Saturday, June 20, 2009

Atlanta's "Hottest Dad"

About two weeks ago, my wife, Meredith, entered me in the HOTTEST DAD in ATLANTA contest. This morning we learned the results. The people have spoken. Atlanta area parents have voted for change they can believe in. Yours truly has been dubbed "Atlanta's hottest dad." From this day forth, the phrase "hot dad" is obviously no longer shackled to a shallow reference to physical appearance. No, we've clearly blown that stereotype right out of the water. After twelve years of marriage, three kids, and more than a few extra pounds, being a "hottie" no longer has anything to do with broad shoulders or rock-hard pecs. Those anatomical niceties might mean a lot to twenty-five-year-old ladies who are still playing the singles game, but if you want to drive a mom wild, just change some diapers, wash some sippy-cups, assume charge of a bath time, and--if you really want to make her swoon--take the little ones to a park for an hour so she can get a nap. Big biceps and a butt you can bounce quarters on might be attractive extras, but nothing says "Don't you want me, Baby!" to a mom like a husband who's just built a Lego tower with his three-year-old and smells of diaper ointment.

To all those who voted for me, I want to say "thank you." It was a tough campaign. I couldn't have won without your support. While I cannot accommodate everyone, I assure you that there will be places in my administration for many of you. I especially want to thank the men who voted for me. Any man willing to risk his male reputation to cast a vote for me or any other guy as "Atlanta's hottest dad," is either a true friend or a little creepy. I choose to believe that the vast majority of you are the former (except for one or two of you whose emails I recognized; to those few I would simply remind you that restraining orders are enforceable by law). If, after humbly answering my wife's call to swallow your male pride and cast a ballot, you feel that you have somehow been violated or could swear that your testicles have shrunk a size since going to the polls, let me assure you that your condition is temporary. Just drink a beer. Smoke a cigar. Watch some sports (not women's golf). Catch a Clint Eastwood movie. Eat some meat. These actions will raise your testosterone levels, and you'll be okay.

All the credit and thanks in the world goes to my beautiful campaign manager: my wife, Meredith. She was the architect behind our great victory. She shamelessly emailed and called friends. She contacted people via Facebook, gmail, cell phone, Morse code, carrier pigeon, that silly thing kids do with two plastic cups and a long piece of string, seance, and any other method she could think of. A tireless warrior, she prodded, persuaded, begged, and perhaps even threatened friends, neighbors, co-workers, family-members, pizza delivery personnel, neighborhood children, unfortunate Jehovah's Witnesses who rang our doorbell, and at least one Nigerian prince who randomly contacted her online to cast their vote. Partly because she wanted me to win and partly because she refused to be outdone by the other wives, my wife pounded the online pavement. When the results finally came in, Meredith sat back with her Saturday morning cup of coffee, smiled the smile of the victorious, and joyously savored her hard-fought victory.

Of course, I cannot help but wonder what doors my newly acquired title will open. Perhaps I'll get my own reality TV show: Atlanta Hot Dad! Addicted viewers can tune in every week to see which one of my obedient children is offered a rose, while watching the disobedient ones get voted off to go spend time with their grandparents. Surely, a professional photographer will be calling any day to schedule my photo shoot for the "Hottest Dads of the South" calendar. I'll no doubt pose in my standard middle-aged dad ensemble of Bermuda shorts and black dress socks. Shirtless, I'm sure they'll want me to throw the camera an alluring look while showing off my sexually enticing I just got done mowing my suburban lawn farmer's tan. And lets not forget the inevitable book deal. I can only imagine how large the crowds will be when admiring parents line up to get their autographed copy of How I Became a Hot Dad: Kindred's Keys to Finding Your Mojo in a Minivan. Yes, the possibilities are endless. If I play my cards right, there is no end to the fame and income this baby could generate. Before I know it, I'm likely to wake up and find that I've built a "hot dad" empire!

In all seriousness, while I find more than a little humor in the idea of me being Atlanta's hottest anything, I am grateful for and proud of the title. Not because I think it means I'm really Atlanta's hottest dad (less than two hundred people entered and, I can assure you, no one is mistaking me for George Clooney when I go out), but because of the thought and sincerity that inspired my wife and friends to support me. The mere fact that Meredith wanted to nominate me was special enough; after all, what better compliment can a husband and father ask for than to have his own wife sing his praises as a great daddy to her children. But to watch the zeal and determination with which she worked to get others to vote for me showed me how much she truly appreciates all I do for her and the kids. In addition, to have so many people respond to Meredith's call with votes, kind words, and compliments was very touching, extremely humbling, and challenged me to work harder to be the father they seem to think I am. To everyone who took a few minutes out of their busy life to hop online, write a comment, and cast a vote, I do offer the sincerest "Thank you."

And so, the lesson I've learned from becoming a "hot dad" is this: As a father, people are noticing even your smallest efforts. Your wife notices. Your neighbors notice. Your friends notice. And, rest assured, your kids notice most of all. What to me is a few moments jumping with my children on the trampoline or helping them learn to ride a bike without training wheels, is to my family the very thing that makes me a real "hottie" and the household hero. Of all the roles we strive to fulfill as men, none is more precious or valuable than those of husband and father. Succeed in every other area but fall short in these and, no matter what your bank account says or what title hangs on your door, you've failed. So keep all the other awards out there. In fact, you can keep hottest dad in Atlanta too, as long as I still get to be the hot dad in my own family. I may never be voted the hottest anything ever again, but that's okay. I don't need to hold some title that says I'm a great dad. I just need to strive each and every day to be worthy of the nomination.

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