"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 15 May 2000. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Fatherhood: The New Motherhood



It may be a symptom of our national Oedipus complex that this year's "Don't Talk to Your Mother Like That!" Day was celebrated by a copycat computer virus and the politica-studded Million Moms March anti-gun rally. But in the eternal struggle to hog all of the kids' affections, mothers have unexpectedly lost ground lately. In 2000, it seems that every day is Daddy's Day.

You can't flip a bitch these days without rear ending a publicly preening, adoring Daddy — and we're not talking about longtime offenders like Will "Just the Two of Us" Smith, either. Glock-toting rapper-turned-clothier Sean "Puffy" Combs, at the debut of his Sean John Fall 2000 line in Manhattan earlier this year, forced his toddlers down the catwalk; these pre-tween accessories followed a collection that contained such made-for-men items as leopard-trimmed denim jackets and suede coveralls. He may be all about fashin' and rappin', but it's the kids who really matter to Daddy. Paternity never looked as haute as it does right now, flapping down this season's parenting runway, with dad clutching poopy diapers in one hand, gripping a snotty nosed two-year old with the other, and carrying a freshly-placenta-shorn newborn in his steerhide Baby Sling.

The March 2000 issue of the Cosmo-equivalent manorama mag Maxim splayed a six-page spread for expectant fathers among the usual pics of hot may-have-been celebs like Kristy Swanson and columns on how to get better head. The multi-page feature included an article on "How to Diaper Like a Man" and a piece on how to deal with mommy's nutty cravings (like chowing down on — believe it — bricks and dirt) among a myriad of features devoted to what every father should expect when he's expecting. Even two years ago, then-Maxim-esque Details never spared the rod or spoiled the child in quite such literal terms.

Fatherly flaunting aside, we all know motherhood's popularity is timeless — just take a look at all the crusty, centuries-old poetry devoted to mother , all the songs praising mom (or at least retelling her advice). Pedro Almodovar has wrangled a career around genuflections to his wacked mother. Then there are all the specially-designated sections in book stores, on magazine stands, and in department stores dedicated to "Mothers to Be." Major research grants funded by the Galleria have gone into the Gapifization of maternity wear. By comparison, Dockers, the all-weather paternity uniform, defy trendiness and remain stocked on the same neatly-organized racks as all the other pants. But dads are finally slinking in on the action, joyously basking in the parental spotlight.



Leave it to those cheeky Brits to lead the charge on this front. Britain's progressive bellwether, Prime Minister Tony Blair, has his country in a tizzy about paternity leave. The Missus, Cherie Blair, who's about to be graced with a blessed event late this month, has publicly announced that she's all for letting her hubby take a leave from his post to help out with the new swaddling, but the English public is not so confident. Should aliens happen to descend on Stoke Newington or London's new mayor "Red Ken" Livingstone let a few too many gays out of the cloakroom, Tony has promised to return to the helm. And Cherie is quick to point out that Finland's Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen took six days off to care for his new daughter with no negative incidents — though no incidents of any kind have actually occurred in Finland since the Russians pulled out early last century.

Our own progressive, lunch-wielding prez voiced his support of Blair's leave, even going so far as to claim that all this hoopla about daddydom has made him think about having another child, which is intriguing given that Hillary is well into menopause and more interested in mothering political aspirations than a slobbering Clinton messiah.

But no fatherly crusade has struck a chord quite as plangent as the one sounded by US-favorite international da Juan Miguel Gonzalez, papa of überfamous anti-Castro poster boy Elián. Father's rights organizations, trekking to Miami for noisy Men's Movement demonstrations and pep rallies, unwaveringly supported Juan Miguel throughout the months-long mess, creating a serious boon for their cause. Fathers around the country are now using their fatherhood to gain custody of children previously granted to oft-unfit madres.

In Tacoma, Washington, dads are even being granted custody of children not yet born. Because they couldn't conceive, David and Becky Litowitz got eggs from a donor. The eggs were fertilized with David's sperm and planted in a surrogate mother. One of those eggs produced a little girl; the other two embryos went put back in the fridge for later use. Then David and Becky got divorced. The judge awarded the leftover embryos to David since they contained his sperm, and not Becky's eggs. Becky is now in the middle of an appeal as sticky as a two-year old with eskimo pie all over his puss.

Paternity suits aside, the most revered of dads are those who hail from Hollywood — as if being a celebrity makes one less able, and therefore more awed, when graced with child. Pretty boy and ex-stud Warren Beatty revels in his fatherhood like a pig in a muddy barnyard pen, taking any public speaking opp to rave about the joys of paternizing kidlets. It's as if years of public womanizing have so solidified Beatty's macho status that he need not worry about the wussifying effect of tending to poopy pants in public.



Despite all the bliss-filled pics and coo-dribbled soundbytes, it's impossible not to question just who's actually talc-ing the tender asses of America's little tykes once Mommy and Daddy are locked snug at home. Warren may be boisterously testifying boundless love for his spawn while Annette's in the kitchen wrapping up PB&Js and staying up nights rubbing salve on congested infant chests. But is Bulworth really packing lunches and wiping snot, or just showing up (late) to take the kids to Fairy Tale Town, get them backstage passes at the 'N-Sync show, and let them eat ice cream for breakfast, after a day of doing such Hollywood bigwig chores as getting the leather in the Alfa waxed and recharging the mobile?

In a revelation about as surprising as Rudy Guiliani's impending divorce (and are we the only ones who hope both parents in this case will agree to blame the marriage's failure on young Andrew Giuliani, spoiled son and butt of countless early-nineties jokes?), Terry Bond, vice-president of Research, Families and Work, reports that it's moms who are still handling the bulk of family and household responsibilities. In fact, the fashion for fatherhood may actually create more responsibilities for mothers, leaving women to play both caretaker and disciplinarian while leaving the fun stuff to the "Disneyland Daddy" — a term previously used by frustrated divorced moms to describe weekend fathers. It's moms who continue to rouse the troops, zip them into cargo pants, bake ziti for their lunches, remember that Stuart Little is their favorite movie, know who their playmates are, and clean up that pig sty you kids call a bedroom.



Despite the Juan Miguel-induced "fathers have rights, too" mantra, it was really the powerful mother figure who resolved the 'Lil Orphan Elian soap opera. Attorney General Janet Reno went through months of Time Out and positive-reinforcement parenting before punishing the whining, bullying and tantrum-throwing of Lazaro and Marisleysis.

This season models of dadhood from Tony to Puffy to the guy in your office who knows that the Family Leave Act applies to men too will continue tooting their own PR kazoos about being amazingly involved in after-dinner homework, parent-teacher conferences and late-night fevers — "by God, just listen to all this parenting I'm doing!" Meanwhile, grown men will romanticize their special, special bonds with their daddies, weeping piteously through Frequency's nonstop parade of father-son bonding that would make even the Terms of Endearment crowd blush. It's hard in all this not to hear an echo of Susan Faludi's widely (and unfairly) maligned book Stiffed, with its thesis that men are looking for honest work in a world that no longer has any specific need for them. And fatherhood at least offers the attraction of being a traditional job. But the narcissistic inflection characteristic of fatherhood in the aughts is really an inversion of the traditional parental roles, which tend to have Mom as a dependably soft touch and Dad as a figure of remote authority, reading the evening paper, ordering the kids in the back seat to pipe down, and delivering the occasional back hand of Justice. Most likely, the dad fad, like leopard-trimmed jackets for men, shall pass. And then when it's over, moms can creep silently back in and wipe it up like they always do.
courtesy of Ginger Snapps
picturesTerry Colon