Whenever Father’s Day rolls around I’m reminded, once again, that I don’t have a “typical” dad. He doesn’t own a tie. He’s never worked in an office. As far as I know he’s never touched a golf club (except maybe to use it as a weapon?). My dad, in a nutshell, is weird. He spent his career taking care of research monkeys. He spent his spare time turning our house into a fortress and collecting skulls. With the exception of guinea pigs, he likes animals way more than he likes people (that’s him in the picture, holding a water moccasin he caught in a Florida swamp). And guess what? He’s the best dad I could ever ask for. Here’s why…
1. He provided constant entertainment. My dad’s strange interests and complete lack of self-consciousness make him endlessly entertaining. It wasn’t uncommon to find him watching “Star Trek” in a Kevlar helmet or training a crow to eat out of his hand. One of my writing teachers, after reading a story about my dad building a high-powered canon from which to launch my grandmother’s ashes, said, “No wonder you’re a writer. You were raised by an amazing character.”
2. He taught me about weird things. I don’t know how to order at a nice restaurant or French braid my hair. I do know how to incapacitate an intruder, discuss the intricacies of dark matter, create a shiv out of a toothbrush, and survive the apocalypse. I can thank my dad for that.
3. He challenged me to live differently. My dad doesn’t measure success in the ways that normal people do: money, social status, and traditional life milestones don’t really mean anything to him. It’s easy to get caught up in the things that society deems important; my dad’s constant rejection of these things opened my mind and showed me how to forge my own path in the world.
4. He helped me understand different kinds of people. My dad is–how should I put this?–a bit socially awkward. He can stay contentedly silent for days at a time before launching into a random 3-hour lecture about the mating habits of whale sharks. Learning how to communicate with him has come in surprisingly handy. When I worked at National Geographic, the office was filled with men that reminded me of my dad: obsessive science-y types who could care less about social graces. Thanks to my experience with my dad, I felt totally comfortable with them and was able to have some really fascinating conversations about their lives and research.
5. He showed me how to embrace my own aesthetic. When I was in high school, I came home one afternoon and found that my dad had hung a cow pelvis on our living room wall. “Why did you do that?” I asked. “Because it’s beautiful,” he said. My dad taught me that when it comes to personal taste, you should not only think outside the box, you should function as if the box never existed.
6. He made me appreciate nerdy guys. I’ve never been interested in quarterbacks or investment bankers; instead, I’ve always been drawn to guys who are awkward, brainy, and a little neurotic. Obviously my dad was a good role model in this regard.
7. He gave me a crazy, weird, unforgettable childhood. And for that, I am eternally grateful. Hopefully one day I can be half as weird as my dad, because let’s be honest: that whole “normal” thing is completely overrated.