Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Generation Gasp: Column Number Three

What Did I Say?
“Yeah, but now I'm gettin' old, don't wear underwear,
I don't go to church, and I don't cut my hair.”
--- Jimmy Buffett, Pencil-Thin Mustache

I hum Mr. Buffett’s tune wistfully, as I ask you gentlemen of a certain age (aka sixty something): Does any of this sound familiar? You and your trombone nose are exiled to the attic bedroom? After a long, hard day, you sit down for dinner and discover that the mashies and gravy have mysteriously morphed into steamed broccoli. If you get any wine at all with the meal, the standing order is, “Savor it. There’s no second glass.” You open your medicine cabinet to discover your Old Spice or Aqua Velva has been replaced by a $35 cologne called Aqua Di Gio Pour Homme? And next to that is a little electronic gadget, which at first glance appears to have some obscure erotic purpose. But, no… on inquiring, you learn that you turn it on and shove the whirring, spinning tip up you nose to buzz those unsightly nasal hairs. “Don’t forget your ears, too,” says the spouse.
All of this, however, is next to nothing compared to what our daughters do. In point of fact, they are deviously preparing us for their wedding days. And, frankly, which of us can blame them? The only one with a mandatory, prominent role at the nuptials, who is likely to embarrass them and ruin their big day, is… that’s right, dear old dad.
And so, the work begins at about the time they graduate from college and set their sights on THE NEXT BIG THING. While you are figuring out how deeply you’ll need to tap into the home equity to pay for the event, they are quietly working to tune up… YOU.
While mom goes after the BO and the hair, which now seems to proliferate in only the wrong places, daughter modulates your big mouth. As the training progresses, economy of effort kicks in. “Oh, Dad” is subtly replaced by the slightest of eye rolls. You used to ask, “What did I say?” Now, you see those lovely young peepers slide in a slow arc and you stop in mid-sentence.
I think my training is coming along pretty well. How about yours?

I don’t know what it is about fathers, but ask any son or daughter and I bet they’ll tell you that Mom is way less clueless than Dad. That’s just the way it is for some reason. It’s not that our dads don’t try – in fact, it’s probably because they try so hard that they end up embarrassing us so often. So maybe we are guilty of trying to “train” them from time to time… but not without just cause.
Take the other night for example. There I am, out to dinner with Mom and Dad, seated at a lovely table by the window. Our handsome Italian waiter, Angelo, leans over and offers to open our bottle of wine, but Dad just grins up at him uncomprehendingly, baffled by the waiter’s accent. I nod discreetly and Angelo pours our drinks. Then Mom says she feels a bit chilly and Dad offers to switch seats with her – out of the goodness of his heart, I know. The only problem is, Dad isn’t quite the hardy young man he used to be, and once he switches seats, it turns out he’s chilly. I would offer to take the bum seat, but at this point our table is looking a little too much like a game of musical chairs.
Anyway, the point is moot when Dad leaps up without warning and begins circling the restaurant for a different table.
Angelo grabs our drinks and scampers off to the new table Dad has selected for us, while I stand in the background shaking my head and muttering apologies to anyone who will listen. Angelo just smiles and nods sympathetically, as if to say, “I get it. I have a dad, too.”
Dads are awkward in any language.
But maybe I’m not being fair. After all, this is coming from the girl who once bit her dad – and left an ugly bruise, I might add – while pretending to be a puppy at the age of seven. Once upon a time, I needed training, too. It’s the circle of life, and we all end up pretty much back where we started. He taught me how to behave; I’m just returning the favor! He changed my diapers when I was little, and someday when he needs me to…
Never mind.

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