By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
Janet knew that the divorce from her husband, Jack, might be messy. There was money to divide, and the kids . . . well, she wanted them with her. Jack had some ridiculous idea about raising them himself, but she was their mother. Surely, the judge would entrust the children to their mother.
"I thought that was just the way it worked," Janet says. "I was a fit parent, a member of my church and the PTA. I thought that if I just told the judge all that, it would be a done deal. That's the way the game is played."
Unfortunately for Janet, that's not the way Bob Hirschfeld plays the game.
For most of the afternoon, Hirschfeld--the Phoenix lawyer Jack hired to help him get custody of the couple's two children--had gruffly pushed Janet through an excruciating examination of every bone of every skeleton in her personal closet. No subject was taboo--her sexual habits, medication she took for stress, embarrassing elements of her family history, the times she had taken drugs or had one too many drinks.
"He was a beast," she remembers. "I got so flustered, he was able to force me to say things that I didn't want to say."
Forced or not, by the time she was done, the kids were being loaded into her husband's station wagon, bound for their new permanent home--with dad.
Tears well up in her eyes as she recalls the moment.
"I was sitting there crying," she says, "and I remember thinking--I've been raped. That little legal monster raped me."
But sitting at another table across the room, ex-husband Jack was downright gleeful. "I felt great," he remembers, jubilantly thrusting his arm skyward. "She didn't expect to have to play hardball, but that is the only kind of ball Bob plays.
"Sure, Bob beat on the selfish little bitch and showed she was an unfit mother. She deserved it.
"You've got to love it--and him."
It's the kind of dichotomous passion that follows Hirschfeld around like a vapor trail. To men estranged from their wives, he is both an avenging angel and standard-bearer for the drum-thumping men's-rights movement. To women he is the devil incarnate, the worst potbellied, bad-tempered specimen of male-chauvinist pigdom.
The only thing on which members of both genders who have passed through Hirschfeld's orbit can agree is that he is one hell of a lawyer, the most successful and well-known domestic-relations attorney in Arizona--with a niche practice that centers almost exclusively on winning custody of kids for divorced fathers.
Years before men's-rights guru Robert Bly was packing lecture halls to discuss Wild Men and Iron John, Hirschfeld was hard at work stumping for a far less esoteric kind of manly empowerment.
Since the late 1970s, Hirschfeld has unabashedly trumpeted what is often still viewed as an unconventional thought: "That dads can be moms, oftentimes better than moms can be moms." Hirschfeld has proved his point by working to make Arizona law one of the friendliest to fathers seeking child custody, and by waging a spirited--some say mean-spirited--courtroom war against any woman who dares challenge one of his clients for rights to their offspring.
"Fathers today," Hirschfeld says, "are nurturers, care-givers, loving parents. Dads today cut the umbilical cord, change diapers, do it all. They are superdads. And when a divorce comes along, why shouldn't a superdad have custody of the kids instead of a 'mom-ster'?"
"Mom-sters and superdads," the self-coined yin and yang of Hirschfeld's universe, are an important clue to understanding the intensely personal reasons behind the transformation of this certified genius and MIT-educated engineer into a master misogynist, at war with half of the human race.
The terms mom-ster and superdad were formulated to describe his first client--who happened to be Hirschfeld himself--and his own ex-wife. It seems it is the ample reservoir of bile within him, fermented during his own messy divorce and bitter experience with the child-custody process, that fuels his blitzkrieg.
It is an approach that has become the stuff of Arizona legal legend. During depositions and cross-examinations, he has been known to berate, laugh at and in general humiliate his clients' ex-wives. It is more than just standard courtroom incivility. Combat with Hirschfeld is so painful that several local attorneys who have battled him admit they sometimes advise their women clients to take the best settlement they can get, even if it means less financial support or an inconvenient joint-custody arrangement, rather than submit to his inquiries.
Hirschfeld's tactics have not only earned him the enmity of women and his fellow attorneys, but the official rebuke of the courts, as well. He has been sanctioned at least three times by angry judges, including a recent $20,000 fine for what one jurist called "outrageous" and "reprehensible" conduct.
But in the men's-rights community, none of that matters. The word has gotten around--if you are a divorced dad and want to keep your kids, call Bob Hirschfeld.
