Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The Things We Choose To Care About

From the moment the doctor analyzing the sonogram told Amanda and me to "start saving for the wedding", I wondered if I could be, and am, a good father to a daughter.  A father that sets the right example of how women should be treated.  A father that can encourage her to possess self-respect, a healthy body image, and the courage to stand up for herself.  Eight years into this crazy parenthood experiment, I think I am doing okay, but we are in an era where gender roles, or least societal expectations of them, are constantly shifting.  As the modes of influence (tv, social media, classmates) that can shape our daughters' worldview evolve and multiply at an unprecedented pace, so too do the advice and rules for guys.  In some ways, it has never been more confusing to know what it means to "act like a man."  I don't just mean the perplexing man bun trend.  Surf the internet or scroll through your newsfeed and you will see the contradictory info with which men/dads are bombarded:  All men should be feminists.  Men can't possibly understand enough to be feminists.  Treat your lady like a queen.  Men are the head of the family to whom the wife should submit. (Chuckling to myself as I wonder how that demand would go over in my house.) Yay, American Girl has released a boy doll! Ew, gender neutral toys are terrible.  "Nick’s ‘Nella the Princess Knight’ Is A Kick-Ass Heroine Your Kids Will Love ."  Lady Ghostbusters are a bunch of C-words!  In a world of mixed messages where young men apparently flirt by sending dick pics, or as a female friend calls them, Unsolicited Richards, I cringe thinking about the way women, including my growing daughter, are/will be treated. 

I know the best way to handle advising Grace as she grows is to let my wife do all the talking.  All kidding aside, I have recently been thinking this through more deeply.  I am examining my behaviors and habits, wondering if I need to adjust.  Yesterday, while in line at the grocery store a beautiful young woman got in line behind me.  How young I don't know; everybody looks younger to me these days.  But old enough to buy the two bottles of wine she was juggling in one hand (Not literally, unfortunately. The story isn't that interesting.) while holding an overflowing basket in the other.  Being that I held a much lighter basket, I offered to let her go in front of me.  She politely declined and that was the end of our interaction.  Yet, it got me thinking overthinking.  (It's kind of what I do.  The rate of overthinking in our house is exceeded only by the rate at which we consume Nutella.)  Did she decline because she was being equally polite or because she thought maybe I was hitting on her in some creepy, old man way?  Did she find my offer condescending because I must think her too weak to hold all her goods?  Is that partly why I made the offer?  Would I have made the same offer to a man, or even a less attractive woman?  I'm secure in knowing that I made the offer simply to be polite, but my mental gymnastics it spawned shows that I am nutty and a little tripped up by trying to do right by women.

Also this week, my Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition landed in my mailbox.  As a kid, the swimsuit edition was a February highlight.  Pre-internet, thirteen-year-old me looked forward to seeing Kathy Ireland, Elle Macpherson, and all their scantily clad friends frolicking by the sea and looking directly at ME through the camera lens.  I remember one year my grandfather, I guess not knowing that I was a subscriber, sent me a manila envelope containing nothing but the new swimsuit edition and a note saying, 'A little something to warm you up this winter.'  Good guy stuff.  And get me through the winter it did.  Now, I'm feeling guilty looking at the 2017 edition setting on my coffee table.  Should I?  I have no idea.  Will it, and the countless other images like it on television, make Grace have unrealistic expectations about her body image?  Is SI's objectification of women liberating for women or demeaning?  Is it both?  I would likely dismiss it as me inventing a problem that exists mostly in my head except that two days ago, Grace told me her legs were getting fat.  I'm 99% sure she really meant her legs were getting bigger as she gets bigger.  Nonetheless, it got me a little panicky inside. (It doesn't take much.)  Grace is not even close to being fat and I don't want her thinking that at any age, let alone eight.  We discussed being healthy and strong, avoiding the f-word.  I'll let Mommy, whose casual thumbing through the swimsuit issue seemed to indicate she had zero problem with reading it, handle the rest of that conversation.

