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Gentleman Scholar Sir,
I'm a father of 3 daughters, ages 5 to Brand New. For the past eight months I've been in Afghanistan with the Army, and when I get home, I want to reconnect with my wife and my daughters (or connect, as the case is with the newborn, who I haven't met yet). But how? I want to take them camping, but this isn't best suited to the newborn. And some things I want to do with the 5-year-old won't suit the 20-month-old (climbing wall, for instance, or learning about fire and knife safety as I did with my dad). Is it fair to take the daughters away on separate trips adventures? Or will this just breed jealousy and not relieve my hard-pressed wife? For the moment, should I stick to whole-family things, even though they default to Pretty Pink Princess?
—Manly Dad with Daughter Dilemma
Thank you for your letter and for your service.
It was smart of you to rule out taking the newborn camping. That’s a big hassle—though I would point out that a bear bag can do double-duty as a cradle. I suggest starting modestly with outdoor adventures.
Step 1: How about the whole family hangs out in the yard feeling thankful that you’re home? Try that for a while.
Step 2: For an encore, Daddy takes all three kids to the playground while Mommy takes a good long nap. (You should ask for your wife’s input about this plan, of course, but I imagine that she won’t object because she will have already begun napping.)
Step 3: At this point, you and the ladies will have started to get in a groove, and you’ll nurture your relationship with each to the benefit of all. Don’t worry about breeding jealousy among your daughters. Petty territorial fights are the whole point of siblinghood! The jealousies will ripen nicely all on their own, in the course of doing what comes naturally, to quote Annie Get Your Gun—which, incidentally, might be a good compromise between outdoorsy action and princess crap on your next family movie night.
Dear Gentleman Scholar,
Do you take questions from women about men? Out of nowhere, my husband of 21 years has started wearing cardigan sweaters. I can't tell you how much this turns me off—the soft, sloppy, indecisiveness of the garment, not jacket, but not fully committed to being a sweater, either. He will point to younger men wearing them and say, "See? I'm bringing them back." The thing is, I'm not going home with those younger men and I don't know why the younger men are wearing them, maybe it's ironic or something? I don't know. But when I see a man in a cardigan, all I can think is Mr. Rogers. My husband usually has excellent taste but every now and then he likes to rock something positively cringe-worthy. He doesn't like me to tell him what to wear. Do I just suck it up? Or do I draw a line in the sand? Thank you!
No, thank you!
What you call indecisiveness, I call marvelous versatility. Both Mr. Rogers and those young men (who are earnest to a fault, I warn you) look well in them. And consider the range of the icons who’ve worked the look with aplomb: Cobain and Sinatra. Starsky and Hutch.
(Full disclosure: I am wearing a cardigan right now. Oh, wait—it’s getting kind of warm in here. Maybe I’ll take my sweater off without having to pull it over my head. Nope, you know what? On second thought, it’s not that hot: I guess I’ll just unzip it.)
If you do not believe that your husband is well suited to the cardigan, and he will not listen to your reasoning, then you’ll have to resort to an ancient Mongolian behavior-modification technique: Buy him half a dozen cashmere V-necks.