Every moment, every breath, Pearl tries to be nice.
She was told by her mother, when she was a little girl and had pig-tails and wore uncomfortable turtle-necks, that it was better to say nothing at all if you couldn’t say anything nice.
“Why are you so nice?” I asked Pearl. She then told me about this book she just read, about the socialization of civility, and I don’t understand.
Pearl seems impressed by the fact that I get up on the stage and tell jokes that contradict society’s insistence on niceness. From what I can tell, Pearl never thinks anything except nice things. Of course, she laughs when I say something mean, but I suppose as long as she isn’t saying it, it’s okay.
“I told you,” Pearl answered. “The book points out that women are taught from early on to be nice. I mean, I was taught that from my mother. We remember those sorts of things, those comments people make, and treat them like maxims when we grow up. That’s why I am so careful what I’ve told my children. I think it is better to say nothing than to possibly scar a child for life.”
I looked at her children who were playing in the living room. When I’m not babysitting the kids, Pearl stays home all day and watches them play. She buys books about parenting and studies them like she is going to get a Master’s degree.
Most of her parenting philosophy centers on the notion of “non-coercion.” She insists that I never say, “Don’t.” She never says no.
Usually when I babysat for these children, I struggle to direct them positively. I remember one time I really thought no was necessary.
“Markers are for coloring on the page, not for walls,” I said, and then kicked myself for saying, “Not.” I rephrased myself, “Markers are for coloring on the page.” Pearl’s daughter Sandy just looked at me and then continued coloring on the wall.
I don’t know why I worried so much. Pearl came home from her doctor’s appointment and praised their artwork, and seemed delighted by the red and green ink spots dried on my clothes and the floor.
Otherwise, I think I am good with children. I take these babysitting gigs from friends like her so I can continue my “career” as a comedian. I get on stage every Friday and Saturday nights and try to make parents like Pearl laugh.
Then, I go over to one of their houses and try to give them a break. Pearl often goes shopping when I take care of her kids. She buys cleaning supplies and then stores them in a cabinet in her kitchen. She is always on the lookout for some new microwavable wet-wipe that will magically absorb the dirt in her house. She spends so much money on these domestic inventions.
Other than babysitting for Pearl, I go over to Donna’s house or Felicia’s house and take care of their kids. Or sometimes I’d go to the home of Mark and Joe, who have twin adopted two year olds. I hand out cards at my shows that say, “Wade Wallins, comedian and child-care worker.” These parents laugh at my shows, and buy lots of drinks, and then go home — the next day when they are sober, they call me to come by.
Mark and Joe asked me if I do children’s parties when I came by. I told them I didn’t think my jokes would go over well.
They laughed like crazy when I said:
A little boy asked his father, “Daddy, how much does it cost to get married?” And the father replied, “I don’t know, son, I’m still paying.”
I don’t fully understand why Mark and Joe think it is so funny.
Mark said, “The kids at the party wouldn’t care what your routine was. You could just tell some jokes and the parents at the party would get a big kick out of it.”
Joe said, “The kids just laugh when we do. I mean, they think poop jokes are funny. Throw in a few of those and you would be great.”
I was skeptical, and so I said no. Right now comedy and my day job are separate. I just have to watch the kids, try to figure out how to tell them to do something without any negativity, and that’s good enough for me. Making kids laugh is too much responsibility.
I get my best babysitting gigs after gigs where I make fun of the married couples. I am not sure what it is. Maybe they like the idea of an unmarried man who takes care of their kids seeing these humorous side of their own life-style choices. I say:
When a man opens the door of his car for his wife, you can be sure of one thing: either the car is new or the wife is.
The wives laughed harder than the men.
My political jokes just make the parents stare at me. But when I make fun of relationships, tears stream down their faces. They like when I’m mean.
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