There’s Power in the Ponytail

photo credit: Erik Mallinson via photopin cc
photo credit: Erik Mallinson via photopin cc

I’m all about Girl Power, y’all. I’m the hairiest feminist in Piedmont North Carolina, unofficially. That I’ve championed the cause with three girls of my own is not surprising.

But what if I’d had a boy?

His name would have been Tyson. Or Kyle. Or Hudson. He’d have carried on the name, but what else? What expectation? The first and every time he stomped around like a dinosaur in the super market, or snagged a pinch of bacon bits with his bare hands in the buffet line, or made unfortunate noises at the dinner table, he’d be labeled – well, stamped – as unmistakably, hysterically, pathetically Eli Junior.

This is just the way it would have gone. We inherit things, we men. Me? There’s a skill set and a range of expectation and a persona that I established somewhere along the same timeline as, um, I began KINDERGARTEN, that has been as easy to shake as onion breath. Not fair, but true.

There’s a lot of pressure in raising a boy, I gather. From reading. TV. Observation.

Grace can play with Matchbox cars. Marie can tug her Red Sox cap on tightly, and swing for the fences. Elise can rear back and fire a perfect spiral, right on the money.

Nail polish2

Then, they can all do each other’s nails. Thank you, Brandi Chastain, Sue Bird, and Lindsey Vaughn, for making pretty and pretty damn tough and talented a lethal combination.

But if Tyson or Kyle should dress up a Barbie or craft with mom or wear anything pink …

It’s a double-standard, I know. And if I’d had three boys – or even two, or even one – perhaps I wouldn’t have these comments on my columns, lauding my attitude and approach as a father.

How would I handle it?

Would I be that dad/coach who chastises his son when he lets Elise rip a shot past him into the goal? Would I be the father who shakes his head when Marie again fakes his boy out with a little shake-and-bake? Would I be gracious and acknowledge a parity among sexes, teach my boy that he should feel no shame in losing to a girl, that he should give her his best and see how it plays out?

What began as a cute display became more tenuous with every score. You see, that was usually someone’s son getting schooled. Another man’s boy getting burned. A nephew. A grandson.

So the chants began.

Get IN FRONT of her!” moms and dads bellowed.

SHE’S JUST A GIRL!”

Mädchen beim Fußballspielen

I’m usually stellar at muting the parents’ side of the field. But I heard it. I saw boys grit their teeth and take aim. I saw her jersey tugged, her feet taken out from under her. I wondered what I should do.

Then, she got up. She giggled at halftime, asking me, “did you hear that lady, daddy?”, as she covered her mouth in embarrassment. The boys on her team stuck up for her.

Then, the tide turned.

Maybe they saw the enthusiasm, the spirit, the refusal to consider gender when she played. That she just cared about the color of the shirts.

Those moms began to see themselves in those ribbons in her hair, in that expressive face that would scowl at an opponent, then smile at him if she missed a shot.

“C’mon Grace!” I began to hear, even from opposing moms. “Don’t take that from him!”

I like to think that if it were my boy takin’ the schooling from a kid like Grace … I’d show a little grace, too.

Perfection Pending

I’m a Disgrace to my People

EJP
EJP

I’m a disgrace to my people. A shame to la gente. The “Is he? / Isn’t he?” exception to the rule of being Latino that leaves me neither theirs, nor yours.

I mean, look at my name: Eli Pacheco. Jewish? Mexican? Russian? Czechoslovakian?

What the hell is he?

I’m brown. Wood-colored, some say. (I prefer honey-roasted.) My dad called me a coconut: Brown on the outside, white on the inside.

Continue reading “I’m a Disgrace to my People”

Sometimes, you see best when you remove your glasses

photo credit: pasukaru76 via photopin cc
photo credit: pasukaru76 via photopin cc

Elise, Marie, and Grace:

I hope you’re never embarrassed by WHAT you are. Who you play for – maybe; where you shop … perhaps; how your daddy behaves … probably, but never WHAT you are. What I am embarrassed me, once. OK, twice.

Fourth-grade incidents don’t count, though.

The kids on the bus made fun of a boy for being Mexican, only he was Greek. So they stopped picking on him because they didn’t know any good Greek jokes. I took the preemptive strike.

Continue reading “Sometimes, you see best when you remove your glasses”

25 Things About Me … to Get This Party Started

photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc
photo credit: Stéfan via photopin cc

1. I don’t know if it’s just my vibe or a gift from above, but I have this tendency to get food when I really want it but don’t ask for it. It just appears. I’d rather have this gift than, say, X-ray vision.

