Maybe I should be over this by age 35, when the vast majority of my peers are on the procreation train and it’s just something I should be expecting, but I still feel a twinge of, I don’t even know what to call the feeling, when I discover that a guy I used to date has gone and made a baby. It’s not quite wistfulness or jealousy — but it’s certainly unsettling.
The other day I was scrolling through Instagram when I discovered that I guy I dated briefly a bunch of years ago was a parent. He posted a picture of his wife (?) and his 9-month-old daughter(!?), who looked eerily like his much younger, female twin (like, she had the same haircut as him…it was weird). His hashtag: #neverdreamedthisdaywouldcome. “Damn right, you didn’t,” I replied to my iPhone screen, enlarging the picture to get a closer look. Below, the range of reactions you can expect to go through when you find yourself in this situation…
1. Shock. He’s married!? He was totally unavailable when you dated him and the only way you were able to pry yourself from the cold, dead hands of the not-going-anywhere relationship was to tell yourself that he would NEVER be able to have a real relationship with anyone. You were wrong. He just couldn’t have a real relationship with YOU.
2. Residual shame. Before you know it, you are relieving the brief relationship, remembering how insecure you were at the time and how the last time you made out with him you were wearing a pair of underwear with holes in them. And he stuck his finger in the hole like a puppet and you wanted to get swallowed up by his couch. Then you remember how after you split you sent him the most desperate-ever drunken text on your 29th birthday and how you will literally curl up and die if he laughs about you with his wife when they are changing their baby’s diaper. “Remember when I dated that crazy girl who sent me that pathetic text message on her 29th birthday? HAHAHAH!”
3. Doing the math. Once you’re able to recover from the shame, IF you’re able to, you’ll begin to frantically try to solve the word problem, even though you suck at math. You spoke to him last in 2008 and the baby is nine months old in 2014, when did he start dating his wife? When you plug X into the equation, blood drains from your face as you realize that, if they were married for at least 2 years before he knocked her up, that he probably started dating her mere moments after you sent the drunken text message.
4. Shame, part two. Your drunken text message drove him right into the arms of the woman he would marry and procreate with. It was all because of YOU that he is a father. All because of you, a child has been brought into the world. You realize how throughly ridiculously narcissistic this is. This is not about you. You finally get a hold of yourself and slowly begin to remember the small things that he has to be ashamed about. Like, his awful taste in electro-punk music. The spare tire around his middle from too much bourbon and too many burritos. His inability to talk about anything resembling a feeling. Maybe he’s the one who should be embarrassed.
5. Disbelief. Wait. That guy has a kid!? That guy who had a regular barstool at his neighborhood watering hole and liked to get jacked up on cocaine and go snowboarding with his friends? That guy comes home and changes diapers and pairs little socks and heats up bottles? No way.
6. Reckoning. Yes, it’s true. That guy has a kid. And maybe he no longer sits the bar until 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. Maybe he goes home and gives his daughter a bath. Maybe he has traded in burrito binges for organic banana mashing. You’re skeptical, but maybe that’s what’s up. Or maybe he’s a crappy father who’s living a double life. World’s best dad on weekdays between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and then he secretly sneaks off to get bombed and sing karaoke into the wee hours. You calm down and remind yourself that it doesn’t matter either way. You hope he’s happy (really, you do!) and despite the emotional ferris wheel you just took a trip on, you really don’t care about what went down in 2008. You’re happy about how your life’s turned out. But more importantly, you’re happy that’s not your baby.