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When you're a teen or in your 20s there's often enormous pressure to be cool. It's imperative that hipsters in their radiant youth wear stylish clothes, frequent the hottest bars and avail themselves regularly of the newest and most cutting edge in music, television, books and movies. You're expected to have strong opinions on politics and social issues and to know who Kendrick Lamar and Tyler The Creator are.
This need to keep up with everything, to be eternally up-to-date with pop culture, can be a little oppressive and an enormous pain in the ass. At worst, it makes consuming entertainment seem like a job, and a fairly dreary and labor-intensive one. For me, that pressure to keep up with the newest and hippest throughout my 20s was even more intense because, on a very real level, it was my job. I was a staff writer for The A.V. Club and part of my responsibilities entailed maintaining an exhaustive, borderline encyclopedic knowledge of everything happening in pop culture.
When you become a parent all that pressure to be hip and engaged suddenly begins to dissipate, if it doesn't disappear altogether. In a heartbeat, your priorities shift radically, and that once intense need you might have felt to see all the latest movies, and listen to the hottest music, and read all the new books your friends are reading and talking about begins to seem a little silly.
Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience but it's also a handy "Get Out of Doing Anything Free" card that can be played constantly, and in any number of circumstances. The "Oh, sorry, we've got kids" card can get us out of doing any number of things we didn't actually want to do in the first place, like, oh, I dunno, going to a hipster music festival and being part of a horde of interchangeable hipsters glaring sullenly at musicians in a state of sour judgment or aloof appreciation.
This freedom from being hip and culturally engaged allows us to be the boring homebodies we always secretly were.
This freedom from being hip and culturally engaged allows us to be the boring homebodies we always secretly were. My wife and I would always rather stay at home and read books and watch movies than go out, and since we had our son Declan 17 months ago, we have never felt the need to do anything remotely cool. When we do go out, it's almost invariably to do something with our boy. When you can hang out with your baby, why on earth would you want to do anything else?
"Dad jeans" and "mom jeans" and "dad jokes" are all shorthand for corny and flagrantly uncool because we don't expect parents to be hip. Looking back, I realize that I had a dad personality long before I ever became a dad. But now I don't need to be ashamed or feel self-conscious about my love of corny jokes and terrible wordplay, my complete lack of sartorial style (although I do possess an impressive collection of podcast-themed hoodies), and my preference for the pop culture past over pop culture's present.
For I am a dad, and there are more important things than following the trends. Rather, there is one infinitely more important thing and that is my son. What little coolness I possess at this point is largely linked to the coolest little 17-month-old in the world being willing to hang out with me, at least for the time being. I just hope he'll continue to kick it with me once he gets old enough to discover what a giant dork I am.
Yes, becoming a dad forever liberated me from the awful pressure to be hip, but, truth be told, it helps that I was never remotely cool in the first place.