hen your wife is your perfect counterbalance it stands to reason that if you tip the scales overwhelmingly in the dorky-direction, she would come down overwhelmingly on the UN-dorky side of the equation. Such is life in our household. We’re good for each other in that way. I loosen her up, she reins me in and we both wind up in a much healthier place. That said, when she wants to do something wonderful for me, something that may require a little more dork-factor than she is capable of mustering, she usually needs a little help. Such was the case a few months ago as my birthday approached.
UnDorkMommy sat me down one night and asked me what I wanted for my birthday. The only thing I feel like I’m missing in my life is the opportunity to hang out with a good bunch of dude-friends. The realities of being a responsible family-man just don’t leave room for the sort of friendships you enjoyed in your roaring 20’s, and I feel that loss pretty acutely. Certainly the skillset to foster those relationships is still there, but your priorities change when you’ve got a family, not to mention the demands on your time. So when she asked me what I wanted, my one heart’s desire was to have an afternoon to totally dork-out with some like-minded friends, most of whom were professional dads – family men like me. In my mind I imagined beers and burgers for lunch, followed by “The Hobbit” in 3D and 48fps (opening on my birthday weekend), and then more beers and artery-clogging food after that.
“OK… so… who would you invite?”
“Well, probably these people on my FB friends list.”
“OK… so… how would I get in touch with them?”
“Here, let me show you.”
“And… where would you want to eat?”
“Ask this guy. He’ll know the best place.”
“And… where would you want to see the movie?”
“At this theater here, but it’ll be opening weekend so we’ll probably want to get tickets in advance.”
“And… how would I go about doing that that?”
“Here, let me show you.”
Let it be stated for the record that my wife is an incredibly competent woman. But in the nerd-world she’s a fish out of water.
Fast-forward a few months and I’m sitting at a brewpub with my dorkiest buddies, some of whom generously came from very far away, a frosty beer in front of me, garlic-laden awesomeness on a bun on my plate, tickets for everyone to the 2:30 show in my pocket. Almost none of the guests knew each other, but I knew the group would get along famously. Within five minutes of making the introductions the conversation was blazing. You see, the one thing that everyone at the table had in common (besides me) was a thorough appreciation of all-things-geek. Whether it was the childless couples who got out of town to do something different, or the dads at the table who cashed in their one dads-night-out card for the year on this event, the chemistry in the group was instant. The geek-factor was sky-high. The conversation flowed like The Force through a Jedi (that was almost too nerdy to type even for me). It was just what I wanted – just what I needed.
Sitting around that table, something interesting happened though that I didn’t expect. The conversation was loose. The IPA was fantastic. People were letting their guard down among strangers. And then, suddenly, someone dropped an F-bomb.
There was a beat, almost imperceptible but a beat none-the-less, and then the conversation comfortably moved along. If a primatologist were there, secretly observing our group from an invisible daddy-duckblind they would have noted that beat, that moment as a turning point in the social dynamic of the afternoon. Allow me to explain.
In my life there are five roles I generally fill: Husband, Father, Doctor, Boss, Teacher. That’s pretty much my entire life. In each of those roles there is a certain range of expected, acceptable behaviors. Anything beyond that range compromises your ability to function in that role. This reality so dominates my days that I have become very skilled at identifying what the behavioral norms are for whatever situation I’m in, and adjusting my behavior accordingly. Much as I wish it were not the case, the dentist who wears superhero t-shirts and flip-flops when meeting a patient for the first time tends to have a tougher time maintaining a healthy business. Whether I’m wearing my husband, father, doctor, boss or teacher hat, in none of those circumstances is it appropriate to drop a well-placed, heart-felt, withering F-bomb.
More than half the people sitting at that table were daddies and professionals, just like me. Their lives and their behavioral norms are totally compartmentalized just like mine. In that one post-F-bomb moment, when the daddies at the table looked up from their beers and looked around to take inventory of who was sitting there with them, and by extension what set of behavioral norms they needed to fall into, the realization suddenly came to each and every one of us that if ever there was a right audience, time and place to drop an F-bomb, this was it.
It wasn’t as if we suddenly turned into a group of sailors. But for that one glorious afternoon, surrounded by people in (and on shore leave from) the exact same life-circumstance as I am, there were no socially acceptable bounds on my behavior beyond who I am naturally. Me – just me. No hats to wear. No parts to play. As I drove home after dinner, I had to laugh. Heading into this birthday event what I didn’t see coming, what I didn’t realize about myself was just how badly I needed to curse.
…or at least how badly I needed the freedom to curse.
After dinner we all parted ways with smiles on our faces. The childless couples leisurely strolled off arm-in-arm with no sense of urgency. The dads heartily shook hands before heading off to their cars to return to their families. As fun as it was to spend an entire afternoon and evening with my nerd friends (and they all know the respect with which I use the word “nerd”) what I will remember most is how each and every one of the daddies came up to me at different points and said, “Thank you so much. I really needed this.”
Apparently I wasn’t the only one.
How many days is it until “The Hobbit – Part 2” is released?
(on a related note, check out this article from Alan Kercinik: “I Am A Dentist And I Need To See Your Wee Wee”. It’s applicable, I swear.)