"Our first goal," Hirschfeld says, "is to make sure our clients get a chance to raise their children and don't get flattened by the system."
And if "dad" also wants to inflict a little damage on the psyche of his formerly beloved in the process? "Well," Jack grins, "Bob won't charge you extra for that."
@body:Ask Hirschfeld if he hates women, and he will tell you a true story.
One woman, angry about her ex-husband's insistence on regularly spending weekends with their young son, accused the man of sexually abusing the child. To make the case stick, she somehow placed a small amount of semen in the boy's buttocks after a visit with the father, and filed a formal charge of molestation.
Hirschfeld, however, was convinced that the father had been set up, and pursued the case--and the mother--with all the energy and venom he could muster. In the end, after a bitter and tumultuous interrogation, he was able to wring the truth out of her--and the father was awarded permanent custody of the boy.
"I don't hate," he says. "But in my life, I've been given plenty of reasons not to trust women. I've seen their perfidy, their ability to be deceitful."
Hirschfeld's approach to law--and life--is based on that essential premise: Women are manipulative and prone to warping the truth for their own ends. His role, he says, is to ferret out that deceit by any means necessary.
It's a lesson he says he learned not only in the courtroom, but in his own marriage.
Trained as an engineer, Hirschfeld graduated from the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1963. He seemed destined for a promising career not as a courtroom general, but as a leading foot soldier in the microchip revolution.
Deemed brilliant even by his adversaries (and with an IQ high enough to qualify him to be president of the Arizona chapter of Mensa, a fraternity of brainy people who were beaten up on the playground as kids), Hirschfeld soon made his mark in Silicon Valley development circles. By the early 1970s, he was ready to open his own semiconductor firm.
"Silicon Valley was booming, and there was excitement in the air," Hirschfeld remembers. "We all wanted to start our own companies.
"But they told us at one of those seminars where they counsel young entrepreneurs, 'Watch out, opening your own shop will put tremendous pressures on your marriage.' And they were right."
By 1976, his life had become a disturbing mirror image of the movie Kramer vs. Kramer. His wife, he says, expressing dissatisfaction with their relationship, left to "find herself." After Hirschfeld moved with his children to Arizona to "start anew," his wife demanded custody of the couple's two children through California courts. To make matters worse, she began making accusations that Hirschfeld had abused the children during her absence.
"I had given up everything for my kids," he says. "I had become a superdad, always putting my children first. And I wasn't about to give them up now, just because she wanted me to; just because she was making groundless threats."
But California courts at that time were still following the time-honored maxim of child-custody cases--unless a woman is a drunkard or insane, she has a right to her kids. Hirschfeld's ex-wife quickly won custody.
Hirschfeld fought back. From Arizona, he filed a federal lawsuit against several California judges who had helped his wife, and became locked in a lengthy legal battle that stretched all the way to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco. His contention, then as now, is that fathers have an equal right to be full-time custodians of their children.
"I was just outraged that the courts were willing to give my wife rights to the kids just by virtue of the fact that she was a woman," he says. "My sense of justice said that just wasn't right. And it still isn't."
Hirschfeld became so absorbed in the issue that he soon made the decision to chuck engineering and begin a second career in the law. But while other first-year students at the ASU law school were struggling with "moot court"--a dramatized courtroom trial designed to give aspiring lawyers a taste of actual legal wrangling--Hirschfeld was arguing his real-life custody case in front of a federal judge. In the end, after a fight of nearly three years, he was not only awarded custody of the kids, but also--in a victory nearly unheard-of for fathers of the time--won child support from the mother, a registered nurse.
However, the price of victory was steep. One lawyer who has repeatedly sparred with Hirschfeld in court says that the breakup of his family "split Bob into two people."
"On one hand, you've got 'Good Bob,' the men's-rights activist who loves kids and wants what is best for them," the lawyer says. "But on the other, you've got 'Bad Bob,' the nasty, self-styled warrior whose goal is to make women pay for his wife's sins.
"The problem is, they're both wrapped up in the same head. It's a lethal combination."
@body:Hirschfeld is an unlikely looking "nasty warrior." A polite man in his 50s, with tufts of graying hair in constant disarray, he is almost grandfatherly--possessing a kind, disarming smile and gentle eyes.
