Sunday, January 25, 2009

Reader mail: Rocco from Down Under writes...

Hi Unit Parental!

Wow, savage! I live in Perth, Australia and a friend living in New York forwarded me your blog, and I read it all in one sitting. It was riveting reading – the same sick fascination as watching a car crash! I do have a question. Has your wife read it and is she still speaking to you? And have you thought about the fact that it will live on in cyberspace and that your son (the Life Force Sucker) will almost certainly read it some day? When’s the next installment?

It is very spot on with observations which most people would have trouble admitting to themselves let alone the world. Most people cope by rationalization. They delude themselves that having a child is great and they’re not missing out on anything and ignore any evidence to the contrary, happy in their self-delusion. It’s a great human adaptation for coping with bad situations that you can’t change. I lived in Canada for two years, for example, and I remember some Canadians who wear shorts in subzero weather. They’re actually catching hypothermia but their brain refuses to admit it. There’s also this other great evolutionary adaptation which causes your brain to preferentially remember the good things about child-rearing and discard the bad memories as you get further away from them – otherwise no one would ever have a second child.

I hope you don’t mind a little advice, but I think you have to move to the suburbs. It’s a lot easier to maintain the self-delusion when you’re surrounded by a whole bunch of similarly deluded people, than when you’re hanging out with a bunch of self-indulgent wankers in Brooklyn!


Dear Rocco,

Thanks for the compliments. I am, if nothing, an honest man. Some folks say this makes me a true NEGATRON. But I think I am just calling it like it is.

Now, to answer your questions... Yes, my wife has read my blog. Thankfully, Mrs. Unit knows I am infinitely capable of being a huge ASS. She knows I am what astronomers call a Class-A supernova SHIT-TALKER. She loves me despite all this.

Regarding the Life Force Sucker one day reading my blog... Because I do love him, I might, when he gets about five and can really read, delete this whole thing. This is because children have no sense of irony. They are very literal little beings. For example, if you are wearing Carthartt and work boots and a flannel shirt, you had, in the Life Force Sucker's worldview, better be working for Bob the Fucking Builder and not just styling yourself blue-collar despite the fact you have a graduate degree. (Having worked construction one summer way back in college does not make you blue-collar. Capiche?)

Regarding your analysis of the situation, of people deluding themselves into believing having children is pleasant, I wholeheartedly agree with you. Why do you think so many people get divorced? Why do you think parents are always taking shifts with their kids, so that each can get some "me time"? Because it ain't easy.

But that's not the same as saying I don't love my kid.

Let me describe to you one of my favorite rituals with the Life Force Sucker. It is Saturday morning, the crack of dawn, or even before that, and the little guy starts screaming from his room that he is awake. Soon, I hear the patter of his little feet and the rattling of the zoo-like gate that cages him in. I get up, grab him, give him milk and let him drink this milk in our bed. Then, he and I go to the living room and play with his cars or trains or whatever. After he eats some of the oatmeal I have microwaved for him, we then lie on the sofa. I am, as he puts it, the daddy bird, and he is the baby bird, and I make a nest, a hollow, with my arm. He settles into this nook, snuggles there, and proceeds to suckle my life force from the permawounds--the daddy STIGMATA--in my side. And we watch TV. Sesame Street or Thomas the Train or that little trollop Dora.

Now, is that not love?

Regarding moving out of Brooklyn, I don't know. I don't think I could do it. As much as I go on about the wankers I am surrounded by, I also love this place. I think it is "real." I dig it. Or maybe I am just a pathetic creature of habit and there is a recession on and it's probably not the right time, if you are still employed, to uproot yourself and move off to some Never Never Land like San Francisco.

But maybe you're right. Why am I raising my kid in a Third World City? Why? Why? Why? I mean, sure, ever since we got the Fairway in Redhook, it's become more bearable, less insufferable and hard. There's something about being able to get good French salad dressing at a decent price that makes life easier. But still, sometimes, when Brooklyn or Manhattan is doing nothing but getting on my nerves, I can't help but think: L'Enfer, c'est les autres wankers...


Friday, January 16, 2009

New Father's Survival Kit: Item #5 Reconciling with your parents

So, the 'rents screwed you up royally, huh? They unleashed such a wicked suburban upbringing on you, you had to run all the way to Brooklyn and remake yourself into the hippest, baddest, urbanest Dad on the planet. They messed you up GOOOOOD. As you and your shrink have concluded, THEY are the reason you're like Chip in The Corrections. In fact, you're convinced your upbringing was criminal... You wish you could, like Gary Coleman, sue the crap out of them for parental malpractice. But that would be too gauche. It's better just to immerse yourself in your artsy career, in your alterna-clique, here in the land of the Gowanus.

... Or are you just imagining it? Do you just have a persecution complex? Are you running away from nothing?

Either way, here's the thing... You've been thinking about your parents more and more lately. Because you are coming to realize that, well, raising a kid in New York City is hella expensive. I mean, sure, you make good money, even great money... And before you had your Life Force Sucker, you, like me, the Unit, had mad disposable income. You tried on hobbies like they were T-shirts at Old Navy: You tried snowboarding, guitar playing (did you need that Les Paul?), art collecting; you even adopted a Vespa that refused to run no matter how much money you poured into it.

But now you are spending your wad on diapers, on DAYCARE. And unlike in First World countries like France, where daycare is subsidized, you're spending after-tax dollars for your nanny or your daycare center. (...I know childless folks have no idea what I'm talking about here; after tax wha wha wha?...)

Look at the facts. Here's your monthly budget:
  • Daycare = $2200-plus a month, depending on how many DATE NIGHTS you and Mrs. Unit go on, in a vain effort to reignite the dying embers
  • Milk (organic, Fairway) = $30
  • Mood stabilizers = $20 copay
  • Gore-Tex Italian shoes from Peek-A-Boo, for the Life Force Sucker's fast-growing hobbit feet: $80
  • Lulu's haircut = $20
  • Speyburn (1 bottle/week) = $103.73
  • Diapers = $555,555,555.00
  • multiply by a factor of 3.2 for every additional child you ill-advisedly choose to have
You get the picture! Parenthood is SAVAGING your bank account. Parenthood is giving it to your bank account in the wrong hole.

That is why it is good to have your own Parental Units back in your life. So what if they are hopelessly sub-urban. So what if Dad is unhip and wears Dockers and shit? So what if Mom is as toxic as an 80-year-old nun who's just starting to ask herself, What have I done with my life? So what if your parents are the reason that, despite having spent the last ten years of your life on Paxil, you are still hurting all over?

Well, it's time to forgive them, for they knew not what they were doing. Remember, unlike you, they didn't wait until their near-forties to have kids in New York City. They started having kids in their early twenties, as was expected of them. They were but kids themselves--petty, self-centered, irresponsible. How could they have handled it, right?

Ultimately, what I'm saying is, they have a lifetime of savings and retirement funds that they can share with you; they might also live somewhere warm, where you can visit them (beats this staycation thing, right...)...

They were young, and they tried their best.

What I'm saying is, there's nothing like a Life Force Sucker to reunite you with your parents' estate.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

New Father's Survival Kit: Item #4 An escape hatch

Pack lightly

Every father needs a way out... A secret tunnel through which he can duck the smothering, tentacular embrace of parenthood... You know it's true. But let me be clear: By "escape hatch," I don't mean some namby-pamby MAN ROOM in the basement--no, I don't mean anything so prosaic and so STRAIGHT OUT OF A SITCOM like that.

...What the hey-hey do you mean, Unit?

Let me explain. A worthwhile escape hatch must be in the massive, life-altering scale of the following:

  1. A one-way plane ticket to Brazil
  2. A secret inheritence
  3. An acceptance letter to the Cordon Bleu, which is tucked away in that suitcase in your JFK lockbox.
  4. Or, if you are really freaking delusional, your ex-girl friend from high school with the MAD SKILLZ... That girl who is, you are 99.88888% sure, willing to drop the life she has built up over the last fifteen years for you, her one and only true love. All you have to do is send her one Facebook private message, and love is reborn...

Nothing less than the above examples will do. No Man Room! No yearly golfing trip with your shitty buddies. None of this I-wanna-be-in-a-Seth-Rogen-movie-because-I-am-pathetic type of crap. Because, for God's sake, you are a Brooklyn hipster parent, and any such moronic crap is beneath you. Got it? Understand? Okay... Now, BRACE THYSELF. Because here comes the hard part: Just because you have this escape hatch, it doesn't mean you should or will use it. Just because you have squirreled away a little money, or just because you friended her the other day... it does not mean you should ABANDON YOUR FAMILY. I mean, really, do you want to make your kid a victim of divorce just like you? No, I didn't think so. You want to do better. You want to raise your child with less irreparable soul-crushing DAMAGE than was done onto you. You believe in progress. You are an optimist.

