I’ve been called many things over the years, most of which were not meant to be complimentary, but when your own kids give you a nickname it most likely has meaning behind it. Now my son has had numerous names for me, again most not meant to be complimentary or to may face, but the one truly endearing name he called me was “My old man hippie Dad.” My boy was a typical son, lazy and rebellious, and I can’t say he never lifted a finger to help but in truth I wish it had been more than the middle one. And I had some rather uncomplimentary names for him as well, but the hippie dad was always said with love. He is very creative and a few days ago he upgraded my paternal status to “My Anti-Corporate Hippie Dad”. Now I’m not one for titles per say, but I must admit this one has a familiar ring to it. In fact it is the complete opposite of what my own Dad would have been, a big business company man. My Pops was an ultra-conservative father who believed big business was responsible for the great American dream and he toiled at his company until he retired.
Many times we become the opposite of our parents and I am definitely in that category. It started out as a rebellious stand but became my persona, my essence. I first grew my hair and donned bell bottoms and balloon sleeve shirts to piss him off but it rapidly became my lifestyle. This is mostly because all the politics and ideals my old man had were way too conservative and far too head up the ass-ish for me to latch on to. You know, the typical 50‘s mentality, the man is the head of his castle and the woman cooks, cleans, and tends to her “duties“. Now normally that would suggest sex, but I have four brothers and one sister so by my calculations my parents only had sex six times so my Moms duties were surely something other than sex. Otherwise, ewwww!! Anyway, acutely aware of what narrow mined principle I was raised on I attempted to instill in my son what I believe to be a fair, sensible and inclusive set of values to live by. I tried but my son ha some good rebel genes in him as well. I still remember the day I knew all my planting of peace love and understanding seeds would be in vain. My son, who once offered me rays of hope by rebelling with Mohawk hair dyed a fuchsia pink, wearing Anarchy tee shirts, and piercing places in his body I would never have considered came home one day wearing penny loafers.
“What the hell are those and where did you get them? What happened to your army boots and Converse?” My boy looked at me defiantly, “I’m getting an office job, I want to work in corporate.” He may just as well have ripped the heart out of my chest and kicked it like a hacky sack. My son wants to be a business man. Worse, he wants to be a big man in a corporate position. Where did I go wrong? I had attempted to give him the benefit of years of my own rebellions. I took him to his first rock concert when he was an eight year old playing Kriss Kross on his Walkman. We went to Giant stadium to see Faith No More, Guns and Roses, and Mettalica and it rocked his world. The change was instantaneous an I knew he was on the road to being cool. It worked out so well in fact we went to lots more shows together, lollapalooza, warped tour, all the time with his hair changing from pink, to green, to orange. I helped him put a ton of gel in his hair so he could have spikes. I pushed him into his first mosh pit, was with him for his first time crowd-surf during a Rancid show, and watched him thrown off the stage during The Ramones. It was a unique an enlightening father an son bond. I did everything I could to encourage him to embrace the idiosyncrasies of his generation the way I had mine. Except without a fight. My father and I came close to fist fights over my hair, my clothes, and my music and here this young lad is encouraged by his father. I just assumed with such a close relationship that we would have similar values. And what o I get in return? A son wearing penny loafers, wanting a three piece suit, and neatly trimmed hair. Was it just to piss me off? My father giving me Karmic retribution? Even worse, I never in my wildest imagination ever believed my own son would become a republican. I feel like I have failed as a father.
Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on myself, in truth he has a very strong value system, he is very respectful of women, of minorities, and of people in general. He is a good man, a son any father can be super proud of. A fantastic father to his own children, a loving and supportive husband, and he calls up his old man a few times a week just to chat. We have a treasure chest of awesome memories that can keep us laughing all night, have similar tastes in food and drink, and in reality are very similar each other. Except when it comes to style and politics. Politics placed a huge wedge between my father and I so I was a bit concerned that it could effect my relationship with my son. But blood and love is so much thicker than political water and we found a mutual respect for each others opinion and don’t focus on the differences. I never wanted my son to follow in y footsteps because being a chef in reality is nothing like is seems watching Top chef. It’s a grueling non forgiving industry in which the small reward is knowing you have gone down a path not many can master. You really need to have your heart in it because restaurant life can strip[ you of your heart. I wanted my son to forge his own footsteps and he has, but not completely. After taking him under my wing and working him down to the ass bone he told me in no uncertain terms that he did not want to be a chef. I was relieved, we opened a bottle of wine to seal his promise. He went to college but to my dismay his training with me moved him up in the ranks at his part time job at Cheesecake factory. He used that to his advantage climbing not to the upper echelon of culinary commander but to the managerial hierarchy of the restaurant industry. He is now a general manager of a very prestigious restaurant and very happy. But he’s still republican!
The bottom line is we all have to be true to ourselves, to who we truly are and both my son and I have done that. He is a bit of a metro-sexual, having his hair and nails done, he dresses conservatively, has no more ear, nose or the piercing formally known as Prince rings (although on windy days he still whistles) but he is who he is and I respect that. We’ve always had strange names for each other, he was GI Joke, Schmedly, puke of Earl, I was the ol man who lives upstairs, Happy Hippie Dad, the parental units unit, and grounding master. But I’m proud that he’s my son, I’m proud that he has worked to achieve what he wanted, and I’m proud of who he is as a person. I’m also proud to have him call me Dad, but more than anything I now beam with pride when he calls me, “My Anti-Corporate Hippie Dad”