…and it’s a a whole extra year, sometimes nearly two! concludes Chris, shaking his head. I just don’t even understand how you come up with that in the first place.
Well, we count the pregnancy as part of the baby’s life, says Jennifer patiently. So it’s already 1 year old when it’s born.
Chris is having none of it. First of all, it’s not a year, it’s nine months. And second –
TEN months, interrupt several Korean teachers. There is silence, and we all look warily at each other.
Pardon? asks Anna politely.
Pregnancy is 10 months, repeats Jennifer, looking confused as to why we are questioning this basic fact.
It’s 9 months! chorus the three foreigners.
TEN! shout all the Koreans. We are outnumbered and – it must be said – somewhat flabbergasted. I have even paused midway through my second bowl of yukgaejang, so great is my surprise.
OK, let’s talk about this, Chris suggests in a careful tone, abandoning the topic of the Korean age reckoning system in favour of this shiny new spanner in the works. Now, you’re not denying that in general, and globally speaking… as in, across the entire planet… a normal human pregnancy lasts for an average of 9 months?
Ten, says Jennifer stubbornly.
It’s really, really nine, says Anna in a slightly dazed manner.
I have had two children! says Jennifer crossly. I know how long a pregnancy lasts! She bursts into frantic-sounding Korean, and the Cooking Lady appears to be verifying her statement. Everyone is suddenly very defensive.
Of course it can be ten, if the baby is overdue, I say, trying to pour oil on troubled waters. Or eight, even seven, if it’s premature. But what we mean is, nine months is the normal, expected length of the average pregnancy.
No, TEN!! everyone howls.
Are you actually suggesting that Korean women are pregnant for longer than non-Korean women? asks Chris.
Have any of you ever given birth? asks Jennifer heatedly, brandishing a spoon, and I begin hastily shovelling yukgaejang down my throat, fearful that I may have to run away from a fight at any moment.
The conversation has been filed away in my brain for future investigation at a time when it’s less full of other things and I am free to think about it without my mind imploding. It shall be stored in the same file as Fan Death and the belief that eating enough kimchi will make you completely immune to swine flu, pneumonia, and homosexuality.
I think I need a holiday.