Are Chicago playgrounds "mom-only" territory?
Monday, April 11, 2011
Men are not used to being discriminated against. It just is not a big part of our history as a gender. We have always been allowed to vote, to play organized sports and to run for elected office.
Women, on the other hand-now that's a different story. But as Bob Dylan once sang, "the times they are a-changin'," and women today have more rights and opportunities than ever before.
However, there is one place where women are at the top of the pecking order, a place where men are looked upon as outsiders who do not belong and are accosted with that evil stare we should only ever see from our wives and girlfriends. What place is this, you ask, where women wield control?
Never before in my life have I felt like more of an outsider than I did one day at the park, and I have traveled extensively in and around non-English speaking countries. Anyone is welcome at a public park, just as anyone is welcome at a strip club, but let's be honest, how many women do you find at strip clubs (attending, of course, not working)?
It was a nice day, and as a teacher, I was able to get to the park early in the afternoon when many other dads were probably still at work. So with my wife and three sons, I headed over to the park to let our oldest burn off a little energy by running around like a nut. My wife laid out a blanket and sat with our 6-month-old twins while I followed Anthony from the swings to the slide and all over every other piece of equipment he saw.
As I criss-crossed the park with him, I felt as if I were being watched. Not followed necessarily, just that feeling you get when someone is keeping an eye on you because you might be up to no good. The thing was, I was up to a great deal of good. I was spending some quality time with my son. So why was I being watched like I was there to do terrible things?
As I surveyed the area it became clear: I was an outsider. The only other "men" at the park were well under the age of 5. No one asked me to leave, nor was anything thrown at me as I passed by these women, but it was clear from their looks that I was in their territory and they were not happy about it.
Now to be fair, it just isn't the park. The park is the just the first place that comes to mind because it was the most recent. Other locations where I feel like an intruder who doesn't belong include, but are not limited to: the zoo, several chain stores, a certain kid-friendly restaurant that rhymes with Buck-E-Bees and museums. So why do I feel so unwelcome at the park and these other locations during the day? It is because it has been declared, albeit silently, a "Man-Free Zone."
I would like to think it is jealousy that leads to these dirty looks-jealousy that their husbands are unable to spend as much time with their kids as I am with mine, and not that I look like a pedophile creeper there to steal their children and purses.
Either way, know that we men are not coming to "your places" to invade your turf, but rather to enjoy time with our children-the same reason you are there.
So, ladies, please let us into your world. Next time you see one of us at the park, shoot us a smile instead of a dirty look. All we want to do is run and play with our kids at the park because, let's face it, what are grown men really except children who need to shave every day? And who would know that better than the women of the world?