Read Inconceivable Online

Authors: Ben Elton

Tags: #Humor, #London (England), #Infertility, #Humorous, #Fertilization in vitro; Human, #Married people, #General, #Fiction - General, #Fiction, #Domestic fiction

Inconceivable

Inconceivable

by Ben Elton

1999

 

 

Lucy desperately wants a baby. Sam is determined to write a hit movie. The problem is that both their efforts seem to be unfruitful. What Sam and Lucy are about to go through is absolutely inconceivable. The question is, can their love survive?

 

D
ear…?

Dear.

Dear Book?

Dear Self? Dear Sam.

Good. Got that sorted out. What next?

Lucy is making me write this diary. Except it’s not a diary. It’s a ‘book of thoughts’. ‘Letters to myself’ is how she put it, hence the ‘Dear Sam’ business, which of course is me. Lucy says that her friend, whose name escapes me, has a theory that conducting this internal correspondence will help Lucy and me to relax about things. The idea is that if Lucy and I periodically privately assemble our thoughts and feelings then we’ll feel less like corks bobbing about on the sea of fate. Personally, I find it extraordinary that Lucy can be persuaded that she’ll become less obsessed about something if she spends half an hour every day writing about it, but there you go. Lucy thinks that things might be a whole lot better if I stopped trying to be clever and started trying to be supportive.

It’s now five minutes later and I find I have no thoughts and feelings to assemble. Lucy has been right all along. I’m a sad, cold, sensitivity-exclusion zone who would rather read the newspaper than have an emotion. I always thought she was exaggerating.

Dear Penny,

I
’m writing to you, Penny, because in my childhood you were my imaginary friend and I feel that I’ll be more open and honest if I personify the part of myself to which I’m addressing these thoughts. Does that make sense? I do hope so because, quite frankly, if ever I needed an imaginary friend I need one now. The truth is that I want to have a baby. You remember how our favourite game when I was a child was looking after babies? Well, things haven’t changed at all, right down to the fact that I still haven’t actually got a baby to look after. This thing, so simple to many women, is proving very difficult for me. Sam and I have been trying for five years (I hate that word, we used to make love, or have a good shag, now we ‘try’), and so far not a hint. You could set your watch by my periods.

Sometimes I feel quite desperate about it and really have to struggle not to be jealous of women who have babies, which I loath myself for. Occasionally, and I hate to write this, I’m even jealous of women who’ve had miscarriages. I know that sounds awful and I’m quite certain I wouldn’t say it if I’d had one myself, but at least I’d know I could conceive. I don’t know anything. My wretched body simply refuses to react at all.

However, and let me say this very firmly, Penny, I’m determined that I am not, I repeat NOT, going to become obsessed about all this. If, God forbid, it turns out that I cannot have children, then so be it. I shall accept my fate. I shall not acquire eight dogs, two cats, a rabbit and a potbellied pig. Nor will I go slightly mad and talk too loudly about topiary at dinner parties. I shall not be mean about people who have children, calling them smug and insular and obsessed by their kids. Nor will I go on about my wonderful job (which it isn’t anyway) to harassed mums who’ve not spoken adult English for two and a half years and have sick all over their shoulders and down their backs.

I will also desist from writing letters to imaginary friends. I hope that doesn’t sound hurtful to you, Penny, but I feel I must be firm at this juncture. Whatever the fates decide for me, I intend to remain an emotionally functional woman and I absolutely SWEAR that I will not get all teary when I walk past Mothercare on my way to the off licence like I did last week.

 

 

What does she find to write about? I’ve been sitting watching her for ten minutes and she hasn’t paused once. What can she possibly be saying?

 

 

The most important thing to remember, Penny, is that there are many ways of being a whole and fulfilled woman and that Motherhood is only one of them. It just happens to be the most beautiful, enriching, instinctive and necessary thing that a woman can do and is entirely the reason that I feel I was put upon this earth. That’s all.

However, as I say, despite remaining resolutely unobsessed, I do not intend to give up without a fight. Five years is too long and I have decided that after two more periods I’ll seek medical help. Sam doesn’t like this idea much. He says that it’s a matter of psychology, claiming that whilst at the moment we can still see ourselves as simply unlucky, if we go to a doctor we’ll be admitting that we are actually infertile and from that point on we’ll be forever sad. Of course the real reason that Sam doesn’t want to go to a doctor is because it’s the first step on a road that will almost certainly lead to him having to masturbate in National Health Service semen collection rooms. However, we’re going to do it, so T-F-B, mate, too flipping bad.

