A couple of months back, I got a brief to write parenting tips for a client.
Simple enough, I thought. In fact, probably simple to the point of 'duh,' or more likely 'yawn.'
Boy, was I wrong.
The first thing I did was go out and get a stack of parenting books. After some browsing, it seemed the more useful ones were written FAQ style. But like no FAQs I'd ever seen:
"My nipples are cracked and a cloudy yellow discharge is oozing from them. I want to switch to formula but I'm afraid my baby will reject it. Should I continue nursing?"
"I'm nursing my 3-week old. Can I still let my husband come on my breasts?"
"How soon after delivery can my husband and I resume anal intercourse?"
Reading the calm, professional way in which the answers are written, you're made to believe 7 out of 10 new moms ask these things. That they want to know these things. What's worse is everything's made to sound like an annoying allergy that you can solve with baby wipes, chicken soup and Dr Quack's advice.
Like your child's sexual orientation. One book says dads should make sure they get enough 'face time' with baby. Dads who withdraw affection create a void within male children making them hunger for - and I'm quoting here - "male love" so they turn gay in later life.
Translation: All gay dudes weren't picked up enough when they were crying toddlers making them want to shag their dads when they grow up. Psychologically speaking.
Before long, I began facing some problems:
I couldn't put the stuff down. The tips just got increasingly morbid and disgusting along the way but I was riveted, transfixed in that oh-look-honey-it's-a-car-crash kind of way. I don't know what it says about my worrying lack of moral fibre, but I'm sure it can't be good.
I wasn't getting the job done. Two weeks had passed since I received the brief and I hadn't written a single (usable) parenting tip. Instead, I found myself thumbing through book after book on the train, skipping to the 'good' bits. I turned into a kind of pediatric perv, drawing two kinds of looks: "Must be a young, dedicated father" or "We know what you're doing. And so does Jesus." (Maybe three. There might have been one or two "The condom broke, huh?" stares).
I looked at women differently. A glance at a nice pair of Nine Wests (yes, I can tell these things) became a CSI-style analysis of how those ankles would swell come the 2nd trimester. A figure-hugging tank top conjured images of cracked nipples and blue-veined boobs.
I had to do something.
So one morning, I called the chaps handling the account and told them I was onto the last set of tips. They could pick the stuff up by 4pm and they could present all of them to the client tomorrow morning.
Then I hauled ass and wrote like hell so it wouldn't be a lie.