Today, my wife and I have been married for eight years — nothing to scoff at given the state of marriage nowadays. I’ve made some observations that might help put the length of our marriage into perspective:

If someone had entered pre-med for proctology on the day we made our vows, today that person would be referred to as Doctor Butt-hole.

Our marriage has actually made it through three — that’s right, three! — bottles of Tabasco sauce.

In the span of our marriage, vampires have gone from respected creatures of the night to androgynous hipsters.

Our marriage has seen the death of several infamous world villains. These are the top three, ranked from bad to worst: Saddam Hussein, Osama Bin Laden, and Thomas Kinkade.

Finally, consider how the simple expression of our love has changed in terms of gift-giving: when we were first married, Becky bought me a foosball table as a birthday gift. Last year, I received a nose/ear hair trimmer. Eight years in and there is no other woman for whom I would rather RAM a piece of electronics up my nose  for the purpose of yanking the hair out by its roots. I love you, Becky. Happy Anniversary!

 

 

 

 

 

For my daughter’s fourth birthday, we took her to Disneyland so that she could experience The Bibbidy Bobbidy Boutique. According to the website, “The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is a beauty salon where young guests are magically transformed into little princesses and knights…It’s hard not to feel perfectly pampered in this charming little boutique that’s owned by Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother and operated by Fairy Godmothers-in-training.”

I happen to be fluent in corporate indoctrination, so allow me to translate: “The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique is where you pay Beverly Hills prices for minimum-wage labor to transform your daughter into something that resembles a Las Vegas festish pole dancer in less than thirty minutes.”

The process began with identification. Which princess did Charlee want to be? All week long she had been reeling in anticipation, teetering back and forth between Princess Rapunzel and Princess Jasmine. This was alarming to my wife. Princess Jasmine, at least when we had encountered her in California Adventure the year before, dressed like… well, how do I put this delicately? … A whore — she dressed like a whore. Actually, this is something I appreciated. When you’re a season pass holder, Disneyland can get a little monotonous, so when Disney uses culture as an excuse to costume their princesses in a way that introduces a little Las Vegas glamour, you welcome it with open arms. Still, it’s not exactly the identity you want to be embodied by your four-year-old, and thankfully, my wife managed to ask the right leading questions so that Charlee “decided” she wanted to be Rapanzel. It should be mentioned that Charlee’s cousin Grace did go with Jasmine and looked nothing like a whore; apparently Disney is savvy enough to know that the costume they use to show off their cast member’s cleavage probably wouldn’t look so good on a pre-schooler. Thank god for small favors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the costume had been chosen and donned, Charlee was introduced to her fairy godmother, a sweet gal with a sunny disposition, the kind of disposition that made you wonder how much glitter she had inhaled working in that Mickey Mouse sweatshop. Charlee’s hair was brushed, styled, and weaved — yes, that’s right, weaved. Upon looking at her hair, the following terms came to mind: puffy, bulbous, Mardi Gras parade dancer. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the hair was effectively coiffed, the fairy godmother moved on to the makeup and the manicure. The whole thing had the feel of a Madonna video, and Charlee compounded this feeling by playing the part. My daughter can strike a mother grabbin’ pose.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cherry on this style sundae came in the form of glitter — mountains of glitter. To most of you, I’m sure this seems precious, lovely, darling even; but my daughter has curly hair. Really. Curly. Hair. We’re still picking glitter out of her scalp. We’re still finding it all over the house — in Charlee’s bed, on the cushions of the couch, against the floorboards of the living room. I’m even seeing it in the dog’s turds when I take her for walks, rendering the process both flamboyant and disgusting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After the salon treatment, we ventured out into Disneyland and had a wonderful day with friends and family. Charlee was in hog heaven, spoiled beyond recognition. It’s been a few weeks since her birthday, and only now do I feel that we’ve gotten her back to center. The damage of a Disney experience of this magnitude is nearly impossible to counteract without shock treatment and heavy doses of Ritalin. But, hey, your daughter only turns four once, and maybe because we spoiled her and let her dress like a high-class trollop when she’s young, she won’t do it when she’s a teenager. Seems reasonable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Postscript: You might have noted above that The Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique styles not only princesses but knights. If my son Sam had wanted to be “knighted,” we would have likely obliged him; however, when he walked into the salon, he noticed another young boy being knighted, which did entail being doused with obscene amounts of glitter. Even Sam isn’t so young that he doesn’t know that there are only a handful of men who can pull off glitter. One is David Bowie; the others are employed in the Broadway production of Mamma Mia. My son respects his own limitations.

The miracle of birth, huh? That’s something of a misnomer, a bill of goods, a friggin’ crock. I should say that I’m skeptical of miracles in general. I don’t don’t swoon over images of the Virgin Mary burned into the side of a Hot Pocket, and I don’t speak in tongues when a family pussy cat gets sucked up into a tornado only to return home three days later without any fur. I do concede, however, that there is something extraordinary about part of the birth process. The problem with the miracle of birth, as with so many other cliches, idioms, and old chestnuts, is the sweeping nature of the language, the generality of it all. That said, I hereby propose a revision to the miracle of birth so that it becomes the miracle of–

Hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself. Bare with me. Consider for a moment the omnipresence of phallic symbols and worship. It can be broken down by category:

*Architecture — The Eiffel Tower, The Empire State Building, The Washington Monument, The Innuendo Tower, and every church steeple in the world.

