Neither Walter nor Olivia has any problem with his or her own self-image; neither worries that they are not masculine or feminine enough to suit anyone but themselves. As Olivia notes about Walter, "He was gentle and kind. A bit of a scaredy cat when it came to spiders and movie violence, but the fact that it barely touched his self-confidence was astounding. And again, attractive" (1304). Olivia usually puts guys into two categories: "huggable" (i.e., a potential friend) or "shaggable" (i.e., a guy she'd take to bed without thinking twice). She's finding Walter rather confusing, though, because unlike any other guy she's ever met, he's both.
As for Walter, he finds Olivia's "laddishness" simultaneously puzzling and intriguing:
"Why do you pretend you're not a girl?" he said suddenly.
"What?" She gave him a funny look. "I don't pretend I'm not a girl."
"But you're so... no nonsense."
"You're scared of spiders. I don't accuse you of not being a bloke."
"How, exactly? You do something 'girly' and that's okay. I have short hair and suddenly, I'm butch. That's balls."
"It's not just the haircut, it's the clothes and the... attitude."
She glared at him for a minute, then her lips curved into a mischievous smile, which, he suddenly realised, was very, very sexy. "I am a girl," she said, leaning closer. "I can prove it." (1161).
Though Olivia is sure she wants to have an abortion, almost everyone around her counsels waiting (except for the awful ex, of course, who practically throws money at her in his eagerness to rid himself of any entanglements). Olivia's doctor; her best mate Tom; even her best girl friend Ruchi, liberals all, tell her to think twice, give it some time, avoid making any rash decisions. And let's not even mention what Olivia's mother would say, if Olivia ever told her...
Olivia is the most surprised by Walter's reaction. And this is where the romance might have taken quite a regressive turn. For Walter is deeply hurt by the impending move of his beloved daughter Emily, and, without even thinking, jumps in to declare that he's ready to start a new family with Olivia. And Olivia's child. By another man. Because he "likes" her.
|Signs of HELLP syndrome|
I should have had more faith in Rhoda Baxter. For Baxter's narrative sets up the sentimental situation only to send it spinning in entirely unexpected directions. Just for starters, Olivia is immediately on to the implicit sexism behind Walter's "kind" impulse, and is not at all wary about telling him just what she thinks of it:
"You screwed up the first time and now you're hoping that you can persuade me to keep this baby so that you can have another go. Is that it? Just THINK about how irresponsible that is. You want me to have a child that I don't want and that you have no claim on, just because you can't face the fact that you were a lousy father to your daughter." (2500)
I won't give away the other surprises in store for Walter and Olivia as they try to negotiate the bumps in their relationship that Olivia's unexpected pregnancy and Walter's reaction to it. I will say, though, that while Baxter's romance will make you chuckle, it will also make you think about just what a parent, especially a father, owes a child, and what a child owes a parent in return.
And what a woman owes herself.
Couple embracing: Huffpost/Malia Moss
Keep Calm...: The Keep Calm-O-Matic
What the HELLP?: What the Hellp
Girl in Trouble (Smart Girls #3)