Park Buddy called me “prickly” today.
If there’s an adjective used to describe me more often than any other, it’s “geeky.” (I’d prefer “nature-geeky,” but you play the hand you’re dealt.) Second to geeky is probably “harmless,” and believe me, there’s nothing worse than being called harmless.
Out of that blue, Park Buddy calls me prickly. Hum.
Here’s the setup. As you’ll recall, Working Mom and I were in a bit of a slump, both struggling with our roles as parents and spouses. That’s not a new issue, and it’s normally manageable, but this weekend Boo wouldn’t sleep and we were both fraying at the ends.
Monday, of course, Park Buddy and I get together and knock down a few more conversational walls. (And in a new friendship, isn’t the gradual accretion of difficult topics into “allowed” territory just the best part? “Oooh, we can talk about sex now! Oooh, now we can confess our fears! Ooooh, now we’re talking about our unfulfilled dreams!“)
So I spilled everything I was feeling, perhaps giving particular emphasis to the not-getting-laid part, but (I hope) mostly confessing that I feel simultaneously…
- damn lucky to be allowed to be the stay-at-home parent, and
- really qualified to be the stay-at-home parent, and
- completely dedicated to working hard at being a better stay-at-home parent, but also
- scared that I might not be allowed to continue as the stay-at home parent, and also
- a little guilty that Working Mom doesn’t get the daily experiences with our daughter.
Phew! That’s a lot to feel all at once! And you know, I think just laying it out there for my friend was 90% of the cure. I have a strong confessional streak — getting my problems out, verbally, into the world, is a big part of fixing them.
But, friends being friends, Park Buddy first sympathized and then excoriated me for not having the identical conversation with my own wife. So, with her encouragement, my wife and I did talk, the very moment she came home from work. And it worked. Before the censor drops the dark curtain over the scene, suffice it to say that both Working Mom and I feel a lot better.
So where does “prickly” come in? Well, when I saw Park Buddy at the playground today, I rushed to thank her for the yesterday’s talk and advice. I said something like, “You can take credit for it if you want, although I think I was getting there anyway.” I meant to say that I would have worked things out with my wife eventually (maybe after a week or two?), but that Park Buddy’s encouragement rushed the process along.
Apparently it came out with a certain “prickliness” that Park Buddy found sort of humorous, in a quaintly, stereotypically male sort of way. In retrospect, I think she’s right. Part of me wanted to solve the problem for myself and (more importantly) get credit for having solved it. Unfortunately, that same part of me was dragging my feet about actually having the conversation. Like some typical sitcom dad, I wanted “it” but wouldn’t say “it” out loud. I just waited for the conversation to happen magically on its own. For the problem to solve itself, or maybe just go away.
It was just a flash, but I think I saw the “typical man” through a woman’s eyes ever so briefly, and fittingly found us men just as hapless and churlish — but also as forthright and unveiled — as we’ve always been characterized.
And yes, when my male lizard brain rears up into my consciousness, I suppose even harmless, geeky me can be (rarely, rarely) a little… prickly.