Baby Daddy

Last night I live-tweeted the 1987 film Three Men and a Baby starring Tom Selleck, Ted Danson, and Steve Guttenburg. Why I decided to spam my delightful Twitter followers and Facebook friends with my irreverent commentary on this TNT Classic Movie favorite is up for debate. Wine may or may not have been involved. I admit nothing.

Honestly, who needs wine to get them to spend 90 minutes with that face? The baby is pretty cute, too.
Honestly, who needs wine to get them to spend 90 minutes with that face? The baby is pretty cute, too.

Something that occurred to me about this movie (other than it was directed by Leonard Nimoy — No way!!) is that it actually represented a fairly progressive view of child rearing for the time. Twice in the film, female characters close to the main men — the girlfriend of one, the mother of another — are called upon to take care of the child, due to the apparent ineptitude of the father and his roommates. Tom Selleck’s character’s sometimes-girlfriend shows up at his apartment, takes a look at the kid, and when he begs for her help, she says, “What, just because I’m a woman, I’m supposed to know what to do with a baby?”

“Well, yeah!” says Tom Selleck’s mustache, grumpily. At which point, she pats him kindly on the arm, reminds him that she is not obligated to help him in anyway, tells him to man-up, and then GTFOs. Good for her.

Later, Ted Danson tries to convince his mother to take the child into her care, preying on her grandmotherly instincts. She acquiesces that she would love to take the baby (Can I also mention here that never is his mother shown to be bent out of shape over her son producing a child out of wedlock, or knowing nothing of that child until she is left on his doorstep. Progressive!) but she’s not going to, because sometimes all it takes to make a good man out of a screw-up is a dose of baby-daddy: “You were a screw-up. Now you’re a father. And you will be a fine father.” I think that’s a message that more new dads need to hear.

Is it just me, or are the themes in this film (excluding the slap-stick “hide the heroin” routine) grossly underrepresented in recent family comedies? I don’t recall seeing any “unlikely father figure toughs it out on his own with a baby and becomes a good father” stories recently. There are always mothers — the baby’s or the father’s own — coming to the rescue. And that’s the best case scenario. Worse case, the father’s potentially harmful blunders are played for laughs until the child’s care is relinquished to someone with greater expertise (I’m looking at you, Daddy Day Care).

Dads just don’t get enough credit. Maybe he was a screw-up, maybe he does make mistakes, but he’s still a good dad. Let’s put his story on screen.

Legacy

I am trapped in a room with the woman who is both my tormentor and my hero. I so admire her, but am also intimidated by her. I want so badly to please her that I have fallen all over myself in successive, bumbling attempts to prove my worthiness, my aptitude. I feel now, from her sideways glances, her tacit nonchalance, that my attempts have failed — failed to such a degree that I have in fact proven myself of increasingly little merit in a cruel reversal of intent. I am trapped in a room with a woman who is aggressively, coldly assessing me, and she is finding me wanting. I cannot leave this room. I am trapped.
The room is my mind. The woman is me.

One time, my mother (over)shared with me about some of her indiscretions and mistakes. She had made some poor decisions and betrayed our family (though she didn’t frame it that way at the time), leaving quite a wake. She told me the truth and I was hurt. Defensively, she asked me if her actions had “hurt me special”. Had she done something to really harm me in particular, when it was her husband she had cuckolded? When it was him she had lied to? Call me crazy, but even then, I thought that was a mighty big question to ask of a 10-year-old.

When the actual betrayal happened, I was far too young to realize what had actually occurred. It was just another knock-down, drag-out fight. It was just another few nights of listening to my mother and father scream at each other. Just another visit to our house from the police.

Growing up in an environment where bi-yearly visits to our home from the cops were considered normal took its own toll, but the legacy of diminished self-worth is much harder to let go of. Now that I, as a grown woman, can see why my mother did the things she did, I can definitively say yes, Mom — every time you illustrated for me that a woman’s worth was intrinsically tied to a man’s desire for her, you hurt me especially, because I lived by your example.

Now, there are a lot of reasons that marriages fail, and I’m no relationship guru. However, I see these underlying machinations at work: a damaged soul, one that never considers itself whole, never considers itself enough on its own, seeks to fill the void with an attachment to another soul. And another. And another. Because that which you are unable to furnish within yourself cannot be found within the heart of another being, but that doesn’t stop you from trying.

