Last Thursday my children and I attended a combined birthday party (2-year old boy) and weaning party (3-year old girl) at our uptown toddler park. I smoke a cigarette on the drive (yeah, yeah) and once there haul the family into the corralled public area, shaking my leg to dislodge my clinging children onto the urine-soaked woodchips (has anyone else thought about that?) to frolic on the play structure, slides, and baby swings that somehow never lose their appeal to those three feet tall. A picnic table is loaded with brownies and cupcakes decorated like boobs, a combination which facilitates my three-year-old’s independence from Mama’s proverbial skirts. I hold my son and take a seat on a bench next to my friend Michael. A stay-at-home dad and used to the female majority of these events, he scans the increasing throng of parents arriving. “Okay, there’s two other dads here, good.” he affirms to himself. “Oh come on, Michael,” I tease, “You’re man enough to handle all these women. Just think of it as your own personal harem.” I pause, then add almost to myself, “Of course it’s an undersexed bitchy harem, but what are you gonna do.” “You got that right,” he mutters under his breath, and both of us laugh, delighted at how much LIFE AS PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN SUCKS.
I categorize Michael as one of our PT “shed boys” – men with more charm and survival talent than “sustainable employment record”. Men who keep from starving by using a combination of two of the three following stratagems: 1. simplicity (by that I mean: LIVING IN A SHED and taking a shower at the marina); 2. a well-degreed or well-financed lady (often situated in a groovy uptown Victorian or cottage); or 3. a trust fund / inheritance to nibble at in between knife-sharpening or odd-job carpentry. (Please note I actually don’t know what Michael does and how much he works, I’m just generalizing about the shed boys. If any of them are offended, I apologize profusely and ask for them to get off the library computer because someone else needs to use it). So anyway. Michael. He is tall, handsome, charming, and of indeterminate age since he is prematurely white-haired. Still, he’s advanced in years to be starting a family and after these months of knowing him I can tell he is still reeling from the shock of a sudden household full of step-children & two kids of his own under 2 years old. A month ago on a field trip he coined the term, “RW” (Relationship Weirdness) which I can relate to due to the painful and familiar history of my own marriage. All the same, he is an intuitive and caring father raising two healthy kids and an enjoyable conversationalist.
I like talking with Michael because I can be myself – as up front about my opinions, as brash and off-color as I like – and there is no, “Who’s the June Cleaver of the two of us?” subtle inner duel between us. Understand that even your most brazen and seemingly confident mother of young children, somewhere deep inside, is questioning her worth as a mother. When confronted with another female who may be “higher functioning” than herself she is thinking, See? If I just pulled my shit together I could do better. I am sure amongst males this core self-worth issue is reflected in questions about the role of provider, being an important player at work, etc. (my husband is in the next room but it would be too much work to check with him on this, so let’s just say I’m right). Anyway, with this male friend of mine we can drop the insecurity and, since he and I are not partners in a domestic capacity, there is no heat to our accounts of being “in the foxholes” with another of our respective sex. Translation: when I say, “Man, my poor husband is not getting his share of blowjobs!” he can laugh with the maniacal, bitter edge of familiarity; conversely, if he says “My partner is going nuts with the housecleaning obsession!” I can recognize the ridiculousness of my own participation in that role without feeling threatened to change or defend myself.*
Yes, having a few men in our henhouse of child-wranglin’ is a good thing. I learn something new from them each and every time. The sad thing is, in these social situations many times the males group together – out of fear or the herd instinct, I do not know. I think this makes for a less exciting potential for community, myself. However, even in that scenario – when they’re talking about boring man shit (jobs, stuff with moving parts, and video games)? – at least they’re not rehashing the same tired material their XX counterparts are (where we get our coffee fix, our kids’ weight / health / poop, why we don’t want sex). And in that, there is novelty.
* these are fictional examples: in actuality I am a blowjob Goddess!