Not-So-Happy Father's Days: Common Themes in Two New Daddy Memoirs

As attitudes towards gendered parenting roles change, so do the books written about them—as exemplified by two new paternal comic memoirs out this week: Someone Could Get Hurt by Drew Magary (Gotham, $25) and Dad or Alive by Adrian Kulp (New American Library, $15). Both feature fathers far more involved in the daily life of their children than parents ever were in the 20th century, but some things always stay the same—like the kind of jokes good old dad used to make.

Here, five hallmarks of fatherhood that both these daddy dramas have in common.

1. Does the cover image show daddy's haplessness leading to injury or death?
Magary: Check. Child falls off of teeter-totter.
Kulp: Check. Two amused children laugh as father lies on ground within a chalk outline.

2. Do sex or drugs help the father-to-be adjust to his impending responsibilities?
Magary: Check. "I smoked all the weed I had left so that there wouldn't be any weed leftover in the house when the baby arrived because that was me being ethical. If this angered my wife, she was too busy retching into a mop bucket to show it."
Kulp: Check. "I assumed because I had made a selfless, precedent-setting sacrifice in turning my dude chamber into an infant's nursery that I had moved mountains and parted the seas. Because of this, I came to the conclusion that I deserved sex."

3. Does pop have trouble identifying with new daughter's feminine interests?
Magary: Check. "From that day forward, the girl was all princesses, all the time. The Disney Princess people have made marketing inroads into every facet of American existence, and I was now forced to deal with all of them. They have princess stickers on grapes."
Kulp: Check. After taking daughter and wife to an American Girl outlet to "familiarize" themselves with doll accessories, Kulp writes, "Part of me wondered if we'd be doing stuff like this if we'd had a boy instead of a girl. Would we be dressing him up like a construction worker to go and get surf and turf at Sizzler?"

4. Does the new dad survive a horrifying delivery?
Magary: Check. "A team of doctors gathered at her feet and the sounds began. I could hear gooshing and gurgling and all kinds of horrible noises. Not being able to look beyond the curtain only made things worse because it allowed my imagination to run free, with scythes and ice cream scoops digging into my wife's body."
Kulp: Check. "Once again, the onslaught of invisible two-by-fours to the face continued, my mouth agape like I was catching flies at the fair, trying to steady the camera as a little person was yanked out of my wife's stomach."

5. Can the man finally deal with the fact that feeding children isn't easy?
Magary: Check. "I gave her the bottle back and let her get an ounce down before the ceremonial burping began. You have to burp a new baby after every ounce or so, or else they end up painting the walls with their insides."
Kulp: Check. Check. "It took me a little while to get used to the idea that Jen would be breastfeeding in public. I didn't expect her to use the Hooter Hider or any other knockoff shower curtain fixed to her neck and draped around her body. However, I'd hoped she wouldn't act like this was Woodstock and practice a little discretion."

—Timothy Hodler

• • •

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Photos coutesy of Penguin Group (USA)
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