Me and the Boys

Me and the men in my life.

Me and the men in my life.

About six weeks in, I continue to be amused by the shift in my surroundings. Or, more accurately, life with a big helping of sons versus a life sprinkled with daughters.

I took my two lads – 22 and 12 respectively – to visit their sister at a giant university at a nearby state to see one of their legendary football games.

There was a marching band. Cheerleaders. Dancers. A tumbling mascot. Waving pompoms in the stands and fireworks each time the home team scored. Yes, fireworks exploding off the tops of the two scoreboards flanking the field.

It was pretty epic.

I had downloaded the new Mindy Kaling audiobook to listen to during the over four-hour drive there and that was my first mistake. Because while my little guy – who spent a lot of time surrounded by just women when his older brother was away at school and thus is familiar with and open to the funny lady canon of books we all like to listen to – my oldest son was like, “Absolutely not.”

He somehow missed that feminist boat.

So instead we listened to mutually agreed upon music. Billy Joel’s “Billy the Kid” and Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” Some Kings of Leon for good measure.

It was a far cry of all the sugar pop tunes my youngest daughter used to play for us on road trips. All that Beyoncé and 1D. One trip we listened to the entire “Frozen” soundtrack twice and belted out dramatic interpretations of “Let It Go” (although my grasp of all the words to the song is lacking I make up for it with plenty of feeling).

We got into State College and grabbed my girl and had a great dinner but the boys balked when we wanted to do a Wal-Mart run and load up on paper products and chips for the next day’s tailgate. “Why do you always need to shop?” they grumbled.

But the real dividing line separating life with women versus life with men came when me and the boys crammed into our Hampton Inn room for the night and the effects of their massive pizza burgers moved through their digestive systems. And I’m not saying we don’t all have to move our bowels and all that (Everyone Poops, you know), it’s just that things got real smelly, real fast. Like, I had to employ the fancy Oribe hair texturizing spray I probably spent over $20 on as a makeshift air freshener to keep the room from smelling like a barn.

And for some reason, dudes can’t share beds. The girls and I would squish into double beds in hotels and make do (well, actually, I make it a point to never share — I am paying after all — but the girls deal) but the boys could not abide and my little guy ended up sleeping on the floor between the beds that first night and we called down for a cot the second evening.

But the next day made it all worth it.

My brother, an alum, made the drive from his new house about 90 minutes away and we got the full tailgating experience, including a spot in the parking lot a stone’s throw away from the stadium. My daughter joined us with a few of her new college pals and we drank cans of beers as my brother manned the grill. We played KanJam and listened to music on a wireless speaker. And about an hour before kickoff we packed up and headed inside to watch the team warm up and then see them come onto the field for the game (cue the fireworks).

After the game (we won) we walked into town and the boys filled up on chicken wings and pizza piled with sausage and sliced jalapenos and you can imagine how that exploded in their digestive systems.

Cue the Oribe spray.

The next day we availed ourselves of the free breakfast situation at the Hampton Inn where I ate a banana slathered with peanut butter and the boys made Belgian waffles topped with sticky syrup and a big dollop of whipped cream with a side bowl of sugary cereal for good measure. Before we headed out, my oldest asked if it was okay if he drove home and reader, it’s been a long time since anyone has driven me anywhere (although recently the kids’ dad drove the car home after we dropped our daughter off at school). It was nice to just sit in the passenger seat and close my eyes. It even took the edge off listening to the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Drake.

The fun thing about all this is that I now know that nothing lasts forever. My time in Manville is just another chapter in my life. I’m sure within the year my oldest boy will move out on his own, only to be replaced by his sister who graduates from college in the spring. Then the estrogen levels will again outweigh all that testosterone that’s flowing around here.

Maybe then I’ll finally get to listen to Mindy Kaling.

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Welcome to Dudeville

The denizens of Dudeville.

The denizens of Dudeville.

Aside from my TV viewing habits – which skew towards zombies and bald methamphetamine dealers – I am a girly-girl.

