Every dad has an inner guy -– the voice of his former loutish self, now allegedly tamed in the name of marriage and parenthood. Mine is named Cretin. I hide him from my sons and only occasionally reveal him to my wife.
To that end, I have developed a tool any dad can use –- the poker face. Mine helps me bluff against Cretin’s true feelings, and hides my lack of conviction in whatever I’m outwardly saying: “Sure, I’d love for your parents to come and stay with us for a week” or “That’s okay, I wasn’t interested in the game, anyway –- I’d much rather help you do the laundry.”
My poker face also helps prevent my sons from acting like I once did. Whenever I try to teach them a moral lesson, no matter how unconvinced Cretin is of its rightness, I wear my poker face and hope the boys buy it.
Sometimes it works. One evening it didn’t.
On the night in question, I was keeping my three-year-old company as he sat on the potty when suddenly, he reached between his legs, took a hold of himself “down there” and examined said area for a good minute or two. Next thing I knew, I had to break out my emergency poker face as he verbally cut the cards for a hand of Texas Hold ’Em.
Before we proceed with that dialog, I must relate my family’s codeword for the male genitalia. This worries me. I’m sure all families have code words, but I’m embarrassed to share mine -– a bit of a contradiction, when you consider they’re supposed to be euphemisms.
I suppose they’re like those cute little pet names we reserve for our spouses’ ears only. I don’t want the guys at work to hear me call my wife “Sweetheart” and I don’t want them to know what I call my other beloved.
Anyway, we give them nicknames. My parents used one, and when my wife wanted to use one with our son, it seemed only fitting to continue the paternal family tradition. So our code word is “doodah.”
There, I’ve said it. Let the mockery commence. My family refers to the penis as the “doodah.”
This caused some confusion in my youth; I often wondered what inspired the Camptown Ladies to sing that song, and thought “Zip-a-dee-doodah” was about the act of getting dressed gone horribly awry.
And there sat my son, contemplating his doodah. I mean serious, first-time-seeing-a-Dali contemplation. He stretched it out, rotated it and stared unfalteringly for what seemed forever before tucking it in and dubiously asking, “Daddy?”
That leading question, asked when one has just resolutely considered one’s doodah, is tantamount to saying, “Ante up!”
Wishing I could fold, I braced myself.
“Eldon’s doodah is little.”
I wavered only for a moment before biting my tongue to reestablish control. Poker face etched in stone, prepared to defend his classmate against the sadly familiar belittling gossip of the pre-school set, I demanded, “Who said that?”
“Nobody said it, it’s just… Eldon has a little doodah.”
Uh-oh. He wasn’t repeating a playground taunt, he was asserting his own extracurricular observation. Moral lesson, coming up!
“That doesn’t really matter, son.”
Sure it doesn’t, chided Cretin. Of course it matters! It matters when you take your first shower in gym class, it matters when your fraternity brothers are assigning nicknames, it matters when you’re trolling for bridesmaids at buddies’ weddings, and obviously, it matters when you share a Montessori bathroom!
“Don’t worry about what Eldon looks like,” I continued, ignoring Cretin. “Everyone has differently sized body parts. Take your hands, for instance–”
“But Eldon’s doodah is really small.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s okay if–”
“Smaller than mice!”
“Whuh? Well, that doesn’t matt–”
“It’s okay to be sma–”
“Really little baby mice!”
Cretin was already trying to answer, Oh, well, that makes a difference; why didn’t you say so? That IS small. Eldon is weak. I’m glad we had this talk, son.
A more appropriate answer might have been, “Please don’t tell Eldon. He’ll find out soon enough.”
I said neither. I couldn’t speak; I was too busy aborting the game, leaving my chips on the table.
Wracked in convulsions that utterly betrayed my poker face, I ran to the foyer to tell my ace-holding wife that her son had a hand even she might not beat, all the while thinking, “I hope Eldon never joins a fraternity.”
[Editor’s Note: “Eldon” is not his real name to protect the “doodah-challenged.”]