By JAMAL FREDERICK
When women get their first look at a man, what's the one thing guaranteed to grab hold of her interest and intrigue? You would think it's the cologne, or the results that come from doing the perfect push-up with a little more frequency. I've even considered that it might be one of those metro-alpha male outfits the ones that appeal to a woman's feminine sensibilities, yet tells her, You know I can fix the toilet and mow the lawn. But I've finally come to understand that none of these things gets women to do that double take and smile and wink at me more than my girl. Specifically, my daughter.
Sure, you're probably thinking, Well, a cute little girl will always get attention. But really, it's not so much about how cute my daughter is as it is about the fact that she's holding her father's hand. Apparently, the sight of a father paying attention to, caring for, spending time with, and publicly expressing his love for his children is a complete turn-on. And worthy of the benefit of the doubt from most women, save for the occasional high-powered businesswoman who thinks a man with a child will somehow hinder her progression. The ladies who give me the flirty side eye when I'm out and about with my daughter don't know if I'm a screw up, irresponsible, abusive, broke, unemployed, uneducated, prone to strange fetishes or wearing dirty clothes, if I just got out of jail, about to go to jail, seeing my daughter for the first time in three months or if I even want to be there, if I have bad feetyou get the point.
There seems to be this assumption that the simple fact that my daughter and I exist says I'm somewhat responsible. A catch. They just see a dad and his cute daughter smiling and shopping, or eating or going to the park. With no back story, I'm automatically elevated to good enough to approach/start a conversation status. It doesn't matter if my daughter and I are put together that day or if we look like a hodgepodge of sweatpants and time mismanagement. It doesn't matter if daddy can't do hair as good as mommy; just the fact that I tried gets me points. Wow!
Of course, this is the polar opposite of what all-too-many think about women walking with their children. The assumption is that she's single, raising her kids alone and with lots of baby drama that she carries on her back a distasteful assortment of other financial, academic and social stigma. Like everything wrong or bad associated with single parenthood is her fault. In this context, the children are dehumanized taken out of a personal context and reduced to nothing more than the byproduct of some bad decision. I doubt Nathaniel Hawthorne had this level of public scrutiny and ostracism in mind when he wrote The Scarlet Letter.
It's ironic that the absence of fathers from their children's lives creates both assumptions. Absentee fathers force mothers to be the catch-all visual of single parenthood and particularly all the ills that come with it poverty, joblessness, poor education, crime, insert your societal problem here. No one really bothers to consider how the lack of financial, physical, mental and emotional support from fathers plays into those problems; we just continue to pretend like single mothers somehow caused their single parenthood that they are to blame. And, since the men are generally portrayed as absent, when society in general and women in particular see fathers present and involved in their children's lives, they are looked at as something good, something special. The mothers wear Hester Prynne's scarlet letter; the fathers sport a brilliant golden medal.
Let me just put it on out there: This is not fair. I know this and you know this. And I wish the stereotyping of mothers be they single or not would stop and people would judge each of us on our own individual merits. Our own pitfalls. Our own stories. This double standard also makes me think about what a good woman who's had a history with disappointing men would want in a man, what would make them happy. It seems it may be as simple as honesty, sincerity anda little effort. Not that hard fellas just try.
But as a father who loves being a daddy to his child, I gladly take the smiles and the flirting and the compliments from strangers because what the admirers are seeing and responding to is a genuine love between my daughter and me. That's something to smile about.
Jamal Frederick writes poetry and music and contributes reviews to AboveGroundMagazine.com. He also is married and the proud father of a three-year-old daughter. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalfrederick.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.