Diary of a Wimpy Dad

Heights, tunnels, throwing: what kind of prize do you get for anxiety?

Originally published in Salon, August/2011.

“Daddy, can you win me a Domo?”

We were walking briskly, my daughter and me, through a gigantic amusement park, past a huge pegboard loaded with bizarre, oversized dolls resembling Sponge Bobs on steroids, when Alexandra popped the question I always dread.

“Please, daddy! I really want a Domo! Puh-leeze!”

In her six years on this earth, the word Domo had never before left my daughter’s lips, not once, not ever, but that’s the nature of the beast. Silly Bandz and Uglydolls yesterday, Domos today, yet-uninvented fad tomorrow. The point was moot anyway, because in the time it took for her to squeeze in one more please, daddy?, I already knew Alexandra’s fickleness wasn’t the issue.

We stopped walking and I glanced at the arcade in front of me. Not one of those ring-the-bell-with-brute-strength things. Whew. I’m no weakling or anything, but strength has never been my, well, strength. Nor, thank God, did it involve a hoop. The last time I played basketball, a game of H.O.R.S.E. in my neighbor’s driveway, the Captain and Tennille were topping the charts. And I was quite relieved to see this particular game didn’t require shooting anything. My scientist father played tennis my entire childhood: white sneaks, white socks, white shorts, white shirt. An NRA family we were not.

Nope, in this case the skills necessary to win said Domo—it’s the mascot of a Japanese television network. Who knew?—were pretty straightforward. A bucket of baseballs, painted strike zone, canvas muslin backdrop. And in an instant, because those of us who spent half of their junior high gym periods in the boys’ room pretending to have to go reaaallllllly bad will tell you it only takes an instant, I figured a way out.

Or at least a first attempt. I was going to say, “Don’t you know daddy broke his shoulder during the blizzard?” but before the words left my lips, I detected a small tear in my alibi, one that a even a six-year-old would pounce upon. I did in fact break my greater tuberosity, a bone I did not know I had, in a sledding run gone awry, a spectacular crash that would have made Ethan Frome proud, but it was actually my left shoulder that cracked. And I throw righty.

So instead I said, “I thought you wanted to go on the Zoom Flume,” seamlessly changing gears. It sounded plausible. Plausible enough, at least, because what I should have said was this: “Daddy can’t throw to save his life.” Of course, you don’t say things like that to your six-year-old. You just think them, over and over.


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