March 12, 1998
A Jewish Guy
Frankly, I'mall for it.
But what about sports? Girls? Humvees andwashboard abs? This column's supposed to parse the experience of aJewish Guy in the world. But some guys have called, confused. What'sall this about singing baby boys to sleep? About tender talks and thesalve of toddler hugs? It's all very sweet, but, guy, hey guy, theyask, where's the testosterone?
Funny. My wife's been bugging me about the samething.
When I met Abby, I was 23, fresh off a few yearsof intensive karate training and backpacking adventures in WesternEurope. A Jerusalem girl, she liked to call me her "New York TaxiDriver."
So a few years pass. The karate gives way toevening walks. The backpacking to lingering meals and washing uptogether. The modern dance classes, the bike trips -- phoosh! -- outthe window. I had the girl. Who needed the bait?
Then come the kids, and as the backpack molded inthe basement, the jagged horizons of world travel spun themselvesinto the downy world of the nursery. But not without some adjusting."Could you be a little more gentle with the baby?" she says. "Do youhave to throw him so high in the air?" "I really don't think a1-year-old needs to watch Godzilla vs. Rodan with you."
And, so, slowly, washed bottle by washed bottle,powdered tushy cheek by cheek, gentle lullaby by lullaby, I, like thePleistocene dog and cow long before me, became domesticated.
After seven years, my wife's most cherished wishhas come true. Nurturing comes naturally. I am the king ofKissathons, the Nabob of Neck-farts. Behold -- Commander Cuddle. Theladies at the playground smile at me when I cradle my little ones.They coo over my unabashed affection. They marvel at the simple factthat I'm spending so much time with my children -- and I'm not even ananny! (Of course, my wife, being an actual woman, sees no one on theplayground ever coo over her singing love and fierceembraces).
Now here's the kicker. Now that I'm ready andtoned up for the Nagano of Nurturing, my wife tells me, "Genucht!"Would I mind putting down the book of children's poetry and throw onmy carpenter's belt. Go bang around the yard a little. Preferablyshirtless. Nail something. Haul the firewood across the lawn. Oh,and, sure, we can spare the money for a personal trainer -- "but onlyif you want."
A guy can't catch a break.
This all may sound horrifying to some of you guys.I can hear you reaching for the Rogaine, perusing mag wheels for yourAcuras, gut-crunching right there on your carpets.
But this isn't really an either-or game. It's anongoing process of adjustments along the masculine-feminine line. I'mnot worried, even if my wife is leaving power tools around the house-- a regular Johnny Appleseed of machismo.
And I find that, among my friends, theirmasculinity doesn't worry them either. We each have our own private,often unspoken claims to manliness. This one swims everyday. This onebuilds lawn furniture in his garage. This one mountain-bikes, theother sea-kayaks. Most of us get in some skiing or snowboarding. And,of course, as married men, we all have in common sex, which studiesare rumored to suggest can be reassuring.
But the truth is, we mostly Jewish guys -- and Ionly speak for my circle of friends -- are quite comfortable to haveforsworn the consistent company of Men's Journal masculinity formenschhood. Not that we achieve it consistently. Far from it. But itdoes mean that, at minimum, we spend time by our children's sides.Often, and passionately.
Yeah, I'd like to raft the wild Yukon or diveamong blacktip sharks off the Bahamas (not the big ones though; justthe little ones). I'd love to bike through Vietnam or Alsace. And Iwill -- either later with the kids, or without them when they're incollege.
But for now, for these years, the guy thing isvery much the dad thing. The Rabbis challenge us, "Where there are nomen, who will be a man?"
Yo, guys: Where dads aren't dads, there are nomen.
Adam Gilad lives and writes in Topanga. You canreach him at Aggprods@aol.com