They love you not

In this case, then, you must think of your escape hatch as a parental pressure release valve. It is enough to know it is there. Take, for example, that ticket to Brazil. When, at the end of a bad day, in which you have performed whatever menial and intellectually degrading task you have to perform in order to put FOOD ON THE TABLE (like a circus animal)... When you arrive home dreaming your small fatherly dreams--of MAULING your half of the Fairway rotisserie chicken, and chasing it down with a Guinness--when you come home with your lowly expectations... And all that greets you is a messy Brooklyn apartment and a spouse (who perhaps works, who perhaps does not, whatever) who is equally as tired as you... When you get home and the baby is eating ice cream and watching TV and you think to yourself, I am raising a fat, indulged TV-addled child, and I'm too tired to do anything about... When you reach that hopeless point in your day, just stick a hand into your breast pocket, where that plane ticket is. Yes, it's right there, next to your heart and within easy reach, like a new lover. Pat it, feel its papery surface, worry its corners. My precious... But for God's sake. Do not use it, man.

So you see, this escape hatch is really a deterrent, like the nuclear stockpiles of the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today. Rattle the sabers, but keep your fingers off the button.


Monday, January 12, 2009

New Father's Survival Kit

If you prospective fathers out there have been paying attention to me, you now realize that fatherhood will change your life like nothing else that has come before... The carefree existence you take for granted today (like the wormy ingrate that you are) will seem like a distant memory...

If I, the Unit Parental, can wax poetic for a second, your former life will seem like the following: A faraway forbidden planet whose orbit and mass, whose very atmospheric makeup, you can only deduce through inference and convoluted calculations!

This being the case, I have put together a list of things you will need to survive physically and mentally. Start saving up for them now... Sanity ain't cheap.

Here it goes.

Number 1: Speyburn Single Malt Whiskey

There are the extremes: The Slutkaya Kranberry Vodka your Manhattan friends are drinking... And then there's the Pabst Blue Ribbon your fellow Brooklynites sip as they lounge about in some dive bar, dressed, of course, in their ironic Carthartts.

Somewhere between these extremes of self reinvention is, well, REALITY. And these days, REALITY comes bottled as Speyburn Single Malt Whiskey.

I, the Unit Parental, can vouch for Speyburn's effectiveness. Ever since the Life Force Sucker was born, I have tried other drinks--gin, wine, beer, even other brands of whiskey. But this is the only brand that is capable of filling the hole in my man-soul.

Plus, Speyburn is reasonably priced. And it will get you crocked faster than a case of PBR. You're a dad; you're on a tight schedule; you don't have time to fool around.

Directions: Keep close at hand at all times. Apply liberally.

Number 2:
A new boy's toy

Disclaimer: Girl definitely not included.

You deserve a new toy...

I mean, sure, it was your wife and not you who performed BLINDING FEATS OF HEROISM in the delivery room. But as a father, you are still required to make considerable contributions to this whole parenthood thing.

For example, one of your tasks involves, ironically, "life taking." Specifically, I mean the following: Now that you have the UNBEARABLE HEAVINESS OF HAVING TO TAKE CARE OF A HUMAN LIFE on your shoulders, you must wrap your fingers around the neck of your own inner child and throttle the living bejesus out of him. You have to, in other words, grow the fuck up. So before you choke the life out of this vital part of your CORE BEING, buy him one last

Disclaimer 2: You will have no time to use your new toy.

Number 3: MMA Training

May I suggest mixed martial arts.

I myself am not an ULTIMATE FIGHTER, but I enjoy watching it on TV. Mrs. Unit says ultimate fighting is "so totally gay." Looking at the picture above, she may have a point.

But still, just because entering the Octagon seems a little gay doesn't mean you are necessarily gay. It just means that the sleep deprivation of fatherhood is making you doubt you actually exist. This is because there is a cold numbness to your face all the time--a symptom of lack of sleep. And this cold numbness is making you doubt that you are actually alive.

In short, you want to feel THE BLOOD PUMPING. And your life--of crowded subway cars during weekdays, of Fairway runs on the weekend--isn't doing it. So, in order to achieve this "alive feeling," you are willing to go toe-to-toe with some missing-chromosome nut job who spends eight hours a day in the gym practicing how to gut a human being with his index finger.

The gist of it:
I can't feel my face. Am I alive? ... POW! Roundhouse kick to the temple...

