Diapers, an absorbing issue

Kevin Cowherd

October 16, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

INITIALLY, I had toyed with the idea of traipsing off to the woods to bang on drums and smear my face with mud and reaffirm my masculinity with other anguished partisans of the Male Movement.

Then I thought, no, to hell with that nonsense. I'll grab a beer and watch the ballgame.

Instead, my wife handed me our 5-month-old and said, "See you later, Rambo, I'm going shopping," leaving me to spend the day changing diapers and reflecting on what this does to a man.

For those who have never had the pleasure, the key to changing a diaper is this: You want to get in and out of there fast.

You do not want to linger over the scene, as you would at a roaring waterfall or sprawling mountaintop vista.

In fact, at the risk of beating this analogy to death, changing a diaper is somewhat akin to traversing certain noxious stretches of the Jersey Turnpike, where hulking refineries and smoke-spewing smelting plants combine with stagnant marshland water to create an odor that would make a vulture queasy.

In and out of there, that's the ticket.

Another thing that occurs to me is that women are much better at this business of changing diapers than men are.

Perhaps you women in the reading audience are rolling your eyes and thinking: My God, that is an incredibly sexist comment!

Look, I'm not saying women enjoy changing diapers.

I'm not saying they walk around all day with this wistful expression on their face thinking: "Gee, I wish that baby would do something so I could change him . . ."

All I'm saying is that they handle the whole thing a lot better than men do, due to their (here comes some major-league sucking up) innate patience and boundless capacity for nurturing.

I'll give you a perfect example (and my credentials are in order here, what with three kids and hundreds of diaper changes on my resume): Women will actually talk to the baby while they change his/her diaper. They will laugh with the baby and sing or make soothing sounds that reassure the baby that what is taking place -- the cleansing after a natural bodily function -- is perfectly normal.

A man, on the other hand, will be bent over the baby, brow furrowed in concentration, beads of sweat glistening on his forehead, as if he were deactivating a land mine. If he says two words to the baby, it's a major conversation.

A man's only thought throughout the entire ordeal is: I . . . I think I'm blacking out! Let's get this over with, pronto.

There is also this: A woman brings a certain insouciance to changing a diaper.

The whole thing is simply no big deal to her. When the task is completed, she goes on with her life, expecting no commentary on what she has done and not dwelling on it for a moment.

A man, however, will finish changing a diaper and throw up his hands in triumph, as if he had accomplished something extraordinary. You would think he had just eased the last girder of the Eiffel Tower into place or banged out the final paragraph to "The Sun Also Rises."

I have heard men prattle on and on for days about changing a single Huggies, describing the experience in excruciating detail and bragging about the singular valor it took to get through it.

(OK. I mentioned Huggies. Which is not a cool thing to do, given the fact that disposable diapers are not considered environmentally correct these days.

(Look, I'm not happy with what I'm doing to the planet. But the last thing I want to do after changing a dirty diaper is rinse a dirty diaper. That would just about put me over the edge.)

So what am I trying to say here?

Am I saying all men are hopeless, cringing bunglers when it comes to changing diapers?

Am I saying they should never be expected to change a diaper, particularly on a day in which there are any number of compelling ballgames on TV?

Yes, that is exactly what I'm saying.

The sooner we all understand that, the better.

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