Life hit a low point the other morning when Smartacus decided to give me hair-care tips, holding out some jar of goo – a very suspicious schmutz. According to him, you just take a little nub of it, smear it all over your head.
As if rosin-bagging a baseball bat.
Now you see my life? I usually give you little glimpses, and it’s tricky to piece together any sense of the whole ridiculous wad of it.
White Fang is the only one who truly “gets” me. She responds to the promise in my voice, the leprechaun lilt. By my tone, she knows when I am offering food, or exercise, or companionship — like when I want to roll around the floor and just hug.
If you love a woman the way I love White Fang, you learn to recognize her favorite vocals. And vice versa.
Then there are my children, the very people to whom I’ve devoted my entire life (such that it is). Increasingly, they treat me as if I’m ready to be floated out to sea.
After that low point with Smartacus, I told him that I might just move out. He’s 18, and the authorities could do nothing to me. I could just leave him and his messy bedroom, to let nature take its cruel course.
The room is decaying, in the way of teen children everywhere. Lately, it smells like fermenting plum-socks. You could make arsenic.
The adjacent bathroom, meanwhile, has 40 different strains of active botulism.
Seriously, I’m supposed to take grooming tips from him?
As the old saying goes: First groom thyself, little dude.
Without a woman in the house, Smartacus and I find that we tend to mother each other a bit too much. That’s kind of funny because nobody can replace a mother like Posh. Certainly not us — even working in perfect tandem, as we always do.
His sisters weigh in now and then. They are super organized. Rapunzel will drop in and say, “Ewwww, this bathroom…” and help him remove some of the botulism before it eats the porcelain raw.
In the kitchen, Rapunzel will organize a cupboard or a drawer, arrange the pastas, put the knives with the knives, the forks with the forks. Crazy stuff. She just has that knack.
“What do you use to clean the toilets?” she asked the other day.
Smartacus and I looked at each other. Pool acid? Cherry bombs?
Some women claim that I am “too Irish,” meaning beyond hope and incapable of doing the little things for myself. On a typical day, I put my t-shirt on inside-out and march off across Los Angeles, a remarkably dry and fragile city that seems to me, at best, a very pretty mirage.
I don’t lock the door. I forget to zip.
Not that women are perfect, let me tell you. The other day, I had a line: “After two drinks, women are exactly the fun and flirty people we wish them to be,” meaning a splash or two of alcohol makes them behave almost like normal.
In fairness, I suppose we’re all more charming after a drink or two, and women would likely be more playful if men were more responsible to begin with.
Even sober, many men behave as if we’ve had a shot or two — with the cheery boyishness, the silly jokes, an inherent hedonism. Most times, it takes women a couple of drinks to catch up to that level of selfishness.
Some readers asked: “So, what are women after they’ve had 3 drinks?”
“Irresistible,” quipped my pal Slavin.
Yeah, sure. But after 4 drinks? After 4 drinks, they’ll decide to tell you what they really think of your friends, your mother, your hobbies, and your haircut.
Four drinks destroys a woman’s finest trait: empathy. After 4 drinks, they become quazi-men.
Be careful, is what I’m saying.
Generalizations are a tricky business. The things I say about White Fang don’t necessarily apply to other feral wolves.
Similarly, the things I say about the feral women of suburban Los Angeles aren’t universally true.
As I’m quick to point out, I have serious limitations myself. I can’t tell an impala from a gazelle, or a rose from a ruby. I don’t know why my cellphone chimes at certain times, and other times not. I don’t understand the actual difference between chalk dust and flour. Given four tries, I couldn’t correctly pronounce “Worcestershire sauce.”
Wurstest-septic-sister sauce. Boom. Nailed it!
Yet, I am completely certain of a few precious truths.
For one, I am drawn to pushy women. I like that they are bossy in busy delis, so I don’t have to be. I like the way they breeze through major airports as if it’s no big deal.
My late wife Posh was barely 5 feet high and didn’t weigh a diddle. Yet she could elbow her way through almost any encounter, even marriage.
Her daughters have that too — a fearlessness, a moxie, a sharp-elbowed charm.
Without my daughters, where would Smartacus and I be right now. Prison? The hobo train?
My daughters look out for us, sneak peeks inside the fridge, make sure the sour cream hasn’t turned too green, double-check that the Tupperware lids aren’t, as usual, only 80% on.
In short, they mother us. And we need it, no question.
Their latest big fear is that I’m incapable of getting Smartacus ready for college, that I’ll send him off to Oregon in two months with a No. 2 pencil and a bag of cheese, maybe a poncho in case it happens to rain up there, which it occasionally does.
The assumption is that he will go up there without bedsheets, without shoes, without hope. They fear he will be this little orphan boy who knock-knocks on the dean’s door late one night and asks to borrow toothpaste.
“This little lad is too Irish,” the dean will tell the Admissions Office the next morning.
“Can we get him a mother? Or at least find him some pants?”
Thanks to his two amazing sisters, Smartacus will instead be the best-prepared freshman in the history of the University of Oregon. They will clip his mittens to his coat. They will tape his name twice across his luggage.
And off this little lad will go into the tall woods of the Great Northwest, armed with something his mother gave him 18 years ago: her movie star smile.
“So this is college?” he’ll say. “Dear, benevolent God…”
FYI, Smartacus and I are looking to date a woman/women who subscribe to Apple TV+ so that we can watch Season 2 of “Ted Lasso” (which we can’t really afford). Serious inquiries only. We’ll bring the biscuits.