Can you feel your face now?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

My protege dons the "sober goggles"

Yes, I, the Unit Parental, have a protege. He is a dude who lives in my neighborhood. His name is Boris (name changed). Boris is a new dad... Condolences, my man!

I met Boris in the heady two months before his wife gave birth to their very own Life Force Sucker. He was the picture of impending fatherhood--flushed in the cheeks with optimism, talking about painting the room, setting up the crib, and all that crap that keeps you too occupied to realize what is happening to your life.

Once, in those dreamyy days before he became a Unit himself, Boris asked me how being a father was.

And I told him the truth: I believe I used the words, completely fucking emasculating...

He looked at me in an appalled way. Then, I could see him narrow his eyes and take new appraisal of me--like he was some FBI profiler and I was a psychopath or, at least, bipolar.

And I heard the wheels turning in his clueless little head. He was deep into the four most popular delusions expecting fathers have:
  1. Fatherhood is gonna be fucking awesome.
  2. Fatherhood is the pinnacle of all it means to be a MAN.
  3. My little Life Force Sucker will complete me.
  4. And last but not least: I will not repeat my parents' mistakes, and therefore, my kid is gonna grow up DAMAGE FREE...
Well, that was nine months ago, and I saw my protege the other day. We were at an event at our local bar--family day. Beer + Face Paint = The Time of Your Life...

And what a difference a couple of months makes. Boris, you see, had gotten over the honeymoon phase... That magical time when his little Life Force Sucker looks like perfection (i.e., a juicy rib-eye) on a plate.

And what Boris said to me was, "I completely don't matter anymore."

He was, of course, talking about his wife. And how she has now focused all her energy on their own Life Force Sucker... He cannot get a word in; he has lost his claim, legal and otherwise, to both her breasts... And, of course, ironically, his wife's breasts are at their picturesque fullest and finest... Their ripest! (...Boris, my man, I am speaking generally about new mothers' breasts here... Not speaking specifically about the breasts of Mrs. Boris... Okay? ...Give her my best... And to the little one!)

Parenthood = less of the above...

But more of the following:

So, to Boris, I would officially like to say:


But I am not without a heart. I will give Boris some advice.

The advice: Lower your fucking expectations, man.

Or else... End up divorced... End up in treatment...

Don't try to get as much as you were getting before... Don't be a big baby about it.

Just try to get a decent night's sleep. Because there is something about the sleep deprivation and your crushing financial obligations from here on in that will bring out the best and the worst in both you and the Mrs... And you two will really see what kind of person you have married... Because you will be looking at each other through the opposite of beer goggles. That's right, you will be looking at each other with sober goggles...

So, Boris, lower them got-damn expectations right bloody now!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Facebook is awesome for keeping in touch with faraway childless friends...

Somewhere out there in CYBERSPACE is a server overstuffed with pictures of Facebookers and their own beloved Life Force Suckers... All the Life Force Sucker pics in that Facebook server is testament to the human need to breed.

Do you hear that, New York City? It's okay to want to reproduce. It is not a sign of weakness...

Facebook is also a great place for me, the Unit Parental, to get my message out to friends who live far away. And as you know, my message is: dear aging friends, please reproduce ASAP! Join me in the bacteria and love-filled jacuzzi of parenthood... You don't know what you're missing.

Here is one example of my proselytizing: A Facebook message exchange I had with a dear friend in San Francisco. This friend of mine, Apollonia (name changed), is frittering her youth away on all things San Francisco, and so, I thought a little wake up call was in order.

You, of course, understand my concern for poor Apollonia. Because, if New York City is full of SELF-CENTERED, CAREERIST TOOLS like you and me, then San Francisco is full of BIG, LAZY SELF-INDULGENT BABIES.

That's correct. Let's examine the evidence.

Your average San Franciscan likes to engage in the following:
  1. Throwing or participating in THEMED parties
  2. Dressing up extravagantly for Halloween
In fact, preparation for San Francisco themed parties can take weeks if not months of arduous arts and crafts. The way some San Franciscans talk about it, you would think they were throwing mardi gras in their living rooms. But whatever. In short, what I'm trying to say is the following: San Franciscans like to engage in "make believe."

And, let's think about this a second now: What other segment of the population is totally way into "make believe?" Well, let me give you a clue: the Life Force Sucker, god bless him, is part of this segment of the population. That's right! ...

Children! The answer is children! Children like to engage in "make believe."

He also likes to dress up and "make believe."

