Somewhere back in our long-ago (as the Doobie Brothers like to say), the Australian writer-politician-educator Irina Dunn famously quipped, A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.
I kept thinking about this quote as I read through the new anthology I Just Want to Be Alone, the second in the Alone series (after I Just Want To Pee Alone), published last month by Jen of People I Want To Punch In The Throat. Where the first book zeroed in on all of the parenting madness that makes moms chug wine by the box, this second collection of stories by 37 “super cool lady writers” turns its wit on the menfolk in their lives … and the eye-rollingly laughable ways THEY make women chug wine by the box.
Oh, men! This collection winkingly reminds us, as the writers regale with stories of picky eaters, bed-hoggers, pants-shitters, clueless dressers and ball-handlers who fondle their family jewels like buyers for Harry Winston, that goodness gracious, we can’t live with ‘em … and we can’t smother ’em with a pillow or we risk doing 25-to-life in a maximum-security state penitentiary.
And yet, for all the goodnatured (and some not-so goodnatured) grousing that the I Just Want To Be Alone contributors do, most of them still wouldn’t trade their guys for all the proverbial tea at Downton Abbey. Especially after the fourth or fifth consecutive diaper blowout when another set of hands certainly does come in, well … handy for the mopping up.
So accepting that even the most winsome, stellar guys come with warts (and farts and burps and questionable choices in clothing selection), we asked some of the Be Alone crew how they knew the man in their lives was THE ONE they wanted their kiddos to call Daddy. Here’s what they told us:
Bethany Thies of Bad Parenting Moments:
He was a college student living in his twin sister’s spare bedroom, sleeping inside a sleeping bag on a futon. On our second date, he said, “I’m going to buy you dinner. This may be the only time this happens. I just got my financial aid check.” I thought, Wow, this is the man of my dreams. His car was a devastatingly old Saab that required equal amounts of pressure on the gas pedal and brake in order not to stall at a stop light. I was impressed with the dexterity it took to make that happen. One foot pressing in the clutch. One foot hovering beautifully on brake and gas pedal. Hey, miracle man, wanna make some babies? We were married seven months after our first date. Our first daughter was born seven months after our wedding. Our son was born two years later. Our second daughter, two years after that, our third daughter, 21 months after that. There was never any doubt in my mind that he was going to be an amazing father. He is. Loving, kind and fun. Much more fun as a parent than I have the fortitude for.
Amy Flory of Funny Is Family:
I knew my husband was marriage material pretty early on. We were college seniors, and I was graduating in a month, so our relationship moved quickly. I told him I loved him after dating two weeks. And I told him I wanted to marry him after four months. I knew he was the one when, after both bold declarations, he suggested we discuss it later … like when I hadn’t consumed one too many beers. We did, and both times he felt the same way. I needed my kids to have at least one responsible and “plan-ful” parent. And he was so adorable, I couldn’t wait to mix up our genes, if you know what I mean.
Nicole Knepper of Moms Who Drink And Swear:
I didn’t think about whether my husband would be a good father when I married him. Not once. I didn’t want kids. I do think he’s one of the most loyal, generous, loving, ethical and decent human beings on the planet, so those things made me want to marry him, and eventually I knew they would translate into him being a good parent, which he is. He’s wonderful and playful, yet firm and focused on shaping our children’s morals and values and behavior. I lucked out.
Christine Burke of Keeper of the Fruit Loops:
I procreated with my hubby for all the obvious reasons: He loves me. He is a good provider. He would do anything for me, blah blah blah. But let’s be honest. Saying I love you and handing over a paycheck every two weeks only gets a guy so far. My hubby also has the ability to take apart a clogged garbage disposal to remove the 48 egg shells I shoved down there an hour before a party. He knows how to use tools to build Pinewood Derby cars, and he is a master at building toys the night before Christmas. And he remembers to do things like change the air-conditioning filter, scheduled file clean-up on the computer and fertilize the lawn in the spring and fall. He also is entirely responsible for any and all bug removal, any conversations with our 11-year-old son regarding sex and teaching our 8-year-old daughter “New Math.” The fact that he does all of these things A) without being asked and B) with gladness in his heart is the reason I made the sexy with him to produce kids.
Rebecca Tipper Gallagher of Frugalista Blog:
On our first date, my future husband and I went to a State Fair. He was a complete gentleman and treated me to lunch, which was a huge change from the guys I dated who felt “equality” meant that we went dutch on dates. After we ate our strawberry shortcake, the group of friends we were with wanted to go on one of those spinny rides. I knew that wasn’t a good idea, so I said I would sit this one out. And he said he would do the same. We watched as our friends looked miserable on the ride and complained afterwards that it was stupid for them to go on it. I felt a kinship to this guy like, He makes good choices. I felt like he wouldn’t let Li’l Sally gorge on birthday cake and ice cream and then jump on the merry-go-round, so she’d end up puking in the car, after. He would see that Li’l Jimmy shouldn’t go swimming when he’d just eaten because he’d get cramps and drown in the deep end. This guy made good choices. And in choosing him, so did I. That was 19 years ago.
Leanne Shirtliffe of Ironic Mom:
I knew he was Dad Material when I saw him spend a day with his 8-year-old nephew. My guy bought him a camera at a garage sale, and when it didn’t work (despite $20 in new batteries), they left the camera on the roof of the car as an “experiment” to see if someone would steal it while they went to a movie. (No one did.) At the movie, my guy taught his nephew how to smuggle snacks purchased at a dollar store into the theatre. These are serious life skills I wanted my own kids to have.
Erin Dymoski of Sisterhood of the Sensible Moms:
I remember going over to Steve’s college dorm room when we first started dating. He had a box of cereal out on the counter. It was full of sugar-y goodness, and I was hungry. So I hopped right up on his kitchenette counter and dug my arm into that box and started shoveling cereal by the handfuls into my mouth. Steve walked in on this pretty scene with me elbow deep in his breakfast cereal and said something like, “What-the-what? Get your arm out of my Froot Loops, woman!” His sense of humor combined with his ability to confront me on things won me over. I knew I had met my match right then and there. These are the qualities that make him a rock star of a father, too.
Bethany Meyer of I Love Them Most When They’re Sleeping:
August, 1994, was my first summer without a boyfriend since I’d hit puberty, and I’d been casually seeing a guy that I found as obnoxious as I did handsome. After a few weeks, he invited me over because he “needed to tell me something.” I thought for sure he was going to end things. Instead, he unveiled a shrine of pictures of the cutest baby I had ever seen. A baby who looked remarkably like the arrogant boy standing next to me. I stole a glance at him while he looked at those pictures. It was almost as if he’d forgotten that I was there, so transported was he by the sight of this beautiful little boy whose first year of life was chronicled in gold-leaf framed photos before us.
His voice was tender, “He is the greatest. I can’t believe how much I love him.”
“So, he’s yours,” I said.
“Mine? Why would you think that?” he asked.
I sighed. “Well, he looks like you. And there are … oh, I don’t know … 50 framed pictures here. And you have tears in your eyes when you talk about him. So, yeah, I think probably he is yours.”
He smiled at me. “I don’t have any kids. He’s my nephew.”
Sweet Jesus, he is good looking, I thought. Still abrasive. But it’s super sexy how devoted he is to his family.
And right about then, my ovaries exploded.
I Just Want to Be Alone is available at Amazon.