The task was twofold: To see what parenthood is all about, and to see if Mercury staffers are up to the task. Scott Moore and Marjorie Skinner volunteered to "parent" a flour-sack baby for five days. Then we upped the stakes, and turned the flour-baby project into a competition, to see who was the better parent (which other staffers took as license to kidnap, hide, and generally molest the babies).
Two five-pound sacks of flour were magically transformed into a baby boy and a baby girl, with the help of a pair of discarded baby dolls from Goodwill, and secondhand baby clothes—a flowered onesie for the girl, and a mini baseball jersey, embroidered with "Little Champion," for the boy. The dolls were dismembered and reattached to the flour sacks, then dressed up and swaddled in blankets. Finally, Scott and Marjorie got to meet their instant offspring. AMY JENNIGES
FATHER OF THE FUCKING YEAR
by Scott Moore
The moment she was handed to me, I knew my life had completely changed forever (if by "completely" I mean "superficially" and by "forever" I mean "for the next five days"). I knew that every waking moment would be spent dedicated to, and worrying about, little Marge Goldengloves Chalula Moore, the five-pound sack of flour and doll parts that my sadistic editor was forcing me to carry around.
As it turns out, all that worrying and fear was totally grounded in reality. The world is extremely dangerous for flour babies—around every corner is a coworker waiting with a large knife, or a "best friend" who wants to throw the baby on a barbeque. If I took my eyes away from her for even a second, someone was likely to throw her out of a second-story window or shove her off a table.
But, like any great father, I did my very best to protect her, even if it meant reacting to threats—both real and perceived—with physical violence. (Sorry about your foot, Erik Henriksen.)
(Actually, no I'm not, you artless, baby-snatching motherfucker.)
On the other hand, unlike other Mercury employees with flour babies, I couldn't keep her locked away from the real world—couldn't ship her off to a sitter just because things got scary or inconvenient. For five full days, Goldengloves was at my side nonstop, from hopping happy hours to barbeques to a quiet night of reading during her last night with me. I didn't ask to be saddled with her, but she was my child and I wasn't embarrassed to be seen with her (unlike someone else I could name).
Here's what I've learned during my time as the father of a flour baby: Babies, whether made of real baby material or a five-pound sack of flour, are not nearly as fragile as you'd expect. Sure, you can't throw them out of a second-story window, or allow a coworker to throw them out of a second-story window, but you also can't be so afraid of an injury that you don't allow them to live—or, in the case of a flour baby, not live. If you treat your children like they're made of porcelain, they're going to grow up acting like they're made of porcelain.
The second thing I learned is even more important: Other young parents are fucking insufferable. For days on end I had to listen to Marjorie Skinner talk about what a better parent she is, and how my baby's blanket is dirty, and how I'm being too clingy, or not clingy enough. Of course, I was offering the same unsolicited advice to her the entire time.
So, maybe the biggest lesson that should be learned from this little "experiment" is that, as undeniably hot as it is, you should never have unprotected teenage sex because it'll lead to a baby and your friends will hate you. And constantly try to kill your baby. I'm pretty sure this is exactly what my parents went through.
P.S. On second thought, fuck this. Not more than 30 minutes before my parenting obligations were finished, Mercury Arts Editor Chas Bowie made yet another grab for my baby and tossed her in a dumpster. Only this time, I didn't have the strength to "give chase" (as Chas put it—only a fucking nerd would use that term). After five days of warding off constant, imminent attacks against my child, I finally came to the conclusion that I could do no more. Keeping these fucking dingoes away from my child was like pushing shit up a hill—the job could never be completed and only left me smelly and angry. Now, like any good father, all I can think about is revenge.
BABIES: MORE WORK THAN PUPPIES
by Marjorie Skinner
I think the idea was tossed around once or twice during the course of my formal sexual education, but never came to fruition: That of simulated teen parenthood, in which two student "parents"—usually paired in a fabricated parental duo—are given charge of a fake infant, traditionally incarnated as an egg (to emphasize fragility) or a flour sack (to more closely simulate the size and weight of an actual specimen).