*Nature — Old Faithful, cacti, General Sherman, and any variety of snake but preferably anacondas.

*Artillery and Weapons — canon, gun, torpedo, spear, sword, and all other instruments of violence that are longer than they are wide.

*Vices — cigars, cigarettes, pipes, champagne flutes, and occasionally mint- and/or cinnamon-flavored toothpicks.

*Transportation — trains, rockets, choppers, surfboards, and stallions.

*Miscellaneous/Recreation — vampire fangs, fishing poles, long ties, golf clubs, hockey sticks, door knobs, top hats, and the state of Florida.

Clearly there’s a pattern to this list, and I need not go too deep into the archives of slang to further substantiate that this pattern exists. *Pause for effect* Okay, just a few: the baloney pony, Long Dong Silver, and — my personal favorite — the tally whacker (Who the hell is tally? And why must she be whacked?). The association with magnitude and violence is astounding. The penis seems not so much a sex organ as a weapon of mass destruction.

The vagina, by contrast, does not enjoy such a celebrated status. To wit: I’m guessing most of you had heard the words phallus and phallic when I used them earlier, but I’m guessing most of you haven’t come across the words yoni or yonic, which is the appropriate vaginal counterpart. As you might imagine, most yonic symbols are hardly intimidating: caves, pots, rooms, roses. Most of these are things to be occupied or possessed. I suppose you might argue that caves connote a mystery of sorts, an ominous feeling on par with associations conjured by a loaded gun; but caves are also where you venture to go spelunking, and the very sound of the word spelunking undercuts any and all powerful or violent emotions.

Now, in the past decade or so, I’ve become something of a vagina connoisseur. Actually, I should be more specific — I’ve become something of a connoisseur of my wife’s vagina (No other vaginas factor into my expertise, but I think that my wife’s parts are both representative and exemplary). When you father two children, becoming a connoisseur in this way is a foregone conclusion. Having become familiar with her parts and having already achieved a more than intimate familiarity with my own, I can honestly say that — in a side-by-side comparison measuring strength, agility, and endurance — the vagina is the hands-down winner.

The penis is a lot of bark and very little bite; the vagina, on the other hand, is nothing but bite. It’s taken me a long time to admit this truth, but it became clear after witnessing the miracle of birth, which I will now lobby to change to the miracle of the vagina, an idiom that achieves a little more accuracy. Freud talked about penis envy, but actually it’s men who should have vagina envy.

Like Freud, the prolific rapper Sir Mix-a-Lot also got it wrong. He argues that his “anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon…” The metaphor is charming, but it doesn’t last long (how’s that for a pun?) when you apply a little scrutiny. First of all, the erect penis shares but one commonality with the anaconda — the phallic shape — and this is where the similarities end. Anacondas are powerful, dexterous, and in possession of the ability of constriction, and these qualities are more consistent with the vagina.

I can hear a lot of you men beginning to protest, but I can only assume that these are the men who have not been in the room during labor and delivery. The vagina widens, practically unhinges, so as to make room for a watermelon-sized oblong object with four jutting appendages (five if it’s a boy — though hardly anaconda-sized) and simultaneously constricts to propel the object into the world in less time than it takes to watch the Superbowl. Afterward, the vagina recoils, returning to its status quo, happy to have been of service. As you can see, the vagina is not merely a cavernous space or a trite rosebud; rather, it has all the faculties of a deadly predator. It’s the true anaconda, albeit a bearded — or in some cases creatively groomed — anaconda. The penis is merely prey.

It should also be noted that if there is any pride to be had in regards to the penis — any pride at all– then that pride is owed to women. Penis length has little to do with conception, of course, as a woman can become pregnant with minimal effort (effort being a euphemism for penetration, which seems like such a rude and nasty word). If this is true, and it is, then we must ask ourselves why the average penis length is, according to the Kinsey Institute, between five and six inches? For god’s sake, that’s several unnecessary tally-whacking inches — well, unnecessary in terms of utility, yet desirable in terms of recreation.

We must assume that those extra inches came by way of evolution. For millennia, woman have been stating their preference for the kielbasa over the cocktail weenie via simple natural selection. So, men, any endowment over which you feel pride must be attributed to the long line of mothers and grandmothers — Holocaust survivors, Civil War nurses, Salem witches, pilgrims, vikings, pirate wenches, Mesopotamian-era housewives, cavewomen, and so on — who so prudently opted for the jumbo size, thereby sculpting your penis into the size and shape it is today.

With this post, I’ve merely scratched the surface of the vagina (which, as mentioned above, is all that’s necessary), but I feel that we can safely conclude the vagina is mightier than the flesh sword. So think twice next time you come across a man with no back bone and flippantly refer to him as a pussy, and recall what you’ve learned here — that the one true miracle in this world is the miracle of the vagina.