Of course, the big reason I've been thinking more about this stuff lately is our President .  You didn't think I could get through a whole blog post without talking about the Trumpster Fire, did you?  Aside from his ineloquent hamming up of the English language and his superhuman ability to bend the truth into a pretzel, what I really disliked about this guy was this:

Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.
Unknown: Whoa.
Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.
Unknown: That’s huge news.
Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.
She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —
I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.
Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.
Trump: Whoa! Whoa!
Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!
Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.
Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.
Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.
Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —
Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
Bush: Whatever you want.
Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

How in the heck that right there didn't keep him out of the Oval Office, I'll never know.  Yet the Trumpeters were more "disgusted" by the pink knit vagina hats worn by women protesters.  The above transcript, in which he actually brags about the ability to grab a woman in her genitals WITHOUT CONSENT, was okay, but women wearing vagina hats as a rebuke of his vulgarity was not.  So, yeah, that is why I marched in the local women's march on January 21st.  My marching was seen frivolous and silly by some, and likely won't change a thing.  I simply wanted to put it out into the universe that I was not okay with this lack of consent.  That behavior, and failure to be held accountable for it, cannot be condoned, for it leads to dirtbags like Brock Turner thinking it's okay to penetrate a drunk woman behind a dumpster.  My daughter did not understand all the nuance or ramifications of Donald Trump's election or the march that followed, nor should she.  What she saw, though,  was that she has a voice and that I stand with her, her mother, and all the women that oppose this guy. 

I know I joke a little about being a dumb dad and being overwhelmed about sorting out raising a daughter in the current climate.  It's actually something I care deeply about.  In fact, it is one of the most important things I will ever do; I'd like to get it right.  As much as I fret over the meaning of a grocery lane encounter or whether I should flip through a skin mag, I know the best way I can help Grace navigate this crazy world is to listen to her and cut through the clutter by telling her what I know based on my faith, my experience, and my hopes for her. I'll keep my fingers crossed that is good enough.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Future's So Bright...I Gotta Gouge Out My Eyeballs

We here at Hailey Industries have been keeping a secret: we have a time machine.  Now, don't get too excited.  Like the battle station this blog is named for, even when fully operational, our time machine has some limitations.  Chief among these is that the time machine restricts us from altering the era we visit.  We are only observers, able to view another time for better or worse.  Powerless to change anything, I am but a witness to history.  Unable to wait for Friday to arrive, we recently made our maiden voyage into the future to check out the Yuge-ly anticipated inauguration of one Donald J. Trump (speaking of for better or worse).  The following is a partial report of what we saw.  (Spoiler Alert:  It ain't like anything you've seen before!)

*President Trump was sworn in with his tiny left hand resting on a copy of The Art of the Deal.

*Mr. Trump was cordial to outgoing President Barack Obama, wishing him a quiet, happy retirement in his native Kenya.

*Of the roughly two thousand words in Mr. Trump's address, "great", "I', "bigly", and "believe me" were used the most.  Approximately seventy-three times each.

*President Trump announced his first infrastructure project, even before building The Wall, will be to guild every surface of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in an effort to make the "Gold House" feel more like home.

*Ben Carson slept through the entire affair. I think. It's really hard to tell when he's awake.

*In a stunning, but unsurprising breach of protocol, Mr. Trump strode across the dais and grabbed RBG right in her p*%$y, because, you know, that's what stars do.

*Mr. Trump repeatedly referred to the audience as "suckers."  It was unclear if he was speaking directly to his voters that think he cares about them, the people who are convinced not entering into a blind trust is okay, or both.

*Forget what the weather man says, there is a 100% chance of Golden Showers. 

*Mr. Trump interrupted his address only once to fire off a disparaging Tweet. Sad!

*Mike Pence came out of the closet.  (Just kidding.  Was checking to see if you were still paying attention.)

*Outdoor Venue= Extra Hairspray

*The address's main theme was, "America, you're hired!"  Not exactly, "Ask not what your country can do for you", but what exactly were you expecting?

*In the cool temperatures, Mr. Trump required an extra overcoat to better protect his thin skin. 

*Bad News/Good News: Time wise, this is the longest inaugural address in U.S. History.  Mostly because every couple sentences the President paused so Kellyanne Conway could translate what he really means "in his heart."

Enjoy the show, everybody! And don't bother asking if you can borrow our time machine.  After witnessing that debacle, we dismantled it.  Sometimes it is better not to know.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

If Parents Wrote Honest Thank You Notes

As the ornaments are stowed away and final bits of tissue paper swept from under the tree, I have reflected on the generosity bestowed upon my kid this year.  Between an October birthday and fruitful Christmas, Grace has opened a lot of presents in the last few months.  I am grateful that she has so many caring friends and family.  So grateful, in fact, that, as she is getting her own Christmas thank you notes in the mail, I thought I'd write a few myself:

*Thank you for the talking stuffed animal that sings/records/reacts/dances/lights up.  Once we sorted through convoluted directions to program it to sing/record/react/dance/light up, this guy has been a blast.  Now with one loving hug he can turn any room into a casino.  What sounds! What colors!  What a spectacle!  This is especially fun when an accidental 3AM squeeze has me blearily wondering if an alien spacecraft is landing in the next room.  We all know I don't do well with mid-night sound effects.  Creepy doesn't cover it.

