Letters To Paula

Bob Cullinan, e-mail: Where does milk come from?

A: Bob, your question is the only possible reason I could be excited about The Breast Pump Station, a "lactation consulting" office that opened recently two blocks from my house (between the vet and the lightbulb store, two doors down from the Jack In The Box). One of the consultants--I'm not calling her a lactation consultant because almost nothing could make me use the word "lactation" again--Wendy Haldeman, told me that milk comes from lactating ducts and glands in women's breast tissue. (I might be a little shaky on some of these facts. It was hard to hear her over my occasional outbursts of "eeiuw.")

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Wendy said that the placenta produces hormones that impede the flow of milk until after birth. Once the placenta is shed, and the nipples are stimulated by the baby's sucking, the nerves send a message to the pituitary. Prolactin (another hormone) tells the ducts to work.

In my mind this is all another strong argument for foster parenting. The receptionist at the Pump Station said it creates another intimacy between the mother and the baby. If they also smoked cigars together, they'd be almost co-dependent.

I understand that, technically, it is possible for men to lactate. Bob, I'm no consultant, but I'd counsel against it.

Elijah Lovejoy, e-mail: A long time ago, I wrote you asking for tickets to your TV show. You wrote me back a postcard saying your show was canceled so you couldn't give me tickets.

I need to know if you actually signed that card. I have a problem with those fake rubber signatures that adorn most of the mail I get, since they make me feel unspecial and generally overlooked. While half of me felt like I had finally made it in life and was actually getting mail from a really famous person, the other half of me felt like your typical idiot groupie for thinking you wrote it. So you understand that I need to know if you wrote that postcard.

A: I receive and have answered many questions about the authenticity of my correspondence. Apparently you are one of the many readers who will simply not take my word for the fact that I run a one-horse operation. I can't afford either a signature-stamp machine or a pool of secretaries to forge my responses.

As a way of gaining your trust, I called a handwriting expert to pass on some of what she looks for in matching handwriting. Document examiner Anne Conway told me that everyone signs their name differently each time. (Actually, I already knew that from a "Perry Mason" episode.)

Anne also said that handwriting can be distinguished by how it's aligned to the preprinted line, by the height of the letters and by the width of the space between them. As for my signature specifically, she said that the end configuration and middle "would take a safecracker to unlock" and that the second name drops down below the first.

Look at the card I sent you. That's how it looks, huh? Now, don't you feel bad for doubting me?

Write Paula c/o Mother Jones, 731 Market Street, Suite 600, San Francisco, CA 94103. Fax her at (415) 665-6696; or send e-mail to Paula@motherjones.com.