Dear old Dad. He tinkers with the toolkit, wears sweaters, and grows a beard, right? He’s endearingly behind the times and is trying to figure out why the “pound sign” is now also called a “hashtag.” He can be slightly out of touch, cheesy, and, sometimes, just plain weird, says Jaya Saxena, co-author of the satirical (and, until now, not exactly real) Dad Magazine.
“I think on some baseline level we all want to be that way.” The concept of “Dad” is something people have latched onto recently, Saxena adds. “Not every dad has the exact same interests or personality, but every dad has, like, a thing.”
Every month, Saxena and husband Matt Lubchansky come out with a new cover for Dad Magazine to feature on the feminist humor blog The Toast. The covers advertise a publication that is “For Dads, By Dads,” but, until now, Dad Magazine hadn’t published a single word beyond several fake covers that tease to nonexistent articles like “How to Sneak WWII Into Any Conversation” and “The Results Are Finally In! America’s Favorite Routes.” But in 2016, Saxena and Lubchansky will publish a Dad Magazine book — which will feel and look like a magazine.
Saxena and Lubchansky, who live in Astoria, launched their dad project in the summer of 2013 using photos of actual fathers that their friends and readers enthusiastically volunteer for the magazine covers. Saxena and Lubchansky say they look to their own fathers for comic inspiration, but are careful to distinguish what’s specific to their dads and what’s universal.
“He’s trying,” Lubchansky says of his own father. “He wants to be a part of what’s going on today, but is just like getting it so wrong.” For instance, he says, his father has enthusiastically embraced text messaging, but has begun going overboard with emoji, which he recently discovered. Now his texts are jammed with more colorful smileys and emoticons than those of a teenager.
“All dads have their weird enthusiasm — it’s not like there’s one unifying thing,” says Saxena, “Anything they do, they just try to do it all the way. They go fully into it, like, ‘I’m gonna text, so I’m gonna use every single emoji.’ ”
Not surprisingly, Saxena says some of their friends’ dads even tried to click on the links on the mock covers in earnest, only to realize after that they were fake.
“It’s a loving joke,” says Saxena. “It comes out of an appreciative place but also makes fun of patriarchs.” For so long, Dad was considered the most important person in the family unit — the person everyone’s supposed to respect, says Saxena. “We’re gently, lovingly knocking that down a peg.”
Dad Magazine demystifies “the dad,” says Nicole Cliffe, co-editor of The Toast. But despite efforts to diversify him — Dad Magazine features dads of all different races and sexual identities — Cliffe says this is still “a very particular kind of dad.” By her own description, he’s a “gender normative” and “quotidian” kind of dad.
“My dad is wonderful…but he’s not really the ‘Dad Magazine dad,’ although I love the concept,” she says. “I think the dad of Dad Magazine is very loving and mildly mystified by his children, desperately proud of them, but doesn’t understand their lives or interests very well.”
Still, she says featuring dads who love their kids may alienate those who have bad fathers or no father at all. “I know that sometimes it’s hard for our readers who have bad dads to read — obviously the bad dad is something that exists in our society,” says Cliffe. “Sometimes the warm celebration of this particular kind of dad can be hard. Not only is it not their dad, but it’s upsetting that it’s not their dad.”
When the book is released in time for Father’s Day next year (designed to resemble a glossy magazine), it will feature fake advertisements (one reads: “Like Dad Magazine? Then try: ‘Dad for Kids,’ ‘Matronly,’ and ‘Weird Uncles’ “) and full articles (“Talk to Your Son About Growing a Beard”) and showcase all kinds of dads: grandfathers, young dads, dads married to moms, dads married to dads, and dads of all different ethnicities. “We made sure it wasn’t the stereotypical white baby boomer suburban dad,” says Saxena.
Blair Thornburgh, editor at Quirk Books, which will publish the Dad Magazine book, says the humor is gentle and deliberately careful not to be mean. “It should be a book for anyone who relates to the dad [of Dad Magazine],” says Thornburgh. She adds that “dad culture” can even exist independently of child rearing.
“The dad who we’re presenting in Dad Magazine is a dad who’s present, a dad who’s involved in being a dad,” says Saxena. “Maybe not everyone can relate to having this specific type of [father] figure in their life, but maybe someone does have someone like that who may not be their dad. Someone who emulates that sort of behavior — someone who’s weird and specific and just entirely themselves.”
Here are a few more recent covers of Dad: