As a guy who for almost 40 years has been pretty much the lone source of testosterone in my immediate family (which has included one wife, two daughters, two granddaughters, two dogs, three out of four cats and countless goldfish), I was thrilled recently to meet my infant grandson, Xavier, with whom I plan to form a bond based on such important masculine benchmarks as whoopee cushions and the Three Stooges.
For expert advice in the fine art of corrupting male children and appalling the women who love them, I spoke with my buddy Tim Lovelette, who has two sons and six grandchildren, the last two, both born in the past year, boys.
“First off,” Tim said, “you have to buy Xavier stuff you would never buy for your granddaughters.”
That means, he added, shopping with the Johnson Smith Company, whose catalog features such timeless products as joy buzzers, squirting flowers, plastic teeth, remote-controlled tarantulas, X-ray glasses and, of course, whoopee cushions.
“Where else are you going to get fake dog vomit?” Tim noted. “Or a carbide cannon? Did you ever see one of those things? They’re awesome. They shoot water and make a really loud noise. Women aren’t going to buy this stuff for them. It’s up to us. We have to keep the guy thing going.”
That includes introducing boys to the Three Stooges.
“It’s our solemn responsibility,” Tim said. “Men love the Stooges and women hate them. It’s a law of nature. Listen,” he continued, “this is not about your grandson. It’s about your relationship with him. You have to exercise your lack of maturity. All these women have matured over time. We haven’t. And we can’t let it happen to our grandsons.”
What about Tim’s sons, Marshall and Brendan?
“They had a very odd upbringing,” Tim said. “That’s because I’m their father. But I taught them all this stuff.”
And now he’s ready to teach it to his grandsons, Marshall III and Emmett, whose middle name is Timothy.
“There’s something wrong with anyone who would name a kid after me,” Tim said, adding that his wife, Jane, and their daughter, Amy, are never surprised by anything he does.
“They’re waiting for this stuff to happen,” Tim said.
But his daughter-in-law Sara, who is married to Marshall, and his son-in-law, Mel, who is married to Amy, the parents of Tim’s grandkids, sometimes are surprised. So is Brendan’s wife, Christie.
“I’ll tell them, ‘What, you didn’t expect this? You knew what you had on your hands when you married into the family.’ They still don’t believe it,” Tim said with no small amount of pride.
I said that my wife, Sue, and our daughters, Katie and Lauren, have come to expect stupidity from me. But even though my sons-in-law, Dave and Guillaume, are also conditioned to it, they’re occasionally taken aback by things I say or do.
“You’d think they would be used to it by now,” said Tim, whose granddaughters are Anna, Camille, Colette and Lydia. Mine are Chloe and Lilly.
But it’s Marshall III, Emmett and Xavier we want to get under our influence.
“You have to take Xavier out to lunch and order grilled octopus,” Tim told me. “Or take him out for a cup of coffee. When you come back, tell the women the two of you had cigars. See how they react. You can’t do this stuff with girls. The women in my family are trying to condition my grandsons before they’re released into my custody. But I have every intention of corrupting them.”
And when the boys are older, said Tim, they can repay us.
“By the time Xavier is 8 years old, he’s your technical department,” Tim said. “Buy a TV and he’ll set it up. And you don’t have to pay him. You can save the money for beer. He’ll be too young to drink it anyway.”
For now, however, it’s vital that the seeds of masculine immaturity are planted.
“The whole war effort depends on you,” Tim said. “And if you run out of stupid ideas, call me.”
— Jerry Zezima
Jerry Zezima, who served on the faculty at the 2010 EBWW, writes a humor column for the Stamford Advocate that is nationally syndicated through the Tribune News Service and regularly appears in the Huffington Post. He’s written three books, Grandfather Knows Best, Leave it to Boomer and The Empty Nest Chronicles. He has won six humor-writing awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and was named EBWW’s Humor Writer of the Month twice. He is the past president of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists.