Leonidas would have no use for me

Posted by jdg | Monday, April 09, 2007 |

I was sitting in the children's book department when it finally happened: I officially became a fucking woman. The transformation is now complete. The possibility has reared its head before, once when I uttered the sentence, "I think I prefer sea foam to lagoon for that wall," and another time when I squealed like a ten-year-old girl as one of Wood's friends threw a dead alewife at me, striking me square across the face on the shore of Lake Michigan. That was long ago, but stay-at-home dads must be particularly vigilant, even when it comes to developing a preference for one household cleaner over another. And that is especially true for stay-at-home dads who have been keeping an online record about how goddamn sentimental they are. When I found myself reupholstering a chair the other day, to counter some of the affection I felt for the new fabric, I got out my power drill and gutted a 1950s television set and used it to build a sweet cabinet for my turntable and LPs. After realizing the only two times I'd sat in a theater these last twelve months were to see Sesame Street Live and a children's ballet, Wood let me sneak away to catch a showing of 300, after which it felt as though I had been infused with a year's worth of much-needed testosterone. I had been getting a little too much pleasure doing my daughter's hair every morning, I realized as I climbed aboard the People Mover after the show. No more of that: I'll still do it, but I'm putting an end to the smug sense of satisfaction I get from perfect pigtails. And maybe I'll get a big tattoo on my forearm.

Still, whatever patina of virility I received from watching 300 stalwart Spartans die with honor was gone within a couple of days, and I was sitting on the floor of the downtown Detroit Borders reading books to Juniper, trying to figure out if any of the books published in the last few years weren't total crap. She was sitting on my lap while I read her the book Someday by Alison McGhee and by the end I was sitting there crying. I'm not just saying that: I was bawling my fucking eyes out. I had to bury my face in the back of her head to hide it. I think even she was ashamed of me. "Juney no like that!" she said about my dripping nose in the nape of her neck. The book is a mother's sentimental list of a bunch of things her little girl will do someday: "Someday I will stand on this porch and watch your arms waving to me until I no longer see you."; "Someday I will watch you brushing your child's hair"; Someday you're going to be old and I'm going to be dead and you'll remember me and then ah, fuck it all to hell even right now my eyes feel like crumbling, porous concrete holding back a flood for chrissake. I don't know what it is about those words. Juniper has lately been telling me about all the things she's going to do someday ("Someday, Juney will buy a boat! Someday, Juney will go to the big red barn, see the animals! Someday, Juney will buy a house!"). That could be it. Or maybe it's that I just don't like to think about dying. Either way, curse you Alsion McGhee! You can hear her read the book here.

I cried when translating the end of the sixth book of The Iliad when I was in college because it was so beautiful. I cried when I finished Ulysses (although that may have been because I had grown mad with frustration and exhaustion). I am not ashamed that I have been moved to tears by certain lines in Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion. I have cried over a lot of books, but none of them were goddamn children's books. And I never cried while reading them on the floor of a big box bookstore surrounded by the prying, judgmental eyes of Sam I Am and Maisy and Thomas the Tank Engine. "Why is that man crying?" Dora the Explorer asked all the dimwitted children from the front of her book. "Yes, that's right," she said after a twelve-second pause, twirling her finger around her ear: "He must be loco!"

Afterwards, I called Wood to tell her what happened: "What day is it?" I asked.

"Why?"

"Because Jesus Christ, I think I'm about to get my period."