A FEW years ago I would use two examples to describe my dad’s failure with me: he didn’t teach me to kick a football and he didn’t teach me to shave.
Growing up in country Victoria Australian Rules Football mattered. The social life of a small town revolved around its club and the ‘cool’ guys at school played. I don’t remember having a football at home until my sister decided she wanted one when I was probably nine. I must have learnt something from my dad then, but not how to kick properly. You, dear reader, may not understand the importance of kicking properly. At family gatherings and school it was not uncommon for someone to suggest a bit of the dreaded ‘kick-to-kick’. In the end I could do a retarded kind of kick on the few occasions I accidently ended up with the ball.
On Sunday afternoon I planned to have a kick of a soccer ball with a teenager from church. As we headed out to the small town footy oval I discovered unpleasantly that he was bringing a footy as well. When I ended up with the ball in my hands I said something like, ‘I can’t kick properly. Can you tell me what I do wrong?’ and then he spent the next half an hour or so teaching me. It was great and I discovered a few issues with my technique. In the next few days I plan to practice a bit more. I guess I see being able to kick a footy as an important masculine attribute.
Now to shaving…I was the kid who started growing thick black hairs between my lips and nose about age 11. Rather than be delighted a sign of my maleness had arrived early I resented it. Every few days after school I would stealthily borrow my mother’s small silver nursing scissors and cut off any early signs of a moustache in front of the bathroom mirror. If a family member happened to walk by I’d pretend I was doing something else while I hid the scissors. This went on for a couple of years until someone, mum probably, noticed I needed a shaver and purchased one.
So I started shaving with my electric shaver. (I think I’m now on my fourth). And never did my dad give me a shaving lesson. Part of my desire for one is no doubt a romantic notion a father should teach his son to shave. The truth is I could shave okay, so there was no need for a hair removal lesson. I use the word ‘okay’ loosely, because even today I frequently miss spots. Once every few weeks I would get to work and discover a patch of little black hairs I’d missed that morning. Last year a man I admired at work ‘revealed’ that his dad didn’t teach him to shave during a discussion on what the modern man isn’t taught. I was like, ‘wow, even some cool guys had to teach themselves to shave’.
I began this post with a mention of my father. In some ways these two issues show that he isn’t someone who will initiate a course of action. He waits for circumstances or someone else to ask, or force, him to act. I’ve probably picked up a tendency to do the same thing and it’s something I need to be aware of and prevent.
The next morning I spoke out some further thoughts on my father and me: