Monday, February 18, 2013

How Men Are Percieved

I've been very happily married for nearly 14 years. I have four children ages 11, 10, 8 & 5. I've been very active in the lives of my wife and kids. I enjoy their company and I get the feeling they feel the same. Why am I telling you this? This is not how society sees me.

Probably dresses like a freak.

I heard that. No, this is not going to be a post about how society needs to stop judging people by how they look. We've been beaten over the head with that enough.

My head's still sore.

I'm probably going to make it hurt in a different way. Years ago I was out with my oldest two kids at the park, they were probably 5 and 4 and I was out giving their mom a break so she could nap with the third (she cleaned the house instead). My kids are really friendly and when they saw other kids at the park they instantly ran off to play leaving me to watch them in amusement on a bench a little ways off.

Sounds nice.

It was. They were happy, I loved watching them and it was a nice day out. As time went on though I became increasingly aware of moms at the park watching me. A couple of them were whispering to each other looking in my direction. I looked around so see what was going on.

It's the clothes right?

Stop that. I was dressed normally. I didn't think much of it and went back to watching the kids. A homeless man wandered through the park looking through trash cans. One of the moms took this opportunity to leave. That's when it hit me: I was the only other man at the park, sitting alone, watching children with a smile on his face.

Man you're creepy.

That's what they must've thought. I decided to call each child over to inquire on their status. You know: "Are you having fun? Are you thirsty? Do you need to use the potty? Stay away from the mud." The usual questions. After that the moms seemed less disturbed with my presence.

Until that point I was a pedophile. When did the default position on a single man become a pedophile? Now when I go to a park I have a mental timer counting down the time between child check-ins. If it goes too long I can feel my status change to pedophile.

From what?

Good question. Years more of watching my own children with and without my wife has taught me that without my wife I become a "deadbeat dad." That's the next step up. The only reason a solitary man would be at the park with his children is because he must be divorced and cannot entertain the children at his apartment. This is usually aggravated by the fact that I worked during the week and would be out with my kids on a Saturday.

And thus have custody.

Yep, that's my assigned time. While I won't say that Pedophiles and Deadbeat Dads don't exist, I do take exeption to those being my default assignments. I've compiled a list of defaults for men:

  • Man: Pedophile
  • Man & Kids: Deadbeat Dad
  • Man & Wife: Boyfriend
  • Man, Wife & Kids: Cheating Husband
  • Man, Kids & other women have talked to wife: Good Husband

Most single men do not hang out at parks and so they probably are not aware of this social dynamic. Once you have kids, you become painfully aware of how much the world hates you. Try taking your kids for an ice cream at McDonald's. If your wife isn't there: Deadbeat Dad trying to buy your kids affection.

It only costs $1.50/child.

Has the news really jaded us so much that we expect that anyone we do not know is, by default, bad? I grew up an only child and so I didn't have a lot of empathy for other people not like me (though I thought I did). Having children has opened me up to a new set of social graces. They have taught me how to percieve the people around me and I like what they see. Older folks are nice people who know a lot and are trying to help, people your age are potential playmates and younger kids are people who might need help.

Children are so naive.

To a point yes. We can't leave ourselves completely open to harm by others. We can find ways to see the best in others and maybe, just maybe, I'm not actually a pedophile.

Be charitable.