Sunday, May 01, 2005

My Other Niece Proves Me Wrong

A few months after the humiliating AIDS/ice cream incident detailed in my previous post, I sat at my brother’s house with his family and my new girlfriend.

I liked this particular girlfriend and she wanted to meet my family, so I willingly ran the risk that my brother’s kids would embarrass me again. Plus, I had naively hypothesized that my eldest niece had humiliation-proofed me.

My previous post laid out this hypothesis of mine- namely, that kids can only humiliate you so much. There was, I thought, an absolute bottom to an adult’s humiliation that no mere child could take you below. My eldest niece had taken me to that limit and now I was safe.

There were two things wrong with that hypothesis. First, it was postulated at a Ben and Jerry’s under the influence of Chunky Monkey ice cream. Most serious scientists know that chunks of anything can retard the scientific process; there’s no telling what actual chunks of monkey will do to it.

Secondly, I assumed that kids have some sort of control over what they say. I understand now that there is a hidden force that moves kids to embarrass adults. This same force, I believe, also forces kids to spill red juice on white carpets.

I sat next to my girlfriend on the couch and my youngest niece jumped into my lap and hugged me. I knew I was safe with this niece. There would be no talk about immunity-suppressing diseases and skin rashes. She was four years-old. She would spend most of her time talking about colors, numbers and cartoon characters.

As it turns out, I was right.

She looked at me lovingly and intently for a few seconds and asked me this:

“Uncle, why are your teeth yellow?”

I stopped smiling immediately so that my yellow teeth would not clash with my bright red face.

“Are they dirty?” she asked.

“It’s the coffee,” I cried out, but she had already moved on to counting the number of pimples on my face.

I was at the dentist the next day.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Amazing But True Stories, Part 3

While we’re on the subject of my hapless conversations with kids, I’m reminded of an incident that occurred before I had kids of my own. This conversation involved my brother’s eldest daughter. She was, I think, about seven years-old at the time.

Looking back, it seems like a kind of warning.

Back then, my brother would invite me (his wayward, bachelor brother) to vicariously experience family life by tagging along when his family went to, say, Ben and Jerry’s to get ice cream.

While standing in line for ice cream one humid night, I decided to show my eldest niece the case of Poison Ivy I had on the back of my right hand. I am still a little fuzzy on why I made that decision, but I think it went like this:

“Hmmm. Kids like gross stuff. The Poison Ivy outbreak on the back of my hand is definitely gross. I think I’ll show my niece my Poison Ivy rash.”

Seeing my mistake in retrospect is easy. I had used the very same reasoning that has launched a billion pull-my-finger jokes. I had aimed squarely for cool uncle territory and instead doddered into embarrassing granpa territory. This could end in only one way.


My niece did not disappoint me. She looked at the bubbly rash on the back of my hands for a few seconds. I waited for her mouth to form a kind of fascinated smile, but it didn’t. Instead, her entire face screwed up into, well, a horrified look. And then she yelled at the top of her lungs:

“Ooooooooh. My Uncle has AIDS!”

Did I mention how loud she said this? Have I mentioned how quiet the Ben and Jerry’s store got? You could hear nothing but crickets outside and the ice cream coolers inside. To this day, I have never seen people staring as intently at their bowls of ice cream as the people in this store did.

While I calmly, noisily and repeatedly explained to my niece that I did not have AIDS, part of me was happy. Once you’ve been that intensely embarrassed, I hypothesized, nothing can ever embarrass you again.

Next: My Other Niece Proves Me Wrong

Sunday, April 10, 2005

We Are Bald-Headed Robots

I know that five year-old kids ask a lot of questions. As a parent, I’m prepared for that much. Prior to getting into this parenting gig, though, I imagined that my child and I would have, well, Socratic conversations. I imagined that occasionally my darling naïf, full of wonder at the world, would ask questions and I would gently hand down wisdom accumulated from my world travels.

I wasn’t prepared for the interrogations. And, to be honest, I wasn’t prepared for the stupid crap we’d be discussing. Don’t get me wrong. I like discussing stupid crap; I’d just rather be inflicting it than enduring it.

A recent conversation in our car went like this:

Gabriel: Dad, are we bald-headed robots?

Dad: What?

Gabriel: Dad, are we bald-headed robots?

Dad: No.

Gabriel: Dad, are we bald-headed robots?

Dad: No.

Gabriel: Dad, are we bald-headed robots?

