5 Ways Super Mario Bros. 2 Symbolizes Fatherhood

February 28, 2012 at 10:57 pm , by 

15 months.

Today’s dads often have to assume the role of a woman in order to get the job done; not to mention, many of us use vegetables as weapons… I’ll explain how in a minute.

Where did we originally learn those lessons? Super Mario Bros. 2; my favorite video game of all time.

I recently shared 5 ways the 1st Super Mario Bros. game symbolizes fatherhood and after seeing that several random strangers shared it on their Facebook walls, I felt it was vital to explain why the game’s 1988 sequel is even more relevant to fatherhood:

1. We start out helpless and clueless. Super Mario Bros. 2 begins with a door opening in the empty black sky and then you just start falling. How is not that a perfect description of what it’s like when your first kid is born?

2. We have to, at times, assume the role of a woman to get the job done. Yes, this was the Mario game where you could be the Princess and float in the air.

Sure enough, it’s no secret that as dads, we often have to force ourselves to take on roles that traditionally have been assigned to the mother; from simply diaper duty to being a full-time stay-at-home parent . Yeah, we’re still Mario most of the time, but there is no shame in playing as the Princess when we need to.

3. We are constantly going back and forth between two worlds. By using the  potion bottle, you could enter a reversed, night time version of the world where you could collect coins to earn extra lives.

Many of us dads feel like we are living in two different worlds: There’s the real world where we actually get to spend time with our families and enjoy the adventures of life. Then there’s the other world where we have to actually work to afford the real world.

4. We are fighting the “dinosaurs” of outdated stereotypes of what all dads are like. In order to complete most levels, you had to defeat an egg-spitting dinosaur named Birdo. Similarly, I feel like I’m still having to put to death the “bumbling idiot” caricatures of TV dads from the Eighties and Nineties who were lazy, clumsy, and sex-crazed/deprived.

5. We use vegetables and fruits as weapons. Okay, so we don’t literally pick up giant (assumed organic) carrots from the ground and hurl them at our enemies like we could do in the game. Nor do we become invincible when we eat enough fresh cherries.

But there’s no denying the “whole grains, plant based diet” movement that we as parents are starting to pay attention to. It’s relevant in our modern parenting society.

We are incorporating more vegetables and fruits, and less processed foods, in order to fight the enemies of cancer and disease; not only for our own health, but for our kids’ well-being also.

It’s no coincidence that the the final bad guy in the game was a giant frog who wearing a crown. The only way to defeat him and beat the game was to throw enough veggies and fruit into his mouth.

This symbolizes the way that as modern dads, we are taking a stand against the “kings” of processed foods (like Monsanto).

Super Mario Bros. 2 was more than just a trippy, off-beat video game sequel. Instead, it subconsciously taught us cryptic symbolic messages back in the Eighties when we were kids, so that we could apply that vital knowledge now in the 2010′s as dads. Pretty rad, huh?

Okay, I’ll admit- once you beat the game you realize it was all just a dream. I’ll let you decide how that symbolizes fatherhood. I’m stumped on that one.

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The Replay Value of People

People will come and go, but which ones are worth bringing back out of the archives?

There are some movies I watch nearly once a month like I Love You, Man and they never get old, and they’re just as funny as the last time I watched them.  There are other movies like Deliverance, for which I got all I needed with just one viewing.  The same could be said about TV shows: Seinfeld and Friends reruns are much easier to watch for the 6th and 7th time; as for American Idol, for obvious reasons, not so much.  When it comes to “replay value”, people are the same way.

We live and work and play and hang out with some people for years, then, all of the sudden, they are no longer a part of our lives- we graduate high school or college, they decide to work somewhere else, etc.  And after they leave, when we randomly think of them, we are left with an aftertaste of what they meant to us, as a whole.  Generally positive or generally negative.  Either worth the time and effort to catch back up with, or not.

Out of the dozens of contacts in my cell phone, I only regularly talk to a handful or so.  Out of the nearly 800 facebook friends I’ve collected since March 2005, I only regularly talk to a few dozen.  Out of the people I used to work with, there is only one or two that I still keep in contact with.  By subconscious default, we ask ourselves, “Does this person have enough significance in my life to bother with talking to again, past just the ‘hi, how are you’ line?”

We make time for the people we care about, not excuses.  And I know that just as I have left certain people of my past, in the past, I am aware that there are those who view me as “non-replayable” as well.  Like when an old college friend announces that they’re coming to Nashville next weekend on their facebook status, then I send them a private message inviting them to lunch or dinner over the weekend, they ignore my message, spend the weekend in Nashville, then once they return to their hometown, announce as their facebook status, “Had a great weekend in Nashville!”

