Batteries, Disney and Male Hypocrisy

Editor & Publisher

Passion runs through families in the blood. My wife and people around me want to feed me Prozac or Valium every time I read a newspaper. But to my hypersensitive and histrionic self, there is no other way.

I can’t watch television or read a paper without violent reactions. I grow nauseous when I read soft, editorialized reporting. I hate sentimental news coverage. I like heated stories that show action and conflict. I like strong personalities and ideas. And the way I see it, reacting violently is a sign of love, a sign of caring.

Take my distaste as a parent for all things electronic — at least in the hands of my children. My wife gives me the “You are a crazy father like Charles Manson” lecture whenever I want to buy my 11-year-old son a pellet gun. I tell her, “guns can be wholesome.”

She thinks my genes mixed with rap music in my son’s head will incubate the next Columbine apprentice. But in my mind, a plinking pellet gun is healthier than the entire World of Disney.

As much as Disney, I hate batteries. But even more, I hate any toy that is battery operated — anything that makes some buzzing electronic squeal.

I know I sound like an old codger at 44, but here is the deal: My Mother-in-Law loves anything that runs off a battery and all of her presents to any of my children have the words “Alkaline Batteries Not Included” branded on the box.

Every holiday I run off to the third world emporium, the Dollar Store, on a battery quest. I stock up because I want to see my children smile. My presents never bring smiles because other than my childhood nostalgia for guns, I try to give pretentious gifts. I am the one who buys books, art supplies and musical instruments.

The grandparents, ironically, always go electronic. It’s the smile factor. The kids get that bedazzled eyes-spin- ning-in-the-head-with-excitement look when something dings, whirs, beeps or talks in a high-pitched digital voice. My gifts sit like so many grey rocks — Illustrated Shakespeare Collection for Children, a set of acrylic paints drawing pads or a kiln.

I try to entice the kids with the “look what you can make” sales pitch. They just run in another room.

Fortunately, late Christmas Eve, the batteries and the kids wear out. Night comes and I curl up with my wife. She reminds me that I grew up playing electric guitar, playing Atari and riding motorcycles and snow- mobiles. She says my noisy antics not only drove my parents crazy, but alienated neighbors and even past lovers. I respond with my anti-Disney argument against anything that is mass-produced and television fed and sold at Wal-Mart. She reminds me I am a male, therefore inevitably a hypocrite bordering on being no fun. She also reminds me that I am the one who is in love with my tablet and Samsung Galaxy phone.

I laugh and then relax in the vast silence of her arms and the night and think of the year to come, excited at all the possibilities of 2013. Maybe we will have another, a seventh child, maybe we will start more newspapers. Maybe the real estate market will rebound and everyone will buy larger SUVs again. Maybe, with divine intervention, my Mother-in-Law will find a toy that doesn’t take a battery before the year is done. If not, there is always another gun.


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