Stay-at-Home Dad 101: I Confess, I was Secretly the Evil Co-Worker Who Always Came to Work Sick

Chances are, with it being this time of year, if you scroll through your Facebook feed right now, you’ll likely find a paragraph-long rant from someone declaring that people shouldn’t come in to work sick, spreading their germs with everyone else; how doing so only makes it worse for the whole office.

Here’s the thing: I was always that Scar or Jafar-like villain who secretly kept coming to work sick anyway. And in hindsight, I have no regrets about my selfish actions.

Strange Trivia Rabbit Trail: Have you ever noticed the common practice in Disney cartoon movies where the villain either has a foreign accent (to subliminally instill in us the propaganda that foreigners can not be trusted) or effeminate mannerisms (to further distance mainstream America from accepting the homosexual community)? It just so happens that both Scar (from The Lion King) and Jafar (from Alladin) relate to both of these tropes.

Yes, I was the co-worker who secretly came to work sick.

I deserve the electric chair, so I can personally relate to the lyrics of Metallica’s 1984 song “Ride the Lightning”, or at have least people standing on my front porch with pitchforks to denounce me for the heinous crime I committed more times than I could count, over the course of a decade.

If nothing else, surely some people could get together and create a clever hashtag to trend, to globally “sick shame” me on Twitter:

#SickShameNick

But with cold blood running through my icy veins, even now, I admit I wouldn’t have done anything differently.

I only had a limited number of sick days each year. I had to save them for my kids. My wife and I had a deal: We took turns staying home each time one of the kids got sick; which occurred a lot over the past several years.

Between two kids, this has included febrile seizures, a parapharyngeal abscess, tubes being put in ears to end countless issues with ear infections, as well as a few trips to the the emergency room.

And this doesn’t even include the Rolodex of times one of our kids simply had a temperature (that led to nothing more), and we had to leave work to stay home with them.

So obviously, “sick days” were never for me. They were for my kids.

I wasn’t willing to stay home and use sick days for myself when it could lead to me running out of them, then having attendance issues at work, and/or having to not be paid for work that day.

And that would all be on top of the medical bills that kept popping up an account of our kids being sick.

I am not ashamed to admit that I was always the one showing up to work sick while doing my best to keep it a secret; as I would chug an entire carton of orange juice at my desk, along with some priobiotic Kombucha, and Ibruprofen; as a cheap way to get myself through the day.

Amazingly, it usually helped restore me to health after about 2 or 3 days.

But don’t worry, entire world: I’ve been a stay-at-home dad for over 3 months now. I rarely get out of the house anymore. You are safe.

So yeah, that hashtag again…

 

6% of America is Now Vegan, While 4.1% of Americans Now Identify as Gay (LGBT)

Has America underestimated the growing presence and underground influence of its own vegan population? Does America even care that we vegans have arrived, ordering our six dollar coffees with coconut milk instead of dairy? Or does America just assume we all died a while back from a lack of protein?

According to Top Trends in Prepared Foods 2017, which was released in June 2017, there are currently 6% of Americans who identity as vegan; and that is up from just 1% in 2014.

That means the number of vegans in America has increased by 500% in just 3 years! Try to fathom that.

Meanwhile…

According to Gallup News in a study released in January 2017, currently 4.1% of Americans, or 10 million people, now identify as LGBT; and that is up from 3.5% in 2012.

There are more vegan Americans than there are gay Americans.

No, it’s not a competition. But I do compare those numbers to prove a point:

It is safe to say that the American vegan population is larger than most people realize. And as relevant as the LGBT community is in our nation and its culture, I feel that comparing the numbers of both groups shows how surprisingly popular that veganism has become in our country.

With the current population of America being 323.1 million (323,100,000), that means 6% is 19,386,000.

Yes, there are now over 19 million vegans in America and 10 million are gay Americans.

That means there are arguably nearly twice as many vegan Americans than there are gay Americans.

No, I am not conflating veganism and homosexuality. I have no interest in implying vegans have struggled in any comparable way that the LGBT community has. I do not feel that way at all.

Instead, this is my point: No one else seems to be noticing or caring about the massive invisible influence that vegans have on America.

Just imagine the millions of Americans over the past few years alone who, like me, have quietly bowed out of the system; the system of depending on meat, dairy, and eggs for nutrition.

It’s a bold move. It’s rebellious. It’s counter-cultural.

Imagine the effect that must have on America’s economy. Imagine how grocery stores have already adapted to this shift. Imagine how restaurant chains must be hurting, as they have lost 6% of their customer base.

