Wednesday, September 24, 2014

It's a Girl!

Several months ago, I came home for lunch and my wife was waiting on me with a positive pregnancy test. This was somewhat unexpected as she was on birth control, but the Lord and antibiotics work in mysterious ways so we began preparing ourselves for the arrival of our second child. It was apparent very early on that we were going to have some difficulty arriving at a consensus for the name. Since we did not know the gender yet, we made a list of boys and girls names to work from and I even spent some time perusing the Social Security administration archives for names. On a side note, it is amazing how important timing is for name popularity. For example, from 1910-1920 almost 4,600 American males were named “Adolph.” Let’s just say the name lost some popularity in the subsequent decades.
I digress. Suffice it to say we were both eager to learn the sex of the child so that we could argue over one column of names instead of two. So, when the day of our ultrasound came, we anxiously watched as the technician dispensed belly-jelly and began waving the produce scanner across my wife’s abdomen. For several agonizing minutes, she denoted cranial size and took heart measurements while occasionally pausing to label internal organs.

Finally she began the gender search in earnest and we found ourselves staring at the grainy, yet conclusive, visual evidence that we would be having a girl. Immediately realizing that my wife had probably already opened the Gymboree app on her phone and started placing orders, I glanced over to catch her gaze and see if she was as excited as I was. As we experienced this moment, our technician was still fiddling with some adjustments. Suddenly she used a big yellow area on the screen to draw our attention my daughter’s nether regions and announced that we know it is a girl because “these are the lady-folds and are called the L-A-B-I-A.”

While somewhat caught off-guard by the impromptu anatomy lesson, I could appreciate the fact that she wished to be prudent by explaining any medical jargon in laymen’s terms. However, she continued to refer back to the “lady-folds” several more times to the point I wanted to remind her that my wife was issued that very same equipment at birth and I am obviously familiar enough with it to make the ultrasound necessary.

As the session drew to a close, the technician began providing real-time commentary as the fetus. After assuming a high-pitched tiny voice (a la’ Mr. Bill), she would say things like “Don’t look at me, I’m a shy little girl” and “Why does this lady keep staring at me?” as my wife and I exchanged worried glances. Finally, after treating us to a few horrifying “3D” images of our child’s ocular cavity, we were dismissed.

In the weeks that followed, I have reflected on what it will mean to raise a daughter. I almost felt like I was beginning to approach something akin to competence with my son and now I feel like I am starting over. At least this way, my wife and I will each be tasked with having “the talk” with one of our children. I have heard conflicted accounts about raising little girls. My favorite is that they are simultaneously “sweeter and meaner” than little boys. I suppose this is akin to hitting someone with a baseball bat but being thoughtful enough to ask if they have health insurance first.

While the future is unknown, I do have hope. I hope that she never buys into the lie that her self-worth is somehow proportional to her physical appearance. I hope that she never believes her gender limits her strength, her value, or her intelligence. I hope that she never feels like I have something better to do than listen to her hopes, dreams, fears, and troubles. I hope I will always be capable of providing solace to her broken heart. Most of all; I hope that despite my fumbling efforts at fatherhood she will never doubt that I love her.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Manual Shifter

One of my wife’s biggest pet peeves is seeing a grown man “reorganize his change” while in public. She concedes that while there may be times where such manipulation is necessary for one’s ongoing comfort, common courtesy dictates one perform such actions in the men’s room. We have had several discussions about ensuring that our son does not resort to this type of behavior when he is older.

The latest incident we witnessed occurred when we were checking out of a rather upscale hotel in Nashville. As my wife and I walked toward our car, we passed a group of people waiting for the courtesy shuttle. There was a group of older ladies, a middle-aged couple, and a young family waiting under the canopy for the complimentary lift to the airport. As we approached, the middle-aged man was apparently taken by a sudden urge to modify his orientation and grabbed enough crotch to make a major league pitcher squirm.

This was done in full view of the assembled crowd and his movements were so exaggerated that we feared the seam of his shorts would give way. Having successfully reseated his eggs in their basket, he re-crossed his arms while sporting a look of smug satisfaction. My wife was incensed (and I certainly wasn’t clamoring for an encore) but the incident sparked an in-depth conversation about the socially accepted methods of assuring one’s testicular comfort.

While most self-respecting males will engage in an inconspicuous round of pocket pool or perhaps even try and work in a few “slunges” (side-step/lunge combo), there does seem to be a growing number of American males willing to cut to the chase in mixed company. I have assumed that these were all cases where the urge was simply too strong to ignore but there have been a few cases where it reoccurs to the point there may be a medical issue.

In my wife’s defense, there are some guys that appear to be constantly taking inventory rather than addressing genital distress. To them, I would say that, barring an accident, there is no need for a recount between showers. Or perhaps they feel that such behavior conveys a sense of hyper-masculinity. I believe that line of reasoning was permanently nullified by Rosanne Barr’s infamous 1990 performance of the National Anthem.     

There is also the possibility that this series of movements is simply used to convey derision. While undeniable expressive, it is difficult to perform a while driving and therefore is often shelved in favor the middle finger. Regardless of underlying intent, we will be teaching our son that there is a time and a place for upsetting the apple cart and the lobby of an Olive Garden is not one of those places.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Blonde Grifter

I have had my share of door to door salespeople over the years and even written about a few of them, but they never cease to amaze me. While home on lunch, my doorbell rang and I found myself face to face with a young blonde woman wearing jeans and a purple tank top. She had a few pamphlets in her hand and the word “love” ornately tattooed over her left breast. She informed me that she was visiting people in the neighborhood in order to combat her fear of public speaking.

