Like clockwork, I jolt up at 9 a.m. every morning. “I have to take my birth control,” my internal voice nearly screams. Then, as I become more coherent, my external voice verbalizes, “Oh, I’m not in a relationship anymore.”
This daily reminder at precisely nine o’ clock–right before I’m too lucid (thanks to the injection of coffee) to truly know how depressing it is and right after I’ve left a haze that makes me wonder if the entire marriage was all a dream–is getting to be a problem.
When Alexander first began to show signs of disinterest in me and all we had built together, I ignored them. I’ve always been of the school that if you vehemently deny the existence of a problem, it will go away. Maybe I get it from my father, who knows? In the past, this has worked for me rather well; I’m convinced I’ve willed away cancer at least six times now. But with Alexander, the issues were too insurmountable. He was a Gemini, I was a Cancer; he liked to do weird sex shit, I was perfectly content with missionary or, at my most adventurous, reverse cowgirl; he wanted a woman who could cook, I’d procured more Seamless coupons as a result of my usage of it than anyone I knew. So, obviously, the “little” problems like these were going to amount to one giant one.
Regardless, we were married on July 14, 2014, just two days after my birthday and, yes, the same day as Bastille Day. We had been together for a year and a half before that. Based on Alexander’s skittishness regarding relationships thanks to his parents’ predictably messy divorce and inability to talk to one another in its wake without bringing the knives out, I was rather surprised when he proposed to me at the Griffith Observatory just as dusk fell. It was like a more romantic version of Rebel Without A Cause–which is probably why Rebel Without A Cause would be more entertaining to watch than the conflict-free exchange that was our mutual agreement to marry.
Over the next few weeks, I continued to take my birth control as per usual. It never even occurred to me that Alexander would want a child. That just wasn’t our way. He had never expressed an interest in it and I naturally assumed that because he saw–as a result of his own family–just how fucked up families could be that he would never dream of causing a human being the same pain by bringing one into the world against its will.
But one morning, right at nine, as I was popping the blue miniature remedy to pregnancy in my mouth, Alexander happened to stir from his sleep right at the moment I was doing so.
“What are you doing?” he exclaimed in horror.
I swallowed the pill abruptly and started choking. Aghast at the potential of losing me before he could chastise me, Alexander showed off his knowledge of the Heimlich maneuver as a result of recently getting an advance on an illustrated book of all the different types of choking posters in restaurants. Minutes later, still reeling from the near death experience all for the sake of using a magical pill to wipe away the “sinful” consequences of sex, Alexander was making me a cup of coffee in the kitchen.
As he set the mug down in front of me, he gave that sort of expression that declares, “We’ve got something to talk about.” He slid into the chair next to mine, took my hand in his and said, “I want you to have a baby.”
Luckily, I wasn’t in the midst of drinking the coffee, otherwise I would have spit it out in expected slapstick form. “Christ, why?”
He appeared, to my dismay, genuinely hurt by my reaction. “How can you ask that? I want to marry you so we can have a family.”
I shook my head in disbelief. “I guess I just didn’t know you felt that way, that you had such traditional values…”
“Wanting to get married and have kids is no longer traditional, in case you hadn’t noticed the world around you lately,” he countered.
I couldn’t really argue with him there. But then, maybe our perception of what other “normal” people did was skewed from living in L.A. for so long. Of course, no one wanted to have kids in this town–they were all too busy overdrawing their bank accounts on head shots and “projects” to get themselves famous. Elsewhere in the U.S., however, I imagined it to be just like the 1950s still.
And so, after our conversation that morning, I headed to my office, where I had a number of casting decisions to make, and quickly let the subject fall by the wayside. I had only gotten on the pill after realizing that Alexander was more than a casual fling. Before him, I was reckless, relying on a wing and a prayer throughout my early twenties when most guys “didn’t have” a condom or simply “forgot” to put one on. With Alexander, I knew it was serious enough to take my sexual well-being into greater account. And so, off the to the gynecologist I went. She was a daffy woman with short dyed red hair who sported a rhinestone Star of David necklace and had red lipstick spilling out of the corners of her mouth. I wondered if I should be taking contraception advice from her as she questioned, “You don’t mind a pill with a few side effects do you? There’s a generic brand that might cause some mild depression, but you won’t gain an ounce.”
Leaving my Culver City office to head back to Santa Monica, I hobbled to my car. Had it really been two years since my last pap smear? It was a wonder I wasn’t STD-ridden and packing every strain of HPV. But then, the vagina is a resilient animal. You can get that needlepointed on a pillow if you want.
Ever since, I had taken the pill with the regimented stoicism of a soldier. To deprogram me would take many more years, which is why Alexander could never believe me when I told him that I wasn’t “subconsciously” trying to avoid having his baby. I was just that much a creature of habit. He never bought it, and as the first few months of our marriage’s shine wore off and he realized once again that I was taking it, the same fight began to get more intense and frequent.
“You think it’s all about having a career, don’t you?” he would throw at me like a fireball.
It got to a point where he hid the automatic refills that got mailed to our house. I begged him for the supply, told him that you couldn’t quit birth control cold turkey, you had to be weaned off of it–just like an antidepressant. Feeling guilty, he would always give the prescription back to me, and the cycle would start all over again.
Fittingly, nine months after our nuptials were celebrated was when Alexander showed his first indication of complete withdrawal. I should have sensed from his lack of caring that he had probably met someone else. Instead, I went about my meticulous pill-taking and cast member selection with more piousness than ever.
Finally, one evening, it all came to an anticlimactic crescendo. As I walked in the door, Alexander was sitting at the table with a used pregnancy test in front of him.
“What’s that?” I queried dumbly.
“I’ve been seeing someone else. She’s pregnant. She wants to have my child. Unlike you, apparently.”
It was a blow that nearly sent me tumbling backward. I knew Alexander and I weren’t perfect, but I somehow assumed our love was strong enough to coast us through this period (pardon the pun) of getting me into the non-birth control mindset. I never understood why he couldn’t be a little more patient, a little more sympathetic to the power of roteness, of autopilot.
It’s been another nine months since that night, and news has traveled to me through our mutual friends that Alexander’s new wife gave birth to his precious legacy, a son named, disgustingly, Alexander Jr., about a week ago. In the time since our dissolution, I stopped taking birth control. I’m not having sex anymore, so why bother? However I still wake up in cold sweats, terrified I’ve missed the 9 a.m. mark and that I’ll either incite early menstruation or pregnancy. Visions of birth control pills as rotary phones haunt my dreamscape, along with dancing fetuses who move with choreographed brilliance to The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.” I wake up and turn to see Alexander isn’t there, but the indent from his body still is. It’s then I wonder whether it was more PTSD-inducing for me to go on birth control or to invest in memory foam.