This is being written for every good man out there who has been in this position. Mostly this is for my father who is the coolest dude I know.
This is my mother’s favorite story. It happened when I was fifteen or so in good old hometown Foodtown. It’s a true story and one that she asks me to recount often, usually upon demand…like I’m a Pomeranian…performing tricks…and I’ll leave that there.
No I’m not bitter. That wasn’t repressed teen rage coming out.
Don’t be silly.
My mother threw her back out taking sheets out of the dryer. She was completely bed-ridden for three weeks (yes – this included bed pans) and then spent an additional seven weeks in rehabilitation.
During her confinement she received a visit from…well let’s just say Miss Scarlett returned to Tara.
Obviously having been infirmed, she could not replenish the stash of feminine hygiene products and I was too young to drive so this burden of responsiblity fell on the broad, strong, resiliant shoulders of my father.
He is a brave man. He is a big man. He is a handsome man.
First off; to face any woman in my family with her, umm friend, should require Kevlar and the ability to perform hostage negotiation while bearing gifts of Häagen Dazs en masse preferably with the lid already off and a gold spoon poised and ready for our delicate little mouths to begin consumption between snarling and cursing. We want what we want when we want it and if you don’t know what we want then clearly you are somehow lacking in the brains department but how dare you assume to know what we want. Yeah, that’s how we roll.
Every woman knows what they like (strictly product speak). We know what fits best, how big or small it should be, how active we plan on being that week or if we will be wearing sweat pants for a week straight. It’s an innate knowledge.
Use this knowledge carefully ladies. Please! I beg of you. I’ve seen what happens. Here goes.
We had our list. We had our mission as it was precisely laid out by my mother. The list included aisle numbers as if she knew we were going to muck it up. Clearly she felt that my father and I together were somehow a bad combination and instead of coming home with proper supplies and nutritious food we were going to load the cart up with Twinkies and Coors Light and Pampers and maybe if she was lucky we’d throw in orange juice and raw spinach to make it look good.
We went through the entire list and got everything she requested. We conferred with store managers and responsible looking women all over the store. I prayed the guy I was dating was not anywhere to be found near this vicinity. We looked like derelicts and at fifteen years old I demanded to look cool. I did not. In retrospect, it was the 80’s. I didn’t look cool until I hit thirty. At some point it dawned on me that both my father and I were very capable cooks. As a matter of fact, he taught my mother how to cook. Hey lady, listen, I don’t care if it is Arts and Crafts at Panty Week….wait, you’ll strangle me in my sleep? Okay, never mind. That was the scenario I saw playing out in my head. But I did enrich my father with the knowledge that though my mother was super organized and a fairly good cook and could provide us with a list like none other….we were better cooks AND we were ambulatory and she was not. This gave us power. For a moment we were giddy and then we realized that she would yell unless we did it her way, so we did it her way.
Finally, having every other item crossed off the cursed list save two, he faced me. The expression on his face was grim. “You know what we’ve gotta do”, he said. I nodded solemnly.
So we walked, slowly, pushing the cart that had one wheel that wanted to go left when the rest went right. Yeah. It was that kind of cart, for the kind of day. The day of reckoning. We turned the corner to the feminine hygiene aisle. I was a mature woman who had been dealing with her own personal Shark Week period hell for four whole long years. I was an expert. I knew my stuff. I felt like somehow I should lead him. But I was a teenage idiot so the end result of that was me vaguely waving my arm in the direction of tampons and mumbling, “This is the stuff she needs.”
He gripped the list tightly in his hand (which for frame of reference is approximately the size of a baseball glove). He started at the beginning of the aisle and I walked dutifully about five paces behind him.
He made one pass – silently and then went back to the beginning of the aisle.
On pass two he started making strange huffing noises that reminded me of a deer I’d run into one morning while trying to sneak into the house drunk. It clearly judged me and the hour and snorted in disgust at my beat up converse sneakers and then ran off. I think it may have done a hair flip but I had just met Mr. Daniels that night, so I can’t be fully sure.
Pass three….now he’s pissed. I mean pissed. Now there is a full blown dialogue going on between him and…him.
“Panty liners…what the hell do panty liners do? It’s not like panties are made of flannel. Maybe if they were I wouldn’t be dealing with this list.”
“Scented…..that’s a thing? Is it supposed to smell rain fresh? I have to believe she doesn’t want scented”
“Wings. No wings. Are these supposed to be aerodynamically sound? Do women go jetting all over the world with their wings? It’ll save us a ton in airfare.”
“Slender, regular, overnight, long….sweet bleeding Christ!! Are you kidding me?”
“Heavy flow, moderate flow, dry weave, dry weave? What the hell is dry weave? What’s woven on there? Is it embroidered? No wonder all women are nuts when they have their period. I’d kill myself.”
At this point a group of women have amassed at the end of the aisle. They are silent and amazed. A few are fanning themselves wondering why their husbands won’t purchase these items for them. Because you married troglodytes honey.
I look back at them. I look at my Dad’s back. Then back at them. They look hungry and now I fear for his well being. Either he’s going to end up in some Mercedes trunk and at one of these broad’s houses or his head to will blow up on the fourth pass. He is not aware they’re there. I am. I feel I need to save him.
“Dad”, I say.
“Not now Shannon.”
“Look Babygirl, I am in the fifth ring of hell here. A little compassion please?”
“Dad, there’s a crowd. I think they want to kidnap you.”
He looked back and suddenly all of these women seemed to develop an intense interest in the same box of tampons.
The same one.
For all of them.
In this vast sea of choices.
He calmly walked over to the lot of them, his selections in tow and said, “I don’t know how the hell any of you can make a single choice in here. This shit is ridiculous.”
And with that, we left. With that the man who was already my hero became my superhero. The older I got the more I realized that my father was a maverick in feminism.
He took a lot of crap from some guys he knew. I’d like to add that a lot of those guys had crap marriages. They were also trolls in my humble opinion. My dad would cook and change diapers and my mom had zero issues helping him landscape the yard and make gardening beds with railroad ties. Yeah boys……he was whipped alright. *mouth vomit*
I was never told I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. Society told me that, not my Dad. My Dad gave it to me straight. You want to be a firefighter? Cool, start bench pressing now. You’d better be able to dead carry a guy out who weighs 250. His life depends on it and so does your conscience.
My humor came from him. My insatiable appetite for learning came from him. My sense of fair play came from him.
My mother gave me my grace, my long legs, my somewhat reddish hair (before it went silvah), my temper and my ability to be a phenomenal mother and my pack mule ability to carry stress ad infinitum.
I thank them both for the gifts they bestowed upon me and I will never again tell this story at a party. I’ll just whip out my phone and snarl, “Read this.”