 

 

This really is very depressing.

And to think that I had dreams of being a writer. Oh well, at least this sorry exercise serves the purpose of shattering for all time any remaining illusions I might have had about possessing even a modicum of creative talent. If I can’t even write a letter to myself, then scintillating screenplays and brilliantly innovative television serials at the very cutting edge of the Zeitgeist are likely to be somewhat beyond my grasp.

Oh good, she’s finally stopped.

So what I’ll do is I’ll just carry on writing this sentence I’m writing now for a moment or two longer…so that it doesn’t look like I stopped just because she did…Ho hum, dumdy dum…

What can I say? Saturday tomorrow, going to see George and Melinda plus offspring.

Brilliant, Sam. Give the boy a Pulitzer Prize. That’s it, finito.

Dear Penny,

I
must admit that going to see Melinda and George with their new baby today was a bit difficult. I hate being envious, but I was. It was so sweet, a little boy and absolutely beautiful. He’s got quite a bit of dark hair and is very fat in a tiny sort of way. Couldn’t get over his little fingers, I never can with brand new babs. Just gorgeous.

Dear Book,

I
’m very worried about George and Melinda’s new sprog. Ugly as a monkey’s arse. Couldn’t say so, of course, but I could see that poor old George was dubious. He calls it Prune which I think is fair, although ‘old man’s scrotum’ would probably be closer to the mark; what with that strange black hair and so much skin one could easily imagine him swinging between the legs of some prolaptic octogenarian.

I had hoped that the sight of young Prune (or Cuthbert as he is called) might put Lucy off a bit, make her see that there are enormous risks involved with propagation. Remind her that for every Shirley Temple there’s a Cuthbert. The thought of having to face those chasmic, gaping, bawling toothless gums five times a night would, I imagine, make any woman reach for the condoms. Quite the opposite, though. She thinks he’s utterly adorable. Amazing. It’s like we’re looking at different babies. I mean I know he’ll probably turn out all right. All babies start off looking like the last tomato in the fridge, but ‘cute’, ‘gorgeous’ and ‘adorable’, which were the adjectives Lucy was throwing about the place with gay abandon, struck me as the ravings of an insane and blind woman.

Quite frankly, I began to see King Herod in a wholly different light.

 

 

I got home feeling all clucky and sad but I am determined to resist maudlin ‘I’m barren’ mawkishness. The truth is, though, I fear that I am barren and if that isn’t enough to make me mawkish I don’t know what is. I mean, some girls are up the duff straight off. Lucky bitches. Their eggs just seem to be genetically programmed sperm magnets. My friend Roz from college could get pregnant just by phoning her husband at work and if you believe what you read in the papers half the schoolgirls in the country are teenage mums. But some women, I’m afraid, women like me, well forget it. I’m about as fertile as the Lord Chief Eunuch at the Court of the Manchurian Emperor. I couldn’t even grow cress at school. All I ended up with was a mouldy flannel.

However, as I say, I am determined to approach this period of my life positively. Hence these letters to you, Penny, the point of which, according to my friend Sheila (who saw an Oprah
on the subject), is that Sam and I become proactively involved in our emotional journeys. We cease to be mere corks bobbing about on the sea of fate and instead become partners with our feelings. Sheila says that according to several American experts whom Oprah spoke to, the desire to have children is entirely natural and good and we should embrace it whether it turns out that we are fertile (I
hate
that word, it makes me feel like a failed heifer) or not.

Sheila does not have children herself but she understands the desire to nurture them very well, being a theatrical agent.

Dear Book,

A
nother evening, another desperate effort to think of something to write about.

God, I’d love a shag. I really really would like a shag. But we can’t. We’re off sex at the moment and I must say I miss it. Lucy is over there looking saucier than the condiments shelf at Sainsbury’s. The very definition of the word shaggable. Sitting on the bed, wearing nothing but a pyjama top, bare legs raised, tongue pointing out of the side of her mouth, nose wrinkled in concentration. She really is so beautiful sometimes. But I’m not allowed to jump on her. Oh no. Absolutely not. Can’t even pop into the lav and give the old fellah a slap to relieve the tension.

