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Maternal Ties by Noreen Braman

An excerpt from the book Treading Water available through 

As most single parents know, there comes a time when trying to be both mother and father falls short. At no time is this more evident than when the children become TEENAGERS — when puberty hits them like a semi on the interstate. Dads of daughters are suddenly faced with running the gauntlet of the Feminine Hygiene aisle of the supermarket. Mothers of sons suddenly are dealing with deep-voiced strangers who eat everything in sight. 

My son is at an especially distinct disadvantage, being child number three behind two sisters. Only three years span my oldest to youngest, meaning the puberty hormones in my house can be as thick as a Cape Cod fog. So, living in a house of women is especially trying for my son. It wasn’t immediately apparent to me that he would not like shaving with a cute pink razor, or bathing with gardenia shower gel. And standing around in Victoria’s Secret, while the three female members of his household giggle over bras is not his idea of a fun day at the mall. 

Now he at least has his own personal care products, and gets to shop in the more manly mall establishments. I’ve made a diligent effort to be responsive to the needs of his gender and give him his own time away from “the girls.” Recently, without traipsing through a single women’s clothing department, we enjoyed a shopping trip to buy him a suit for his graduation photographs. Together we discovered that men’s dress clothes come in strange size combinations and apparently, it is very important to know how big your neck is and how long your arms are. To further complicate things, one cannot even try on a man’s shirt to see if you have guessed properly, as they are all packed up in unbreakable plastic like Tylenol in the drugstore. 

When finally, the suit, shirt, tie and shoes came home, my son immediately went to his room, to try on the ensemble. My eyes filled with tears of pride when he stepped out of his room, looking so much like a grown man. Except, the suit pants were dragging on the floor and the tie was hanging limply by his side. 

Folding, pinning and begging an older sister to utilize her sewing skills took care of the pants. By that time it was 10 PM, on the night before the photographs. As my son tried on the suit for the second time, I said to him “lets see the full effect, tie the tie.” 

“I can’t tie a tie,” he answered. “You tie it.” Ah, the faith of a child who thinks his parent can do anything. There was no way I could tie that tie. “Ask one of your teachers in school tomorrow,” I suggested. 

The expression of horror on my son’s face made me realize that this was another puberty/teenager/manliness issue. Asking a teacher for anything so personal was out of the question. So we tried to tie the tie ourselves. 

Rule #1 for tying someone’s tie – the gentleman cannot have a ticklish neck. Every time I even touched my son’s neck he collapsed into uncontrollable laughter. 

Rule #2 – Tying a tie is not the same as tying a hangman’s noose. At one point, this knot was so tight I though I would have to call the fire department to extricate my son from its murderous grip. Also, a square knot is suitable for a sailor, not a high school senior, and take my advice, don’t even mention tying a bow. 

Rule #3 – It is just about impossible to tie a tie that is around a neck other than your own.

As each attempt by me failed miserably, I was reminded of a story told to me by a good friend. Having grown up in a third generation family of funeral directors, leaning how to tie a tie was a skill he acquired at a young age. However, after injuring his hand, my friend was unable to tie his own tie, and he went to his father for help. After all, here was a man who had been tying his own tie for decades, as well as the ties of countless deceased gentlemen. Gentlemen who were reclined in eternal peace. There was only one way he could tie his son’s tie. “Lie down,” he said. 

Well, that didn’t work for me, and just about when we were resigned to a tie-less photograph, the cartoon light bulb over my head lit up. I rushed over to the computer and signed on to the net. 

“I can’t believe you are going online now!” moaned my son. But he didn’t realize what I was doing. After all, you can find out how to build bombs, buy drugs without prescriptions, spy on your neighbors and enlarge certain parts of your body online – why not how to tie a tie! 

Sure enough, we found a guide, complete with pictures. It was still impossible for me to do it, but eventually, after several attempts and a lot of head twisting, my son was able to successfully knot the offending piece of cloth around his neck. We celebrated like baseball players who just clinched the pennant. 

And just to be safe, my son slipped the tie over his head, and hung it — still knotted — over the hanger. Part of becoming a man is knowing when not to tempt fate.

Noreen Braman  – Creativity On Call,  American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA)Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor (AATH), Certified Laughter Yoga Leader

Noreen’s Digital Dreams

Living on the Smile Side of Life in Jamesburg, New Jersey

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