A Taste of Taffy is a collection of nonfiction articles, essays, and photographs by the Triangle Area Freelancers (TAF). These eclectic North Carolina writers meet monthly to share ideas and provide mutual support. Their first collaborative effort is an engaging anthology which explores material as far-ranging as hot yoga classes, the next urban pet, preschool observations, Valentine dilemmas and the growing of hops.
John gives an overview of the book:
A Poker Face, by Dan Bain
Every dad has an inner guy – the voice of his former loutish self, now allegedly tamed in the name of marriage and parenthood. Mine is named Cretin. I hide him from my sons and only occasionally reveal him to my wife.
To that end, I have a tool any dad can use – the poker face. Mine helps me bluff against Cretin’s true feelings, and hides my lack of conviction in whatever I’m outwardly saying: “Sure, I’d love for your parents to come and stay with us for a week” or “That’s okay, I’m not really interested in this year’s play-offs – I’d much rather help with the laundry than watch the fourth quarter.”
My poker face also helps prevent my sons from acting like I once did. Whenever I try to teach them a moral lesson, no matter how unconvinced Cretin is of its rightness, I wear my poker face and hope the boys accept the bluff. They usually do, but one evening the face utterly betrayed me...
On the night in question, I was keeping my three-year-old company as he sat on the potty – already a regrettable duty – when he suddenly reached between his legs, took a hold of himself “down there” and examined said area for a good minute or two. Next thing I knew, I had to break out my emergency poker face as he verbally cut the cards for a hand of Texas Hold ’Em.
Before we proceed with that dialog, I must relate my family’s codeword for the male genitalia. This worries me. I’m sure all families have codewords, but I’m embarrassed to share mine – a bit of a contradiction, when you consider it’s supposed to be a euphemism.
I suppose they’re like those cute little pet names we have for our spouses, and reserve for their ears only. I don’t want the guys at work to hear me call my wife “Sweetie” and I don’t want them to know what I call my other beloved.
Whatever the reason, we give them nicknames. My parents used one, and when my wife wanted to use one with our son, it seemed only fitting to continue the paternal family tradition. So our codeword is “doodah.”
There, I’ve said it. Let the mockery commence. My family refers to the penis as the “doodah.”
This caused some confusion in my youth, as I often wondered exactly what inspired the Camptown Ladies to sing that song. I also thought “Zip-a-Dee-Doodah” was about a bathroom break gone horribly awry.
But there sat my son, contemplating his doodah. I mean serious, first-time-seeing-a-Dali contemplation. He stretched it out, twisted it and stared unfalteringly for what seemed forever before tucking it in and dubiously asking, “Daddy?”
That leading question, asked when one has just resolutely considered one’s doodah, is tantamount to saying, “Ante up!”
Wishing I could fold, I braced myself and answered, “Yes, son?”
“Vijay’s doodah is little.”
I remembered that Vijay was in his preschool class, and then wavered for only a moment before biting my tongue to reestablish control of my facial muscles. Having set the poker face in stone, prepared to defend his classmate against the sadly familiar belittling gossip of the playground set, I demanded, “Who said that?”
“Nobody said it, it’s just...Vijay has a little doodah.”
Uh-oh. He wasn’t repeating someone else’s taunt; he was asserting his own extracurricular observation. Moral lesson, coming up!
“That doesn’t really matter, son.”
Sure it doesn’t, chided Cretin. Of course it matters! It matters when you take your first shower in gym class, it matters when your fraternity brothers are assigning nicknames, it matters when you’re trolling for bridesmaids at a buddy’s wedding, and it obviously matters when you share a Montessori bathroom!
“Don’t worry about what Vijay looks like,” I continued, ignoring Cretin. “Everyone has differently sized body parts. Take your hands, for instance—”
“But Vijay’s doodah is really small.”
“That’s what I’m trying to tell you. It’s okay if—”
“Smaller than mice!”
“Whuh? Well, that doesn’t matt—”
“It’s okay to be sma—”
Really little baby mice!”
Cretin was already trying to answer, Oh, well, that makes a difference; why didn’t you say so? That IS small. Vijay is weak. I’m glad we had this talk, son.
A more appropriate answer might have been, “Please don’t tell Vijay. He’ll find out soon enough.”
I said neither. I couldn’t speak; I was too busy aborting the game, leaving my chips on the table.
Wracked in convulsions that utterly betrayed my poker face, I ran to the living room to collapse on the couch while trying to tell my wife that her son had a question for her – she usually holds all the aces where these things are concerned, though this time he had a hand even she might not beat.
All the while I was thinking, I hope Vijay never joins a fraternity.
John has been around broadcasting and journalism for over 20 years - from writing for his high school yearbook to directing the entire news operation for a major market radio station in Durham, NC. He has written for numerous newspapers over his career, and works primarily...