A messy modern family


Photo via Amazon.com
By lorraine duffy merkl

Bravo’s Andy Cohen recently welcomed a baby boy, Benjamin, into his life via surrogate. He’s now joined other celebrities such as Kimye, SJP, Tyra Banks, Neil Patrick Harris, Nicole Kidman, Dylan Lauren, Elton John, Giuliana Rancic and Jimmy Fallon to name a few, who’ve used this now-mainstream practice to expand their families.

Although all have used this alternative birthing method without incident, Falguni Kothari, author of “The Object of Your Affections,” shows us what can happen when the surrogate is a BFF who has a crush on your husband.

Naira and Neal both have baby fever; too bad they aren’t married to each other.

Widowed and childless Naira’s bestie, Paris, is Neal’s wife and doesn’t want children. She however is willing to compromise on this issue to hold on to her husband, as long as she doesn’t actually have to have the baby.

“Naira, I’m asking you, I’m begging you to take the kid off my hands.” I read this line and the words watch what you wish for began to flash neon sign-style in my head.

Can they all truly embrace this modern family they’re about to create?

Well, the title of the novel’s Part Two, “The Tri Mess-ters,” shows you the direction things are going in.

The story is set ever-appropriately in New York City, where friends asking too much of friends is de rigueur. Unlike natives like me, most Manhattanites have left relatives far behind and form families out of colleagues, neighbors and friends of friends. It’s comforting for one to know there’s someone to call at 11 p.m. for an ER escort because errant Krazy Glue landed in one’s eye, but the bigger the asks get, the more of a chance the friendship will fizzle.

Carry my baby is a pretty big request, oh yes, and will you co-parent, too?

The book is a roller coaster ride of watching downtown-via-the Upper East Side Paris hatch her plan, get Neal on board, and Naira to agree then go through IVF, and give birth to twins no less; all the while Naira and Neal get closer and Paris becomes jealous and resentful.

Kothari is a gifted storyteller, but rather than hoping that Paris will suddenly be overcome by maternal instincts, I kept wondering if she would have been happier had she been true to herself.

When she gets word that Naira is in labor, Paris hesitates before rushing to join the surrogate mother-to-be and Neal. She never wanted any of this. An ambitious ADA, this feminist derived satisfaction from fighting for social justice; working all day prosecuting criminals then volunteering for legal causes in the evenings. Changing diapers, attending — let alone making costumes for — the school play, policing the completion of homework; all the joys and tedium of being a mom could never hold her interest like a good closing argument. She knew it, and yet, she went through with it anyway.

It sounds more familiar than I’d like it to. Both personally and professionally, I meet my share of divorced New Yorkers, whose marriages ended for various reasons, but seem to utter the same phrase when telling their stories: “I never really wanted children, in fact, I never wanted to get married in the first place ...” but did, citing social pressure from a parent, friends who were all engaged or married, or their significant others.

Paris ended up feeling guilty for who she was, even though that’s who Neal fell in love with. “He’d accepted me with all my flaws. But as soon as I’d dangled the carrot of family in front of him ... he flipped. It had validated all my fears about us. Hadn’t I always known deep in me that we would end?”

And they still might.

As I closed this page-turner, I was so anxious for the sequel I began to write it in my head. In my follow-up: Paris had given motherhood the ol’ college try, but alas just could not muster up enough maternal feelings to see it as anything but a grind. She leaves Naira and Neal to nurture while she makes a success of herself. Paris returns when the kids are grown and she can relate to them more on a friend level.

Cynical? Perhaps. You’ll just have to read “The Object of Your Affections” for yourself and decide if love and friendship are worth denying one’s own dreams.

Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels “Fat Chick” and “Back to Work She Goes.”