Column: Ponytails to brush, stereotypes to crush

By JASON RECKER

The ponytail had not yet been fully tugged into position when a woman stopped and grinned at me and my 7-year-old daughter.

“I’m impressed,” she said.

“Three daughters,” I replied. “Ponytails are a requirement for Dad.”

Part of me was flattered because what parent doesn’t want to be doted for exceeding the perceived standards of raising a child? This stranger was sweet on my skills. I swelled with pride and considered, just for show, insisting that I tweak the ponytail because in my world those pesky fly-aways just don’t fly.

But part of me was irked because why wouldn’t a father fix his daughter’s hair? It was a ponytail at the Holiday World front gate, not a perm before prom.

I tie ponytails at least four days a week. I carry hair accessories in the console of my car. This should not be a big deal.

I dust and scrub toilets, too. I fold laundry. I sweep. I have painted my children’s toenails. I wear the pastel bracelets my kids make for me. I have given Barbie dolls a makeover. I think “Beauty and the Beast” is a damn good movie. I take the kids to gymnastics. I have a pink key chain and multiple pink shirts that may be more precisely described as fuschia, magenta and salmon. You can even trust me with the vacuum cleaner and all three kids — at the same time!
Stereotype, please excuse yourself.

I’m not here for praise (but if you want to marvel at the kick-butt speed with which I empty the dishwasher, fine by me). I’m here because this isn’t 1950 — or even 1990 — and dads are different. Maybe it’s different with me because I have three children and they’re all girls and that’s all I’m having. So I have no choice but to man up and be entirely in touch with my feminine side.

I mean, I like cold beer and fourth-and-goal and I’m not against grunting, snoring and ignoring. Sometimes, I just sit there on my backside and stare at the baseball on the TV while my wife mutates into the wizard of the washing machine. But I wouldn’t fit the script for “Mom’s Night Out,” an archaic movie in which mothers in desperate need for some free time leave their children with their fathers. Of course, antiquated notions of gender roles explode when one dad can’t keep off the video games and another is actually scared of his own children.

If it was monetarily feasible, I’d seriously consider being a stay-at-home dad.

Mock me if you like.

Just don’t lump fathers into the mound of go-fix-me-a-sandwich-woman days gone by.

I saw something recently on social media that listed the duties of a husband and wife once one of them suggests it’s time to go to sleep for the night. The wife’s side: a catalog of 24 items that include locking the back door, picking up toys in the living room, checking on the kids, adjusting the thermostat, thinking about everything not accomplished during the day then getting out of bed to lengthen the to-do list, taking a shower, starting laundry, fixing the kids’ lunch and, eventually, going back to bed for good.

According to this piece of reverse chauvinist propaganda, a man’s lone job at night is simply to go to bed.

It’s from a website called “Your Modern Family,” which includes an animation of a mother holding a baby in one hand and a sack of groceries in the other. A woman named Becky is in charge; she’s the lady in a pearl necklace whose idea of the modern family is, evidently, from 1965. She has four children and a husband who, in at least one photo on the site, is wearing a pastel pink polo and what might be sky blue shorts, so he must not be too wrapped up in the ballgame and socket set to mess with the chores.

Regardless, if I ever see her, I will mention that I saw her post about how all I ever do late at night is go to sleep each night while my wife keeps the house from imploding, exploding, disintegrating and evaporating. And I will tell her this: Bring it, woman. Bring it on. I’ll crush your soul with one hand while I use the other to cut fruit for tomorrow’s breakfast, pick up toys, cover the 7-year-old, haul the 5-year-old from the couch to the proper bed, make sure the 2-year-old has the stuffed animal she likes, lay out clothes so they’re ready for the next morning, dust the living room and handwrite a note to one of my three girls.

I’ll skip her blog. I don’t need the blanket denigration of me and my boys.

I’m a dad with ponytails to tie. There are plenty more just like me.

Jason Recker is the news editor at The Herald. He is thankful his mother taught him a woman’s work can be done by a man. His email is jrecker@dcherald.com.




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