His disorganized, homey appearance meshes perfectly with the loosely organized chaos that is Hirschfeld's office, which is located in the front rooms of his Phoenix house. The office is a menagerie of stuffed animals, toys and brightly painted ceramic figures. A piano sits next to a rocking horse. A longhaired cat roams aloofly over a pair of battered stuffed couches. There are disposable diapers available in the bathrooms, and books on parenting line the walls.
"Children have to be comfortable here," Hirschfeld says. "Children being comfortable, really, is what all of this is about."
"All of this" truly began in 1978, when Hirschfeld started a newsletter, Single Dad's Lifestyle, that quickly developed a nationwide following. The publication--one of the first to speak for the nascent men's-rights movement--was a sort of periodical women-haters club, filled with angry denunciations of ex-wives and females in general.
But it also contained a wealth of material on the nuts and bolts of parenting, including recipes, tips on how to buy clothes for kids, "emotional bonding" hints--even instructions on how to do laundry, for the man facing that task for the first time.
Although Hirschfeld ceased publishing Lifestyle in 1983 because of the time demands of his own parenting duties and a thriving law practice, the notoriety it brought landed him a spot on the Donahue show to discuss male parenting, and a post as a founding board member of the National Congress for Men, a group designed as a counterweight to the National Organization for Women.
"Everybody knew that NOW exists, and what they have to say," Hirschfeld says. "But the emphasis is always on: How does the woman feel? What we were saying is: Hey, men are people, too, with feelings. What about us? We have rights."
Largely because of Hirschfeld, those rights are much broader in Arizona than they once were. Hirschfeld was a leading advocate of a 1981 change in state law which overthrew the dusty canon that gave mothers an almost insurmountable edge in custody battles.
Arizona's "gender neutral" custody law (one of the most progressive in the nation, from a men's-rights point of view, anyway) specifies that neither parent is automatically preferred. Instead, the judge must consider a list of factors, including the child's preference and the mental and physical stability of each parent, before deciding the case in the child's best interest.
That leaves a lot of room for interpretation, and clears the way for Hirschfeld's anything-goes style of questioning. But, he says, it still isn't enough.
Although it is difficult to quantify custody cases, since many are sealed by the court under juvenile protection laws, most domestic-relations lawyers agree that the vast majority of children are placed in joint custody or with their mothers. Only a handful, perhaps 10 percent, end up with their dads.
Feminists tend to object to the concept of fatherly custody--not because the "what's best for the child" standard is litigious or unfair, but simply because, in their opinion, being with the mother is always what's best.
While preaching the merits of equality in all areas of society--from bathrooms to foxholes--there is one unique privilege Hirschfeld notes women steadfastly maintain is theirs alone: motherhood.
For instance, Carol Sanger--president of the Phoenix and Scottsdale chapter of NOW--is quick to downplay Hirschfeld's conception of men as nurturing, equal partners in the parenting process.
"The vast majority of mothers have proven time and again that they are willing to sacrifice their own interests for those of their children," Sanger says. "That makes them good parents. I'm sure some men have shown that willingness, too, but in far fewer numbers than women." It is attitudes such as these--which Hirschfeld calls "hypocrisy in the highest form"--that he says create the need for his special brand of antagonistic advocacy. Simply upon hearing Sanger's argument, Hirschfeld begins to transform, from the scholarly proponent of men's rights to the loathed whirling dervish of the courtroom--from "Good Bob" to "Bad Bob" in the wink of an eye.
"Maybe in the old days, when the father went to work and the mother stayed home with the kids," he says, "you could make the argument that the mother was almost always the best parent.
"But as two-income families developed, you had a situation come about where the parents are often equal. Dad often fixes dinner, changes the diapers, teaches the child to read. And he has just as much right to his child.
"The linchpin of the feminism movement was a desire for equality. Much to some women's surprise, they got it. And now they have to live with the reality."
That reality, … la Hirschfeld, means that if a woman wants custody of her kids, she must first traverse the legal gauntlet the lawyer will arrange. It means that during a time of deep emotional upheaval, she must be willing to stand up to a brutal grilling, one that will rudely probe into every facet of her life.
It means she must face Hirschfeld on his terms.
@body:The scene is a deposition--the pretrial interview of parties in litigation, while under oath, that serves to get the facts of the case on record before either side ever sees a courtroom. It is an intimate setting; only the lawyers and the two parents, plus a court reporter, are present.
