"You know what the president needs to do?" my wife says from
behind the newspaper.
I smile. My wife, who's a girl, is going to tell me what the
president, who's a boy, needs to do.
"No, m'love," I say. "I don't know what the president needs to
do. But I bet you know. And I bet you're about to tell me."
I put down the sports page so the Really Important Things won't
distract me from what she's about to say. I'm an attentive husband.
"The president," she says, "needs to get pregnant and have
"Oh," I say, picking up the sports page again. "Heh heh."
"That's not a sufficient response," she says. "I expect you to
ask me what I mean."
"Okay," I say, putting the sports page down again. "What do you
mean when you say the president should get pregnant and have triplets? Given
that the president is a boy and only girls can get pregnant and have
"O Lord," she says. "Don't I know it."
"You needn't call me 'Lord,' I say. "'Your Blinding Magnificence'
will do nicely. So tell me: why should the president get pregnant and have
"Because," she says, pointing to a headline in the May 9
Journal-Star, "it says here that 'Being mom may make you smarter.' It's
about a book by Katherine Ellison called 'The Mommy Brain: How Motherhood
Makes Us Smarter.'"
"How about the daddy brain?" I ask. "Won't daddyhood make boys
"Afraid not," she says. "Unless you go through pregnancy and
childbirth and child-raising and get your hormones pretty radically
altered. Having done all that, Ellison says, 'women emerge with a brain
that is more efficient, perceptive, and resilient.'"
"Hah?" I say.
"Listen to this," she says. "Two neuroscientists in Virginia
found out that after female lab rats gave birth to baby rats, it took them only
70 seconds to catch a meal of cricketsinstead of the five minutes it
took them when they were bachelorette rats."
"I don't like crickets," I say. "I'd go hungry before I'd eat
"Well," she says, "it says the mommy rats could also find Fruit
Loops quicker than the rats that weren't mommies."
"I like Fruit Loops," I say. "But I wouldn't eat a cricket."
"You're missing the point," she says. "That's because you haven't
gone through pregnancy and childbirth."
"What flavor of Fruit Loops?" I say. "Do rats like Fruit Loops
better than crickets? Rats give me the fantods."
She rolls her eyes.
"Okay," she says. "How about monkeys? Surely you can identify
with monkeys. Researchers in England say that mommy monkeys are smarter after
they have baby monkeys than they were before they had them."
The Truth, Mainly
"I like baby monkeys," I say. "I'd like to chuck a baby monkey
under the chin. Do baby monkeys have chins?"
"You're not getting it, are you?" she says. "You're male."
"You bet your boots I'm male," I say. "Always have been, always
will be. Male and gosh-darned proud of it. Not getting what?"
"You wouldn't understand," she says. "You need to get pregnant
and have babies."
"Tell me again," I say. "What good would that do?"
"It would make your brain grow," she says. "The mommy rats'
brains grew more dendrites than the bachelorette rats' brains did. It
works with human mommies too. One mommy of an 18-month-old baby said her
'multitasking ability' had grown after the baby's birth. Said that she
could be 'breast-feeding the child, cooking dinner, setting the table, and
washing the laundry, all at once.' You can't even watch television and
chew gum at the same time."
"Like fun," I say. "But what's all this got to do with the
president? Why does he need to get pregnant and have triplets?"
"He's not very smart," she says. "Every time he says something
coherent you can see Karl Rove's lips moving. Contrast him to Laura.
Which one would you ask for directions? Which one tells better jokes?
And which one gave birth to twins? The only way the president can catch
up and go ahead is to have triplets."
I ponder that a good long while.
"Maybe so, Miss Smarty-Pants," I finally say. "But how long's it
been since a woman won a Heisman? Hah? Answer me that."
She sighs and looks out the window for a long, long time.
"You poor old booger, you," she finally says. "It would take
quadruplets to bring you around."
Retired English Professor Leon Satterfield writes to salvage clarity
from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays. His e-mail