The Truth, Mainly - 05/23/2005

Bush needs mommy smarts?
by Leon Satterfield

"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 triplets."

"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 babies."

"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 triplets?"

"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 smarter too?"

"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 crickets—instead 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 one."

"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."

"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 address is:

©Copyright Lincoln Journal Star