SahdLife in the Fast Lane

There’s a Far Side cartoon I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. There are two gorillas reclined against a tree in the forest. Above them hangs a giant banana bunch and strewn about the ground are banana peels. They’re each enjoying a banana. One says to the other: “You know, Sid, I really like bananas…I mean, I know that’s not profound or nothin’… Heck! We ALL do…But for me, I think it goes much more beyond that.”

As a one-frame cartoon it’s just great, always makes me giggle. But sometimes I wish Sid’s banana-loving friend had a blog he could use to go into that “beyond” part of his love of bananas. Sure, it would kill the humor, as long-winded blogs tend to do, but I think it’d be worth it to hear all of his amazing and elaborate thoughts about how great bananas are.

Then I had a thought: Wait, I have a blog. I could write about bananas! The only problem was, while I do really like bananas, I just don’t have the same love for them that Sid’s buddy has and I don’t think I could do Sid’s friend justice. So then I had to give some thought to a tough question: What, in my life, do I love as much, or maybe just in a similar way, as Sid’s friend loves bananas?

I had only one answer: Naps.

Like snowflakes, all naps are different. But just about all of them are great in their own way. My favorite, the cream of the nap crop, is the one with a baby sleeping on you. It’s really the best. There’s nowhere else you’d rather be. And more importantly, there’s nowhere else you can be so you’re basically untouchable and un-naggable. Like having a Wonder Woman force field around you, only the force field is a cooing little bag of sweet flesh nestled into your chest. Sadly, I don’t get this one anymore as our third kid is too big and gross now. We had a cat for a while that I loved and often, if I held him down long enough, he would fall asleep on me and I’d get a hint of that wonderful feeling back. But he was hit by a car and now I don’t have anything.

A few years later, you’ve got one of the classics: the nap you sneak when they’re watching TV. Again, those days are about wrapped up for me but I have some suggestions in case some younger parents are looking for help. My all-time favorite: In the Night Garden, (soooo slow and sooo British), followed by Pingu (no talking, just weird noises), Teletubbies (if you like opium), and Thomas and Friends (so incredibly boring, no threat of getting sucked in).

The ones to stay far away from are: The Wiggles (so horribly stressful to watch these grown men act like this your only hope is a stress-induced narcoleptic fit), Dora the Explorer (“Do YOU see the…” “Can YOU help find the…” “Have YOU ever tried to sleep while someone’s asking you so many goddamn questions?”), and, finally, Paw Patrol (too exciting).

As the kids get a little older, it becomes less about tiredness and more about escaping. Like, sometimes they’re nagging you and whining about how there’s ‘literally’ NOTH-ING to do and someone just punched someone and another one is ‘li-tra-ly’ STARV-ING …and you just…lie down. You make it all go away. Sometimes I think of these naps as little suicides. Sounds a bit dark though, now that I write it down.

Then, at some point, they get old enough and you can just say, “Kids, I’m having a nap. I’m pretty sure Keira’s mom is home across the street if you need something or if there’s an emergency.” And you just walk upstairs.

This is a development that is equal parts exciting and depressing for a parent new to this stage. It’s not my favorite nap, I’ll be honest. The excitement has mostly worn off and I’ll often just find myself in bed, sun shining, lawnmowers humming, pants off, covers pulled up, wondering, ‘what am I doing with my life?’

Similarly, the worst nap, if there can be such a thing, is when I’m alone in the house. If it’s the weekend and Kate’s taken the kids somewhere and I’ve told her I’m going to write or maybe clean the house while she’s gone, fine, there’s some sneaky fun there. But if Kate’s at work and the kids are just at school…again, it’s hard not to ask some difficult questions.

***

It should be noted, Kate hates my napping. Like, she hates my napping more than a person should hate anything. Especially when that thing is so natural and replenishing.

But she doesn’t hate napping really on a biological or societal or even philosophical basis, she just hates it about me. To her, my napping is symbolic of everything that’s most bad about me. It goes with this idea that I should be more of a go-getter.

“Look,” I tell her, “If I had a choice between being the guy who’s awesome at like, closing deals, and being the guy who’s awesome at naps, don’t you think I’d choose the deal closer guy? The guy with the big watch and the suit walking all fast, talking on his cellphone to PJ and Squi on a conference call… that sounds great! I’d love that! The guy who’s back in bed, all tucked in with the lavender eye pillow at 11am on a Tuesday? I don’t want that either! It’s terrible. But it is what it is.”

When I imagine Kate having an affair, as I do often, I don’t know why, it’s weird, I tend to imagine her at some fancy work dinner where she’s been seated next to a hedge fund manager with a skinny suit and a giant watch.

He says he hates this money/monkey business but he’s only doing it so he can retire early and focus on the things he cares about, like traveling and good food and horse riding and buying a house for his mom in Tuscany.

Another negroni, ma’m?” the waiter interrupts. “Oh… I can’t. It’s late,” Kate says. “Aren’t you tired?” she asks the banker. “Me? No, I don’t really sleep much. There’s too much to do, too much fun to be had.” He laughs. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” More laughs.

