Sunday, June 17, 2001


Modern fatherhood could become a virtual breeze

        The other day I was watching that show The View which, so far as I could tell, was pretty much devoted to the idea of male annihilation. Four women were talking about some guy who left his wife after 25 years, to play golf.

        Sounds reasonable.

        Only, they insisted the man made it up. As if he had a motive other than breaking 80 for walking out. I thought, “These women have never played golf.”

        Then, I thought about all the stuff I've read and heard recently about the growing uselessness of men. You don't need us for kid-making. You don't need us for kid-raising. We're OK around the house and in the yard (when we're not playing golf). But not essential.

        Seeking solace, I ran this theory past a single-mother friend of mine.

        “I've become irrelevant,” I said.

        “Yeah, pretty much,” she said.

        It used to be my wife could threaten my misbehaving children with the old standby, “Wait till your father gets home.” When she says that now, their eyes get curious.

        “You mean that guy with Morning Hair, who complains when we turn up the air conditioner?” Last fall, when I came home after 22 days at the Olympics, my son had me arrested for breaking and entering.

        I vaguely remember when I almost mattered. It was a long time ago.

        So on this Father's Day 2001, I'm thinking of going virtual. We have virtual reality and virtual high school. Why not virtual fatherhood?

        I'm never home on Father's Day anyway. I'm dragooned at some sun-blotted, perfect-grass golf course, tortured into watching worthless men other than myself hit great shot after great shot, in a glamorous setting such as Tulsa. To approximate the Tulsa experience, stick your head in a George Foreman grill.

        When all the other useless guys are at home getting crummy ties to celebrate their lack of relevance, I'm sitting in a hotel room, waiting for a call from kids who sort-of remember me, after their mother has given them the number, reminded them who I was, stood over them as they dialed and threatened to take away their Kings Island passes if they're anything other than wildly patronizing.

        I'm pathetic.

        I'm going virtual.

        Think about it.

        As a virtual father, I could hand out virtual car keys to real 16-year-olds, who instead of having real, insurance-rate-exploding wrecks, will smash up the Corolla virtually, like a video game.

        I can virtually turn up the AC to a sensible 76 after my wife has lowered it to an unspeakable 68.

        I can tell my kids to virtually turn down their music. I can virtually dispense $20 bills as if they were Pez, for all the virtual trips to the mall my son will be making. Think of the real money I'll save.

        I can throw things out as quickly as my family can collect them. Virtually, of course, given that no one can have enough tennis balls, Barbie clothes and roller blades that don't fit.

        (I once found a Pop-Tart in my son's dresser. But that's another story.)

        I can tell my daughter to virtually clean her room. Because I don't actually exist, it won't matter if she doesn't do it. The room can look like a gypsy camp, for all I care.

        And so on. Reality never looked worse.

        “I'm going virtual, son,” I will say.

        “That's great, mister,” he'll say. “Hope it works out. What'd you say your name was?”

        Contact Paul Daugherty by phone: 768-8454; fax: 768-8330; e-mail:


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