by Barry L. Levy
Writing plot twists is never actually about the reveal, but about the set up. Sure, the Sixth Sense’s surprise ending is incredible, but it only works because of the 100 pages that came before it. In fact, if you go back and read the first three pages of the script for the Crying Game, you’ll see how the writer had already primed us for a surprise “package” from the get go.
The challenge, then, is in recognizing the tell tale signs. Both in drama and in life.
From early in our relationship, my wife was convinced, for a variety of reasons, that we would struggle to have kids. I’ve never speculated if her concerns where rational or not (at least not publicly). But history has shown that they clearly weren’t. Just saying.
But it was through her insistence that we needed to get started right away that I first heard of the phrase, “let’s just try not to try.” To this day, I have no idea what that actually means. To me, it just sounded a whole lot like “let’s try but not admit to ourselves that we’re trying.”
But this should’ve been my first clue: why was my wife so certain that she would be unable to carry children? However instead of raising suspicion, all it did was simply confirm how little I really understand about the opposite sex. Did she really believe this? Did it even make sense?
The second clue came on the Saturday night after Thanksgiving as we flew home from a trip back East. Going back to my single days, I loved flying cross country so that I might catch up on all of my periodicals, friends’ scripts, etc. At times, it still feels like I simply collect such things. Like I can’t read Vanity Fair or the Atlantic Monthly unless I’m locked in a metal box, 30,000 feet in the air. Go figure.
There on the plane, my wife now six weeks pregnant, turned and asked me what I was going to do once we had our first child. Sign! Sign! Sign! Read the tea leaves, Levy. The correct answer was obviously I’d put aside these magazines, dear, and spend quality face time with my child.
But I didn’t say that.
Instead, I shrugged and suggested that things would remain the same. In fact, if I was working, my wife would simply have to hold our child. I know . . . I sound like a real charmer. Truth be told, I was adamant that a baby was not going to change my life.
48 hours later, we sat in my wife’s OB’s office for her ultrasound, where we discovered we were having twins. Both of us spontaneously laughed. In shock. Horror. Then more shock. Again, at 3 o’clock the next morning, we laughed. At that point, I was laughing because I was terrified. She was laughing, as she later told me, because “I could kiss reading on planes goodbye.”
But laughter subsided as there were questions about viability. About safety. Enough so that we decided to do a CVS exam (chorionic villus sampling). Before removing a piece of my wife’s chorionic villus, the doctor took a look via ultrasound to determine that it looked like we were having boys. This is a scientific way of suggesting that he thought he saw their ding-a-lings . . . let’s just call it as we see it.
I was scared.
I mean, I was a boy. That much is obvious. But I was the boy who convinced my friends to help me tear down part of my parents’ back fence to create a tunnel.
I fell through thin ice.
I was suspended from school . . . twice
I took my tricycle down a flight of stairs to see if I could jump like Evil Knievel.
I tried to fly off of a fire hydrant. Also, twice. Not the brightest bulb on the tree.
Hell, I even convinced my babysitter to play leap frog with me . . . down a flight of stairs.
In short, all I could think about that entire week was considering how I was going to have two Mini-Me’s. Our house was going to be destroyed. Over night.
This should’ve been that third tell tale sign. But it wasn’t.
It wasn’t until the call came on that Friday with the lab results and we were told that our twins were, in fact, healthy. Viable. And girls.
Hearing this, I was thrilled. Thrilled. I’m probably the only guy I know who was thrilled, mind you. But to me this just meant that our house would be safe, until the next big earthquake. Yay!
What it meant to have two girls . . . never dawned on me. (See above, about the brightness of my bulb.)
There’s a famous Jerry Lewis quote about how he’d never let another man dance with his wife because he knew what the other guy was thinking . . .
I knew this to be true. But still. The fact is I’ve heard every hackneyed saying . . . about how when you have a boy you have to worry about his penis, but when you have a girl, you have to worry about every other penis in the world . . .
But none of it really meant anything to me at the time. They didn’t register. I mean, I’d been an adolescent boy. I’d objectified. I’d ogled. I just . . . well, none of it registered.
Maybe it was like that other hackneyed quote, “A woman becomes a mother when she’s pregnant. A man becomes a father when he holds his child.”
There is a lot of truth to that statement . . . and if we were only having one, maybe that would’ve been true for me as well.
But then it happened. Oh, God, did it happen. The very next day.
My wife and I boarded a plane for our babymoon to Maui. My wife, in her oh-so-subtle-Jersey-shore-esque fashion reminded me that this would be my last flight with my mags. We checked into the hotel. Went to the pool and there in the water were identical twin girls. Twenty-one years of age. In coordinating bikinis.
The adolescent Barry looked up and started to smile . . . not bad. Only, that’s when it hit me. Holy shit! This was my future. Some day, twenty-odd years from now I’d be looking around at some asshole who probably will look a helluva lot like me who was ogling my daughters.
That’s when I freaked out. Damn you, Jerry Lewis!
I couldn’t look at them. Couldn’t stop trying, and yet the minute my eyes caught a glimpse I determined that we would heretofore plan family vacations that involved winter sports . . . I’d dress my girls in bubble wrap. We’d move back into the land of the wooly knee socks. I had a series of these conversations in my head.
My wife actually relished in my squirming. She loved pointing out how fun the hot tubs are at ski resorts. It was as if she was trying to age me . . . and we hadn’t even signed up for life insurance at this point. Fear not, that’s a story for another day.
Frankly, it wasn’t until a couple months later, that my still-pregnant wife came over to my way of thinking. It was after she was approached by a middle-aged (read: generous description) man in a red Ferrari, with his toddler grandson beside him. After confirming that my wife was carrying identical twins, he explained to his grandson that this was every boy’s fantasy.
I had no gray hair five years ago. I’m overrun with it now. Hell, I have a sun roof on the top of my head. None of this has stopped me though. See, I’ve committed to overdressing my girls ever since that day in Hawaii. Frankly, I view it as my life’s work to make sure that they forever stay away from middle aged guys in red Ferraris. They can test drive any car they’d like. Provided I’m riding shotgun.
Yet, like all great plot twists, it is all about the set up . . . not the reveal. Just as I had no clue about what my wife was talking about in the land of “trying not to try,” I genuinely don’t understand half of what my girls go through. I mean that.
I’ve walked into my daughter’s closet with her, at age three, and listened to her complain that she has “nothing to wear.”
I’ve come home to find my girls with Jackson Pollack-esque designs of make up splatter painted across their faces.
And I cannot, for the life of me understand how, why, or most importantly, where my five year old daughter learned to dance as if she needed a stripper pole beside her.
Maybe it just comes down to this . . . maybe I genuinely will never quite understand them. It won’t stop me from loving them, but it might stop me from trying to figure them out.Tags: babymoon, Barry Levy, chorionic villus sampling, Figuring out women, Hollywood, Jerry Lewis, Parenthood, Raising girls, Screenwriter, Twins