“Sophomore Choices,” by Anthony Inverso, appeared in the Summer 2018 issue of MQR.
Anthony Inverso’s “Sophomore Choices” appealed to me not only for its sharp humor, but for the conversation it starts on the nature of masculinity and fatherhood. The Catholic high school boys in this story believe that their Religion class assignment — watch over and protect animated baby dolls for a week, as single fathers — is beneath them. I love how clearly and forcefully the boys take ownership of their entitlement.
“Our babies were unborn. They were manufactured by Mattel. Plastic or not we had no capacity to deal with crying children. We had no time for child rearing. Didn’t we struggle enough in managing the minutiae of our own lives? We masturbated far too frequently to care for another human being.”
The story’s immediate strength is the first-person plural narration. In using the “we” perspective throughout, Inverso creates a pack of boys, boys who understand nothing of parenthood, who are all, in some way, concerned with what it means to care for a child and how that might damage their individual manhood. “Tuesday night of Baby Week devastated us. The crying! We were men. We fled from weeping so our classmates disassociated us with it. Now we had to carry it by cradle.”
The discussion of what it means “to be a man” right now, in 2018 — in the time of #MeToo and the Womens’ March on Washington and post-feminism — is an important one. As Inverso pokes fun at the boys’ posturing towards manhood, he also illuminates how the complications of patriarchy affect us all.
–Thea Chacamaty, MQR Staff
We were high school sophomores, single fathers all. We were as unprepared for parenthood as anyone else, but we had dramatically worse acne.
The timing of Baby Week at St. Joseph’s School for Young Men was awful. Father Romello chose such a stressful Monday to assign us offspring. He should have stuck to his lessons on saints, on Maximilian Kolbe and Faustina Kowalska. Several hours before receiving our babies, we had an unplanned morning chapel service, and those never brought good news. The priests informed us Mrs. Rochester, the librarian, had passed away over the weekend. No one cried. In an all-male prep school, tears attracted bullies like bloodhounds to a scent. Nevertheless, we felt ill at ease with how young we were, with how dead she had become.
“It is the circle of life,” said Father Romello of Mrs. Rochester’s death, unintentionally quoting Mufasa from The Lion King. “An elderly woman passes. A child is born.”
Our babies were unborn. They were manufactured by Mattel. Plastic or not, we had no capacity to deal with crying children. We had no time for child rearing. Didn’t we struggle enough in managing the minutiae of our own lives? We masturbated far too frequently to care for another human being.
Unimpressed, Father Romello handed each of us a baby and offered a fictionalized backstory which had led to our single fatherhood.
“Master Pomante, you are divorced, your marriage annulled in the eyes of God. Your plumber’s salary barely pays your daughter’s childcare. Master Bianco, you had a son out of wedlock. The mother has fled the continent, was last seen months ago in the bowels of Eastern Europe. Master Christensen, your wife died in childbirth. You will raise your daughter to love Jesus Christ in all his glory. Men, you are the future leaders of the church and of America. Raise your children well.”
Of course Christensen’s baby had the kindest backstory. For Christen-sen, the alphabet stopped at A. He had risen to favorite pupil status in the eyes of priests and lay teachers alike. He combed his hair with the fastidiousness of a six-year-old girl brushing her Barbie. His sport coat had such a fresh-pressed, straight-off-the-hanger look that we wondered if his parents owned a dry cleaners. We figured he would make Eagle Scout before celebrating his sixteenth birthday, and he knew the names of more knots than his scout master. On the soccer field our parents took photos of him. We despised the friendly fucker.
To continue reading, purchase MQR 57:3 or consider a one-year subscription.
Image: Basquiat, Jean-Michel. “Baby Boom,” 1982. Acrylic and crayon on canvas.
Anthony Inverso lives outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His work has appeared in Water~Stone Review, Post Road Magazine, Carve Magazine, and other publications.