I like manicures and gossip and shopping. I’m afraid of spiders. I am not adverse to long conversations about the benefits of Keratin treatments and waxing and discovering the latest Ballard Designs catalog in the mail makes my pulse race a teensy bit.

And even though I was married to a guy who played football in college and favored clicking on sporting events whenever he had the remote, and have sat in the bleachers cheering on my four children in a wide variety of games over the years – basketball, soccer, lacrosse – I can’t get a handle on any of the rules. I get the fundamentals – like, you’ve got to get past the guys on the other team and put the ball in the net – but that’s about it. I don’t understand “off sides,” “box out” or what it means to “foul” somebody. And because I’ve figured out how to master complex endeavors like caring for my swimming pool and driving into Manhattan I’m betting this deficiency stems less from stupidity and more from a general lack of interest.

All of this is not to say that one needs a penis to understand and enjoy sports. Plenty of women do. My college girlfriends are enthusiastic fans and even one of my daughters took a liking to football after spending last winter surrounded by big-screen TVs in the bar of the restaurant where she hostessed. She figured out “downs” and “holding” in between seating parties for brunch on Sundays.

The point of all this is that I tend to adhere to gender stereotypes even though I’ve tried to be all Free to Be You and Me with my kids. “Boys, it’s really alright to cry,” and all that.

Wasn’t I lucky, then, to be blessed with not one but two daughters? We all like to shop together and get manicures together and happily eat kale. When my older two kids were away at school and it was just my high school daughter and middle school son left at home, our weekly menus were definitely directed by her self-imposed dietary restrictions. No red meat or pork. No dairy. And absolutely-positively no cheese. Like, don’t even try to sneak one of those ingredients in or it will be met with tears.

Our weekly meals consisted of a lot of ground poultry and Gwyneth Paltrow recipes like Thai Chicken Burgers and sweet potato hash. We even ate kimchi.

But that picky girl flew the roost Saturday for her freshman year at college and now the onus of coming up with meals that adhere to her strict guidelines lays on her university’s food services staff. I’ve hung up that apron for a bit.

Because now I am living in Dudeville.

Now I am the only girl living in a house of boys. My oldest son – who graduated from college in the spring – is living at home with his little brother and even though we’re only about 36 hours into this new arrangement, I can already feel the shift. I can sense the very manly vibe going down around here.

When their sisters lived at home full time, there was definitely a more feminine feel in the house. Belching in my presence was discouraged and if you HAD to pass gas you needed to go outside and cut the tail before you reentered. I didn’t want anyone dragging the fart back into the house with him or her and stinking the joint up.

But now, all bets are off.

I’ve decided to embrace this new manly dynamic and surprised the boys yesterday morning with blueberry pancakes and bacon for breakfast. Later that afternoon we reclined in a darkened movie theater and ate Reese’s Pieces and drank root beer while watching “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” and went home to eat paninis and potato chips. My older son explained the intricacies of his pending fantasy football league draft and when he disappeared downstairs to try to snag a worthy running back for his team, his little brother and I watched the new zombie TV show “Fear the Walking Dead” (which I loved). And when he expelled a long string of farts during an especially suspenseful part of the show, I didn’t even tell my son to go outside and cut the tail. I actually laughed when the explosion occurred.

It’s calmer again with just two children at home. It gets hectic when all four are here and vying for my attention. It’s nice to be able to focus on just two and I sense the boys quickly felt the shift as well. They walked arm-in-arm through the parking lot on the way into the movie theater and my oldest guy – who’s not always willing to engage in any lengthy conversation with me – happily discussed fantasy football and the latest John Oliver show while I made our paninis.

As we ate our dinner, we put together a menu of dinners for the upcoming week. Over the next few nights we will be enjoying pork tenderloin, beef stir-fry and pasta with meat sauce.

“We don’t even have to use ground turkey,” I observed while eating a chip.

“Yeah!” said my little guy. “We get to eat REAL meat.”

I fear all this manly fare may take a toll on my figure but am willing to take my chances. It’s the price I have to pay to live happily in Dudeville.

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