Ashton Kutcher is trying to make fatherhood less gross
I hate Ashton Kutcher. You hate Ashton Kutcher. Everyone in America over the age of 30 hates Ashton Kutcher: The floppy hair. The roguish charm. The 28” waist. He’s the worst.
And now he’s campaigning for World’s Greatest Dad by bragging about how he changes all of his kid’s diapers. (Or, as the Babble headline proclaims “Every. Single. Diaper.” Cue Seinfeld:
Which makes me want to hate him even more.
Fathers run the gamut in terms of what duties they assume. My wife and I don’t keep score, but I do a lot of diaper changing. Because we’re all hostage to our own experiences, I assumed this was the norm. Then a few years ago I found out that one of my friends does zero diapers. As in: None. Through two kids. This arrangement seemed freakish and weird to me, but his wife doesn’t mind and his kids turned out great and they’re a happy, wonderful family.
By the same token, I always assumed that husbands and wives fight through the midnight feedings and sleep training wars side-by-side. But then another buddy of mine admitted that every time his wife had a kid, she and the baby would spend the first several weeks in the in-law suite in their basement. This way he could stay upstairs in their bedroom and get enough sleep to handle the other kids and his day job. When he first told me about this arrangement, I was kind of gob-smacked. I didn’t think marriage could work like that. But some of them do. And they can work really well. (When I joked with him about his wife’s omni-competence, he deadpanned: “She’s like a Terminator sent back in time from the future. And I’m just hoping her mission is for the good.”)
With all due respect to Kutcher for his marital arrangement, you don’t even get on the shortlist for Father of the Year until you’ve spent 20 minutes kneeling in the handicapped stall of the men’s room at Chuck E. Cheese trying to clean up a 4-year-old girl who just crapped her brand-new Disney Princess big-girl underpants while her 6-year-old brother stands sentry.
But as much we might roll our eyes at Kutcher, he’s actually doing us all a service by pointing out one of the great annoyances of fatherhood: The paucity of changing tables in men’s bathrooms.
Because of his commitment to diaper changing, Kutcher has launched a minor campaign for more changing stations in public men’s rooms. Which is great.
A few weeks ago I was at a big-box store that had no changing station in the men’s room. So I headed out to the parking lot, where, standing in the beating sun, with the temperature at about 100 degrees, I changed my daughter on the Cheerio-covered floor of our minivan. And I kept thinking, I used to be somebody.
Children are lovely little dignity sinks, siphoning away the sophisticated parts of our selves a little bit at a time. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation.
We do this at great personal cost and for great society benefit. Old joke: What do economists call babies? Future taxpayers. We’re changing diapers so that everyone else can collect Social Security and Medicare checks in 2038.
But if the federal government is willing to make a big push on “transgender bathrooms,” the least society can do for us is make it standard practice to put Koala Care stations in the men’s room, too.
Because at the end of the day, Ashton, my buddies, and me are all in this together.
More from Acculturated:
TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email email@example.com.