As I get older, I’m recognizing I carry around my very own dark passenger, much like in Dexter, the TV series. I used to joke that every time he mentioned this dark passenger (i.e. every episode) he was referring to a great big hemorrhoid on his arsehole causing him a huge amount of discomfort.
In reality, Dexter’s burden is a constant murderous impulse in his head to kill people. My own metaphorical hemorrhoid is my dad rage.
Dad rage is activated by strangers. Normally it’s a disapproving look that sets it off. I can always see them coming, too.
We’re on a beach. It’s raining a little, and it’s a cold, grey day. I’m carrying my son with one arm while he clings to me, naked, with his boy bits tea-bagging my chest. In my other hand I’m carrying a Kiddimoto balance bike and a soiled, shit-soaked nappy.
I don’t look like a guy you should trifle with as I walk to the nearest place of refuge: a warm café.
Like a scene from “Reservoir Dogs,” I notice a group of people walking towards us. Their faces show shock. Why is that peasant boy unclothed? How irresponsible of his parents!
Everything becomes slow motion at this point. I’m ready to push the dad rage button.
The group, transfixed, continues to stare, open-mouthed, at this disgusting apparition of a parent as we approach one another. Like two tribes of apes, I focus my eyes into the eyes of their alpha male, an old man, whose face shows the most open disdain. He is wearing a purple sailing jacket; no doubt triple-lined against the elements. He’s looking at the knobby spine of my boy while he hugs my neck.
My eyes dare him. Come on, say it. Say it. Ask me why this young human is exposed to light drizzle. Do it.
His companions sense danger, they understand the threat of my imminent fury and look away, but Purple Coat continues to stare, assessing his options as we approach medieval sword swinging distance. He flickers a barely perceptible glance at the metal object in my right hand to assess what he’s up against, and then back at my eyes.
We’re soon passing each other, so I slow my pace. I want him to say something, and I’m turning my head to the right to keep the eye contact unbroken. I’m desperate for things to kick off. I’ve already prepared my blood-curdling onslaught for him. My passive aggressive opening bullet is already in the chamber; I’m ready to surprise him with, “Are you wondering why he’s not wearing clothes?”
Brutal. This is being a dad. It’s like a primal, protective instinct. I may not be perfect, but if a stranger ever dares criticize my parenting style I am ready to destroy them.
But no, it’s not to be. His confidence falters, and he looks away as we pass each other. Just like that, all the tension in the air dissipates. Having established my dominance and protected my son and heir from the rival apes, I am free to swallow more coffee and keep him warm while more clothes are fetched from the car.
This post originally appeared on the author’s blog, Dad’s Diary.