We’re saving up my sperm, you see. It’s this month’s theory and it’s one of my least favourite.

Dear Penny,

S
am’s rather grumpy at the moment because he’s feeling sexually frustrated. I can’t deny I miss it myself a bit, in fact to be quite frank, as I know I must be with you, Penny, I wish he could give me a bloody good seeing to right now. But no. No, no, NO! We can’t and there’s an end to it. I should explain at this point, Pen, that this is an RBM, a Restricted Bonking Month. What’s happening is that I’m making him save up all his sperm and when the time’s right he’s got to bang me as hard as he can, three times within twenty-four hours. It’s this month’s theory. Wait for the right time and then have one concentrated, day-long, high-density, sperm-rich assault on my ovulating eggs.

But

is the time right? To have it off or not to have it off, that is the question.

When is the optimum ovulatory moment? Some girls say they can feel it when they ovulate, that their bodies send them little messages, but I can’t say mine ever does. All my insides ever tell me is ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘How about another gin and tonic?’

The only way I can determine the optimum bonking moment is to apply scientific methods of research, which I’ve never been very good at, not even being able to programme my mobile phone. In theory it should all be quite simple. Just a question of counting days, studying your pee and taking your temperature all the time. But it really is a horrible and soul-destroying business. I count days, I collect urine, I pee on a little traffic light from Boots, I take my temperature, I fill in my chart, I do some more pee, I put some more little red dots on my calendar until it’s completely covered in little red dots and crossed-out little red dots so that I don’t know which little red dots are which. It’s like trying to have it off in an intensive care unit.

And the biggest problem of all in these meticulous calculations is when do you begin them? When do you start the counting? Are you supposed to start counting at the beginning of your period, or at the end? Joanna (who’s good with numbers she does the accounts at the agency) said she thought it was sort of the end of the beginning, not when you first feel your period coming, but when it properly starts. But Melinda (who has actually had a baby) said you count backwards from the next one, which can’t be right, surely? I remember reading in

Elle
or some such mag that clues can be gleaned from the colour of your menstrual blood. Well, frankly.

 

 

I preferred last month’s theory. That one was a cracker. I loved it. We were experimenting with the ‘bonk all the time’ theory.

Based on the idea that fertilization is an unknowable, unplannable lottery. Which of course it is.

Lucy made a list in an effort to marshal her thoughts. I reproduce this list below. If nothing else it will fill up a bit of space and make it look like I’ve written more than I have.

Lucy’s Shag All The Time Theory List.

  1. No one can ever be sure exactly when ovulation occurs.
  2. No one really seems to know at what point during ovulation fertility is at its most likely.
  3. If you did know these things it would not make any difference at all. Because no one knows how long it takes a lazy and reluctant sperm with attitude to swim what, I seem to recall being told at school, is the equivalent of a piranha fish swimming the length of the Amazon. Hence, even if you did know when ovulation was going to occur you would not know how long before that you should do the business.

The conclusion that Lucy drew from this list was that the only way to be sure of hitting the mark was to shag all the time. When I say ‘all the time’ I mean once a night which
is
all the time as far as I’m concerned. If she starts insisting on afternoon delight as well I’ll have to buy some sort of pill off the Internet.

It was a good month, except when Lucy scalded herself. Nothing to do with me, I hasten to add. The problem was that after we’d done it she insisted on propping her bum up with a pillow for half an hour so that my sperm would be able to swim downhill. This is not an ideal position in which to enjoy a cup of tea and so, one day, over her and the duvet it went.

I must say I thought she deserved it. I resented the assumption that my crappy, lazy, undermotivated sperm would only be able to reach her eggs if given the unfair advantage of being allowed to swim downhill.

 

 

The other thing I find a bit sad about Restricted Bonking Month is it means that Sam and I don’t really have much physical contact at all at the moment. Sam’s not much of a cuddler, he never has been. He really only tends to cuddle as a sort of pre-sex warm-up, which is a shame. Personally I often crave a bit of physical affection that isn’t sexual and is, well, just affection. Sheila says that in her experience (which is considerable, she having had it off for the Home Counties in her time), non-sexual physical attention isn’t something that men do, and certainly not after about the first year of the relationship. So I might as well forget it or become a lesbian.

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