Friday, November 21, 2008

Perpetuating Pet Peeves

As a master of both the obvious and the understatement, I present the following: a parent's influence over his/her child is amazingly powerful. It seems self-evident that shaping a kid's moral compass is paramount to proper parenting. Of course, teaching etiquette and manners must rank pretty high on the list, too. And don't forget about reinforcing the important lessons like "sharing is caring," "being a team player," "lending a hand to those in need," and other seemingly cliche but truly important values. Okay. I know. I sound like Charlie Brown's teacher. Moving on.

All of those child rearing fundamentals are clearly elementary, but I feel like one of the coolest areas of influence that a parent has over a child is the ability to brainwash them into co-hating mom's or dad's pet peeves. Granted not all parents are on the same page as me, but I guarantee there are a handful out there reading this that are quietly nodding in agreement.

I can tell you right now that I certainly plan on administering my own form of KGB propaganda in baby t's early years. Here's just a short list, in no particular order, of those pet peeves that boil my blood:

1.) the interrupter = if you speak over me while I'm in mid-sentence, you might as well just hock a loogie in my face.

2.) the crop duster = why oh why must you fart during your walk to the water bubbler while I'm on the treadmill? (side note - ever notice that gym farts are especially horrid?)

3.) the tailgaiter = I don't enjoy feeling like O.J.'s Bronco just came up from behind while I'm freeway driving.

4.) the "can't be bothered" = it's pretty much a miracle if the cashier at CVS near Downtown Crossing isn't on her cell phone when you're waiting to be rung up;

5.) mr. cool = radio D.J. teachers seriously need to teach their students that speaking over a song before the lyrics kick in is NEVER COOL - please, just stop doing this;

6.) the fast forwarder = usually a caffeine buzzed car operator who FF's a song when it's only halfway through - you know who you are;

7.) the contrarian = it doesn't matter if you suggest that a human needs air to breath, this person will find a way to disagree;

8.) Ron Jaworski/Troy Aikman = really, it's okay to say NFL instead of National Football League, even just once during a game - a strangely disturbing trend;

9.) the shameless introvert = is it really that difficult to ask just one question about what's happening in my neck of the woods?

10.) the odd urinator = it makes no sense to me when dudes pee on toilet seats in male-only bathrooms when urinals are also available - i beg you, please stop the madness for those of us who have the unfortunate need to use a public throne - it just prolongs the nest making process;

Wow, that was therapeutic. I feel better already. We could go on forever because God knows I'm perfect and I never breach such reprehensible mores. Rather than end here, I'd like to hear from you all. Leave me a comment about your pet peeves (or feedback on those aforementioned) and I'll post an uber-list next week...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Push Gift Mythology

A devious, conniving wizard behind a diamond encrusted curtain once concocted this idea about a "push gift." Do not be deceived, ladies and gentlemen - that unseen CEO of a jewelry company was not looking for a way to reward new moms for delivering their first baby(ies.) The idea of a push gift is just good old capitalism merged with advertising, urban legend, and exploiting a man's guilt for failing to pony up some bling (the engagement ring apparently doesn't make the cut.) Okay, I'll get off my soap box now.

By no means do I intend to belittle the physical challenge of delivery that lies ahead for my baby mama. If anything, I've got belly envy. Baby T loves to practice kung fu and play air drums, which mom gets to experience all the time but daddio only feels when we're spooning. The best part about my wife's belly in its current form is feeling it in between us when we hug. It's a warm reminder of February 1, 2009.

As for a push gift, Baby T's mama has not so subtly left reminders in the form of Barmakian catalogues around the house and seemingly casual comments like, "Oh wow, this is so pretty!" I know that she is kind of kidding but I know that she wouldn't mind if I "surprised" her, too. I was raised Catholic so clearly guilt is one potential way of effectively manipulating me. And adding fuel to the fire are dudes who broke from what should be an unwritten fellow man code by going ahead and springing for the bling. (Yo, you're making us simpletons look bad!)

Crunch time fast approaches. I keep envisioning the delivery room with my baby mama and I holding hands in a hospital room. With a catcher's mitt on my free hand and a couple stogies in my pocket, I'll be chanting words of encouragement while Shell is loudly cursing me for having knocked her up. As for our push gift, the real present we'll be looking for on that day is the end of our wait for baby T. 10 weeks or less to go!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Drinking the Minivan Kool Aid

"Darth" was a black Ford Aerostar with a blue hood, which 5 of my buddies and I took on a road trip to Virginia Beach one summer in college during one of our annual adventures known as "Shaft Weekend." Each of us took a turn at the wheel beating the crap out of Darth while the others slept, farted, laughed, joked, and hazed the driver. In other words, we were having such a good time that I didn't consider how emasculating it was to be driving a minivan.

I thought of Darth last weekend while I was driving on I-95. The reverse image of a minivan caught my eye as I glanced in the rear view mirror and observed the driver in his attempt to mount my Honda from behind. I held my breath while pulling into the middle lane.

One might assume that an insecure 40 year-old driving a Hummer trying to impress his date or a drunken teenager speeding in his parents' Porsche is the most dangerous vehicle on the road. Not in my book. Minivans scare the bejeezus out of me. I pull over faster to let them pass than I do for police cars or ambulances.

