Dear Little Child,
I have been in two man pageants.
Let that sink in for a moment. Take a swig from that milk bottle, count to three, and continue reading when you think you're ready. Breathe in. Breathe out. Good.
When I was in high school, I participated in a Mr. GQ contest. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to showcase what I considered to be a perfectly adequate sense of humor. Several popular kids had been involved in Mr. GQ the previous year, and I was eager to gain some notoriety with a clever, surprisingly comic performance. I planned on utilizing my strengths: comedic timing, knowing what irony means, and a winning gap toothed smile.
This is the story of my high school man pageant. We were asked to develop a five minute long talent showcase, in which we did our best to impress a judging panel that consisted of community leaders. I had described my talent presentation as an "Interpretive Dance" for the event program, but I had no idea that one of the judges was a professional dancer. Your father, as you know, is not a good dancer. I have a few basic moves, a love for Michael Jackson, and the ability to kick fairly high. I had developed a dance routine to Michael Jackson's BAD, and had attained a sweet costume ensemble, complete with a multi-zippered jacket, a disgusting old wig, a fully brimmed hat, and one glorious sequin glove. When I say "I developed a dance routine," I mean that I had watched the music video several times and had practiced a series of pelvic thrusts that best mimicked the King of Pop. I also had prepared to stop and pose at strategic moments in the song. I planned to place my gloved hand on my chin and drop to one knee, staring seductively at the audience, each time Michael Jackson said "Who's bad?!"
On the night of the pageant, I was thinking that my efforts would bring resounding success. I should have been thinking holy hell I can't dance and my best move is an offensive display of pelvic gyration. I definitely should not have invited my church youth group leaders. They had driven from a different city to see the event, and later confessed "We are really glad that we didn't bring our little girls." If you are reading this now, youth group leaders, I apologize for what happened that night.
My performances in the Formal Wear and Club Representation categories went fairly well. I was representing my school's Cross Country team, and decided to dress as a bearded Forrest Gump. I ran out on the catwalk and mumbled some clever joke through my beard, before quickly sprinting backstage and changing into my formal wear. I dressed in a simple black suit that I had borrowed from the costume closet in the Theater Arts Department. The night was going according to plan.
Once the talent portion had commenced, I knew that the odds were heavily stacked against me. One guy played guitar extremely well. Another dude broke pieces of wood with his bare hands. I started to doubt that the audience would understand my ironic, nuanced interpretation of this pop classic. It was too late for doubt. The lights were dimmed, the crowd was hushed, and sh*t was about to get crazy.
It started well enough. I moved my hips to "dun-dun-d-dun-dun" and the performance was being well received. I quickly flipped my hat off my head, and threw it into the audience with style. I may have hit a guy. The music pounded on, and I used a bouncy walk-step as I moved from one end of the stage to the other, waving at the crowd and my parents. People were enjoying this. I attempted a moonwalk, and the crowd roared. I threw some kicks. Huge applause. I started thrusting my pelvis. I couldn't hear the music, because the cheers were so loud. That's when I realized that I was 25 seconds into a five minute song, and I was out of material. I had never performed the entire song when I was at home. I likely figured that I would just get caught up in the moment and improvise.
Unfortunately, I did. I proceeded to shake my pelvis at everything. I may have even pointed at people as I did this. I am certain that my hand gestures were wildly inappropriate. I imagined every Michael Jackson music video I had ever seen, and just thrusted to the beat. This was not interpretive dance. It was disgusting.
At some point, the cheers started to die down. If I were to guess, I may have heard people yelling "do something else!" or "mom why won't he stop?" I was at the end of the catwalk, immediately in front of the judges. I had thrown some ill-advised kicks and made prolonged eye contact with a judge. The people were becoming restless, and I knew that I needed to get the crowd involved again. I ran back up the catwalk to the center of the stage and started doing my poses again.
Just as things were getting bleak, I got this brilliant idea to take off my jacket and throw it into the crowd. They had loved when I did it with the hat. While continuing to thrust, I grabbed at the zippered edges and proceeded to slip off the jacket. Unfortunately, one of the zippers had caught onto the old wig, and my head whipped back as I tore off the jacket. My eyes rolled back like I was an evil Disney witch. The wig came off with the coat, and the crowd roared. I attempted to discern whether they were laughing with me or at me, but concluded only that the show was interesting again. Years later, I was given the opportunity to watch this performance on video. I watched this moment in particular, as 15 year old me just stood there, wearing only a white T-shirt and form fitting pants. He stared out at everyone and looked terrified. His costume was off, the song was almost over, and he had nothing left. Suddenly, 15 year old me looked resolved. He was calm and collected. He paused, made some unnecessary gesture with his right hand, and proceeded to pelvic thrust for the final 45 seconds of the song. It was really gross.
I hope you never do something like this. I hope that you have some class. Given that you are my scrawny little baby, however, I am confident that you will share my affinity for unintentionally offending large crowds of people while embarrassing yourself. This is all going to happen again, little baby. Just know that I plan on recording every second of your brilliant sequel. You're going to make me really popular on You Tube.
