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my dad can beat up your dad....

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Human Dads! What are they, what are they doing on the planet and are they a good thing or a bad thing? Is it to your personal advantage to have one, or is your dad the worst thing that ever happened in your life?

Glad you asked. Well actually you didn't, nobody ever asks this important question, but it's my website and I can answer it anyway.

We'll answer the second question first. What human dads are doing on the planet are four things. There are four main types of tasks your evolutionarily correct dad needs to fulfill to be worthy of the name:

1) Simultaneously providing protection while instilling fear
2) Teaching
3) Disappointing & Failing
4) Etching

It may not seem obvious from a quick glance at the list but this is an action-packed agenda, providing plenty of opportunity for precarious plot twists, drama, disaster, redemption and sudden, unexpected victory. Dads, by their evolutionary nature, are mythic. Even when all they really want to do is take a nap on the couch. They can't help it even when they want to and we'll explain why as we go along.

We'll also delve into the ever-popular phenomenon of 'where the fuck were you dads' so familiar to many of us by non-experience with our own absent dads, and address the embarrassing, yet intriguing, question of love between the hairy progenitors known as fathers and their overmatched offspring. We have our work cut out for us so strap on your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.

First stop: Providing protection while instilling fear. This little puppy is the whole reason why human dads exist in the first place. They don't have to, you know. Lots of species make do without them. You don't see little baby butterflies running around searching for their long-lost dads. Not even when they are in the precursor caterpillar stage. They munch, they make cocoons, they turn into butterflies. What they do not do is speculate on the identity of their dads. From their point of view, they got the requisite DNA donation from some suitable male and that's pretty much the end of the story. A little DNA will do it. No fuss, no muss, no whining. Try that with a human.

A human without a dad will devote staggering psychic resources to trying to come to terms with this bewildering and painful omission. Doesn't matter that lots and lots and lots of humans have made it through life without a dad, each little individual dadless human will still feel compelled to brood extensively on this fascinating topic. Doesn't matter what culture, doesn't matter what time period. Your classical Greeks, your indigenous Aborigines, your Huns, your barbarians, your Americans, your Mongol hordes, your billions and billions of Chinese, your Native Americans, your Iraqis and even your French - deprive them of a dad and they will brood. The human being pops into life expecting a dad to show up at some suitable point, like soon after it's born, and if one doesn't show up, it's not in a good mood about it. Why?

The answer of course is survival. Survival is the answer to most questions, including the most brooding-intensive ones, and here it is again, shoving its way into your intimate family relations.

The evolutionary idea behind dads is that they confer a survival advantage. Evolution thought to itself, when it was coming up with the human dad idea, hey you know what, in the competition for scarce resources I bet it would come in real handy for the helpless human infant to have someone at its disposal that will beat off contenders and rivals for said scarce resources and scare away those who would bash its little resource-greedy infant brain in. Because, evolution thought to itself, you gotta admit those human infants do greedily suck up a lot of resources without contributing a great deal themselves, and when things are tight, it would certainly make sense to bash their brains in unless they happen to be carrying your genes. Hmmm…it pondered, this does not bode well for the future of mankind unless we can prevail upon someone whose genes they do carry to shoulder the load of scaring and beating off hungry resource-rivals. Who can I get to do this job? Mom is certainly a possibility but considering the strain she is under with that nursing thing and the fact that many of those hungry rivals might be male with certain strength advantages, maybe it would be sensible to enlist a backup. And that's when it turned its conniving eyes on dad.

Yes, your proto-dad was happily minding his own business, figuring that sperm contribution was all he really needed to be interested in, when suddenly the hot white light of evolution bore down upon him and forced him to take an interest in the continuing survival of his offspring. Damn! And things were going so well up to that point.

But evolution was no fool. There are plenty of species, such as lions, where your non-dad males have no hesitation in offing little baby lions they are not personally related to. In fact, that's pretty much all male lions are good for. Killing the babies of male lions who are not them. It makes sense for lions and it would make sense for humans too if it weren't for dads.

This business of beating up other people who would harm your child is the one of the primal imperatives of dadness, if not the primal imperative. When a ten year old says 'my dad can beat up your dad' what he means by this is: 'my dad can beat up your dad.' That's what it comes down to.

You dads out there, you have a very important job. And everyone knows this too. If, upon the birth of your infant, you don't soon feel a surging, overwhelming desire to rip the face off of anything, absolutely anything, that would hurt your child, something has gone hormonally wrong inside you. You are not operating on all dad burners.

The desire to destroy is an important component of dadness. This is good news in a way, since most of us harbor recurring, intermittent desires to destroy something, and it is kind of nice to know there is a role wherein this desire is perfectly appropriate. Of course, one of the things you as a dad will need to attempt to destroy it your child, which has a tendency to be incredibly alarming from time to time, but hey, you gotta take the bad with the good.

Because, among other things, dads are indeed enemies of their children. And when I say your dad was your enemy, I don't mean he fucked up your life, although that is a bonus feature that comes with some dads. I mean, an enemy, an adversary, opponent, one who makes various attempts, for no sufficiently convincing reason, to cause you harm. An enemy. If your dad never functioned as your enemy, he wasn't doing things right.

As we will see in the next installment, in which we deal with, among other things, the odd resemblance between your dad and getting a small pox vaccination.


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