I’d always assumed the path to embarrassing dad status would be a gradual one. A prolonged period of otherwise insignificant events, condensed into a single anecdote. A retrospective title earned through hindsight on my part and much exaggeration on theirs.
Talking a little too loudly about someone on the very next table, maybe. A drunken dance at a wedding, quite possibly. One too many Ferris Bueller quotes, Anyone? … Anyone? … Anyone?
I’d also assumed it would be on my own terms and for my own amusement. For what it’s worth, I had it penciled in for 2023 so as to coincide with their early teenage years, thus allowing for maximum awkwardness and hilarity.
Failing that, if it was to be a single event it would be a spectacular one. Like looking over your shoulder to discover you’re the front, middle and back of an Oops Upside your Head dance. At one of their friends eighteenth. In the Ministry of Sound.
What it wouldn’t be though was music related. Oh no, that’s a pulse I’ve got my finger firmly pressed down upon. Unlike my mum, you’ll not find me stood in the middle of WH Smiths of a Saturday afternoon, singing the chorus to ‘everybody wants to rule the world’ because I don’t know who the artist is.
You see, I’ve long since sacrificed Radio X for Capital. There ain’t nothing I don’t know about yoof culture, be in no diggity doubt about that! Word to your mother, that word being ‘WHY?!’
Why does the Capital playlist only have six songs? Why is every song interrupted by Sean Paul? And why on Gods earth did that Jonas fella hear Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’ and think, ‘what this song needs is pulling apart and putting back together by a toddler with a Fisher Price keyboard’.
And yet, despite all my best efforts, I was wrong on almost every count. The gradual process turned out to be an afternoon. 2023 was in fact 2016. And as for the terms, well, it appears they were unanimously agreed by Sonny and Luca at a meeting I wasn’t privy to.
Oh, and it absolutely was music related, and of the pop hit variety, too.
It all began with an argument over a song.
Me: “It’s by that ménage à trois girl. You know, the one who wags her finger shouting no, no, no!”
Sonny: “You’re so wrong. Do you even know anything? You’re thinking of Nicki Minaj and she doesn’t even sing NO, that’s Meghan Trainor! And stop calling it plush life, it’s lush!”
OK, so I’d mixed up my artists and songs, but given they all sound pretty much the same that’s excusable, surely?
What I said next, less so.
Because just a few minutes later I commented on another song being a ‘jolly ditty’. Jolly ditty? Who the hell describes a song as a jolly ditty post 1920? Me, that’s who, although in my defence it was Meghan Trainor’s ‘Me Too’, or so I’m told, which I think you’ll find is both jolly and a ditty.
But if that wasn’t bad enough, a little later whilst in the car I sealed my own fate, because tonight Matthew, I’m going to be … Sean Paul!
Now I admit to being a little biased but it was a damn good impression, especially given the restrictions driving a car has on your bump and grind moves.
Janet thought it offensive, bordering on racist. I beg to differ. Not that it really matters because then, from the back of the car, came the immortal words …
“Seriously dad, you’re embarrassing!”
And just like that I’d crossed the line, never to return. Condemned by my own flesh and blood before they’d even reached Junior school.
It was never meant to be this way. According to my life plan this was at least five years premature. I’d only just learnt the words to a Little Mix song!
But I’m not one for sulking. To be honest, it’s like the shackles have been removed and I can now concentrate on being the best embarrassing dad I can.
I can reclaim the car radio for myself and return to our game of ‘dead or alive?’, which sadly has become a lot trickier than it was the last time we played it a year ago.
When watching MTV I’ll no longer have to bite my tongue about how few clothes all the women are wearing.
But most importantly, I no longer need to know nor care who sings what.
And if they think my ignorance of the Top 40 will prevent me singing along they’re very much mistaken, because as any embarrassing dad will tell you, lyrics are largely irrelevant. What we don’t know we’ll make up, and what we don’t make up we’ll whistle.
So if you see a middle-aged man singing a Justin Bieber chorus out loud but whistling the verses, don’t pity him, know that like me he’s been liberated. And if you’re looking for his kids, they’ll most likely be a couple of aisles away with their heads in their hands, wishing they’d never questioned his Sean Paul impression, less still used the word ’embarrassing’ and ‘dad’ in the same sentence.