Shredding the “Man Card”

The phrase “man card” has been around for quite a while, but of late it seems to be popping up with more frequency in my Facebook and Twitter feeds. ;Usually it is in reference to a guy doing something “girly” and giving permission to take his card away.

I am over this phrase. ;Why? Because according to the rules I don’t get to have one, even though the last time I looked down I saw the necessary equipment.

I don’t qualify as the stereotypical man for the following reasons:

1. I don’t like sports. ;They just don’t do it for me. ;Sometimes I will watch a game with my wife (she likes to watch college football) but most of the time I end up falling asleep or grabbing a book to occupy myself while it’s on.

2. I like “chick flicks.” Give me a GOOD romance any day of the week over a testosterone fueled action flick with lots of explosions and little plot or character. (Note the use of the word GOOD…anything by Nicholas Sparks is swill in my not-so-humble opinion). ;I like a movie that tells a story, that draws the audience into the emotional content, that I can relate to. ;I’ve never saved the world from a speed-racing drug cartel, but I have been in love so I can connect with that. ;Which leads me to the next point…

3. I cry during movies. ;And TV shows. ;And books. ;And church services and news stories and when something emotional happens to someone I don’t even know. ;One time I was sobbing so loudly at a movie that my wife actually felt embarrassed and, had the theater not been packed, would have tried to move away from me. ;What can I say, I’m a sensitive soul (and the movie was REALLY heart-wrenching). ;I like to cry. ;When I’m feeling particularly disconnected I will purposely seek out a tear-jerker just so I can really let loose.

4. I’m more interested in a woman’s brain than her body. ;My wife is a sexy fox, but even if she weren’t she has an amazing mind and soul that would have drawn me to her anyway. ;I can’t imagine being attracted to a woman just because she has big bazoombas, a sweet a$$, or a pretty face. ;Those are all nice perks but if she’s dumb or dull then there is absolutely no attraction. Not even a gut physical attraction. ;I never tried to date any girl who was just attractive. ;I always got to know them first and then the attraction would begin.

5. I enjoy doing household tasks. ;Well, very few people actually ;like ;to clean, but I enjoy dividing domestic duties up with my wife and doing my fair share. ;I do the dishes, I clean the counters, I bathe the kids and put them to bed most nights. ;I am more skilled with a vacuum cleaner and a mop than my wife is. ;We divide our domestic tasks ;not by who has what genetalia, but rather who is better at completing the job and/or who hates it less.

The list could go on and on, but I’ll stop it there for now. ;The point is I am no less of a man for these reasons. ;I’m just a guy with personal tastes. ;Plenty of guys dedicate their lives to sports and drool over women with big fake ta-tas and that is totally fine as well. ;That’s just who they are. ;Where I get caught up is in the idea that a “real man” or a “manly man” has to be a certain way. ;I’ve been called whipped. ;I’ve been called weak. ;I’ve been called gay. ;All because I would rather watch My Best Friend’s Wedding than Sports Center.

It used to really hurt my feelings that people (men AND women) would make these assumptions about me until I stopped and realized just how ridiculous it all was. ;People are just people, shaped by their influences, genetics, and choices. ;My unique cocktail of life experiences has shaped me into the person that I am, and I have nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. ;I like who I am. ;I like my life. ;I have an intelligent, beautiful wife who makes me happy and allows me to make her happy. ;I have wonderfully weird kids who are growing up to be proud of their uniqueness. ;My life is full of laughter and tears and I feel well-rounded and connected to all the parts of myself. ;So if all of that means that I don’t get to have a “man card” then so be it. ;The things that I do have are so much more fulfilling anyway.

Working Hard for the iPod


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The Goal

Following the Newt Gingrich child labor plan, we have put Sissy to work as a janitor.  Being fairly poor, we felt that it was time for her to abandon her studies and actually start contributing something to the family that would be of use.  COLD HARD CASH.

