Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Inbuilt discrimination

Getting to become a daddy took me a lot longer than most. Alex is the culmination of one very long road travelled, a road with many twists and turns and the odd IED strategically placed to cause the most damage. I don't want to dwell on the journey, as that is now well in the past and mostly forgotten. Instead, I want to comment on some observations on the challenges of being a daddy to a 5 year old boy. I'm not even going to dwell on the most obvious challenge (to me that is) of being labelled as his grandfather. It is all the subtle undercurrents that exist, even on our idyllic little liberal island. One would think that Vashon being home to a fairly large gay community, left wing ideologues, artists, musicians, tree huggers and organic farmers would have a little more acceptance of a man in the roll of caregiver to a small child. My lovely wife also takes care of our son too, don't let me create an impression that I am a single father, it's just that our work schedules have meant that I take him to school and pick him up on a more frequent basis, and as such am exposed to the little huddles of Moms picking up or dropping off their darlings. I would smile and loiter near the little groups that formed, trying to join in conversations and nod approvingly in the right spot, occasionally oohing and aahing at appropriate moments. I would offer tidbits of Alex disaster stories, or condolences if sleepless nights had been experienced, and at first, it appeared as if I had been accepted into this informal social strata. But alas, as time (and not much of that) passed, the backs started turning and the gaps in the informal circle started to recede. My comments fell on deaf ears as the collective chatter continued unabated, so gradually I stopped trying to integrate. I get smiles occasionally from Mom's who are by themselves and a bit of idle banter about the weather, but when reinforcements arrive, they quickly disengage and retreat back into their safe haven to discuss more meaty issues. Sometimes it seems as if I am the subject of these conversations. As I now keep my distance, curiosity trumps social prejudices, and one of the group will approach me with a specific question. "I saw your son playing with so and so's daughter last week. Have you known them long?" "Only since we met at a paedophile self help group", I am tempted to say, but decide to play the game instead.
Even in communities of extreme tolerance like ours, their are some social interactions that are hard to break into. Fortunately, I have a loving wife and lead a fairly charmed existence, so this bias doesn't affect me too much. However If I was a single father, I would find it quite lonely.


  1. Wally, I'm fascinated that you equate liberalism with tolerance. All societies shun the outsider and liberals are no exception - outwardly there is a play towards diversity of skin color, but show up with a diverse mind and you'll quickly run into the group think common with all proscriptive ideologies.

    I'm not saying that it's a particular fault of liberalism, only that all groups suffer from the same problem. To pretend otherwise is a advancement of the "no-true Scotsman" argument.

  2. And why not? In my limited experience, the people that I know are both liberal in mind and tolerant in attitude. That's not to say that conservatives are not tolerant. However, I think it reasonable to assert that the people I know fit this description. The traditonal family unit, especially on Vashon, has been stretched to fit many possibilities, yet the one area where people back themselves into their safe corners is down the male/female divide.
    Thanks for commenting Ben

  3. Wally, I've read all your entire blog and love it.

    I guess I should restate my observation - liberals are just as clique forming as any other group. Nothing to do with ideology, just typical childish behavior that most people don't outgrow unfortunately.

    Me... I love people who can think. Puppets and parrots are boring regardless if they agree with me.


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