Eric Alterman,

Eric Alterman,

A weeklong electronic journal.
April 19 1998 3:30 AM

Eric Alterman,

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       There is nothing quite like waking up to the sound of your newborn daughter screaming in your ear. First, it reminds you that you have a daughter. This is an enormous challenge to someone who has always felt that plants were too much responsibility. Enough worrying about yourself, you say, what's the matter with Eve? Of course nothing is the matter with Eve. Eve only wants two things, ever: her mother's breast and a spanking new diaper. I am entirely useless in the former and vastly prefer staying in bed a little while longer to the latter. Since women do absolutely everything during pregnancy and almost everything once the kid is born, this is one of those shameful thoughts that force men to admit their moral inferiority while simultaneously reveling in it.
       I tell Diana that the screaming is a good thing. It shows how strong Eve is and has the value of tiring her out sufficiently so that maybe she will sleep clear on to, say, 5 a.m. I change Eve in the morning. Diana changes her most of the rest of the time. I am inordinately proud of myself each time I do it, but it's really not so bad. Being a dad is great because the entire scope of your responsibilities is so limited by nature, but the degree of happiness it brings you isn't. As with "aging gracefully" and all that moral animal stuff, it's one more area where biology has been incomprehensibly kinder to men than to women.
       We took Eve Rose outside yesterday for the first time ever. For both practical and ceremonial reasons, we wheeled her to Central Park. We have lived on the Upper West Side for seven months now but have always felt like impostors without the requisite baby carriage to navigate. I was a little worried because I once had a cat that had never been taken outside, and in doing so, I traumatized it for life. Eve was so bundled up, however, she hardly seemed to notice.
       It was a beautiful afternoon and the plan was to walk her over to the band shell, where the band Cheap Trick--according to an ad in the Voice--was to re-create its Live at Budokan concert. I knew a guy in high school who had bragged that he had seen the Beatles at Shea Stadium when he was barely 5. I don't know if it was true, but it sure sounded cool. I wanted Eve to be able to brag that she had seen Cheap Trick when she was only 12 days old. Mathematically speaking, I figured that Cheap Trick was almost 1/150 as good as the Beatles, and anyway, it was all I had. But the Voice has got so crappy you can't even believe the ads anymore, and there was no concert. This was just as well, however, since Diana's plan was to turn around the moment Cheap Trick became audible. My plan was the same one I have in all matters relating to Eve Rose: surrender.
       Later in the day, riding my bike to pick up supplies while Eve Rose and Diana entertained admirers, I experienced my first Woody-Soon-Yi sighting. They were walking up Columbus, arm in arm, to the only really fancy restaurant in the neighborhood. All along the way, people acted as if two naked people had just gone by. Some people stared. A few pointed. More than one even gasped. But no one interrupted them. Here is the most famous and most argued-about couple in the city, and they can walk down the street entirely unharassed. And Rudy Giuliani thinks we need civility lessons?
       Woody, I love you, but stay away from my daughter!

Eric Alterman is a columnist for The Nation and MSNBC. His daughter, Eve Rose Alterman, was born on April 6, 1998 (7 lbs., 11 oz.).