“You’re the girl in the relationship, Rog.”
What? Did I hear that right? Did a girl friend of mine just emasculate me with a quick flick of her tongue?
I just stood there for about 6 seconds, face frozen with a half-smile, trying to figure out if what she had just said was a kick in the balls or a verbal embrace of understanding.
It was the later. F-me, she was right. I am the girl in the relationship. Which means my Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama is the man. Me? Girl. Wife? Man. How the heck did I lose my manhood so unexpectedly? It was like the tooth fairy visited me in my sleep, but instead of taking my tooth, she spirited away my penis. And she didn’t even leave a nickle – just a hole in my spiritual crotch. It sucks…yet I have nothing to suck.
* (click here for —> “Hollywood, family” Part 1) *
Never did I think I would collide head-on with traditional gender roles and expectations. You know, the stuff our parents grew up with – “Dad goes to work and makes the money. Mom stays home with the kids, cooks, and (wo)mans the fort.” Perhaps if I had never gotten married and/or had kids, I could have avoided this issue all together. But somehow, a crafty Korean girl with nice feet tricked me into marrying her and seduced me with her body of alabaster until two babies came tumbling out. I was officially married with children and engaged in a profession that is largely considered “unstable” and/or “unpredictable.” So who da man? Me mofo! I think… Honey, am I the man? Uh oh…
So what did my girl friend mean when she said, “You’re the girl in the relationship, Rog…”? It wasn’t an insult, btw. It was her immediate reaction to the conversation that we were having. She, being a veteran parent, asked me how newer daddy-hood had been treating me. I proceeded to tell her my story of no sleep, shrinking social life, getting fat, staying home 24/7/364 (I get to go out one night a year), etc. – typical, irony-with-a-smile, new-parent talk. And then I segued into my career and my ongoing challenge to reshape/reinvent my professional life in order to best compliment my new reality of having a hot, pale-yellow wife and kids. I was chatting away about stuff like not having enough time for my professional self, having to turn down projects I would normally liked to have said yes to, not being able to go out at night to network, and my general, overall fear that my career would wither or go backwards because I just didn’t have enough time to water it (you know, cuz I’m at home feedin’ da babies!). And that’s when she said it – “You’re the girl in the relationship, Rog.”
By the look on my face, she immediately knew I was confused. She smiled, crossed her arms, and proceeded to explain to me that everything I just told her was pretty much typical of what women today in the working world have to consider and/or deal with, if and when they decide to have a family. It’s not that men don’t have to tangle with this issue. It’s just that woman have to deal with it much much more. There’s even a name for it – “The Mommy Track.”
Dictionary.com defines “The Mommy Track” as a career path for women who are willing to forgo promotions, raises, etc., so as to spend more time with their children. The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English has a more foreboding descriptor, defining it as a situation in which women with children have less opportunity to make large amounts of money or become very successful at their jobs, for example, because they are not able to work as many hours as other people.
Great. I, a daddy, am on “The Mommy Track.” At least that was the opinion of my girl friend (who btw, went to a top 3 college, got her MBA from a top 3 biz school, used to be an executive at a top, global company, and is now a full time parent). She then went on to say that given the unique nature of my life with Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama and my specific career choice, I am having to navigate waters more common to the working woman than to that of the working man. Hence her comment, “You’re the girl in the relationship, Rog.” She’s a bit sassy for sure but she wasn’t trying to be derogatory or sexist or anything like that. She was just trying to make a point by forcing off my “man blinders” in order to give me context and community to what I thought were my unique and isolated challenges. I was hardly alone. I just needed to be told which direction to look.
I never thought I’d have to be flexible with my life and career. I just assumed that if and when I ever decided to get married and have kids, that my wife and children would fit into the gaps and pockets of time convenient to my schedule (I know, that sounded rather caveman – which would be true if not for the fact that I have zero body hair and a rather thin cranium). Just know that this “assumption” wasn’t a choice that I made consciously. If anything, I suspect it to be a subconscious stowaway from my childhood past where my dad went to an office to earn money and my mom stayed home to raise and educate the kids. So for 30 odd years this “tradition” sat, quietly, deeply hidden within my liberal mind, only to surface in massive protest when it was time for a son to become a father. Damn, I was a liberal hypocrite and I didn’t even know it.
