I’m a partial jerk. Not a complete jerk, since complete jerks tend to be too narcissistic to know they’re jerks, but definitely part of one—perhaps about 57% jerk. To the few readers who don’t already know this, I present a confluence of household domestic drama from a few weeks ago as evidence.
The action started when my parents and sister in Missouri sent a parcel to my daughter and me in California and the USPS decided to route it through Alaska. This is not a joke. I have the tracking emails to prove it. This error (or maybe it wasn’t an error. I don’t know. I’m not a postman.) meant that the parcel containing our combined birthday presents, despite my mom’s meticulous planning efforts, arrived at the house several weeks late, while we were visiting my cousin Canada’s family in Mount Shasta.
Coronavirus pandemic considered; our Shasta vacation went great. I mean, it paled in comparison of our original intention, a trip to Spain and France, but it did give us quality time hanging out in the woods wearing masks, so now we know what Robin Hood felt like, which is cool.
Also, it was nice to spend time with my cousin’s family. We’re all careful social distancers, so we made an informed choice to intermingle. This didn’t mean we all kissed and licked each other. That would have been inappropriate even without COVID-19. But we did let our kids—my stepkids Aimée and Cooper and my biological daughter Cassidy—roam freely with Canada and Robin’s kids Ross and Will. The upshot was that our pandemic-trapped teenagers had a week of actually being kids, running around, swimming in the lake, and killing the asthmatic smart kid who served as the voice of reason on the island. You know, all the stuff that kids do when left to their own devices.
The downshot was that, after a week of semi-freedom, nobody wanted to go home and resume their hellish existence living three blocks from the ocean in Redondo Beach.
To make matters worse, we spent our final three days at the “Coloma Resort,” a campground on the American River that had grossly misrepresented their social distancing practices on their website, so much so that local river guides referred to it as the “Coloma Coronavirus Incubator.” I spent the weekend shielding my family from our boorish-yet-well-meaning, unmasked, drunk fellow campers. By the time we got in the van, my nerves were so frayed and my dad hormones raged so hard that I insisted on driving the entire six hours home, streaming top-40 country western hits for the duration.
As we pulled up in front of the house, I gently—or as gently as a stressed-out, partial jerk father can muster—explained that if we all worked together to unload the van, the ugly task would end quickly and the kids could resume the crucial business of staring at their phones. Admittedly, ten minutes without screens would be brutal, especially considered they’d only had a measly six hours of social media so far that day, but I felt they were up to the challenge.
Turns out that they weren’t. The moment we stopped, they vanished like adolescent dust in the iPhone wind, Cassidy to her room, Aimée to a prolonged bathroom break, and Cooper… Well, I’m not sure where Cooper went, but it didn’t involve unpacking the car.
I did what any savvy, self-aware parent would do and stood on the sidewalk shouting in the direction of the house, “Get your butts down to the car NOW!” They all shouted their excuses back and, after the standard, face-saving five minutes, slouched down to help Marilyne and me finish the job.
Feeling resentful and unappreciated (common symptoms of partial jerkiness), I climbed the steps to the house. I remembered the present waiting for me from my sister and parents. It gave me solace. A ray of gratitude on a thankless day. There were a number of boxes on the table, but only one I didn’t recognize. It didn’t have a return address, but my dad does that sometimes; He has a taste for intrigue that he acquired from my Uncle Henry, who once sent him a cow skull in the mail with no return address. Over the years, Henry has sent me a sweatshirt, a hand-carved swing, several water colors, a custom window screen, and a power drill, all with no return address.
I thought about inviting Cassidy to come down and open it with me, but then decide to just open it myself because, well, if I need to explain that at this point in the story, you’re not paying attention (partial jerk). I opened the padded envelope and pulled out a little piece of paper that I assumed to be the gift card. It read:
The envelope also included a small bag of gummy candies shaped like penises.
“What the hell?” I erupted. Marilyne came running.
“Look what my family got Cassidy and me for our birthdays!” I yelled, waving around the penises. “What the hell kind of family do I have? Do they even know me? I mean, I can’t even eat these! They have gelatin in them! Cow bones! I haven’t eaten meat in 25 years!”
I threw the bag of dicks across the room. It smacked the kitchen wall with a gelatinous thud and fell to the counter. “You need to calm down!” insisted Marilyne, doing that French thing where they hide helpful advice inside a dismissive directive that instantly polarizes any American.
“I don’t need to calm down!” I continued, “I just…”
“Okay, yeah, maybe I need to calm down,” I admitted.
Marilyne picked up the envelope. “I don’t see their names here.”
“My dad does that because of the cow head. Who else could it possibly be?”
Marilyne pondered the “cow head” thing for a moment, then moved on: “Um, someone else?”
Her infallible logic stymied my anger. Again, damnit. Semi-soothed, I went back to unpacking.
A while later, Cassidy came downstairs and sheepishly handed me a present wrapped in tattered paper. When we had first returned home, she’d grabbed the package clearly addressed from my family and take it up to her room, where she’d opened it and extracted her gift.
It was a bittersweet moment. On one hand, spiriting off the package was a disobedient, partial jerk move on her part. On the other hand, this means that she’d spent those five minutes of disobedience when we first got home participating in the physical, real world, non-digital activity of opening presents—as opposed to staring at Snapchat. This gave me hope for Generation Z.
My present included a pair of socks featuring Bill Murray swimming in beer and a t-shirt with a pig leering on the chest above the words, “Gettin’ basted!” From an overall taste perspective, only a minor step up from a bag of dicks. But when accounting for the nuances of my personality, it was a vast improvement.
My family were no longer the jerks—but I was even more of a jerk—like, 84% jerk! I had freaked out and jumped to a ridiculous conclusion.
But none of this mattered considering my new concern. Someone, somewhere, felt I deserved to eat a bag of dicks.
It was a joke, but the kind of joke you play on a partial jerk. It’s no fun to send something like that to a complete jerk because they’d either blow it off or figure out who sent it, at which point they’d make your life a living hell. And you wouldn’t send this sort of thing to a non-jerk. For example, no one would send the Dali Lama a bag of dicks.
Except maybe the Communist Party of China. It would be super funny if the CPC sent the Dali Lama a bag of dicks. But I don’t think they would do that.
The next step was to take the prerequisite photo of the bag of dicks and put it on social media along with the standard “LOL. Who did this?” message, but I needed a moment first, so I went to the backyard to cool down.
I sat down on the back steps. After a minute, Marilyne joined me. Cautiously, she informed me that our friends Kevin and Denise had sent the bag of dicks. After sending it, Kevin had become concerned that I would take it wrong, so he texted her. She assured him that it was a great joke and that I would find it hilarious. Hilarious!
I felt instant relief. Kevin and Denise were probably the only people on earth from whom I want to receive a bag of dicks. Them and the Dali Lama. That would also be super funny to receive a bag of dicks from the Dali Lama. But I don’t think he would do that.
The next day, I asked Kevin and Denise why they sent me the bag of dicks. Denise explained that they knew I might get pissed off, but eventually I’d see my way to the humor in the gift. In other words, it was fun to send me a bag of dicks because I’m not a jerk, at least not in their opinion.
But let’s see how that opinion changes once they receive the package I just mailed them. Hopefully, it doesn’t end up in Alaska.Bag of Dicks, Coloma Resort, Parenting