Daddy Friends

My wife and I had Weevy at roughly the same time as three other couple friends had their kids, and the men in all three couples were stay-at-home dads.  I was thrilled.  Visions of martini-soaked playdates danced in my head.  I’d make the ‘tinis, we’d sit around and shoot the shit while our kids played or napped or watched TV or basically did anything that required precious little parental input.  It was going to be a breeze.  It was going to be fun.  And it was going to be our job.

I didn’t take into account the fact that I have, pretty much since high school, preferred the company of women to that of men. I never really considered the fact that all three of my fellow stay-at-homes lived in various far-flung reaches of Brooklyn, while I live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan — a subway ride that’s a minor ordeal even without a baby in tow.  I didn’t know that parenting would be a much more… hands-on job than I wanted to believe.  And I certainly didn’t think that two of my three comrade dads would bite the bullet, give up the ghost, admit defeat and send their kids to daycare while they pursued their own lives, which involved varying degrees of actual productivity.  Certainly it’s not that difficult… is it?  I have no idea.  All I know is that the thought of nannies and daycare never crossed my cranium for a second, not even during the first few months of Weevy’s existence, when parenthood occasionally drove me completely bonkers and on more than one occasion sent me scurrying out of the apartment, leaving the missus to figure out if I was truly batshit crazy or just having a bad morning.

There’s a lot being written about how hip and trendy the stay-at-home dad movement is, and how so many dads are doing it.  But truth be told, I never saw too many of my brethren at the playground or Gymboree or, later, preschool.  And even if I had, the likelihood that we would even speak to each other, let alone want to hang out voluntarily, would be slim.  I often joke: How do I know I’d get along famously with a particular dude?  When he doesn’t try to talk to me, either.  It’s just not how guys are built.  There are a handful of stay-at-home dads in Weevy’s school, one of whom looks like a perfectly nice guy, seems like a cool father, has a daughter who’s Weevy’s age, and for a long time they’d go to the same diner as me and Weevy after school.  My wife even spoke to him.  But did it ever cross my mind to even go over and say “Hey, how ya doin’?”  No.  And I’m sure it never crossed his, either.  Which is why I’m sure that, if we were kidnapped and locked in a room together for a week or something, we’d become best buddies.  But barring some pretty serious intervention, it wasn’t going to happen.

Four years and change after Weevy’s birth, I’ve made exactly one stay-at-home dad friend.  And he’s nothing like the kind of guy I’d normally be pals with.  Mr. R — not his real initial — is a tall WASP from Connecticut.  His father just happens to be a writer whom I greatly admire — his sophisticated, slightly world-weary air mixed with just enough bonhomie to not be off-putting totally dazzles and intimidates me, to the extent that I actually avoid talking to him in the few social situations where we’ve been thrown together.  This guy is the three-martini lunch made flesh — tall, erudite, wildly successful — the kind of fellow that you don’t come across too often.

Mr. R is tall like his father, but that’s where the similarities end, pretty much.  A Deadhead from adolescence who was in rehab before he was in college, he was a successful pot dealer in Colorado before the risk and the worry associated with it became too much for him.  He chucked it all, moved to New York and went to work on Wall Street, which is what he was doing when he met the woman who became Mrs. R.  Thing is, he hated the broker’s life and was looking for a way out.  When they had kids, the opportunity presented itself.

He’s now the stay-at-home dad, a job which sometimes seems to play second fiddle to his true passion — taping live concerts and uploading them online.  He doesn’t really care who he tapes — if they had hits in the ’70s and ’80s, he’ll go see them — as long as the sound comes out good.  Now that bootlegs are traded and downloaded for free rather than sold, there is absolutely no way for him to monetize his passion, but he treats it as seriously as if he were making six figures.

We were thrown together by chance.  His daughter was going to Weevy’s school and his wife, a much more social sort than he, decided to get in touch with some of the parents on the class list.  We just happened to live in the same building as Mr. R’s famous writer dad, so of course she got in touch with us.  Weevy and Mr. R’s daughter became fast friends, and as such required playdates.  With each other.  While our spouses were busy working.  And a playdate for the kids is a playdate for the parents, too — as I’ve learned on numerous, very awkward and trying occasions.

We’re not very much alike, Mr. R and I.  I drink whisky, he smokes weed.  I’m nuts about baseball, he’s indifferent.  I hate the Grateful Dead, he’s never even heard most of the bands I like.  I’m a gourmand, he sticks to diner food.  But Mr. R and I got along well from the start.  We’re both rather introverted — the last thing we want to do is make idle chit-chat with other parents — but once we got comfortable with each other, the banter flowed easily and comfortably.  We love to mock each other’s music tastes via text.  He loves to tell me about his taping adventures, specifically how to avoid ushers whose job it is to prevent people from recording the show, and I love to listen.  We can sit and watch TV and not say a word — in fact, I’ve fallen asleep on his couch in mid-“conversation” more than once.  Mrs. R once asked him what we talk about during the girls’ playdates, and he said, “We’re beyond having to make small talk.  We just hang out.”  And it’s true.  He’s one of the few guys I actually look forward to hanging out with.  Not that we’d necessarily get together when the kiddies aren’t playing together, but that’s because we both enjoy solitude more than the company of another dude.  Yet another reason we’re so simpatico.