Since I missed out during my After-School Special years, I volunteered to take on the task as an adult. And yeah, technically I'm an adult.
Okay, frankly I don't want to have a baby any more than I want to ruin my figure and develop an annoying pathology over inanely namby-pamby shit like what angle a car seat should be adjusted to in order to be in the lowest statistically dangerous position.
If I saw myself as a mom, it'd be something I would want to do without any vigilante pediatricians inputting paranoid horseshit about teddy bears being lethal. I think that as a human female I should be able to learn how to be a mother from my own fucking body. Let nature take its course, instead of browbeating people for not having read all the books on how to do something that existed for eternities prior to the inception of written language. (Britney, I feel for you, hon.) So basically I figured it wouldn't be that hard.
My bundle, aptly christened Little Champion, was just such. Resolved as I was to protecting him, when I first experienced the coyote-like designs of my predatory coworkers (who, in their indomitable maturity, were relentless in their aims to kidnap and destroy Little Champion), I learned immediately to keep him under close watch. (Unlike some flour-baby parents in the house, who were seen dropping their kid, torturing and humiliating it by using a (probably toxic) Sharpie to draw facial hair on it, allowing it to be pushed off of furniture, thrown into dumpsters, dangled out of windows, and generally failing at the simple task of keeping up their end of a game of "keep away.")
The hostility with which Li'l Champ was treated was one of the more glaringly unrealistic qualities of this flaw-ridden experiment, further fleshed out by the general public response to a young woman with an actual baby as opposed to a shawl-concealed lump that is creepily silent and inanimate, but held at the hip in the manner of an actual baby (dead baby?). For instance: Women with actual babies are less likely to be hurled through the windshield of public buses by cranky drivers in the morning. People tend to help them. And they have less trouble looking anyone in the eye and spend less time hoping they don't run into anyone they know.
Also unrealistic were my bloodthirsty office mates' objections to the fact that my mostly functional relationship with the presumed father allowed for successful childcare sharing. I maintain that having your squalling, suckling vanity project in the care of its other parent during a 10-plus-hour workday is not only legitimate, sensible, and courteous, but what actual parents do. But nooo, this was termed "cheating" and a "cop out," even though the arrangement was by far the most realistic action in the entire endeavor.
On the last day of Little Champion's silent and stoic tenure, I did double duty when a friend dropped off her eight-week-old puppy so she could go to work (ahem). A living being, it peed and ate, slept, and futzed around, generally requiring about 20 times the amount of supervision within four hours than Li'l Champion had mustered over four days. This only underscored the already apparent fact that this useless exercise had only served as yet another dimly amusing competition. And I can't tell you I wasn't happy to finally kick shut the desk drawer that Little Champion had been using as a makeshift cradle.
I also found a few other good reasons not to breed. (1) It turns me into a real self-righteous bitch. And (2) Puppies are cuter.
AND THE WINNER IS...
Throughout the week, it was evident that neither Marjorie nor Scott are ready to be real parents. Both babies were successfully kidnapped, and Scott's kid ended up in a dumpster. Marjorie let her baby ride in the front seat of a Camaro, Britney Spears-style (when told this was illegal by an actual parent, she replied, "I'm not going to raise a pussy."). Scott's bundle of joy sported a Sharpie-ink "beard" so she'd resemble her father (A father who defended the makeover by claiming "the parenting competition hasn't started yet!" Confidential to Scott: Parenthood starts when someone hands you a baby.).
Despite Marjorie's heroic tackle to rescue her baby from its kidnappers, Scott emerged as the more passionate, well-intentioned parent. He brought little Marge to work every day, and made sure she was with a trusted caregiver when he was unable to watch over her (Read: When he wanted to take a smoke break.). He clutched her tight whenever he heard kidnappers' voices, and appeared to forge a bond with his daughter—that is, until Chas threw her in the dumpster. AJ