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October 8, 2012 | by  | in Features |
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In My Father’s Shoes

And I’m Okay With That.

Despite all conscious efforts not to, I am slowly but inescapably becoming my father. This realisation struck me one day when I was crossing campus; stopping to say hello to people, pausing to commiserate with a brokenhearted friend, all in all business as usual.Then the long suffering person who I had been walking with asked in a kind but exasperated tone why I had to always stop and talk to people, how did I know them all?

In films they do this bit with a slow motion moment or a sharp cut to a drastically different scene. In my mind everything paused. I was on the banks of the Kennet-Avon canal in the south of England, still one of my top holiday experiences, asking mum “why does he always have to stop and talk to everyone?” It had been about five minutes, which to a seven-year-old can make or break a day, and I was at my limit.

Right throughout my childhood this was a constant motif that characterised my dad’s behavior, a genuine interest and desire to converse with almost anyone who crossed his path. At seven I was indignant, but over time I just accepted it and then sort of stopped noticing it, until very recently when called up on my own behavior.

While this doesn’t seem like a big deal,this is but one symptom of many. I generally feel uncomfortable if not wearing a jersey, classic dad behavior. I thought I’d stumbled across a bargain at a flat trip to a church fair, a ten dollar tweed jacket seeming like an excellent idea at the time. I have now grown attached to it and to an observer’s eye now appear as a lamb in ram’s clothing.This is a struggle. It’s not so much a quarter life crisis; rather it’s the crisis of realising you’re middle aged way before your time.

The proverb goes that the clothes maketh the man, but it is also the lack of concern for clothes which defines how you are seen. I’m generally not bothered, as long as I’m warm and comfortable I could give a shit what anyone else thinks.The problem is that this is another feature I have inherited, and it goes even beyond the limitations I have in place now. One friend was genuinely shocked to his core to witness my father’s sandal and socks worn below the trousers combo, to the point he felt the need to have a quiet word to me about standards.

Despite my best efforts the evolution continues. My attempts at humor can really only be categorised in one genre, that of the dad joke. Punch lines are met with groans and collective eye rolls, which have become a really valuable source of personal validation. I can’t help it, I love the set ups, and I relish the shattering of people’s already low expectations.

I am becoming my father, but that is okay. I am of the firm opinion that he is one of the kindest and most genuine people I have ever met. If turning into him means living by my own terms, by welcoming people of all walks and by telling awful shaggy dog stories to those I love, then that’s absolutely fine by me. I will continue to stop and talk to people, not out of a conscious effort to be like him, but just because that is who I am. If that personality is one with a heavily inherited flavor then that is okay.The brown leather shoes I wear are his, but I’m proud to have my feet in them. ▲

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  1. Sam B says:

    Great feature. I think often people are terrified to turn into their parents, but there is something quite poignant in suddenly realizing that your ‘unique’ self is actually rather like a lot of the people you love (no matter how unintentional the behavioural mirroring is). To me it sort of seems that this mirroring is an unconscious reflex of our mind; seeing and understanding that a behaviour is good, or profitable, (or in the article above, hilarious) and adopting the behaviour for ourselves. It’s really quite magic.

    Love the outro line of this piece.

    I will share a dad joke that I have heard in my travels, and repeat every time it is possible.
    Upon driving past the licorice cafe on the drive up north from Wellington (just south of Taupo I think?), a certain father once quipped “licorice cafe! I bet all sorts go there.”

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