Vegans aren’t taking over America. But we are the reason you can easily find cashew milk ice cream in most large grocery stores now.

Yeah, that’s a real thing. Cashew milk ice cream.

Singleness; The Gift No One Really Wants

Not all single people mind their status.  But they may mind being reminded of it.  I know- I used to be one of those single people.

A month after I graduated high school (June 1999) I joined the youth group of First Baptist Church for a trip to Centrifuge, a one week Christian camp for teenagers.  We stayed in the college dorms of Union University in Jackson, TN.  I was the oldest one in dorm; the other guys were mostly freshman and sophomores.  

One night after whatever campy game we played, we were hanging out in the dorm, getting ready for bed.  And I observed a chance conversation that has stuck with me (and my sister after I told her, turning the event into a longstanding inside joke) – one that I will never forget, not that it was some prolific thing.

The most good-looking guy of the youth group (tanned, blue eyes, well-mannered, came from a respected family) was being told by his peers that Jenny, the token Barbie of the youth group (aside from her looks, she was caring, sincere, and also was a good kid from a good family) was rumored to have said that she said he was cute.

His peers were doing their darndest to get him to ask her out, talk to her, just to do something to make her his girlfriend.  His response?  Shrugged shoulders, looked down at the ground, a sort of “eh, I don’t know…” demeanor. 

One of the guys then responded with what is now, to me, a very famous line:

“Dude… ya gay?”

Sitting across the room from him, halfway pretending not to even listen to the conversation, aside from laughing and thinking it was funny, I related to the kid.  Because I knew his struggle.  Not a struggle with his sexuality, but a struggle with having to entertain other people’s expectations of him dating.

Not all teenage boys are obsessed with “one thing, and one thing only”.  Yes, they are aware, as they are wired to be.  But sometimes a kid just wants to be a kid.  And having a girlfriend gets in the way of that.  And he knows that, so he doesn’t bother wasting a girl’s time when he knows he would just hurt her feelings by eventually choosing something else over her.

Not the norm, but the norm for some.  And it’s the only norm I knew.  Anything else, to me, would be phony.  Or deceitful. 

So yes, I was like him.  Never had a serious girlfriend in high school because, if nothing else, I knew I was moving out of state for college.  So why even get into a relationship if I’m just moving away anyway?  Me and my logical mind. 

Well-meaning people, often in an effort to help me be normal, would offer to set me up with a “nice Christian girl”.  Always a nice gesture, but I didn’t want anyone’s help.  If I was interested and inspired enough, I would find a “nice Christian girl” on my own.  (I have a feeling that there are Jewish guys out there who can relate to this story by simply replacing “good Christian girl” with “good Jewish girl”…)

I almost feel sorry for the few girls that I may or may not have strung around in the process of being in any situation that somewhat resembled me dating them.  Keeping them guessing.  Having them wonder why I didn’t show more initiative to pursue them.  Having them possibly (and understandably) take it personally that I wasn’t making them more of a priority.  I didn’t know what I was doing and I didn’t really want to.

It was me.  Not them.  I honestly cared more about learning to drive and strumming my guitar and playing James Bond on N64 with my friends and shooting paintball guns at street signs than I did having a girlfriend. 

So how did I treat this situation?  I had girl friends (friends that were girls), not girlfriends.  And it worked for me- I was good friends with many girls and around them a lot, but kept the relationship platonic.  But I also had plenty of friends that were guys, as to not become that guy in a modern day setting who would end up going to watch Sex in the City 2 for “girls’ night out” and be the only guy in the group.

(It goes without saying; Man Law prohibits straight men from going to see Sex in the City 2, under any circumstances.  However, watching and discussing The Bachelor and/or The Bachelorette is completely permissible; as it is excused as a way for husbands/boyfriends to spend more quality time with their wives/girlfriends.) 

By the time I actually was ready to date, a few years later, the whole concept seemed to have more of a purpose.  I never had to date a bunch of people to know who I was looking for in a wife.  So when I finally did meet her at age 25, there really wasn’t anything to figure out.  And I looked back at all those years of other people wanting me to seem more normal (by regularly dating), and knew that I did what was right for me.

There is more pressure than there needs to be when it comes to dating, especially for teenagers and people over 30.  When the time (and person) is right, a “friends only” person will make an effort to date. 

I think the Christianized “gift of singleness” concept is a bit hokey; it’s the gift no one really wants.  But just because a person is 30 years old and still single, it doesn’t mean anything.  They’re just being smart.  And patient.  Not settling.

