Loyalty: It makes me an asshole

07/08/2008 By Shawn Burns


Does it say "asshole" in the title of this post?


I realize that I don’t swear on this blog (maybe I have on occasion and I just don’t remember at the moment). And that probably most of the bloggers I read use "fuckshitwadmotherfuckingbitchslutcocktits", or other words with similar effect, with regularity and great humor.

I don’t.

I swear a lot. In e-mail, in comments on other blogs (where appropriate), out loud, in front of my daughter. I was at the ballpark on Sunday and I yelled out "What a chickenshit!" then noticed the dad with his two kids sitting immediately in front of me. "I mean poopyhead. Sorry dude."

I don’t think I make a conscious choice to not swear. It just doesn’t occur to me to do so in print.

Well, today, fuck that noise.

I’m pissed at myself, because I caught myself being an asshole today and then kept right on being an asshole anyway. Asshole asshole asshole.

Erin and her grandma (from that Mohawk reservation near Massena New York, kids. I was the dumbass running in jeans through Washington Square Park) and I were at Le Boulanger in Menlo Park today (because we roll the suburban eateries like that). Emily joined us about halfway through, and just after I had noticed one of Erin’s baby friends from way back in her Day One days was in the restaurant with us.

This kid was older than Erin, and had "graduated" out of the formal playgroup a few months before Erin and I stopped going. His mother and I were friendly, mostly because he was pretty cute and hung out over on my side of the parachute floormat most of the time. She always seemed a little sad, and tired, though. And through the group conversations she eventually revealed that she and her husband were separating, and divorcing.

Her son was months old.

Fuck that.

Ok, so I don’t know anything about it. But she was kind of a friend, and she always seemed so sad, and tired, and it all made sense once I knew that her husband wasn’t in the picture on a daily basis. Want to know what the opposite of a stay-at-home-dad is? That douchebag.

Again, I don’t know anything about it. But I can’t help it. I’m still a little pissed off that I let myself become an asshole for a second because of this loser.

The kid was at the restaurant with his father, and I kind of recognized him, so I must have met him at a party or something. I was happy to see the kid, and I said "Hey pal", and I turned to the douchebag, er, dad, and said "Hi, Erin and your son used to go to Day One together." And then he said:

"Oh, I know. I remembered you."


Fuck you douchebag.

Because that "you" was loaded with all kinds of "the dad who hangs out with the moms", "the dad I’m suspicious of", "the dad who thinks he’s better than me" shit.

Sure, most of that is in my head. But he’s the one who said, and emphasized "you". And it wasn’t a "I didn’t recognize your daughter, but I recognized you" kind of emphasis. And it wasn’t a "Even though you seem to have recognized my son but don’t remember me I remember you" kind of emphasis. It contained secret thoughts that he couldn’t keep off of his face. Just for a second.

It bothered the hell out of me, that "you". Because I do my best to be sincere and above-board. I’m the male in a female group (groups, really), and I have to be aware of the explanation and accounting that must be given when I meet the husbands. "This is Shawn. He’s the dad. Feel threatened or inferior by his dedication to his daughter and his support of his wife’s career, husband. Also, he’s shockingly handsome and I hang out with him All. The. Time." I try to stay cool, and I absolutely resent any implication that I’m anything but honest and respectful.

His son started making the sign for "milk". He and Erin had been in a signing playgroup when she was 6 months old and he was 9 or 10 months old. "Ah, still keeping up the signing, are you?" I asked, completely without agenda. I swear.

"Yeah. He uses his eight signs."

Eight wasn’t a boast, so it had to have been the truth.

So what did I do, at the table next to the douchebag who was out with his son for lunch and who had made the mistake of an emphasis?

I spent 5 minutes cycling through all of the signs Erin could recognize or perform. I didn’t say "Hey, douchebag, watch what my kid can do!" It only occurred to me after the first minute or so that I was even doing it. I realized right away why I was doing it: even though I knew nothing of their marriage, I assumed he was a jerk because my acquaintanceship was with his wife, who always looked sad and tired. And I wanted to show him up a little bit, for that "you".

But come on. That’s an asshole move. Continuing to do so after recognizing what I was doing was an even bigger asshole move. Because it was using his thoughts about his kid against him: "Wow, she really knows a lot of signs and she’s a lot younger and maybe I haven’t been doing enough with my son to teach him and maybe my son just isn’t as smart."

I feel badly about that. I should have just called him a fucktard to his face and left it at that.