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.

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.

Well, Almost

I still have 21 hours until my 30th birthday.  But to be honest, I think that I have actually been in my thirties for the past 7 years or so.  If you consider the fact that 30 is the new 23 and at 23 I was living the life of a 30 year old, I’m way ahead of the curve.  I mean, at 29 and 364 days, I have already been married for nearly a decade, had 4 children, and have been working in my chosen career for 6 years.  Plus, I’m bald. Let’s face it, I may as well be turning 40.

With the coming and going of the New Year holiday and the big three-o on the near horizon, I have taken some time to evaluate my life in the past few days and in general, I find my life to be quite enjoyable. But, in classic male fashion, my major concern is this: what mark I am making on the world? Sure, I teach high school kids to memorize lines (or at least ACT like they’ve memorized them) and I know teachers shape kids forever and blah, blah, blah. But is that really my lasting legacy? That maybe someday one of my acting students will find success and I’ll receive polite mention in a Reader’s Digest article? I have to say, that doesn’t really do it for me. So what can I do?

The answer: KIDS! They are going to use up all of my time and resources over the next 18+ years anyway, so why not make them my pet project? So, my New Year’s resolution is to re-dedicate myself to being an awesome dad in order to produce the best possible kids.

Phase 2 of Operation Lasting Legacy is keeping this blog, both to document my journey and be a resource to other dads. There are an overwhelming number of mommy sites out there, but far fewer dedicated to the male counterpart. Well, here is one to help shrink the gap.

So welcome to 30-Something Dad! May it inform and entertain, and get updated with reasonable frequency!

*insert catchy dad-related catch phrase here*