Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Teenager

My five year old is a teenager.

Since getting back from his NY vacation my son has been different. I was curious how three-to-four weeks without me or their mother would effect the kids. Staying at camp with the old in-laws and aunts and uncles just shy of a month would mean a lot of kayaking, fishing and fun. But then again it would also involve an unhealthy amount of Judge Judy, suspicion of anyone who drinks wine that doesn't come out of a box and rambling conversations about the biggest threat to America being a shadowy army of gay, Mexican Muslims that Obama and the Clintons created during one of their secret wanking-on-the-flag sessions, So far the kids haven't brought up anything odd.

Owen though has changed. First and foremost he seems to have entirely lost the ability to look without using his hands. Add to that he is utterly obsessed with punching his family members in the arse. Me. His sister. Apparently his grandparents. His mother hasn't mentioned if she's escaped unscathed. But more than that is when learning that he's off out somewhere - anywhere - he's been putting on an outfit. Being five you'd imagine that would involve shockingly, mismatched clothes, a cape and a plastic sword. But no. He's been dressing like a fourteen year old.

"Daddy you're so totally awkward."
He's proving a few things there. To start with no man in my family should wear a hat. We look ridiculous. All ears and hamster cheeks. Granted that's just me and him. And he looks better than I ever do. I do own a few and I look like a Grade-A bell end. Winter hats are fine. Baseball cap not so much. I do own a hat that I'd love to say makes me look like Indiana Jones. When I put it on I imagine I look like as cool as this.

Then of course I'll see my reflection and it's quickly apparent that I look like an Amish Hipster. As for my son in his teenage-boy gear he appears to be of the view that looking cool is better than being comfortable. It was just shy of 110 degrees when that photo was taken. Quite often if we're driving somewhere we'll  see one of the locals who seems to be entirely immune to the weather and is striding about dressed in jeans and a coat. I'm utterly baffled by this. People from head to toe in denim at noon. I don't even want to think about the river of sweat pooling in their gussets - and neither should you. My kids - despite being in Arizona over a year now - still think those people are mental. And yet Owen has been making the effort to change into those clothes at every given opportunity.

You might not know this, but I used to wander about in leather pants, an atrocious fake-fur coat and quite a bit of makeup on. I had my ear, eye brow, bottom lip and one nipple pierced. I dyed my hair all kinds of ridiculous colors. For a period I'd tie silly, little knots with rubber bands in it. In hindsight I looked like a gay, emo polar bear. Not seeing it?

Two things. No - I wasn't dressed up for anything. I believe that was just a weekday. And secondly - that's a man. Yes. I know. In that photo I think I was 23. Disturbingly that would be fifteen years ago.

Anyway - about three months after that photo was taken I took out all my piercings, got (slightly) less ridiculous hair and that coat was mailed straight back to Scott Weiland. But what's somewhat interesting is that to the people I knew then if they ever think of me that's probably what they see in their mind's eye. Recently I showed that to someone I know. They absolutely refused to believe that deviant, pervert was me. Especially after finding the other fella is a man. Partly they didn't believe it because I'm an Englishman living in America. And for some daft reason that means I emit a sort of professorial, intellectual, semi-effeminate, reserved nature. Mostly that's down to the accent and too many movies with Colin Firth in them that make it to America these days. But also partly because these days I look like this.

I know what you're thinking. What's the point here Gav? Is it just that you've evolved from what appears to be a disturbingly camp, ferret-wearing fetishist at a Rocky Horror Picture Show concert? Is it that even though over fifteen years have passed between those two photos that you don't appear to have aged at all LIKE A MOTHERFUCKING VAMPIRE? Or is it that despite dressing like a pervert in the first photo and rather normal in the second, you still somehow look suspiciously dodgy now?

Well really it's that I just find it interesting that my kids have met umpteen people in the last week and what my son has been wearing will have created an instant impression in people's minds. To be fair my son is five. So it doesn't have a massive impact. Not as much as if I'd shown up to Meet The Teacher night at school in those crotchless jeans, white fur accompanied by a transgender mate of mine. Would have been even odder if Owen had showed up like that. But instead I showed up in a shirt and tie (and some pretty delicious shoes, let me tell you) and Owen dressed like that. And because most other people were in shorts and t-shirt I still somehow probably looked that little bit different.

But there was this sudden moment I hadn't really expected. I felt like his dad. His first moment at real school. It's inevitable really as a divorced parent that every now and again you realize you must look like Weekend Dad. Even though you have 50/50 custody and entirely shared responsibility. Buying them a pizza on a Saturday evening just reeks of that. But taking him into that school felt good. He felt cool. And weirdly - so did I. Because there's nothing actually cooler than being a decent parent.

Except Indiana Jones. Balls to my kids. I'm off to fight Nazis.

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