I could easily be in the same single situation.  It’s just that I was spared at age 25 of meeting the right one.

Yeah, right!

Manspeak, Volume 7: Bromance

It’s not simply a fad. It’s much more complex than that. It’s not simply a gimmick to make more money in the theatres. It’s a clue that we as Americans have missing been out on something. The newfound popularity and acceptance of bromance is simply a realization that men were meant love each other, not just women.

America is good at teaching men masculinity: Rocky, Rambo, The Terminator, He-Man, GI Joe. It’s been ingrained in us our whole lives. We don’t have a problem accepting the fact that men are meant to be tough. Men are born to protect and defend. I think we do that pretty well. But while the bald eagle holds 13 arrows in one claw, he also holds 13 olive branches in the other.

Living overseas in Asia taught me a lot about American men. Though I was told that there were a lot of transvestites in Thailand, it wasn’t until my second summer over there that I was able to recognize them. I then came to the conclusion that the reason there are so many men living their lives as women there is because it is not culturally acceptable to be gay in Thailand, at all.

So when it’s not acceptable in a country at all to be gay (as compared to America where it’s not popular but there’s a growing level of acceptance), to take out the possibly of any men around being gay, it affects the cultural behavior of a nation. Men can be close without any possible thought of the other thinking he is sexually attracted to him. And even more relevant, there is not so much a possibly of awkwardness because of that. In the Philippine’s, it is common for men show their friendship publicly by holding hands.

But before there was Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker, before there was Owen Wilson & Ben Stiller, before there was Joey & Chandler, there was a time when men truly weren’t afraid to hug and be close. It simply symbolized their friendship but was nothing more.

My eyes were opened when I read Moby Dick in college. The 1851 novel was written in the American-Romanticism period, and while the theme of Christianity is more obvious than Season 5 of LOST, something else that really captured my attention and even became the topic of my final paper for that class was the bromantic relationship between the protagonist Ishmael (a 5’ 9” New England native) and his ship mate Queequeg (a 6’ 7” South Seas tribesman of mixed race).

The two men quickly become best friends and the narrator, Ishmael, is not reluctant to elaborate regarding his friendship. They simply slept in the same quarters and were close friends, but reading it with today’s mindset can make it easily be interpreted differently:

“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair.”  -Herman Melville (Moby Dick)

Something else that really opened by eyes to bromance was when I started paying close attention to Jesus and His disciples in the New Testament. They were not hesitant to show physical affection for each other. At the Last Supper, look at Peter’s physical closeness to Jesus during dinner.

“Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, Peter said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”  -John 13:25

Imagine 12 dudes eating dinner in today’s society and one leans back on the other’s chest to ask him a question. Completely not acceptable.

Even this week I ran across something odd in the Old Testament as I was finishing up Genesis. This is where Jacob is blessing his sons before he dies:

“He called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt.”  -Genesis 47:29

In their culture, a son could make a vow to his father by placing his hand under his father’s thigh, or as my Bible’s study notes explain, it was a gentler way of saying his “procreative organ”. Think of how not acceptable that is today.

We’ve obviously come a long way since Biblical times regarding same-sex friendship and closeness. But even the culture that was present 158 years ago in Moby Dick paints a completely different picture compared to what is acceptable in American same-sex friendship today. The title of Moby Dick itself serves a perfect example of how far we’ve come. Add to that the fact that the story involves the close friendship of shipmates. That’s a lot of joke material for a 15 year-old boy to work with.

In fact, in recent decades there have been critics of Moby Dick claim that the book has homosexual undertones. Key phrase: “in recent decades”. For its time, the behavior found in the novel was not seen at all as a curious thing. It was normal back then.

I say it’s no wonder that today’s culture loves bromance. Men were made for close friendship with other men but are taught to hide their feelings because it’s not masculine to show them. When I think about it, several of my top favorite movies of all time have a heavy dose of bromance: Rocky 3, Plains Trains and Automobiles, Zoolander, Pineapple Express, Band of Brothers. And Hollywood knows it’s a winning formula.

The truth is, compare the box office sales of pretty much any Judd Apatow and/or Seth Rogan movie (bromantic comedies) to any romantic comedy made since 2005. Bromance wins every time. Romance, on the other hand, can be an unpredictable thing.

The best 3 minutes of recorded bromance, courtesy of 1982:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0qVUn4797g

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

bert-and-ernie

Originally posted in April 2009 on facebook as “The History of Bromance”, which helped inspire the Manspeak series.