I’m not sure my kids really get it – I used to be cool.
There was a time before I owned a Prius, rubbed sunblock on the top of my head, and slept with only one woman. How could they know? They see my wife and me as wholesome and have a vested interest in believing this is how it’s always been.
I have a duty to present this reality despite the gnawing dishonesty of it. My buddy Danny once told his kid, right in front of me, that he had only gotten high twice in his life. Danny got high twice A DAY in the ’80s but now has to disown all of that for a singular purpose: robbing his children of the excuse to say, “But daddy, YOU did it!”
I also partook frequently in the ’80s. I lived to test boundaries, often going past them to press up close to reality and stare it down. I was insufferably bored and felt an anxious loneliness when not out with my friends breaking rules and getting intoxicated.
I regarded kids who got good grades and respected authority with curiosity. It’s not that I didn’t like them, I just didn’t understand them. Didn’t they know they were wasting their time? How did they restrain from their primal impulses? How were they able to stand the boredom? Could they seriously be wearing boating shoes? The irony is that these are the children I am now trying to raise.
You know when I stopped being cool? When you two assholes were born!”
And yet they treat me like I’m not now, nor ever have been, cool. Sometimes after dinner my kids like to play a game called, “Let’s all shit on Dad.” They get a charge out of calling me a nerd. “Dad, you don’t get it!” “Dad, you’re so out of it!” “Dad you don’t know how to download an app.”
One night I snapped. “You don’t know me motherfucker! You don’t know who I was! You have no idea how I used to be!”
Eyes go wide as the family paradigm shifts faster than the GOP with Trump leading the race. “I used to be very cool. Way cooler than you will ever be. You know when I stopped being cool? When you two assholes were born!”
My wife opens her mouth but then freezes and says nothing.
“Here’s a news flash for you. You will never be as cool as I was. You know why?”
They know it is a question that is directed towards them but ultimately has no answer because Dad is in 5th gear and they are not even strapped in yet.
“Because you’re not being raised by an abusive alcoholic parent. And that can change.”
Having never seen me drink or hit them they now recalibrate what their future might look like. “When I was a kid I got into fistfights every day after school. You wear a helmet to ride a bicycle! When I was young only the really good athletes got trophies. Now they’re handing them out to the white kids too!”
My son casts his eyes down as he thinks about the wide trophy case in his room housing dozens of statues, many earned before the age of nine.
I know I’ve gone too far but I feel relief that the lie I’ve held in for so long is being rectified and I believe that my kids might actually feel closer to me knowing there is (or at least was) a different side.
I want to tell them more but reason starts to apply the brakes. I want to tell them all the crazy things I’ve done, but I can’t. I have to protect some image of my old self. I want to tell them that, in fact, I had a three-way in college – with two guys (this girl was supposed to show up but she was running late so we figured we’d just get started by ourselves. She never showed up. Good guys though. Can really keep a secret.)
The worst part is that my children think my wife is really cool. That part kills me. I decide to set the record straight.
“You think mommy is cool? Do you? Well, guess who’s banging her? This guy right here. She doesn’t look so cool when she’s on all fours hyperventilating.”
My daughter gently cracks her knuckles as my son pokes at the un-forkable bits of his now soggy salad. My wife’s face has the intensity of a bull rider waiting for the chute to open. I lean back and take in the moment. It is a turning point we will all grow from. There will be no more teasing.
I shift in my seat as I feel a vaguely familiar release from my nether regions. I smile as I realize it’s my old friends – my balls.