Una giornata del maschio moderno
Racconto/confessione, 12×16 cm, 128 pp,
A Day in the Life of the Modern Man
An entertaining account of a day in the life of a man who has chosen to turn traditional family roles on their heads by becoming a househusband.
With a touch of irony he tells us about everything that a househusband has to deal with: looking after the kids, getting them ready for kindergarten, breakfast, household chores, lunch, dinner (as he waits for his “working wife” to come home), etc.
As well as giving us an insight into everything a househusband has to do during the day, he also takes the time to describe all those people around whom the life of the “man of the house” revolves: family, friends, neighbors, sales clerks. . . .
A story that mixes reality (and plenty of it) with fantasy (a pinch), and shows that what women have been doing since the dawn of time, men too are beginning to understand, in a world that is constantly evolving.
If men are from Mars and women are from Venus, then this case has the Martians on a trip to Venus while women have set up home on Mars . . . and they’re not showing signs of leaving any time soon.
He was born on February 11, 1973, in Mendrisio, Switzerland.
In ascending order he attended kindergarten, elementary school and middle school.
He holds qualifications in photography, nursing support and nursing.
After working in a photographic studio and nursing homes he was most recently employed in a hospital.
Now he has a real job, managing a wife and kids.
I. The Setup
“Congratulations Oscar! I agree with your choice. You have my support! Well done!”
That’s what my boss said when I told her I wanted to quit my job to take care of the kids.
If I remember correctly she added, “But, are you sure?”.
At that time I only had one son. Now I have two, and it will probably stay that way, even though my wife and I sometimes think about wanting a set of three, perhaps adding a little girl.
A little girl who could go to H&M with her mother without emptying all the clothes from the shelves or pulling down the hangers. A girl who wouldn’t run around the store screaming, proving that your kids are just as annoying as all the other kids in the world.
Having said all that I’ll start by telling you about my family:
My wife’s name is Orsetta Elettra Alkistis;
Our first son is called Alessandro Federico Giacomo;
Giacomo Attilio Maria is our second son;
And my name is Oscar. That’s it.
The uniqueness of their names makes up for their last name: Matti.1
I’ll tell you why we chose the second and third names for our sons, although you’re probably not interested. In Alessandro’s case they’re the names of his two grandfathers, and for Giacomo, Attilio is my wife’s uncle. Maria is just chic.
I still don’t really understand my wife’s name so I can’t explain it to you.
If we have a little girl we’ll call her Ondina, Sea, Storm. No, only kidding! We’ll just call her Ondina.
For those of you who don’t think that’s a real name, let me remind you of two historical figures, Ondina Peteani and Ondina Valla. I’ll just point out that Ondina Peteani was a partisan and Ondina Valla was an Olympic hurdler.
I’m a nurse. My wife is a lawyer and a judge’s assistant. She’s a wonderful woman, an inch or so taller than me with black hair and light skin dotted with freckles. I picked her because she was beautiful, on the advice of a patient I was looking after years ago. He told me that if I was ever going to get married I should marry a beautiful woman so that when I got bored with her someone would take her off my hands easily. She’d make short work of it and I’d avoid any hassle.
Alessandro, known as Alè, is in kindergarten. He’s a lively child with blond hair, long legs and fair skin. His eyes are black.
To start with I couldn’t see myself in this being who was supposed to be just like me. My dark hair, short legs (according to my wife) and olive skin didn’t quite fit with Alessandro’s physical characteristics. Thanks to people pointing out how much we look alike though, I’m now convinced. In the end, just to make sure there wasn’t any doubt, I had a DNA test taken.
Giacomo, known as Giacomino, is currently unemployed. He’s too young to work but I prefer to say that he’s my assistant so as not to damage his self-esteem. Giacomino, on the other hand, does look just like me with short legs, brown hair, dark green eyes and olive skin. From the way he looks it’s obvious that he’s a smart kid, just like his father of course.
Some may wonder why a nurse would become a househusband and then decide to tell everyone about it.
There are plenty of reasons: boredom, frustration, financial dependency on my wife. And then, if the book becomes a bestseller, I can have a full time nanny with another on standby, and fulfill my dream of owning a boat: an Apreamare 64. It’s a beauty, at 64 feet long and 18 feet wide with a fully loaded maximum speed of 33.5 knots.
As I said, there are many reasons.
I’m going to use these pages to tell you all about the tough days of being a househusband in hopes of raising public awareness concerning the hardships experienced by men who are forced to stay at home.
II. The Morning
A day in the life of a housewife is always the same. What changes is the housewife herself and the way she structures it. My day is as follows, starting with the morning:
I wake up when Alessandro comes into our bed. I should make it clear that Alessandro never comes into our bed like in the movies, with a sleepy face, a pacifier in his mouth and a teddy bear in his hand. No! Not him. He runs in banging his heels down against the parquet floor, not caring in the slightest that his brother is sleeping. He doesn’t even think about the fact that his brother is only one, and that when he wakes up he doesn’t talk but screams. Then he doesn’t climb gently onto the bed, like in the movies. No! He launches himself, flies through the air, and then comes in for a landing. More often than not, right on my nuts, so much so that I’ve gotten into the habit of sleeping with a rolled up shirt in my boxer shorts. Sometimes when he’s landing I get a knee right in the face; other times, only occasionally, thank God, his skull hits me right in the teeth, loosening them slightly and causing the odd painful wound. Alessandro’s arrival is like a bomb that has exploded in my bed.
