Sunday, January 13, 2008


Advice for My Future Son

If I ever have a son, there are a few things I hope to share with him in his formative years which will serve him well in throughout his life. For example:

• Choose a woman based on her character. If she has that you’ll be happy; if she doesn’t have it, nothing else will.
• Start listening to the Beatles now. No collection will ever be complete without them, and they sooner you realize that the better.
• When you start planning your wedding, don’t make any other plans or set any other goals. Just assume that you’re busy whenever you’re not working.

He should be made to understand that each of these tidbits remain true no matter where he lives.

On his own, I’m sure he will discover that many of the opposite gender seem to believe that certain tasks, such as shopping for clothes, accessories, electronics, food, automotives and entertainment are an opportunity to play prospective employer. Henceforth, they treat all items like job applicants that must be thoroughly vetted in order to maximize performance.

My hypothetical male progeny will probably inherit many of my characteristics, however, and regard shopping not as a way of ensuring enjoyment, but as a roadblock delaying it.

What I should tell my son is that choosing the components of a wedding ceremony amounts to the longest and most complicated shopping process since Jefferson bought Louisiana from the French Empire.

When weddings are being planned, those of us on my side of the gender divide generally think of the goal in sight, knowing that within just a few months we are going to get to take a vacation, after which all of our shirts, pants and socks are going to start ending up in the right drawers.

Before this great appraising of attire can be obtained, however, dates must be determined, expensive outfits must be observed, and photographers must be picked.

If my son does as I have done, and chooses his bride in South Korea, he ought to know that wedding photography works a little differently here. In America, the photographer requires him to hold unnatural facial expressions for long periods of time on the day of the ceremony.

In Korea, however, he will be asked to hold these facial expressions for the better part of an entire day, usually taking place a few weeks prior to the ceremony itself. He, like all men who want to be supportive of the process will have to help choose who will best capture these unnatural facial expressions.

If his upbringing goes according to plan, he will want to be “supportive” of his wife-to-be and her plans, because he’s thoughtful enough to know how important this is to her and smart enough to know that “supportive” husbands are less likely to end up with arsenic in their Wheaties box.

However, even when he reaches marriageable age, he may be unclear of what it means to be “supportive” of the planning process. He should know that in activities such as these, women define support as: “helping to make the choices that will make the ceremony a more beautiful and memorable occasion.”

On the other hand, when it comes to nearly all situations they do not find naturally enjoyable, men define support as: “showing up.”

Actually, just showing up involves several things, such as looking at the samples of outfits/photographs/invitations, carefully at first, then rather casually, then ultimately staring at the ceiling until the woman enquires about the price. Once the cost has been revealed, his objective is to nod thoughtfully and calmly despite the phantom pains in the pocket where his wallet lies.

I will not recommend this method of “support” to my son, however. The most likely result of this approach is that the woman will say something like, “You don’t have to come if you don’t want to.”

If the purely literal meaning of this sentence were, in fact, what the woman were trying to tell him, all his problems would be solved and he could stay home all day eating Wheaties and listening to Abbey Road.

Of course, any man who has heard these words come out of a woman’s mouth knows that its true meaning is anything but literal; what she actually wants is for his definition of support to match her own. All too often, he responds with the typical male inquiry of “What do you want me to do?” Depending on the task, she may respond, “Look at each picture and decide which style you prefer.”

He will, most likely, nod and promise to try harder, while ignoring all the questions circling in his mind. They include: “When she says style, doesn’t she really mean the different ways of accomplishing the same thing?” “Is paying attention for that long biologically possible for me?” and “Is arsenic going to be in my cereal tomorrow morning?”

This brings me back to my first recommendation. The wife-to-be may want for him to show more enthusiasm, but the right one won’t require it. If he tries to be involved in the process, she’ll try to understand how hard it is for him.

And he will know what I know: that an understanding wife is worth a lot, even more than Abbey Road.

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