It’s true in all households, often especially so in parsonages: you never know what you’ll get when you answer the phone. The other day, what I got was a (sur)reality check, a somewhat amusing reminder of just how…different…our so-called lifestyle is. When I picked up, a pleasant young man asked whether I’d be willing to participate in a women’s health survey. Hey, I’m all for women’s health, and no one was screaming at the time, so I agreed.
By the time we were a few questions in, I think he and I both regretted that decision. Things might have gone better if the survey had been essay instead of short answer/multiple choice. There were some predictable problems, e.g. that when he asked me to rate my “impression” of how effective various birth control methods are at “preventing pregnancy,” there was no way to nuance the definition of when pregnancy begins.
And then there’s the fact that CSPP and run-of-the-mill questionnaires simply don’t compute. So that you can share in my bemused amusement, here’s a sample of how it went:
He: Have you ever been pregnant?
Me: Yes, three times.
He: How many of your pregnancies were planned?
Me: Planned? Uh…planned?
He: Yes, how many of your pregnancies were planned?
Me: Uh, I don’t know… Maybe…the first one…kind of?
He: Okaaaay…so, one. Are you currently trying to get pregnant?
Me: [Figuring that not trying not to get pregnant doesn’t exactly count] No.
He: What form of birth control are you using?
He: Okaaaayyyy . . .
And so it went, with me finally finding relief in the “does not apply” option for a number of the ickier questions regarding me and my “partner(s).”
Then this one threw me into such a mental maelstrom that I was pretty much useless thereafter:
He: Assuming that you are not trying to get pregnant right now, which of the following best describes what your reaction would be if you found out that you were pregnant: A) It would be the best thing that could happen to me right now; B) It would be a good thing for me right now; C) It would be neither a good thing nor a bad thing for me right now; D) It would be a very inconvenient thing for me right now; or E) It would be the worst thing that could happen to me right now.
Me: [my personal Pandora’s box of CSPP-related issues suddenly thrown open by that simple question, I am instantly overcome by voices and visions: my sorry self plastered to the bathroom floor through months of nausea and vomiting, while the other kids run amok and neglected…the inexpressible joyous delirium of a kicking, squalling, bloody newborn laid upon my chest…that vocational duty thing...the youngest now getting into everything all day, and still not sleeping all night…the peaceful contours of that same baby’s cheeks in the moonlight, as he curves perfectly into my side when he and I have both fallen asleep as he nurses…my total inadequacy at this whole mothering endeavor in general…the faces of all my children…the faces of all my children that yet may be…my skinny jeans…my intense desire to try to try to trust and follow my Lord...the cost of milk, and the alarming rate at which we consume it…eternity… … … … …] Uh….uh….uhhhhh….Could you repeat those options?
He: *Sigh.* Ok. Assuming that you are not...
We muddled through to the end, and by the time he asked the last question regarding the highest level of education I’d completed, he and I were both shocked to discover that I have two Masters degrees. He sounded as startled as I felt, actually saying, “Oh! Two Masters? Really?! I mean—that’s great. Yeah--great!” Because clearly, my answers made no sense. (Moral of the story: these days, they’ll give anyone a degree or two.)