Shit…I mean…Sissy has started earning an allowance. (NOT child labor.  Really.  Just forget what I said before…*Blink*…*Blink*)

Wifey has picked up a small job cleaning my parent’s office building once a week and Sissy helps her.  For her efforts she receives cash money in the amount of $5 per week.  And by receives I mean that we earmark her money in our bank account so that she doesn’t blow it on useless garbage like candy or cheap toys.  Or annoying dolls/stuffed animals (I’m still pissed at that damn bear.)  So for the last several weeks Sissy has been racking her brain trying to come up with the big-ticket item that she can spend her hard-earned dough on.

Her choice?  An iPhone.

Riiiight.  Like she has people to call.  I think my former students and my children’s grandparents would quickly tire of getting daily calls from a 7-year-old.  That idea received a definitive “NO!”

So we compromised (teaching life lessons, see?  Rock star parenting.) She could purchase an iPod touch with her money if she saved up enough of her earnings.  Sissy got online and researched the costs.  She might be able to find one for as low as $189, depending on sales, and with tax she needs to save around $210.  With the amount she’s already earned she figured that she has to save for about 8 months in order to make her purchase.

Earned so far: $35.  Left to earn: $175.  Weeks until iPod touch purchase: 35.

The countdown has begun.

Puff Puff, the Bear from Hell

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Me Strangling Puff Puff

Last Saturday we bought Sissy a “Build Your Own Build-a-Bear” at Big Lots. It was a bear skin in a box that your child (or you) can sew up and stuff. A fun project for our aspiring seamstress and lover of “stuffies” (her term, not ours). She pestered us all evening on Saturday to make the bear but it wasn’t the time. We should have known then to just throw the damn thing in the trash, especially after the epic meltdown that followed when we told her she would have to wait until Sunday to start. But we didn’t, and Sunday came and Sissy sewed and stuffed the bear. And when it was done she was proud of her accomplishment, poured out all of her love on her new baby bear, and christened it “Puff Puff.”

I HATE Puff Puff.

It has become Sissy’s obsession. She carries it everywhere, talks to it, calls Wifey and I its grandparents, brings it to the table for dinner, puts it down for naps, and sleeps with it. She insists that we snuggle with it, kiss it, hug it, say that we love it. Sometimes kids with imagination can be so annoying.

Just to clarify the timeline:

Saturday: Puff Puff is purchased.

Sunday: Puff Puff is made and christened.

Monday: Puff Puff loses an eye.

Oh happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust and let me die! Wailing. Gnashing of teeth. Oh the tragedy! Jesus wept for Puff Puff’s eye!!!

For fear of accidentally ripping through Puff Puff’s entire head, Sissy carefully placed her beloved bear on Wifey’s sewing table to be mended. And there it lay forgotten. Until 9:00 that night when Sissy walked into our bedroom.

Sissy(wailing): “I ca-an’t sleep without Pu-u-uff Pu-u-uff!”

Me (having missed the eye incident): “Then take it to bed with you.”

Sissy(sobbing): “She lo-ost her eye and I don’t wa-ant to rip her head in my slee-ee-eep!”

Me: “Well then, you’ll just have to wait until tomorrow after Mommy has fixed it.”

Sissy(gnashing teeth): “BUT I ALWAYS SLEEP WITH HER! I CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT HER!”

Me (to Wifey, whispering): “Didn’t she get that yesterday?”

Wifey: slight nod while rolling eyes

Me: “Sweetie, I don’t think she’ll rip if you sleep with her. Just go ahead and take her and ask Mommy to fix her tomorrow BEFORE bedtime.”

Sissy: “O-oka-ay.”

But of course she didn’t ask Mommy to fix her. Until 9:00 the next evening when the whole scene replayed itself again. More wailing, more drama, more eye rolling (by me, not her).

