Stay-at-home dads want you to know something. They are men. They scratch their crotches. They watch football. They argue over the world's greatest guitarist. Still, it's safe to say that all that domesticity just does something to you. One dad confessed he was so starved for adult attention that he'd drive his kids to the mall just so he could talk to the store clerks—about anything. Another admitted to joining an infant-massage class so he'd have an excuse to leave the house. He even signed up for one of those moms' groups. And a tawny-haired Desert Storm vet named Gary Foskuhl, who now commands a homeland army of five kids, developed a crush on a certain domestic doyenne who doesn't exactly scream GI pinup. "Believe it or not, I'm a Martha Stewart fan and I really think she's attractive," Foskuhl says to the khakis–and–New Balance crowd attending his breakout session on stretching the family budget. "I was really like, 'Hubba hubba.' Till I found out she was 60."

After lunch some of the dads form one last circle to talk about the significance of this statistic: This year, for the first time ever, more women graduated from college than men. Could we end up in a world where single women prowl for that special, nurturing man? One she can count on to frost the cupcakes while she closes that big acquisitions deal?

On the bus ride back to the city, Noonan is passing out beers to the rows of weary dads. A few of them start in on him: SHOW US YOUR TATTOO! Staring into the endless string of taillights arcing down Highway 90, Noonan shrugs it off. "Too dark," he says. But pretty soon the traffic snarls and the beer supply dwindles to nothing. The situation could be volatile. The Dr. Seuss quotes are getting more frequent. So somewhere between the toll booths and the Ashland Avenue exit, Noonan undoes his belt, lets his jeans drop to his ankles, and lowers his tighty-whiteys just enough to show off the relic from his fraternity days. It floats in the darkness, an inky little continent on a bone-white hemisphere. The whole bus goes crazy as 20 rows of dads transform into kids. And Noonan, whose own kids have fled the nest, gets to be the dad again. A hero.

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