Here’s the Bad News, Son

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About Steve Almond

Steve Almond is the author the story collections My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B.B. Chow, the novel Which Brings Me to You (with Julianna Baggott), and the non-fiction books Candyfreak and (Not That You Asked). His most recent book, Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life, came out in Spring 2010. He is also, crazily, self-publishing books. This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey, is composed of 30 very brief stories, and 30 very brief essays on the psychology and practice of writing. Letters from People Who Hate Me is just plum crazy. Both are available at readings. In 2011, Lookout Press will publish his story collection, God Bless America.


  1. Are you kidding me? You’re worried about bullying and your son? Girls are WAY more apt to bully each other than boys. And they’re meaner too. Phoebe Prince anyone??

    I hoped and hoped and hoped for a boy and I was rewarded. I don’t have a daughter (I have one on the way but we don’t know the gender) and I hope I never do. Body image problems, ultra-mean bullying and other female issues are not something I look forward to at all.

    • “Sean Mulveyhill, Austin Renaud, Kayla Narey, Ashley Longe, Sharon Chanon Velazquez and Flannery Mullins are all charged in connection with Phoebe Prince’s death.”

      Those aren’t all girls.

      Also, pretty sure boys can have body image issues–steroids?

      I don’t think it is a contest about who is meaner, I think that bullying and violence in all forms need to be addressed.

      • Girls and bullying is certainly a mounting problem. But It’s not strictly just a female issue. Recently in my own state of NJ, a gay male college student Tyler Clementi commented suicide because of another student, his roommate’s, bullying. If you are worried about situations like Phoebe Prince and your children, then you should also be worried about these kind of situations as well. “Meanness” happens on both sides.

        I also think there is an issue with parents not teaching their children to deal with the fact that not everyone is going to like them and that’s okay, in combination with teaching their children what they say to others matters. It’s these dual life skills that seem to be missing from situations like Phoebe Prince and Tyler Clementi, both from the people who bully and the people being bullied.

  2. Wow, this has certainly given me a new perspective. Steve, you already got a leg up on your own Dad. You recognize the perversity in ideals about what masculinity means, even if you still feel that thrill from out right violence. And because of that, your son is guaranteed a different childhood then you were. You’re Dad was just doing what he thought was best as a father. And you have enough foresight to see how that affected you. And that’s the key here.

  3. Hey Steve, don’t worry so much. If you’re a good dad your son and daughter will turn out fine. Give them a good sense of self and good values and they will get through life just as you have. I was a small, studious kid and I got picked on growing up. I got my ass kicked, kicked a few and lived in terror of some of the big, tough guys. When all was said and done I ended up in a better place with a better life than the punks who pushed me around.
    I have two daughters, 17/22 and a son 20. The seventeen year old got bullied by a boy in middle school and after meeting the parents of this shit I saw why. The school helped a bit but mostly when her older brother had a “talk” with him he stopped.
    This summer a family friend accosted my daughter one night after she had a few drinks. She finally told me and later that day I almost strangled him and put him through a wall. So, no , the savagery never goes away. I hadn’t hit anyone in 35 years and avoid fights whenever possible.
    For the most part this world is a wonderful place populated by decent people. You seem like a decent guy and will do a great job parenting both your kids. We can’t change the world but we can give our kids the tools with which to navigate it. good luck and enjoy!

  4. Victoria Jones says:

    To put it just as starkly: Aggression is the means by which girls learn to control their feelings. Not even the most loving father can protect his daughter from the playgrounds, the bars and parking lots where bullies lurk, where soft emotions are hunted down and targeted, where fear becomes rage, and rage becomes violence and violence becomes rape.

  5. This is excellent stuff, Steve. Excellent writing.

    You certainly have more self-control than I. If someone gets out of their car in the middle of traffic, I’m already on my feet and anxious to meet them.

    It is good to dispel mush. I’m sure your son will turn out just fine.

    Best of luck with fatherhood.

  6. I don't know says:

    Ah, there’s that famed male empathy I keep hearing about. Good thing he didn’t reveal his problems to a mean ol’ woman who’d just take advantage of his vulnerability.

  7. wellokaythen says:

    A simple gender flip reveals quite a bit here:

    Imagine how a woman would feel if you wrote a piece saying how disappointed you were that you had a daughter instead of another son. Justified righteous indignation would be the order of the day. That’s how many men would feel upon reading this piece.