2. The longest I’ve ever lost one of my kids was probably a minute, but it felt like an hour. It was probably more like 27 seconds, but she was just 3. I found her as she stood among the crowd at a tech and toy show in Tallahassee, all smiles at everyone as she tried not to look nervous.

3. I always assume I’ll have enough sugar in the kitchen, gas in the tank, or spirit in the soul to do whatever I want to do in the moment. When I don’t have enough, it’s as big a shock to me as anyone. (Reminder: Sometimes the soul doesn’t have a low-fuel light).

4. I’d love to buy a cheeseburger for everyone who has commented on my blog.

5. Because the Colorado Rockies have a pitcher who 9 nine years older than me, it doesn’t matter that I’m nearly twice as old as any of the rookies on the team. The old guy’s presence alone means I’m still young.

6. My sister and I used to camp with my dad so high in the Rockies that you couldn’t get a radio station. We thought we were on another planet.

Baritone saxophone

7. I was supposed to play baritone saxophone in a studio band. At least, that’s what I thought in junior high.

8. My first celebrity crush was Judy Jetson. I’ve since moved on. My first human crush was Ms. Tisdale, the teacher’s assistant in kindergarten. I’ve since moved on.

9. My coolest scar is on my elbow. Well, really my only even good one. The cool story is that I got it after I was hit with a pool cue. Sounds tough, huh? The details – that I was 12, had just gotten out of the swimming pool and it was by a 10-year-old girl named Angie, because I called her “Angelina” – make it less Steven Segal and more like the kid from Wonder Years.

10. I once carried Stephen King’s bags when I worked in a hotel. We talked baseball. He’s a good tipper. He had tons of sh*t in the back of his car, including a wooden bird cage. I didn’t ask. He carries about eight identical ink pens in the front pocket of his jeans. He also totes these bags of steno pads with hand-written stuff in them. I so wanted to steal one.

11. I feel like a bowl of Frosted Flakes is a good way to end a day. Don’t judge. It’s not hard liquor or animal testing.

12. I’m from Colorado, but don’t ski. I’m Hispanic, but don’t speak very good Spanish. I live in the South, but don’t drink sweet tea.

13. When I hear the song “Follow you, follow me” by Genesis, it’s like a special message from my dad, and it’s always incredibly timed. I’ll write about it someday.

14. I once dropped a quarter at McDonald’s and it landed inside a young girl’s shoe. She didn’t know where it came from. She picked it out and showed her mom. “Where did that come from?” Mom asked. The girl just shrugged. The mom seemed a little ticked. I said nothing. Hopefully, she’ll think it was the tooth fairy gone rogue.

15. My one and only athletic highlight was scoring a two-point conversion on my junior varsity football team in seventh grade. It was a simple off-tackle run. I even acted like I’d been there before – in the end zone – even though, I hadn’t. Or would ever return again.

16. I know that parents hate it, but the kids and I love it when it rains during our games.

Charlie Brown! (7539446408)

17. I always wondered why there were no Mexican kids on Charlie Brown.

18. I once fell in a hole while jogging. Pitched forward after stepping in mid-calf-high mud and landed with a thud. This, just two blocks from the place the pedal of my bike snapped off just before I turned onto a busy road. It’s like Jesus doesn’t want me to exercise outside.

19. I can’t swim. I’ve almost drown, twice, but I still love to go swimming with the kids. I try to limit my time in the deep end, though. That’d be a lousy way to make the news.

20. The coolest names we’ve had for my soccer teams have been Mysteries and Snow Monsters. My kids made those up.

21. When I was a kid, I swore my Fred Flintstone piggy bank and the Darth Vader toy on my desk had conversations. More like pleasantries and small-talk. I didn’t think they had much in common though.

22. I could have been an NFL quarterback. It was the height and athleticism and talent I had a problem with.

23. I don’t yell a lot on the sideline and this bothers some parents. The kids know what to do. My vocalization is encouragement for a kid lagging behind or reminders of where they should be, stuff like that. I’ve also been nearly-tossed from a game only once.

24. Math is, by far, my worst subject. UNC Charlotte, my alma mater, didn’t even offer the math I qualified for, so I took a course at CPCC. I did pass it. Thing is, I can calculate slugging percentage and third-down conversions and batting averages on the fly when I need to. Luckily, there’s no trigonometry in soccer.

25. I joke around to such an extensive level with that sometimes when I’m really telling the truth, my girls won’t believe me. For hours.