I WAS enjoying dinner in a nice restaurant with an old friend and his very pregnant wife when suddenly the conversation took an ominous turn.
"We're videotaping the birth of our child," my friend said proudly.
I waited for his wife to reach over and crack him on the skull with the pepper grinder and say, "Over my dead body, sport."
Instead, she flashed an eerie Stepford Wives-like smile and chirped: "Yes, it'll be so exciting!"
So it's come to this, I thought. My social life has declined to such a level that I am actually keeping company in a cheap Mexican joint with a madman and his equally unstable wife. A couple who, during what should be a private experience of wailing, pushing, grunting, shrieking and unchecked blood flow, will be fiddling with zoom lenses, waving goofily at the camera and asking the medical staff to introduce themselves and list their hometowns.
My God, this was frightening! But before excusing myself and bolting for the nearest exit, I had one question.
"Is this your first child?" I asked.
They both nodded and looked lovingly at each other in that sickening way of the newly married.
Well, I thought, that explains that. These poor fools don't know what they're in for.
Indeed, rather than recording the births of my three children on videotape, there are large blocks of each birth that I have consciously tried to blot it out of my mind.
In fact, if someone wielding a video camera had appeared during any of the three births, I would have been forced to rise from behind the hospital gurney where I was cowering to grab the camera and toss it out a window.
For those who have yet to undergo the childbirth "experience," perhaps this is a good time to explain why the presence of a video camera might not be such a great idea.
First of all, the woman is usually in some degree of, um, discomfort. At least, that's what the doctors call it. Most women call it "pain." This, of course, comes from the fact that a baby the size of a bowling ball is careening down a birth canal with the circumference of a garden hose.
While "experiencing" this pain, a woman usually will not appreciate having a video camera stuck in her face (or anywhere else, for that matter), especially since her face now has that scrunched-up look generally associated with being sucked out the window of a Boeing 747 at 30,000 feet.
The male partner, I can assure you, will not look a whole lot better.
For example, during times of great stress, I tend to get this sort of vacuous, wide-eyed look, sort of what Charles Laughton looked like as the perpetually confused bell-ringer Quasimodo in "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."
What I'm saying is, neither partner looks like a million bucks. Therefore, it's not a good time for anyone to pick up the RCA camcorder and shout: "Hey, kids, give us a big smile over here!"
Here is another thing about childbirth that we should mention to you first-timers: It's sort of messy.
The baby does not pop out looking all clean and fresh and rosy like that kid in "Look Who's Talking."
Instead, the baby usually looks like a junior version of Mr. Magoo who's been dragged through a swamp. There is also a good deal of blood accompanying childbirth, to the point where a visitor might think he or she has wandered onto the scene of a knife fight.
Call me an old stick-in-the-mud, but I don't see that translating into big-time entertainment on the small screen.
Another thing you might want to mull over is this: After you record your kid's birth, who's going to watch the tape? I'm not sure you want to invite your friends over for drinks and dinner, and then pop this baby in the VCR.
Pretty soon people will be glancing at their watches and mumbling something about having to relieve the baby sitter. The room will empty out so fast you'll think someone called in a bomb threat.
Oh, I suppose you could keep the tape for private viewing, and drag it out every once in a while to re-live the miracle of birth and all that wailing, grunting, pushing, shrieking, etc.
If that's why you're filming the whole thing, fine. Personally, this is not my idea of how to kill a rainy afternoon, but so be it.
We're all different. If that's what you're into, hey, knock yourself out.
Just let me say this.
God, you people are weird.