An Excerpt From “My Guide to Dads”


Embracing those Embarrassing Moments

When your mom bends over to get a closer look at a Precious Moments figurine at the Goodwill, your dad will pinch her ass. At the local coffee shop you regrettably insisted he try, your dad will demand that they make his off-menu mystery drink order exactly like Starbucks does and as the frightened baristas mix and froth to his vague specifications, he will linger by the counter making “I’m Watching You” gestures by pointing his index and middle fingers to his eyes and then towards the employees. And when you are moving into your dorm and chatting up a decent-looking guy with braces whose number you might actually score now that you’re free from the caste system known as high school and the highly oppressive nickname “Cootie Cooter,” your Dad will emerge from the stairwell lugging the inflatable clown punching bag he bought for you in the toy section of Sam’s Club because “college can be stressful” and will chide you in an incredibly racist Thai or Japanese accent (you will never quite be certain) to “stop giving away sucky-suck blow jobs for only five dollars.” But, you will wonder, if you are charging five dollars, how are you giving them away?

Deciding how to handle these embarrassing Dad Moments can present a dilemma greater than that of those times when you just finished painting your nails but also really need to pick your nose. If your dad does try to embarrass you in public, imagine he is not your father at Target, but a creepy pervert who has been following you through Target. Once you method-act your way into stalked-mode, you should use your best outraged-lady voice to declare something in the vein of, “No sir, not for twenty dollars, not for any price!” After your mom pawns that Precious Moments figurine that turned out to be worth a lot of money to bail him out of jail for solicitation, I guarantee that your dad will thank you for the lesson in appropriate behavior and, if nothing else, the amazing water-cooler-worthy anecdote about the one-armed, good-hearted gangster rapper he met in the slammer who promised to email him a mixtape.

Employment and the Consequences Thereof

Dads often have to work jobs so that they can buy things such as an iPhone for your brother but not you, and expensive Hawaiian shirts from Kohl’s so that they have something appropriate to wear to Joe’s Crab Shack and your wedding. If your dad has a job he loves, he will probably divorce your mom and leave all of you out in the cold so he can watch Bones and Law and Order in peace in a bachelor pad on the other side of town near the yuppie grocery store that conveniently has a Starbucks inside and the kickboxing gym that you’re convinced is a mafia front because no one ever goes there. But a dad with an awesome job is a very rare specimen. More commonly, your dad will have a job he hates, complete with a vulture boss who picks out all the Reese’s from his desktop candy dish. Behind shut doors, your dad will probably refer to this nut-butter glutton by such names as “Ass Clown,” “Dick Weed,” and “Frilly Panties McGee,” which you personally find a bit clunky.

In the case of such a terrible job/boss situation, your overworked, underappreciated Dad will understandably feel very cranky and will at times take his frustrations out on you. This may come in the form of “accidentally” locking you in the garage when you’re in there rummaging through your mom’s crafting Rubbermaid bins for googly eyes to stick on the trees at the dog park. It may come in the form of blatantly disregarding the pleasure you derive from a good hick fight on Teen Mom and abruptly changing the channel to The O’Reilly Factor. It may come in the form of pulling a knife and chasing after you in the Best Buy parking lot screaming, “Blood Brothers!” Or it may come in the form of not slowing his Kia to a complete stop when he drops you off at Tutti-Frutti Yogurt, causing you to trip onto the sidewalk and skin your elbow, and provoking the two Asian teenage employees inside to smirk at you through the windows, therefore prompting you to take your business elsewhere to the donut shop next door even though donuts do not contain Live Active Cultures and those brown sprinkles they put on them that look like mouse craps give you the willies and make you think about the Plague, which is unappetizing.

But never you dwell on such matters. If your dad is like my dad, his comeuppance will come. Up. If your dad is like mine, one day after locking you in the garage again and only letting you free after you threaten to show CPS your skinned elbow, your dad will sit down to enjoy his dinner and his Lazy Boy recliner will suddenly break, causing both him and the chair to tip over backwards to the floor. Your dad’s plate of spaghetti will squish on his face like a cream pie and sauce will splatter all over his glasses and a meatball will land on his shoulder. Patience, grasshopper. It will come.

Embarking on Fatherly Adventures

But Dads aren’t always cranky or covered in spaghetti. Often they will behave quite benevolently and may even take you to some cool places. Maybe your dad will take you fishing at some guy’s pond and there will be a Jack Russell Terrier there that doesn’t reenact detective classics like Wishbone but who can shimmy up trees, and maybe there will even be a mean, fat horse that will sneak up behind you and bite your hair. Maybe your dad will take you to Peter Piper’s Pizza where you will get into a physical scuffle with the Macaulay Culkin look-a-like who follows you around and rips the tickets you earn out of the machines as though he were the one who rightfully earned them with his superior skee-ball and whack-a-mole skills. Maybe your dad will take you to the casino, where at the Wizard of Oz slots you will make small talk with a chatty fifty-year-old, three-hundred-pound divorcee named Debbie who hums a heartbreaking version of “She Will be Loved” under her breath and in an admirable acrobatic stunt draws her red-shoe-clad feet up to the screen, clicks them together, and chants, “There’s no place like home.” You will be loved, Debbie, you will.

In addition to being good at taking you neat places, dads are also good at serving as the butts of jokes. For example, when you make fun of your dad’s weird habit of flossing multiple times a day even when he hasn’t eaten popcorn, he will probably just grin sheepishly so as not to flash his bloody gums. He will continue to take your phone calls even though you only ever really call to ask if he’s going to hit you with a Double Dad Surprise, which is not a flavor at Baskin-Robbins, but when you find out in a very sudden way that your dad has a boyfriend. And your dad will just shrug it off when on a family road trip you stop at a Mexican restaurant and your youngest brother, who called shotgun at the last pit stop and who is now sitting across from you at the table, sends you a text message that reads “plz don’t make me sit in the front anymore, dad always makes me give him road head, don’t tell anyone :(” and in a fit of uncontrollable, Juicy-Eyed laughter, you show everyone, including the mariachis and the waiter, who doesn’t really seem to get that it’s a joke and begins going out of his way to avoid refilling your dad’s ice water. So, sure, your dad may embarrass you with his unnecessarily ingredient-heavy decaf concoctions and he may give his email address out to felons and he may not defend you when that kid from Home Alone shoves you into the prize counter, but if your dad is like mine, he’s taught you a valuable lesson: If you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at? Your dad.

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image – Kate