Last Friday I had the pleasure of taking my littlest Princess to an enchanted land called Food City. It's a magical place, full of bananas, discount canned raviolis and disgruntled stock workers. It's also has a whole lot of customers unawares that a father can take his 2-year-old daughter shopping without anyone ending up dead or deported to Guam.
Now, I have been taking my spawn, and the one before her, shopping for groceries once a week going on seven years now. We enjoy our weekly treks, starting off by singing Mr. Blue Sky by ELO and ending with a nutritious meal of Chicken Nuggies sans sauce. Whether it be Kroger or Meyer or Walmart, we have braved them all. We're so confident of our shopping prowess, that we'll even go on a triple-coupon Thanksgiving Wednesday before a snowstorm.
And being a studly man carting off a much smaller human, I've been treated differently than female caregivers. Story time at the library usually has me sitting a table all alone, with the other mothers avoiding eye contact while keeping a hand on their rape whistle. Waitresses at the fine establishment, Bob Evans, have pulled me aside to explain how the children's menu worked. And there's been more than six times I had to change a poop on the bathroom floor because the changing table only resides in the women's room -- and these are poops I didn't even make.
The trip to Food City last Friday brought the term "Daddy's Day Out" to a whole new level. The moment we left the car, I was greeted by:
"I never thought I'd see the day when a man takes a baby to the store. What if she needs a diaper changed?"
I just nodded and chuckled, also hoping that the princess can hold her bowels until we are safely back at home. Getting the comments out of the way early helps make shopping much more enjoyable. (Like hoping that Seth Rogen dies in the first few minutes into the movie.)
In the fruit aisle, a woman gives me pointers on how to tell if my two-year-old is hungry. Another asks if the beer in the cart was for when babysitting duty ends. Even the child seems bewildered at the checkout guy who remarks -- more than once -- if she is showing Daddy how Mommy does it.
By the time that a friendly passer-by instructed me where how to put the kid in the car seat, I started to get annoyed. These people must know that men need groceries. And those groceries are generally held at a grocery store. And those men may or many not have to bring a child along, especially if the child belongs to them.
I believed that the moral of this story was that some people suck. I sat on a throne of moral enlightenment, looking aghast as those who chose to live in the 1950's. If only others could accept the changing landscape of social roles, as I have. I actually pity those uncultured plebeians.
But, as always, I am an idiot.
A mere 22 hours after that aggravating shopping trip, I ran into a friend at dinner who just happened to be wearing a brand new suit. I could have said, "Is that new?" I could have said, "You look nice." I could have said,"Nice suit."
I said, "My, don't you look professional."
We both instantly knew what I did, and no matter how much I tried to grab the words out of the air, they still flew kamikaze-style into their intended target. It didn't matter that I tried to give a compliment. I ended up making a friend feel like a second grader at career day -- the one where little Johnny Raymond dressed up as a pirate because that's what he wanted to be when he grew up.
Luckily we had the interpersonal relationship that these transgressions could just become awkward jokes. But in the moments of nervous laughter all those Dad comments from before came crashing down on me with weights of new meaning. Perhaps...just perhaps...those comments are from folks who know what they mean, but without knowing what their words mean.
From now on, Dad's Day Out will come as a badge of honor, and acknowledged with the "Thank you," that it deserves. It's hard to tell a stranger that he's a fantastic father, as the alliteration alone could sprain a tongue permanently. It's easier to make a lame joke. It been working for Fozzie Bear since the 70's. Now it's my job to accept it.
Or at least try to ignore it, as our forefathers taught us to do.
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.