Nature’s Red Bull. Daddy’s little brown helper (the only situation in which that phrase is not racist). The Anti-beer – whatever you call it, it is the bitter brown essence of fatherhood.
I mean, I drank it before, but shit, fatherhood makes you appreciate coffee like “The Road” makes you appreciate a tax refund. Not just civilization, but the tangible, donut-buying benefits thereof.
The transition from single man to committed relationship can be a harsh one. It’s like the railroad choo-chooing inexorably through the proverbial wild west. Progress, certainly, but at the cost of a certain wild, dangerous beauty: There are now rules and standards associated with laundry. The existence of Star Wars memorabilia is no longer it’s own justification. You have to buy a calendar.
So you find your corners, the 15 minute chunks of the day when these little emancipations can occur in masturbatory secrecy. Garages and basements become man-caves, game consoles and 22 oz bottles of stupidly alcoholic beer sit waiting hungrily for a girls night out.
Throughout this time, coffee remains present, and useful, but no more than a tool.
And then baby drops. And man-caves become nurseries, or staging areas for baby swag and hand-me-downs after the shower and before craigslist. All the dark, sacred corners of the day are lost to failing battles of hygiene and unreturned correspondence. Girls’ nights out cease utterly, outlets for game consoles are usurped by baby monitors and swings, and absurdly strong beer (and the painful mornings they promise) are no longer sustainable while a tiny, helpless human being will be waking you up every two hours for the next 2-5 years
You stop seeing people. You no longer go out. You stand naked, scratching and bleary at the brilliant dawning of a life of responsibility as a good role model, utterly bereft of all the stupid, wonderful, ultimately damaging things which once defined you.
And it’s fine. We cowboy up. That’s what fathers do. We can’t gestate the kid, or pop him out. We can’t nurse him, we can’t regulate his body temperature (this is true, btw – moms can use skin to skin contact to regulate an infant’s temp – I just dropped science on you, BAM!). So our job is back-up. We’re your mission control, your best boy grip, Flava Flav to your Chuck D (yeah bo-eeeeey!). The mama looks out for the baby, the papa looks out for everybody.
But who takes care of the man? Who’s looking out for papa?
I’ll tell you who: Juan Valdez.
I want to say this again: it’s fine. I’m not complaining here. We go back to work full time, we get up to change diapers and check water & food at the nursing area. We rub feet, we rub shoulders, rub nickels together, and do dishes and laundry and god help you if you have to shovel snow. And it’s fine, it’s how it should be. That’s our role in the situation, and we don’t need all the other stuff we used to have because we have coffee.
Within that steaming, black liquid sanctuary hide the last vestiges of our fruitful genitals. In those bitter, frothy depths linger the Xbox’s of our souls, the man cave we need never surrender to practical useful purpose. Within the soft burble of the percolator echoes our resilient, savage roar, reminding hoofed mammals that they may yet become our prey even if we have to put our little pooper in the baby bjorn and make him hold the spears.
And best of all, it’s never far away. Instead of the days, weeks, months you spent anticipating all your old rituals of masculinity, the most you have to wait for coffee is 8hours, 4 diaper changes, 2 bottles and a short dancing session. It’s practically in your hand, my brother.
Espresso, French press, drip or gas station it doesn’t really matter, it’s yours. And it will never, ever judge you.