Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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MORE Confessions of a Stay at Home Dad

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 (part I)

The first time a woman hit on me was at the park. It was 1PM on a Tuesday, and I was pushing Norah and Tristan on the swings. Norah was in a long purple dress with a print of a girl holding balloons standing beside a hippo. Her short brown hair was combed neatly with matching purple barrettes. Tristan was wearing blue jeans, a black Angry Birds T-shirt, and Spider Man sandals. Both kids were cleaned and combed and wrinkle free. I took pride in making them look nice because, at the time, it was my job. However, now that I was not required to go into the office, I’d really started to let myself go.
My job at the University was a 9-month appointment. I had three months off, and during that time, Mel took full-time classes and worked an internship. We’d been married for almost 9 years. For the past four years Mel had been a stay at home Mom while I was the traditional nuclear father, leaving at 6AM and getting home around 5PM for dinner. But for three months we swapped roles, leaving me to care for our six-year-old son, Tristan, and our four-year-old daughter, Norah.
I was 30. I was a little overweight with a little grey in my beard and thick black-framed glasses. Most days I didn’t see the point in wearing pants. At the park, I was in black gym shorts, green flip-flops, and a university t-shirt. They were the same clothes I’d slept in, so they were wrinkly and smelly. This was my first time leaving the house that day, so I’m confident I had a sleep line running across the right side of my hair. My beard was untrimmed and uncombed. I may or may not have brushed my teeth… I can’t recall. 

Across the park from us was a short slender brunette in her late twenties with two little girls. She had it together: she was attractive, with her hair done and her make-up done. She was wearing nice jeans and sweet perfume that I could smell each time she shifted downwind.
She smiled at me. I smiled back. Then I looked away, not thinking much of it. But a few moments later, as I chased Tristan across the playground to the seesaw, she looked at me again. She smiled and pulled her hair behind her ear with her left hand. I noticed that she was not wearing a wedding ring. Then she approached me, and asked how old my children were.
“Six and four,” I said.
She told me they were cute and that I seemed like a really cute dad. Not a good dad. Or a nice dad. But a cute dad.
“Yeah.” I said. “Thanks. They’re cute. Well… for the most part. You know, when Tristan isn’t talking about farts or Pokémon and Norah isn’t peeing her pants or throwing a fit.”
Tristan overheard us talking and butted in with, “Ha! Ha! Dad said fart.”
As I spoke, she curled her lip, placed her hands on her hips, then in her pockets, and finally she folded her arms across her chest. I don’t think she knew just what to do with them. She reminded me of myself the last time I picked up a girl, which was almost a decade earlier. She asked for my name. Then she gave me hers. And then I got a little scared and told her we needed to go.
I spent many days as a stay at home dad wearing this Snuggie
“Oh,” she said. “Well it was nice to meet you. Do you come here often? Because we do. Hopefully I’ll see you again. Or maybe we could pick a time to meet here again.” She smiled.
 I didn’t answer her last question. I told her it was nice to meet her, too. Then I rounded up Tristan and Norah, and left.

I sat in the car outside the park for some time. Tristan kept asking why we weren’t going, and Norah kept saying that she needed to pee. But I just sat there, trying to figure out what the hell had just happened. I looked at myself in the mirror, and not surprisingly, I hadn’t gotten more attractive. In fact, there was food in my teeth and I was developing a pimple near the base of my neck. There’s no way that woman was attracted to me. I looked like a drifter. For all she knew I’d stolen Tristan and Norah and was planning to sell them.
But the more I thought about her approaching me, the more frightened I became. I wasn’t used to this attention. There was a little something inside of me that was scared at the thought of a woman throwing herself at me. I think this fear is inside of most married men. I worried that I would not be strong enough to pass up an indecent proposal and wind up tearing down everything wonderful that I’d spent so long building between Mel and myself. More than anything, I simply didn’t trust my carnal side. My caveman side that can’t seem to stop thinking about sex. It took me years, but in the name of decency, I’d gotten good at pushing down the caveman, way down, where he could be kept in his place. But every once in a while I was reminded of the caveman, and that this thing, this animal, was still there and ready to escape from his cage and wreak havoc on my marriage, my children, my happiness. Much of this fear came from my father, like most things in my life often did. He had an affair and left my mother when I was young. It destroyed my mother and it changed my life in ways I still struggle to define. I held a real fear that someday I would follow in Dad’s footsteps because I am, inherently, weak and carnal.
After thinking about this much longer than I probably should have, and tuning out the kids much longer than they liked, I drove away. 

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Clint Edwards is a tutor coordinator at Oregon State University. He is also the former co-host of the Weekly Reader on KMSU and a graduate of the MFA program at Minnesota State University. His writing has been listed as notable by Best American Essays, and has been published in The Baltimore Review, and through The University of North Dakota, Boston College, Emerson College, The University of South Carolina, and Minnesota State University.