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It's A Man Thing

by Stephen Lautens


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 Arnold's mumbling.

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.

© Stephen Lautens 2002

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