It's a funny business being a Dad. It reminds me a little of Carry On Abroad. Just as Sid James, Barbara Windsor, Kenneth Williams and the gang discovered that the five-star hotel they were booked into on the Costa del Sol wasn't a bit like the one in the brochure, so it's beginning to dawn on me that fatherhood isn't the sexy lifestyle choice it's presented as being in certain glossy magazines.
Remember FQ and Dad? These two publications were launched with great fanfare last spring, supposedly to cash in on the fact that being a father had suddenly become extremely fashionable. In their pages, the likes of David Beckham and Pierce Brosnan shared space with features on MPVs and the latest kids toys. Doe-eyed toddlers were pictured kicking a ball around with fit young men in short-sleeved shirts. Welcome to parenthood.
For the generation of lads who'd been brought up reading magazines like Maxim and FHM, the message couldn't be clearer: Babes were out and babies were in. It was time to stop boozing and start breeding.
Well, guess what? Six months have passed and a second issue of Dad: The Magazine For New Fathers has yet to appear. Admittedly, there has been another issue of FQ: The Magazine For Modern Dads, but that came out last August and we're now in October. Will either of these publications outlast the year? Or will they succumb to the magazine equivalent of infant mortality? In America, two similar publications--Dads and Fathers--both went belly up after two issues.
What the publishers of these magazines have failed to grasp is that, while women might find pictures of men playing with their babies sexy, we don't. When I open a copy of Heat and see a photograph of Becks making his way through the Heathrow Arrivals Hall with Brooklyn on his shoulders and Romeo in a pushchair I don't think, "Gosh, David, you're so cool." I think, "You poor bastard." (And I'm not just referring to the ball-busting little tyrant in the background barking out orders to the army of porters.)
David Beckham may be heralded by professional do-gooders as "a positive role model", but as far as I'm concerned he's a living, breathing example of the feminisation of our society.
Consider the facts. He changes his hairstyle every two weeks. He speaks in a hilariously high-pitched voice. He lets his wife dress him up as if he's her own personal dolly. He's not a symbol of modern masculinity. He's a symbol of male emasculation. I no more want to look at pictures of him and his children than read an article about testicular cancer.
Successful men's magazines like GQ and Esquire pander to our fantasies and avoid mentioning things like wives and babies. When I've got a few minutes to spare between cleaning the sick off the sofa and mending the high chair I don't want to read features with headlines like "The Second Coming: How to help your first-born deal with the trauma of a new sibling". I want to dream about snaking through the hills of the Cote d'Azur in a silver Bentley with a supermodel in the passenger seat and a supercharger in the engine. Vroom, vroom.
Before writing this column, I checked out FQ's website and was directed to a page inviting me to vote for the FQ Dad of the Year. What was this? Some sort of competition? That's more like it, I thought. I imagined a Generation Game-like series of contests with the finalists having to wrestle with non-disposable nappies and assemble flat pack travel cots.
I settled back in my chair with a view to spending the next couple of hours repeatedly voting for myself when I noticed the small print: "Voting will end at midnight on 6th June. The winner will be announced and their award will be presented to them at an exclusive presentation ceremony in London on Thursday 12th June 2003."
Ah well. Maybe I can enter next year. Then again, maybe not.