“It’s My Baby” (short story) by Yasutaka Tsutsui
English Publication History: Bullseye! (2017, Kurodahan)
Original: Japanese (産気), 1980
Translated by Andrew Driver, 2017
Synopsis: To the amazement to everyone in the office, a man among them, named Masada, has become pregnant. Much amusement ensues, followed by disbelief, but as the pregnancy progresses, it becomes apparent that, however it ever came it be, the man is, in fact, quite pregnant. Immediately upon breaking the news, the man’s behaviors begin to change; for example: no coffee because for the baby and the need for a women’s magazine because of it’s baby articles, in addition to sudden craving, hormonal swings, and anatomical prides. One of Masada’s male colleagues bears the brunt of this progress, but slowly shifts from annoyance to acceptance and beyond.
Analysis: While there are five stages of grief, there must also be a limited number of stages for accepting new rules (e.g. a new dress code policy at work), a change of environment (e.g. moving to foreign country), or bizarre news (e.g. Trump becoming president): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This is probably applicable only is it directly affects you. But move the “change” to something that only indirectly affects you, and you can most likely rid yourself of three of those stages: namely, anger, bargaining, depression. That leaves us with a wide chasm between 1) denial and 2) acceptance.
No doubt, these are not stages to pass but ends of spectrum likes the ends of a bridge; you start at densely black point of denial and make a perilous journey across the grey paved path toward the warmly welcoming point of white. Through these shades of grey lie a perplexing range of emotions, observations, and minuscule degrees of acceptance, as if each step across the bridge is one further so-called stage of acceptance.
Through Masada’s colleague’s eyes, the reader witnesses the spanning transition from denial (Masada, you’re not pregnant–that’s impossible) to the heroic rescue of Masada’s later stages of pregnancy. Even with the degree of impossibility that Masada’s colleague mist face, he still manages to cross that vast, multi-toned bridge of acceptance.
Review: Like many of the author’s stories, there’s a running theme of open misogyny. This rears its head within this story by imbuing Masada with all stereotypes of an expecting mother: her complaints, her aches, her concerns, etc. With most stories, this theme is an expectation and often a tongue-in-cheek delight for it remaining true to the author’s rebellious attitude toward socially acceptable norms, but in “It’s My Baby”, the effect is blatant and, therefore, watered down. His style is usually subtly callous, but, here, it feels all too laid out with a flimsy idea. Summary: so far, my least favorite Yasutaka Tsutsui story of both collections… or have I missed something?