Fast-forward to Friday. I am home from work because Wifey has been struck with the flu and can’t get out of bed, let alone tend to our horde. While playing in the floor with The Baby, Sissy hands me a piece of paper. It is an invite to Puff Puff’s Baby Party. She has spent the last hour “decorating” (aka trashing) her room and requests my presence at what is sure to be the shin-dig of the century. And, because I’m a sucker, I accept the invitation. At the appointed time I walk back to her room to join in the festivities, which include a variation of hot-potato designed to make me lose (she hands me the dinosaur so she can turn off the music), some sort of “game” where I have to be Squidward trying to get SpongeBob (her) and Patrick (Bubba) to stop singing so loudly by shouting over them, and ending with Freeze Dance, which involves dancing until the music stops and then freezing in whatever position you are in (that one was actually kind of fun). Apparently, this is all for the benefit of Puff Puff, who is overseeing the festivities from atop Sissy’s cabinet. Wait a sec…she is overseeing with…TWO EYES! The eyes are sewn into the fabric, not buttons like I assumed they were. And they were both very much still present on the damn bear’s stupid head. I grab the bear and shove it in Sissy’s face:

Me: “What part of these eyes is broken? It seems pretty whole to me.”

Sissy: “Look…the dot in the middle of the eye has come off.”

You have got to be kidding me. A small dot of tan thread in middle of the right eye unraveled and came out. There wasn’t even a hole where the thread had once been. And I had to put up with a week’s worth of drama for THAT! I couldn’t even tell that anything was missing! I wanted to rip the bear’s head off and throw it at her while shouting “NOW THIS IS SOMETHING TO CRY ABOUT!”

But I didn’t. I sat down in the floor and proceeded to play a game in which we passed the bear back and forth having to answer any question that Sissy asked while holding her. And while passing Puff Puff back and forth telling Sissy about my favorite colors, places, books, and dreams, I started to soften. This little bear, for all of its BS, was creating a wonderful memory with my daughter, so I guess I should be thankful.

Wait, no…scratch that. I still hate that stupid bear and will continue to pray for her to fall victim to some sort of horrible accident. But I love my daughter, so I’ll put up with Puff Puff…

For now.

This Date Sucks…And Rules.

Checking my Twitter feed on our date.

Wifey and I love food. Or to be more accurate, we love good food. We consider ourselves to be “foodies” and so our nicest dates take us to restaurants with Michelin stars and James Beard Award winning chefs. Unfortunately, budget constraints don’t allow Wifey and I to go out very often, certainly not to such high-priced locales. And with four kids under 8, the cost of a babysitter who is brave enough to take the job pretty much zaps our entire date budget. So, despite our yearning for fancy food, most of our dates end up taking us to places that totally suck.

Take last night for example. My parents graciously agreed to keep our offspring for us and we decided to go out for something slightly fancy. We received our tax return this week and decided to use a small portion of it to treat ourselves before spending the rest on things we actually need. We tried to get reservations at two of our favorite restaurants but both were completely booked up. I did manage to score us a reservation at a well-reviewed restaurant but could only get in at 9:00 and we were both too hungry to wait that long and needed to get back by 11 to relieve my parents anyway, so we cancelled and decided on a popular, if slightly less fancy, dinner option.

It was awful. Absolutely disgusting. And expensive to boot. I kept looking around at the other patrons who all seemed to be having the dining experience of their lives and judging them for their lack of sophistication and taste (rude, I know, but it’s true). The restaurant was one of those Brazilian meat-on-a-spear places where they have a salad bar of sides and then constantly bring around a variety of proteins in unholy amounts for you to enjoy. What were we thinking? As people who eat very limited amounts of meat as it is, and as complete and total food snobs, we should have known better. Not only were we disgusted by the clearly canned and ill-prepared veggies, but all of the meats were tough, flavorless, and unevenly prepared. There was hardly anything that I enjoyed about it. And to add insult to injury, both Wifey and I got sick afterward from bad-meat overload. By all accounts, this should have been one of the worst dates ever.

Except that it was awesome. Instead of having our evening ruined by a series of unfortunate events, we relished the opportunity to laugh about it. As we sampled each revolting new addition to our plates, we talked about all of the really GOOD food that we have had, and about how and why this fell short. We discussed, and in some cases mocked (I never claimed to be nice), the people who surrounded us: the manager who clearly loathed her job and was on a mission to make everyone hate their lives just as much as she did; the family sitting next to us who ate without stopping from before we came in until after we left; the man who kept falling asleep at his table, only to wake when a new meat-on-a-stick appeared before him. We took pictures of ourselves eating the disgusting fare, flirted both in person and via Twitter (nauseating our followers, I’m sure), talked about the ways that we are awesome, talked about the ways we want to change and improve, laughed, laughed, and laughed some more.

