Good Awkward Family Photo
Look, I’m going to be honest. Until I had daughters, I didn’t really think about the world like it deserves to be thought about. I am guy. I’m white. I live in America. It should go without saying that life has been pretty charmed for me.
I mean, I dunno, sometimes I feel overly conspicuous when I’m at a playground with my kids like I need to go out of my way to prove my non-pedophilia to the other parents.
And when I run, if I see someone of the female persuasion approaching me, I feel obligated to cross over to the other side so they don’t think I’m an undercover rapist.
These are the kinds of things I have to “contend” with. And I kind of passively assumed that everybody else had the same sort of range of things they contended with.
I know. Trust me, I know how wonderfully naive and self-centered that seems. But it’s true. This is how I thought about things. I felt pretty sure that if everyone stayed cool and didn’t cause trouble that most things would work out.
Until I had daughters though, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t at all the case. I didn’t realize that the world wasn’t really a forgiving place for all those who don’t share in my demographic.
I didn’t realize that women earn less money just because they aren’t men.
I didn’t realize that scholastic equality was even a thing to worry about and I certainly had no idea that even the most visible scholarship program for women doesn’t even really give all that much to women.
Until I had daughters, I didn’t realize that most people’s default reaction (and sadly mine too) was to be suspicious of any woman making a claim of assault or harassment.
I didn’t realize that women have been acceptably marginalized in church.
Like be serious about that for a second. Isn’t it strange how there’s still this weird disconnect about the role of a woman in the Church? It’s 2014. We’ve decoded the human genome and we are putting machines on other planets.
Both of these things are infinitely more complicated and confusing than a church service but yet we have no firm grasp or consensus on what a woman’s role in the Church should be? Isn’t that insane? It’s such a vestige of tradition that now, even though conceptually it is baldly illogical, the idea to challenge it feels even more illogical. Absolute insanity.
I didn’t realize that it would take one of the actors from the most successful film franchise of my generation (that concerned wizarding and muggles no less) to bring up the idea of gender equality at the UN for it to get a little traction. Not much. But a little.
If this comes across as a sermon, my apologies. That’s not really my bag and there are greater minds than me with more resonant words that could speak with an infinite amount of more intelligence about this than I could.
I think I mean this more as a public epiphany. I’m not brilliant, but I’m not an idiot either. And I’m just now realizing what the world is like.
Is it because I am now the father to two wonderful little girls? Yes. Would I have had this epiphany if instead of two girls and a boy, I had three boys? Probably not.
The point is, it took me this long. It took me becoming a parent and becoming a parent to girls to realize all of these things and more. How long will it take others?
How long until, like me, they realize that they didn’t realize what the world was like?
I dug my yard up last night. Not for anything weird. Don’t be like that. It’s because the area around our deck is a mud pit and mud + kids / a door to the house nearby = not great things. So I’m trying to cover it with pavers. Whatever. Who cares. I didn’t mean for this to become Pinterest but with words.
As I dug out the section I was working on, not going to lie, I was pretty thrilled and happy with my progress. But I was also confused at this self-satisfaction. After all, I was literally just digging up dirt. I had a semi-retarded dog in college who did this on the regular and it’s not like anyone celebrated her for it.
And then I realized why I was so pleased with myself; because I could step back and be like, “I did that. There is evidence of my effort right there for THE WORLD to see.”
My life isn’t normally like that. My days consist of me writing in various forms for money and this is a dream come true in many ways because I get money for something I enjoy doing.
But as with everything, there’s a downside and it’s not just in the awkward conversations I have with strangers about qualifying to them what I do for a living.
“You what now?”
“I’m a writer. I write…things?”
“Like what? You write books?”
“I have written some books, yes.”
“Nothing you’ve read. But my agent is pitching…”
“So how do you make money?”
“Well, see I get paid to…there’s lot of different things I do to…you know what? (gets out laptop) Let me show you my Google Drive Spreadsheet that breaks down my monthly income….”
My work day can tend to have a nebulousness to it. I get home and I don’t have any animals slung over my shoulder, nor do I have blisters on my hands or dirt on my shirt from all the WORK I’ve done all day. Sometimes I do get barbecue sauce on my shirt, but mostly, my back is a little stiff and my contact lenses are dried out. Hashtag Blue Collar.
Most of the projects I work on take months to come to fruition. This isn’t bad and please, save your tears for literally anyone or anything else. What I’m saying is that most of my workdays lack a sense of immediate value.
I suspect that this isn’t completely unlike most people. Our lives are filled with things that are mostly Sisyphean: work, marriage, faith, parenting, etc. We do them largely out of some sense of institutional obligation and for the most part, there is no point of discernible reward in sight with any of them.
What this has all made me realize is that everything has another side to it. There is no holy grail, no zero calorie donut, and no point of abject perfection that dovetails with simplicity. Everything is layered. Upsides and downsides abound.
This is not a lament about the universe, rather a realization of it. There’s a certain freedom in learning to recognize and understand the reality of things and this is one of them: the point at which I stop pining for sublime contentedness will be when I’m closest to it.
In this sense, I suppose that contentedness is all perspective. And I suppose further that sometimes, getting there is as simple as digging up your backyard.
It’s a rule. If you read the book and the book is made into a movie, everything is great. The sun is brighter, your pillow is softer and brownies taste more brownier. Why? Because even if you read it after you knew it was going to be a movie, seeing something you’ve read as a movie is some kind of subconscious affirmation. But also, because it’s just generally lovely to see a visual interpretation of something that existed solely in your head.
This is why I’m pretty psyched to see This Is Where I Leave You based on the book by Jonathan Tropper.
It’s been one of my favorite books of the year and the cast is pretty much on point so what could go wrong, right?
HOPEFUL: Tina Fey. I just like her. I just like everything she does be it hosting award shows or American Express commercials. She’s got the rubber stamp from me in all things. Did I see Admission? Yeah. Was it not great? Yeah, it wasn’t very good at all. But hey, that’s fine. The woman gave us Jack Donaghy and by extension this so she gets a little rope.
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