Secure in His Mannyhood

Adam Good, 25, tries to spray insect repellent on one of his charges, Jake Solomon, 2, in Alexandria. Good has worked at the home almost a year.
Adam Good, 25, tries to spray insect repellent on one of his charges, Jake Solomon, 2, in Alexandria. Good has worked at the home almost a year. (By Kevin Clark -- The Washington Post)
By Brigid Schulte
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 22, 2006

Britney Spears has one. So do Gwyneth Paltrow and Rosie O'Donnell. And the tabloids say actress Elizabeth Hurley is always on the hunt for a good one.

In Hollywood at least, having a male nanny, or a "manny," is all the rage these days.

But this is Washington. And Adam Good can get a little lonely.

On a recent hot summer day, Good climbed into his turquoise Mazda "manny mobile" for a trip to preschool to pick up 4-year-old Abby and 3-year-old Jake. Two car seats were carefully strapped in the back. And instead of the detritus most other 25-year-old males might accumulate in their cars, Good's was filled with bottles of bubbles, animal cracker crumbs, a big Snow White book and CDs that ran the gamut from David Bowie and French rap to the ABC song.

Just like Britney's manny -- Perry Taylor, a U.S. Naval Academy grad and Easton, Md., native -- Good is a live-in manny.

He does the grocery shopping. (He loves Trader Joe's.) He does laundry. He picks up dry cleaning. He takes digital photos and videos of the kids or writes up funny things they say and e-mails notes to their parents through the day. He sets up play dates and arranges trips to the park and downtown museums. He cooks dinner -- what he calls "nouveau kid." And when Abby and Jake want to play dress-up, he plays, too. "I'm usually a pterodactyl," he says.

And just like Britney's manny, dubbed "Perry Poppins" by the tabloids, Good gets his fair share of startled stares and rude questions. No, he's not gay. His fiancee is in the Peace Corps in Uganda. And, no, he's not a girly man. "I love being with kids," he shrugs. "It's weird to think that not hanging out with kids is considered manly. What does that say about our roles?"

What, indeed?

In fact, Good's question -- and his current career -- is fodder not only for countless marital arguments, but also for a fierce academic feud: Just how caring is a man? On one side, scientists who study evolution -- many of them men -- say that males of all species are biologically predisposed to procreate with multiple partners and have little or nothing to do with any offspring. Other scientists who study evolution -- many of them women -- argue that gender roles have less to do with biology and more to do with social and political pressures. Humans are adaptable, they say, and gender roles are not rigid.

So Good is either a fluke, according to one theory, or a sign of evolutionary progress, according to the other. Whichever it is, news of Britney's manny has unearthed a host of others around the globe: the rugby player-manny in South Africa, the graduate of a prestigious English nanny school in London and the "Manny Diaries" of many others. In the media, at least, mannies are the latest hot thing.

But to Good, it's just a job. And he likes it. "The money's good," he says. "And not paying rent in D.C., that's huge."

At the preschool, Jake was racing around, giggling, refusing to put his shoes on. "You've got to go potty before we go," Good told him. Jake continued to run in circles. Good squatted down, looked right into Jake's little eyes and said calmly, "Potty or Pull-Up, what do you think?" Vanquished, Jake trotted off to the toilet rather than being forced to wear the glorified diaper. Once there, his efforts were met with Good's "Oh my gosh. Good work! Good work!"

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