Cooper Brown: He's Out There

'The other men smiled at me wanly. It seemed I was not the only one press-ganged into this weirdness'
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The Independent Online

It's not easy being an expectant dad. Victoria has an annoying friend who "counsels" couples on what to expect and how to deal with the arrival of "baby". She's been pestering Victoria for ages to bring us both along but I've managed to delay the inevitable. Then, last week, Victoria drew a line in the sand and started weeping and screaming down the phone telling me that I didn't care about the baby and that she would have been better off getting an abortion like her parents had told her to.

I tried to protest but she was in full hormonal splendour and she started telling me about a recurring dream she had in which the baby was born and I wouldn't have anything to do with it. She was left alone, a single mother on an estate. Granted it was a huge country estate in Wiltshire, but still, she was hysterical, and I knew that I would have to give in - we were off to baby counselling.

The "friend" lived in Chiswick, a distant suburb of central London, with which I'm unfamiliar. I could feel the Quattroporte snarl her displeasure at being left in such a dangerous area but there was nothing for it, I wanted to be sure of escaping as fast as possible once the ordeal was over. We arrived at the door of a red-brick house in a red-brick street that was just one of what seemed like 100 other identical streets. If I lived here and got drunk I'd never, ever, be able to find my way back home. I suffer acutely from aesthetic depression and being in an area like this always brings me down.

I tried to back away and make a run for the safety of the Quattroporte, but Victoria grabbed my hand firmly and rang the doorbell. This kaftanned earth mother opened the door and gave both of us big unnecessary hugs. I was instantly on high hippie alert. This was going to be tough. We were ushered into a "living room" where about seven other couples sat in front of a Damien Hirst-like model of a chick's business parts. They all looked up nervously and some of the men smiled at me wanly. It seemed that I might not be the only one press-ganged into attending this weirdness.

The earth mother instructed us to sit down on beanbags and introduce ourselves. Beanbags mean just one thing: frickin' assholes. I hate anyone who has beanbags. It's actually a really useful time-saver when making snap judgements about people.

"Do you possess a beanbag?"


"Then you, sir, are an asshole."

Victoria stood up and said that her name was Victoria and that she was pregnant, which wasn't exactly up there in the list of huge world revelations. She sat down and it was my turn. I stood up and said that my name was Cooper and that I wasn't pregnant and therefore didn't really see why I was here. Feeling confident, I suggested that all the fathers adjourn to a pub and left the chicks to get on with things. There was a long silence before Victoria's friend totally blanked me and started proceedings.

She spent the next half-an-hour talking us through the geography of the "front bottom" as she called it. Personally I'd assumed that all the men in the room were here specifically because they had managed to negotiate their way around this particular minefield.

Following "genital orientation" we had to sit down with our "partners" and start to simulate childbirth. Now, I hadn't really given the forthcoming event much thought but one thing I was sure about was that I wasn't intending to be anywhere near the hospital when it happened. I would be of no use whatsoever, and anyway, Ben had invited me to some old Oxford college party in a Scottish castle around the time of the due date and I was secretly hoping that they might coincide. I hadn't yet broached the subject with Victoria, I was just expecting things would come to pass and that she might forget about me being there in the flow of things.

"BREATHE IN TANDEM!" screamed the hippie teacher as all the men held their other halves from behind and tried to imagine ourselves in a happier place - like a bar. When all the Twister moves had finished we had to turn to a neighbour and tell them about the things that we were worrying about vis-à-vis being a parent. The drippy Asian guy next to me started going on about how he hoped that he would be able to balance work and home life and be there for his wife when she was tired and needy. He looked at me expectantly and I blurted out that I was worried about the whole thing cramping my style and that I wasn't really into kids per se. He looked at me with the panicked eyes of a stag caught in the crosshairs of one of Victoria's crazy relatives. I pulled the trigger: "I'm also worried about what age the little fucker will start stealing my drugs and asking for hand-outs."

The room froze and all eyes turned to me. Victoria's hippie friend asked me to refrain from using language like that in the sessions. I told her to go screw herself and, seconds later, we were exiting the front door with Victoria apologising profusely to her friend. We walked back to the Quattroporte in silence. There was nothing I could say. I dropped her off at her place and she got out, still without saying a word.

It wasn't too late. I called Ben who was hanging in the Electric with Jamie Theakston and John Leslie. I burned down there and got gloriously drunk. These were the kind of men that I understood, and that's never going to change. So the kid had better get used to it. Cooper Out.;