Dads are Vibrant, Sexual Beings. Stop Laughing.

Are dads having a moment? A dad investigates.


“When people say dad rock, they actually just mean rock.” – Jeff Tweedy (a dad)

A few months ago The Bygone Bureau’s scholar of dad-ness, Kevin, claimed that he had reached “peak dad” by playing something called Rocksmith. As The Bygone Bureau’s resident actual biological (as opposed to cultural) dad, I had no idea what he was writing about. How does playing Rocksmith relate to fathering a child? Did something go terribly wrong in Kevin’s sex-ed class?

I guess Rocksmith relates to dads in that Rocksmith has a lot of songs from the dad-rock era of the 60’s and 70’s. Of course, if an actual dad grew up listening to dad-rock, he would be a grandpa-dad today. I am a pretty old dad as far as new dads go and the Beatles, Led Zepplin, Van Morrison, ZZ Top , etc. were old when I was growing up. I’m from the blister in the sun era, not the here comes the sun era. If I were to press an album from my youth into the eager hands of my son and tell him that he must listen to it in order to be an educated person who understands the history of music it would probably be the Violent Femmes eponymous Violent Femmes.

“Look, anyone who doesn’t like ZZ Top can go fuck themselves.” –Marc Maron (not a dad)

Dad-rock makes no sense to me. But I do get the humor of a man of a certain age blithely trotting out his pedestrian music snobbery while at the same time ignoring the fact that he is old and not entitled to musical opinions.

“Can a humor scientist please explain why are dads just inherently funny right now.” – Hallie Bateman (also not a dad)

Hallie, let me dadsplain this to you. Dads are inherently funny via the “Fat Man Dancing” principle of comedy. What is the “Fat Man Dancing” principle, you ask? It is easily summed up by the following statement: incongruity is humor. A low form of humor, to be sure, but humorous nonetheless. For instance:

  • Kitten in a business suit.
  • Foreigner using American slang with an accent (i.e. Rush Hour).
  • Related: Caucasian American speaking fluent Chinese.
  • Old lady rapping and/or expressing sexual desire.
  • Anyone not normally associated with smoking dope smoking dope (i.e. nuns, babies.)
  • Related: babies smoking cigarettes, dancing, rapping, wearing business suits, or using slang.

Any person or animal enacting the activities of youth while not themselves being youthful or body/gender normative is funny. Or, we should say, “often considered funny within the sexist, ageist media paradigm dominant in our culture.” Dancing, smoking dope, using slang, rapping, being horny – these are the activities of youth. At a certain age we are expected to replace our youthful passions with pills, cars, payments, children, and the grim acceptance that our best years are over.

But this is bullshit, you say. Why shouldn’t the fat man dance proudly, without humor or shame? He surely feels the need to dance that we all sometimes feel – the world is a round, funny, danceable place (basically a disco ball with weather). Yes, of course this is all bullshit! We live lives that don’t begin at 16 and end at 40 and we live these lives in less than perfect bodies, trapped in time. Violent Femmes will always have come out when I was 13 years old. So it’s not sad or funny when a man of my age and balding pattern walks around the grocery store singing “I look at your pants and I need a kiss.” And, yes, I’m wearing comfortable black socks with these sandals. But sandals chaff and I am pretty certain that this is sexy. I’ve gained a few pounds and therefore I refuse to remove my shirt at the beach, but I still feel pretty light in the water. Yeah, here in the water with by head just bobbing above the surface, my hot new trilby covering my bald head, I could be anybody. I could be cool again.

“Dad, you’re old and going to die soon,” – my daughter, when she was five

Why are dads funny? Because they are dads. Everything they do is incongruous and wrong. The advice they give merely shows that they don’t understand us. The clothes they wear show that they know nothing of fashion. The music they play is from a bygone era. The hobbies they enjoy are unrelated to current youth culture. Yet they are human beings – they laugh, they love, they cry, they call the doctor if they have an erection lasting more than four hours. Just like you.

So this Father’s Day, when your dad is taking you out to dinner (I am assuming he is paying – my dad would!), look him in the eye, hold his gaze like you haven’t in years and say:

“Dad, I understand that you are a human being, with interests, desires, mature sexual agency, hopes, and fears just like the rest of us. You are not an object of ridicule. Please, show me the dances of your youth. This time, for once, I promise not to laugh. Yes, dance father. Dance.”

Or you could just send him an e-card.

Photo by Chris Dominguez

Jonathan Gourlay is an editor at The Bygone Bureau and author of the ebook Nowhere Slow: Eleven Years on a Micronesian Island. He lives in the quiet corner of Connecticut where he is a vicarious goat herder. Follow him on Twitter.