Thursday, 24 May 2007

Men Only

I’ve traced the dip back further, to the weekend.

My wife and daughter are away on a joint sleepover the other side of town and I’m in a West London pool bar. Smoke swirls in the air. The windows in the roof show that it is still light outside, but in here it is dark. Men stand around pool tables with cigarettes dangling from their teeth; a few women with big belts and small t-shirts bend over tables unsteadily, inexpertly prodding cues.

It’s a place I used to come to a lot ten years ago. I was pretty good at pool in those days. But more importantly I walked around like I was a regular and went to the gym and had a career with prospects and a life stretching away into the future. Now it’s a terrain as unfamiliar to me as Saturday mornings in the playground. I stand with friends, gripping a pool cue in one hand and a pint of Guinness in the other, trying to remember the rules of the game. Have I been here since my daughter was born? I’m not sure. Probably not. I’ve walked past a lot. Around me men pad purposefully and look like they have plans. It’s all so familiar, but so unfamiliar. Like looking through someone else’s glasses. I’m not experiencing what I expected to.

I vaguely suspected that I was somewhere past my peak. But I wasn’t as painfully aware that the rot had set in. I’m worried about bumping into the players at the neighbouring tables and skip away trailing apologies. “Don’t hit me, I’ve got a daughter!” Is it because I’m more aware of mortality nowadays? Of risk? The truth, I’m coming to realize, is that I’m just not used to men anymore. Men in the office, men in bars. Men shouting above the music and jostling and guffawing and pouring drinks down their throats. Childcare doesn’t have much of that to it. In fact it’s mostly the opposite. It’s helping and responding and standing back and watching. I think I’m only just beginning to understand the full implication of taking it on.

As it happens I play quite well, pulling off some shots I can’t remember being able to play in the first place. Then it's back to my place for poker and pizzas. I seem to be getting the hang of it.

33 comments:

lady macleod said...

Ah yes I love the smell of testosterone in the morning.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes, that and the cigarette smoke. My wife, having given up smoking the previous day, came home after our poker session and said "God it stinks of cigarettes in here."!

Drunk Mummy said...

I reckon if you decide to have another baby and it's a boy, you will very quickly get used to all the testosterone, belching, parping, shouting and guffawing that you (or certainly I) can handle.
Enjoy the current shortage of all the above in your life!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

I don't think I've ever been used to men. I remember, a long long time ago, spending many a night in a pool bar, wondering if life could get any more challenging. It did. I had a daughter.

Suffolkmum said...

I do love your blogs, I recognise so much. Obviously not a man, but I used to work in very male-domiated workplaces - don't feel like I could hold my own now! Loved your one below about the ten-year old piss-taker.

Stay at home dad said...

DM, yes I'm sure that is the case. Mind you if it was another girl, what then?!

Hello CJ (sorry). Good point!

Thank you SM. Yes we worked in the same kind of institutions. I suppose I have more to fall back on (being a man) but we would both be uncomfortable.

Elsie Button said...

As soon as i read the first paragraph i knew that you were talking about the Elbow Room! it was the line... 'a few women with big belts and small t-shirts bend over tables unsteadily, inexpertly prodding cues'. it took me right back and i could visualise it again so clearly after reading this! (we often went there on sundays, when we lived round the corner (i wasn't one of these big belted/small t-shirt women though - i am actually rather good at pool (for a girl anyway!))). (bad use of brackets sorry)

Anyway, sorry, i didn't mean to make light of this post - again it was very perceptive. I really do look forward to your posts. (despite my inane comments)

mutterings and meanderings said...

I think, SAHD, you have moved on in your life ... the past is another country, and all that ..

Stay at home dad said...

Elsie - great stuff. I'm very much in favour of multi-bracketing.

We live around the corner as well, in a northerly direction. I was a bit worried about that comment as I know plenty of women are good at pool, but anyway...

M&M - I have. It's just noone had told me...

Gwen said...

I used to go to a place very similar to the one you described on a regular basis. But, for various reasons, I shut the door very firmly on that and opened the door on some new better experiences. It's better to move forward than to look back. Best of luck in moving on.

Motheratlarge said...

Reminds me of the Borg collective - "You have been assimilated."

My husband's in the same boat as you. He constantly complains of being outnumbered at home.

DJ Kirkby said...

Hi SAHD. I am in a bit of a juvenile mood tonight so... TAG! You're it! Please go to my blog for more info...

Stay at home dad said...

M@L, hello. Yes. Outnumbered, out-thought, outmanoeuvred...

Hi DJK. There's more you want to know?! I will investigate...

ltlmomma said...