Granted, I’ve never committed adultery — I’ve been blessed with a much better marriage than my mother had — but I see how easy it must have been, how soothing, to have slipped from one man’s arms into those of another because the second gave you the time of day. Made you feel pretty. Wanted. I can see how, while drowning in the depths of self-loathing, any positive attention must seem like a life raft. I understand it, without condoning it.

The bigger question now is how to stop the cycle. It’s too late for me, in a sense — the demons are already in my head. Every time I watched my mother grasp her thighs and sigh in disappointment, every time she called herself fat, every time she went on another binge diet — I learned from her example and expanded my mental arsenal. I have waged war on myself for years, tending (self-inflicted) wounds and wearing the battle scars like badges: if I cannot make myself good enough, then I will be my own judge and jailer. I consumed my own flesh in recompense for my multiple failures. My descent aided by the voices of criticism around me: “You need to dress better.” “You really shouldn’t eat that.” “I expected more from you.”

The apathy, the low expectations, the understanding shared by all — including myself — that I was different. Other. These are perfect conditions to create a monster of self-hatred. So how do I stop it from killing me the same way that it killed her? How do I protect my daughter from this legacy?

D.I.Y. Redhead

Tips for completing an at-home, do-it-yourself, dye job.

You will need: A box of Blue Light Special, discount hair dye in Red #44, a comb, rubber gloves, and a towel that you don’t mind staining.

Upon successful completion of this project you will:

– look as if you are bleeding from a massive blunt force trauma to the skull and/or lacerations to your upper extremities.

– have imbued your home with the intoxicating aroma of cheap chemicals.

– have an unexpected, wholly new color scheme in your bathroom.

– have an uncontrollable urge to take absurd selfies.

Ready? Let’s begin!

Step One: Make sure your children are either in bed or out of the house. This may cost you either sleep and/or the favor of your spouse.

Step Two: Assemble your tools. Clothing optional (saves on the amount of clean up afterwards and eliminates the possibility of introducing stray globs of hair dye into your next batch of laundry). Put in your contacts — ain’t no way you’re getting this done in glasses.

Step Three: Adjourn to the bathroom. Follow the instructions on the box. Carefully.

Step Four: Realize that you mixed Tube # 1 into Bottle #3 instead of Bottle #2. Quickly transfer the contents of Bottle #3 into Bottle #2. Clean up the ensuing spill and scrape the excess off the counter and into Bottle #2. Realize you forgot to put on rubber gloves.

Step Five: Wash hands vigorously before they are permanently stained orange. Finish mixing the contents of Tube #1 and Bottle #3 into Bottle #2. Apply gloves.

Step Six: Apply mixture to the roots of your hair, evenly distributing the mixture from root to tip. Avoid contact with the skin and eyes.

Step Seven: Fail to avoid contact with your skin and/or eyes.

Step Eight: Immediately develop an itch in the corner of your right eye. Locate the gloved finger that appears to have not yet come in contact with dye and scratch. Realize you were wrong about the dye.

Step Nine: Finish applying the dye to your remaining hair with one eye shut.

Step Ten: Pass a comb through your hair to ensure the dye is evenly distributed. Pile your hair on top of your head and set a timer for 30 minutes.

Begin the frantic race against time to remove errant dye from your ears, neck, forehead, cheeks, arms, wrists, shoulders and various bathroom fixtures.

Step Eleven: Fail.

Remember the dye-encrusted comb that you left beside the sink. Retrieve and give a rinse. Give up, and dispose of comb.

Step Twelve: As you begin to accept the new color scheme of your bathroom, prepare to hop in the shower to rinse out the dye.

Pro-tip:  “shampoo” your hair with the dye as you hold your head beneath the running water, ensuring that the dye is thoroughly incorporated through out your roots as well as beneath your fingernails. Make sure you have color-safe conditioner at the ready.

Step Thirteen: Realize you don’t own any color-safe conditioner. Realize also that the hot water is off. Run downstairs to wash your hair in the kitchen sink until the water runs clear.

Step Fourteen: Develop a terrible crick in your neck from having your head bent over into the sink. Realize the water will never run clear.

Step Fifteen: Towel dry, then blow dry and style as desired. Or, if in the case you are tackling this project at 11pm at night, go to bed with wet hair to avoid waking your slumbering child. Sleep on old towels to avoid staining your bedding.

Step Sixteen: (optional) Take a bunch of selfies.

Go ahead, play around in photoshop. You've earned it!
Go ahead, play around in photoshop. You’ve earned it!