And then I say to myself, “I get it.  I’m not replayable in their life.  Noted.”  I don’t take it personally.  I may not be worth their time or effort, but I have confidence that I am worth other people’s.

Figuring out who is at all replayable in your life is kind of like going through your closet to decide which clothes you should keep and which ones you should give away.  If you won’t wear that shirt in the next year at least once, you probably won’t ever wear it.  Same thing with people in your life.  If you wouldn’t answer or return their call, or if you would never make an effort to contact them again in the future, if you don’t even find their facebook statuses to be amusing, it’s safe to say you’re just not that into them: They don’t have replay value in your life.

Life is Underrated: Battling the Mindset of Debbie Downer

There is an alternative outlook on life which opposes the “just you wait…” mentality of so much of the general population.

“Your life will never be the same.  Get as much sleep as you can now, because that’s all about to change!” If only words could express how tired I am of hearing it and how unoriginal and not funny that line is.  But as long as people say that to me after learning my wife is pregnant, I will continue giving them courtesy laughs.  Yes, I get it.  I realize that my life is taking a different turn with my first kid on the way.  It’s not new information that having this baby will change my life.

I am 29 years old.  By this time next year, I’ll be 30.  I’m not 22.  Nor am I unaware that a baby needs constant care and attention.  Nor do I need to move to Norway to experience life abroad or smoke pot for a year while playing Super Mario Bros. 2 in somebody’s basement while eating Cheetos to reach perfect nirvana before throwing in the towel to become a responsible adult.

Evidently it’s quite difficult for a lot of people to grasp this concept, but I’m actually truly happy about my life changing.  It’s as if certain people are surprised by my positive outlook on not only my own life but also that I am a man who is excited about parenthood.  These people live by what I call a “just you wait…” mentality.  “Just you wait ‘til that baby’s waking you up in the middle of the night crying…”  “Just you wait ‘til he’s going through his Terrible Two’s…”  “Just you wait ‘til he starts school…”  “Just you wait ‘til he starts driving…”

Argh!  It turns me into a pirate at the thought of these annoying Debbie Downer lines forecasting a life of waiting until some other stage becomes worse than the last.  No.  No, I will not wait.  I will savor each stage of life for all its worth.  And I will enjoy it, just to spite those naysayers who want to make a tired joke out of the whole thing.

The baby will cry and poop and make messes and get into trouble.  And that’s okay.  I feel like I’m being left with no choice but to become an ambassador for parents who are proud and happy and optimistic about being a parent.  Of course that only provokes the opposite group of people to say, “just you wait…”  I know, I know.

And that’s how it works.  The just-you-waiters, in their minds, are helpful by always having advice for other people since life is full of progressing stages- advice that spoken with a tone of “you’re so naïve, if you only knew what’s ahead…”  I heard the same kind of “just you wait…” crap when I was engaged to be married to my wife,  from the same people trying to be funny about my approaching fatherhood.

Yesterday made exactly two years that my wife and I have been married.  No regrets whatsoever, despite a handful of just-you-waiters.  Couldn’t be better.  Couldn’t be happier.  Thank God for her.  I love being married to my wife.

All I can say is that I’m sorry that’s how they view life.  Life isn’t all sunshine and puppy dogs.  But it is enjoyable if you let it be.  If you’re enlightened enough to see that people are the meaning of life.  Marriage is good.  Having kids is good.  Friends are good.  Family is good.  If you can’t enjoy those things, what can you enjoy?

My worldview: Live life then give life.  And don’t whine about it.  Listen to a Jack Johnson CD if you need to.

 

A Storytelling of Snake Charmers (or Escapists)

Sometimes there’s no way to get around or over a problem; the only way to get past it is to just go through it.

This past Saturday my friend Tommy and I embarked on our second annual canoe trip on The Harpeth River in Nashville.  The same river that just a month ago flooded much of the western part of the city.  I would love to paint myself as this avid outdoorsman, compensating for the fact (as I’ve established before) that I’m no athlete.  But really, it’s just that I can’t turn down an activity with a friend that allows me to spend several hours breathing fresh air, getting sunburned (just my knees, very badly), and getting to see wildlife.

Especially one that I deem as a lazy adventure (Manspeak, Volume 8: Relaxation).  With the water being as high as it was, very little power was needed on our part to get the canoe moving.  Just basic steering away from rocks and into the best currents.  Like most male oriented social activities, canoeing  kept us from awkwardly facing each other the whole time (Manspeak, Volume 4: Stance).  And gave us something to do when there was nothing to say (which never really happened, because of our mutual love for Super Mario Bros. 2, McGee and Me, and fatherhood).

