Letter of Recommendation

Our paper of record, the Gray Lady, has a new weekly column in its Sunday magazine: “Letter of Recommendation.” A guest writer is invited to celebrate an object or experience that has been overlooked or underappreciated.


To date, these include:


  • Mack’s Earplugs (I’m deeply skeptical)
  • Aesop’s Fables (eye roll)
  • fanny packs (a lost cause, lady, and for very good reason)
  • T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (could you be any more pretentious?)
  • egg shakers (okay, intriguing)
  • New Balance 990 running shoes (what?)
  • summer Fridays (whatever)
  • hangovers (just dumb)
  • The Oxford English Dictionary (sign me up!)
  • the Uni-ball Signo UM-151 pen (I’m open-minded)
  • Kneipp Herbal Bath Oils (not happening)
  • the Gnostic scriptures (oh, please, get over yourself)
  • gel manicures (gel?)
  • skiing (no way)
  • Turner Classic Movies (my mother would certainly agree)
  • Fleetwood Mac’s album “Tusk” (really?)


By now you know me pretty well. I simply cannot resist. Let’s see, an object or experience … Got it! Drumroll, please?





That’s right, leather gloves!


No, no, I mean, James Earl Jones!




No, wait, helmets!



All right, all right, it’s fatherhood. And before you scoff with incredulity, as in “Overlooked? Underappreciated? Are you out of your mind?” …




Humor me for a moment. Then scoff.


I initiated a discussion with someone recently. I felt obligated. I had overheard a comment that implied this attitude: men are crude, boorish, insensitive.


“How true!” you may be thinking. And maybe you believe (in your heart of hearts) that we should add one or more of these epithets: smelly, hairy, testosterone-fueled, competitive, uncooperative, irresponsible, untrustworthy, aggressive, violent, bad to the bone, wicked, evil.


But it’s one thing to grant that the history of women down through the ages and across many cultures is a grievous tale of male oppression. It’s one thing, that is, to admit the simple truth of history.


It’s quite another to assert that men are essentially different from women.


As in intrinsically, inherently, necessarily.


That without proper socialization, these boys would inevitably become sexual predators:




That the love on the left is entirely natural, a concomitant of giving birth or possessing the potential to do so, while the one on the right is exceptional, somehow artificial, unnatural …



The unexamined life is not worth living: that’s Socrates, my friend. So heed Socrates and examine your attitudes. Ask yourself this: could my own “soft bigotry of low expectations” for men as fathers, husbands, co-workers, etc. be a bit — how do I put this — self-serving? As in, a twisted, roundabout way to arrive at a stronger sense of my own worth?


Not to mention, more than a bit self-defeating?


So here’s to fatherhood, folks. Not a fatherhood obscured by and burdened with the tired tropes of hack Hollywood screenwriters. Hurrah instead for fatherhood and, for that matter, motherhood and grandparenthood and aunthood and unclehood and guardianhood that is the acting on and fulfillment of love for those among us who are most in need of it.




Sinfest strip © Tatsuya Ishida


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s