OK, so it’s established that I’m on “The Mommy Track,” right? Well, yes and no and not exactly but sort of. Let me explain…
I have a more flexible schedule than my wife during the work week. As an actor, it kind of goes with the territory – you just don’t know what your schedule will be like tomorrow even when tomorrow becomes today. Also, my wife makes more money than I do. There, I said it – man insecurity #1 just kicked me square in the nuts (thank God for that penis-stealing tooth fairy). She’s an accomplished professional in the corporate world and I’m very proud of her. To my credit, I do make a decent living as an actor (most of the time). It’s just that my Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama makes more. And finally, who has the more “secure” job? Well, hands down, that honor goes to Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama.
OK, so the field is set. Rather pragmatic, I know. Let the games begin…
For the past 6 years, Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama and I discussed, debated, and at times massively fought through the big picture issues. Our negotiations went in phases from the topics of dating, to seriously dating, to marriage, to serious marriage, to having a kid, to having multiple kids, etc. Ugh… It sucked having these talks because the dynamic was always that she wanted to move forward and I always wanted to stay put and/or move backwards. We even broke up a few times when one of us proved too stubborn (usually her. just kidding. sort of…). Why was this? Was it this hard for everyone? Was it a “guy” thing? Or even worse, an “actor” thing? Or even most worse, a “loss of control” thing? In retrospect, I think it was good that we had these regular talks (and fights) because, in truth, Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama and I are very different people at heart – she, a pragmatist and I, a dreamer.
As a single, dreamer dude, dating a pragmatist can work well. You just have to communicate . As a married-with-no-kids, dreamer dude, being wed to a pragmatist can still work. You just have to communicate and compromise. But as a married-with-kids, dreamer dude, being wed to a pragmatists requires a lot of personal, professional, and spiritual reengineering. And this is where I had to sit down and have a bitter, scalding cup of tea with myself, my self, and my ego. Cuz you know, Roger ain’t gonna stay home with da babies! Or so I thought…
I do stay home with the babies. Not full-time, though – but more than my Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama. Not to take anything away from her. For to her credit, she is an amazing mom who tirelessly parents like it’s her only job, but would love the option to stay home more with the babies if it were truly a real option in our lives. But it’s not. At least not right now. She has the full-time job – a job that pays more than mine, is more stable than mine, and provides the subconscious, invisible fail-safe for our family. My job, in it’s current state, does not.
We had to fight A LOT for me to openly embrace the last few sentences written above. Initially, it cut to the core of my man-pride. Deep. So who da man? Seriously, who da man? Answer – my wife. My wife is “da man.” At least in that most metaphorical sense she is.
So where does this leave me? I’m not sure. As of late, I seem to be spending a lot more time working as a parent than as an actor. I’m not sure why this is but the me of today is kind of getting used to this unexpected life style. I try not to get too heady about it. There’s no need to create unnecessary drama. Perhaps it’s something as simple as my family/kids being immediately tangible while a movie role, much less so. You go where you’re loved and you stay where you’re comfortable. Hmm…perhaps I’m just so tired that I don’t have the energy to effectively do both. Or, could it be that I no longer have the passion and zeal to pursue maybes at 100%. I don’t know. I try not to fight it. If anything, what I do know is that in a few years, my kids won’t want to hang out with me at all. Right now, I’m their best friend. But after a few birthdays pass, I’m going to become a shuttle service, ATM, and restaurant to them. So before I lose my bff status, I want to make sure that my kids have A LOT of fun with their dad so that they can remember having A LOT of fun with their dad. A LOT….
So again, where does this leave me? Blank slate. My past habits have proven incompatible with my current life state. Something has to change. It’s got to and it will. Right now I’m staring at a lot of pieces, patiently wondering how I will assemble them this time around. The reconstruction process has already begun but I’m not putting a rush order to complete just yet. I want to make sure I’ve taken enough time to know thy self in order to create something simpler, something more balanced, and something happier for myself, for my Sexy-Korean-Wife-Lover-Mama, and for my two, spunky little girls who just happen to look like little, feminine versions of me. I have my work cut out, that’s for sure. But hey, no one ever said “being one of the girls” would be easy…
* (click here for —> “Hollywood, family” Part 1) *