Being the only man in a house full of females is a daily exercise in sensitivity.
A lot of “experts” will give you a list of empirical rules on how to be the best “Man of the House” you can be. But here are three practical things men should know about survival in a house full of women.
If I had one tip to give new parents it would be this: learn to pick things up off the floor with your feet.
You’ll be spending the next decade or more bending over to retrieve toys, socks, and juice box straw wrappers off the ground. Start saving lumbar wear-and-tear now by finding your inner chimp and picking things up with your toes.
This isn’t necessarily Dr. Spock type stuff meant to give you the “The Top Ten Tips to Parenting Jedi-Hood.” But I’m no parenting guru. Ask my daughters. Or my wife. Or the bartender at my local pub.
But, as the only man in a house full of women, I’ve learned a few things that, while not necessarily life-changing, may provide scant relief to new fathers, nods of agreement from experienced dads and a much needed laugh to older ones.
#1: Know the Fine Line. You found it the first time playful wrestling with your wife or girlfriend turned to can’t-resist tickling. Sweet, pre-coital laughter turned to demon-possessed commands to cease touching her lest she rip your arms from their sockets and beat you to death with them.
Like sobriety, knowledge of the Fine Line is a hard won achievement and a battle fought anew each day. Finding it today doesn’t guarantee knowing its location tomorrow. It is like a Lego left on the floor of your child’s dark room: you know it’s there but find it only by stepping on it.
And your daughters—like your wife—have a Fine Line.
As men we’re prone to goofy hijinks: tickle monsters, over-squeezing, embarrassing waves at the school gate and machine gun kisses on their sweet cheeks. But as the laughter and giggles rise, there is a line that you will cross. Whiskers become needles, playful wrestling becomes professional, tickling becomes water-boarding and sarcasm becomes wildly insensitive emotional abuse.
The Fine Line separates perfectly joyful from abject hatred and is, by definition, not a wide, slow chasm to cross. It is sudden and it is severe.
And when you’ve crossed that line, it takes time—and perhaps bribing—to get back the modicum of trust they had in you before you violated the unwritten rules.
When you find the Fine Line, stay one tickle, joke or gesture on the conservative side of it. If you can.
#2: Fix Drippy Faucets, Not Women. Unless it’s a spider in the bathtub, a headless Barbie or an overflowing toilet, our daughters and wives don’t want us to solve their problems for them. Even if they ask us to.
This one takes us many dark years to comprehend. But, telling them how to fix or solve something means that you think they don’t know how to fix it themselves. Despite the fact that by all appearances they really do want your help, they don’t. They just want you to listen and be sympathetic.
Tell your eleven-year old daughter how to solve that algebraic formula, and before, “…so X equals…” leaves your lips, she’s torn the paper from your hands and scolded you. “I know! I know! Never mind! Gosh, Dad. I’m not stupid.”
When your nine-year old daughter complains that her BFF-of-the-week sat with someone else at lunch, you could tell her that friendships at this age are fickle, and that she should find in herself what makes her so special and deserving of respect. But she’ll have her iPod headphones on before you can bust out that deeply painful 4th grade personal analogy you’ve been saving up thirty years for this moment.
You’re not doing them any favors by fixing it for them. If this isn’t making sense, don’t worry, you’re not crazy. You’re a guy.
Which leads me to #3: Find Your Thing. Maybe it’s working in the garage, playing guitar on the front porch, online virtual combat missions or whatever else it is you do to escape from the world around you. Find that thing you enjoy doing in the isolated bubble of yourself to briefly depart from reality.
Especially as your perfect, beautiful, inspiring young ladies get older, you’re going to need that place—physically and metaphysically—to go when emotions rise like hormonal fireflies on a full moon springtime eve.
Of course, that bubble will burst regularly with deathly screams about the remote not working or pleading demands for more money on their iTunes accounts. But become adept at refocusing on Your Thing.
Relinquish the house. Give up all those things you’ve worked so hard for, save one. Maybe it’s the garage, game room, garden or tool shed. Claim it. You are going to need a place to go to remind yourself that it is OK to be different from everyone else in your house. Painfully different.
And if you simply can’t find that place on your own property, allow me to introduce you to the “Hardware Store.”
You don’t need light bulbs, primer or power tools to visit the ultimate male sanctuary. Find the smallest need for duct tape and announce your imminent departure for the hardware store, and see how many hands go up to join you. Answer: None.
If you have a local butcher, become his BFF.
You need this. You deserve this.
For the same reason your wife is an intoxicating and frustrating siren whose allure is enticingly compounded by her mystery, your daughters hold their own mystery.
There are other insights to being the only man in the house I could add to a list: that girls’ feet smell as bad as boys’, that they think farts are hilarious too and that they are Minnie-Mes of both you and their mother. But knowing these things won’t necessarily help you.
Maybe the one thing you really need to know is this: You are the one man that all others will be measured against for the rest of their lives. So act accordingly.
And you’re the luckiest man in the world.
Read more Featured Content.
Image credit: Bob Jagendorf/Flickr