Two hours into our journey, after relatively no stress whatsoever, I had to do it.  I had to, in typical 1980’s sitcom fashion, speak a line of ironic foreshadowing: “This has been a really laid back trip.  No problems at all.”

Instantly, we look up and ahead.  Two trees had fallen from the flood; one from both sides of the river, blocking the entire length of passage, doubly.  But even in that moment, we didn’t realize that this puzzle ahead was more complicated than just getting past two fallen trees.

We decided the right side of the river promised the easiest and quickest clearance.  I had learned from our last trip that where there was thick, abundant, yellowish foam, it meant there was a decaying animal trapped alongside the river.  As we got closer to the foam, both of us smelled the corpse before we saw it.  A large dead fish, head and tail missing.  Still the size of the pillow you sleep on every night.  Meaning that passing through would ineviditably mean we would have to step in the water to lift the canoe over the fallen tree, we opted to check out the left side of the river blockage as to not get funky fish foam on our sunburning legs.

We steered to the canoe to the other side, seeing right way that the depth of blockage was even greater.  In our strategy forming minds, we both came up with our own idea of how to get through.  Tommy wanted us to stick to our original plan; to step in the water and lift the canoe over our heads and over the trees, then place it back in the water and hop back in the canoe.

I, however, saw a different means of escape.  Shaking the tree and its submerged limbs further in and out of the water, I came to the conclusion that if I crouched down low in the boat, Tommy could stand on the tree, pushing the canoe through the limbs as I helped keep them pushed down to make way for our path.

Tommy is an easy-going guy.  Or maybe it was my natural older brother demeanor, but I convinced him to do it my way.

And right as he said, “alright, let’s do this”, I replied with “Oh, there’s a snake right there!”

I picked my oar up, placing it on my shoulder like a rifle.  “Look five feet away from the end of my oar.  There’s a black snake wrapped around that branch.  He blends in almost perfectly.  His head is up, and he’s looking at us right now.”

It’s not that he didn’t believe me, it’s just that my head was in the way for a few minutes before he could finally see the thing.  And when he did, he jumped in to “crisis mode” with me.

Of course, a man in Crisis Mode is not a man who gets nervous or noticeably excited.  He is a man who speaks lower and slower as he attempts to play the situation in slo-mo, in order to figure out the best practical solution for the potentially dangerous and deadly problem.

After another five minutes (which seemed like 20) of deliberation, after realizing our wishes of killing the snake with a flame thrower were not part of reality (thanks a lot Contra), that we had to meet this problem head on, we went in to Action Mode, while of course, simultaneously remaining in Crisis Mode.

Keeping our eyes constantly scanning the weather, the bank (filled with a good amount of visible snake holes), and the canopy of tree branches over us for more snakes, we carefully lifted the canoe out of the water and over the fallen tree, sliding in the mud (he was wearing flip flops, I was wearing my ten-year old New Balance cross country running shoes), only to realize that once we set the canoe back into the water, another 12 feet ahead was another (this being the third) fallen tree blocking the entire width of the river.

The snake, now behind us, had slithered off of his resting (preying) place on the branch.  Was he in the water now?  Were his friends waiting up ahead of us?  We tried not to think about it.

We hoisted the canoe over the final tree.  The only way into our vehicular escape module was to hop down a few feet from the tree we were standing on at that point, which meant possibly tipping the boat over.  Thank God, we both landed it and got out of there as fast as we could.

The final hour of the trip involved a lot of head turning at every threat of another lethal animal.  We did end up seeing a doe that froze once it saw us.  I was convinced I would see a great beast out there, like a mountain lion or a blank panther.  Never happened though.

The thing is, I’m typically the last person to ever spot any kind of creature in wildlife.  And despite me being so close to the snake, I’m still amazed I spotted it.  We talked about the possible ending this story would have had if I wouldn’t have miraculously seen the snake.  I would have remained in the canoe as Tommy pushed us through, the snake would have been inches away from my nose- either biting my face and falling into the canoe with us.

When I bought my mountain bike back in April, the girl who sold it to me told me that when her brother was working at Bonnaroo last year, he got bit by a water moccasin.  He had to be airlifted to the hospital and given a $40,000 antidote.  Now he was to pay off that debt on a $30,000 a year salary.

But in that moment encountering the snake on the river, what else could we do?  We couldn’t go over or around the problem, we just had to man up and go through the problem.

Myself and Tommy back in 2008