Award-winning writer: Jackie Papandrew

Airing My Dirty Laundry!

A Rock and a Hard Place

Sometimes, when I haven’t had to put down a toilet seat or listen to several rounds of a burping contest for awhile, I begin to feel sorry for today’s men. Especially the young ones, those just on the cusp of the real world who don’t have a clue what they’re getting themselves into.

Take the dilemma of dating, for example, where all the rules have seemingly changed, but in truth, all the rules remain pretty much the same. Except for the ones that really have changed. For women, hard-wired for complexity, this convoluted courting process is no problem. For men, simple creatures who can’t faithfully follow a grocery list, this is a nightmare. These befuddled beings are caught, like the typically baffled Homer Simpson, between a rock and a hard place.

And if, like my oldest child, they are newbies in the land of love and utterly unfamiliar with the world of women, they would often probably like to dive under that rock and pull the hard place down like a fortress around them.

My son, the one who just yesterday was sleeping on Big Bird sheets, has a girlfriend for the first time. It’s a sweet, harmless little relationship, full of furtive phone calls and fierce feelings. And it’s dangerous territory for a boy who once spent a week impersonating the ultra-logical and emotionless Mr. Spock from the first Star Trek series. My young Vulcan got quite emotional, though, when suddenly faced with the harsh reality that, even in the 21st century, the guy is still expected to pay on dates. (Come on, ladies, even if we don’t admit it, we know it’s true.)

For a kid whose only income is a weekly allowance (assuming he does his chores), a Scrooge-like youngster who once gave a set of eight coasters as Christmas gifts to eight different people -- one coaster per person -- this is a harsh reality indeed. The first time it hit him upside the head was on the morning of his high school’s Homecoming Dance.

Rousting him out of bed that Saturday morning at the ungodly hour of 11, I asked him what color corsage he’d ordered for his sweetheart.

“I already bought her ticket,” he said crankily, pulling the covers over his head. “Why would I need to buy some stupid flower?”

“She’s probably going to spend several hours getting ready for the dance,” I told him, yanking the covers off the bed. “She needs a corsage that matches her dress. What color is her dress?”

When “Huh?” was his only response, I knew we were in trouble.

And when the girlfriend’s birthday rolled around a couple of weeks after that, I wondered if the bloom would soon fall off this romantic rose. I waited until the day before her birthday to ask my son if he’d bought her a gift.

When he groaned as if he were in real pain, I ordered him to accompany me to the mall, where I pointed out a store full of appealing but inexpensive baubles sure to warm a young girl’s heart.

“Can’t you go in and get it for me, and I’ll pay you back?” he pleaded. I refused. It was time for the boy to bite the bullet and enter the arena alone. I had to actually push my reluctant Romeo into the shop, where he dithered at the entrance for many minutes, apparently fearing that his mere presence in such a prettified place would render him unmanly. Finally, I heard the store clerk offer to help. When she asked him how much he wanted to spend, his answer – “As little as possible” – made me pity his poor girlfriend. But he finally emerged with an acceptable gift.

So, thanks to me, my curmudgeon of a son survived the birthday and came out undeservedly smelling like that proverbial rose. The next day, I found him lying on his bed, gazing up at the ceiling with a self-satisfied smile on his face. A smile that collapsed like a house of cards when I brought him crashing back to earth.

“Better save your money, kiddo,” I said. “Christmas is right around the corner.”

~  © Jackie Papandrew 2008 ~

Jackie Papandrew is an award-winning writer, syndicated humor columnist, coffee addict and mom to a motley crew of children and pets who provide a steady stream of column ideas and dirt. She's also wife to a very patient man who had no idea, years ago when he still had time to escape, what he was getting himself into. Visit her website at:  JackiePapandrew.com

[ by Jackie Papandrew Copyright © 2008 (me@jackiepapandrew.com) -- submitted by: Jackie Papandrew ]

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