Daddy Issues

I’ve written more than once about my gym crushes: Dead Eyes, Hot Dad, and Triplets of Belleville, who is also, coincidentally, a hot dad. (For the purposes of this post, I’m going to omit Dead Eyes, as I don’t believe he’s a father and I fear he might succumb to either his drug addiction or synaptic glitch in the middle of a super-set any day now.)

My neighborhood is one of those stretches of concrete in Manhattan that used to be the bastion of bad behavior, ground zero for gay male prostitutes in the early 1980s, an area key to both the LGBT movement and the initial outbreak of HIV/AIDS cases that plagued the community. These days the epidemic is more along the lines of ever-increasing astronomical rents and the spread of chi-chi designer boutiques from the Meatpacking District southward. If Sex and the City reinvented this neighborhood, the harpy-like super-fans of that show have descended upon the village like vultures with their credit cards in their talons. While the negative impact of over-development and gentrification can be seen, felt, and sold with a side of locally-grown organic fiddlehead ferns sauteed in artisanal lemon butter for as much as your car payment, the positive impact is pretty clear, too: yuppies.

Yes, yes, die yuppie scum, I know. Don’t worry, I haven’t grown soft. But for every yoga mat you have to avoid on the street, there’s a hot MILF carrying it, wearing nothing but a glorified leotard over her enhanced figure. And for almost every MILF, there’s a DILF. The difference between moms and dads that I’d like to fuck, other than the obvious, is simple. While new moms often (but not always) embrace motherhood with a zealous, biologically-rooted enthusiasm, it seems, from my limited and wholly ignorant perspective, that new dads stumble into fatherhood with one emotion at the tip of the spear: panic. And it’s just that sort of all-thumbs approach to their new masculine role that makes my Spandex stick to my parts.

Hot dads work out, not only because they’re trying to keep their figure rooted in their long-gone 30s, they work out because there’s no other constructive way to deal with their abject terror. Or so I’ve observed.

Before I go any further here, I’d like to say two things. First of all, before any new moms fashion a shiv out of a bootie and a broken bottle, I’m not a mom. I don’t claim to be that mature, capable, or selfless. My vagina has been a club with lax entrance policies, little security, and sparse accommodations, but it’s never been used to expel another human being from my body. By writing this, I’m neither marginalizing your experience nor trying to move in on your men. I just find them more attractive than they were before they had kids.

Secondly, the more serious aspect of what I’m sort of addressing here is that nearly one in four new fathers suffer from postpartum depression. That’s not sexy, it’s just sad. While I’ve seen a fair number of shows illuminating the struggles new moms have had with postpartum depressive symptoms, the worst of which can cause psychotic breaks and dangerous mental collapses, I can’t recall ever catching a Doctors episode that highlighted the emotional trauma of new fatherhood. And, trust me, if there’d been one, I would have seen it on mute at the gym.

If MILFs tango with one corner of the brain that’s titillated by the idea of a woman who can embody both a maternal role and a sexual one, Hot Dads fill a completely different niche, at least to me. The men who I find myself ogling have several key traits: they’re in good shape and they’re scared to death of their new role. There’s something about the juxtaposition of an aging but well-kept body and an exhausted, somewhat confused look. They might be television producers, hedge fund managers, and chained-to-their-Blackberry publishing types, but, when confronted by the accoutrement’s of their latest life change, they’re reduced to the expression of my seventh grade lab partner who realized he was actually going to have to stop making wisecracks and cut through the belly of the frog.

The day that all of this really came to a rolling internal boil for me was the morning of the Maclaren incident.

It was a Saturday or a Sunday and I realized I needed some bougie sundry good like kombucha or tofu, so I ran out of my apartment and down the block to the health food store, which is located next to a diner. Of course, due to the store’s proximity to my house and my general lack of scruples when it comes to my appearance, I was wearing a mismatched, stained sweatsuit and hadn’t brushed my hair.

There, blocking my entrance to the health food store, was Hot Dad, who, back then, was known only to me as the older fox who ran on the treadmill in between taking what looked like Very Important phone calls. From my foolhardy attempts at conversing with him between those two activities, I learned that he had traveled to China to cover the Olympics (swoon!) and had previously worked for the Los Angeles Clippers (ultimate swoon!) A tall NBA fan with a job that somehow had to be linked to sports, I set my sights on our eventual marriage and started daydreaming about what gown I would wear as his date to the ESPYs.

But that morning he wasn’t in workout gear fueling my misguided fantasies. Instead, he was in civvies, hunched over a double-wide stroller, the almost-balding crown of his head nearly eye-level with me. Being an unfortunate mix of creepy, uninhibited, and oblivious to the fact that not everyone likes to be approached by strangers, let alone strangers that look like homeless punk orphans, I interrupted him.

“Hey!”

Hot Dad looked up from the stroller, sweat nearly breaking on his brow. Generally speaking, Hot Dad is a tall dude, probably measuring in at about 6’3” and well-proportioned. The double-wide, while still being gargantuan and the equivalent of a loveseat on wheels to someone my size, was theoretically no match for his strong, overly-large hands.

“Hi! Hi,” he said through a look that was on the far fringe of frustration, bleeding into desperation. “I can’t…I can’t figure out how to close this.”

