The summer after my sophomore year of college, I spent two months in Berlin studying German at the Goethe Institut. After a few days spent adjusting to the time change and another few days spent having nightmares about things like being abandoned by my father at Auschwitz, I started to settle in nicely and get to know some of the people in my class. One of my closest friends was a woman named Sarah, from somewhere in the midwest. She was dating a Frenchman whose hair was too long but who was very charming nonetheless, so I could eventually bring myself to overlook his ill-conceived coiffure.
One evening the three of us were having dinner, and Sarah said, “I think the world can be divided into two groups of people.” I was interested to hear what her two groups were, as I myself usually divide the world into two groups of people; namely, people I hate on the one hand and me on the other hand, but I suspected her groups would be constituted differently. Indeed, I was right. When I asked her what the two groups she was referring to were, she replied, “People who had head injuries as children and people who didn’t.”
I blinked. “What?”
“Yes. You had a head injury as a child, right?”
I had to admit that yes, I had been injured at the tender age of two, cracking my head and bleeding profusely and creating a tiny bald spot on the top of my head. My mother, who had been out shopping, yelled at my father upon her return, “I told you to watch him!”, to which he replied, “I did! I watched him climb up on the sink. I watched him fall. I watched him hit his head.”
“How did you know?” I asked Sarah, as her French boyfriend gazed adoringly at her.
“Oh, I can always tell.” And then she went through our class, dividing its members up. Belen had not had a head injury; Michael had. Gary and Laurent had not; Patrice had. Mario she wasn’t sure about but suspected not. And so on.
The next day, before class started, we went around and asked everybody. Sarah had been right in every single case.
And this is one of the many, many, many reasons I will never have children. Because it was crystal clear that people who had had head injuries as children were better than people who had not, so if I were ever to come into possession of a child I would feel compelled to give it a head injury, for its own future good. But I would have no idea how to hurt it just enough to make it interesting but not enough to make it developmentally disabled. And the resulting paralysis as I tried to figure it out would prevent me from ever getting anything done again.