October 16, 2007

Shanghaied
Hanoi, Vietnam

Shanghai—the word recently used by a friend to describe what he would never let a woman do to him… implying that it's what he thought has happened to me.

As defined by Urban Dictionary:

Term describing a type of kidnapping. Back in the 17th and 18th century in back alleys behind orphanages and bars there were trap doors that were watched and opened on drunken people or wandering children, then the children or drunks were beaten up until unconscious and brought aboard a ship to do slave labor out at sea until they died.

And Wikipedia:

Until 1915 unfree labor was widely used aboard American merchant ships. A person conscripted to such work was said to have been shanghaied when coercive techniques such as trickery, intimidation, or violence were used. Those engaged in this form of kidnapping were known as crimps. The verb "to shanghai" joined the lexicon with "crimping" and "sailor thieves" in 1850s. The accepted theory of word's origin is that it comes from the Chinese city of Shanghai, a common destination of the ships with abducted crews. The term has since expanded to mean "kidnapped" or "induced to do something by means of fraud."

I'd say that at least half of my male friends are still suspicious and unhappy about Tatiana's pregnancy, with particular emphasis on how long she waited to tell me. "She gave you the hard sell," the same friend continued.

A division has formed between the genders. Whereas most every woman I know has sent messages of congratulations or encouragement over the past two and a half months, concerns about me being cornered into a decision still loom with many of the men I'm close with—"I think you should bail. It looks like a trap from all angles," another said.

An e-mail conversation I had today with a long-time friend articulates the sentiment further:

So, ready to be a dad yet?

I suppose not—but is any first-time father ready for such things? :)

Is any first-time father ready for such things? Definitely. I think it's a matter of strategic life-planning. The idea is not to upset your life in a way that forces you to compromise your dreams and ambitions.

Yes, a father can be ready in terms of strategic life-planning, but I was thinking of something more along the lines of 3 a.m. feedings, diapers, and the such. I know nothing about children, or what it takes to properly care for an infant. This is the readiness of which I speak. Hell, I've never even held a baby before.

Any idea what you're going to do after the birth? Job? Residence? How are you and Tatiana? She's clearly irresponsible, self-centered, and lacks sound judgment.

What do I want out of life? Well, I suppose it's to live abroad, travel in countries I've never seen, and smile (more than frown) every day. Will this mission be amended to include the support of my son? Probably. To what extent or in what capacity, I do not yet know. But I do know I have a sense of obligation to this child, and can't envision myself becoming some sort of dead-beat dad. Regardless my relationship with Tatiana in 2008, or in 2018, I will accept and support him, for he is a part of me.

As for a job—no, not in the traditional sense. I still plan on continuing to write and travel, and with the launch of a project (the Travelvice Compendium) that I'll have the opportunity to build while I'm stationary in Lima, I hope to one day have a steady stream of income from Adsense revenue. Hopefully this will be enough to support me, and in time, help support the little nomad.

I know it's a friends job to challenge—and I thank you—but I hate feeling like I'm on the defensive for staying by her side. The girl isn't the clear-cut case of irresponsibility and self-centeredness you have in your mind. I know you (and others) are only working with the information you have in front of you, and personal experiences in the past. But trust me when I say that it brings me down to hear such comments, because by insulting her, you're taking hurtful jabs at my decisions and greater mental health.

I can understand the loyalty you feel to your unborn son. Actually my greater fear isn't you suddenly being a father, it's being caught up in an uncertain relationship that circumstances kind of forced upon you. The thought of having a woman who will permanently be in my life in some capacity without having planned it is anathema to me and I imagine it would have been to you too a few months ago.

You shouldn't feel you need to be on the defensive, because I'm not on the offensive. I hope you realize that. Believe me when I tell you that it would be all smiles if we knew you were happy about this but you haven't voiced that you are. I think your own silence and uncertainty on the matter confuses and stresses your friends. You seem off balance, and that upsets us.

I can understand his point of view, as I suppose I haven't been writing e-mails en mass to friends and family about Tatiana and me. If people write, I answer, but most friends and family haven't really been querying me—perhaps waiting on the sidelines to see what happens. Were the situation reversed, I might exude the same type of cautious apprehension.

So perhaps I should take moment to say that I've really enjoyed the past 79 days with Tatiana. Together we've traveled through the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand, and are now in Vietnam. Never before have I seen a pregnant backpacker, and Tatiana carries herself (with her unborn child on her front and her gear on her back) in a way I thought incapable of a mother-to-be.

As an American male, I think we're implanted with the idea that the day-to-day life of a father-to-be is full stress, Lamaze classes, errand running, and excessive pampering for a grumpy/needy partner. Life has been everything but that with Tatiana.

