Sacrificial love – seahorse-style!

By Rukshani Weerasooriya

When I was seven-years-old, I allegedly proclaimed a desire to have seven children with my imaginary husband at the time, Small-Srilal Patterson. That was his name (I named him). Patterson died in a bomb blast several days later, while building a house for the children he never lived to have. I was obviously bored of my imaginary husband, so he had to make a dramatic exit.

As you can see, I had a wild imagination even back then, and bombs were a big part of my life. But the point is, I wanted lots of kids at the time, and then something amazing happened – I aged about one point five decades and a magic bulb came on in my head, indicating that I was insane if I wanted to experience childbirth seven times over, even if my real life husband was as gallant as dear Mr. Patterson.

My mounting disinclination towards the feat of childbearing was further solidified around this time last year when my sister gave birth to her baby girl Araliya at Joseph Fraser's nursing home in Colombo. As I sat outside the delivery room for a good six hours or so pleading with the Universe for an alternative to this process when my turn ever came, I realized I was positively terrified of all things related to the bearing of children.

Now don't get me wrong – of course I love children (not with a bleeding-heart kind of passion, but to a normal, healthy extent) and the idea of being a mommy is exciting and is ultimately every woman's childhood dream. But if only the process were less terrifying! If only men could bear this burden for the love of their women, seahorse style. If you don't know what I'm talking about, try wrapping your head around this – in the seahorse world, it is the male seahorse that becomes pregnant and gives birth to baby seahorses. And this, to me, is not something to make light of. It is, at least in principle, something worth importing into our species. Imagine what the world would be if men were ever so slightly more sacrificial in these matters.

Seahorse baby-bearing is a very serious business. Male seahorses compete with each other to become pregnant for three weeks, go through seventy-two hours of labour to release up to 200 baby seahorses. That's just about two hundred times worse than anything I might ever have to face in the future as a human woman. So it goes without saying – I'm not going to go around kissing frogs like the Princess of yesteryear – I'd gladly kiss a seahorse or two to find my real Prince Charming, if it ever comes to a push.

But getting back to these courageous little creatures – the experience of baby-seahorse bearing is excruciating and even with my wild imagination I cannot see why any intelligent male seahorse would want to experience anything like it again, once they've been through it the first time. But the fact of the matter is, after a very short time, sometimes mere hours, the male seahorse starts engaging in certain practices which have the effect of showing off his fitness for the birth process, basically begging to be pregnant again. What an insanely providential circumstance for female seahorses! Only at points such as these do I question the fortune of being born human.

But wait, it gets even better – when male seahorses want to impress a female, they have tail pulling competitions, and they snap at each other with their snouts and wrestle with each other using their long curved necks. For little creatures with no arms or legs, they appear to take a whole lot of initiative in the field of courtship and demonstrate true creative genius. In the human world, we are yet to see a pair of men wrestling each other with their necks in an effort to win the praise of a woman. I would certainly be impressed by a man who could gracefully pull such a task off. The male human is blessed with arms and legs and slightly more attractive bodily features than the average seahorse - you'd think they'd be able to come up with a little more than blatant staring and vile comments as tools of attraction. It is tragic, I tell you.

Male seahorses have positively earned the respect of females across the species. And although I am extremely picky and opinionated when it comes to men and women and the twisted little relationships that evolve between them, I would certainly applaud a seahorse-style romance any day. All it takes is some sacrificial love – or at least a few sincere tail pulling competitions.

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