Dad: No!

Gabriel: Dad, are we bald-headed robots?

Dad (exasperated) Yes, Gabriel, we are bald-headed robots.

A few moments of silence:

Gabriel: Dad, why are we bald-headed robots?

Clearly, my kid has future in Homeland Security, the Central Intelligence Agency or some other bureaucratic hell agency where they prize circular, painful conversations – perhaps the customer service line at my cell phone company, for instance.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

It's Not You, Dude, It's Me

My friend Lindsay is going through one of those slow-motion breakups that everyone has to go through at one time or another. Naturally, she’s reading the new bible for confused women – “He’s Just Not That IntoYou” by Greg Behrendt. Essentially, the book explains that if a guy is sending you mixed messages, he’s probably not that “in” to you.

“Duh,” I said, when Lindsay explained the premise of the book to me. I said this because I’m a guy, and when guys are given the chance to display actual compassion, we’ll opt for ridicule every time.

“You needed a $20 book to tell you that if your boyfriend won’t spend time with you then he’s probably not into you?”

Lindsay didn’t take my sarcasm well. “Maybe the book is stupid, but I’ve put two years into this relationship. I don’t want to just throw it away.’

Not Long After…

I was talking to my friend Kieth about a mutual friend of ours named Matt.

“Hey,” said Kieth, “Did Matt call you yesterday to tell you that we’re all going bowling tonight?”

This took me by surprise. I didn’t realize that we were bowling kind of guys. I’ve known these two guys for twenty years and never once have we bowled. So this was similar to Kieth casually mentioning that we were Buddhists – only that’s not weird enough. It was more like Kieth mentioning that we were Buddhist German Shepherds.

“Nope,” I said looking at my caller ID box. “I don’t think he’s called.”

“Hmmm,” said Kieth, “That’s strange.”

Only that’s not strange for Matt.

“Usually,” I explained, “Matt doesn’t call me unless I call him.”


“Really,” I replied. “It makes me feel kind of stupid. Even worse, I called him last Friday to see if wanted to come over to a little dinner party my wife and I were throwing. You wanna know why he didn’t come over?”


“He said he was gonna watch some television.”

“Oh,” said Kieth understandingly. “Well, he does watch “Enterprise” on Friday nights.”

“C’mon, Kieth! Why would he ditch our dinner party for “Enterprise”? It’s not like he’s missing “Next Generation” or even “Voyager”. And why do I have to call him first every…holy crap.”

Holy crap, indeed.

I had just realized something. Matt was just not that into me.


So, I may just buy a copy of that Behrendt book. I have, after all, put twenty years into this relationship. I’d hate to just throw it away.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Star Trek and Sparkly Sashes

It’s a basic tenet of science fiction dogma that there is a universe parallel to ours. This universe is a replica of ours in every way except that it contains evil, negative versions of us regular humans.

In the Star Trek universe, these negative versions are easy to spot. They wear sparkly sashes and goatees and incorrigibly try to seduce anyone who moves. Ironically, this is very similar to the way conservatives view gays – as negative people who wear sparkly sashes and goatees and incorrigibly try to marry anyone who moves.

But I digress.

Regular readers know that in my last post I joked the hell out of my wife’s bad moods. I took great pains to portray myself as a hapless and bemused victim who anticipates the storms and rides them using only my plucky wit and resolve. I even coyly inferred that maybe my wife’s menses had something to do with it.

Heh. I’m a stitch.

Today, though, I did something embarrassing. I yelled at my wife on the phone. Real loud. It had to do with money and absolutely none of it was her fault. Exactly two seconds after I hung up the phone, I had a few epiphanies.

Yelling at my wife is bad, for instance. Also, I’m pretty sure I’m not having a period. It is, I deduced, possible that being an ass is unrelated to whether you’re having cramps or not.

But it also made me think about evil, parallel Star Trek universes and the evil, negative people who live in them. At any point, does one of the negative people look down and have a moment of self-awareness? Does he look down and say, “Oh, great. I’m wearing a sparkly sash. I’m an evil guy!?”

I think it probably does happen. And it’s probably a jarring moment. But it’s reversible. All the evil guy has to do is apologize to his wife.

Oh, yeah. And take off the sparkly sash. They may be completely wrong about the gay thing, but conservatives are definitely right about sash wearing.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Grim Richard's First Contest Ever...