Maybe our date wasn’t the most romantic one that we’ve ever shared; maybe it didn’t go exactly according to plan; but we managed to make it into just what we needed: some time alone that allowed us to reconnect and remember all of the reasons that we fell in love to begin with (cue the violins). If we had managed to get in to one of the fancy restaurants, we would have spent the evening oohing and aahing over the food and the dining experience itself would have dominated our evening. Instead, we were able to focus on each other.

So the next time your romantic evening doesn’t go exactly as planned, shake it off and relish spending time with your wonderful partner. Because that’s really the point anyway, isn’t it?

Do you have a great “bad date” story? Feel free to tell us about it in the comments section. Praise (and criticism) is also welcome. Have a great week!

Living The Li-ife I Wa-ant…

…with herpes!  Ok, so I don’t have herpes (though if I did, I would definitely opt for this treatment), but I always thought it was funny that “Living the life that I want” was the slogan for Valtrex.  I’ve gotta say, I would much prefer not to have herpes over managing it with Valtrex.  But I digress.

On Saturday, Wifey and I loaded the kids into the van and went for an exploratory drive of Dallas.  You see, we hate living in the suburbs.  As I have written of previously, the ‘burbs are just not our bag for a host of reasons and we have been longing to relocate into a more urban setting.  I have a pretty nice gig teaching theatre here in town that I’m not ready to leave at present, so we thought that we would check out the option of living in Dallas and just commuting to work.  That way, I can keep my job but we can live in an environment that is better to our liking.  Wifey downloaded a geolocating realtor app on her phone and we took off to start our tour.  We came across several nice houses in our price range, but unfortunately we discovered that the entire Dallas urban area is basically the same as the suburbs: strip malls, major retail outlets, and chain restaurants.  Everything we would need or want to do would still require us to drive, as Dallas is incredibly sprawling.  And the areas that are more localized have demolished all of the historical buildings and houses in favor of more suburban, expensive models.  It was incredibly disheartening.  After having wracked our brains for months to try to come up with a solution to our suburban woes, we had convinced ourselves that this would be the answer only to have reality crash into us head on.

On Saturday night I was incredibly short and ill-tempered, feeling discouraged and just a little bit sorry for myself.  Wifey tried to console me by saying that we would just make our home into what we wanted it to be, that we didn’t have to be defined by our surroundings.  We would make the best of our situation.  So I snapped at her that her idea wasn’t good enough and was just settling in a place that we hated while trying to put a smile on it.  A proud moment for me, I must say (note the sarcasm).  I went to bed feeling frustrated.

But when I awoke on Sunday morning I started to think about what Wifey had said the night before.  The truth is we can find another place to live with more of the external perks that we prefer, but our day-to-day lives will be pretty much the same anywhere, so why NOT start there?  We should begin by making our home the place we want to live and not relying on our house to make us happy.  After all, isn’t the preoccupation with the physical and material trappings of life what we really dislike about the suburbs anyway?  And even if my own preoccupation is on the other end of that spectrum, isn’t it still along the same line?

So I started to list in my head some ways to make our home life more awesome, habits and routines that make me happy, make me feel like I am living the life that I want.  And we are starting to integrate them as time and money will allow.  Yes I still have to drive to the mega-supermarket to buy all of our groceries, and yes many a date night will take place at a crappy chain restaurant, but the company I keep on those dates can’t be beat and the home that I bring those groceries home to will be the simple, loving haven that I desire.  I’m going to live the life that I want…without herpes.

