The Masculine Mystique

Like it or not, life as a stay-at-home dad forces your feminine side to shine through.


So we were hanging out with some new friends, young parents like ourselves, yammering about the joys and frustrations of mom-and-pop life, when the wife unbuttoned her shirt, scooped up a breast, and fed it into the maw of her hungry daughter. Nothing remarkable in that. Happens all the time. If my wife Lisa isn't nursing, one of her engorged gal-pals is. And yet, despite 11 months of experience with the mother's-milk thing, I did something incredibly rude; I gawked at our friend's flesh with the intensity of a 15-year-old, sex-obsessed virgin.

Call me a boorish jerk, but my gaze was fixed on that unsheathed mammary gland for one, two, perhaps three seconds too long. Fortunately, no one seemed to notice. In those three long seconds, however, I recognized, for the first time since being initiated into the culture of nursing, that my reaction to the nude female breast had become mild, even sort of neutral. Nowadays I see some mama con leche and think, "Ah, yes, the infant feeding stations. The family feedbags. Mother's little helpers. Bravo, biology!" And this, it now seemed to me, wasn't quite right.

Some background. When Lisa started nursing I felt slightly weird about her putting herself on display. Moreover, I felt weird about feeling weird, but I didn't want her to think I was some uptight 1950s guy, so I worked hard at giving the impression of being totally laid back about the whole shebang. I consciously de-sexualized the entire situation. "Remember, Ken," I told myself, "she's not flashing you; she's feeding the baby." Thus I overcame my normal biological response to the sight of Lisa's chest and allowed the concept of breastfeeding to become as sexy as the act of flossing one's teeth.

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