This treatment apparently required her to ask each resident what they did for a living and based on their answers she was awarded “points” toward her college education. I attempted to interrupt her spiel and ascertain how this unnamed organization quantified the points-to-scholarship transaction but she was already off to the races:

Her – What kind of super-awesome job do you have?
Me – I work with computers.
Her – Wow. You must be really smart.
Me – Not really, but my urine is clean and I am punctual.
Her – Oh… Well either way that gets me 3,000 points! Can you do a backflip?
Me – What?
Her – A backflip. If you can do one I get another 3,000 points!
Me – Sorry, no.
Her – It is just as well, I can’t do one either. Well my daddy taught me to always get to the point when I speak to men, so I wanted to see if you would be interested in helping me get more points by purchasing a magazine subscription for kids with cancer who live in a hospital.

At this point she hands me a glossy trifold brochure with various magazines on it (Car and Driver, Ebony, Cosmo, etc) and informs me that the cheapest subscription is $40.

Me – So….these benefit children or are delivered to children?
Her – They are for kids with cancer, the small old guy down the road couldn’t afford a whole subscription so he just made a donation so you could do that.
Me – I am going to have to pass….but can I keep the brochure?
Her – We are not allowed to do that.

And with that, she took the brochure and was gone. The entire conversation had been so schizophrenic and incomprehensible that I checked to make sure she hadn’t lifted my wallet at some point. So far, I have been unable to locate a conglomerate that awards scholarships based upon an arbitrarily assigned points system.  I still don’t know if I was supposed to help stricken children with the proceeds from a magazine subscription or if there are large amounts of underage children in hospitals who desperately needed monthly issues of Cosmo.

With the way she delivered the “my daddy taught me to be straightforward with men” line I must admit that I was half-expected it to be followed by something other than an offer of a periodical. Imagine my surprise when, that very evening, I was recalling the encounter for a group of friends and one of them echoed my experience except their caller was a young Caucasian male with gauged earrings and the magazine subscription was to assist with a Cancun trip. The young man had even inquired if they had already been visited by “a blonde girl.”

Say what you will about the morality of grifters, but it takes gumption to stare someone in the eye and efficiently scroll through the emotional Rolodex of a prospective mark. Did I have a soft-spot for glossophobia sufferers? Would I be moved by a young woman’s quest for higher education? Was I a connoisseur of cleavage art? When all else fails, what self-respecting person could resist providing some measure of comfort to innocent children afflicted with a terrible disease?

That being said, we obviously called the police and I hope no one gives them a cent. There is little that sinks to the level of extracting money from people under the false pretense of assisting children suffering from cancer. The most disheartening aspect of this is that many of these door-to-door con-artists possess the skill set to make a legitimate living. They could transition into used car sales with nothing more substantial than a wardrobe change and a business card.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

In Memorial

My wife has made it abundantly clear that in the event she precedes me in death she does not wish to be memorialized as a car window decal. Despite arguing valiantly that this is far more economically-feasible than a traditional headstone, she appears to unwilling to budge. Apparently vinyl lettering on the back of a decade-old sedan is not her idea of a “dignified remembrance.” To be fair they aren’t my style either, but unlike my beautiful bride I haven’t threatened to haunt anyone over it.

Despite our reluctance, I see more and more vehicles on the road memorializing a deceased loved one. They vary from the basic “In Memory of” to rather elaborate displays that include full-color 8x10 photos flanked by angel wings. I supposed we all grieve differently, but barring specific instructions in that person’s will I probably would not be adorning my ride with anyone's death date.

I personally like the idea of a headstone because they are difficult to return. What if the initial shock wears off and my friends and family decide they don’t miss me as much as they thought they would? What if my children put “Loving Father” on my epitaph only to discover through years of therapy that I was bumbling and misguided? At least my granite inscription would not be susceptible to a bottle of Goo Gone.  

I often wonder what happens when they trade in these vehicles. Do these people purchase another decal for their new car or would that transition present an acceptable opportunity for the velvet ropes to come down? I would feel obligated to purchase another decal, especially if the original had featured the words “never forgotten.”

There is also the possibility that you could get into a situation where your new ride has less real estate on the back glass and the original memorial requires. That might seem trivial, but I imagine it could be agonizing to realize that you cannot get both the poem and photo collage on you Dodge Caliber.  

I realize that the cost of a tradition funeral, burial plot, and headstone has skyrocketed and many families simply cannot afford it. Based on the number of companies that offer memorial car decals, it appears to be a very lucrative business and perhaps I should dip my toe into that pond. Here are a few ideas for low-cost ways to remember those who have gone before:

  • Memorial Cell Phone Cases – By the time you get another upgrade credit, it is time to move on…
  • Memorial Golf Umbrellas – Here’s hoping your loved one can read this message from where they are..
  • Memorial Steering Wheel Covers – Memaw take the wheel….
  • Memorial Facebook Memes – Your relevance may be short, but your impact is everlasting...
  • Memorial GPS Voices – Even death can’t stop them from guiding you home….
  • Memorial Temporary Tattoos – Buy yourself some time while you investigate the rumors of a second family in Cleveland…