I GAVE UP SMOKING 3 WEEKS AGO MY BODY FEELS WELL LIKE A NEW PERSON HOPE SHE KEEPS IT UP, PRINT UP CONGRAJULATIONS (I CANT SPELL)
AWARDS FOR EVERY DAY SHE DOESNT SMOKE,{EVEN IF SHE SMELLS LIKE SMOKE AND WONT ADMIT SMOKING} THIS WILL MOTIVATE HER EMENCLY!!

debio said...

My husband constantly moans that he is outnumbered at home and cannot follow what is going on half the time; his mistake is to think we understand any more than he - my daughter and I don't begin to understand what's going on in our minds, and therefore our moods, either!

Sunshine McThunderkitty said...

wow this is kinda cool! I'm so glad it's not just women that feel the monumental shift after a baby comes into the world. I don't meant to sound ignorant or sexist...I just haven't really heard a male describe the subtle changes like that before. I'm not explaining very well.

Your observation of how you're not quite fitting in that world anymore were an eye opener for me - thanks!

Sparx said...

Hey SAHD - The Elbow Room... ahh, I remember it well. When I moved to London it was about the only pool hall in existence. Coming from Toronto where pool halls littered the streets at that time it was a pleasure to walk into a place where men believe that women can't make a bank shot!

Having said that, I haven't played pool since before I got pregnant so I may be an inexpert prodder these days... (sheesh that sounds filthy!)

Good stuff, love the blog

dulwichmum said...

Yes, I too remember The Elbow Room from about 1995 I think. What a great summer that was. I can't actually play myself, but happy days...

Stay at home dad said...

Ltlmomma - thank you, I see what you mean.

Debio - yes undoubtedly something of that to it although I'm not sure how much is the outnumbering..

Hello Sunshine McThunderkitty and congratulations on the name. No, you are making perfect sense and thank you for letting me know it's not just me.

Sparx - thank you. Probably saw you there prodding expertly!

Stay at home dad said...

Yes Dulwich Mum, that was the year! It was a great summer, exactly right,... and autumn.. and winter...

Snuffleupagus said...

Interesting blog. Interesting you. I'll be back I hope if I can find your site again...

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks from both of us Snuffs!

Jan said...

Are you writing stories/a novel perhaps....whatever?
Because with your gift for language, I hope so.

Pig in the Kitchen said...

oooo, I like ltlmomma's suggestion for your wife...you could spend your days making her star charts, buy some pretty stickers, you could even use this project as a reason to buy a laminator. And for punishments if she does smoke? You could withold some pocket money, sit her on the naughty step...hmmm, actually that sounds a bit kinky and she might in fact enjoy that and therefore be tempted to smoke more and more.

p'raps not such a good idea after all??! Anyway, good luck to her!
Pigx

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you Jan. What a kind thing to say. No, not really...

Pig - that puts a completely new slant on it. I will talk her through it this bank holiday!

Sahd.

Livvy U. said...

It's a strangeness and a comfort to me, that you can put down a thing you used to be good at (like pool), not do it at all for some time, then find when you do take it up again that you seem to be better at it than before. It's as if the intense living in between, all the growing and nurturing that child-caring demands, does something to the rest of ourselves. I like this, it comforts me at difficult moments. I've discovered it's true for me with acting, my job beforetimes...
The progression of your thoughts this week has been v.moving.
Livvy

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Livvy. Thank you. And yes, that's a good point. I can see how it would improve your acting. Or more accurately give you a completely new slant on it.

Marianne said...

I love seeing all this through a man's eyes. I think every Dad should have a stint as a Stay At Home Dad. I wonder what that would do to the world?

Stay at home dad said...

I'm very glad to hear it Marianne. Yes, I agree with you. Maybe a job swap with world leaders would be in order...

The Grocer said...

Now you're getting carried away.... any world leaders in mind?
I know let's swap 18 years of childcare with 18 years in a South African jail and be Nelson Mandela or perhaps you would be better as one that is used to being ignored Castro?

Stay at home dad said...

Hi Grocer. I meant world leaders should swap with their wives... it would have done Castro a lot of good I feel. Mandela is a natural though.

I don't think I'm quite ready for world leading yet...

Ed said...

It's weird, I really seem to be able to relate well with your feelings of being stuck between the world you once knew and this wonderful new world you are getting to know. I often find it difficult to carry an adult conversation but ask me about my kids and it's probably best you pull up a chair, it could take a while.

Congrats on your wife giving up the smokes. After about 20 some odd tries I think I got it licked now. http://zoesdad.com/2007/05/15/im-a-quitter.aspx

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Ed. Congratulations!

Yes, when the eyes glaze over you know you need to find an adult topic..