NOTE: You should subscribe to this post. If you do not subscribe to this post, everyone will think you are a pus– … uh, er, I mean, everyone will think there’s nothing special about you, nothing special whatsoever.

ANOTHER NOTE: If there are any arguments you’d care to voice on the penis-vagina debate, I cordially invite you to do so in the comments section. This is an important issue, one dear to my heart, and I’d love to continue this dialogue in a constructive and safe forum. So tell me about your penis, tell me about your vagina, and if you’re a hermaphrodite, tell me about both. Thanks for reading!

My relatives — my mom, my dad, my stepdad, my in-laws, aunts, uncles, grandmas — the lot of them are constantly praising my parenting. Their compliments are sweet and offered with good intentions. “You’re so patient,” they say. “The kids are so well behaved, and they don’t even look like they’ve been abused.” I should be grateful for the accolades — and I am — but there is a certain tone in their voices that conveys astonishment and disbelief. Actually, my own grandmother has revealed to my wife that she was concerned by the thought of my becoming a father, which I imagine imbued my wife a little consternation of her own.

Certainly, my grandmother’s raised eyebrows can be attributed to projection, by which I mean she’s assigning the hall-of-shame characteristics of some of the men in my bloodline to me. But it is more likely that her concern stems simply from my character. You might not guess from the elegance of this blog, but I ain’t exactly the warmest guy in the room. My wife says I’m missing a sensitivity chip, and I’ve heard her describe Ted Bundy in the same way, so draw your own conclusions.

When it comes to my family being surprised by my parenting, let me say this: I’d be surprised if they weren’t surprised. I’m not crazy about kids. Mine are okay, but in general I like to keep a safe following distance between myself and any person who can’t manage a trip to the bathroom without an assist. If we were playing “Password,” and the password was father, you probably wouldn’t use Norm Leonard as a hint unless you were going for yucks. Nevertheless, my kids are pretty well behaved. Few and far between are those moments when my kids act in such a way so as to trigger comments such as these:

“Have I scheduled that vasectomy?”

“I totally support corporal punishment.”

“Thank God for latex!”

Despite evidence that I may in fact be a good father, I reject the compliments in my heart of hearts. Praise comes too easily for parents. Mothers and fathers should receive neither commendation nor condemnation until their kids are fully functional members of society with a clean record sans felonies, viral sex tapes, and school shooting perpetration. Am I right?

Prudence dictates that my family shouldn’t applaud my parenting until we’ve ruled out all possibility that my daughter could end up in an underground hip-hop music video in which she’s being urinated upon by one of R. Kelly’s illegitimate children; or until we’ve ruled out the possibility that my son could end up running a ponzi scheme that cheats Generation X out of the very little money left to them by the baby boomers who were themselves bamboozled by Madoff.

And then there’s this dilemma. What if my daughter wins the Nobel Peace Prize, but my son becomes a pimp specializing in prostitutes with Canadian accents? Am I still a good father then? Hard to say, right? I don’t know that we should focus on judgments of good or bad. If a father is present, resists the temptation to paddle his kids with an oar, and tosses them a daily “I love ya,” then let’s just say he’s earned his title. Good enough.  

 

 

