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Man of the House by Chris Erskine

Who's the cool dude in the apron?

As MySpace becomes MyDad'sSpace, kids pretend not to care. Yeah, right.

July 06, 2006|Chris Erskine

A COUPLE weeks ago, we established that teenagers are alien creatures bent on world domination. Sure, we still adore them, with their toothy, Richie Cunningham smiles and their cotton candy hair. But they are what they are.

If we don't acknowledge the dangers, we risk some sort of kiddie coup d'etat, by which teenagers seize power, eliminate curfews and drop the legal drinking age to, say, 6. As you know, this happened in France in the late innings of the 18th century. And look where they are now.

So we organized what one father dubbed "The Million Dad March," to seize teenagers' primary mode of communications: MySpace. I mean, if you were an alien creature, wouldn't you be drawn to a website called MySpace? Case closed.

"I showed my father your article on MySpace, and now he's getting on MySpace," writes Ben in a note to me on the site. "Thanks a lot."

"Let's keep the ball rolling," writes David, a dad. "If we all have our kids post our pictures on their MySpace sites, that should be the death knell."

So far, our paternal bid to take over MySpace is still a work in progress, but we plan to stay the course, because that's what dads are famous for. By saturating MySpace with dads, we will liberate the Internet and make it a safer and less interesting place -- sort of the Internet equivalent of Omaha.

For example, my site ( features a photo of me in a checkered apron, standing in front of my barbecue holding a beer and a pair of tongs.

Sometimes things are so uncool (Napoleon Dynamite and Tony Bennett spring to mind) that they somehow become cool.

I caution you: This did not happen with this site, which also includes a photo of my latest very uncool book and my nemesis, the loopy little beagle. Also in the works is a new shot of me raking the backyard.

"It'd be good to have some action shots," I told my daughter.

"Yeah, whatever," she said.

"Wait a second, let me get the weed whacker," I said.

"Chill, Dad. OK?"

As if this isn't way cool already, I soon plan to add barbecue recipes, home repair tips and my heartfelt prayer-poem for the Chicago Cubs, which I've been working on now for more than 35 years.

"If the Cubs win it all,

They'll burn down the city,

But I don't care,

Because Ernie Banks is so pretty ... "

OK, so maybe the poem's not quite ready yet. But it will be, just in time for their World Series appearance next season.

Seriously, what could be cooler than all that? It shouldn't surprise you then that this quest to seize control of MySpace has drawn 1,900 people to the site, with hundreds of parents writing in to support the cause. The basic message is this:

"I too have recommended to all parents and grandparents that they get online to see what's happening," writes Elizabeth, via MySpace. "But I try to stress to my oldster friends that kids can find weirdness anywhere, not just online."

Way to go, kids. Apparently, you're, like, weirdness magnets.

Of course, the kids weighed in too, in far greater numbers than their parents.

"You should continue writing about your MySpace adventure," one teen wrote to the site. "I'm not sure how many other dads will make it to My Space. Let's just say, if they are anything like my dad when it comes to navigating the Internet, it's going to be an uphill battle."

Surprisingly, I haven't heard from any of the creeps, who allegedly prowl MySpace at all hours hoping to hook up with zitty, gum-popping mall nymphs. In a world like that, I guess barbecue sauce-soaked dads don't really stand a chance. Creeps.

In the end, here's my take on MySpace. Like rock 'n' roll, it's a phenomenon that's not going to cave to pressure from the PTA. In fact, its subversive nature feeds on Mom and Dad's disapproval.

But like anything a teen does, it requires a certain amount of adult supervision. How much? How often? That's the million-dad question.

My hunch is that the best way is to climb aboard, maybe even establish your own site, which -- if it doesn't make you cool -- at least shows your children that you're concerned for their safety.

Kids. They pretend not to care that we care. But deep down I think they do. How uncool is that? Hey, maybe they're human after all.

Chris Erskine can be reached at

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