The Oldfather Pt 1 (or Shout Out to the Dad Mafia).
I’ve made much of the Mum Mafia over the past month or so. With their Knowing Looks, unintelligible Schoolgate Slang and seemingly endless pairs of hands, they rule the School Run like suburban Griselda Blancos, dispensing staccato rebukes and cold judgements like chemists dispense Calpol.
And their WhatsApp grapevine is beautiful to behold. A well-oiled (gin-fuelled) machine, built on their natural affinity for Conversation, Talking Things Through and Sorting Things Out, it starts beeping at 8.01pm like a techno track at Turnmills back in the 90s, ruthlessly resolving issues such as who has whose water bottle and which of the 8bn class events to attend this side of the weekend. All this, while you look mournfully at your phone, which is deader than you feel inside after a global work Conference Call.
But what of the Dad Mafia, I hear you ask? The ‘great’ men behind the Great women? The Male Molls who support the Lady Gangsters?
Well, whilst I made a big thing in my last post about the danger of generalisation, I’m going to risk one here: Dads are different creatures when it comes to this kind of thing. As a gender who’d rather rummage like a frantic, nut-seeking squirrel in search of the g-spot than accept guidance, it’s a fact that seeking support is not something that comes naturally. Perhaps we see it as a sign of weakness, perhaps we’re copying our own Dads (who’d live for a month with a cancer the size of a melon hanging out of their arse before seeing a Doctor), perhaps it’s genetic or perhaps we simply can’t be bothered. Whatever the reason, support is Not Really Our Thing.
As a result, our network is about as efficient as the bastard child of Trump’s Whitehouse and Boris Johnson’s brain, as finely oiled as a lifelong teetotaller and as beautiful as this. Questions are left unanswered for weeks (unless you’re after a last-minute pint, see below), jokes are left unlaughed (possibly just mine) & playdates left unplanned. And yet a network it is. And if there’s one thing that’s kept me going over the past 6 years (beyond the very supportive Irish Pankhurst), it’s the Dad Mafia, in all its dysfunctional glory.
- There always someone up for a pint. And I mean always. If Trump presses the button, you can be pretty sure that once the radioactive dust has settled, a Dad somewhere in the world will be pinging “Anyone up for a pint?” to the ‘Dads Doing It Large’ WhatsApp group. In a time of life when spontaneity seems dead, this is a rare straw to grab at. And the added bonus: because everyone’s local, you can live the dream of walking down the road towards the pub, knocking on doors and accumulating drinking mates like Keith Allen in that Vindaloo video (you now have the tune in your head, right? You’re welcome).
- The testosterone talk. At a time when you are waist deep in cooing baby voices, breast pumps and pretty post-natal frills, it helps to have a testosterone outlet and that outlet is the ‘Dads’ Night Out’. Unlike the Mum equivalent, the ‘Dads Night Out’ is an opportunity to completely forget you’re a father. A night that starts with topics such as cars, films, music and sport, usually ends with I LOVE YOU GUYS, WHEN ARE WE ALL GOING TO VEGAS? In the pie chart of a dad’s night out, ‘talking about the kids’ is a slice so small that they’d have to send it round the Large Hadron Collider for a week to find it. This is a source of much annoyance to the Mum Mafia, who are unable to glean any useful information or gossip despite the interrogation techniques of Goldfinger and the perseverance of Paxman.
- The cast. One of the revelations of fatherhood is the new friends it brings. You get to 46 and you think “I’ve got enough friends, could I really be arsed meeting more?” and then you meet them, the New Dad Friends (NDFs). The Player, who has sex twice a day despite working 14 hour days and having 3 kids. The Party Boy, who has tequila & kebabs for breakfast. The Standoffer, who may or may not turn up. The Dirty One, whose stories would make Ron Jeremy’s eyes water. The Professional, who Gets Shit Done. The Stylist, who makes the rest of us feel like we’re from Oxfam. The Connoisseur, who says life’s too short for cheap wine. You meet them all and more and your life’s the richer for it, whether that’s because they give you a new perspective to appreciate, an ear to vent in or a Jaegermeister to wince at.
As dysfunctional, disorganised and pub-based as it is, the Dad Mafia is an institution to be cherished. At the very least, it can make fatherhood easier and more fun. And at its most potent, it can see you through some pretty dark times. Watch this space for Oldfather, the Sequel.
Now. Anyone for a pint?