It’s true. I cheated on my wife. It just happened, and I can offer no excuse but my own human fallibility. It was with a woman I met while jogging. She looked at me, I looked at her, and we fell behind some bushes in the park and ravaged each other. The connection I felt to this woman was instantaneous and I have decided to leave Becky and my kids. Love does indeed conquer all, apparently even the things you already love. Who knew this cliche held water?
***
I imagine some of you are wondering about the gory details. I can’t really go into them, not for legal reasons or even for reasons of decorum (besides, most of you know I’m bankrupt in this respect) but rather because these details reside in my wife’s head. You read that correctly. The above scenario played out in one of Becky’s dreams. It should be mentioned that this is not the first time I’ve broken the bonds of marriage in Becky’s altered state. I have bagged everyone from Dame Edna to the Dixie Chicks.
***
The most recent object of my infidelity — played on the stage of Becky’s subconscious — was Betty White. Picture it: me and the Golden Girl — the pair of us lying sweaty in bed, sharing a post-coital cigarette, and she regaling me with stories of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and confiding in me that Ted Knight’s funny laugh was really a cover for when he was farting on set. This pillow talk leads to feelings of eternal devotion, and hours later — seconds in the dream world — I confront Becky and reveal to her that Betty White has stolen my heart, appropriated my penis, and convinced me to move in with her — wife and kids be damned!
***
The dreams usually get this far, and then Becky wakes up. The funny thing is that Becky is not a jealous woman, and I’ve never given her reason to be.  Some of you might be quick to press the point, but actually, I think this dream is a ubiquitous one, common for anyone who has a family to lose, the method of loss playing out in a way that is dripping with all the logic of the dream world. I mean, come on, if I was really going to jump between the sheets with one of the Golden Girls, it would be Rue McClanahan; after all, she was the kinky one.
***
 All that said, I’m not interested in analyzing my wife’s dreams. What I am interested in analyzing is her behavior after the dream. She holds a grudge. Because the dream version of me bumped uglies with the dream version of Betty White and then decided to leave the dream version of Becky and our dream kids, she takes it out on me for two, three, sometimes four hours. This is a woman who has never displayed a jealous behavior in our eight years of marriage — in fact, she’s quick to point out the breasts of female passerby because she knows I’m something of a connoisseur — yet she takes umbrage with an infidelity that is borne entirely of her own imagination.
***
I thought this was odd. I know everyone has his or her own brand of crazy, and I was ready to concede that this was my wife’s particular brand, but then I learned from my cousin that his wife, too, often holds him accountable for the affairs he has in her dreams. His wife, like mine, is smart, sweet, elegant — and apparently nuttier than an elephant turd. After this realization, I began asking around. It seems that not only is the dream ubiquitous, so is the unreasonable animosity. Women everywhere are cursing their men as bastards because they’ve had affairs with droves of intangible women.
***
I admit, the vividness of dreams can be off putting. I’ve had dreams that have made me feel like I’m walking through Jell-O for the better part of a waking day. I don’t hold Becky’s resentment against her (especially now that I’ve been able to expose her crazy-making to all of you). What frustrates me is that I rarely have sex dreams. Apparently, Becky’s having all of them for me. Which sucks, right? How many chances does a guy really get to bag Betty White? I’m guessing those opportunities are few and far between.
***
I’d like to close this post with a challenge. Who do you think I will next have an affair with in Becky’s dreams? Leave your pick in the comments section. The winner gets the first season of The Golden Girls on Blu Ray. Finally, if you’ve already subscribed to this blog, then “thank you for being a frieeeeeend…” If you haven’t subscribed, click this link and make it so. And sweet dreams.

The war between the haves and the have-nots wages on. Of course, what I mean by this is that there is a grating tension between those who have kids and those who do not. It seems that those who have kids resent the kidless for their obvious narcissism, for the fact that they take for granted the simplest of life’s pleasures — the freedom to go to a movie,  a full eight hours of uninterrupted sleep, or the comfort of never being wrist deep in somebody else’s feces. Conversely, those without kids resent parents for their holier-than-thou martyrdom, for their passive aggressive remarks that trivialize a life without kids, which may or may not be a form of justifying the exciting single life left behind:

“I never understood love before my daughter.”

“Life before kids? What life? Family is the only way to truly live.”

“If you haven’t changed a diaper, you have no soul.”

This resentment must be brought to its knees. To hell with the Middle East; we must find a common ground on this front if we are to live in harmony. There can be peace between those who paint the town and those who supervise finger painting, those who go to dance clubs and those who help build clubhouses, those who have a sex life and those who resist sexual urges lest it result in several more sleepless years. Like so many conflicts, this can be resolved by focusing on our commonalities. To wit:

Both parents and non-parents have that drowsy look in their eyes: the parents because their three-year-old decided to sneak into bed, lie horizontally across their faces, and talk in her sleep, specifically muttering the lyrics of the god forsaken “backpack” song from Dora the Explorer; the non-parents because they were up tossing back shots of Patron and performing “gymnastics” in a pay-by-the-hour motel bed.

Both parents and non-parents are concerned with birth control: the non-parents because they want to enjoy a thrilling and challenging sex life; the parents because they don’t want any more impromptu tagging of the ABC’s in permanent marker on the door of their car.

Both parents and non-parents lie to themselves: the non-parents convince themselves that a middle-management promotion is truly an important and worthwhile life endeavor (it is not); the parents convince themselves that kids are little miracles, flesh-and-blood snowflakes that symbolize the promise of a better day (they are not — well, none of ’em except mine anyhow).

Both parents and non-parents suffer from the grass-is-always-greener complex: the non-parents assume that getting married and having kids is the key to bliss, happiness, and fulfillment; the parents lament their single years, nostalgically daydreaming about those days when they didn’t have to kneel down and sniff the mystery spot on the carpet to determine whether it’s origin was a leaky sippy cup or a leaky diaper.

Both parents and non-parents rely on faith: the non-parents trust that the universe will provide a source of love that will edify and nourish their day-to-day; non-parents trust that the damn two-year molars will finally come in and offer relief to the poor bastard so that he stops gnawing on the fleshy part of their biceps, on the corner of the coffee table, and on the damn dog’s poor friggin’ tail.

This is a somewhat brief list, which will only grow as this dialogue continues (perhaps it can continue in the comments section?). I hope that I have established, at the very least, a temporary truce. To fortify this moment of peace and bridge this gap, I challenge a non-parent to step out in faith, come to my house on Friday night, and demonstrate your acceptance of this treaty by babysitting my kids for the weekend while my wife and I step out to Las Vegas for a raucous weekend of alcoholic debauchery. You walk in our shoes; we’ll walk in yours. Any takers should leave a comment in the space below so that I know I have the green light to make reservations. Also, please let us know where we can buy a large quantity of penicillin on the cheap; I’m guessing we’ll need it.