    If it doesn’t pass the “what’s good for the goose is good for the gander” test, then there’s something wrong with it.

    • And “justified righteous indignation” would prevent us from seeing what the author is really saying, which is to examine the problems with what masculinity means to him and why he is afraid of failing his son.

      If we really want to be able to discuss this sort of thing openly, we need to allow space for people to share their honest feelings, even if we may not like or agree with what they have to say. Trying to police what people can and can’t express is harmful, and prevents people from being honest with their stories.

      After all, isn’t part of why this site is here so we can share each others stories?

  8. Both genders may have a hard life ahead of them, it’s just different issues that come up. Girls bully differently than boys but it’s still destructive. Girls have body image issues but so do boys. And both have societal pressures and expectations. Parenting is rough

  9. courage the cowardly dog says:

    I can’t take all this self-loathing. Perhaps you have heard of Mahat Ma Ghandi or Martin Luther King or Jesus Christ or St. Augustine or Sir Thomas More. All men of peace. They died seeking peace. Perhaps you have heard of Phoebe Prince, the 15 year old girl in South Hadley, Massachusetts who was relentless and mercilessly bullied by 6 female classmates to the point that she hung herself. Or maybe you have heard of The “Angel of Death, Beverley Gail Allit, is one of Britain’s most well known serial killers. Working as a pediatric nurse, she is responsible for the murder of 4 children and the serious injury of 5 others in her care. When available, insulin or potassium injections were used to precipitate cardiac arrest; smothering sufficed when they were not. Although convicted with death or injury in nine cases, Allit attacked thirteen children over a fifty-eight day period before being caught red-handed. Allit has never spoken of the motive for her crimes. Don’t transfer your urge for violence or bloodlust to all men. Hell, just may be your son will grow up to be the next Ghandi. For his sake I hope he never sees this article, God forbide that he see how unwanted he is. Rejoice in your son and teach him the ways of peace.

  10. Thanks. I’ve never read anything that addresses this idea before. It hadnt occurred to me that others might think about things in this way too. Just thanks.

  11. Hi Steve,

    any chance we can have a talk about it, like on skype or via email? I`m EXACTLY in the same situation at the moment, and I can`t believe they why you could articulate MY feelings in such a clear way.



  12. Their are very few people who wold only want a girl child and no boys as women don’t give their life for Husband, friends or any one else but they are also not bothered about their parents as I have never seen a female taking care of her parents in their old age even though there are umpteen examples of boys voluntarily living far humble life just because all their income goes towards maintaining their parents, this is never recognized by anyone and people live in myth that girls love there parents more than the boys whereas the fact is they just pay lip service and back out when time comes to actually part with something for parents –

  13. Great, great piece, Steve.

    You are so very right. BEING a loving father/man is easier said than done.
    Nobody is perfect and we have never asked to be the way we are. We just deal with it in the best way we can and we can’t do more than acknowledge our mistakes and learn from them so as to avoid making the same mistake again.

    I admire you for your openness and your honesty. The weak can never be honest. Honesty is the attribute of the strong. So, reading your piece I would say you are one of the strongest men on earth. And who wouldn’t want to have such a man as his father?

    Thanks for sharing,

  14. Steve, you have nothing to worry about, raise your children to the best of your ability and all of the things you are anxious about will be experienced but learned as lessons that will benefit them in the long run because they have a good background and support

  15. There are more than a few good men, and there is no reason to believe that your son will not be among them.


  1. [...] was a contributor to the Good Men Project: Real Stories From the Front Lines of Modern Manhood (excerpted here), and has a new book: Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life. On July 8, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, [...]

  2. [...] 3) The stories will surprise you. Do you really know what it’s like to be a photojournalist in Iraq, one who thinks he might want to come back to the US, live a normal life, but finds himself inexplicitly drawn back to the foxholes again and again? Have you struggled with being a reluctant stay at home dad, envious of men who go off to work? Have you had a moment with your wife when you stormed out of the house, and in retrospect said, “Truth be told, I was leaving her.” The stories are varied, and rich, and interesting. For example, read an excerpt from Jesse Kornbluth’s story “Sex and Drugs made me a Man” here. Or from “Here’s the Bad News, Son” by Steve Almond, here. [...]

  3. [...] brawling with his brothers, and his apprehension about having a son. Read his essay on that subject here, and watch a video of Steve dissecting Toto’s “Africa” here. Did he wear make-up [...]

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