Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Fathers In The Public Eye

Han Han, this week's Mister Interesting, and a father
Do you ever have this experience?  You're reading something about a "Mr. Interesting" -- an art guy, or a surfing master, or a crazy world traveler, or a double-agent.  Maybe in a magazine. And you're thinking, Hm, wow, that's kind of an interesting guy. Pretty crazy life that dude has, though.

And then smack in the middle of the story, or even toward the end, you read something like "Mr. Interesting has two daughters who live with his wife in Southern California."  And you're like, Wait, this man has children??

Because, really, whenever you read about "Ms. Interesting," either she doesn't have kids, or the whole article is about Wow, how do balance being The Most Interesting Woman in the World with being A PARENT?? And indeed, the answer is always pretty complex and detailed, because being Interesting and being A Parent are things that it's not easy to combine.

So you'd think now with the whole, like, feminism and equality thing going on, that being Mr. Interesting and being A Parent would also be pretty tough.  Like, who is picking these kids up from daycare at 5?  Who is making sure they eat five servings of vegetables every day?  Who is cooking dinner, washing dishes, all that crap?  Who is watching over the endless piano lessons, soccer games, and swimming classes that characterize modern childhood?

But somehow with Mr. Interesting, it doesn't come up.

I was just reading the great story in The New Yorker about Han Han, who -- I just learned -- is a writer, activist, general famous person, creator of magazines, extremely popular blogger, AND successful race car driver.  Race car driver! And he's only 28.

Halfway through the article you learn he is married and has a daughter.  The daughter is maybe a year old.  There isn't the tiniest suggestion about how Han Han is able to make all this work.  The reporter never asks, "Ooh, how do you juggle it all!" There's no information, and no suggestion that the lack of information is strange. 

The only time the daughter comes up later is when the reporter asks about her, before the start of a car race, and Han Han says, "I've accomplished my job as a human being ... I don't feel any pressure any more, even if I knew I was going to die in this race."

Well, WTF? I mean, I'd have thought when the kids a year old you're just starting, not finishing.

But I'm willing to give Han Han the benefit of the doubt, that somehow the reporter twisted his words or took them out of context.  Who knows?  The weird thing is there's never any, Wow, who is taking care of her while you travel around to car races?  How often do you get to see her? Do you miss her?  Questions that, if Han Han were a woman, would have been the first eight questions and the last ten questions with just a few things in between.

I had this same experience reading about Julian Assange.  You're reading along and you're like, Wow, hacker, then political guy, travels around in deep secrecy, geez, Mr. Interesting. Then outta nowhere you find out Assange has a kid, that he had a huge custody battle over.  I mean, doesn't having a kid get in the way of being Mr Super Secret Government Rabble Rouser?  And most importantly, if not why not?  

Often when things are different for men and women it's the way it is for women that is weird.  But in this case I think it's weirder not to ask Mr. Interesting these questions than it is to ask Ms. Interesting.  Because really, you got billions of people out here, trying to live interesting lives and trying to raise their kids.  Any practical tips you got on doing them both effortlessly, inquiring minds want to know.

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