One of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life was the birth of my best friend Brendon’s first kid. I remember getting the early-morning text announcing her arrival and that the family was doing well. I told Brendon to let me know as soon as it’s cool to visit, and to my surprise he said, of course, I could come by a little later that day. So I got to meet Harper on her literal birthday. As I was holding her, I was blown away by the fact that less than 24 hours ago, she was not yet breathing air. That every experience she’s having right now is a new one.
Fast forward a couple of months, and I’m great with this kid. She’s fussy from time to time, but has no problem with being held by her Uncle Patrick. My favorite memory of that time was when we were on the couch watching football, and Brendon’s wife plopped a slightly fussy Harper on my belly, and she just curled up and fell right asleep (‘cause my torso’s like a heated blanket … cushy and warm).
But then she started thinking for herself. Don’t get me wrong. She has a great little personality. She’s super smart. She can be a tiny little monster (which is really entertaining when you’re not the parent), and she’s adorable to the point that it’s just plain wrong. But her attitude towards me changed. First it was a general shyness, which only added to the adorableness. I’d say “hey” to her and she’d bury her face in Brendon’s chest and kinda peek at me with one eye. Then the shyness gave way to an overt distrust. Which has led to suspicion.
Now, whenever I see her, she basically only gives me one look. This look can only be described as “Um, I don’t know what you think you’re doing just comin’ up into MY house, talkin’ to MY parents, pettin’ MY dogs, but you can feel free to stay the hell away from me.” It’s not a look of fear or hatred. It’s pure suspicion. With a little bit of repulsion peppered in. And try as I might, I have not yet made it past that general sentiment. It’s weird, because I’m generally good with kids. I’m goofy, can make hella funny faces and am excellent at a variety of fart noises (both real and artificial). But not with this kid.
My last attempt at gaining her trust went as such: She’s playing with one of her toys, this long plastic farm setup where you can put pieces in special slots and they make sounds, change out fences and trees, open doors, employ different strategies of crop rotation, the whole shebang. Basically setting kids up for a career in agriculture. So she’s playing on one end of it, and I figure I’ll just sit down on the other and play with the other side to get her comfortable. So we’re not playing together, but we’re playing next to each other. All’s going well until I scootch a little closer and ask her what the sheep says (she can do a bunch of different animal calls, which will come in handy when she has to hunt for food in the post-apocalyptic society she’ll undoubtedly come to rule some day). She immediately tenses up. I ask her again, and she gets all huffy-puffy. No, seriously. She starts breathing in and out forcefully. Ya know, huffing and puffing. At this point I realize this was a failed attempt so I back off. As soon as I back up enough, she bursts into tears and runs to her mom. Awesome. Just made my best friend’s kid cry. By being myself.
But the “being myself” part actually clued me in to what’s really going on here. As you’ve hopefully inferred by the usage of “she” and “her” and “Harper,” my friend’s kid is a girl. That means that someday she will be a woman. And there it is. It’s nothing personal, it’s just that she has an instinctual repulsion towards me. Most women do. This is a well-documented response. If you don’t believe me, come hang out with me at a bar some night (I’m there on the nights that end in ‘y’). Or really any situation where mingling might occur. This actually makes me a great wingman. Part of that instinctual response of repulsion is a secondary response of “anything but him,” so all you need to do is let me approach any woman, talk to her for a couple of minutes, and then swoop in and save her.
But don’t lament for me (yes, I know you were never going to). I know that there’s a woman out there who’s able to overcome her instincts and ultimately regret it 25 years later. And as for little Harper? Well, I can only hope that once she’s a little older I’ll make the fart noise that wins my way into her heart. Which, as it turns out, is the same hope I have when I meet any woman.