He said it in such a bleak, earnest way that my heart melted. He went from being simply that hot, older guy at the gym to Hot Dad, just like that. Inside of the diner, his wife and one-year-old twins were waiting for him to join them for breakfast. He’d remained on the street, struggling to collapse the contraption that, when open, would have wreaked havoc on the inside of the greasy spoon. Nobody wants their wife covered in an omelet, or their kids put in the line of a falling carafe of coffee. Hence the necessary breakdown.

This guy could field as many lucrative business propositions on his Bluetooth between circuits at the gym, but a stroller reduced him to panic.

And my body cried out, “Get it in here!”

It meaning his penis, not a baby or an omelet.

It’s pretty easy to chalk up my affection for the Bugaboo bumbling basketball fan to a simple case of Daddy Issues, but there’s a little more to it than that.

I suppose it’s finally time for me to delve into actually daddy issues on this blog, and not in the usual snarky, self-effacing way. Let me break it down for you, pop-psychobabble style: What we colloquially refer to as “daddy issues” is actually a manifestation of the Electra Complex. While most people have heard of Freud’s earlier theory of the Oedipal Complex, the Electra Complex came later, and was hypothesized by Carl Jung.

Jung, a pioneer of neo-Freudian psychology, believed that the Electra Complex was a psycho-behavioral response to a little girl’s penis envy, stemming from a desire for her father and competition with her mother during what’s known as the phallic stage of development. (At risk of sounding like I’m trying to review Matthew Barney’s Cremaster series, the phallic stage is the third stage of psychosexual development according to Freud. The five in total are the Oral, Anal, Phallic, Latent, and Genital, respectively.)

Basically, in my understanding – which is likely wrong, as my grasp on psychology has always been limited to a few freshman year prereqs, Google searches while eating a snack, and Lorraine Bracco’s character on The Sopranos – little girls suffer from a similar sort of penis envy that boys do in their early psychodynamic character development. Only the young girl, who subconsciously views her own castration as being caused by her mother, identifies her mom as competition for the newly-established, and innate, attraction to her dad. Still with me? Okay. So here’s where it gets a bit like a David Lynch movie: the little girl’s perception of the maternal role becomes internalized and the kid’s super-ego splinters off into a more acceptable fledgling sexual identity, as embodied by the ego. The penis envy she’d been experiencing as a result of realizing that she can’t sexually possess her own mom (which is a totally id-based desire, if you’re keeping score at home) the girl’s sexual needs are repurposed and projected onto her dad instead. This eventually becomes the so-called heteronormal idea of femininity, which, according to this theory, results in eventually having a baby of her own in order to replace her absent penis.

And now we wonder why some people think psychology is all bunk.

Though I don’t subscribe to neither Freudian thought nor Jungian, old Siggy did say that the “feminine Oedipus attitude” – aka, the Electra complex – was more emotionally intense than the male version of this unavoidable developmental conflict.

Also, if you decide to get into psychology (or you’re already there, or you’re my therapist…hi!) you may see the Electra complex referred to as the Bernfield Factor as well. While I can’t say for certain, I think this moniker is attributed to the Austrian psychoanalyst Siegfried Bernfield, who wrote The Psychology of the Infant in 1929.

Well, when I say I have daddy issues, I don’t mean that I want to boink my dad as a result of not being able to boink my mom. I just mean that, when it comes to a lot of my predilections and what I find attractive, often it’s stuff that can be considered paternal, authoritative, or the kind of thing that renders me in a less mature role. (Not paraphilic infantilism. I just mean that I like older dudes.) But it seems that, psychologically speaking, I’m not alone. Most women have daddy issues of some variety.

A 2006 study showed that men who are perceived as “baby friendly” were considered attractive as mates and potential partners. Aside from the obvious traits – such as hotness and masculinity, which represent a good gene pool, or wealth and not kicking puppies, which indicate the ability to partake in a huge, collaborative effort such as starting a Fortune 500 company or creating a human life – girls also find guys who are cool with kids sexy. There were even further studies to see if this “baby friendliness” could be perceived by women simply by looking at a guy’s face. As in, he might look like a good dad, based on his features alone. Screw whether or not he can assemble a Dora the Explorer Fiesta Favorites Kitchen Playset, or open a double-wide stroller.

Scientists have also discovered that single dads are far more successful than single mothers when it comes to finding a mate. Men who pay child support and visit their kids regularly are 30% more likely to find a long-term partner in the future. (Single moms might not want to read this study. Their data doesn’t look so good.) The sociologists expressed that paternal involvement, rather than simply having kids, is what women found attractive. I mean, anybody can bust a nut and make a baby, right? Antonio Cromartie has nine with eight different ladies, and can’t even remember all of their names.

Regardless of what science dictates as why, I know the reasons behind my child-creating crushes. It’s because there’s something sexy about a man who can be powerful both professionally and physically, and fulfill his role as a kid-rearing, biologically-sound patriarch, which usually involves some pretty demeaning stuff. It might not be an international trip, suit-strapped conference, or multi-billion dollar merger, seeing a man smiling at his toddler and tossing them up onto his shoulders is fucking badass and hot.

So, to the Hot Dads out there, I say keep up the crunches and bicep curls, sure. But just make sure I get to see you pushing a stroller and yammering on about Bob the Builder around the neighborhood, okay?

(Serious stuff: if you think you’re a new dad and you think you might be suffering from postpartum depression, check out this link to a self-exam and reach out for help. Do it for yourself. )