My alarm goes off and I sit up on the side of the bed. My head throbs and my eyes itch. As I put my feet into my Adidas slides (a lame attempt at being slightly cooler than a dad who wears house slippers) my sinuses sort of “creak” and I feel air and liquid moving around in the bones of my face. It’s an eerie painful feeling. I feel a sick day coming on.
I stumble downstairs and fall into the couch and flip on the news and spend twenty minutes debating whether I feel well enough to fix breakfast. Thinking about the throbbing in my head vs the chance to catch up on email and projects at work vs the plethora of sick time I have accrued, I wish I had a quarter in my pocket. I could gladly let George Washington and the Eagle do battle over my dilemma. Eventually I relent, pour a bowl of cereal, make a cup of coffee in the Keurig and sit back on the couch for a while longer. Fueled by coffee and shredded wheat I resolve to go to work and push through the day. After all, I won’t be the only one struggling to get through a Monday while feeling a little under the weather.
I head back up stairs to shower and get ready to trudge my way into the office when my wife, Jen, rolls over, pats the spot where I was sleeping less than an hour ago and says “Why don’t you stay home today?” With that movement and question, she quickly undid the arduous process and internal battle that I had just endured. I send an email to my boss and co-workers and settle back between the sheets and drift back into a slightly-extended weekend.
After an hour or so, Jen and Goobie get up to go to the doctor, run some errands and give me a few hours in the house by myself. I think this may be the very first time I’ve been at home alone since we moved into this house a few months ago. My weekdays are always full of meetings at the office, long commutes and extra projects thrown in here and there. My weekends are filled with grocery shopping, tasks from the honey-do list and lots of family activities. Having time by myself at home, with my headache fading, elicits a set of feelings that I don’t fully understand. It’s a mix of excitement about the free time, guilt about not being at work and unfamiliarity of not having my family around when I’m at home.
I decide to tackle a few items on my honey-do list. I head out to the garage, fire up the mower and cut some of the weeds and lawn that has grown pretty high among the dead, brown blades of grass that seem to be everywhere during this dry spell that has officially been claimed as the worst drought in 50 years. I also clean up my workbench in the garage and spray some WD-40 into the half-stuck lock on the front door that has been driving us all a little crazy since we moved in. After a while I realize that most of the items on my list are finished and although my headache has mostly subsided, I’m ready to sit down for a rest. Enter Kathie Lee and Hoda.
As I watch these two ladies kibbitz, drink, cajole and prognosticate about current events, fashion and food, I wonder what it would be like to get paid to hang out with your friend and be anointed instant experts on every topic that the producers of the show bring before them. Shortly thereafter, Doctor Oz starts convincing a group of women that it’s OK to cheat on their diets. In fact, he helps them name the single day each week that they should be cheating “Fat-urday”. After he tells them they can cheat, and they gleefully do so to the tune of 3,000-4,000 calories each, he then tells them how to do a better job of cheating by eating root-vegetable chips instead of Doritos and by eating green-tea frozen yogurt instead of Haagen-Dazs—Dr. Oz is obviously a huckster.
As I sit on the couch, I realize that, for this particular morning, time has moved at a different pace than it would have were I at the office. I’ve felt sick and worn out but seemed to get the items on my honey-do list completed without much trouble. I’ve vacillated between the mundane of doing dishes and the breaking news of a clown-like character in court, after murdering and injuring dozens of people in a movie theater. I’ve heard the clear message that I’m stylish but am so on a budget. I’m too fat, but that’s OK so long as I work on it by eating yogurt that tastes like green tea. I learn that drinking on the job is OK, so long as you’re a fifty-something divorcee who gets paid to sit in front of the camera and laugh until you snort with your friend.
As I take a moment to contemplate the mixed emotions of feeling guilty for staying at home from work when I might have pushed through, taking inventory of the conflicting messages of health, body image and budgets spouted by week-day television, and the disturbing unrest brought about by watching the despondent gaze of a young man with died-red hear in a courtroom in Colorado. Jen walks in, sees me sitting on the couch watching Dr. Oz, hands me the baby and asks “Are you a housewife today?”