THE MOST POWERFUL force in the universe is not any kind of nuclear energy. It is not magnetism, gravity or the IRS. The most powerful force in the universe is hormones. If you don't believe me, conduct the following simple scientific experiment:
1. Take a normal woman.
2. Get her pregnant.
3. See if she can walk past a display of baby shoes without stopping.
I've been conducting this experiment for several months now with my wife, Michelle. She's pregnant, and I have reason to believe that I'm the father. I'm excited about this, because I'm at an age -- 52 -- when many of my friends are thinking about retiring to dull, meaningless lives of travel, leisure, recreation and culture. Not me! I'm about to start all over again with a brand- new little Miracle of Life to love, nurture, and -- above all -- become intimately familiar with the poops of.
But so far the big change in my life has been Michelle's behavior. She has never been a particularly maternal person; she's a professional sports writer who has always been one of the guys. She understands the triangle offense and can watch football longer than I can. I've seen her fight her way through frenzied locker-room media mobs to get quotes from giant, sweaty football players. I've seen her stand on the field of 3Com Park in San Francisco right before a baseball playoff game, arguing in Spanish and not backing down one millimeter from a professional baseball player who was (1) very angry about something she'd written and (2) holding a baseball bat.
Like many career women, Michelle insisted that becoming a mother would not change her. She was going to be the same professional person, darn it! She was not going to turn into one of those women who babble obsessively about the baby and baby clothes and all the other baby fixin's. Above all, she was never going to drive a minivan.
I would estimate that, at the present time, my wife's blood supply is 92 percent baby-related hormones. Doctors often call hormones "the Saddam Husseins of the human body," because they are moody, and when they give commands, they expect instant obedience. So for now my wife is not my wife: She is the official spokesperson for crazed dictator hormones. When the hormones wake up, they do not want an affectionate good-morning kiss. They want an uncooked pop-tart, and they want it right now. You do not question them, because they will throw up on you.
The hormones also want baby shoes. I don't know why. I have seen the baby, at the doctor's office, via a procedure called a sonogram, and although of course I think it is a very beautiful and gifted child, it looks, more than anything, like a wad of gum. I frankly cannot imagine, given its current lifestyle in the womb, that footwear is a high priority.
But you try telling this to the hormones. They are crazy for baby shoes. My wife could be fleeing from an armed robber, but if she ran past a display of baby shoes, her hormones would demand that she stop, pick up a shoe, and exclaim to whoever is nearby, even the robber, "Look how cute!" The smaller the shoe is, the cuter the hormones think it is. If somebody came out with a baby shoe the size of a molecule, which could be viewed only through a very powerful microscope, my wife's hormones would make her buy 27 pairs.
The hormones also want baby outfits. Even though the baby is still deep inside my wife and would be very hard to dress without surgical instruments, it already has at least as many outfits as Elizabeth Taylor. If you come to our house for any reason, including to fix an appliance, the hormones will make my wife show you these outfits one at a time, and as each one is held up, you will be expected to agree that it is cute.
Lately the hormones have become obsessed with the decor of the baby's room. They definitely wanted a Winnie the Pooh theme, but they spent weeks agonizing over whether to go with the Regular Pooh or the Classic Pooh theme. They finally decided on Classic Pooh, but of course now they must decide which of the estimated 14 million Classic Pooh baby-room accessories they will need. This is an important issue, and the hormones think about it all the time, even during football games. Any day now, Michelle is going to walk up to a defensive tackle in the Miami Dolphins locker room and ask him what he thinks about the Pooh ceiling border. This is not her fault. The hormones are in the driver's seat.
Speaking of which, they want a minivan.