Jan 29, 2010
Of all the clichés I hate, the image of the character staring up at the sky and seeing shapes in the clouds is the one that irks me the most and if I happen to come across it in a book, or a DVD, or a toilet cubicle wall I am more likely to tear the page out, return the DVD, and take my business to another cubicle than I am to bear through it and keep reading.
Strange, then, that only a minute ago I was lying on the kid’s trampoline – freed from my child-rearing duties by Reservoir Mum, heavily dulled by the first giant glass of wine, cooled by the evening breeze, covered in pork crackle pieces, neglectful of the many household chores that lay waiting inside, wearing a new pair of competition grade Mentally Sexy Underwear (to gauge size and comfort), so totally lax in body and mind that I was only aware of vague images passing me by, and unaware of who I was or where I was in time and space – when a sudden bouncy-ball type sound caused me to flex at the hip and sit up rigid and I found myself pointing at a cloud screaming, ‘Holy shit, that looks like a fucking Marlborough-smoking Lama using a vending machine!’
Recovering my bearings I turn left and right in a mad panic, hoping desperately that I haven’t been seen or heard, but to my utter despair I see Jack – the young Muslim boy who lives next door – peering over the fence at me.
‘Could you get me my ball?’ he says.
Totally flustered I fall awkwardly from the trampoline, collect his ball, attempt twice to bounce it between my legs, hitting my foot both times, before trying to pass off my cloud-scream to someone else: ‘Hey Jack… did you hear that crazy… thing… that someone crazy… must have yelled from… I don’t know… close by here?’ I say.
With his ball tucked safely under one arm, he narrows his vision and stares at me, unconvinced, and so - resigned to the fact that I am looking irreparably stupid - I say, ‘Look, let’s just keep this little outburst to ourselves, okay?’ and even though I want to add, ‘Or next time I’ll take my favorite pair of scissors to your precious little ball,’ I decided to leave it there, and instead offer an awkward friendly smile.
‘You’re the funny man who hangs washing like a lady,’ he says, as he disappears behind the fence.
Even though I walk back to the trampoline, in my mind I claw my way there on my stomach, dragging my legs – actually two bloody stumps – behind me. I have been wounded by a young boy, and even though it’s not the first time, it is the first time that the child has not belonged to me.
As I lay back on the trampoline looking at the darkening sky, trying not to see shapes in the clouds – like the one that looks like twelve Maori dancers doing the Hakka, or the one that looks like a whale spanking a baby hippo with a walking stick, or the one that looks like Jeff Probst, the host of American reality show Survivor, getting a shoulder massage from Nicole Kidman (when she was playing a teen hero in the movie BMX Bandits) – I actually do see a cloud, that I just can’t ignore, that looks like a bottle of my favorite shower gel: Radox For Men, complete with the raindrop like appearance and pipeline-wave image that adorns the easy-to-handle, aesthetically pleasing casing.
As my mind drifts, cloudlike, in the Radox direction, and I think of the combination of sea minerals and herbal extracts that deliver a refreshing yet masculine fragrance, it occurs to me that my little friend next door might consider the use of a body wash – even one that has been dermatologically tested to deliver a skin-friendly, PH-balanced, soap-free wash – to also be more indicative of something used by a lady.
Hearing that Jack is still bouncing the ball around in his backyard I decide that I need to nip this old-fashioned, backward, socially-limiting belief system in the bud and I make a pact to start with those people located in close physical proximity to me, before making my way in an ever-widening spiral until I have achieved world-wide domination.
‘Hey Jack,’ I say, climbing the fence. He stops bouncing and eyes me warily. ‘Lots of men use skincare products these days, you know, even football players, truckies. I know a bloke named Daniel who’s a powerlifter – benches like 250kg – and he uses the Gillette Series Pre Shave Facial Scrub with Aloe Vera, and he’d have to be one of the manliest men I know. Totally full-on masculine. And there’s a builder I know – Rohan (pictured left) – who uses a Cleansing Exfoliator by Loreal Paris, which not only eliminates impurities but also resurfaces and refines the skin for a clearer, more youthful complexion. I mean, this guy built his own house for Christ’s sake. The point is, Jack, the world is a large and varied place and your opinion on skincare produ…”
Another cloud – a cloud of dread – passes over me as I realize that I have just been talking to a child about a conversation that only ever occurred inside my head, but as the humiliation reaches its crescendo and I watch him edging away, towards his back door, a strange sense of calm washes over me and I say, with authority, ‘I don’t hang washing like a lady, Jack. I hang it like a man.’
Jack disappears inside his house and as the slamming door echoes out into the night and the moon takes over from the sun to bathe my face in its silvery glow, I look up at her and say again ‘Like a man, Moon. I hang like a man,' confident in the knowledge that I am part of a growing movement of Dads – a revolution of Dads – who are making the world a better place, a fairer place, by tearing away at the established order, one old-fashioned opinion at a time.