OG DAD #17: These Things Happen


“I think I accidentally tea-bagged my twins… Seriously, we were about to take a bath together. The kids were already in the tub. I was just, you know, lowering myself in the tub when my wife walked into the bathroom to give me shit about something and I just kind of stopped, in sort of a half squat, and before I know it I felt these tiny little heads, like two little croquet balls, against my underscrote. I was afraid to look down, Felicia says I got Franny right on the forehead, and Jake kind of on top.  Right on the soft spot….”

The snippet above was recorded verbatim, from a man I’ll call “Kenny” at a New Dad Support Group I attended. It is, of course, wrong on too many levels to contemplate. But what truly disturbs, as much as the mechanics of the incident itself—up and including use of the term “underscrote,” which I’ve never heard before and, truth be told, could live without hearing again—was the grotesque reference to his child’s fontanel.

Another fellow, whose name I knew only as Ted from Alta-Dena, seemed to share my revulsion. “Whoa, Dude, slow down! That’s not technically a teabag. There was no intent. But still, man… I mean, you really did kind of Tetleyed your son’s soft spot?” We were in a back booth at Denny’s. Five New Dads, of every socio-economic stripe. Ted looks at me, conspiratorial, and shrugs “You ask me,” he whimpers, wiping his palms on his pant-legs, as if to smear off the psychic quease, “the whole thing feels like some kind of gypsy curse… ”

Even now, transcribing the chunk of New Dad convo from my notebook to my computer, I feel like drilling a hole in my skull and pumping Purell inside. I guess the moral is—it’s not easy being a New Dad. (That, or stuff cotton in your ears before you attend a support group for Nervous Pops. I don’t know what I expected – maybe tips on getting your baby to drool somewhere besides your chest when you carry them. (The white stains, inevitably in nip-range, make it look like I’m the one who’s lactating.) Or ways to keep from scooping your eyes out with a serrated grapefruit spoon and sinking them in mulch after watching your 18th consecutive pre-dawn rerun of The Chica Show. On the Sprout Network—which is where we get Sesame Street in my neck of the Direct TV parental woods. (I’m not, by the way, one of those people who think TV is bad for children and you should never let a youngster near one. I mean, I was, once upon a time, but then I actually had a kid and had to deal with the yawning hours of non-sleep screaming and crying and couldn’t bear to read another Golden book, play another five minutes with the talking doggy. It knows my child’s name, and keeps asking her if she’s happy, and since I don’t know to turn it off I finally had to dismember it.)

Anyway, how I ended up at the New Dad meeting was, I met a guy at a zoo party. You do things like this, go to zoo parties, when you have a baby. The zoo party was a birthday event a musician friend of mine was having for his three year old. Which is how I came to hear the spectacularly unsavory, if wholly believable, paternal creep-fest shared by this poor shlub cited above.

“Boundary issues,” was Ted from Alta Dena’s ultimate explanation for the lamentable soft spot incident.  Strange territory, fatherhood. Occasionally deeply creepy. I didn’t go back to the New Dad confabs. Mostly because I didn’t need to hear anybody else’s parental agita. (Least of all involving involuntary bathtub twin tea-baggage.)

Meanwhile, my own child has been whinging non stop for days, coughing like a sixty year old with a quart of Four Roses and three pack a day Chesterfield habit. Worse, I know where she got sick. In fact, I can precisely identify the time and place. Three Saturdays ago, at 6:15 PM, in the ER of the Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. Waiting room. We’d gone there, by way or adventure, when El stuck her finger in a portable blender. Long story. Short version, we earned ourselves a four hour slot in the pain lottery, with all the other walk-in fevers, bleeding eyeballs, stricken grandparents, tweaky hipsters and chattering, scab-faced schizophrenics likely to slog in out of the dark on any Hollywood Saturday night for a little ER Time.

What made it worse—beyond my girlfriend’s anguish at seeing her left forefinger newly morphed into tomato paste—was that we had, by necessity, to bring our eight month old into this inferno. Even that would not have been so bad, had not a curious cultural phenomenon kicked in within five minutes of our arrival. Namely, the propensity for old Russian ladies to squeeze her cheeks, grab her feet and generally manhandle our child. Every time one of these Gromyko-faced babushkas paddled by I’d find myself testy as Mister Whipple screaming “Don’t Squeeze the Charmin” at grabby customers. If I fend one off on the left, another bubkas up behind me and rubs noses. Mostly a stoic decorum reigns among the ER denizens. But our blue-eyed baby exerts some kind of  pull on these  aggressively grandmotherly émigrés. Before I could intervene, one lady, with a face remarkably like Christopher Lee in the 1966 Hammer Films classic, Rasputin the Mad Monk (if Christopher Lee had put on about 89 pounds, all in the face) was literally coughing into a sopping hanky with one hand and pinching Bink’s cheeks with the other. No sooner had I shooed her away than a second, more Khrushchev-esque intruder sidled up. There seemed no way to stop the former Soviet bloc putsch. “Is Russian baby!” each babushka announced. Before proceeding to douse her with Borscht-resistant cold germs that had her coughing up hamhock-sized Cracker Jack prizes for the next month.

Of course, there is the theory that the more germs the baby’s exposed to—the greater resistance your baby will have. Dousing her in the detritus of a Saturday nigh Hollywood ER, our child may well have an Armor-All Immunity for the foreseeable future. That or she’ll come down with Moscow Fever and we’ll have to nurse her back to life with blini. At which point she will also emerge stronger and better equipped for a tough, toxic tomorrow. As a viral astronaut for the former Soviet Union.

Still, all I can think about is the accidental family tea-bagger. “Hey,” was the last thing Kenny the Bathtub miscreant pleaded, “accidents happen.”

Sad but true. I’m accidentally never going back to my New Dad Support Group. But not because of the disturbo and disgraced priestly over-share. (I’ve heard stranger—there was another fellow who could not bring himself to hug his one year old because she had eyes just like his mother, who used to make him do the Mashed Potatoes in monkey pajamas for her lady’s bridge group, which he claims is the source of his lifelong performance anxiety with women.)

Sometimes I think they should require psychological profiles, or at least learner’s permits, for parenthood. But then, how many of us would be here if they did?


Rumpus original art by Jason Novak.

Jerry Stahl has written 8 books, including Permanent Midnight, Bad Sex On Speed, and I, Fatty. His new novel, Happy Mutant Baby Pills, is now out from Harper Perennial. More from this author →