Make-believe for Adults

I am pleased to announce that, in the near future, in conjunction with some of my male friends, we will be launching a new program to help other men experience what it is like to give birth. We plan to call it “Baby Maybe.”

On occasion, we, as a gender, are not always as empathetic as we might be. Well, let’s be honest, we’re frequently just clueless. And, while science hasn’t proven it yet, we’re pretty certain there’s a strong inverse correlation between an excess of testosterone and normal brain functioning. Thus, the need for Baby Maybe to help us get more in touch with our feminine side.

We don’t really think it’s necessary to consult with any women who have been through labor because our panel of male advisers at Baby Maybe thinks they have a pretty good idea of what the experience is like. After all, they’ve watched a couple of shows on PBS and Discovery Health. Besides, real men don’t ask for help.

The creative staff at Baby Maybe knows we can’t really create the latter stages of pregnancy but, to give some idea, we plan to pump, oh, about twenty or thirty pounds of air into a guy’s abdomen. They’re not really sure of the best way to have this done, although some fairly gruesome suggestions have been considered. We’re still working on the details.

Frankly, our creative staff is also stumped as to how to recreate the moment of birth. They have received a number of unsolicited suggestions from women; but all of them are far too ghastly to describe here, and no guy in his right mind would go through them anyway.

Our research staff has, however, created a “crying baby” app that will be released soon to simulate that magical moment when the baby takes its first breath. We know that this, coupled with a Barbie from Amazon, is not exactly the same as the real experience, but it’s close enough.

If the idea of Baby Maybe sounds more than a little goofy, it is because I’m exaggerating, but not by much, to make a point. While the suggestion that a bunch of men could unilaterally create an experience that would even remotely simulate child birth is preposterous, any number of well-meaning non-disabled individuals have, in recent years, begun to design “experiences” that they believe simulate living with a range of disabilities. I’m certainly in no position to judge how useful these are for other disabilities, but, at least for the ones I’m familiar with that attempt to simulate blindness, they strike me as ranging from useless to counter-productive.

The people doing these have the very best of intentions. However, I think that simply blindfolding someone for a few minutes and asking them to walk around a parking lot or a simple obstacle course and pretending that this in any way simulates blindness is only slightly less goofy than Baby Maybe.

Strange as it may seem, these “experiences” are almost invariably created exclusively, or at least primarily, by people who are sighted. So, they have about as much experience with blindness as the men of Baby Maybe have with child birth.

My real objection to this pseudo-simulation is that I’m pretty sure that it does more harm than good. People are placed in a situation of suddenly losing all of their vision, instantly disoriented, and, most important, having no training on how to adjust. It’s scarcely any wonder that most people, like the first woman I ever knew who went through one of these experiences, remove the blindfold and concluded, “I’m sure thankful I’m not blind.” A simulation like this makes about as much sense as giving a teenager the keys to the car for the first time and expecting them to drive on the highway.

It is not uncommon, when people are losing their vision and learning mobility skills, to be blindfolded. This helps the student to learn to concentrate using their other senses and not to “cheat” by depending on the limited vision they may still have. In this case, however, the blindfolding is being supervised by a skilled professional, not a well-intentioned amateur. More importantly, the process contributes to real independence and not a feeling of helplessness. The goal, after all, should be an awareness of the positive and not reinforcement of the negative.

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These posts may also be of interest:
Can You See Anything?
I Think You Can’t; I Think You Can’t
Behind Stage at the Magic Show

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