In fact, moments later, Giacomino starts up on the other side of the room, like a foghorn. It’s just like being bombarded. This is perhaps the most critical point of the morning. There are two options:
I get really mad, like a fan whose team has just had a goal disallowed against their most hated rival … and it turns out it was legitimate. At that point, Alessandro, realizing he’s gone too far, starts to cry and says,
“You’re mean. Go live somewhere else! I didn’t do it on purpose!”
I speak to him softly,
“Sweetheart, careful …,” or “Ah, the baby’s waking up… Let’s go and get your little brother …”
And so on …
Unfortunately, it’s most often the first option that turns out to be true.
Then I get up.
My wife leaves the house at dawn; she’s a commuter and the Lugano train leaves Chiasso, the city where we live, at 7:09 a.m. I head towards the other bedroom to get Giacomino who is screaming. I go back into my room and tell Alessandro to get dressed. He looks at me and repeats, “You’re mean. Go live somewhere else! I didn’t do it on purpose!” And so on …
I yell at him, “Get up!” This frightens Giacomino who starts to scream even louder. At this point I yell at Giacomino to stop screaming. His only response is to scream louder still. Alessandro tells me not to scold Giacomino because he’s little and doesn’t understand.
It’s essential to use all of one’s available internal resources to remain calm
I get Giacomino and put him on the ground. I tell him, “Stay there! Don’t move!” Then I run into the bathroom. I lock myself in. I bring my hands up to my face as if I’m about to pray. But I don’t pray. I take a deep breath. For a moment everything is quiet. It’s as if only the prayer position can make the miracle happen. But, as you know, a miracle, and this type of miracle in particular, never happens.
In the meantime Giacomino is outside the bathroom, crying and beating his hands against the glass door. The danger is that the glass will break; the situation could go from difficult to tragic. Best avoided. I open the door angrily with wide-open eyes and the voice of a werewolf. He looks at me, opens his eyes and loads up the foghorn. We look at each other. It’s like a Western standoff. Silence. But then, before he screams, it’s as if the moon has given way to the dawn and I change back from a werewolf into a father. The miracle!
I try to reassure Giacomino, but, thinking he’s the winner, he’s decided to let it go. At this point only milk can save me.
I pick up the foghorn and go into the kitchen. I put him on the ground; he screams. I pick him up again, take the bottle, pot, milk and cookies. I pour the milk into the bottle to see how much there is. Half of it spills out onto the kitchen counter. I pour the contents into the pot. The foghorn gets louder because he wants to drink it right away. The milk leaks again, onto the stove this time. I clean it immediately with a cloth but the marks make a mockery of last night’s polishing. I break the biscuits up into the bottle; tiny cookie crumbs go everywhere. After a few minutes I notice that I’m using the broken burner, the one that we say runs slow. I switch burners and wait.
Some of you might be wondering why I don’t give him a cookie. The answer is simple: I cleaned the floor the night before. At the very least I want to keep the floor clean.
I go to check on Alessandro; he’s sleeping in our bed.
I go back into the kitchen. That’s the burner that runs fast. The milk looks like a huge cappuccino and it is flowing out of the pot onto the stove. I put Giacomino down on the ground and fill the bottle with the remaining white-hot milk. Now Giacomino’s crying! Every day I have the same stroke of genius: I add cold milk to the boiling milk. Then I sit on the couch, rest Giacomino on my belly and connect the bottle to his mouth.
I enjoy those few moments when the hydraulic pump is draining his milk. When he’s done I get up and rest his belly on my shoulder; I wait for a burp which arrives right on time after I’ve shrugged my shoulder into the pit of his stomach. I hold him up to the ceiling. He looks at me smiling and says, “Ball!”
That’s right; the first word he learned was ball.
But I can’t relax. I go into the room where Alessandro is sleeping like an angel. I think, “Why wake him up?” The answer is easy: “Kindergarten!” He attends the morning session from 8:45 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Alessandro is four, and for reasons of jealousy and abandonment anxiety linked to the birth of Giacomo, he still wets himself. We’ve had to put him back in diapers.
This isn’t a problem for me. It’s not cheap, that’s true, but, like I said, it’s not a problem. I can’t wait to see, on the day he meets a girl, whether he still goes to bed with protection. The real trouble is that if a kid still pees in his diaper, he has to be washed in the morning.
An adult like you would loosen the two elastic strips on the sides, take it off, and then wash yourself thoroughly with the bidet. While the diaper is still warm and heavy, it would be thrown into the plastic bag on the balcony and later thrown in the trash in the park on the way to work. With Alessandro, who’s not yet able to dress himself, it’s a different matter.
