I’m outnumbered: the only man in the house.
A wife and two young daughters remind me of this fact on a daily basis. I’ve logged countless unappreciated hours blistering my hands opening crusty, old bottles of nail polish, donating my hair for their amusement (see picture below), and getting yelled at for not knowing how to brush through knots without removing pieces of scalp.
I’ve been trained to speak softly so as not to rattle the women-folk, and where any attempt to use my firm, male voice are met with an accusation that I must be angry; which then really makes me angry. I’ve also learned that I’m only as good as my next “yes” which, let’s face it, is a never-ending never-winning proposition.
Like most outnumbered Dads I know, I’m semi-bilingual. That means I’m fluent in English, and I’m able to decipher girl code.
This is an ancient body language that includes, but isn’t limited to smirks, smiles, other bizarre facial gestures, and the ever-popular eye rolling. When a deafening wave of quiet envelops the house I know the three of them are up to something. That something usually includes a secret pact, and on occasion, a bribe that can involve a promise to partake in their mutual drug of choice – anything with sugar. What makes it easier for me to understand girl code is our youngest is still mastering this once secretive language, and can’t quite motion with her eyebrows without moving her entire head. Not to mention she whispers like she just won the Lotto.
I do admit at times I reach female overwhelm and share out loud my desire for male bonding by having another penis in the house. In synchronized fashion three hands immediately reference our two dogs sleeping through the insanity from the comfort of what used to be my couch. But with nay a testicle between them my wife’s attempt to balance the energy in the house holds very little merit.
In all fairness to my bride, other efforts were made to keep me comfortable by turning the upstairs den into a man cave, since she bought me a plaque for Father’s Day that says, well, Man Cave. Add a portable fridge for appropriate man drinks and a wall mounted fifty inch plus man-sized television she bought for me, and it’s a win! Not so fast.
Minutes can feel like seconds to a man outnumbered. Before I could blink, the quiet echo of the cave reverberated with the sound of screaming girls fighting over which Cinderella movie to watch on NetFlix. And the man drinks, once destined for the fridge were replaced by a sea of half-empty juice boxes. The man cave was now simply, a cave.
It was about this time that I began experiencing bouts of moodiness and unrelenting lethargy. Blood-work came back within the normal range except – wait for this – my testosterone. It was low. So low in fact that the descending line graph on the paper was interrupted by the words, continued on the next page. “That’s what happens when you live in a house full of women,” my doctor chuckled in his not so professional response.
Oddly enough, my first thoughts turned to the neighbor dog that hated every man and loved me. Here I’m thinking he’s responsive to my dog whisperer abilities when in fact he just thinks I’m someone’s Mom.
My Doctor wrote out a prescription for estrogen, assuring me that when given to men in small doses it increases the bodies ability to produce testosterone. Whoa, whoa, whoa, is this some sort of cruel joke? Really? Female hormones are going to give me the leg up to reestablishing my last bastion of maleness in a house already flowing in a sea of estrogen?
I humiliated myself by filling the prescription. The female cashier asked me if I had any questions for the female pharmacist. Unless there’s a way to cut to the chase and get a prescription for my very own vagina, I’m fine…. was what I didn’t say.
Clomophene Citrate, twenty-five mg daily was what the label on the bottle read. No sign of the “E” word. Perfect. At least I knew I could keep a secret.
I also began to initiate a two-part regimen. One. Massive amounts of pushups to reestablish my physical presence as the man of the house, going so far as to allow my youngest to sit on my back while I was doing them and then making sure everyone else was watching. Secondly, a not so subtle request that everyone in the house begin to show me more respect. I might tell them I’m not feeling very respected by your actions. Or, I’m angry because my need for respect isn’t being met. When you talk to me in that tone respect is absent from the conversation. Asking you to do something five times before you do it doesn’t feel very respectful to me. The only thing missing from my constant barrage of respect demands was Aretha Franklin playing softly in the background spelling out the word for those who didn’t hear me the last ten times.
Eventually I’d like to think some of this worked as there was a noticeable shift in the energy of the house, but I don’t believe my overbearing and at times childish positioning could take that much credit. And yet I wouldn’t describe the shift as a reflection of a man taking back his Castle.
Oddly enough, it was about me becoming less, more than it was about me becoming more.
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Less threatened by a story I was running about what it meant to be the man of the house. Less invested in what I thought it should look like instead what it could look like. It was clear that living in the land of me was a lonely isolated place. Me against them, outnumbered, a fight to the finish where there would always be a winner and a loser, a right way or wrong way.
That bigger piece was the gift of we, of collaboration, to decide what we wanted it to look like without regard to genitalia.
The real truth had nothing to do with respect, or how many pushups I could do, or whatever else that could be measured by the blood flowing through my body or read on a chart. The real honest to goodness truth is I love being outnumbered. Seriously. I love the teasing and the banter and the laughter at my expense. I love that my wife built me a man cave and I lost it before the ribbon cutting could even take place. I love that they love each other so much and the bond they all share with each other. I love their girl club and their girl code. I love their secrets and their bribes and their don’t tell daddy stuff and let’s face it — I love pretending that I’m mad when I find out what was going on behind my back. I love the fact that I can model for them a man and a father who doesn’t have all the answers, a man who can share his strengths and his vulnerabilities, his frustrations and yes, at times his anger. But always my love. Always.
I could finally see that I’m not outnumbered. It is the perfect number.
Mitch Newman, M.A., is considered one of the top relationship advisers in North America by at least four people. For more than a dozen years he has advised hollywood-elite, professional athletes, high-profile executives, entrepreneurs and even a member of the royal family. His work centers on how to effectively get out of your own way to successfully participate in personal and professional relationships that last longer than the milk in your fridge. Mitch has been featured on BRAVO’s Millionaire Matchmaker, FOX News, dozens of radio shows and in major (and minor) publications. He resides in Beverly Hills, CA surrounded and outnumbered by his wife, Wendy, and their two young daughters. You can follow him on Twitter, or listen to his podcasts.
Featured Image courtesy of Luke Pamer.