Reflections on the Central Sadness…

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about some clever personification from Meghan Daum.

I have an abiding interest in stories about the difficulty of getting pregnant. As a so-called “elderly primip” (I was 36 when my kids were born), I spend five years trying to conceive. My husband and I used fertility drugs and were on the waiting list for in vitro fertilization, when woo hoo, I became pregnant.

We were thrilled to have triplets. Ruthless efficiency, we called it. (As I write this, the kids are now 20.) So I read Meghan Daum’s account of her own infertility with great interest and some sadness. Headlined “Difference Maker,” and appearing in the Sept. 29/14 New Yorker, the story explored her original lack of interest in having children, and her ultimate frustration at being unable to do so.

Here are a couple of sentences that grabbed me, with her clever personification of the state of infertility:

From that moment on, a third party was introduced into our marriage. It was not a corporal party but an amorphous one, a ghoulish presence that functioned as both cause and effect of the absence of a child. It had even, in the back of my mind, come to have a name. It was the Central Sadness. It collected around our marriage like soft, stinky moss.

Daum is the author of the book Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived In That House, a memoir and has been an an opinion columnist at The Los Angeles Times since 2005. I value her honesty. I like the way she is able to describe infertility as a ghoulish presence (my experience, too). And I appreciate the little fillip of a metaphor she tacks onto this passage. Most marriages have some sort of soft, stinky moss, although I must confess I’d never before thought of it in those terms.

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