Turning fish fingers into people

This is my shameless attempt to get some help brainstorming an essay. If this is out of line, Amp, feel free to take the post down.

Two years ago – and it’s scary how the time has slipped past – I was in the very early stages of pregnancy, and I never seemed to have any energy left. By afternoon, I was often so exhausted I just took to my bed and slept for several hours. When I told my then-boyfriend, he called me lazy.

“Yeah?” I said. “When you can turn fish fingers into people, come back and we’ll talk.”

Any thoughts?

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17 Responses to Turning fish fingers into people

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  2. 2
    LauraJMixon says:

    Hear, hear. I was hammered during my first trimester.

  3. 3
    Robert says:

    Ha, that’s nothing. You make them one at a time, with old-world craftsmanship. We churn out millions. Plus, you come equipped with all your templates at birth; we have to do everything from scratch. And finally, your production line only runs once a month, and has to shut down for nearly a year to do a full cycle; ours goes 24/7/365.

    (No wonder I’m so exhausted!)

  4. 4
    mandolin says:

    Wouldn’t sperm be equivalent to eggs, not fetuses?


    It’s a neat and funny line, but I’m not sure what you want, Nick. What sort of direction of comments would you like? What’s the essay on? What’s it for?

  5. 5
    Nick Kiddle says:

    Well, that’s kind of the problem. So far, that’s all I have, and I was really hoping discussion would somehow spark something off. It’s for an essay collection to be published by Homofactus Press, but the brief is just to write some interesting essays about subject close to my heart…

  6. 6
    Susan says:

    mandolin. She was pregnant at the time. That means that she was making a whole new person. That means a much higher expenditure of energy than just producing an egg, which is no bigger than a dot.

    My last was a 10 pounder, and I can testify that she took a lot more out of me than a bunch of eggs (or, sperm).

    But the first trimester is the worst, which is something of a bummer. Here you are, nine months pregnant with a 10 pound baby, big as a house, but the chances are overwhelming that you feel wonderful. Nevertheless, everyone falls all over themselves to open doors, give you seats on the bus, all that.

    Where were all these folks during the first three months, when you could hardly get out of bed and were puking first thing in the morning?

    They couldn’t tell you were pregnant, so even if you told them, they ignored it. Human beings are primates, and monkeys are mostly interested in things they can SEE, not in abstractions. Or what seems like abstractions.

    Here’s another thought. At one point my eldest, the geek, was all excited about “Artificial Intelligence,” which I took to mean the effort, at enormous expenditure of time and money, to create a computer which could (sort of) think like a human being. I was pregnant at the time, and I said, “No big deal. I can make something that thinks entirely like a human being (because it is a human being) in nine months, out of whatever I can get to eat. There are X billion people on the planet. Why do we need one more, a very expensive one made of semiconductors?”

    He told me I didn’t “get” it. True enough.

  7. 7
    Shira says:

    Nick –

    What about an essay on the ways that anti-choicers trivialize pregnancy as a way to reassure themselves that forced birth is no big deal – an inconvenience at best? I was talking to someone just the other day who asserted that women’s organ systems don’t support the fetus because “it grows its own.” Or more broadly, how all women’s labor is trivialized and all women’s exhaustion is dismissed as selfishness or laziness or some other word that means focused-on-herself-instead-of-me, whether it’s (exhaustion from) pregnancy or housework or paid work.

  8. 8
    A.J. Luxton says:

    I have a suspicion to the effect that women need more sleep than men, just in general, too. I have only anecdotal information. There’s a part of the workplace disparity that may come from unfriendly hours, if that is true. But having a sleep disorder means I can speak to the conditions of normal people even less than I could from just not being one.

  9. 9
    Charles says:


    I think mandolin was pointing that out to Robert, who seemed to be comparing growing a child to producing sperm (presumably facetiously, but you can’t always tell with Robert).



    Somehow your line reminds me of the line from a Billy Bragg song, “The time that it takes to make a baby/ Can be the time it takes to make a cup of tea.”

    Well, no it can’t, unless that is one very slow cup of tea, it’s just the time it takes for Mr. Bragg (or Robert, or your ex, or -God Forbid- me) to participate in making a baby can be the time it takes to make a cup of tea.

    I don’t know if that is any use.