Think about it. A parent behind the wheel of a minivan is probably more volatile than Elizabeth Hasselbeck before a presidential election. If kids are in the car, then chances are at least one of them is melting down, or the cartoon DVD playing is lulling the driver to sleep along with the kids. If no kids are in the car, dad temporarily believes that he's driving his Mustang from college and he's on his way to his girlfriend's house because her parents are gone for the weekend. In other words, stay far away from minivans on the highway.

I know what the dads who drank the Kool Aid are thinking. Some of them have tried to get me to drink from their minivan pint glass. "It's a really smooth ride." "The cargo room is great." Or maybe, "We can use it for road trips - if my wife lets me."

Not me, man. Driving a minivan would seriously cramp my male mystique. My prior wheels included hotrods such as a 1978 Chevrolet Malibu (the "Bubonic"), a 1989 Plymouth Reliant (the "K Car"), and a 1996 Ford Escort (the "Scrat.") Obviously, people's heads were always turning when my rides rolled through town.

However, we do need to buy a family car. If we take the plunge, it's got to be in style. (Contemplating) I wonder if Darth is for sale...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Clarking Out

Give me Jordan, Bird, or Magic at the peak of their careers - none of them could have beat my dad's go-to move in H.O.R.S.E. on our driveway hoop and wooden backboard. Clad in a straight brim mesh ball cap, shades, dungarees, and a v-neck sweater, the guy we affectionately called (and continue to call) "Clark" had a banking hook shot that never missed as long as he was smoking a cigar and holding a glass of wine in his left hand at the same time.

I can appreciate my dad's style and hoop skills now but my 13 year-old self was a little less tolerant. For me, public appearances with my parents as an adolescent were as comfortable as walking onto a stage during a school assembly with my fly down or toilet paper stuck to my shoe.

Waiting for Clark to pick me up from little league practice one day, I stood in horror when he arrived wearing a "wife beater" undershirt (way before it was fashionable) and dark socks (again before it was fashionable) with shorts. Hoping that the guys would not be around to witness me entering the family truckster, I ran back to the dugout looking for a batting glove I had not forgotten. Still, one of my teammates recognized my dad. Clark was waving and yelling to get my attention. My cover blown and my senses mortified, I slouched into the car and questioned Clark about his sock selection.

When does that switch flip when dads suddenly become so not cool? That can't possibly happen to me, right? I'm cutting edge. I'm a fashionista. I shop at thrift stores. Maybe I'm not a hipster, but I'm still pretty cool - I think.


Alright, I'm beginning to understand. While there are mostly positive side effects to a man's skill set that accompany fatherhood (old man strength, unquestioned sporting of mustaches, mastery of cooking breakfast), becoming uncool is just a momentary hiccup in the course of a dad's relationship with his kids. It's just a temporary stage. Like Madonna's British accent.

Fortunately, I have an expert whom I love and respect dearly to prepare me for the challenge. Hey Clark! Pass me the ball and lend me a v-neck. I need to practice that hook shot.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Keeping Up With The Joneses

JAMS were baggy shorts with loud pastel colors and patterns, which were knee length unless of course you were really rad and wore the 3/4 length JAMS that were called "clamdiggers." This fad was so revolutionary because we guys only previously wore shorts so short and tight that they could cut off circulation. (If you need proof, check out Jack Sickma and his blond fro or any other NBA player circa 1984.)

I want to say JAMS cost something like $30, which my parents sanely refused to pay for a piece of clothing they knew I would outgrow within months. Instead, I got JIMS (or were they WAMS?) from Montgomery Ward. Once everyone with true JAMS discovered my fraud, the playground fashion police ridiculed and scorned me. I felt like a pariah.

Other fads and frauds came and went. Swatch watches, Reeboks, and CB winter jackets for the elite haves. Casio digital, Pony, and whatever was on clearance at Rich's for the lowly havenots.

It burned me up inside sometimes. Most frustrating was simply not knowing what the new "in" thing was until it was already happening. Where did my peers learn this shit? Were they on some kind of distribution list that didn't come to 2 Bert Street's mailbox?

Eventually, I caught on, pegged my pants, wore a Coed Naked t-shirt under my J. Crew rollneck that didn't fit properly, and survived through high school. While attending college in Vermont during the peak of Pearl Jam and Nirvana, I read a little Thoreau and Gandhi, grew my hair long, donned some flannel, and finally stopped caring.

Now standing on the precipice of parenthood, I learn to my shock and horror that our baby registry contains not one, but something like four different strollers all with prices in excess of $25. The "Just Like Us" page in "Us Weekly" showed Britney dragging on a Parliament Light as she pushed one of her boys in a stroller that might as well be some kind of off-road, miniature Cadillac. I think we're getting the same one.

At this point in my life, I'm content with my philosophy of product selection when it comes to materialistic stuff. Basically, I lean towards purchasing the functional, affordable, and generic but every once in a while a splurge is okay.

So here's the rub - my philosophy may work well for me but does that mean I can impose the same angle on my kid? In other words, if the wife and I don't get the Juicy Couture of onesies for our infant, does that make us bad parents? Will four month old Audrina/L.C./Heidi-types at day care gossip about Baby T's outfit behind his/her back when he/she goes down for a nap? Are we depriving him/her of toddler self-confidence if we opt for Mar-SHALLS instead of Baby Lulu?


Screw it. I'm off to T.J. Maxx for Baby T's first pair of JIMS. I'll deposit what I save on price for Baby T's college tuition, which should only be about $100,000 a year by 2028.