Complimenticus Interruptus

“You look good, honey,” my wife said to me yesterday morning with a smile.  “You’ve really slimmed down before our big trip.”  Although I had lost weight and girth (and doing so before our anniversary trip to a far away beach was a motivator), the comment didn’t feel right.

Oh no.  No, no, no,” I refused.  “The pants are big.  Biggest pants I have.  And the shirt is baggy.  Fashion slimming technology.”  She turned away with a whatever look.

Apparently, I’m just as averse to having my goodness pointed out as I am the badness.  And as I stroll back through some painful memories, I can see this is nothing new.

On my very first weekend at college, a market of sorts was held in the main campus hall.  They sold t-shirts and cassette tapes, including bootlegs of Jimmy Page experimenting with Zeppelin’s sound quality.  On this one he’d placed a microphone deep inside a toilet, and on that one inside a heap of tomato aspic, etc.  I bought those tapes by the dozen.

And, of course, there were posters of all kinds – black lights, Ansel Adams, sports, babes, metal bands – anything to fill the empty spaces on dorm room walls.

I was looking at an M.C. Escher print, probably the now-ubiquitous sketch of the staircases or the globe-reflected self-portrait.  And a girl, very cute, more than cute in my memory, walked up behind me and leaned around my shoulder.  “I like that one too,” she said.  “Wanna see what I really like?’ She pulled me by the arm over to another table.  What is she doing? I thought.  I don’t even know who this girl is!

She picked up a glossy print of two kittens and said “I like this one. What do you think? Do you like cute, little, kittens?” I remember her lips were like those of Marilyn Monroe, sparkly and full.  And the words cute, little, and kittens were exhaled more than spoken and seemed to take minutes to float from her mouth.

I said nothing, simply because I didn’t know what to say.  And this is remarkable because the arc of my life since has been distinctly plotted by a series of failures to keep my damn mouth shut despite my complete ignorance.

And I swear to whatever god you worship that she rephrased her question and asked it yet again:  “Would you like to see this poster on my wall?” Again with the lips and breath and Whoosh!

Then something somewhere in that mass of grey pudding in my head squirmed.  I knew this was friendly contact, but did that mean there was an implication that she was compli…? Did she….?

“Oh, no,” I said.

“Are you sure, cuz I kinda like it?” she said.

“No way,” I said.

And as she turned away, she had that look.  The whatever look that I’ve gotten a thousand times since.

Sa-wing, battah!

So, even if only in the fantasy reel that plays and replays in my head, I will have a do-over, please, and return to that lovely girl who threw me a pitch so fat that I might still learn the joy of swinging.

“Would you like to see this poster on my wall?” she asks.

“Yes. Yes I would,” I respond without hesitation.  POW!

Now, does anyone know how to get to first base?


Geeking Out at the Diamond

Before I had any thoughts of my son playing baseball, we had heard that one of the local youth baseball leagues was pretty competitive.  I took this to mean that winning mattered a lot to the kids and that yelling and bursting forehead veins mattered even more to the dads.  I usually try to avoid this nonsense and was pleased when things seemed pretty calm and fun when my son joined the league over the summer.  That is, until people started looking at me sideways.

Over the last half-dozen games or so, I have realized I am becoming one of those dads.  But it wasn’t just one bizarre or inappropriate behavior, rather a Forrest Gump “never know whut you’re gonna get” kind of thing.  Here’s a sampler (there’s clearly some funky stuff going on with the font colors in this WordPress theme, so please bear with me):

The Elbows-and-Knees Dad – This dad, although generally laid back, provides two pieces of guidance to his son when he comes to the plate – 1) “Keep your elbows up,” and, 2) Immediately before the pitch is thrown, “bend your knees.”  The result is a batting stance that looks like a woefully undersized Atlas trying to hold up the sky with a stick, along with the facial expression of extreme discomfort that one would expect from holding such a posture.  And when the pitch comes, the boy chops down at the ball and finishes in a camel spin, foot high in the air, for which the Canadian parent sitting in the opposing bleachers gives full marks.  A close cousin of the Elbows-and-Knees dad is the Tuck-In-Your-Shirt dad.

The Primate – This dad stands up against the fence near home plate so that when his son does something, like walk back to the dugout at the end of the inning, he can jump up and down in plain view of the child and all his teammates and yell something incomprehensible as if channelling his inner baboon who’s just caught a glimpse of a nearby female’s bright red fanny.

The Congressman – Knowing next to nothing about a topic doesn’t stop this dad from speaking at great frequency, length, and volume about it.  A parent at a recent game might have seen this dad yelling “Throw the ball!  Get it out of your glove!  Get rid of it quickly!” even though his son wasn’t even on the field at the time.

The Consoler – When a child falls down for any reason, such as from a lack of balance while tying his shoes, these dads run onto the field and surround the boy, asking him repeatedly, “are you ok? Are you sure you’re ok?” until the boy believes he really is injured and crumbles to the ground in a heap of trembling and sobbing.

The Thespian – This dad appears on the scene in a rush and just before game time.  But his real identifying characteristic is his use of language.  For example, instead of encouraging his son to run hard through first base, he will shout “All Attendant Haste!” with a tear in his eye and hand on his breast.

The Clapper – This dad claps not only the loudest but he must also be the last one to stop clapping.  On occasion, he will give one single loud clap for no apparent reason, perhaps just to ensure he got in the last clap. Having two Clappers at the same game can result in a competition similar to two Japanese men of honor bowing to each other.