  10. 10
    mandolin says:

    “I think mandolin was pointing that out to Robert, who seemed to be comparing growing a child to producing sperm (presumably facetiously, but you can’t always tell with Robert).”

    Yes, I was. Thanks, Charles. :)


    I will not grumble about small press anthologies promising to pay off royalties… I will not grumble about small press anthologies promising to pay off royalties… I will not grumble about small press anthologies promising to pay off royalties…

    You’ve written about it here in the past, but it seems to me that the obvious topic is writing about the experience of navigating the female-sexed experience childbirth within the context of constructing a gendered masculinity.

    Constructing a person from fish sticks is something a sexed female person does. I don’t know; it seems to call up all those lovely binary dichotomies and smash them down. I’m entertained every time you do it.

    BTW, on the subject of anthologies, if anyone writes fiction but isn’t currently tapped into the calls for such things, there are a couple homosexual- and transgender- themed SF anthologies hanging around at the moment. I don’t remember if the queer superhero one is closed or not, but there’s a queer time travel one, and … um, something else, which I think might be a closed call to people who’ve got certain kinds of fiction experience. Point being, if people are interested, I can look it up.

  11. 11
    A.J. Luxton says:

    mandolin: I’d feel blessed if you’d forward me any such information. luxFOIL at FOILchao sbutterflyFOIL dot net. Remove the foil, naturally.

  12. 12
    Holly says:

    I like the angle that Charles alludes to… slang terms about “baby-making” and “hey let’s go make some babies” etc. have always seemed ridiculous to me because like, the actual making of what might become a new person happens over nine months and all the energy has to come from one person (and eating, and sleeping, and getting some support from others). But there are still these misogynist (not to mention completely factually wrong) ideas floating around in our culture that go back to the “homunculus” idea of pregnancy, where a woman is just some sort of passive incubator, not even contributing anything that constitutes what the new person will turn out like except maybe some sort of womb-environmental influence. I always think about this when I hear some guy talk about “she’s having my baby” and “will you bear my children” etc. A friend of mine recently started saying (of her boyfriend) “yeah, I kind of want him to have my babies” even though she’s the one who would be pregnant and literally means that she wants him to be the sperm donor. It definitely turns heads and makes people go Huh? But why not?

  13. 13
    Holly says:

    Plus, I’ve run into quite a few stories just in the last year about men who’ve been or are pregnant, there was even an article about it that I can’t find now. Manly men, some with beards and muscles and bald heads and all, who happen to also have wombs. It’s kind of mind-blowing even for me (and for some of them too). Someone should really write more about that and the implications for reproductive roles, etc. Or maybe there are no implications if the general attitude is just “well those people are freak cases,” but I kind of think that would suck.

  14. 14
    wookie says:

    So you mean fish fingers are not made out of people?
    After all, poptarts are made from kittens:

  15. 15
    PG says:

    I’m not quite getting what the fish fingers are referring to. Sperm? eggs? the combination that produced an embryo? a fetus?

    I find stories about pregnancy really fascinating, although I doubt I’d ever want to do it.

    From the start you’ve written here, I’d really like to hear about your relationship with the fish fingers turning into a person. did you think of yourself as consciously carrying a person most of the time? did you think in terms of the fetus draining your energy, or was it more like the energy loss you’d associate with having the flu or another illness? Were you anxious about miscarrying, and if so, were your anxieties usually in terms of “I don’t want to have a health mishap” or “I don’t want to lose *this* baby?”

    Maybe these are all really basic things that would make the essay boring for people who have been pregnant, but as I said, I find it fascinating.

  16. 16
    Brandon Berg says:

    “Fish fingers” are what speakers of the Queen’s English call fishsticks*. It’s not a metaphor for anything. She ate fishsticks, and then somehow—presumably there was some kind of black magic involved—turned them into a person.

    *Incidentally, this is why you should never let a Queen tell you how to talk.

  17. 17
    Les says:

    Oh my god, fish fingers are people!!!

    Sorry, that’s not at all helpful. I’ve read your blog for a while. What I’ve found compelling about it is how you manage a certainty about male identity while engaged in bodily functions normally perceived as female. I’m not even sure I’m trans and there’s no way I could handle being pregnant. How do you do it?? It’s amazing, I think.