It's about time I came clean. I may complain occasionally, but the truth is I get a quite a lot of pleasure from spending time with my baby daughter. Six months ago, if someone had told me how much fun it would be, I never would have believed them. When you see fathers wrestling with baby seats in the back of station wagons, or walking round in a sleep-deprived daze, it looks like absolute misery. Strangely, though, when faced with a choice between playing with Sasha and watching television, I choose the former about 50% of the time.
It's a bit like having a really cool pet. Imagine an exceptionally intelligent species of monkey, multiply it by a thousand, and you have some idea of just how entertaining a baby can be. The tricks you can teach them are endless. Sasha's latest party turn is the ability to roll over on her play mat--not bad for eight weeks. At this rate, she'll be crawling by Christmas and I intend to construct a giant rat run in my sitting room and invite all the neighbours to pit their little nippers against mine. First one to the teddy bear earns its Dad £50. What better present could Santa leave under the tree? Baby Scaletrix!
Here's another use for them: chic magnets. I used to think that men with newborns strapped to their stomachs looked unattractive, as if they were encumbered with huge great beer bellies. In fact, women find men with babies extremely sexy. You only have to pick one up and you're instantly transformed into a sex god. It's the equivalent of having a six pack.
I discovered this when my wife took a magic photo of me shortly after she gave birth. Every woman who saw this photograph gasped in astonishment and announced that I looked more attractive in it than I'd ever done before. I studied it for hours, desperately trying to work out what it was about my appearance that was so different. Was it my hair? The shape of my mouth? Finally, the penny dropped. It was the presence of Sasha in my arms.
I think it helps if you look like an overgrown baby yourself. I've often been mistaken for William Hague, a man whom a rival politician once described as resembling a foetus. Not surprisingly, this politician was a man since if he'd been a women he'd have known that foetuses are nothing more than very small babies and, as such, are irresistible to the fairer sex. Little wonder, then, that in a poll of university students William Hague was ranked as being much more physically appealing than Tony Blair.
Last week, I persuaded my wife to let me take Sasha to a party and, sure enough, within five minutes of arriving I was surrounded by cooing girls. One particularly attractive girl called Sophie couldn't take her eyes off her.
"It's weird," she said, looking back and forth between my daughter and me. "On the one hand, she's incredibly cute, but on the other she looks exactly like you. It's a paradox."
Of course, the problem with using Sasha as a pulling accessory is that I can't just dump her in the arms of my wife, turn to the girl who's been making googly eyes at her, and say, "Fancy a shag then?"
One of the things that makes fathers so attractive is that our babies are living, breathing evidence of our devotion to our wives. No one could accuse us of being commitment phobic. Consequently, if we start flirting a little too outrageously with girls like Sophie, we suddenly become very unattractive. We must simply stand there like statues, happy to be gazed at, but never returning that gaze. Still, for someone like me, that's a very pleasant new experience.