Yeah, so, today is The Man’s birthday.
He’s 63, which means he was 22 when I was born. My mom and dad were practically kids when they started a family! I’m 40 and currently pregnant with my first kid. I can’t imagine doing this at 22. At 22, I was working at the movie theater. My biggest worry was whether I was going to have enough money to buy some beer after work.
Since it is his birthday, I’ve been thinking about him quite a bit. We’ve always had a strange relationship. Not “today on Ricki Lake” strange, but definitely strange.
As a kid, I feared him. He’s super tough. He was the one who would dish out spankings, and he would yell when he was angry. Nothing frightened me more than my mom saying, “Wait until your father gets home.” To this day, when any man yells at me, I feel like a little girl, and it takes all my emotional strength to not cry in front of him and stand up for myself.
The Man was harsh, but he also worked really hard and went to school to learn a trade. The Man, my mom and three kids lived in a house in Concord. My mom was a stay-at-home mom for most of my childhood. The lights were always on, and there was always food in the fridge. I didn’t realize it at the time, but he was busting his ass to support his family. I get it now, and I respect it. I’m thankful.
As a teenager, I learned that we didn’t have anything in common, so we didn’t really talk that much. The Man is all about hunting, camping, killing animals, etc., and don’t even get me started on his political leanings. Meanwhile, my idea of camping is staying in a hotel, and the thought of hurting an animal makes me bawl. Also, I’m as liberal as you can get, which is why I had to move to San Francisco. It’s the law.
As soon as I was old enough to say, “Yeah, about the camping trip this weekend, I’m not going,” I stopped going. My family has all these happy family memories of camping trips that I’m not a part of, and yeah, that’s kinda weird. I was odd girl out in the Mansfield clan. I used to wonder if I was adopted because I seemed so different, and I’m sure there were plenty of times The Man looked at me and wondered how we were possibly related.
But as I got older, I realized how much of me, how much of my personality is like The Man. There are a ton of little things I do that make me think, “Oh, that’s so The Man.” I can be impatient with myself. I get super loud, especially when I’ve been drinking. I don’t waste my time bargain hunting. If I see something I want, I buy it. I’m sure there are more things, but that’s what immediately comes to mind.
But the main thing I got from The Man is my sense of humor. I think it’s partly because he introduced me to the comedic stylings of Geogre Carlin at an inappropriately young age, and partly because The Man is a funny guy himself. I was pretty young when I realized how much I loved to make The Man laugh. If I made this man laugh — this man with whom I have nothing in common — then that meant he probably liked me, and I wanted him to like me. I am certain that my desire to make people laugh is a direct result of that. If I can get people to laugh, then they will like me.
Of course, my relationship with The Man is different now. If he says something politically or socially assy, I make some joke and change the subject before the yelling starts. I usually say something like, “That’s an interesting theory. Do you have a newsletter I can subscribe to?” He hugs us now, which always blows my mind. He worships and adores his grandchildren, always kissing and hugging them. With them he is a totally different man than the one my sister, brother and I grew up with. He actually talks to them and listens. Weird!
Growing up, I always knew my dad loved me, because he was my dad, but for a long time I didn’t think he liked me. Now, I think my dad likes me — and not just because I’m carrying his first grandson.
I am sure that this silly, little post is not doing justice to The Man. He is a complicated guy. You’ll think you have him all figured out and then he will do something that makes you go hmmm. I’m sure if he read this post, he will think I’m being a jackass or acting “squirrelly.”
So anyway, happy birthday to The Man!