On the hot seat is Ann, whose husband, Dave, wants a divorce. For more than a decade, she has lived the life of a cloistered housewife, caring for her husband and children while remaining nearly oblivious to the hard realities of the outside world. She is confused about the legal process that has engulfed her, but she knows that Dave--along with the rumpled attorney sitting next to him, who is now peering at her intently over the rim of his glasses--wants to take her kids away.
The air is charged with tension as Hirschfeld begins his interrogation. He doesn't get far. Ann suddenly interrupts, in an explosion of pent-up emotion.
Hers is a sad tale, and it comes streaming out in one long, stream-of-consciousness plea. The nervous breakdowns, the fights, the turmoil; all the gut-wrenching milestones on the road from honeymoon bliss to divorce court. She never wanted to split up, really. She still believes her horribly wounded marriage can be revived.
At least she believed it until she was inundated by a wave of court orders requested by Hirschfeld.
Now, Ann says, she finds herself kicked out of her home--prohibited from coming within 500 feet of the front door. Her bank cards have been revoked (Hirschfeld again), cash assets frozen (and again). Her husband doesn't want her, her kids are being taken away . . . her whole life--gone. She slouches despondently, lost and bewildered, staring blankly at Dave. "For 15 years, I've been ignored in every way, physically, emotionally, intellectually," she cries. "I have low self-esteem. My husband never even introduced me to persons he works with. He makes $100,000 per year . . . but now I'm out on the streets, and I barely have enough money . . . ," her voice trails off, cracking, "while this man makes $9,000 a month." She tries to go on, haltingly and in tears.
Hirschfeld is laughing.
Ann looks up incredulously. Her attorney objects.
"It is very difficult to keep a straight face," Hirschfeld shrugs. She's doing the best she can, Ann's lawyer replies indignantly.
"So are we," Hirshfeld smiles, "at restraining ourselves."
Hirschfeld cuts off her monologue and presses ahead--firing off questions in quick bursts.
Who are you sleeping with? Why are you taking Prozac? Have you ever thrown a telephone at your husband? How about a sharp object? Ever hit your kids? He leads her into a verbal cul-de-sac, spinning her in a disorienting flurry of talk--all the while probing at her raw nerves. Her answers are muddled, confused.
He leads Ann to the subject of money, pushing her a bit nearer emotional ground zero. She claims that since her credit cards have been taken by her husband, she has no way to support herself. "I'm starving," she says quietly.
"You're not starving," Hirschfeld scoffs.
"I've lost 15 pounds. In fact, my psychologist is worried," she nervously replies.
"Is that because you are unable to afford food?"
"Well, it's expensive."
"You're losing weight because you are so destitute you can't even go to Jack in the Box and buy a hamburger?"
"I'm too busy crying in bed most of the time."
"So, your statement that you are starving is not accurate?"
He ends the exchange with the biting suggestion that if she is so poor, she should get a job at McDonald's.
And so it goes, through waves of tears and screaming fits, looks of recrimination and hate. But while the woman before him crumbles, never does Hirschfeld lose his composure or falter. He is a machine, inexorably moving forward--like Sherman on the march to the sea, methodically burning down each of her claims and arguments, showing them to be fraught with apparent contradiction.
He fires another question. Ann replies that she doesn't know.
"You don't recall? Do you have a memory problem?" Hirschfeld snaps back, not really caring what the response will be. If the answer is yes, she is obviously an unfit mother. If the answer is no, she is being uncooperative, and should be cited for contempt of court. Either way, this woman isn't capable of taking care of children. Isn't it clear? She's too unstable to be a parent. Too volatile, too confused. She's a liar. A cheat. A slut. She's dumb, violent, hysterical.
Hirschfeld's coarse, rapid-fire questioning has elicited answers that--if viewed solely on the cold, sterile paper record of the deposition--could be interpreted as evidence that all these charges might be true. And he has done it so quickly and skillfully that Ann's attorney does not manage a further objection, but merely sits mute as Hirschfeld spatters the floor with his client's blood.
Finally, Ann snaps. "What did I do to deserve this?" she sobs.
There will be no more questions today. Or any other day.
A few months after the deposition, a judge, upon reviewing the testimony, concludes Ann is not best-suited to raise her children. Dave is awarded sole custody.
