05/27/2015 03:21 pm ET Updated May 27, 2016

The Dad in Shining Armor

Liam Robb O'Hagan

The deadline for my latest book is fast approaching. In fact, I should be sitting here figuring out a final schedule, working back from the delivery day, June 17. I need two weeks for printing: Let's aim for June 1. That leaves me less than a week for the least-enjoyable part of being an author -- the final editing and proofing.

Crikey, I really should stop blogging.

The book I refer to is the local elementary school yearbook. It is my second year as editor of the yearbook, which is paid for by the PTA, and it my approach to this job has been very DIY.

Working alone is fine by me. I'm naturally introverted. I'm a stereotypical man in that asking for help is an unnatural act. So, our school yearbook is published by a man alone in front of his computer, in a strictly functional and precise relationship with the Adobe InDesign desktop publishing software.

I delegated the really onerous job of collecting the fifth grade baby photos to a colleague. I've tried to take the rest of the photos myself. Parents, that has been me at most school events with my camera. I'm doing it for the school, not because I am a creepy guy.

The women I am among, the ones who have assured themselves I'm not a voyeur, give me a great deal for credit for my photographic labor. I'm dedicated, I take lovely photos, I'm always around. It's a lot of work.

I'll take that praise, but I feel duty-bound to acknowledge that my motives are much more self-serving.

  1. Other people take horrible photos. They are out of focus, full of red eyes, branded with date stamps, washed out by the use of a flash or backlit. Which is what happens when the sun is behind the subject of the photo and their faces are in shadow.
  2. They send them to you in low-resolution files, which look perfect on a screen, but print fuzzy. Then you have to spend time chasing them down asking for a larger file. Then they attach six original-sized files to one email, and your server retires, hurt...
  3. I don't want to feel I have to use the photo someone sent me, because they might be offended if I don't.

It is more efficient to take my own photos. It has the attendant benefit that while I am taking photos, I don't have to volunteer for anything else. No manning the ticket booth at the school play for me! Nor running the donut eating competition at Scare Fair, or fitting kids with bike helmets at the Bike Safety Rally.

Of course, I did end up fitting helmets. My friend was running that event. She is a born and bred Manhattanite, recently emigrated from the Upper East Side. She sniffed out my B.S. in two seconds, called me on it in one minute, and drafted me in when the line was getting unwieldy.

But I'm OK with that. What man doesn't like to swoop in like a knight in shining armor and help out? Chivalry is not dead.

Signing up to volunteer requires organization and commitment. Chivalry is freedom. There is no responsibility to be in place at the right time. But when someone else drops the ball, if you happen to be on the spot, you can step in and get the credit. It works wonders on the coldest morning of the year when nobody is manning the car drop-off line at school.

Maybe every PTA needs a dad is shining armor. After all, there are more than enough women doing all the real work.