Parenting Blog

Modern Dads Inside and Out in Houston

Among the many needs of a modern man, well, at least this particular modern man, fresh air ranks high. Right up there with buffalo wings and chocolate milk.

The Houston Four Seasons is lovely, of course it is, a modern pleasure palace if ever there was one, but even the swankiest of containers is still, at the end of the day, a container. And I can’t be contained. Now say that last bit again, out loud, whilst pretending to rip off your shirt from the center of your chest, Bill Bixby-style. Funny, right?

During the 2+ days of the 2013 Dad 2.0 Summit, I took frequent respites beneath the warm Texas sun. I needed to escape the din, the conversation bubbles, and the never-ending food spreads. A loner still, a fat loner who cannot say no to shot glasses of chocolate mousse. Instead of more socialization and compulsory eating, I’d pop in my earbuds, a la Andy Herald, queue up some Superchunk, a la me circa 1995, and walk the mean streets of downtown Houston, thus continuing my crazed air guitarist solo tour of America that’s been going strong since 2004. Upon one of several returns to the hotel, at the intersection of Lamar and Caroline, there stood a human symbol of what we dudes and dudesses were inside discussing: a dad, alone with his infant daughter, and pushing a primary-colored stroller. I was probably a bit too excited about this corollary, this symbolized extension of the speeches, panels, and chats I’d soaked up up to that point in the weekend. I mean, there was a guy, with a little girl, in a non-pink & purple pram, with no technological gadgetry visible — just them two enjoying a respite in the fresh air. I thought it beautiful.

Until I opened my mouth.

I did something my mother still warns me about, and with solid reasoning in this case, I talked to a stranger. I couldn’t help myself! I simply had to say hey and add-in how awesome I thought it to see a dad and a daughter on an outing on that beautiful 70 degree afternoon. And so I did. And then this modern neanderthal proceeded to kick me in my very modern balls. Not a literal wallop, mind you, but with a short and simple, begrudging retort that reinforces all of the marketers portrayals of us dads. He said, miserably, “Yeah, her mother left her with me today.” He wasn’t parenting at all! I had seen it the way I wanted to see it, which was, it turns out, radically different than how it was in, you know, real life.  The asshole was fucking babysitting his own adorable daughter. I thought about killing him, right there on that corner, bludgeoning him with my iPhone as “Fractures In Plaster” still blared from the buds that would’ve surely, by that point, fallen out of my ears, but I quickly imagined the little girl growing up without even the shell of a man for a father she has presently.

And so I let him live, because to cause anyone harm would only reinforce the male violence thing too, and because for all I know a Texas jail could be very much like a Mexican one, and I am a very dainty boy who wouldn’t fare well “on the inside.”

Which is why I spent a fair amount of time outside in Houston. Outside where some men are still men, despite our bestest of efforts inside to convince the world otherwise.

*This story also appears on The Huffington post, albeit as a slightly edited version.

*random photo taken during one of my walks, the one that took place at 1:15am, returning to the hotel from a karaoke bar.

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