Hirschfeld rushes to defend such scenes. Yes, questioning women in custody cases is a ruthless game, he admits, but necessary.
"What it comes down to is," he says, "are you worried about the mother's feelings or the best interests of the children? I'll take the children's interests every time. "If she is a mom-ster, the kids don't belong with her, they belong with him--and we just need to show that conclusively, by any means necessary."
There is, of course, more to it than that. It isn't simply a concern for the children's welfare that prompts Hirschfeld to vigorously perform emotional vivisection on women like Ann. With disarming honesty, Hirschfeld fesses up--there is more than a little vindictiveness and ego in the mix.
In fact, he revels in his image as a courtroom gunslinger, the bad boy of divorce law, and makes no attempt to conceal his glee at trouncing women.
"I do admit," he says, "that when I deal with a woman who believes that just because she is a woman she will win, it is my pleasure to use the court to show her she is mistaken.
"And it is a pleasure."
His eyes dance with happiness as he recounts a case where the ex-wife of a Hirschfeld client, in violation of a court order, fled the state with the couple's children--only to be tracked down by the lawyer and his staff and returned to Phoenix by police.
"I had the pleasure of seeing her come into court in jail clothes and handcuffs," he remembers, smiling broadly.
"It was wonderful."
@body:The secretary for Phoenix lawyer John Thomas wants to know why a reporter is phoning her boss. Because he has fought custody and divorce cases against Bob Hirschfeld, she is told.
"Oh, nooooo!" she cries. "Not him. What an awful man."
The reaction is the same throughout the local legal community. Inquiries about Hirschfeld are met with a moan--or, at best, a grim, knowing laugh.
Thomas, for example, grunts derisively when he hears Hirschfeld's name, and says he would prefer not to hear it again. Ever.
"He's a vicious little flame thrower, and I will never take a case against him again," Thomas says. "He does not like women, he is not civil, he is not honorable. I should not pass judgment on his ethics, but if I were to do so, he wouldn't get a passing grade."
Thomas, who has faced Hirschfeld in custody cases on two occasions, says his disdain springs from a question Hirschfeld once posed to one of Thomas' clients.
"He asked her, right out of the blue, if she had had an incestuous relationship with her mother," Thomas remembers. "Sure, it was later stricken from the record. But how do you strike it from the judge's head? It raised doubt in her mind, called my client's reputation into question--and there was absolutely no evidence to support it.
"It was just a question [Hirschfeld] asked to inflame. It's a perfect example of how he goes too far."
Other domestic-relations attorneys are also happy to criticize Hirschfeld--on the condition that their names not be used.
"I might have to face him tomorrow," one lawyer explains. "Why would I want to make him mad? He's rabid enough as it is."
Most of the criticism centers on the claim that Hirschfeld's guerrilla-warfare approach to custody cases, illustrated by his encounter with Ann and others, serves to obscure, rather than illuminate, what is really best for the child.
A custody law that recognizes the equality of the sexes, they say, should not give Hirschfeld license to engage in systematic intellectual and emotional rape: to browbeat a woman and besiege her with restrictive court orders until she breaks down or explodes in rage--in essence, driving her toward the chasm of the filially unfit.
A lawyer who has faced Hirschfeld in more than a dozen cases says that "what he does to women is just plain mean. He hits them during a time when they are weakest and breaks them down with condescension and anger. He destroys their will to live. Under that kind of abuse, who can tell if a woman is competent to raise kids or not?
"It's so bad, I wouldn't be surprised if a woman commits suicide some day after facing the guy."
It might be possible to chalk some of this strong language up to professional jealousy. Love or hate him, it is impossible to deny that Hirschfeld has made his brand of custody law pay.
He has managed to link himself with some of the juiciest, high-profile cases in the state, including litigation surrounding the penile plethysmograph and the case of Kaylea Robinson, the little girl who survived being shot in the head by her mother, who then committed suicide.
He is no slouch at self-promotion, either. Color ads on the back page of New Times, under headlines such as "She took the kids and split," trumpet his successes and offer sympathy to angry fathers. "Tis the season when some Az mothers think they can just take the kids and leave," one ad reads, "disregarding their need for their father. The courts can stop them or help bring the kids back . . . [call] Bob Hirschfeld."
