Thursday, March 02, 2006

walk like a man

I called my dad last night after I got out of the doctor's office, just to chat, and also to tell him the news from the doctor- that I'm going to start taking testosterone on March 27th. Puberty is on the horizon.

He told me that he's glad I'm "taking the next step" and that he's "proud" that I'm "becoming a man."

I'm still so delighted by those words that I don't know quite how to absorb them.

My dad's always been a...what're they called in the theater? Recurring but not particularly important character in the show? I've never lived with him, I've always seen him about once a year. Used to call him Uncle Dad when we were little. I've always liked him, though. Sometimes in spite of myself, because he can be a very difficult guy. But I think he has a good heart and a sharp mind, a nimble sense of humor and a very sensible head on his shoulders, and I sort of want to be kind of just like him when I grow up.

I never got the chance to just pick up his thoughts and habits, so now whenever I'm around him I study him surruptiously but deliberately to figure out how he goes about his life, and which parts of that existance are the ones I want to emulate. I know I've gotten certain ideas about interacting with women from him- he's a charmer, and when one of his polished witticisms comes out of my mouth I wish I had his smooth radio deep voice to go with it, too.

So we've never been close, but I've always taken his words close to heart. When I first started wearing guy's clothes pretty much exclusively, I didn't have nearly the sartorial skills I command today. I often looked rather scruffy, but it wasn't til an unintentionally stinging remark from my dad- that I looked like a "fourteen year old boy from Maine wearing his older brother's clothes"- that I started trying a lot harder to look sharp.

It feels so good now to have his approval. I don't need it, I'd be fine without it...but damn, it feels good. The funny part is, though, I can't tell if I him to approve of me as his child, or as a guy. It's important to me to hear that my dad thinks I'm doing good things, but really, it's because I've somehow (despite our distance) managed to hang on to him as an intense male role model in my life, and to have him explicitly approve of my manliness is more important to me than I'll ever admit.

More important than him approving of me as his child because, while I know and basically like him as a man, there's not much I know about him as a dad. I mean, I don't even really know what dads are supposed to do, but I'm pretty sure he didn't do very much of it.

It worries me sometimes, actually, because I have such intense desires to be a parent. While I have an excellent example set for me by my mom, I don't really know how to go about being a dad. I think I'll just plan on being a damn good parent, and letting the dad part come as it may.

But can I just say that, with regards to me and my dad, I love that my period of personal transition is giving me a grand opportunity to reinvent relationships with others. I'm hoping I can take advantage of it, and during a time of upheaval go ahead and reconfigure all sorts of things for the better. Clearly, my dad and I didn't know how to go about having a father-daughter relationship, but maybe we can figure out some kind of father-son dynamic. We had a really sweet time together when I went to visit him in December, watching a little football and drinking a little Scotch. I think he's almost as thirsty for someone to bequeath his opinions to as I am for someone to absorb them from, which is why we get along as smoothly as we do these days. I think neither of us is quite sure how to build on this, though. I'd like to be closer to him, give him the chance to give me a little guidance as I navigate boyhood and manhood. That's his job, right?

I think he's glad to have the chance, and I'm sure glad for the support.

Last night, he said to me as we were getting off the phone, "Well, Eli, before we say goodbye, I feel it's my duty to offer the one piece of advice that every father should give to his son. Don't knock anybody up."

Thanks, Dad.

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