Lyall

Lyall

A weeklong electronic journal.
Jan. 15 1997 3:30 AM

Lyall

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       "Hey, he's almost as fat as you!" one of my office mates said cheerfully this morning, showing me a photograph of an extremely large man poised over an extremely large side of beef in a gourmet-and-lifestyle magazine. What could I say? When you're pregnant, you become an enormous blank slate upon which people freely impose their own fears, aggressions, and worldviews, in an apparent form of transference that does not involve an actual therapist. "I spent yesterday with a friend who has a child," confided my co-worker Sarah Jo at the coffee machine yesterday, "and it's enough to put you off having babies forever." Pam, another colleague, can't pass me without making some dire remark about her own children ("I never had such a bad backache," or "I was really depressed afterwards," or "They get worse as they get older"), while everyone else leaves me exaggerated amounts of room in the hall while eyeing my stomach and making jolly remarks like, "Getting bigger!" I know they don't mean to be mean, but hey--is there something going on here ? Or am I just too sensitive?
       I went to the doctor yesterday--an ordeal, getting across town--and I'm happy to report that nothing's happened! Maybe nothing will ever happen. Maybe I'll be pregnant for the next 50 years, getting bigger and bigger and evolving from my current status (youngish, smallish water buffalo) through the really mammoth parts of the animal kingdom (aged, enormous whale). These last few weeks are so strange, as you stand on the edge of a precipice but can't tell when you will finally go over the edge. You don't know what you'll get, either. It's like waiting for a guest who will be staying with you for the rest of your life, only YOU DON'T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT HIM (or her). And, of course, you have to read Goodnight Moon aloud at least 6,000 times before the child finally gets a place of its own.
       Lumbering around with all this extra weight makes you tired, and last night I had to stay up until 2 a.m. writing a story for the paper. That was fine, except that when you're that exhausted, you're much more prone to error. I don't think I made any mistakes last night, but you never can tell. I've made a lot in the 10 years I've been a reporter, and they always end up in the space of shame: the corrections column. When I started out, I thought you could trust your instincts, which was incredibly stupid.
       Among the things I've done wrong, along with the requisite misspellings and garbled quotes, were to misdefine a megawatt (I said it was 1,000 watts), to underestimate the speed of sound (I said that it took three days for the first trans-Atlantic radio message to get from Europe to Newfoundland), and to say that the New York State government was short by $789 (actual shortfall: $789 million). But what may have been the best correction of all time was not my fault. It came nearly two years ago, when the paper ran a transcript of Sen. Al D'Amato's unflattering remarks about Judge Lance Ito on the Imus in the Morning radio show. (Moral: Don't go on the radio.) Anyway, the next day, the paper announced that part of the D'Amato quote had been rendered inaccurately. "He said, 'I mean, this is a disgrace. Judge Ito will be well known,' " the correction said. "He did not say, 'Judge Ito with the wet nose.' "

Sarah Lyall reports for the New York Times from London.