Why is everyone laughing at me?

Notes on fatherhood.
July 15 2002 2:40 PM

The Little One

The second rule of fatherhood is that if everyone in the room is laughing, and you don't know what they're laughing about, they are laughing about you. A few months ago when I dropped Tallulah off at school I had that peculiar fatherhood feeling, of having just discovered in a crowded room that my fly was unzipped. From the moment I walked into her classroom, my mere presence seemed to remind her three lady teachers of some impossibly funny joke. They choked back giggles and turned away and pretended to be very busy organizing the dinosaurs in the sandbox and counting the graham crackers in the box. After a couple of days of this I finally asked one of them what was going on, and while she said, "Oh nothing," she meant "you don't want to know." But her smile was indulgent; whatever I had done evidently had caused no offense. I should have just let it drop. Instead, I sent in my wife to investigate.

"They wouldn't tell me exactly what it was," she said, when she'd returned from fetching Tallulah from school. "But it has something to do with something Tallulah said about your …"

"About my what?" I asked.

She looked pained.

"About my what?"

"About your penis."

"That's all you can tell me?"

"That's it."

That evening, as I showered, Tallulah rushed into the bathroom. This in itself wasn't unusual. It's a hobby of hers to open the shower door and spray water all over the bathroom. She likes to watch her naked father wash the soap from his eyes with one hand and prevent a flood with the other. But this time she also had something she wanted to say.

"Daddy has a small penis!" she shouted.