Monday, April 30, 2012

The Forces of Nature and Living with Girls

Except for my mother, I grew up in a house full of dudes, even the pets. With two brothers and a steady roster of dogs, that's a lot of sticks and berries. So naturally us boys only learned the necessary life skills – meat eating, yard mowing, shaving, snake handling – from the old man.

Our poor saintly mother found the inner strength to pretend-smile at our "developments."

Hey look, hair!

It was a one-dimensional existence, void of any feminine panache. Her skills in accessorizing and hair beret-ing useless, she focused on teaching us to clean, feed, and clothe ourselves respectfully. Admittedly all skills I find myself employing to this day.

But learning about living with girls? Maybe, but we must not have been paying attention. 

This mattered little to me in my boy-hood. They were occasionally fun things to pick on as long as you didn't touch them, ever. They cried a lot. In class, on the playground, at the mall, seemingly everywhere you found girls, you found one crying. I don't know why, I didn't care. They were real but strange creatures from a far away land, like something you see at a zoo. My only knowledge stemmed from the tales of others that had encountered one and lived to tell about it.

But, like a salmon making its amorous trek upstream, or a college-age reveler at spring break, nature began its inevitable course. 

With cracked-voice, Drakkar cologne,  and faded jeans, I soon found myself beginning my instinct-driven swim upriver.

The ensuing years were messy.  The good girls proved mostly elusive, the bad ones unfortunately not elusive enough.

Not all that long ago I found myself still on my own, patiently waiting for the right girl. I assumed this was a better strategy than stalking and driving a window-less van. But that was up for debate.

I was young, passably smart, and of reasonable physical proportions.

But I lacked this guy's flair.

Trying a different approach, I bought a house. I painted, adorned the walls with things other than fluorescent signs, and kept the bathrooms clean; all things that would make my mother proud.

So I basically took this guy's approach to mate-attraction.

A dull boy, he gathers bright shiny objects to lure, er, attract a mate.

And it worked.

But then she moved in.

And things changed. And I started to learn what it's like to live with girls.

For the record my beautiful intelligent bride has defied the common stereotypes associated with female cohabitation and the anti-feminine smear campaign of my youth. She's not the monster my playground running-mates made her out to be. She doesn't hog the remote. She didn't show up with a dumpster for my things when she moved in. She hasn't Craigslisted my Play Station. In fact, she's the one who bought it. She doesn't demand a clean ship. To my knowledge, I haven't contracted any of her germs.

Still our union is not without a few problems challenges. Simple things are now far more complex and confusing. No longer is laundry white vs. colors. It's a scientific process of sorting, washing, and drying according to the strictest of guidelines. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned over a shrunken cardigan. 

New rules went into effect in other places as well. Blankets at night had to be shared, and by shared I mean surrendered, at any moment regardless of any rational blanket-coverage ratio. 

With a second opinion now only an arm's length away, I've found out I am not always right. Quite the opposite. 

At any given moment you could stroll through our house and find either a wet towel on the floor, a bra under a sofa cushion, or a toilet paper roll with no toilet paper. At least three days a week, it would be all three.

There's the cuddling and let's do something fun together moments that you know have exactly 0.0000034% chance of sex later.

But nothing is more illustrative of female cohabitation than what they do in, and to the bathroom. 

Each morning our shared bathroom looks as if a dozen girls just used to it prep for prom. A 3000 degree hair straightener is a daily hazard overcome just to brush my teeth. Strange things hang to dry from the shower rod that I am not allowed to touch.

Two years ago now I became a member of the minority-sex in the house for the first time ever.

No longer the cute, sweet-smelling infant of last year, our daughter has moved on to the fun stage where she starts to master motor skills while developing her "personality." Fun of course if you enjoy stroke-inducing tantrums and having forks flung at your face regularly.

She and mom now join forces as part of the morning routine to do unspeakable things. The two year old channels her inner teenage-girlness and compulsively combs hair while screaming at no one in particular. If I'm lucky, she'll drown various daddy-toiletries in the toilet. All while mom tries her best to make herself corporate-looking without tripping over a spilled box of tampons or permanently branding someone with one of her hair beautifying tools.

