What It Means to be Inappropriate

“Mom, if someone killed himself in someone else’s house, would that be inappropriate?”


“Nate, if someone’s trying to kill himself in someone else’s home, I think the last thing he’d be worried about is whether or not it’s appropriate.”


“Yes, Nate, that would be inappropriate,” Tighe sawed off a piece of his chicken enchilada and shoveled it into his mouth.


“Well,” Nate continued,” I know it’s inappropriate for Sam’s penis to be so close to my macaroni and cheese!”


“That’s true,” I nodded thoughtfully. “That’s definitely inappropriate.”


We’re pretty laid back at mealtimes, but we’ve had to ban both weapons and nudity in the dining room—and I suspect we’re about to add suicidal ideation to the list. However, Sam spilled two tiny molecules of milk on his shirt. Which, according to the Operating Manual of Sam, means that all clothing needs to be removed. Immediately. His teachers know this policy well. If he gets a drop of water on his shorts while washing his hands, painting with watercolors, or getting a drink from the water fountain, clothes come off. And since it was his third outfit of the day, for similar wardrobe malfunctions—lots of puddle sitting—no one bothered to argue with him.


But I had to agree that Sam had violated the Penis Proximity Rule of Nate’s mac and cheese. If I’m reading the current global news correctly, President Trump and Kim Jung Un had a similarly “tremendous” disagreement that resulted in their canceled summit.



“Tighe, what’d you put in the washer?”


It was Sunday morning. We were brushing our teeth and getting ready for church, but I noticed Tighe had started the laundry.


“Oh, that’s a pillow off the sofa that Sam sat on. Bare-assed. After he pooped. And didn’t wipe.”


Sam always brags about the fact that he doesn’t need to wipe. “There’s no poop on me!” he proclaims, delighted with his hygiene-defying feat. Skid marks in his underwear suggest otherwise.


“How is he comfortable spending so much time naked?” I wondered aloud. “And at what point do people start calling the cops?”


As I spoke Sam wandered into the master bathroom donning his baby blue polo shirt singing “alleluia.” No pants. No underwear.


The day before, he really had spent most of the day naked. It was Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. The heat index in Kansas City was at least 99. And Tighe decided it was the perfect time to dig down 36 inches, mix and pour concrete, get sunburnt, and suffer from heat exhaustion.


Actually, deep down he knew it wasn’t the perfect time, but he believes we’ve already been living far too long without a basketball hoop. We’re just wasting precious basketball-practicing time. He routinely preaches about how Nate and Sam need to get out there and shoot free throws. On a 10-foot hoop. He’s been a failure as a father for not providing a basketball hoop for the last six years, 3 months and 11 days.


In reality, the basketball hoop is for Tighe. His lunchtime pick-up games at work get pretty heated, and he needs to log some extra practice time at home.


But I digress. As usual.


The point is there was a lot of manual labor going on in the backyard that day. Tess had woken from her nap. Nate was at a friend’s house. Sam was wandering, in search of something to do, still in his boxers and t-shirt from the night before. And we were all stinking hot.


I pulled an inflatable kiddie pool out of its packaging, laid it on the patio, and began filling it with a hose. Tess and Sam got excited. They began wading and splashing and squealing as I used towels and Adirondack chairs to create some makeshift shade. And a measly five yards away, Tighe was knee deep in soil. He had sweated through three t-shirts and was now shirtless, burnt, and rather grouchy.


It was a poor man’s holiday weekend, but it was pretty spectacular.


Soon—and this part seemed pretty predictable to me, but to Sam, it was devastating—his boxers got wet. Refer to the Wet Clothing Clause in the Operating Manual of Sam. After a few shrieks of discomfort and incredulity, clothes came off. All of them.


Our poor man’s holiday weekend was quickly slipping into redneck territory.


He proceeded to splash and jump and squeal with delight, totally naked. Soon, he was climbing nearby chairs and “cannonballing” into the seven inches of water. The vinyl pool lining was a thin buffer between the patio concrete and his bare butt, which was red and scraped, but he didn’t care.


Dissatisfied with the gentle caressing texture of the cool water on his fair skin, he scooped up some mulch from the nearby flowerbed and added it to the pool. The floating shards of splintered wood seemed like German U-boats to his exposed genitals, but he was perfectly happy, not bothered in the slightest.


“Are you okay?” I called to Tighe, concerned about the amount of sweat that was pouring from his brow as he lugged heavy bags of concrete from the far corner of the driveway.


“I’ll help you, Dad!” Sam always loves a chance to help his dad. Especially when Nate’s not around.


He hopped out of the pool, slipping slightly and narrowly missing a full-body abrasion. Sauntering across the grass, Sam picked up the hose, and began spraying water into the wheelbarrow while Tighe mixed the concrete with a shovel. They took turns mixing and spraying and pouring. It was a beautiful father-son bonding activity that would have made Harry Chapin sob with emotion.


Except that he probably would have had to avert his eyes because Sam was still totally naked.


As dinnertime approached, George’s mom pulled her car to the front of the house to drop off Nate. Excited to see his brother, Sam galloped across the grass, straddling well-trimmed shrubs as though they were hurdles on a track.


“Wow,” she commented dryly. “He’s just fine being completely naked.”


“Yeah, he is.”


Totally inappropriate.