09/03/2012 11:31 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Some Friendly Advice to the Aloof Hipster Dad at the Playground

Hello there, Aloof Hipster Dad at the playground. I was hoping you might get off your iPhone for five minutes because, me and you, we need to have a man-to-man. I would also appreciate it if you could remove your ironically oversized Hugh Hefner sunglasses so we can maintain eye contact. Yes, also the big padded D.J. headphones with the skull picture on them. I need you to go ahead and take those off for me. And the Bluetooth device. Thanks. Whoops -- do you mind not tweeting while we talk? I have a feeling I may be needing your undivided attention.

There is a question I would like to ask you, Aloof Hipster Dad at the playground. See that little three-year-old strapped into the black Bugaboo-brand stroller under the monkey bars, way over there on the other side of the playground? The little guy in the Sex Pistols T-shirt and the Velcro-strap Converse All-Stars? Yeah, exactly -- the one with the nose ring. Is that your kid? Pardon? For a second there, it sounded like you said, "I think so." Anyway, that kid has been crying its head off for 15 minutes now, so I thought maybe you might want to go over and see if he's okay. Yes, I am sure it's not my kid who's crying. My kid is this individual standing next to us. She's actually the one who suggested we find you. She's four. How old are you? Thirty-four? Wow, I didn't realize they even made wallets with chains on them for 34-year-olds! Come on, let's all go over there together. You ride your skateboard and I'll run interference if the nannies yell at you.

Look, we're here already! Did you notice how your kid stopped crying as soon as he saw you? That is because you are its father, and he was happy you came back! Don't mention it. Glad to lend a helping hand. And, by the way, there's just one more thing I wanted to tell you. Don't take this the wrong way, but, dude, you're making us look bad.

Yeah, us. Do you want to confirm what all these playground mommies and nannies have been suspecting about us all along? That we're morons? We've gotta show 'em we know what we're doing! We've gotta organize! We've gotta stop acting like a bunch of wusses and start acting like a team! Hey, are you a Giants fan? No? Then why are you wearing that Giants t-shirt? Oh, They Might Be Giants. Well, can we pretend it's a football jersey for a minute? Great, so pretend you're the player and I'm the coach. I'm going to draw you a diagram for your playbook. You got any sidewalk chalk? Of course you don't. Where would you put it? You don't even have cargo pants. But you know what? I'm gonna help you out with that, too. I'm gonna take you shopping for some cargo pants. I've got 27 pairs of these things. Look at this: I've got the chalk in one pocket, the wipes in another, the juice box here, and the Band-Aids there. I look like a dork, but all of my shit is arranged. What's a juice box? I'm gonna pretend I didn't hear that. Okay, here's page one for our playbook:


I hope I'm not coming on too strong, Aloof Hipster Dad at the playground. I really do. I'm just trying to help you out here. Trust me, the last thing I want to do is turn you into one of those Creepy Helicopter Dads at the playground. Look at that guy going down the slide with his 10-year-old over there. He's got his kid strapped to him with his belt. He's using his belt as a seatbelt. Jesus. Promise me you'll have an intervention if you ever see me strapped to my kids on a slide. Promise? Thanks. See? We're already acting like a team. I do for you, you do for me.

And you know what I'd like you to do for me now? I'd like you to unbolt your kid from this giant black stroller here, and I'd like you to, you know...interact with him. I've got an idea. See that structure with the rubber seats that are hanging from chains? That device is called swings. Whaddaya say me and you push our kids on some swings? Come on, I'll show you how! I used to push from the back, but if you do it from the front, you can see their faces. Hey, look what the lips are doing on yours! See how they are raised at either side? That means it's enjoying itself. It likes how you're paying attention to it. Yeah actually, I do mind if you take that call from your manager. Let it go to voicemail. Just keep pushing. You're gonna thank me later.

So, tell me, Aloof Hipster Dad, what brings you to the playground on a Monday morning anyway? What's that you say? Your wife is at work and it's your "Mr. Mom Day?" Good one! I admire your tongue-in-cheek reference to a 30-year-old film about a father who is forced to swap stereotypical caretaking duties with his wife. Oh, that Michael Keaton. He sure was a moron! Remember that scene where he made his kid cook dinner and the kitchen went up in flames? And how he used far too much detergent to do their laundry? Ha, ha, ha.

Oh, you weren't saying it to be sarcastic? You were seriously describing yourself as Mr. Mom? Uh-oh, you're doing it again. Embarrassing us. If you're Mr. Mom, what do you think that makes your wife? Hey, mine's at work, too. But do you think either one of them walked in and said, "Good morning everyone, here we are for our Mrs. Dad day!" So let's have a little dignity here. All we did was show up at the playground. That doesn't make us Mr. Moms. It makes us...I don't know what it makes us. It makes us dads. Not even. It just makes us parents. Parents with penises. Say it loud, say it proud! No, don't really say it. Shhhh. I was kidding.

