“Raising kids may be a thankless job with ridiculous hours, but at least the pay sucks.” (Jim Gaffigan, Dad is Fat, p.34)
I’ve been away from home for a while now. Perhaps it’s my absence from other Americans with our keen sarcasm and dry humor, but I’ve recently had an insatiable craving for a good healthy chuckle. Stand-up comedy helped initially, but there are only a few comics out there who keep on this side of dirty (Jim Gaffigan, Brian Reagen, etc.), and by the third time around, I’ve pretty much got their acts memorized. As a result, I’ve turned to reading whatever books these comics have put out, starting with Dimetri Martin, a clever artist, and now with Jim Gaffigan, a straight-up funny average-Jim.
Dad is Fat is a well-rounded book on parenting, specifically on parenting five kids in a tiny apartment in New York City. While few of us fathers can relate to the specifics of Jim’s fathering role, we can all relate to the generalities, for example this little nugget: “I ‘have children’ like I ‘have male pattern baldness.’ It is an incurable condition, and I have it. Symptoms include constant fatigue, inability to sleep, and, of course, extreme sleep disruption” (p.17). Gaffigan’s writing style very much mirrors his stand-up comedy, meaning he capitalizes on narcissism (who can’t relate to that?), but in a very self-deprecating way. He’s a joy to read, and unlike the majority of celebrities out there, he’s a genuine role model as an involved, bread-winning father and a caring, devoted husband.
Although the book is about 95% humorous-biography, Gaffigan also sneaks in a number of strong moral opinions that stem, likely, from either his Roman Catholic upbringing or his general common sense. Here are two of his more poignant insights:
- About marriage, “If you met your wife while she was married to another man, history is bound to repeat itself.” (p.71)
- About being there as a parent, “If you complain about how you spend your Saturdays taking your kid to birthday parties, that means you are taking your kid to birthday parties. If you complain about how hard it is to get your kid to read, it means you are trying to get your kid to read. If you are complaining about your kid not helping around the house, that means you have a fat, lazy kid. You joke about it. That’s how you deal. If parents don’t like being a parent, they don’t talk about being a parent. They are absent.” (p.21)
This book’s many short essays carried me through a couple of weeks and kept my head above the cultural water here. Each time I came across a passage about what it’s like to raise a family with a load of children, I texted the passages to my sister, mother of 4. And I likely would have done the same for many of the other portions to any of my friends with kids, but all my friends have kids, and international texting rates are crazy. Instead, I’m simply recommending that they and you read the book for yourselves. And if you don’t have kids yet but you enjoy clever book reviews, you’ll really enjoy Gaffigan’s chapter, “A Critical Analysis of Children’s Literature.” Honestly, I think he should write an entire book simply on that topic! So there you go, Jim. Idea for book number three (after Food: A Love Story).