Thursday, July 24, 2008

Men, Part 2: Husbands and Fathers

Hall and Oates--"Family Man" (mp3)
Hall and Oates--"Maneater" (mp3)

In a shameless act of self-promotion, I think my best commentary on this topic is a short story I wrote a few years back. So, I'll offer the opening. If it catches your interest, please read on:


I don’t know who came up with the SuperDad concept, me or Jason. I do know that beers were involved.

The problem was this: each fall, we were part of a Fantasy Football League, you know, the kind where you draft players from all different teams, and you “start” a quarterback, two running backs, three wide receivers, a kicker, and a defense each week, and each of those positions earns you points. There wasn’t big money involved or anything like that. We just wanted to be able to go off on Sundays (and maybe Monday nights) and drink to our hearts’ content at a local sports bar, watching as many games on as many TV’s at the same time as we could. All the forces of the universe oppose this desire.

So one of us said (I usually take full credit for things like this, but not this time), “It’s easy! We become SuperDads.”

We decided that if we were of exemplary character and behavior for the other six days of each week, our wives could not deny us our Sunday lapse. And, we were not going to pretend. That was genius of our plan.

“We have to want to be SuperDads,” one of us said to the other.

“I’m already a good dad,” the other one said.

“Yes, but you’re not a SuperDad. This is going to require a full commitment of body and soul. The body must be willing, and the soul must seek self-actualization. We won’t have to be talked into putting up a swing, we won’t reluctantly agree to Chucky Cheese’s or the park, we’ll be all for it. And then, on Sundays, we get to veg.”

We hoisted our beers to each other and made the pact.

And then, just for clarification, one of us said ominously, “Of course, this also means becoming SuperHubby. That goes with the territory.”

We looked at each other, wondering if we were willing to go through with it. SuperDad helps with homework, swims when he doesn’t want to swim, goes to amusement parks, plays UNO, makes brunch, picks up children at junior high dances, comes up with activities for sleepovers, but SuperHubby? Nothing so tangible. SuperHubby listens to problems that he isn’t allowed to solve, agrees with what he doesn’t believe, attends films when he wants to see movies, offers up tidbits of needless gossip, shrugs off criticism of his parents, ventures beyond the safety of black in evaluating his wife’s clothing choices, even initiates sex in the face of denial. And more.

“Understand, it’s not a concession for freedom,” one of us said to the other. “We have to want to do this. It isn’t a sacrifice. We can’t perceive it as a curbing of a lifestyle. It has to be a change that we want to make, the right thing to do. It will make everyone happier.”

Since we didn’t care much about hockey, basketball, or baseball, we couldn’t predict whether we would remain SuperDads after the Super Bowl. That wasn’t important in the middle of July.

“I’m in,” said our friend, Ricky, who had been given permission to go out with us one night and heard of our plan. Ricky loved Sunday football and he loved going to Ed’s Sports Bar. He was especially amenable to the SuperDad idea because he had made, upon marriage, certain promises that had restricted his extracurricular behavior in the past, but now that discipline gave him an immediate edge up on us. As our sometime-friend Geoff, said about him, “Ricky had to promise not to do a lot of stuff.”

Don’t get me wrong. We weren’t bad dads or negligent husbands. We did our share of family duties, put our families first. I even cooked the meals. But we were men.

The Mecca for our Sunday escape was a place called Ed’s Sports Bar. There were other sports bars in town, but they were pricier. Plus, Ed’s had both excellent chicken wings and superb cheeseburgers. When you’ve worked through too many pitchers and start to get that hollow, dizzy feeling, you want to have something special to look forward to, and Ed’s, not being a chain, prides itself on its food, especially those wings and burgers. Plus, all of waitresses at Ed’s show their midriffs, and usually their belly buttons are pierced.

We conceived of our plan early enough in the summer to have a “SuperDad training camp” during late July and August, in other words, a chance to practice before the Fantasy League draft in early September. Late summer’s usually vacation time for our group, and when we regrouped briefly at the pool one night, all of us had success stories to share from traveling with our families. By that time, another friend, Chas, had come aboard, and while there were others that we could have invited, there was trust—we couldn’t have word getting back to our wives that would misinterpret our plan. Besides, we needed some of our acquaintances to serve as lesser husbands, should we need that comparison.

Vacations were a great success, we found, as we congregated in the water while watching our children go down the slide. Jason bragged of having had sex twice during the same vacation and of his wife saying, “We need to do this more often.” Ricky’s wife declared him forgiven for his drunken escapades at a college reunion in Chapel Hill last April and even suggested that he needed to get out with his safer friends (meaning us) more often. And I, though I didn’t tell this to the others, making up some line about great sex, too, saw in my wife Ronnie’s eyes the looks that we shared with each other eighteen years ago, as though time and children and money and death had never intervened.

For the rest of the story, click the link below.


Who knew that Hall and Oates would offer the definitive musical commentary on this topic, available at Itunes.


Daytimerush said...

Is this fiction with a smattering of reality? OR vice versa???
Thank goodness you changed the names to protect the innocent!

Bob said...

You're right! I was scrambling this morning because I had other names first time around. But, yes, of course, just fiction.

Daytimerush said...

Great fun to read. I was telling my walking buddy that she needed to get back to your blog and read this one! Some women actually scheme in a similar fashion.

Tommy D said...

Husband of Ronnie - can you send me Superdad as an attachment? My computer won't let me follow the "continued" link.