Monday, July 13, 2009


From the moment our older son Thomas came out of the womb he's been -- how do I put this delicately? -- edgy. For instance, I used to imagine that what to us sounded like incessant crying was actually him yelling at his legs for not doing what he demanded they do. You know when your kids come home from school or camp complaining about some kid who's always trying to tell them what to play and how to play it -- right down to the actual words and inflections they're supposed to use -- and they can never get it right even if they're mimicking him exactly and then that kid breaks into tears because he thinks your kid ruined the whole game? They're talking about Thomas. He's a handful. (Not bragging, but quite a few "experts" suggest that his personality quirks are indicative of extreme intelligence. Yeah, that and a $15 co-pay will fill my Valium prescription. Serenity now!)
Anyhoo, needless to say Thomas puts the FREAK!! in CONTROL FREAK!!, as well as possibly a few extra exclamation points depending on his mood. So obsessive is he, that he has trouble coping when he encounters things that defy categorization. And so it was in our house the other night when Thomas casually asked me what Ethan was.
"What? What do you mean 'What's Ethan?'"
"I mean what IS he? You know, like, I like to draw all the time so I'm an artist. Mommy cleans and yells, so she's a mommy. You toot and fix stuff, so you're a daddy. What's Ethan?" (Ethan Ethan Ethan. Echo echo echo. Please rise for our national anthem anthem anthem.)
Whoa. What the hell IS that kid? He certainly does draw, yell and fart, but he doesn't really do any of those things with sufficient intensity or regularity to be defined by it. This is going to take some thought.
And think I did. For 2 days. Then, as luck would have it, I found myself looking at a photo from our recent vacation to DisneyWorld. And I remembered something: Riding the bus back from the park on the first night of vacation I happened to look over at Ethan who was sitting next to me. He was smiling and hamming it up for the little girl sitting across from us, and she was eating it up with a spoon. For the rest of the week I noticed that on every bus ride we took, Ethan would flirt with the cutest little girl he could find. Every time we stopped anywhere to eat, same thing. Hell, he wasn't even holding out for little girls -- he was flirting with college girls. And doing better at it than I ever did. I dredged my memories. His school: most of his friends were girls. Summer camp: most friends are girls. When we've gone out to eat: flirting with girls. Movies: girls. Grocery store: girls. Playground: girls.
Holy shit, my kid's a pimp.

Of course, men being pigs I should totally be proud (and I totally am). But I've begun to notice other behaviors that, considering this "total playa" vibe I think I've identified, I am less willing to dismiss as coincidence. Among the red flags:
- Ethan hates wearing underwear. If he could, he'd always be naked.
- Ethan can and does wink.
- Ethan dances like he's air-humping something really rubbery. He even does the spank move, which I thought was cute until now.
- Ethan can spend hours alone on our computer playing games on the internet (well, he says he's playing games, but he's probably chatting up the honeys).
- Ethan knows in which rooms of their houses all the little girls in our neighborhood sleep.
- Ethan spends an inordinate amount of time in the shower.
- Ethan obsesses with his hair.
- Ethan can unhook a bra.
- Ethan can pair wine and food like a master.
OK, that last one's not true. Yet. Maybe by First grade.

Before we knew the gender of our sons I wished for boys for a few reasons. First, boys are harder early on, but get easier to handle as they age (if that ends up being a lie I'm so gonna smack somebody). Second, boys have way cooler toys. And third, boys don't have boys chasing them all the time. So when both our kids ended up being boys I felt relieved. Well, until now I did. And now that I'm letting my mind loose to imagine the future, I see angry fathers and shotguns and fake passports and disguises. I see broken hearts from Amalfi to Zanzibar. I see Dateline NBC specials and an entire week on Oprah. I see a book deal. A movie. A brief recording career. A romance with Demi Moore.
And after all this I still don't know how I'll answer Thomas if he again asks what Ethan is. Probably something like "Ethan has his whole life ahead of him, just like you. Don't be surprised if he surprises us all." And maybe, depending on how many milligrams I'm up to that particular day, I'll throw in something like, "And by the way, here's $50. Keep an eye on that one."

"There are times for falling apart, and there are times for getting' funky. This is one of them funky times." -- Undercover Brother

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