We all know that fathers are only generally asked one question on a regular basis:
It’s more complicated for mums. We get to answer practical questions, but also have the difficult role of being the Oracle for what I term “the biggies”. These include beauties such as “Why does the sun rise?”, “How long does it take to become a skeleton after you die?”, “Why is the sky blue whereas space is black?”, “What happens if you keep your eyes open when you sneeze?” or “Why does poo smell bad?” Questions are fired at us throughout the day, sometimes requiring hours of reflection and research before we can give the right answer, and often meaning that we’re awake for hours wondering why on earth we’d never thought about the question in hand, whilst our offspring snore blissfully in their beds. Here is a typical day’s line-up of the most common questions. Please feel free to complete with your own personal favourites:
« When » (….. is Dad getting home/are you going to buy me a …..)?
« What » (…… are we having for dinner)?
« Where » (….. is my favourite t-shirt, I left it on the floor behind my bed last week and it’s disappeared)?
« How » (…… come he got to finish the pot of chocolate spread and not me? He ate it all on purpose so I can’t have any, life sucks, nobody understands me and I’m going to overdose on Fanta then run away to a good home….).
« Who » ( …. put my jeans in the washing machine, they were still clean, I’d only been wearing them for ten days) ?
My all-time favourite, however, has always been « WHY ? » This one has always given me multiple opportunities for a laugh, a cry or a moment of philosophic contemplation.
« Why do men have nipples? » my daughter demanded at the breakfast table yesterday. I put down my piece of baguette and grinned at her. I was relieved: at least she hadn’t asked why men had a brain. The question could have been justified given the behaviour of the males in our brood on occasions.
At the grand old age of almost ten, she is in the starting blocks for puberty, and female hormones have already begun their stealthy, insidious attack on her mood and her physique. Questions about certain parts of her anatomy and why everyone is physically different are becoming quite a regular event.
It was a very good question, why do men have nipples? It’s not as if they need them for anything in particular, and I am surprised that Mother Nature didn’t get rid of them over the course of evolution. When P.F appeared with his coffee, I asked. “Dunno”, said our resident scientific boffin, ripping a chunk off his croissant and dunking it unceremoniously into his coffee.
I blinked. “I beg your pardon? Pull the other one, you’re a biologist. Come on, give us the low-down on redundant human accessories. Remember Little Red Riding Hood? The wolf had ears to hear you with, eyes to see, a nose to smell …. well, you know! Surely everything was put there for some reason; look at the appendix! Not useful for anything much now apart from being a potential time bomb that can send you to A&E, but it must have been put there for something! Even the belly button had a role to play once upon an umbilical cord ago!”
My daughter stifled a laugh and smirked. “So, Papa?” she insisted, but to no avail. Her genitor was absorbed by the amount of coffee his croissant could retain without falling into his cup.
“I can’t see how they can be of any use to men, but I’m sure that if you grab them and twist them around, like you do on the kitchen radio, your Dad will stay tuned in to all the recent events in his family”, I reassured her.
In the meanwhile, I’m still no closer to finding out why men have nipples….. Anyone got any bright ideas?