I’m a runner. I run.

Not fast, mind you, but quick enough that nobody confuses me for a speed walker (this is important, a man should never be mistaken for a speed walker — trust me on this). Not only am I slow, but I’m not particularly graceful either, as I have never heard anyone remark, upon my blowing past him or her, that I must have been a gazelle in a former life. And I can’t go all that far. I’ve run twelve miles while training for a half marathon and ultimately had to stop training because of a stress injury. If I had to hunt my food by chasing it (persistence hunting they call it, like the Kalahari bushmen), my family would starve. Nevertheless, I identify as a runner.

Even when I’m not running — or haven’t run in months — I still consider myself a runner. This unyielding identification is a result of experiencing the runner’s high, that hocus-pocus burst of energy that occurs not long after the following thought goes through my head: Why the hell am I running? I own a friggin’ car, for god’s sake! When this thought is slain by that euphoric surge, there is a feeling of no return, a sense that I have come of age and entered a new and mysterious world — a world full of dwarves in basketball uniforms, monkeys smoking cigarettes, and other things that make me laugh and feel buoyant and bubbly.

I am typically distrustful of people who describe these types of scenarios, who insist that they have had a spiritual experience; I couldn’t say with any certainty that I’ve ever had one. This is not to say that other people are wrong, only that it’s difficult to accept without a first person context. A few activities, however, come pretty close, spiritually speaking, in that there is a feeling of ascent, some sort of tapping into of another plane: sex is one of those activities (this needs no further explanation); writing is another (when the wily muse is generous, the words and the story beats flow like blood from an open vein); and running is the final activity (when my stride hits the sweet spot, I may as well be flying).

I’m something of a drug addict in this respect. I don’t really run to get in shape as much as I run to get high. The difficulty is that it only kicks in after a certain distance or time, and this requires that I stay in a decent physical condition so that I can access that distance or time. This has become more difficult since I’ve had kids.

Specifically, after Sam was born and Charlee had just turned two, I was in terrible shape. Charlee being two, I assumed she would be easier to parent. Those of you with kids know this: it never gets easier; it just gets different. Everyday is a reminder of how grossly underprepared you are and how you are essentially a complete failure as it pertains to everything child-related. The endurance it takes to survive this constant barrage of failure makes it difficult to stay motivated for other things, physical fitness, for instance. Nevertheless, I saw a sign advertising the Lake Forest 5K and decided I would use the opportunity to get back in shape, indulge in that runner’s high, and continue working on my spirituality.

The day of the race I get to the starting line with my running partner, Girdie, who also happens to be my dog. The gun is fired, and we’re off. The first mile goes well. I’m a little tight, but no worse for wear. Girdie, by contrast, feels great. I use a long leash when I run with her, the kind that allows her about twenty feet of slack. She runs ahead of me, lays down, lets me catch up and pass her until the leash goes taut, and then she sprints ahead of me and repeats the process. Becky denies it, but I’m pretty sure the damn dog is trying to insult me, taunt me, show me who the more evolved species is. She’s bitter that I control the food. No big deal. This is our routine and not one of the indignities indicated by the title of this post.

The first indignity happens just after mile one. The crippling effect of parenthood comes into pretty clear focus when I notice that I’m being passed by people who seem like they should not be running in a race but showing their IDs to get the senior discount at The Hometown Buffet. I am passed by so much gray hair and wrinkles that I momentarily hallucinate and believe I’m at a casino in downtown Vegas.

I try to shake off the old people and remind myself that science — specifically gerontology — has made great strides in the last few years. So what if some of those strides happen to result in an octogenarian striding past me? My ego can take it. Besides, how many of those geezers were up all night with an infant? How many had to change three diapers before they arrived at the race? Hell, most of them would probably need their own diapers changed before the race was over. We’ll see who gets the last laugh then, I think.

Cue indignity number two. I notice I’m being passed by someone familiar. A young woman. She looks to be in good shape. I can’t place her name even though I’ve met her a few times. She’s a friend of my wife. Let’s call her Madge. There was some sort of tragedy surrounding her. What was it? An accident? No… A medical condition…? Yeah, that’s it. Hepatitis C! She got it while doing volunteer work in a third world country. The symptoms include malaise, fatigue, and weakness, and here she is kicking up dirt on me in the local 5K. There’s nothing that throws a cold pail of water on your spiritual pursuits like getting passed by Madge who has Hepatitis C. I become discouraged, and when I become discouraged I sink into negativity and criticism, as many of us do, and as Madge pulls away, her figure receding into the distance of mile two, I remind myself that I do not have an incurable disease, and this thought puts a little pep back in my step — though not enough to catch up with Madge.

