Friday, September 15, 2006

It's easy to pick one out of the crowd

The man behind me at the grocery store smelled like baby powder . but he wasn't a parent.

I could tell because nobody uses baby powder on an actual baby anymore. I think the You're An Unfit Parent If You Do Anything Your Mother Did committee declared baby powder illegal because it's inexpensive and, therefore, bad for America.

This man was probably just a husband who ran out of Testosterone Sport Brick or Tibetan Cave Troll deodorant and had to use his wife's. I know. I've been there. Heck, I smell like baby powder right now.

How can I be so sure this guy wasn't a parent? He wore a baseball cap too straight to have been pulled from a toy box, his shirt was clean, he was buying beer and feminine napkins, and his shoulders weren't stooped from years of picking up small humans over and over until a chiropractor sends him Christmas cards. He paid with cash and walked to a car with two doors, his arms not laden with milk, diapers, or Ding-Dongs.

And the biggest tip-off he didn't have kids? He was in a hurry.

There are signals a parent broadcasts to let you know that, yes, they've looked into the eyes of "the one who soils himself" and they're not afraid to let him sleep in the nursery. These signals are subtle, unintentional and at times confusing, but here they are:

- The person buys shopping cart loads of pizza rolls, Easy Mac and Gatorade, and they are not, I repeat not, college students.

- They always smell like peanut butter.

- Money is some abstract concept that makes them blink rapidly and say things like, "I used to have cable," or "my car is filled with crackers."

- The words, "I'm going to watch the ballgame," usually summon forces beyond parental control to run into the living room and dance in front of the television.

- They've never seen an episode of any program involving doctors, lawyers, cops or dimension-hopping space soldiers but can flawlessly quote all 85 episodes of whatever's on Nickelodeon this month.

- They refer to any uninterrupted conversation with their spouse as a date.

- Handshakes are sticky and they're tired of apologizing for it.

- "You sleep past seven?" comes out like the words of someone who's just escaped life under a communist regime.

- They leave the bathroom door open because they're never used to being in there alone.

- At any sudden movement, they flinch to protect vital organs from the impact of a 25-pound giggling object.

- They have a 4-inch plastic ninja in their pocket and they don't know why.

There. That's the list.

If you're single and see a friend exhibiting any of these 11 behaviors, they're probably a parent. There is no cure and there is no logic behind anything they do. Just remember to be patient, wash your hands before touching anything you value and never, ever, call during nap time.

Copyright 2006 by Jason Offutt