My wife came across an ugly type of parent recently while attending our son's soccer practice. Keep in mind that the soccer players in question are 7 or 8.
One of the little tykes came over to the man beside my wife and complained that his hands were cold. The man -- presumably the boy's father -- asked him, "When did you become a girl?" Apparently he was making reference to the little-known fact that beneath the top layer of skin, most boys' hands have a special layer of protective machismo that somehow his sons' hands were lacking. Then Mean Soccer Dad taunted his son a second time: "Lemme see if I can find you some pink gloves."
My wife was too stunned to speak, but I know what Voice of Society Man would have done. Remember, VoS Man's mission isn't only to stand up to bullies, Time Wasters, Litter Bugs, and other societal outcasts. He must also educate them so as to reform them. His weapons in this instance would have been a Confusing Opening Sentence followed by a Poignant Lesson. Here is how I imagine it unfolding:
VoS Man: Does your son drink beer?
Mean Soccer Dad: Hunh?
VoS Man: Your kid. Is he a drinker?
MSD: Of course not. What are you talking about?
VoS Man: Does he smoke pot?
MSD: What the hell are you talking about?
VoS Man: In a few years, your son will be a teenager. Would you want him to tell you if friends of his were drinking their parents' liquor or trying to get him to smoke pot with them?
Meanie: Yeah, sure, I guess.
VoS Man: Do you think it's easy for kids to bring up alcohol with their parents, or do you think they get nervous.
Meanie: I'm sure they get pretty scared.
VoS Man: How do you expect him to want to talk with you about alcohol if he can't even tell you that his hands are cold at a soccer game?
Meanie (starting to cry): All I ever wanted was for him to hide his soft, vulnerable side beneath a tough mantle of manliness so as to keep away the demons that haunt me.
VoS Man (wrapping his cape around MSD): There, there, now. Your father loved you even if he never said it. It takes a tough man to hold in all of those feelings, but it takes a tougher man to let them show. Growl, you bear of love, growl.
At this point, we can all imagine the formerly Mean Soccer Dad becoming Bill Bixby's character from The Courtship of Eddie's Father. When he turns to thank me, Voice of Society Man is no longer there, having gone to right other wrongs.
- ▼ September (11)