The final indignity comes just a few hundred yards short of the finish line. I’m seconds from a heart attack, and the runner’s high is still way out of reach. But I’m about to finish 3.1 miles, and this, I’m sure, will effectively rekindle my running routine. At the moment this thought washes over me, I notice something, a large and brown figure lumbering in my peripheral. Before I can even pivot my neck to see what this thing is, it passes me. It’s a bull. Not a real bull, of course; rather, it’s the El Toro High School mascot, some punk kid dressed in a head-to-toe furry suit with a mask the size of a blue-ribbon pumpkin. He skips past me — you read that correctly, skips! — and finishes seconds before me.

The shame of being outrun by a skipping bull is almost to much to bear. Thankfully, because of all the humiliation that comes with kids — the public temper tantrums (mine and theirs), their proneness to shatter the rules of etiquette and point out the “fat lady” at the grocery store, and so on — I am used to feelings of inadequacy and, thus, able to shake off these three indignities. I vow to maintain the running routine and register for the next 5K where I will have my revenge, which will include kicking that bull right in his filet mignon. I’m pretty sure it will qualify as a spiritual experience.

NOTE:  The real come-to-Jesus moment occurs when you subscribe. This is the only way to achieve eternal subscription. If you’ve already made the digital altar call, consider sharing this post on Facebook. Just click that button down there somewhere. Tweeting is also somewhat spiritual but more in the psychic hotline sort of way. No judgment here. Tweet away. Can I get an Amen!

FINALLY, DON’T FORGET to leave a comment. I want to know about the indignities of my readers. Quid pro quo, brothers and sisters. Quid pro quo!

 

The Easter Bunny gets the shaft year in and year out. He’s a B-grade holiday icon at best. NOTE: I’m not sure that the Easter Bunny is male, but in the malls, he typically wears a bow tie and nothing else, which seems to suggest that he is both male and moonlighting as a dancer at Chippendales. Truthfully, I could care less about the Easter Bunny’s place in the world, but I feel that his waning level of popularity hints at a significant contradiction of values in American culture.

All of the glory, of course, goes to Saint Nick — that jolly fat bastard. You would think that Santa, with his stranglehold on niceness and juvenile morality, would offer the occasional shout-out to the Easter Bunny, toss him some headlines now and again, maybe share a little of that celebrity wealth. I mean, I’m guessing the Easter Bunny leaves him a bounty of goodies each year; Santa’s ass didn’t get that big by not eating wicker baskets full of carbohydrates and high fructose corn syrup. You’d think fatty would be kind enough to go quid pro quo.

On that note, Americans in general are fat. This, of course, is no groundbreaking observation. Anyone who has been to Disneyland in the last couple years knows what I’m talking about. Main Street is teeming with people so lazy and obese that they rent electric wheelchairs so they won’t have to actually walk from the jumbo corn dog stand to the other stand which sells salted turkey legs big enough to choke a jackal. Apparently, Pixar didn’t have to go too far when dreaming up the concept for WALL-E.

This plethora of potbellied Americans should be wholeheartedly embracing the Easter Bunny. After all, the poor under-appreciated sap brings them chocolate and artificially colored sugar — no electric wheelchair necessary. Still, all the reverence goes to Santa and Christmas.

The contradiction continues even when you consider that the icons are similarly aligned with religion in terms of their respective holidays, however thin that alignment may be. The association may be the problem. Santa Claus conjures Christmas, which conjures the birth of Christ whereas the Easter Bunny conjures Easter Sunday, which conjures the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. I guess we all prefer birthday cake to funeral fondue.

What the Easter Bunny needs is a good ad executive, someone like Don Draper, to rebuild his image, maintain a certain standard. After all, Santa Claus has a union — http://www.aorbsinc.com/ — with a mission statement: “…dedicated to training Santas and enhancing their portrayal of Santa Claus for the benefit of your family and community.” St. Nick is organized and mobilized, prepared to compete in the global economy.

Certainly, the Easter Bunny could benefit from such developments, because there’s nothing exciting about the Easter Bunny, nothing provocative or  risqué, nothing sexy — and, no, the whole furry thing doesn’t count. It’s just weird. NOTE: if you’re unfamiliar with the furry subculture, do yourself a favor and don’t Google it. This is an area of life in which you are better off naive. Trust me on this.

Rebuilding the Easter Bunny’s image would probably necessitate a good scandal. You need to be torn down before you can be built up. Charlie Sheen, Michael Vick, Chris Brown — they all seem to be doing pretty well after the fact. So let’s begin a rumor here. The next time the Easter Bunny comes up in conversation, this is what you say: “You know what I heard? The Easter Bunny and Mrs. Claus — they had a thing. It just happened, the way these things do. She was never into the whole bestiality thing, but she likes bow ties, and that rabbit can really shake his tail… No, it didn’t last. The rabbit started drinking, manhandled Mrs. Claus — yeah, the black eye wasn’t from an icicle that fell from the roof of Santa’s Workshop after all… Oh, now? Well, now he’s in a recovery center with Dr. Drew, but things are going well. He’s on step 8 of 12, and he’s just apologized to Cupid for calling Valentine’s Day a pussy holiday. I think he’s gonna make it out of this one…” This should get our American values back to the straight and narrow where they belong.

