My young assistant, Shooter, has been making many lists lately, telling me where she put this file and that file, and just the other night as she left work, she offered me yet another.
The list of "Stupid Things Men Say to Pregnant Women."
"It's a work in progress," she said, heavy with child. "We could add to it."
Naturally, I was deathly afraid I was on her list for saying something stupid about flip-flops in the office, so I quietly edged away from Shooter and considered the last nine months and all the stupid things I probably said.
Okay, I give up. How many stupid things did I say?
"Your stupid thing is No. 5," she told me.
Shooter is my legman, the tenacious young reporter who helps me with the column. There have been several such legmen over the years, all of them tenacious, beginning with the legendary Slim the Legman, then Mrs. Flynn, the Swede, Spartacus, Wings and now Shooter.
The interesting thing about Shooter — who loves to play craps in Las Vegas — is she found out she was pregnant in January. And by coincidence, that's the same week I quit smoking for good. What fun.
We work long hours on deadline in a little office about the size of a broom closet. And when she was feeling nauseous, I was having nicotine withdrawals.
Later, as her nausea subsided, I toyed with the idea of writing a series of columns about our experience, sort of a "What Kind of Stupid Things to Expect Your Boss Who Quit Smoking Will Say When You're Expecting, As You Both Eat More Pie."
Instead, Shooter quietly compiled her list of "Stupid Things Men Say to Pregnant Women":
Stupid Thing No. 1. Just got home around 8:30 after a long day of working and (barfing) and husband says, "So, when do you want to have another one?"
Stupid Thing No. 2. Random guy on Michigan Avenue: "Are you having twins? Are you sure?"
Stupid Thing No. 3. Shooter is eating dinner with her mom, dad and yia-yia (grandmother), as they talk about Shooter having already packed a bag for the hospital.
Shooter's dad: "Yeah. And you should pack a Sudoku puzzle or something. … You know, you might have a lot of waiting time."
Shooter nobly resists the urge to stab her father in the hand with a fork.
Stupid Thing No. 4. Shooter's skinny husband, Dr. Pete, says, "I think I need to lose some weight. My pants are a little tight."
Stupid Thing No. 5. Shooter's Stupid Columnist Boss takes her to lunch and orders iced raw oysters.
Stupid Boss: "Shooter? These are really, really good. Fresh. You can taste the sea. Do you like oysters?"
Stupid Boss. "Mmmm. These are so good. Oh, can you eat raw oysters when you're pregnant?"
She would have liked the restaurant well enough before she was expecting, but then, things change. And if you're a man and ask why, then all you're doing is proving that you have the capacity to say stupid things to pregnant women.
So don't question. It just is, that's all.
But with me quitting smoking and Shooter pregnant, at least we had month after month of excellent meals. After nine months of this, I now require a combination of three mirrors to see the tops of my shoes, so I'm going back on that South Beach diet.
But like I told Dr. Pete, when the baby arrives, be like the wolf. Bring the rabbits to the cave. Keep your mouth shut. And do exactly what she says.
"Rabbits to the cave?" asked Dr. Pete. "I don't understand."
A few hours after Shooter made the list of stupid things, she began texting me, furiously:
"You've got all the passwords and I have the source list and the documents from the police story are on my desk top and we'll get more documents over the weekend. We will see. I have the binder with your clipped columns. Almost up to date. Just have to do last three weeks."
By then, she was at the hospital, dilating, about ready to give birth, but still compelled to type on the BlackBerry. It was the reporter in her, trying to get that one last story. Don't question it. Or you'd be saying something stupid.
And then, it happened. Born to Shooter and Dr. Pete was a beautiful baby boy with a full head of hair like some mountain warrior.
© 2011 Chicago Tribune