My best friend Morris is single and works as an international photographer. One of his favorite pastimes is reminding me of all the things he gets to do in his freelance job swinging, childless, life-partner-less world. Morris spends the majority of his free time traveling the globe willy-nilly, hanging at bars and picking up women. He regularly sends me spicy accounts of his romantic adventures. On a recent Friday night, I received a typically salacious e-mail from my friend. It opened with, Hey Smitty! I’m in Cuba with my girlfriend. She’s 27. We just had sex on a bus.
As a 40-year-old married father of an 8-year-old, my life could not be further from the one described in his email. I wish I could’ve instantly replied and told him that I was on my way to some fancy exhibit at some Twin Cities museum or the hotly sold-out Mumford and Sons show at First Ave. But this was my reality when I got Morris’ e-mail: I had just got off work where I spent nine straight grinding hours shoveling heart attack inducing thick snow. It was only 7 p.m. but my night was all ready cashed out. So, I sat on the couch with my son watching a Harry Potter movie marathon. It gets dorkier: Murphy was asking me intricate questions about the world of wizardry, and I knew the answers (“Well, Buckbeak the Hippogriff is …”).
While I’m completely comfortable with my own lameness, Morris’ e-mail still gnawed at me a little. Was I the only loser parent at home on a Friday night watching the ABC Family Channel? Was I really the only parent who had eaten dinner standing up in the kitchen and was ready for bed at 7 p.m.? As Murphy watched the Triwizard Tournament, I decided to contact some of my married-with-children comrades to find out their Friday-night goings-on.
First, I called my older brother Tony, a proud father of three, to see what he was up to.
“Um … what?” Tony groggily answered the phone.
“Are you asleep?” I asked. It was 7:33 p.m.
“No,” Tony said defensively. I heard him slurp the drool off his lip. He paused to get his bearings. Then he said, “Goddammit. Yeah. I nodded off there for a little bit.” Turns out Tony was supposed to be having family movie night, but had immediately fallen asleep when he settled down on the couch.
Next, I e-mailed my friend Lou, who was, in fact, out on the town. But it’s not what you think; Lou was at a toy store called Kiddywampus attending “Princess and the Papa,” a Disney princess-themed event for dads and their young daughters. As his daughter learned how to curtsey and walk down a mini red carpet, Lou stood around in a tuxedo eating goldfish crackers out of tiny little cups.
Was I really the only parent who had eaten dinner standing up in the kitchen and was ready for bed at 7 p.m.?
– Todd Smith
My friend Gus had spent most of his Friday night putting ointment on his son’s rash. My neighbor Kimberly reported that she was eating kettle corn and watching seven shows she had recorded on her TiVo.
“My TiVo and my kettle corn are the highlights of my week,” she admitted feverishly. “I actually start fantasizing about Friday Night Lights on Wednesday.”
And don’t think I contacted only fuddy-duddy parents. I also reached out to some of the coolest moms and dads in the Twin Cities. My friend Ann, a fashionista who has been profiled in glitzy magazines and runs a popular styling business and blog, was recuperating from a serious bout of pneumonia. While her illness had been miserable, she said that she was slightly enjoying her recuperation because it allowed her the freedom to watch 12 straight episodes of 30 Rock in bed without a single interruption from her kids. You know you’re deep into the world of parenting when you consider a lung infection a vacation.
Jim McGuinn, the program director for 89.3 The Current, one of the coolest radio stations in the entire country, was not hanging with Beck or The Black Keys or knocking back pints with Slug from Atmosphere. He was at home dissecting Return of the Jedi nearly frame by frame with his son.
In the midst of all this loserdom and parenting minutiae, I witnessed one of the coolest things I have ever seen. I walked back into the living room and discovered that my son was no longer watching Harry Potter movies. He was reading a Harry Potter book instead. Cooler still was the fact that my son had done this voluntarily. Murphy’s little index finger glided along the words on the page. He read to himself in a hushed whisper, the words flowing from his mouth so fluidly and effortlessly, it was like his brain was a running faucet. For a married schlub like me it was a moment of unequivocal awesomeness that made me redefine what constitutes a cool Friday night.
Maybe I don’t go out as much as I used to because I’m so tired from a day of labor that my bones hurts. Maybe I haven’t been to all those new rooftop patios in Uptown. Maybe I didn’t go to the Nick Cave show. But how many live concerts do I need to see? How many times do I have to look at the Minneapolis skyline surrounded by beautiful people who are busy click-clicking on their cell phones? I don’t fit into my old jeans anymore, and I certainly won’t ever go to Cuba, but who gives a shit? My son is devouring books at a breakneck speed. How cool is that?
At the end of the night, I could think of only one person to share this scene with. I finally replied to Morris’s e-mail and told him all about my son’s big brain.
Morris wrote back a day later. The message read: “Murph is awesome. You still suck.”