Ciara's Reviews > Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made

Accidentally on Purpose by Mary F. Pols
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Nov 17, 10

bookshelves: autobio-memoir, read-in-2010
Read in November, 2010

a memoir about a 39-year-old single movie critic for a bay area weekly who finds herself pregnant after a one-night stand with a cute 29-year-old at the bar. not really her fault, turns out the dude just decided not to use a condom after she asked him to get one.

she worries that this may be her last chance to become a mother (short of adopting, which is always an option). she'd kind of been holding out for the whole loving husband-planned children scenario, but the biological clock is ticking & she can't really bring herself to contemplate having an abortion if it means throwing away her potential last opportunity to give birth. so she decides to make a go of the single parenting thing. she calls the baby-daddy, matt, & breaks the news to him, offering him the chance to be as involved in the baby's life as he wishes. it turns out that he is very interested in being involved in the baby's life. his own parents divorced when he was five years old, & he thinks it's important for a child to know both parents. but that doesn't mean he wants a relationship with the author.

the next third of the book is all about the pregnancy--mostly just stories about how much the author is puking. she & matt continue to hook up on occasion, though he seems to be pretty firm on the topic of not wanting to pursue a relationship. he lives in a hovel of a shared house with a bunch of other man-children, he's feckless about employment opportunities, he has no money whatsoever...he just wants a relationship with the baby. the author finds a local single mom support group, & they encourage her to avoid putting matt's name on the birth certificate in case things go sour down the road & he tries to sue her for visitation rights. as much as she is providing him a chance to be involved, she's definitely considering herself the primary custodian. which is fair, i think.

not that she is so great with money either. she's 39 with a baby on the way, but she is still living paycheck to paycheck. she doesn't even have enough savings to put down a security deposit on a larger apartment, let alone cover the cost of day care & all those other baby expenses. which kind of blows my mind. i'm only 31, but i make less than half as much money as this lady & i put a percentage of it into savings every single month. it's not a huge nest egg, but it's more than enough for a security deposit on a new apartment, or even a pretty nice used car. i had to teach myself fiscal responsibility because lord knows it's a foreign concept to my parents, but it's IMPORTANT. especially when you are thinking about bringing a child into the picture. i really do not understand people who claim that they can't eke any savings out of their incomes. what the hell are these people spending their money on?

anyway, because she's broke as a joke, she moves into a friend's backyard trailer home for a month or two while she scrapes together the funds for a new apartment. she has little spats with matt over the little annoying things he does that indicate to the author that he's not taking enough of an interest in the pregnancy. for example, she recommended that he check out a website to keep up with each new week of fetal development, & he declines, saying he already has enough baby books to look at. she gets really mad because she thinks the website is interesting & interprets his disinterest as disinterest in the baby. i see where she's going with it...but not every little thing needs to be a federal case. save your scolding for when someone really fucks up.

also, when she has amnio to check out the baby's health & gender, she throws a temper tantrum over the fact that she's having a boy. "can't one thing go the way i want it to?" she wails. she kind of admits that she's being really bratty, but jeez louise. i know some people get really attached to their idea of what gender they would prefer, but i don't know how wise it is to publish in a book that baby may be able to read someday.

anyway, the baby is born. both matt & the author immediately fall in love with him. they try to make the co-parenting thing work, but almost immediately, matt receives a bunch of baby gifts from a woman who frequents the same bar as he does. the author is all like, "why is she giving you gifts? did you sleep with her?" he denies it for a while, but finally admits that he did. & the author FLIPS THE FUCK OUT. yes, it was totally a dick move for him to sleep with some other lady (without a condom!--did he learn nothing from this unplanned pregnancy?) while he was still sleeping with the author, who was pregnant with their child, but he was also making it clear that they weren't in a relationship, he didn't want a relationship, etc etc etc. i think both of them handled this situation very poorly. the author even make him go to couples counseling to address it.

this is where i really started to lose my patience with the author.

then there's a bunch of stuff about the author's elderly parents getting sick & dying. they die within a year of each other, though the mother has been suffering from dementia for fifteen years, so was already pretty checked out. look, my dad is dead, i know this shit is no picnic & that it's almost impossible not to talk about it. but because my dad died at the tender age of 48, when i was just barely 23, i have a really difficult time sympathizing with people whose parents live a full long life & then die when their children are adult & have gotten to have a couple of adult decades to have adult relationships with their parents. & maybe this is wrong of me, but i also have a hard time feeling that bad for people who know their loved one are going to die, because they die of an illness. it must be absolutely horrible & heartbreaking to watch your loved one suffer & be sick...but you get to say goodbye & wrap up affairs & prepare yourself emotionally (as much as you ever can with a death). i never got any of that & it still makes me angry, eight & a half years later. i just picked up the phone one day & my sister said, "dad's dead," & that was that. it really sucked.

anyway, moving on. once the author is back in california & recovering from her parents' deaths, she has far more energy to expend complaining about matt's shiftlessness & basically attempting to be his mother. she buys him a car because she's tired of picking him up all the time to babysit & spend the time with the kid. (why can't he buy his own care? or take the bus?) she tries to teach him to prepare & eat healthy food to deal with his severe colitis, because apparently his own parents never taught him to eat vegetables. he doesn't even know what broccoli looks like. she lets him stay with her, rent-free, while he looks for a new apartment. she scolds him a lot over his temp job & harangues him to ask for a permanent position. she pays for him to take a business class when he says he may be interested in working in finance.

basically, the dude seriously sounds like a complete & total loser. yes, he sounds like a good father who loves his son, but there's more to being a good father than just liking to play with your kid & wanting to spend time with him. the author mentions that matt has never once cut the baby's fingernails. um...keeping the baby's fingernails trimmed is actually kind of important. otherwise, the baby will scratch himself & look like he was mauled by a tiger. this matt dude sounds like little more than a really enthusiastic babysitter. & it sounds like having a one-night stand with this older woman is pretty much the best thing that ever happened to him. if i have some random dude's baby, will he buy me a car & send me to advanced degree classes? where do i sign up?

but the author also has her own issues in her reluctance to just let matt do his thing. she keeps saying that she owes it to her son to help matt & make sure he's doing all right. which sounds liek she's loading baggage on to this baby nice & early. the whole thing just sounds like a great big huge mess in which no one has any self-awareness whatsoever.

i walked away thinking, "these yahoos have a baby & i don't? how the fuck is that fair?"

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