I'm beginning to like you, Aloof Hipster Dad. Though I appear dorky and you seem detached, I'm beginning to see that we're not that different. When it comes down to it, we're both a couple of dads trying to figure it out as we go. So you know what I'm going to do for you? Besides buying you the pants? I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm going to assume that you don't really think you are too cool for drool. You're just in over your head like the rest of us. I've had more practice, that's all. You think I knew what to do back when my little girl here was a baby and she took a dump in the bathtub? No, actually, I didn't upload the clip on YouTube. I froze in revulsion and fear. But then I learned. I learned to keep a soup ladle next to the bath toys. That's a tip I'm giving you right there. Ever had your head thrown up on? I have. Twice. Twice in the same day. A doubleheader. My son felt queasy on the flight to Disneyland so I put him on my shoulders when we got to the airport. Splat. Later that day, my daughter's too tired to walk anymore. Up on the shoulders she goes. Splat, splat. This is why I want you to wear a hat during family vacations. Yes, absolutely, that Mr. Bubble trucker cap you've got on will do just fine. Just turn it around so it's backwards like you used to do in the early '90s. You're gonna want the visor back there again. Added protection. Just remember who told you.

I can tell by the way you're tactfully trying to store your child back in your Bugaboo that you believe I'm done pontificating at you, Aloof Hipster Dad. Not so fast. They don't teach this stuff in school, you know. And we didn't learn it growing up, either. Back then, the role models were different. Things weren't the same when our dads were PWPs. I don't know about yours, but mine didn't know from Cargo Pants until they started selling them at Costco a couple years ago. So here we are at the playground -- me, you, and that guy on the slide with the seatbelt -- making it up as we go. So let's step up to the plate already! Let's show a little hustle out here! Because I've got news for you, Aloof Hipster Dad. The Mommies are losing patience.

You see them over there in the sandbox? Yeah, the "yummy mummies;" is that really what you call them? I wouldn't say that too loud if I were you. You piss off The Mommies, you're gonna get hurt. They can beat us up, those Mommies. They have anger issues. What do you mean, "with who?" With us! They talk about us all the time. I've been coming to this playground a few years longer than you have, my friend, and let me tell you, I've overheard it all. See that Mommy with the pink pale and shovel? Right now, she's complaining about how her husband let their kid play Cookie Doodle on his iPad for five hours on Saturday because he said it was raining out. And that Mommy at the picnic table? She's bitching about how her husband has been laid off for three months, but he still asks her what's for dinner each night. And look at that Mommy who's staring at us and trying to act like she's not. She's badmouthing some dad who had her kid over for a playdate a long time ago. When she came to pick him up, the kid was in front of a computer with the guy's son, watching Gilligan's Island. Between me and you, I didn't know what the big deal was. I was sitting right next to both of them the whole time, supervising the playdate.

How foolish I was. How much of a moron.

I have a theory about The Mommies I would now like to share with you, Aloof Hipster Dad at the Playground. I think they're trying to shut us out. On the one hand, they want us to do be more involved, but on the other, they don't think we're up to the task. Why do you think they call all those classes, "Mommy and Me?" You think they're trying to make us feel comfortable? It's code: No morons allowed. So here's what we've gotta do. We've gotta get out there and show 'em we're man enough for Mommy and Me! You want to come with me to Mommy and Me swim class after this? Yes, I definitely think you'll still have enough time to take your kid to the gig your band is playing in Williamsburg later. What time does it start? Oh, midnight? Well that leaves plenty of time. Come on, what do you say? If you come, that'll make four dads in the pool. We'll represent! We'll call it Daddy and Me! Everybody in the pool!

Really? Your kid loves shooting pool? Hmm, I think you misunderstood, but that is pretty impressive for a three-year-old. What a terrific job you've done projecting your edgy hipster interests onto him! How about we just do a playdate? I know what you mean. To be perfectly honest with you, I still don't feel entirely comfortable saying that word, either. It's a goofy, goofy word. But I'll tell you something to make you feel better. It gets easier with practice. Come on, I'll say it with you. "Playdate." Now say it like a man. "Playdate!" Own it! Repeat it! PLAYDATE!

Fine, you wanna call it a hang, we'll call it a hang. So what do you want to do with these two for their hang this afternoon? Nope, I haven't been to that cool new bar in the basement of the Bed-Stuy housing projects. No kidding. Your kid loves the Pabst Blue Ribbon they serve in cans there. How did you find that out? Actually, don't answer that. Hey, maybe you and I could meet up for a beer sometime without the kids. We'll make a night of it. We'll go shopping for Cargo pants first. But right now I was thinking more like the zoo. They have a camel you can ride with your kids near Congo Village. It's like a tandem camel. How cool is that? We'll take my minivan. I get free parking. Why do you think I became a member? To protect animals? No way! Free parking! See how I'm kidding around? That's because I've grown so comfortable with you. So what do you say? Are you in?

No, sorry, I don't have any four-twenty. I actually don't know what you're asking me. Do you want to know what time they feed the sea lions?

Ah, that's a bummer that you can't make it. But I better be going before the line for that camel starts getting crazy.

I hope I run into you again sometime, Aloof Hipster Dad at the playground. But just in case, would you mind if I leave you with a little friendly advice? Next time you're lucky enough to have one of your "Mr. Mom" days, you should try it without your giant padded headphones and ironically oversized Hugh Hefner sunglasses. Because, dude, you're missing it.

Excerpted from "Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad." Copyright © 2012 by Dan Zevin. Excerpted with permission by Scribner, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.