Inked, or How My Tattoo Makes Me a Better Father

For my Christmas/Birthday gift this year, Wifey gave me something that can I can never lose or return: a tattoo (plus a legitimate excuse to never, ever have to give blood…”home tattoo” is way more manly than “cries at the thought of needles”).  I’ve wanted to get one for a long time but hadn’t been able to come up with a design that I would want to carry on my body from now until the day I die.  I was also held up by the fact that I really wanted to tattoo my forearm, a very visible location.

I had this idea that I would never be taken seriously as a professional and as a father if I had large, visible ink, an idea that was only reinforced by the frequent responses of “really?” when I would tell coworkers and other acquaintances about my intentions.  Nobody ever said to me “you’ll never be taken seriously as a professional and as a father if you have large, visible ink,” but their inflection and sideways glances coupled with my own paranoia sure made it seem like that is exactly what they were saying.  As a compromise of sorts, I had decided to get a simple, fairly small cross in the crook of my arm…something that would be acceptable due to its religious nature and small enough to cover for work without having to wear full long-sleeved shirts all the time (my district has a “strict” no-visible-tattoos policy…unless you are female and have one on your calf or ankle, apparently…but that’s a topic for another time).  I’d decided on the artist I wanted to do it (Jeremy Shawn…he’s amazing) and was just waiting to have a little bit of extra cash to get the job done.

The time had come.  Wifey was going to use my Christmas gift as the opportunity to get me to finally do it.  And as the day approached, I was feeling unsure about my cross.  Was it really what I wanted?  I mean REALLY?  Forever?  And the answer was “no.”  So Wifey suggested to me that I get…what I got.  And I listened because she is wise.

By this point I had already come my personal epiphany about being who I wanted to be without concern for the opinions of people I don’t really care about, but I hadn’t connected this epiphany to my tattoo dreams.  So when I made the final decision to go with a giant elm on my left forearm, I did so without fear or doubt.  It’s what I wanted, so I got it.

I tell this story to illustrate my decision to change my life.  I have one life to live.  It can be guided by the opinions of a panel of outside observers who ultimately don’t care about what happens to me one way or another, or it can be guided by me in the way that I want it to go.  Will some people doubt my professional abilities if they happen to catch a peek of my tat under my shirt cuff?  Maybe.  Will some people automatically assume that I am an amoral father because I am carrying my baby in an arm forever decorated in ink? Could be.  Are their assumptions correct?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I would argue that I am actually a better father and teacher BECAUSE I have a tattoo, because I feel more empowered and in control of my life.  For too long I’ve allowed myself to make decisions based on the perceptions of others.  And what has it gotten me?  A significant case of depression and self-doubt.  And those things suck.

30-Something Dad, Round 2

My blog is much neglected over the last 9 months. And I don’t care, stuff happens.

I’ve actually started about 10 different posts that never got published, one for every month I’ve been “silent” I suppose. I would be struck by random inspiration and start to type, and then lose interest and abandon the effort. The story of my life for the last little bit.

You see, I started this blog as a way to jump-start my life. I thought that if I embraced who and where I was whole-heartedly and energetically, I might actually convince myself that my life was just as good as I thought it should be. That was a fail. In order to blog successfully, you have to be pretty narcissistic. You have to believe that your life is interesting enough for people to want to read about it. And I haven’t found myself to be particularly interesting for a while, therefore developing a major case of blogger’s block.

But lately I’ve been doing some self-reflection and I’ve come to realize something: when your life sucks, change it. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I’ve been caught in the trap of suburbia: fit in, fit in, fit in. Well I don’t fit, no matter how hard I try. I’m not suburban. I don’t care about buying shit. I don’t care about the latest, greatest new chain restaurant. I don’t care about having lots of money. I don’t care about being fashionable, etc., etc., etc. I’ve known this for a long time on an intellectual level, but somehow my inner psyche didn’t connect with that and so subconsciously I’ve been stressing about the fact that I just can’t make it work. I’m done with that now. My psyche has seen the light.

So, welcome to 30-Something Dad, Round 2 where, for better or for worse, I’m just going to let loose to say whatever I want, shoot from the hip, and document my ongoing journey back to just being who I am. If you are enjoying yourself, continue to follow my blog. And if not, then shut it…’cuz I do what I want.