 

Two or three times a week, right around 4:30 p.m., on those days when it is my responsibility, I meander into my daycare lady’s house fully prepared to see her laid out on the couch, her eyes rolled back into her head, an Elmo shoelace wrapped tightly around her bicep, and an empty syringe dangling loosely from a collapsed vein as she moans ever so gently, enraptured by the soothing lullaby propagated by an overdose of black tar heroin. There is no tangible evidence that should lead me to the expectation that my kids’ daycare lady will go the way of Whitney Houston (too soon?), but I would like to point out that a lack of evidence is not necessarily evidence to the contrary.

I admit that all the evidence I will present here is entirely subjective and circumstantial — but convincing just the same. First, consider that she chose — and continues to actively choose — to spend her day-to-day with kids who share no blood ties to her whatsoever. This is unbelievable, right? My wife argues that I’m alone on this. She says that there are actually people who enjoy children on this level. I find this difficult to believe. The only reason I seek out the company of children other than my own is for matters of comparison. I want to know that my children are smarter, better looking, and more talented than all the other kids. And in the event that we come into the presence of children who give us a run for our money, I seek out ways to sabotage that family, be it psychologically, emotionally, physically, or financially — whatever gives us the edge.

Our day care lady, however — her name is Lisa — has no need for comparison as her kids are all college-aged, which means that she’s in the childcare game for the “gratification.” Notice the quotation marks on gratification. What kind of gratification could possibly be had from this laundry list of baby-wrangling responsibilities: The assembly line of diaper changing? The constant refereeing of hair-pulling, back-biting death matches? The never ending whine for more “ammul cra-kurs”? How can this possibly be endured without the supplement of black tar heroin — or another similar narcotic?

My next piece of evidence: her house. It’s still standing every time I pick the kids up. There have been no fires, no dismantling of major structures, and the place is clean. Occasionally there’s a stray Cheerio on the floor, but my wife is quick to point out that this could be written off to the fact that anyone would have a difficult time keeping Cheerios off the floor as the denizens of the daycare go through several hundred thousand of them in a single day — not to mention that Lisa’s dog, Jack, has a bad hip, making it difficult for him to sweep up like younger, more spry dogs are wont to do.

My wife likes to give Lisa the benefit of the doubt and insists that she has simply streamlined her process like any skilled craftsman. Sound like a load to you, too? The more reasonable explanation, I think, is speed. Lisa is on speed. Or maybe meth. Or even coke. No, probably meth. I’m a teacher, and daycare is like teaching. We make okay money — meth money, not coke money. It would be much easier to keep a place in order — to organize all the toys, straighten up all the counter tops, and wipe down all the foreign bodily fluids — if you were hopped up on crystal meth.

Exhibit C: my kids are not dead. Seriously, there are times I drop off my offspring at 8:00 a.m. and Lisa already has breakfast on the table for what looks like thirty kids. My wife assures me that there aren’t that many kids, that Lisa is operating fully within the boundaries of her license, but even if there are five kids — six kids tops — what flesh-and-blood human could commandeer that army without incurring a few casualties? Well, I’ll tell you — the kind of flesh-and-blood human who is blurred by a little opium. Napoleon Bonaparte, so I’ve been informed, enjoyed a puff or two on the ol’ opium pipe to settle his nerves before battle. How else could Lisa spend all the livelong day with two dozen kids and not spill blood?

Assuming my hypothesis is correct and Lisa is puffing, snorting, freebasing, or shooting up, then not only is she a drug addict but probably a mad genius. Who is going to rat her out? My kids? Last night Charlee spent forty minutes detailing her imagined afternoon with Princess Jasmine; Sam and I spent the entire evening going through this exchange:

Sam: Daddy? … Daddy? … Daddy?

Me: Yes, Sam.

Sam: Hi.  *This repeated exactly 432 times.

What I’m saying here is that my kids lack credibility — maybe even sanity. Their testimony wouldn’t hold up in any court. So Lisa can just go on caring for kids and maintaining her junkie lifestyle — nobody the wiser.

To be fair, I should point out a few things. Lisa does not display any of the physical qualities of a drug addict. She’s a new grandma, but you’d never know it. Her youthful appearance and generally bright disposition betray the connotations of the title “grandmother.” There are no tracks on her arms or in between her toes. Her face is not gaunt. She is never oily or sweaty. Constant lick-lipping is not one of her ticks. She doesn’t smell like the backside of a raccoon. She’s even tempered, which is to say that she is always — always — in a lovely mood.

Sound like a crock to you too?

I know, but my kids adore her, revere her, cherish her! I wish I could validate my suspicions by telling you that Sam and Charlee regale us with stories of Lisa’s crazymaking. Like how she receives afternoon visits from gentlemen callers with teardrop tattoos on their cheeks. Like how she plays Russian Roulette to decide which baby gets a diaper change and which baby doesn’t. Like how she lets the them watch inappropriate Cinemax programs on the DVR in lieu of Sesame Street. But this would all be patently untrue.

