This originally ran in How We Dad Now. You can read the other stories in the package here, as well as in our Summer 2022 issue.
I am a dad, which means I’m a constant source of derision for my family. Some of my T-shirts are, like, an inch too short, which means my hairy belly pokes out when I have to reach up to change a lightbulb. I offer live commentary on other drivers’ terrible road manners while I’m carpooling kids to soccer practice. (“Look at this guy in the BMW. What’s he think he’s doin ‘?”) I use a million napkins when I eat. I still listen to Def Leppard with incredible zeal. I provide memes to this household so reliably that you could fucking chart them.
This used to bother me, and occasionally it still does. I grew up in the late seventies and early eighties, near the blessed end of an era when fathers were defined as men who were strong, capable, and taciturn. The sheriffs of their households. “Just wait till your father gets home,” etc. I wanted to be that kind of dad: a dad you didn’t fuck with. I wanted to be taken seriously.
But there’s a word for men who demand to be taken seriously, and that word is asshole.
If you’re a dad who can’t take a light jab and is constantly demanding subservience from those you love, are you really that strong? Are you that loving? Who the fuck are you even trying to impress? A good dad, a modern dad, embraces all the dorky-dad stereotypes with good cheer. He does his duties — working, cleaning, cooking, driving, installing car seats, deinstalling car seats, etc. — without objection, and he doesn’t give a bare fuck how he looks while he does them. Because if you’re so wrapped up in how you believe a dad should behave, you’re not really of much use to anybody. And, above all else, dads have to be useful: the guy everyone calls on when they need a laugh, or when they need to reach a high shelf, or when the house is literally on fire.
So go ahead and laugh at me when I’m changing out a ceiling fan with my ass crack on display. Chuckle at my music selections in the car. Cover your ears when I’m eating ribs. I’m here to provide you with all of the Phil Dunphy-esque laughs you require, and more.
That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m good at this job.
Drew Magary is the author of, most recently, The Night the Lights Went Out: A Memoir of Life After Brain Damage.
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