Don't take my word for it. Read what the great novelist Jeffrey Eugenides wrote about SF in the great book Middlesex: "San Francisco is the place where young people go to retire..." That's right. San Francisco is like a Never Never Land Ranch by the bay.

And so, you can understand my concern for my friend Apollonia. I did not want her to fall deeper into the trance of San Francisco's Cult of Nothingness...

So here went nothing:


The Unit Parental
October 27 at 8:43am

So, Apollonia, you having some spawn yet or what? Tell the Sperm Donor to stop being a wuss and pony up. SHEEEEEEEEET...


Apollonia Reflexia
October 29 at 5:58pm

NO! Maybe I don't want any babies.

If you can list off 10 reasons why it's so great, maybe I'll consider it.

Please list each reason in it's own haiku poem.


The Unit Parental
October 29 at 8:43pm

Here's one good reason:

Do you want to be one of those old people who never had kids and are forever trying to wear hip clothes and hang onto a youth that has long passed you by because that is all there is? Do you really want to be THAT aunt to all your friends' kids? Do you want the stories you'll be telling ten years from now to be the same stories you're telling now? About how so totally wasted you got that time? About how you went to see this band and it was rad? Think about it! Is that what you want forever?

Plus, children are the BOMB! They love you like crazy and smile at everything you do.

There, I gave you two reasons...



Apollonia Reflexia
October 29 at 9:30pm

good reasons. maybe now you just have to talk to, The Sperm Donor


Apollonia Reflexia
October 29 at 11:01pm

Think about it this way, Unit.

You are just jealous and or discriminating against me because I don't subscribe to your judeo-christian values. Just because I don't have children, doesn't mean I am going to turn into an old hag that's hanging on to her youth, continues partying into her fourties, or otherwise has nothing interesting to talk about.

In fact, I can barely stand hanging out with some of my friends with children, because they cannot have an adult conversation, they have have absolutely not attention span, and most times, hanging out with them is 100% on their terms. " I can't come over until...only if we meet at my house..."

Maybe in ten years, I'll be talking about my world travels, philanthropic endeavors, new inventions, exciting career and wonderfully rich full life.

Meantime, you'll be talking about TV, whining about the babysitter, tuition and eating spaghetti for dinner - again.


The Unit Parental
October 30 at 7:38am

Hmmmm, if The Sperm Donor isn't into it, and you've talked to him about it, there's nothing I can probably say to change his mind. I say it's time for action; just stop taking the pill and announce the accident when it happens. Then you'll find out if The Sperm Donor can shed this whole Peter Pan thing he's got going, or whether he'll forever be a self-indulgent manchild (if I can do it, anyone can). Either way, you will know, which is a good thing.

Re: parents you know hanging out "100% on their own terms," it's really one of the gifts children give you--learning selflessness. There's this small helpless human being totally dependent on you. And your old habits have to go, or else the little person suffers. I have friends who are just "thinking about" having children, and it's so clear to me they have no idea what they are talking about. "Thinking about" having children? That's like saying you're "thinking about" having gastric fucking bypass surgery. They just have no clue what a game-changing--no, what an extinction level event--having kids is. Even when we go biking or something, I'm always like, I gotta be back at 2PM so Mrs. Unit Parental don't have to take care of the little tyke all day by herself. And they're like, well, okay, like I've just said something completely unacceptable. But just wait. Then they will find out.

And it's not about Judeo-Christianity or whatever. I'm a SHAMELESS HEATHEN. I just think there are phases you have to go through in adulthood, one of them being a parent. It truly is amazingly fulfilling.

You could of course go the Oprah route and do philanthropy instead of having children. But I think a lot of people who push it off just don't want to grow up; I don't think that's the case with you. And of course, it's all up to you. But I think you would be a great parent, a great mommy.



Apollonia Reflexia
October 30 at 3:30pm
There is no reason why I cannot be an adult without being:

a. married
b.with children

IMHO adults who are not married do not have children face institutionalized discrimination all the time. At work, in their families, amongst their friends and when receiving medical care are a few examples.

It has nothing to do with not wanting to grow up. I am grown up. Children and marriage just may not be in the cards for me...


Oh, Apollonia, San Francisco goddess (well, actually, Oakland, which I hear is like the Jersey City of the Bay Area...), may the gods of fertility visit your home, may the ticking of the biological clock grow loud in your soul, may the need to breed suffuse every cell in your body!

To this end, I will sacrifice a live and genuine New York City subway rat!