Being a Deadbeat Dad means having to say “I’m sorry” over and over and over again. There are no two ways about it. Your casual disregard for societal norms is going to cause serious marital friction. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t act like an idiot, you just have to be prepared for the fallout afterward. The key is recognizing the trouble before it happens and being able to predict the reaction. Then a simple cost benefit analysis takes place to determine if, say, you want to go to an illegal after-hours club at 4 a.m. but you were expected home at midnight—how many more weeks of marriage counseling have you just bought yourself? But sometimes shit just happens and you’ll have to ride the lightning on your own.
Herewith the ugliness.
You accidentally poison your child
This didn’t happen to me, but it did happen to a close friend of mine who shares a similar gene for self-destruction. It was he and his wife’s anniversary and they were to travel to a luxury hotel for the night for some much-needed sexy time. She bought seductive underwear; he’d been icing up, limbering and avoiding Internet porn for a record 48 hours. All signs were pointing to awesome at this point. Except the dude is an incorrigible rum-head with a penchant for Mt. Gay and Coke. I don’t judge, whatever gets you through the day. But the dude is dedicated. And cheap. He doesn’t want to pay the 14 bucks for a rum and coke at the resort. So he takes the whole bottle of rum and pours it into one of those giant Gatorade jugs that fat kids drink thinking they’re getting essential nutrients but are really just getting fatter. With the remaining bottle he pours himself a drink and begins packing up the car. The sitter arrives. They hurry out the door and he’s halfway to the hotel by the time he realizes he forgot his rum jug. Oh, well, he figures. So they get to the resort, unwind, have massages, dinner, the whole package. Only just when it’s time to get down to business—and if you’re anything like Deadbeat Dad, you get down to business like four times a year so this is some serious business—the phone rings. It’s the sitter. His wife answers; her smile turns to a frown.
“What, he’s sick? He smells like alcohol? I don’t understand. No, he doesn’t drink—he’s six.” Her alarm quickly turns to white-hot anger, directed pretty much right at him.
His heart sinks because he knows what’s just happened. Junior loves Gatorade, drinks the shit by the gallon. And he left a bottle right on the counter filled to the brim with booze, and Junior must’ve drank it and now he’s acting like Mel Gibson at a traffic stop. Before he can shout “I’m so sorry!” the iron curtain drops between them. She wants to go home. She wants to call Poison Control. But he makes the mistake of thinking he’s still getting laid.
“He’ll sleep like a baby tonight; he’ll be fiiiiine,” he pleads.
This infuriates her, and pretty soon they’re back in the car. The worst kind of silence between them. She’s on the phone with the pediatrician having to explain that her husband is such a cheapskate that he poured the contents of his prized rum into a jug of his kid’s Gatorade. He’s doing a damage assessment in his mind, running scenarios and probabilities. He’s not being yelled at anymore, which means he’s seriously fucked because she’s saving that shit up. He knows it, too. When they get home Junior is passed out in his Denver Broncos pajamas. She wakes him up even though he really is sleeping well, and makes him do a series of field sobriety tests. At that point, while watching her six-year-old son “walk the line,” she loses her shit on him. And scene.
HEAT LEVEL: 9
This is as serious as it gets. She may tolerate his boozing but she doesn’t like it. Slowly, year after year, she’s accepted the fact that her husband is a bit of a soak. But when their prized little angel mistakenly takes a sip of Daddy’s secret Jesus juice, he unleashes the gates of hell. The initial hysterical screaming and throwing of objects will settle into an angry silence, followed by a slight thawing and an intervention on his wife’s part: “Now that you’ve poisoned our son maybe it’s time you reassess your lifestyle.” He agrees, maybe even cries a little, and they start to see a marriage counselor. Long story short: I’m not allowed to see this guy anymore but he’s suddenly Father of the Year. And one more warrior goes down in battle. He knew the risks, you tell yourself. But it’s still hard. The less of you there are, the more there are of them. And his new-found sobriety and interest in the goings-on of his family means you’re starting to look even more like a mug next to him.