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Stepdad Lessons

Last year, I transformed myself from bachelor to husband. As if that wasn't a jarring enough transition, I also became a stepfather. This was supremely unfamiliar territory, and I liken the past year to what a pygmy from the Congolese interior might undergo upon being transplanted to Times Square. But despite my recent arrival to the Land of Girl, I've managed to glean many new insights about its natives. For instance:

Fear not naked Barbie

Despite a wardrobe a fashion model would envy—one that can accommodate any activity, from scuba to skiing to clubbing—Barbie spends most of her life naked, perfect breasts rising into the air, long legs stretched out on the floor. This alarmed me. And when Ken began showing up and indulging in frequent skinny-dipping excursions in the bathtub, I feared depravity. But to my stepdaughter and her friends, Barbie without clothing is as sexless as a piece of chalk. Undressed, she's a human canvas on which to place clothes. I, on the other hand, feel an odd mix of horror and envy as I look upon the frozen-faced, emasculated Ken lounging languorously on the floor with his harem.

Women are born that way

Sexist, I know, but how else to explain her description of the boy who sits next to her in class as "just such an obnoxious little man"? Or her insistence on carrying two bags for an overnight trip, one for clothes and the other for such necessities as CDs, glitter lipstick, art supplies, and Barbie's shoes? Or the way she asks for fashion reviews of ensembles that include pink Keds, yellow shorts, and a blue top with a red heart applique when I know full well she doesn't want an honest answer?

Teddy bears are our friends

At first I was humiliated by Scruffy. I carried him onto an airplane and shrank before the chuckles of my fellow passengers. But I've learned to lug him joyfully into motels, the homes of friends, and through a jungle in Central America because Scruffy and I have reached a rapprochement: I agree to tolerate his presence at all times; he agrees to serve as best friend, playmate, husband during endless games of house (which often include marriage to several female teddy bears, a stuffed dog, and a plastic horse), and, best of all, as a bottomless reservoir for shed tears.