Even an embarrassing lawsuit by the lawyer against his daughter has only heightened his notoriety. The lawsuit, filed by Hirschfeld during a period when he was estranged from his then-teenage girl, was necessary, he says, to clear his name of child-abuse charges originally made by his wife. It's a painful incident Hirschfeld is reluctant to talk about, saying only that his daughter sided with her mother "for a time." Father and daughter have since reconciled, and the controversy, as uncomfortable as it may have been for the self-proclaimed "superdad," only served to increase his visibility--and client list.
But there is more to the charges against Hirschfeld than the critical rumblings from his peers. He admits to being fined at least three times by judges for violating court rules and decorum, most recently by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Alfred Rogers.
Rogers levied a a $20,000 fine on Hirschfeld August 6 after learning that the lawyer's client--a divorced father seeking custody of his 5-year-old son--had recently tried to commit suicide. The judge felt that the suicide attempt was a bit of information that was highly relevant to the question of who might be the more stable parent, and was enraged that Hirschfeld--who knew of the suicide try--failed to inform him.
"You have perpetrated a fraud on this court," the judge lectured Hirschfeld, going on to describe his conduct as "reprehensible" and "outrageous" and awarding permanent custody to the mother.
Hirschfeld bristles at the suggestion that he was under an obligation to tell the judge about the incident. He justifies his actions with the standard legal refrain: "I am obligated to use any legal resource I can to benefit my client."
"You can't lie or be dishonest," Hirschfeld says. "But sometimes, when you are talking about a sin of omission, well, that is a different story.
"You have to strike a balance between the benefit to the child and the court's rules on disclosure."
In this case, Hirschfeld insists, even though the father made an attempt on his own life, he was still a more deserving parent than the mother.
To his critics, that sounds suspiciously like the "hypocrisy" Hirschfeld lays at the feet of women who insist that only they can properly raise children. They note that while Hirschfeld--who rarely, if ever, represents women--claims to have the best interests of children at heart, he refuses to consider that mothers are often the better parent.
"Bob accurately points out," the lawyer who has opposed Hirschfeld a dozen times says, "that women aren't virtuous parents just because they are women.
"But he seems to think that men, by virtue of being men, are automatically good fathers. He really believes it. I guess you could say he is sort of an ideologue, his ideology being that men make better parents.
"He's so devoted to that idea, it blinds him."
But Hirschfeld's boosters, of whom there are many, insist that it is the lawyer's critics who are blind--to the good he has done for them and their children.
Robert Bergman, a client for whom Hirschfeld won sole custody of two children, is one of the happy customers who sing the lawyer's praises.
"Yeah, Bob is a pretty aggressive advocate," Bergman says. "He doesn't see the process of a custody battle as winning friends.
"But you've got to look at the end result. He's given me a chance to raise my kids, and I am forever grateful to him for that."
Such words of endorsement set Hirschfeld aglow. He is at peace with his role in the custody process, and makes no apologies.
"I have very few sleepless nights," he says. "I don't often sit up and wonder, 'Did I do the right thing?' Men are who they are, women are who they are. I am who I am.
"What's to wonder about?"
@body:Cindy Falkner, Hirschfeld's legal assistant, is herself a divorc‚e. She has worked for Hirschfeld for six years, and displays a candor rare for an employee talking about the man who signs her checks.
"Bob is an asshole," Falkner shrugs casually--as if acknowledging that, yes, indeed, the sky is blue.
"I wouldn't have wanted him to represent my ex-husband," she laughs. "He is very hard on women. But he is tough because he needs to be, because he truly cares about his clients, about what he is doing for them. His behavior comes from his heart and soul.
"He really does care about the kids," she insists. Falkner pulls a box out of her desk, filled to the rim with snapshots of former Hirschfeld clients and their children.
The faces are not somber, there are none of the shell-shocked expressions or the hollow, wounded eyes that children often wear after a hard tour of duty in the divorce wars. There are only smiles.
Falkner holds up a picture of a little boy of about 6, wearing a candy-store grin, clinging to his father's neck. "This is where this kid belongs," Falkner says. "And Bob put him there. Inside, you know, Bob is really a teddy bear.
"Well," she pauses, her eyes twinkling, "maybe not a teddy bear. He's got pretty big teeth for a teddy.