An open letter to Mrs. Yetunde Owolabi

>> Tuesday, January 10, 2012


From: Owolabi (
Sent: Tue 1/10/12 4:37 AM


My name is Mrs Yetunde Owolabi from Republic of Benin, I gave birth to three plates, 3 children at a time after the death my husband on 18th of June 2011 by auto car accident. Already we have received 5 children from God, right now I can’t take care of them so I have decided to give them out for adoption, if you are interested let me know, I am not selling them but you will only pay for adoption fees to the ministry in concern and the Lawyer will legalized all the relevant documents and the baby will become legally yours.


Mrs. Yetunde Owolabi


Dear Mrs. Owolabi,

I am not, myself a father. To the best of my knowledge, I have never impregnated anybody. The sole "miracle of childbirth" I have ever attended in person was my own. Everything I know about birth, then, has been learned from books, magazines, television shows, movies, sex education teachers, biology classes and similar sources of vicarious information. The earliest source of information on this subject I can recall (albeit somewhat vaguely) is Peter Mayle's classic book for children, Where Did I Come From?, which explains the mysteries of procreation and birth with a gentle clinical tone and drawings of fat people.

So while I certainly feel comfortable stating that I understand the proverbial birds and bees (though, perhaps, not so clear why birds and bees are the traditional euphemistic animals instead of, say, manatees and ocelots1), I wouldn't present myself as an expert with firsthand, personal, direct knowledge.

Similarly, while I am reasonably well-read and majored in History back in the day, and while some knowledge of simple ceramics is imparted to the historian in intro material pertaining to the dawn of civilization and even in elementary school when students are required to make ashtrays for their non-smoking parents2, and I thus feel relatively comfortable describing in the most general terms how tableware is manufactured, I would never hold myself as an expert. This is notwithstanding the fact that it now occurs to me, as I write this, that I probably made some kind of bowls or assorted objects along those lines that weren't ashtrays when I was in elementary school, and have therefore almost certainly manufactured more ceramics than babies, even factoring in any opportunities for accident and subsequent ignorance. Still, I would not claim any expertise in the area.

All of which is a long way of getting to the point that I am reasonably certain you're mistaken, Mrs. Owolabi, about how plates are made.

I realize, of course, that having (you claim) birthed three of them, you might believe you're in a better position to know about the subject than I am. I also realize that you might be speaking metaphorically, although I think you possibly are straining things or are getting a bit too precious when you ask me to adopt your... creations. Especially if you're asking me to accept a plate on some sort of, I don't know, "loan" or something. I go to a store, whether it's a department store selling mass-produced goods or an artsy-craftsy store selling artists' works on consignment, I expect to buy a plate that the proprietors are selling, not to "adopt" a plate that is not, technically, being sold.

One reason for this policy, to be blunt about it, is that I am a klutz. My girlfriend, I perhaps shouldn't say (except she'd be first to admit it) is also a bit clumsy. And I have a cat, a member of a species ironically known for grace and dexterity notwithstanding the fact that every single member of the species I have ever observed seems mostly unaware that they naturally have an independent and uncoordinated appendage sticking out their wazoo, ostensibly for balance although in practice it mostly (and in this order) (a) is used as a footwarmer, (b) attempts to knock down everything in their wake, and (c) periodically ambushes them (despite being attached at all times) and must be viciously counter-attacked. The point of all this being that I really don't want to have to inform you that I dropped your child taking it out of the microwave, or that I had it displayed on the mantle until the goddamn cat shattered your kid into pieces that I managed to glue back together except for one large chip that shrapneled into oblivion (i.e. way up under the couch, most likely).

I just can't say your offspring would be in safe hands with me, not with all the, ah, "somebody's nephews" I've broken by leaving in the sink instead of washing them and putting them away after drinking coffee from them. So I would rather just give you money and not feel quite as guilty if I destroy your objet d'art like a common Visigoth.

And this is before we even start talking the crazy talk about your lawyer and legal documents. I mean, seriously? It's a plate. I know you probably spent hours lovingly shaping it and glazing it, and I do not mean to minimize your work, which I'm sure is brilliant and (even though you're soliciting exhibition through random e-mails) gallery-worthy. But I don't really plan on signing legal papers and paying fees to a ministry, etc. for a ceramic piece, regardless of whether it's going on top of the bookshelf for display or will be holding yeast rolls the next time I throw a dinner for friends.

I'm very sorry if that offends you.

Before closing, let me add--on the off-chance that there is an even more profound misunderstanding than is obvious--that if you in fact are talking about human babies and not metaphorically about molded-and-fired clay: please do not eat off your babies. Please do not make sandwiches on them, nor should you put a hot bowl of soup on any of them, or use them to serve cheese and crackers. I really hope you understand that small children are emphatically not microwave safe and should not be used for heating or reheating anything. Please consult here and here if you have any questions.

Thank you.

R. Eric VanNewkirk
Standing On The Shoulders Of Giant Midgets

1At first I thought of asking, "instead of aardvarks and zebras," except the answer to that one is obvious: since those particular animals represent an aleph and a zed, they might be taken as a first and last instead of a reproductive metaphor; i.e. Jesus might well have said in his Revelation to John, had he been so inclined, that he was "the Alpha and the Omega, the aardvark and the zebra." In fact, I'm really not sure why he wouldn't have taken the opportunity to do so every time it presented itself.

2It has been some time since I was in elementary school, and I suspect that with the cultural turn against smoking, this activity is no longer mandatory.


Phiala Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 6:29:00 PM EST  

Peter Mayle???

First you move to France and drink a lot of wine...

And also, I agree that small children are unsuitable for serving, but they can be trained.

Susan Robbins Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 7:06:00 PM EST  

Really, Phiala, that is my overwhelming reaction also: THAT Peter Mayle?

Aside from the other wonderfulness, of course, such as the wonderfulness of birthing plates.

Eric Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 8:25:00 PM EST  

See, until I went and looked up Peter Mayle after y'all's comments, I didn't realize he'd done anything else. Live and learn.

Warner Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 7:15:00 AM EST  

I had never heard of Where did I come From, but do like Peter Mayle.

Nathan Wednesday, January 11, 2012 at 10:08:00 AM EST  

It may go without saying, but...

FHEWNSRVVM‏! or maybe

(Excuse my French.)

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