In any case, given the delay, I grab him with a Bruce Lee move. Still half asleep I lead him into the bathroom, in this case into the shower room as the tub is in the other bathroom. I undress him and put him under the shower attachment. I fix the water. Too cold. Too hot. Cold again. Scalding hot. He yells. Finally, the temperature is to his liking. I sit down, exhausted, and think that I can breathe again now. From the other side of the apartment a desperate yell makes me think that a bookshelf has collapsed on Giacomino’s tiny body.
The scene I’m presented with is worthy of a narcotics squad raid. Toys are scattered all over the room, beds are unmade, and drawers have been emptied. Luckily Giacomino is alive. I just have to work out why he’s so upset.
He has his hand under the cabinet. After a quick look I realize that the cabinet hasn’t fallen on his arm. After I’ve reassured him I ask him why he’s crying. He points to the cabinet with his finger. I bend down and look underneath. I tell him, “Everything’s OK! There’s the ball”. He smiles angelically, and almost as if he’s trying to reward me he says, “Bbballl!”
I pick him up and take him into the shower. I tell Alessandro to turn the jet of water towards the wall. I switch off the faucet. I left the bathrobe in the other bathroom. Alessandro has goose bumps and is complaining about the cold. I run and get the bathrobe. When I come back Giacomino is sitting down wet in the shower. I dry Alessandro. It’s getting late. I take him into the bedroom and lay him down on the changing table. He’s like a dead weight.
I tell him, “It’s late!”
“I’m dead; a dead person doesn’t move.”
I point out, “If you’re talking, you’re not dead.”
He insists, “I’m really cold, like a dead body.”
He’s right. I give him a slap on his right butt cheek. He cries. He has a red mark in the shape of my hand. I put on some cream in the hope of removing any trace of the violence. I risk getting found out by Child Protective Services but at least he’s now doing what he’s told. I finally manage to dress him.
Even if they’re hard to manage, children are
The result of the power released by the love between two people that fills your heart with unimaginable joy.
The human species’ chance at continued life;
An antidepressant for the grandparents;
A future contribution to the IRS;
An expense for aunts and uncles;
A chance for people like me who were lazy at school to go over grammar and math without having to go to evening classes, and a whole series of wonderful moments that they give to us as they grow up.
Children can also be
The start of the decline of love;
The unleashing of depression, both for the woman and within the couple;
A future expense for the IRS if they turn out to be slackers;
The breakdown of the relationship with aunts and uncles due to their excessive use as babysitters;
A whole series of small disappointments that their growing up brings.
And while we’re talking about children, we have to take a brief moment to discuss pregnancy. It’s right and fair to remember that women are full of hormones at that time and that we men can only submit. In fact, if only for the reason that they are doing us the favor of dealing with the child for the first nine months, we can only hold our tongues.
As soon as the little one is shot out of the uterine duct, you have to remember that the woman is an even more explosive concentration of hormones than before, is about to lose her crown as queen of the house, and will have to go on all sorts of diets to get back in shape. Her maternity clothes don’t fit anymore, nor do the ones from before her pregnancy. Friends and family are only interested in the new arrival and she’ll be cast aside like a stove at the start of summer. That’s the point at which we have to have something extra, because deep down we owe it to her, if not only for the simple reason that she has gone through labor and pushed out our heir. Even if we contributed by being there and being excited, we only have a walk-on part.
I think women should be worshiped for the rest of their days.
A civilized society should assign them a personal trainer to guide them back to a normal BMI, a personal shopper to help them buy their first post-baby wardrobe, a babysitter for some leisure time every week, and a cleaning lady. I’d also like to add a laptop for online shopping and a personal chef, at least, for the kitchen.
Well, after having been present at two births, you realize that women are superheroes.
III. On the Phone
The phone rings; it’s my wife.
“Hi honey. How’s it going?”
“Hi honey. I’m a little busy … I’ll call you right back.”
“Have you heard about …,” she goes on.
“Listen, I’ll call you right back, OK?” I try to get her to stop.
“But… is everything OK?”
“Funny… tell me if I can help you …”
“Yes, get Giacomino from the shower …”
“Wow, how funny we are this morning …”
A moment of silence.
“So, my love,” I say sweetly.
“Last night was great…”
“Yes, it was.”
“I’m happy that I have you.” Now I’m really getting romantic.
“I’m happy too.”
“Listen, can I ask you a question?”
“Am I or am I not like the Energizer Bunny, baby?” I ask boldly.
“Oscar! You’re always like this! You manage to ruin those few moments of romance and make me mad! How do you do it? It’s a gift. Listen, I’m going to get a coffee! See you later!”
“Wait, wait …,” I beg in the hope of making it up to her. “It’s nice to talk to you, and an invitation came for the opening of an exhibition. It’s on Saturday. I thought it would be nice if we could go together.”
“It would be nice. Do we have someone to look after the kids?”
“I’ve already texted Aunt Alessandra. I said that her nephews were wondering what had happened to her. I added that I told them that their Aunt Alessandra probably doesn’t love them anymore. She replied that she’ll come and look after them and that I’m a jerk.”
“Fantastic!” she says lovingly.
“Fantastic? That she said I’m a jerk?”
“No, I meant that we can go out together!”
“OK, see you later!” we both say almost at the same time.
“I love you!”
“I love you too!”
“See you later.”
“See you later.”
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