I am naturally nurturing to the women in my life, and find nothing out of the ordinary with giving Tatiana the physical and emotional support she needs to feel comfortable and loved. The most stress I feel revolves around food, and trying find her healthy items she wants to eat (in a persistently changing and foreign environments). I also have the responsibility to remind her to take a daily prenatal vitamin, because it's practically impossible to have a completely balanced diet every day. The problem with the vitamin is that she can't bring herself to swallow pills of any kind, so finding a street vendor to liquefy it in a blended shake or crushing it and mixing it into orange juice, milk, or yogurt has been the workaround.

SE Asia can be a lonely place for independent travelers. Private rooms are the norm, not hostels, so meeting people outside of bars (which I don't go to) is problematic. It's been a delight to have someone to share SE Asia with, even though the experience is more anti-social when traveling with a partner.

Neither Tatiana or I have spent this much continuous time with a single person before in our lives. Since we're traveling together, we're around each other for 22+ hours out of the day. We each have curious, easy-going personalities, and she's more than willing trust that the tailored pregnant-Tatiana travel path I research and select for us will be a good one.

Ever since I left the United States I've said that couples traveling together truly test their relationship to the max. A day abroad is like 10 at home. The stress of travel splits many partners faster than a bolt of lightning the sky, but Tatiana and I are doing surprisingly well.

We've got about two more weeks in Vietnam, a week in the U.S., and then we'll be in the home of her parents in Peru. I'm preparing for Lima as best I can, and know I'll have experience few will get: To live in a three-story house with Tatiana, both of her parents, her two sisters, her bother, her brother's girlfriend and their two young children, a dog, and at least one or two guests that will show for Christmas—wow.

Wish me luck.

Comments:

John

October 31st, 2007

Sounds like you're handling this quite well balancing flexibility, responsibility and practicality. I'm sure there is no need to remind you to trust your sense of what's right, best for you and then simply do what you do.

Maya

November 1st, 2007

No comments on the "male friends" that talk withouth knowing Sh**… what everyone seems to miss is the factthat you are as free as staying with tatiana or not, and you are staying because you want, and if you leave, you´ll do it for the same reason… in this days what is a normal family anyway???
All i can say is that no matter what, you already give us a present, a nephiew a grandchild, one more in our family, one more that we are going to love and care for the same way we care every new member of the family, so for that i thank you and Tatiana…
About that house mmmmmmm been there done that! and i expect to be one of the guest for xmas, as i´ll be working there too, so expect the unespected jajajaj and of course, TONS OF FOOD!!!!! trust me i know….
A big hug.

Kevin

November 4th, 2007

So, according to this friend of yours, what exactly makes Tatiana irresponsible? (???) She certainly seems the opposite, willing to take care of your son despite the circumstances which are by far more complicated to her, let me tell you. As a latina, I'm sure she must've told you how bad it is for them to be a single mom. It's actually pretty brave of her. In any case, this friend of yours who "worries" so much, does he ever ask you about your son's development or your son's mom well-being? It is extremely important that a pregnant woman be as happy and stress-free as possible, otherwise it has consequences on the baby such as pre-term labor (stress releases hormones that produce uterine contractions). I wonder how she feels being attacked like that. If he cares that much he should not act like this even if he doesn't like the girl because it affects your son too. I'm sure if she were such a bad person as he thinks, you wouldn't have hooked up with her in the first place, much less repeatedly.

Joshua

November 4th, 2007

Hold on… I must've missed something here… did you ever say that she was forcing you to give up your nomadic lifestyle, buy her a house in the suburbs somewhere in the US, get her 3 golden retrievers and have 4 more children with her? Fess up! Is she forcing you to do so? That's what your friends seem to believe. I don't know you, obviously, but you sound like someone very capable of making your own decisions. I'm sure it's your friend's love for you that makes him say such things but perhaps he ought to remember that you're not 12 anymore. I'm glad you two are doing well, and you're certainly right when you say couples are tested during trips (trust me, I know, I've been there). That's a great relationship you have. Don't be dumb and spoil it by listening to people who have not met her or seen you two together. You can tell a lot about couples by the way they interact. Once your friends have actually seen this they'll be able to have a more accurate opinion about you and her. Good luck!

Anonymous

November 6th, 2007

It sounds as if you have taken the position of a gentleman, which is more than commendable. What you need to understand is that you have impacted people's lives and they are SUPER worried about your well being. You SHOULD NOT TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY, but rather realize that those you have come to know are concerned, not only with your current well being but also with your future. Pretend it was your brother. Cuidate MUCHO.

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