No, we did not have an earthquake.  Just two girls in a bathroom...

Seriously. Not. An. Earthquake.

Failing to heed the warnings signs, I try to intervene some mornings but this usually gets the door slammed in my face. Occasionally someone cries. Not sure which one is doing either, but certain they're taking turns.

In a last ditch effort to provide some assistance to the morning routine, I dress the kid to head out the door for the day. I pick something without Elmo on it with confidence, because, you know, she's only two. My outfits makes the cut some days. Others, I see her later in something different.

Her shirt got dirty so I had to change it.


Sometimes she asks me to fix the little one's hair. She's clearly mocking me as I have zero idea what to do with a girl's hair. There's the pony tail and the non-pony tail. That's all I know. I don't help much with this making more crying exponentially more likely.

At that point, staring at a MC Escher-like scene of feminine hygiene products, wet towels, lotions, and strewn LEGO it hits me. I live with girls.

Two of them. How did this happen?

I am not prepared for this. I sure as hell have no idea what I am doing. But it does explain all the pink.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Cruel Summer

It’s almost summer.  As the white, brown, and grey gives way to the green, changes are a happening.  Good changes, mostly.  There’s walks to be had, balls to be tossed, swings to be swung, but the yard doesn’t mow itself and that leaky roof just loves all that rain.  A winter’s worth of landscaping-to-do’s now require real effort, and Visa.

The kiddo changes too, way to fast. Faster than I can record, photograph, write down, or just remember.   I had grand plans to document her successful pacifier withdrawal or solo-sleeping in a big-girl bed but these all happened overnight. Literally.
Last summer’s back yard adventures entailed sitting in the grass, touching bugs, thieving tomatoes from the garden.  Now we side walk chalk or sprint for the neighbor’s swing, without holding daddy’s hand. 

Words are now words.  They mean things. Chide (outside), book (book), malk (milk), go (let’s get in the car and get out of here), poop (dirty diaper, wet diaper, improperly affixed diaper, get this damn diaper off me!). 

The tantrums now come without warning.  They’re triggered by the wrong food, the right food presented incorrectly, fatigue, acts of North Korean aggression, a slight change in air temperature. Anything, really.  They leave her parents with only questions.


Please, stop?
What the hell???

We are soon to cross the invisible threshold of twenty four months and into the terrible twos.[Insert spooky music] They say the tantrums are worse there. The air is colder. Food loses its taste. Your things become more broke and more lost.  Horrible things happen involving permanent markers and dog rectums.  For the record, I think we’re already there. At least I hope.

Car seats used to face backwards.  The occasional cries or tossed shoe the only reminder baby’s on board.  Now we face front, with cup holders.  She’s now a passenger chiming in on the choice of route or vehicle speed, or a dog passed by, not unlike her mother. 

The rearview mirror has an added role. 

What are you thinking little girl?  Your eyes now show thoughts and dad is dying to know what they are.

And there's the dancing. Boy, does she dance and no longer just the reflexive movements to the theme for Elmo’s World, but to actual music. First was the miming of dad’s antics to hair-metal: Def Leppard, Poison.  You squealed with delight as we air-drummed. Now, you dance to your own tunes.  Today’s was “Cruel Summer”*.  A peak in the rear view showed more than just the freaking adorable head-bobbing and hip-shaking.  There was a real little girl back there, who’s busy growing up way too fast.

I’m ready for this summer. I’ll take the bad to get to the good and there will be a whole mess of good. But I won’t lie, I’m already looking forward to next summer too.

* “Cruel Summer” by Banarama. A timeless classic that you have undoubtedly shaken your own hip at one point. Don't lie! Or you remember it as pivotal theme music to The Karate Kid. But I honestly have no idea what bananas, a fake Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard, and a Mack truck have to do with summer.  Regardless, we’ll being dancing to it tonight.