Tuesday, December 3, 2013

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MORE Confessions of a Stay at Home Dad (Part II)

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Part of the reason I was so shocked by the woman hitting on me at the park was because I have never seen myself as an attractive man. I’m short and stocky: five-foot five. My nose is large and round, and my cheeks and jawline are round, too. When I met new people, I often told them that I lived in a tree and made fudge. And they always laughed, probably a little harder than I think they should’ve. Every time I told that joke, it only confirmed my assumption that I was the binary of sexy. Because, really, how sexy is an elf? Cute? Yes. Charming? Probably. Sexy? No. But I kept telling the joke because my most attractive quality was humor. 

Clint's first job making fudge

I was a funny guy. I knew that about myself. But I always wanted to be the guy that girls smile at from across a room. The one that walked with a swagger, and didn’t need a pickup line because my rugged good looks got the girls long before I opened my mouth.
It’s my personality, mostly my humor, that always attracted women. If I could make her smile, I knew I had a chance. In fact, it was how I got my wife. I first met Mel at Lowe’s. She was the gardening specialist and I was the gardening manager. More or less, we were to spend our days working together in the green house. She was trapped with me. On her first day (I’d been working there for couple years before she started) I introduced myself. Then she told me her name and I stumbled over it. Her last name was something I’d never heard before. I tried to say it back to her. “Ven-em-i-a?”
“No. No. Ven-e-ma. It’s like a cross between venom and enema,” She said.
“Sounds dangerous.”
She smiled, and I knew I had her.
She told me she was from a small town called Erta, and I asked her if it was in America. She laughed again, long and hard this time, and said, “Yes. Utah. About 30 miles West of Salt Lake.”
We went back and forth like this for awhile. Me asking her silly questions, and her laughing. I don’t think Mel was ever attracted to my looks. She was attracted to my humor. My personality. 

I convinced myself that what happened with the attractive Mom at the park was a fluke. No woman had ever come on to me without getting to know my personality first. But then it happened again at another park as I showed Tristan how to play soccer, and at the mall while getting shoes for ballet, and at the river as I took turns teaching the kids how to swim. It only happened during the middle of the day, when most traditional fathers were at work, and I was being a stay at home dad.
One evening, after the kids had gone to bed, Mel and I were sitting on the sofa. I was reading a book and she was working on her laptop. We are both bookish, nerdy people, and we spent a lot of evenings like this, both of us reading one thing or another, Mel’s right leg over my left. I put my book down and said, “I’ve been getting hit on. Or… at least I think I have. You know. By women. Single Moms mostly.”
Mel stopped typing and looked at me from the corner of her eye. Then she twisted her lips, shut her laptop, and turned to face me.
“Do I need to kill someone?” she asked. She said it with sarcasm. She even made an angry face, slant eyed face, and raised her fist, but I could tell there was some truth to what she was saying. Once her face relaxed, she bit her lower lip slightly, like she does when she is nervous. I’ve never seen Mel jealous. At first I viewed her lack of jealousy as a problem in our marriage. I assumed she was not jealous because she didn’t have to worry about someone coming along and taking me away. Thinking back, though, this is probably more of a reflection of my own insecurities than her actual thoughts. I think Mel is just, flat out, not a jealous person. I also think that she trusts me. 

“Well… I… don’t think you need to kill anyone. I mean. That sounds a bit extreme. But I do appreciate what you’re saying right now.”
I told Mel about earlier that day. Norah, Tristan, and I were at the Albany pool for a few hours. “There was a woman a few years younger than me with four kids near the slide. I don’t think she was married because she wasn’t wearing a ring. Although I must say that she was really good looking for a mother of four.”
Mel exhaled, loudly, and rolled her eyes at me. I often said stupid things like that. Sometimes, when Mel and I were out together, I would look at another woman and comment, “She’s really held together for a woman with five kids” or “That is a really attractive fifty-year old.” It was not intentional. It was just me making observations. But I think Mel saw it as a compare and contrast kind of thing. Like she thought that I was saying, This woman is really together. You should be like her. But that was not the case. I was crazy for Mel: her smile, her dimples, the way she looks down, sweetly when she’s nervous, and the way she curls her toes when excited. I love the way we read books together, how candid our conversations had become, and the fact that she always smelled sweetly, like flowers and honey. Her body, her personality, the way we better understand each other each day, had all gotten better with age. I often told her that I don’t understand how she keeps getting more attractive each year, and she never believed me. So I told her again.
“Sorry,” I said. “The woman was all stretched out and leathery and gross. Wasn’t attracted to her at all.” I made a gagging gesture with my index finger.
“Shut up and tell the rest of the story,” she said.

MORE Confessions of a Stay at Home Dad (Part III)

You would also enjoy, Student Loans vs. Home Ownership: (How I became a home owner through the help of my wife).

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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.