They sit quietly for a moment letting the laughs fade into the clinking of nearby cocktails. Kate glances at her phone. A message from “Ben Brashares” (that’s actually how she has me in her phone) has gone unread for the last two hours: “When are you coming home? I’m so tired, I don’t feel well and the kids have no concern for me whatsoever.“ Her eyes make their way from the phone to the shiny watch, to the undone silky power tie, then up to the waiter who’s standing patiently over her. “Sure, why not. Another negroni.”.

They get their negronis and they clink their glasses. “To life!” She says. “To life!” He says. “And living every day like it was your last.”

***

Kate always insists she doesn’t want this alter-ego banker guy I’ve created for her. She married me for a reason, she says. Because I got her pregnant. But also because I was kind and I liked animals (that’s actually how she once summed up my appeal). She just wants me to not nap. Or, really, be the kind of person who would nap.

But the “kind of person who naps”, I tell her, happens to also be, according to his mother, a sensitive and creative man who is not afraid to be vulnerable. Even when the world can be mean as a snake.

The other day I was feeling frustrated by my lack of productivity with my writing. I wondered aloud to Kate as to the real importance –if you really thought about it– of selling a novel as opposed to simply finishing one. I said something like, “Why is society so, like, results oriented?” I said this, thinking, wrongly, that I was safe to say such things to my own wife in the comfort of my own home. But Kate smelled weakness and sank her fangs into my soft, hairy underbelly. “How else would you like society to be oriented? Would you like society to give you a little pat on the back and say, hey, you don’t have to sell that novel, or even finish it! We think it’s great you even tried!”

Then there was the time I wanted to talk through a possible career change with Kate and threw out the idea of being, say, a teacher. “But I’d have to go back to school” I said. “I’d have to take all those boring classes…then after all that I’m like spending my nights grading terrible papers and planning… syllabi. I’d have to say ‘syllabi’ all the time.

That’s when I looked down and saw Kate’s fisted knuckles turning white.

“Yeah, honey, that’s called “working”. That’s what people do.”

Here I am feeling lost and useless and, honestly, a little bit hopeless and I get a cruel lecture. Its like Stephen Hawking’s wife saying to him, “Yeah, honey, it’s called ‘walking’, you should try it sometime.”

Another example: We were talking about a friend who’s recently happened upon some success in his particular line of work.

Ben: “I’m not jealous. But it’s just weird, you know, the way society works. He had like one good break and how he’s set.”

Kate: “Well, I wouldn’t really call ‘winning an Oscar’ a ‘good break’.

Ben: “Exactly, it’s just some ‘societal’ stamp of approval that doesn’t even really mean anything.”

Kate: “I thought you said he’s set now.”

Ben: “He is…but why, you know? Because society says he is?”

Kate: “Uh-uh. Yup.” Her long, cold, stare gives me the shivers.

***

What’s interesting about the perception of naps is that they’re somehow unmanly. Like, unless you’re doing it in a rocking chair wearing dirty boots and a ten-gallon hat tipped over your eyes you’re a real weenie.  Like, somehow the preparation is what’s key. I can’t take my pants off, for instance. Or use my eye pillow. If I ever deign to use the bed for a nap, I have to appear like I was just doing something else and sat down for a second. But it’s dumb. It doesn’t make any sense.

Here’s a little snippet from last Sunday:

Kate: “Seriously?”

Ben: “What?”

Kate: “10am nap?”

Ben: “I’ve been up since like 7:30.”

Kate: “Yeah, so has, like, everybody.”

Kate comes and sits down on the bed. It’s clear she’s jealous of my take-charge attitude towards my napping. She wants a safe haven from the brewing storm of neediness downstairs the same as anyone. But she’s not as good at sadness and vulnerability as me so she’ll channel it through meanness. “I really don’t understand the appeal of climbing back in bed two-and-half hours after getting out of it. Doesn’t it make you feel bad?”

I reach over, pull her in next to me and whisper, “Those who dance are considered mad by those who don’t hear the music.” It’s a quote I’ve been annoying everyone with lately. I get a smile. She loosens in my grip.

“Those who nap,” she replies, “are considered lazy and useless by those who work their asses off all week making the money.”

I smile. We kiss. One thing leads to another and before you can say “Ben’s gonna get lucky” she’s up and talking about all the stuff we have to get done. She coaxes me up with more nap-shaming/bullying and then heads off to the garden center to buy more plants. I walk right back upstairs, grab a cat, climb back in bed and listen to the birds chirp and the lawnmowers hum as I snuggle into my cool, down pillows and become one with the universe.

This post is dedicated to my best napping buddy, Jamaal. May he continue his long, sweet dirt nap in peace and not be dug up when it comes time for us to bury our next beloved pet.

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Comments

  1. Love it as always Ben! I’m a napping kind of guy and love them! Never enjoyed the baby sleeping in me one as I was petrified I would tile over and smother the little tykes to death. I love the nap when unexpectedly something in the day is cancelled and you can pop home look at the long to do list and say NO. Right now there is only one thing that absolutely needs doing, the power nap with the curtains open and light blaring in to the room. It kind of says to me, if you can fall asleep in that light you must be tired, and if you are tired you host to nap. You absolutely owe it to yourself and there is nobody else in the world (even those who live and care about you) who ever say, “hey you got an hour why don’t you go and nap!”
    Thanks Ben

  2. Ben! I “Lit-tra-ly” laughed out loud while having my morning coffee before work! I love everything you write!

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