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(Un)Becoming (of) a Grandfather
By Jack Burditt

My first thought upon hearing I was going to be a grandfather was, "Wait, I'm 43, I'm not ready to wear sweaters and whittle." I had made it pathetically clear to my kids that I had no desire of entering grandparenthood until I was at least 50. Perhaps they'd heard me groan and curse while doing yard work and just assumed I was 83 years old.

My oldest daughter was to blame. She went off to the U.S. Army and came homepregnant, proving once again our soldiers aren't being provided with enough body armor.

I immediately began to obsess about being a grandparent. Would I have to get a hobby? Or a cat? Are grandparents allowed to have sex? And what's the whole deal with wearing pants that don't fit?

Then I learned from other grandparents that it might be the greatest scam ever. They get respect. False respect, perhaps, but still an improvement over anything I've experienced. I began to embrace the idea of being a grandfather, standing in the maternity ward, dispensing butterscotch lifesavers and sage advice.

Sadly, that's not exactly how it went down. I missed the birth of my grandson because I was in bed with a woman who wasn't my wife.

Oh, and it was my wife's idea.

A few months earlier I had made an innocent remark that actors are crazy. The problem is my wife, Cyndee, is a talent agent, meaning her clients are actors. I'm a TV writer and producer, meaning I hire actors. And in that instant I became the enemy.

Cyndee decided I needed a taste of an actor's life, so she started submitting me for auditions. I went out on commercials and discovered what I already knew -- I had no desire to be an actor, and certain casting directors don't recognize greatness when it's staring them in the face.

Then Cyndee got a call from America's Most Wanted, the long-running, criminal-nabbing Fox show. Someone had seen my headshot and declared me perfect to play a date rapist.

Naturally, the morning of the shoot my daughter went into labor. So that was it then, my leading man career was over before it even began. Or so I thought.

Cyndee saw me sitting on the sofa and asked, "What are you doing?" I never know what I'm doing so I didn't understand the question. Then she said, "You still have to go to the shoot."

I couldn't believe it. My wife was telling me to miss the birth of my grandson. This is the sort of thing that has kept men in trouble, and florists in business, for centuries. Didn't she know this was my grandfather coming-out party?

She reminded me that it would reflect poorly on her agency if I were to bail out, and promised to call with labor updates. What could I say? Well, I could have said a lot of things, but I'm really frightened of Cyndee, so I decided to go.

I arrived at the America's Most Wanted, or AMW, production office. The first thing I noticed about Michele, the actress I was going to, well, you know, was that she was attractive. I know, how incredibly shallow of me, why should her looks even matter? It could only mean one thing -- I was beginning the transformation into actor.

Michelle has been featured on numerous episodes of AMW. Always a victim, she's been drugged, shot, kidnapped and the victim of some sort of fraud or identity theft, although I could tell she thought that last one was beneath her. "Just once I'd love to play the criminal," she laughed, in a way that made me contemplate whether that's how quickly and easily real criminals are born.

The first bit of business was ordering lunch. Michelle ordered a tuna wrap, then thought better of it. "I don't think it would be a good idea to get tuna if I'm going to be raped," she said, and I'm guessing it's the first time anyone has ever said that exact sentence.

I was pondering the menu when my wife called. "Don't order onions," Cyndee stressed, which is good advice from an agent, but just plain weird coming from my wife. Why was she looking out for the woman I would soon be on top of in bed? The only way I was going to have fun with any of this was by thinking I was at least getting away with something.

While waiting for lunch, one of the producers nonchalantly inquired, "So what kind of underwear are you wearing?" I wish I could say this is the first time a guy has asked me this. I told him boxers; he seemed pleased. Then he asked if I was okay without a shirt. I gave an enthusiastic "sure." What I was really thinking was whether I had time to run eight miles and do five hundred crunches.

The producer added, "I'm going to show you how to take off your shirt." Now I don't want to brag, but I've been taking off my shirt on my own since I was nine years old.

The producer sensed my confusion. "Trust me," he sighed, with a weariness that is all too familiar with producers, "you take off your shirt wrong and show too much armpit and the next thing you know you're hearing about it from some woman in Iowa."

It's not the first time I've heard this. During my years in television I've been told that I can't write this or can't have a character do that because I'll offend some woman in Iowa. It's always Iowa. What I want to know is who is this Iowan and why does she terrorize Hollywood so?

"There are a lot of things you can't show," the producer fretted. "In fact, I'm not sure about your boxers. I need to make a call."

What didn't he like about my boxers? If I had to lose my boxers, then Iowa women and everyone else might be seeing a lot more than my armpits.

My wife called from the hospital. Through lousy cell phone reception I heard, "Everything going… not… orange…" The connection went dead. I had no idea what was going on, whether a birth had taken place, if I should be elated or concerned. The best I could deduce from the cryptic message was if I had a grandson, his name was not Orange.

The producer returned from his phone call. "Okay, you can leave your shirt on." I felt a rush of exhilaration. "But no pants." Shirt but no pants? That's worse than anything. I might be playing a date rapist who drugs and films his victim, but I certainly didn't want to come off as too creepy.

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