November 29, 2002
At only nine months old, I thought it was a
little too early to worry whether my son is growing up manly enough.
James has two aunts who insist on buying him
outfits with little bears on them, or hats with bunny ears. My
protests that these outfits are an affront to his manly dignity fall
on deaf ears. And I have to bite my tongue when strangers look into
his stroller and ask if he is a girl.
It turns out I needn't have worried. Without
any coaching, little James is already displaying his mastery of all
the manly arts.
First of all, he thinks burps are
hysterical. His own and other people's. Men, otherwise at a loss to
entertain ourselves, have always found body noises the height of
humour. I don't know why he finds this funny, except there must be a
burping comedy gene somewhere on the male chromosome.
He loves to give you what my wife calls a
"Scottish handshake". He'll smile and be as charming as
anything to draw you near. When you get your head close enough to
him, he'll conk you in the temple as hard as he can with his
forehead, laughing like a maniac. Don't believe what anyone tells
you about babies having a soft spot in their skulls. His is like
granite, and you see stars when he butts heads. He also likes to try
to pull your ears off, so he may have a great future playing rugby.
After retiring to the couch for the evening,
he won't rest until he gets his hands on the remote. And like a man
he'll hog it until you pry it from his protesting fingers. The worst
part is he manages to push the buttons at the worst times, usually
cutting off the crucial last 30 seconds of CSI. Or he presses those
mysterious and seldom-used programming buttons, so all of a sudden
every channel is green and has Spanish subtitles. After an hour of
studying the remote, I can't figure out how to undo whatever it is
he did. But on the bright side my Spanish is getting a lot better.
For all his obsessing about the remote, he's
not that interested in the TV, except for two very manly exceptions.
First, he will watch anything Arnold Schwartzenegger has ever done -
even The Last Action Hero. Explosions help, but there's just
something about the big Austrian that appeals to male toddlers as
much as he does to their fathers. It probably helps that James is
himself one sixteenth Austrian and may be able to understand
The other thing that will make him swivel in
his seat is a car commercial. For me this is proof that the evil
advertising geniuses have identified the part of the male brain that
governs the purchase of transportation. He'll stop whatever it is
he's doing and stare intently at the car commercial. Sometimes he'll
emit little grunts, especially if it's a truck commercial. As soon
as it's over he'll go back to his baby business of reprogramming the
remote or rubbing cookies into the seat cushions.
So even if he goes out dressed like little
Lord Fauntelroy, it turns out I needn't have worried. He must have
been born with all his manly genes preprogrammed in. Kind of like
the remote used to be.
I can't wait to show him the Three Stooges.