Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Killing Time The Target Way

I will be pushing a stroller through Target on Saturday morning. Every Saturday. You can set your watch to it.

With my wife out of town for her nursing program, I am not just responsible for making sure our son lives through each weekend – though it is a minor detail of some importance. For two days each week I have the unenviable task of finding a baby-appropriate activity to get out of the house and avoid going batshit crazy.

There are numerous places a man can play househusband. Parks are especially effective. A walk through the park says, “A healthy lifestyle is important to me and I wish to pass that on to my son, whose development I take very seriously, which is why I coordinated his outfit with this very expensive jogging stroller.”

Unfortunately, I break a sweat changing diapers in my air-conditioned living room. The park is out.

I own a jogging stroller like the park crowd, and I actually use it. The big tires and performance suspension are perfect for cutting across neighborhood yards on my way to the corner store. I could stick to sidewalks and add 100 yards or so to the half-mile walk, but that seems like a lot of work for a six pack of beer.

While parks hold a branding edge among time-killing activities, I find nothing matches the enjoyment of wandering around Target. Having a baby creates an infinite list of things you need and things you don’t, but can justify anyway. For an unsupervised father with frivolous spending habits, the latter can lead to some dangerous conversations with the missus. When my wife comes home physically and emotionally drained from a shift at the hospital in which she watched a patient take their last breath, she struggles to understand why the baby did, in fact, need a regulation size basketball and a Nerf sword.

"I watched a man die today, I don't need this shit!"
"You're right. Let's put a pin in this discussion and go to Target, they have a foot massager that I think we can agree you've earned."

And they do. I know this because after three months of leaving the house on Saturday mornings exclusively to purchase the materials for Gabe and I to survive the weekend – food, socks, Halloween masks, Mrs. Doubtfire on DVD, etc. – I have a tremendous feel for the place.

It’s become our home away from home. And the sight of us waltzing up and down the aisles inspires a range of responses from our fellow shoppers, primarily women toting around a young child or two of their own. Target is like flypaper for us pretty suburbanites looking after the children while our goal-oriented spouses grind through the weekend.

When they see Gabe sitting in his stroller, calmly playing with a toy, they give an approving look, like I am a pair of yoga pants and a complicated Starbucks order away from being part of the club. As their eyes shifts from the stroller to my shopping basket, the looks become sympathetic. They see Hot Pockets, a six-pack of beer, and four Red Bulls and assume my wife upgraded to a man with abs and ambition, and the sweatpants-clad derelict before them is struggling through his weekend with the baby.

Save the sympathy for someone who needs it, Ladies. My marriage is great. And I have a brand new Nerf sword at home.

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