2023.33 : Got Her Pregnant With Time

Tokyo, Japan Circa 2008

Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common denominator. But among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh.

— W. H. Auden​

The Japanese real estate, residential, and commercial property development industry is operated by a cabal of retired male government officials and their not-so-silent partners, the Yakuza (also known as the Japanese mob). Upper management comprises men who spent decades working their way up from the lower floors. Let’s look past any institutional sexism and just acknowledge that the many women who have entered these companies are encountering a decades-long queue.

Of course, exceptions exist, and Ariko is one such exception. Her bosses hold such complete belief in her that they assigned her the daunting task of purchasing land for a luxury building in Tokyo. This was followed by interactions with the hard men of the demolition industry, guiding architects and general contractors to construct this high-rise. She was so successful that they appointed her as the general manager to ensure near full occupancy.

Ariko personally approved all new tenants. I was immediately drawn to her and asked her out on a date a couple of times, until she said, “I can’t date anyone in the company, adjacent to the company, let alone a tenant.” Once a year for the next four years, I reminded her to inform me if she had any plans to leave the company, because I was still interested.

One day, she said, ‘let’s go get coffee.’ Hey now, I thought. Okay. She told me that her company had requested her to replicate her Tokyo success, but this time in Dubai. Yes, in a country where sexism in corporate and construction fields makes Japan Inc. look like hard-left progressives. Her bosses were confident that the right man for the job was a woman named Ariko.

The type of transfer her company arranged relieved her of dating restrictions. The second date quickly escalated into engaging conversation. At one point, I mentioned that I felt like I had a maximum of two years left before the door would close on my chance to have children of my own. Though, not due to biology, which is a serious consideration.

She said, ‘that’s not true, you have plenty of time.’ To which I replied, “Oh… you haven’t done the time math yet, have you?!” I still remember the look on her face—an eye of the tiger, sensing that there was something important she had missed. She asked me to explain, which follows:

I’m 42 and single. If I started the search tonight to find a woman I would both want to marry and have children with, let’s say that takes one year.

Couple at age 43.

Then a quick 18 months of dating, followed by six months of engagement.

Married at age 45.

Two years as a married couple before bringing children into the mix. Pregnancy, then birth. A round number, 3 years.

Age 48 with first child.

I feel strongly that I don’t want to be a parent if I don’t have at least one grandchild. With children getting married much later in life, our child is 36 when they start having children.

Grandparent at age 84!

Ariko hasn’t said a word. Her eyes are locked with mine. She’s hanging on every word. I can see smoke coming out of her ears, not because she’s mad, but because she’s running multiple spreadsheet calculations in her mind at blazing speeds.

Another strongly held belief I have, I tell her, is that a woman’s relationship to very young children is distinct from a man’s relationship. The type of man I am, I would need the child to be at least ten years old before I could properly begin to bond with them. I would take it upon myself to help them prepare for life when they go out on their own.

Bonding with a grandchild starts at age 94!

And if I’m going to build a family with my wife, I want many grandchildren, most of whom I will never meet.

I see my first grandchild graduate college at age 106! I won’t be there for them when they need me most!!!

Once I was done, Ariko leaned back in her chair. She said nothing as she was processing all that was in her mind. Then she simply said, “I see what you mean.”

Before I could arrange a third date, she relocated to Dubai. We lost touch.

Eighteen months later, a friend asked me if I wanted an update on Ariko. Yes, I did. She landed in Dubai, started the immensely intricate building of the new property, met a man she hadn’t known before, married him, and gave birth to their child. All in 18 months!!! My kind of woman. She knows what she wants, and she makes it happen.

That’s why I say I got a woman pregnant with math. Strike that. Through an appreciation for time.

That’s why I chose to pair this essay with this week’s photograph. When I look up and see streaks left behind from a jet airliner, I don’t see chemtrails. I don’t see folks heading to far-off destinations.

I see time racing past. I see the possible becoming impossible. I see the birth of regrets.

Then I recommit myself to follow Ariko’s example. To make time for those I hold dear, making the most of the time we have left. No excuses to tell. No fears empowered. Dislodge the hydrant that keeps love from flowing. To ensure that those we love always know they are cherished. That within each of us, they possess at least one witness to their lives.

And now… know the photograph.

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