One day you'll learn that lying is bad.
And then, some other day, you'll learn that lying is hilarious.
I am not suggesting that you lie. I am suggesting that you be able to recognize when someone is lying, and then laugh at him or her for a really long time. Let me help you understand. You know that friend of yours that tells everyone his dad owns a horse? You know him. Last week, he said that the Kardashians came to his birthday party. That is a funny dude. Bring him over more often.
He'll grow up and become that one-of-a-kind whopper-espousing friend that EVERYONE wants to have. A true classic. I’m not talking about the guy that met Shaq once. I’m talking about the guy that was drafted by the Lakers but had to turn down a roster spot because he was an undercover cop at the time and all the guys down at the precinct were depending on his leadership. That guy is hilarious.
When you get older, little baby, make sure that you choose good friends. Stay away from the kid that likes to smell his hands. Avoid the guy that really wants to show you all his dad's sharp tools. Keep a distance from that kid who always sings Creed songs. And bring us one bold faced liar, so we can all have a good laugh. Yes, it's wrong. But it's also hilarious.
Dear Little Beast of the Belly,
As I sit here at my computer, a kidney stone is wrestling its way through my body. No joke, little one. I am currently waiting for the rock to finish its journey. I just told your mother that her baby is probably much cuter than my baby.
After I said that, I realized how insensitive I was being. You're my baby too. You and this wretched, jagged rock.
You're both my babies.
Dear Formless Being,
One day, you'll come home and tell me a disheartening story about the kids that stole your bike. Or the kids that put mud in your juice. Or the kids that told everyone your dad was a male stripper. You'll seek revenge, and I'll likely tell you that revenge is wrong. "It only leads to more hurt." That's a quote from Future Me. I completely agree with Future Me, because I think that Future You will be an absolute terror, and Future Me needs to be a hard ass.
In reality, I probably couldn't help you anyway. My attempts at revenge have rarely been glamorous, or even effective. I could never be a mobster or any sort of professional that has retaliation as part of their job description. That is, unless I am being asked to avenge a puppy. Then it's on.
Suzie walked into my place of employment in 2003, holding a beautiful black labrador puppy. "I found this puppy on the cliffs by the beach," she said. "I need to find someone that will take her. Would you like to have her? And if not, can you ask staff members if they want her?"
The puppy was beautiful, and your grandma had long been saying that she would like a new dog. I called her immediately, and by 10pm that night, the dog was home. Over the next couple days, I heard reports of how much your grandma loved the dog. Suzie occasionally saw me in the cafe where she worked, and she often requested updates on her old puppy. I expressed my gratitude, and happily relayed grandma's newfound joy.
Then it got weird. I discovered from a close friend that Suzie did not find the puppy on the cliffs. She had supposedly found the dog near the Mexican border, where she met a nice homeless man and traded a blanket for the puppy. She then brought the puppy home to her college dorm, to be her new roommate. Friends later told me that she dropped the puppy while playing, and the dog immediately started acting funny (she walks with a limp to this day). Suzie kept her in the dorm room, and fed her scraps from the cafeteria. After a few days of this, Suzie became bored and decided to give her away. Hesitant to tell the truth about the puppy, she decided to visit all university offices and describe the dog as "rescued on the beach."
Suzie wasn't a cruel person, but she was selfish, short-sighted and dishonest. I decided that I should confront her about this deception in a totally passive aggressive manner. I walked to the cafe, ready for battle.
Suzie: "Can I take your ord- Oh Hey! How's my puppy? Tell her I said hi."
Me: "Hey....I'd like a smoothie. Uh, yeah the dog... sh*# got crazy man. I don't know what's going on. The dog bit my brother, and now doctors are saying the dog has a disease only found in Mexico.... not rabies, but like it, I guess. It's really weird, and it makes no sense, right? My brother is in the hospital, but he'll probably be fine, we think. (Long, long, dramatic pause) We don't know what to do about the dog though. It probably has to be put down... ah, I don't don't know...don't really like talking about it. I got to go."
She just stood there, unable to say anything in response. She was probably thinking about my puppy, sitting on The Row, waiting for the needle. Or maybe she was picturing your uncle, crying out in his hospitable bed. I was thinking about my smoothie. It was one of those pineapple-strawberry lava-flow concoctions, with extra strawberry syrup. It was going to be delicious.
I walked away with the best cracked-voice and fake tears I could muster, and silently applauded myself for the brilliant performance. I discovered later that my roommate came in and decided to follow-up with Suzie. This was not planned. He said things like "Are you laughing? I don't know how you could laugh right now," and "Oh yeah, it's easy to smile when YOUR brother is not in the hospital." I think she felt pretty bad.
My friend informed me that she was about to cry, so we told her the truth late that evening. She never spoke to me again. And that smoothie was delicious.
Stories and Letters
This Dad Blog was originally written as a collection of letters to my child, chronicling my awesomeness and warning of the chaos to come. Now that children reside in my home, it also includes essays on successes, failures, and lessons learned... and humiliating pictures... as well as rants, jokes, short stories and random videos. Read stuff!
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