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“A Simple Exchange of Niceties” by Joanne Fedler

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“A Simple Exchange of Niceties” is a short story written by Joanne Fedler in 2007. In the story, we hear about a young adolescent, who accidently has become pregnant. She explains that the pregnancy just sort of happened, and that she has now been left alone. Her initial thought is to get rid of the baby. While bearing the child she’s smoking. Even though, you are not supposed to smoke when you are pregnant, however, this fact is insignificant to her. The word insignificance is a reasonably fitting description, of the narrator’s view of herself. The protagonist seems to be stuck in life. Jail time, a failed childhood, sexual relationships and occasionally one-night stands characterize the protagonist’s life as a feeble teenager. She has a compulsive relationship to a certain bench in the park, which she refers to as her bench. She doesn’t like to share it with others, at all. One day while relaxing at the bench, a woman approaches her and the bench; “Do you mind”. “I looked up”. “Did it look like I didn’t mind? I was lying down, relaxing on my bench, one hand on my belly, the other holding my cigarette.”

The twos start to small-talk and the girl discovers that the woman is carrying a book with the title; “When fertility fails”. Suddenly the girl understands that the woman is infertile. Although the girl initially planned to have an abortion, she decides to bare the child, for another woman. So that she can give it away. Unfortunately she never meets the woman again, and ends up keeping the baby herself. The protagonist, our narrator, sees herself as “the unwanted child”. The description about her mother’s view on her as a child is terrible, but very central. Her view has had a strong effect on the protagonist. She feels rejected, especially as child. She thinks that her mother doesn’t love her, and would do anything to dispose of her. The protagonist considers herself as “bad news”, which is her explanation to her mother’s lack of interest in her. It has affected that her self-esteem is really bad, and she has difficulties with socializing with others. It’s especially seen by the way she handles the situation when someone approaches her and the bench. On the other hand, she has no problems with sharing materialistic things.

Although she sees herself as a reject person, she is very considerate to other people. “I’d give anyone the shirt off my back, or the food of my plate”. As well with the fact that she wants to give her baby away, to fulfill another woman’s life. It seems that the protagonist cares a lot about others, but can’t control her own life. But when she has a bound, a personal relationship to something, like a bench, she doesn’t want to share. Moreover she perceives it as violation into her personal atmosphere if anyone approaches her. While sitting on her bench, she wants to be alone – relaxing. For instance, when she says; “When I’m sitting on my bench I’m generally not in the mood for small-talk and chit-chat.”. Her relationship with the bench is quite close, and she considers it as hers; however she knows that it is silly to claim ownership of things you don’t even possess. The bench is not to share according to her. It seems that she considers their relationship to be as important, or even more important, than the relationships she has with human beings. She compares the bench to an older cousin who is waiting for her, as everyone else seems to have left her behind.

When she gets to the bench, and no one is sitting on it, she feels like she has been waited for. The bench is a symbol of confidence. At some point in life she has been abandoned, by someone that was supposed to be there for her, possibly a good friend or a family member. Therefore the bench seems as a place where she can find peace in mind. A place where she can find the safety that she has been searching for. It’s difficult to find a specific theme for this story. There are many different possibilities. The most evident theme might be pregnancy. Pregnancy is something anybody can relate to, and is as for many an ordinary thing. For some people as the infertile woman, pregnancy is not ordinary. The story points out how different views people can have on pregnancy. On the one hand, the person who accidently get pregnant, and gets an unwanted baby, might not be overjoyed. And on the other hand, the infertile, who wants is so badly that having a baby could possibly fulfill their life. Another theme could be social problems. This is a growing problem now a day, as a result of the people who fail to find an identity, and just get frozen out of the society.

The story is written in present and contains spoken language. The language is normal, everyday language. Occasionally there is used curse words and slang language. For instance, when she says; “She seemed so bloody keen on kids” or when her ex boyfriend describes her as a “trashy whore”, or “he fucked me from every direction.” At the end of the story, during her pregnancy it seems like she’s growing some humanity. It seems that the birth of her child is making her mother and her coming together again. All in all she is a nice person inside, that just have been abandoned from childhood. It seems that the positivity in her life, which the baby eventually is bringing, makes her happier, and for the first time you feel that the main character is delighted.

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