Every now and again, I get into real trouble with my wife. Peculiarly enough, this trouble usually lasts exactly 48 hours, starting promptly on Saturday mornings and ending suddenly on Monday mornings.

It reminds me of an episode of “24”, the television show where each hour-long episode equates to exactly one hour in anti-terrorist Jack Bauer’s day. My personal television show, however, is called “48”, and each minute feels like an entire day.

That Jack Bauer is a lucky bastard.

If he was working with my wife during one of these “episodes”, here’s how life would go at the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU):

Jack (on phone to CTU): I’m gonna need you to cross-index the phone records of our plutonium-theft suspect with the phone records of the possible double agent secreted in our group.

Wife (at CTU): Do it yourself. I’m tired of cleaning up the database after you.

Jack: But I’m currently undercover with a Columbian cartel in another country. The CIA, unaware that I’m only pretending to be a double agent, has pinned us down with heavy weapons fire. Plus, my cell phone is down to, like, half a bar. And I’m pretty sure I’m running over my minutes.

Wife: That’s not my problem. Maybe if you showed me a little respect, things would be different.

Jack: Listen, for the sake of America and rest of the world, you and I need to work together on this. We can’t get into fights every couple of weeks.

Wife: Now you’re blaming this on my period?

Jack: What?

Wife: You said this happens every couple of weeks. You think I’m irrational because of my period.

Jack: Huh? Are you on your period?

Wife: You know I am, Jack. See, that’s the first thing a man assumes when a woman’s legitimately angry.

Jack: Omigod! I’ve been shot. The bullet pierced the thermos full of radioactive plutonium I’ve been hiding in my underwear. I need CTU backup, now!

Wife: Now you’re yelling at me? (She hangs up on Jack)

Like I said, Jack Bauer is a lucky bastard. This season, he’s even found a new love interest. I wish I’d seen that first date…”I’m currently widowed because I had an adulterous affair when I was separated from my wife. My adulterous lover turned out to be a vicious psychopath and she murdered my wife. But don’t worry, I’ve already killed her.”....

Friday, February 04, 2005

The Lenny Kravitz T-Shirt Conspiracy

Every morning at 6 a.m., my wife and I roust our three kids from their warm beds and dress them.

Mostly, this is not fun. Julian, our two year-old boy, starts to cry from the second he’s awakened and continues until we leave for the babysitters. Roughly, that means that he cries without cessation for an entire hour – every day.

His talent at nursing a whine would be amazing if it weren’t so irritating. My wife and I have dubbed Julian’s voice a frustrato – a high male voice incapable of shattering glass but fully adept at busting your last freaking nerve.

To combat this, we like to use a dash of Spock and a pinch of “The Super Nanny”, which means that mostly we’ve just begged Julian to stop and attempted to bribe him with Pop-Tarts. None of this works.

All of the preceding explains why my five year-old son, Gabriel, has been dressing himself lately. Often, Gabriel will mistakenly put on his younger brother’s smaller clothes. I will walk into Gabriel’s room to find the following scene - a really thin kid wearing tight pants that barely button and a tiny, two-sizes-too-small shirt that comes down to just above the kid’s navel.

In other words, my son looks like a really pale Lenny Kravitz.

Except Lenny Kravitz would probably be wearing his younger sister’s clothes, too.

I think a lot about Lenny Kravitz on those mornings while I dress myself. Why won’t anyone buy Lenny a shirt that fits? Is it some kind of shirt conspiracy? After America finishes freeing Iraq, should we consider a mission to free Lenny’s pectorals?

Usually, my thoughts of concern are broken by Julian’s amazing unstoppable whine and I look down to see that I’m getting ready to put on one of my wife’s t-shirts. She walks by in a pair of my boxers.

Lenny’s probably okay, I think.

Friday, January 28, 2005

The World is Full of Fingers

I understand almost nothing my two year-old son Julian says. This makes for some awkward circumstances. Over the last week, for instance, he has been pointing at different people and earnestly calling them a “Fu#@er”.

Except he used a “ck” instead of a “#@”.

I moved quickly to stamp out this behavior because a) it was the correct thing to do from a parenting perspective, and b) if I don’t get to call people fu#@ers, he doesn’t get to call them fu#@ers.

Fair is fair, dammit.

I had reprimanded Julian maybe 20 times before my wife explained to me that Julian was saying, “finger” not “fu#@er”. And he wasn’t actually pointing; he was just displaying his finger.

Imagine my chagrin. I felt like a total finger.