And this leads me to a new hypothesis. Lisa is not a druggie. She’s a drug dealer. Every so often, Charlee comes home with a dash of white powdery substance under her fingernails. Becky says it’s chalk, but Becky was raised in Orange County; I was raised in Lake Elsinore, and I know better. Lisa’s probably cut my kids — and the other kids — in on the action to buy their silence. Oh well, my kids come home happy, and that’s what matters. I do wonder, however, how much Lisa is pulling in. Probably a boat load. Note to self: apply for daycare license next week and vet distributors for a drug ring. Lisa’s about to get some competition.

NOTE: If you would like your kids to be happy, fulfilled, and loved by this incredible woman who may or may not be moonlighting as a suburban drug queen-pin, leave me a comment and your email address; I’ll be happy to put you in touch with Lisa.

A NOTE OF GRATITUDE: Thanks to all of you whom have subscribed and promoted this blog on Facebook, Twitter, via email, etc. Many of you have left me comments recounting how these posts have made you laugh, giggle, chuckle even, and I just want to say I’m glad that my life is a punchline for you. I’m happy that my misery can, in some small way, bring pleasure to all you sadists out there. If you’re a new reader, welcome to the crazy house; don’t forget to subscribe, and next time, bring a friend.

 

Before we knew Charlee was going to be a girl, I was convinced otherwise. I knew she must be a boy for no other reason than I felt grossly unqualified to raise a little girl. Added to this, a long history of insanity has plagued the women of my family on both sides, and there is legal documentation I could present to any doubters. I concede that I could provide legal documentation on the men as well, but this would only begin an argument not unlike the one about the chicken and the egg.

Because I felt that a child of the female gender would maximize the possibility of my having to deal with a veritable cornucopia of psychosis, I desperately hoped for a little boy. Becky warned me against such prejudice and insisted I would love the child no matter its sex. She, of course, was right. The sonogram technician revealed that Charlee was indeed a girl, and my attitude shifted almost instantly. I scoffed at the long line of crazy women in my lineage and knew that Charlee would be the anomaly, the one to take our family name out of the nuthouse and into the White House (if politics happened to be her bag).

A year or so later, we got pregnant again. This time, I was sure I wanted another girl. I had become accustomed to dealing with infant women and saw no reason to venture out into the mystery that was little boys. I had encountered some of them at the park, and I felt that the lot of them were dirty, savage little miscreants — nothing like the classy elegance of my daughter.

Also, I had mastered changing little girl diapers. I knew the front-to-back rule, I was aware of the UTI thing, and I had, in fact, changed a diaper in the dark, with one hand, in less than thirty seconds. Changing a little boy, I knew, would be a whole other learning curve. There would a different temperament, a separate technique, foreign obstacles (yes, those) — to say nothing of the surprise geysers that can take out an eye.

But again, the sonogram technician announced the sex, and again, instantly, I was at peace with Mother Nature’s selection. I almost felt silly for placing so much stock in something as insignificant as male or female. A few years in now, and I think that I wasn’t silly at all. Little girls mean one thing; little boys mean something else entirely. The difference between little boys and little girls only begins with genitals and extends to differences that run the gamut: temperament, sense of humor, behavior, politics, proneness to violence, artistic sensibility, sensitivity, extracurricular activities, fetishes, diet, and the list goes on.

I could provide individual examples of how my kids differ on each of these topics, but this is a single post, and so I’ll limit it to an amalgam of all of them. A few months ago, I’m bathing Sam and Charlee. The bubbles are bountiful, the spirit is light, and all is well. Charlee brushes the hair of one of the forty-seven dolls she has in the tub while singing the first verse of “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid for the nineteenth time.

Sam, meanwhile, splashes and coos and squeals. His play is formless, meaningless, and seemingly thrilling. The pair of them have been scrubbed and disinfected, their skin like the waterlogged texture of Dick Clark, and so I pull the plug.

As the waters drains, I turn for a towel. When I turn back, Charlee continues brushing her doll’s hair; Sam, by contrast, has somehow found a spider, which he holds in his hand. It wasn’t a big spider, but it was big enough. It looked something like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I try to get Sam to let go of it, but he has a crazy look in his eye, which makes me think of all that madness that has come down through the family bloodline. He’s like a man standing on the edge of a building, threatening to jump. I try to talk him down, but I can see that he has already made up his mind. No more negotiating, I think. Time to act. I spring on him, attempting to knock the arachnid from his hand, but he does me one better. He throws his hand up to his mouth…

And.

Begins.

Chewing.

“No!” I shout. “What’s wrong with you? What the… What the… Oh, my god! Seriously?! Seriously?!” Charlee smiles at my fit. And so does Sam, a wide toothy grin — and in that grin, I can see the spider’s legs and twisted carcass all stuck in his baby teeth. And that’s when I dry heave. Charlee, by comparison, begins laughing, which makes Sam laugh. Charlee would never have put the spider in her mouth, but she seems to enjoy the experience all the same. And now, all I can say is this. Little boys and little girls are different in so many ways, but when it comes to the crazy, there’s no telling one from the other.