November 14, 2007


Wednesday is Gymboree day. Between 1:30 and 2:15 I will perform countless acts that in my childhood would have been received with derision, and just maybe, punches from my older brother. And like Annie I don't care; I love every minute of it.

I grew up in an incredibly loving family in New Jersey, but in the frontier town of Highland Lakes, men don’t say they love you unless it’s to their mother. Even then, it should be said privately and with the proper amount of manliness. Like the frontier men before us, we always made sure that we played it cool, calm and collected. You never know when your openness and honest feelings could get you into a duel. My brother and I even had a game where, when hanging out, we would casually say, “I love U (loooong pause) 2.” Then we would crack up laughing at how close we came to actually expressing feelings, other than abject anger, toward each other.

So when my wife signed Annie and me up for Gymboree almost a year ago, I cringed. It seemed that a little of my old emotional Wyatt Earp was still buried deep inside. I had visions of blubbering moms trading cleaning tips and making the most of their one hour a week that involved interaction with other adults. Sure, the cleaning tips would be great, but on their website I saw that much of their classes are centered on singing. I have mentioned this before, and it bears repeating; I was once asked to stop singing “Happy Birthday” at a work party because of my especially monotonous delivery. Naturally, before Annie was born I never sang in front of other people. I didn’t even sing in front of my wife. Looking back, it was my own feelings of inadequacy and public embarrassment that accounted for this, but I really do have an awful singing voice.

Of course having a child makes you realize many things about yourself, and as my mother can attest, public embarrassment goes out the window. When we were younger, she would often sing or dance in public and it made my brother and I feel like we were on stage in our underwear. We never understood why she would humiliate herself like that. It’s funny how you sometimes miss life’s lessons if they aren’t part of the typical parental talking points. I only wish that her silliness had a greater effect on us. For most of my childhood I would blush at the drop of a hat, and only as I finished high school did I begin to try and change this. Since then, I have all but flushed away any public embarrassment that might be hidden inside me. Sometimes this leads to my mortifying those around me, but I have a strong pedigree in this area, I can’t simply ignore it. Thank you, mom.

The last frontier for me was public singing, and Annie is the main reason for my recent triumph. However, the other significant contribution came from Gymboree. When you're there, you have no choice but to embrace the campy camaraderie of the whole thing. Perhaps it starts as yet another form of wanting to fit and not embarrass yourself, but either way you sit their singing to your daughter in front of a group of people you hardly know. The next thing you know you’re belting out “Wake up toes” on line at the grocery store. So thank you to Gymboree too.


Blogger s said...

i love you.

November 17, 2007 at 11:02 AM  

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