*Thank you for the crayons.  We really needed more; we have almost completed our quest to acquire one million!

*Thank you for the charm bracelet.  Surely you didn't know it could hold more charms that my daughter would want to add today. And tomorrow.  And the next day. 

*Thank you for the Legos.  To some, that distinct plastic-y echo of Legos spilling out signals marvelous feats of engineering are forthcoming.  To me, that spine-chilling sound signals that a "Yes, you have to pick up ALL the pieces" argument is forthcoming.

*Thank you for the books.  Books?  Books?  Actually, I can't complain about the books.  I love 'em.

*Thank you for the socks with the days of the week stitched in them.  Cute, to be sure, but I invite you over to do the laundry Tuesday night when Grace realizes at bedtime that only one of the Wednesday socks is clean.

*Thank you for Monopoly.  You hate me, don't you?

*Thank you for the rubber band loom.  I have set a new personal record for bracelets owned.  Rubber bands have surpassed glitter as the most annoying craft supply in our household.  A legitimate thank you, though, to Grace's cousin and friend  who each helped Grace with her weaving (?) technique sparing me and Amanda from watching rubber banding YouTube videos.

*Thank you for the new tote/purse/backpack.  Did you think Grace needed a bag in which to store all her other bags?  Of course, anytime Grace gets a new bag she must immediately transfer her collection du jour, currently Shopkins, to the new bag for transport.

*Thank you for the Gift Card.  I bet you thought you were safe because you didn't buy Grace a "product."  Well, I'm onto you.  Under the guise of giving my daughter the freedom to buy whatever she wants, you get to sneak into a store to grab a gift without putting in any real effort.  Smooth.  A move I've used dozens of times myself.  Of course, when you give Grace a gift card I must spend half a day in the store with her as she calculates the perfect combination of purchases to maximize the value of her gift card.  See Also: Cash.

So, thank you.  Thank you for inspiration.  This year I will be on the hunt for the loudest, weirdest, corniest, most anti-parent gifts money can buy!

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Why Not?

One week. It is closing time, and America, in all her beer goggled glory is taking somebody home. Unfortunately, this one night stand lasts four years. Will it be the Power Grabber or the P&$*y Grabber?  The candidate full of bull or the candidate full of bull? According to the pundits, it is midnight in the USA, the end is nigh, the Liberty Bell tolls for thee.  According to my friends and neighbors, I should board up my house and move to Canada.  Of course, it doesn't have to be this way. I, along with the rest of the Off-Broadway Third Party Players are also still sitting at the bar waiting to share a cab, to be asked up for "coffee."  America, you don't have to regret your decision in the morning.  As the lyrical genius Eddie Money once said, Take Me (and my patriotic red pants) Home Tonight.

As we hit the one week home stretch, here are Seven Thoughts for Seven Days:

1) You wanna talk issues? I've got issues. I'll be the Mental Health President. Don't worry  folks, I'll worry for you!
2) Being the World's Policeman leads only to more excuses to be the World's Policeman.
3) The phrase "Black Lives Matter" does not sow division, but reminds us there is still division that needs to be healed.
4) I engage in "locker room talk."  I think most men and women have or do.  However, that locker room talk does not include doing anything without consent.  I say two (or three, or six) adults can get as freaky as they want AS LONG AS THERE IS CONSENT.  And, if two of them fall in love, they should be able to legally marry no matter the parts between their legs.
5) Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.
6) Not everyone's American Dream is 2.5 kids and a picket fence. 
7) I don't believe the Oval Office should be a decades-long, dynastic ego pursuit or another acquisition in a businessman's ledger. I was given not a silver spoon, but a wooden spoon covered in cookie dough.  I'm more everyman than elegant.  I have this crazy notion that our President should serve the interests of the people not his own.  I'm ready to serve.  If you give me your write-in vote (Of which I've been assured I already have one. Suck it, Evan McMullin!), I promise to stow the doom and gloom the punditry loves to peddle.  Let's make America FUN again.

#Hailey4America #EverForward #WhyNot

Saturday, October 08, 2016

I'm Too Sexy For This Oval Office.

At first, I thought there was no way Donald Trump would make it to March, let alone November. Next, I thought he, like every politician, was saying anything to get elected.  Then I thought he was saying everything to ensure he would NOT be elected.  Now I realize Trump does not give a flying leap what I, you, any of us thinks.  He looks out for one person.  His every move is self serving.  He's on a Mission from Don.

The video of lewd remarks that surfaced yesterday serves as another reminder that Donald Trump is an orange, unrestrained ball of id. He is America's Tyler Durden. An unrestrained ball of Tyler Durden has no business in the Oval Office. Make no mistake this kind of "guy" talk is what leads to an expectant, entitled culture among young men.    Even if it is common, this talk is not harmless. It can not be dismissed as mere locker room banter.  Fathers, use this video as a teachable moment with your sons. Use this as an example of what's is important - always make sure your mic is turned off. Kidding, of course. The real lesson is make sure you pop a few Tic-Tacs before you head out to grab some      p%*$y. Or maybe we could just settle for  teaching our young men to treat women with respect and teaching our young women to expect to be treated with respect.

Predictably, I have seen comments excusing Trump's boorish behavior. Oh, this video is ten years old.  Oh, it's just boys being boys.  Oh, you know, Bill Clinton was a bad guy, too.  His supporters hold their nose because there are real problems in this world and he can fix them!  As if Trump has provided any evidence of a plan to do so. I've been accused of being distracted by the media, of buying into their phony outrage.  I'm not outraged, phony or otherwise. I'm embarrassed that the GOP, for which I have voted often, could select no better candidate than this media-whoring, women-insulting, self-congratulating blowhard.  If the Democrats had chosen nearly any other candidate to run, he or she would be wiping the floor with Trump.  If they nominated a poodle, we would be reviewing applications for Official White House Pooper Scooper right now.  That the Republicans couldn't nominate a candidate that could wrest the moral high ground from the Clintons(!) is as laughable as it is unthinkable.  Hillary Clinton's Wall Street speeches and Donald Trump's limelight- driven, reality star power tripping ("when you're a star.. you can do anything") show exactly how out of touch these two clowns are with a large chunk of the people they claim to want to lead. We are left with two candidates hungry to ascend to the highest office, while scraping the bottom of the barrel.

I'll vote for neither, but at least with Clinton we have someone polished enough to actually resemble a president.  Donald Trump is a an oaf, a pig that not only slings mud, but enjoys rolling around in it.  We can argue all day about the role of a president in our government. Is the president an executor with real power to govern or more a figurehead? You make the call. If even only a figurehead, though, our president should be someone who  represents us well to the world.  A President's speech should be respectful of all citizens, bestowing dignity on all Americans.  A President's voice should be inspirational, aspirational, lofty. Our President should desire to raise us up, not tear us down.  A President Trump (shudder) wallowing in the muck is not the face I want to show the world. How about you?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Last Charge of the Orange Brigade

A week ago, coming off a series victory in Boston, the Orioles opened an eleven game homestand only one game behind the Sox in the race for the American League East.  After a 2-5 start to the homestand, the Orioles have ceded any hope of winning the division, clinging to a perilous lead for the final Wild Card spot.  With ten games remaining in  their season, including three each with the Jays and the Damn Yankees, the Birds must begin their last stand tonight in their final game with Boston.  So as a fun summer slips into a desperate autumn, I apologize to Tennyson for butchering his beautiful war poem which served as my inspiration for:

                                       The Last Charge of the Orange Brigade

Half a league, half a league,
With half a league closing behind,
All into the Yard,
Strode the Baltimore Nine.

"Forward the Orange Brigade!"
"Charge for the fences!" cried Buck.
Into the Yard,
Strode the Baltimore Nine.

Homers to the right of them,
Homers to the left of them,
Homers in front of them,
The Red Stockings have been unkind;
Struck down by Porcello with ease,
Swarmed under by the young Killer B's.
For one more chance, against the lefty Price,
Into the hearty laugh of Ortiz,
Strode the Baltimore Nine.

Valiantly staying in the pennant chase,
Desperately trying to keep pace,
Pinning all hopes on the arm of their Ace. 
Charging the field,
Holding the line.
Swinging for the wall,
Tracking each high fly ball,
Jonesy, Manny, and Trumbo
Enduring every strike call.
Just what is left,
Of the Baltimore Nine?

What shot at glory can they take?
O the Wild Card can the make?
A fan base looks for a sign.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Orange Brigade,
Tonight, cheer the Baltimore Nine.

