with shame. Because that birth process was a big disincentive
to engage in reproduction - and that's exactly the kind of little design
flaw that can send a species right under.
Human Evolution spent many a tormented night after that public debacle.
He did what he often did after these humilitating and frustrating encounters.
He banged his head on the table repeatedly and moaned 'why me? why
me? Why do I always do this? Why am I always so stupid?'
felt he was at a dead end. He was reluctant to rearrange the female
anatomy too much - because he'd gone to all this trouble to get people
to walk upright (just for kicks) and he was afraid if he tinkered too
much they would get unbalanced and just fall right over. He was already
acutely aware that he hadn't really done such a good job in designing
the 'stands on just two legs' thing (although he had to admit it was
just so cool he could do it at all) and he really didn't want to make
of his friends suggested multiple births, since that's how many animals
get things done. So he tinkered around with twins a bit, but got discouraged
because he had really set his heart on the 'big head' idea and having
twins meant two smaller heads instead of one gigantic head, which he
considered one of his big innovations and prime selling points. His
idea was that if you stuff all this pre-loaded software and processing
capacity in the head then once the little human was born you could just
entertain yourself endlessly watching them do all kinds of weird shit
with that software and processing capacity. And he was really really
looking forward to that. He was sure it was a survival innovation
that was going to secure his place in evolutionary history and all the
other evolutionary committee members would have to suck up to him for
the rest of their lives.
tried making the big head a little squishy so at least there would be
some give and then let the bones knit permanently together after birth.
He had some success with that. (Thus, newborns have slightly squishy
heads and if you look closely you can see some really weird distorted
head shapes in newborns). But the truth was - he felt like a failure.
He could have asked a female for design input - but no! he was too proud
for that. So things just got worse and worse.
then one day, they got so bad that the poor experimental human female
trying to give birth was pushing so hard to expel the infant from her
that she accidentally cut off oxygen to her brain! The muscles squeezed
the femoral artery or something fancy like that and literally her poor
brain couldn't get any fresh oxygen. Joe Human Evolution was horrified!
And then he realized! If the brain can't get blood - it can't register
what agonizing pain it's in! It won't be able to create memories of
the disaster it's enduring! This was it! Human females would be willing
to have more than one child because they literally wouldn't be capable
of remembering how awful it was the first time they did it!
Human Evolution promptly went around telling everyone 'I meant to do
that.' This is what evolution always does. It goes around telling people
it meant to do that when it didn't really and it was a complete, butt-saving
has consequences for you. Because it means that if things go right,
your mother cannot associate you with pain (at least not at first).
She can vaguely remember, oh yeah, I was in labor for 14 hours. But
there's a disconnect, an actual physical disconnect between that and
the actual you that was produced. Labor amnesia is your friend!
the other hand, sometimes this process goes wrong and horrifyingly -
your mother can actually remember giving birth to you! And, in a
terrifying twist of events, your mother's very first association with
you is as an entity that causes pain. This actually happens and
I know some people who have spent their lives hearing on numerous occasions
a woman with a bruised voice full of resentment telling them "I
remember giving birth to you" in the form of an accusation more
or less like "I remember when you amputated my leg without anesthesia."
This accusation tends to pop up whenever you cause them pain again,
which in some circumstances can be frequently, such as when you sneeze.
can be pretty bad when a mom remembers giving birth.
In fact, I can tell you from personal experience, that at times it can
be severely bad. There is no benefit to anyone in a mom who remembers
this kind of stuff. If your mother can actually remember giving birth
to you and frequently accuses you of being born, perhaps there are
a few things you can do.
those of you who are able to enage in time travel, here's a handy tip!
If your mother did not make use of all available pain-relieving aids
during labor, simply travel back in time to several hours before you
were born, show up at the hospital, and starting waving your arms around
shouting things like 'Get the epidural! Get the goddamn epidural for
chrissakes! Give my mother an epidural now!" The hospital
staff will be surprised to see you, but if your efforts are successful,
your mother won't remember and the fabric of space-time will
not be unduly distorted.
those of you who are not able to engage in time travel, why not try
hypnotizing her? Wave your hands magically in front of her face, saying
things like 'You are very very sleepy.' Then say - 'you have no memory
of giving birth to me. All those memories are erased and you cannot
access them. You love and adore me and only associate me with good and
wonderful things. You are completely under my power.' And things like
that. Your mom will think you are weird, but at this point - what could
that doesn't work, you'll just have to hypnotize yourself. Because the
thing is, if things do not go well in your life, you could very easily
come to associate yourself with an entity that causes
pain. And then you'll run around assuming that everyone thinks you cause
pain from moment zero and you'll expect people to treat you that way
and you'll apologize for things that aren't your fault and everyone
will think you're pathetic and then you're screwed. And there's no benefit
in that either. It's not your fault childbirth is painful. It's
evolution's fault! It's really your mother's problem, not yours. So
you'll have to block out all associations between yourself and causing
write a very polite apology note to your mother for causing the pain
of childbirth, so you'll be complete with that. Like this: Dear Mom,
I'm sorry it was such a fucking pain for you to give birth to me. Excuuuuuuse
me!' Then burn it. Then tell yourself "I am blocking all associations
between myself and causing others pain for reasons that are not in any
way my fault. I cannot access these associations. I am completely under
my own power.' Or something like that. Be creative!
you have amused yourself this way, go visit your mom. As soon as she
accuses you of being born or being a pain in the ass or whatever, shout
at the top of your lungs "GET OVER IT! FOR CHRISSAKES, GET OVER
IT ALREADY!" She won't, but everyone else in your family will
be impressed, at least in some way.
so the time traveling and hypnotizing her parts were fun - but really
moms who routinely accuse their children of being born are just a minor
blip on the evolutionary screen. And forgetting how you were born, although
helpful, is not really all that glamorous a trait for the maternal figure
so enshrined in the mythos of humanity or some crap like that. (Although,
'I love you Mom because you have amnesia' would make an awfully sweet
mother's day card, wouldn't it?)
the really interesting parts of momness come after she forgets
how you were born. So let's explain that next, shall we?
Labor does more
than just cut off oxygen to the brain!