Columns

2009.04.15 Skills for adulthood

on . Posted in Midnight Musings

Colleen Leddy is taking a break this week. Midnight Musings is replaced by the musings of her son-in-law.

By TAYLOR BALLINGER

What are the qualifications for being an adult male?

I just wrapped my wife’s birthday present— I don’t know why I didn’t just bag the gift like I usually do—and I came to a painful realization. I’m a grown man and I don’t know how to wrap a gift. 

This probably comes as no surprise to many of you. I am certainly not the only man who tries unsuccessfully to wrap his wife’s birthday or Christmas present. It doesn’t look like it would be very difficult to wrap a present. My mother is quite proficient at the skill. The problem is, I took the Patrick Ballinger (my father) macho-man route as a child, meaning I treated gift-wrapping as something girls did. So now, poor Rosie’s gift looks like it was wrapped by a drunken cat with sharp claws.

This got me thinking; what are some other skills that I lack? Too numerous to count, undoubtedly, but here’s a small list of things I should probably know how to do:

1. Change my car’s motor oil. Everyone says it’s easy. Anyone can do it, heck, even a kid can do it. Well I can’t. I know three things about my car: you turn the key to the right to start it, you push the accelerator to make it go, and you push the brake to make it stop.

2. Peel an orange. Seriously, how hard could it be? I think I get in too big a hurry and I dig too deep into the peel, which puts a gash into the edible part of the orange, and inevitably squirts orange juice all over my shirt and pants. This is embarrassing when you’re a school teacher, because the kids ask things like, “Mr. B, did you pee your pants?”

3. Watch a basketball game without yelling at the TV. I get it, they can’t hear me. My mother told me this growing up, my wife told me this yesterday, and my logic told me this after I realized the TV just projected an image onto the screen. But where I’m from, basketball is a way of life. My grandmother was such a rabid University of Kentucky fan that I was not allowed to speak to her during games. I cried myself to sleep in 1993 when Christian Laettner and Duke sent Kentucky home in the tournament on an improbable and unfair last-second shot. This one’s genetic, no help for me there.

4. Talk quietly on the phone. This one comes from my grandfather. Apparently he thinks that if we’re talking on the phone and we’re 700 miles apart he needs to yell like AT&T will only guarantee 650 miles of coverage. My dad’s the same way. I tell Rosie to switch the phone from ear to ear, because if she balances out the impending deafness it won’t seem so bad.

5. Hit a golf ball straight, consistently. It seems so simple. You take a mallet-like object and hit a stationary ball. For some reason, though, my shot always slices to the right. Well, not always. Sometimes I adjust my stance, thinking the ball will slice to the right. That’s when I usually hit it straight, negating my adjustment.

6. Roll a sleeping bag. For some reason, when I attempt to roll my sleeping bag it ends up looking like a big, blue, nylon crumpled up ball of paper. It has a picture on the tag that shows me how to do it correctly, but I’m not fluent in picture directions.

7. Walk in a straight line. My other tall friends say they have the same problem. We must just not see the people around us, so we treat the whole sidewalk as our personal domain. I’ve been known to walk completely off sidewalks, tripping and falling and twisting my ankle. I’ve also accidentally pushed Rosie into traffic. If you ever see me looking suspicious walking behind a large group of people, don’t be alarmed. I’m not stalking them; they’re simply walking ahead of me to avoid getting bulldozed.

I guess I’ve made it by so far without the preceding skills, and there are times when I really wish that I could fix these shortcomings (if you consider not being able to peel an orange a shortcoming). But, then again, if I learn to wrap a gift like a pro I’ll never be able to put on the pouty face and say, “But Rosie, you’re SO much better at this than me!”

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