And, when you're done cheering the Baltimore Nine, read Tennyson's haunting tribute to six hundred men of the Light Brigade.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Dance Party

I recently stumbled upon a  2014 Washington Post article detailing how Hillary Clinton has not driven a car since 1996.  It seems unlikely, for the same reasons laid out in the Post story, that she has driven in the ensuing two years.  This is only mildly surprising considering as a former First Lady she is under constant Secret Service protection.  Although, you would think at some point she, or anyone in a similar position, would tell Agent Earpiece to hop in the passenger seat and pass the keys.  Driving is too much fun to pass on for twenty years.  Not driving in two decades illustrates, in a minor way, how out of a touch Clinton, like most powerful politicians, is with the everyday existence of their constituents.  America, you need a candidate that's going to keep it real.  Donald Trump?  Hardly.  Whether he's actually worth one billion or ten billion, he's still at least a billion ahead of most of us.  Of all the deceptions he's pulled off during this long con he calls a campaign, convincing millions of hard working regular Joes that he has their back is perhaps the most impressive.  The closest Trump gets to relating to those Joes is bilking them out of thousands of dollars for his "University" or suing them so he doesn't have to pay for contracting work they have completed on his buildings.

No, America, neither Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump have the desire to understand your experience.  Guess what?  You're in luck.  I know a guy that drives himself (in a car that he and his wife paid for, no less).  He cuts his own grass, packs his own lunch (remember, make the peanut butter pocket to lock in the jelly), and drinks beer from a can.  He sometimes argues with his wife and kid.  He often yells at the screen during televised sporting events.  Yep, he's real.  He is me and I am him.  And I/him/me/he/Hailey4America am ready to help. I know how you live, what you need, and what you want.  Better yet, I'm willing to listen to what you have to say.  Yes, I'm an average Joe.  But I'm an average Joe with specific experience that, while hardly unique, makes me qualified to lead:  I'm a Dance Dad.

Hear me out.  I have distinct skills forged in the fiery cauldron of this Dance Dad life:

*Peace Keeper (AKA Knowing where my bread is buttered):  The Future First Lady is a kick-ass Dance Mom in her own right, but by taking Grace to classes during the week, I can cross at least one thing off Amanda's weekend to-do list.

* Handling Tense, Last-Minute Negotiations:  Arguing about which leotard/tutu combo The Girl needs or wants to wear never occurs an hour before class, only when we are already supposed to be in the car.

*Fiscal Responsibility:  I finally wised up and learned that I can take the same, if not better, photos than the professional portraits on Picture Day.  And mine are free! 

*Good Judgement:  The Future First Lady and I (okay, we all know it was Amanda that did all the legwork) selected a dance studio with a non-competitive environment that does not expect young girls to be all tarted up for the recital.

*Demonstrating a willingness to accept help:  The other girls' moms have bailed me out a few times over the last five years.  They've helped by going in the changing room or ladies' restroom, fixing Grace's hair or the unfortunate moment when I helped Grace, then age three, put her costume on backwards exposing WAY too much of her toddler chest. 

*Patience:  Each Tuesday I spend an hour or two in the waiting room while Grace dances.  There are long periods of waiting periodically interrupted by a gaggle of cart-wheeling seven-year-old girls chatting, giggling, and shouting as they change their shoes.  I know patience.

*Details:  Even though Grace is old enough to responsibly pack her own gear, if I don't double check her bag, we will inevitably forget a shoe or a tutu or a water bottle or a headband or the other kind of shoe or hip hop pants or yet another kind of shoe.  See America?  It's all about the details

*Diplomacy:  The studio waiting room has televisions on which we can watch our daughters dance.  Often, instead of watching, I am chatting, reading or writing.  But you can bet when Grace asks me if I saw her doing dance move X,Y, or Z I say something like, "Of course... I'm aware... that you were dancing... in there."  Diplomacy is also required when she asks how she did.  Let's just say that Grace's name belies her actual physical realities.  She tries hard and has a blast, but her hip hop freestyle moves are less BeyoncĂ© and more a squirrel on PCP.  Unfortunately, I think she inherited my dance floor flow instead of her mother's.  Though, she is still a much better dancer than Corey Feldman. Hopefully she'll grow into her feet and become smooth like her mama.  Until then, Diplomacy!

America, we're in this together.  Just a few million regular Joes and Janes.  Let the billionaires argue while we save this country.  Then we can all dance down Pennsylvania Avenue together, one crazy hip hop move at a time (because my guess is they won't let me drive.)