I’m Your Dad
I’m a dad.
I don’t have kids. I’m not a grilling ace. I’ve only been fishing once, where I managed to hook my finger and swear off the sport. I’ve mown my fair share of lawns, but I cannot claim to own a riding mower.
I’m only 25 years old.
Yet, I have a collection of Dad themed mugs and a #1 Dad hat that I wear with enthusiasm.
So… How am I a dad?
Well, I’ll just start by telling you how proud of you I am.
Really! I don’t know you, but I already know that you’re trying your best out there in a world that’s really tough. That takes a lot of grit, and I’m proud of you.
Mom Friend vs Dad Friend
You all know what a mom friend is. They’re a friend of yours, regardless of gender, who is known for taking care of the group. They carry around water bottles and pain meds in their bag, they’ve probably got a snack if you ask nicely, they’re prepared with good advice and some hand sanitizer to boot.
I’m not a mom friend.
If anything, mom friends tend to hover around me, worry creasing their brows as I engage in drunken conversations with strangers outside of bars for far too long.
I am the rarer, more elusive Dad Friend.
I’m here to tell you when you’re doing good, when you’re fucking up, and when you just need a stoic hug from someone who doesn’t know what to say.
Your mom friend might help you work through issues with your friends, but I’m here to tell you when your friend is being kind of a dick. Or, sometimes, I’m here to tell you when you’re being kind of a dick.
If you want compassion, talk to your mom friend. If you want honesty, talk to me.
Okay, but why Dad?
Less than half of all Americans report having a very good relationship with their father.
My friend group is largely queer, largely isolated, and largely gets along very poorly with their parents. As a queer, isolated person with a bad relationship to my parents, I fit right in.
Every day, I get to watch my creative, talented, driven friends get harangued over not working office jobs or not being enough like their siblings. Every day, I get to watch wonderful, inspiring people act awkward and embarrassed around their accomplishments.
So every day, I get to take my friends by their shoulders, look into their eyes, and say:
“I’m proud of you.”
Compulsively, I step into the role of a loving, paternal figure here to encourage you to do your best.
And people eat it up. I cannot tell you how much positive feedback I’ve gotten just for taking on the role of a father that loves you. The tearful hugs, the promises to do even better next time —
Genuinely, it makes me want to be a real father someday. I think I’d be pretty good at it.
Okay, but why me?
My relationship with my dad is…complex.
He was a single father raising me for most of my life, and the man definitely has his own host of problems to work through. I learned a lot from him. He’s an expert in teaching lessons both in “How to be a dad,” and also very firmly “How to absolutely not be a dad.”
My dad never liked to tell me he was proud of me.
But he also said he’d beat up kids at school that bullied me if I asked him to. Specifically, “You want me to get arrested over this, sweetie?”
His jokes and honesty are something I model closely, with my faux threats to rob my friends’ obnoxiously wealthy siblings, with my affectionate bullying.
His refusal to apologize… Well, that one I’ve left behind as much as I possibly can.
To my friends, I am the platonic ideal of a father.
It probably helps that I’ve never had to ground them, to be absolutely candid.
What do you picture, when you imagine the perfect dad? A version of your dad that you can’t disappoint, that never gets embroiled in family drama, that never says anything that makes you cringe at the dinner table?
Or just someone who is there for you?
If I could build a dad in a laboratory, made perfectly to fit my expectations, I think I’d probably do a bad job. I’m not a scientist, and that kind of technology sounds dangerous. But I’d probably make someone who just wants to hang out with me, who is proud of what I have accomplished, and is going to fiddle around in the fridge trying to find leftovers to send me home with.
Expectations for dads are low. 23% of children don’t even live with their biological dad, and many of us get our ideas for what a dad is supposed to be like from television.
(Let me just tell you now: If you think Homer Simpson is an ‘okay’ dad, you should raise your standards immediately.)
With fatherhood being constantly redefined due to social environments changing, the increase of stay-at-home dads, we get to decide what dads are, and what they mean.
For many people, especially queer and otherwise marginalized people, the idea of a “found family,” is more appealing than dealing with our flesh and blood relatives. Having someone fit into the role of proud paternalism can be a genuine relief compared to interacting with the complex relationships we have with our real fathers.
Maybe the real “dad” was the friends we made along the way!
Or, um, maybe “dad” was in your heart all along?
Wait, I’ve got it: The real “dad” was the journey, the whole time!
Okay, that’s a joke. But genuinely, a lot of people need that kind of support in their lives. If you can step up, even occasionally, and let your friends know how proud you are of them…
Well, you’ll find your collection of dad mugs growing larger, at least!