1) The first sentence of your book is “It took a long time for me to admit that I had failed.” Do you think that was part of your experience of being a man — that in order to see yourself as a man it was impossible for you to see yourself as a failure?
It’s a little more complicated than that, given that my first novel, “An Underachiever’s Diary,” is all about the virtues of not succeeding. But I did find myself at a place in life where failure was not an option–at least not one that I wanted to consider. I was the father of a four-year-old boy, and I wanted to provide for him. I also wanted to be an example. I was in a new relationship after my divorce and I wanted to be able to buy her an engagement ring. But I couldn’t afford one, not on the $192.63 a week I was taking home in unemployment. Not even close. It brought me face to face with an ugly truth that I didn’t want to see.
2) This is a question we have asked a wide variety of men through the years, and the answer always surprises us. Although a great number of heartbreaking things happen in your book, you never cry. When was the last time you cried?
It’s true that I never cried during any of the events that take place in the book. I’m not a big crier in life. But I have a hard time reading from certain passages of the book without crying, or at least choking up–the last chapter, which is addressed to my son, is something that I know I’m never going to be able to read aloud. It turns me into a blubbering mess. I remember crying when I read it over for the first time; the last time I cried, though, was when I was describing how I wrote the book to a room full of media professionals. I had to stop and blow my nose.
3) Is it really possible for a person to be “too good to be true?”
Of course not! That’s the whole problem with this whole behavioral tendency of mine which stretches all the way back to early childhood. To be the one who never needs anything, who can grin and bear it through a miserable divorce and unfair custody agreement, who can suffer the loss of a marriage and a career without losing his cool…That’s what I tried to be, and it didn’t work! It brought me to my knees, and it took writing this book to just be true.
4) In the book you speak about a time when you unhesitatingly write on a piece of paper that one of the things you want most in life is “to be a good father.” You explain that the desire to be a good father to your son “had welled up in me in the delivery room while he was still wriggling putty in a swaddling blanket and the better part amphibian.” Do you believe — as we do at The Good Men Project — that that is a universal feeling shared by most men? If so, why do we not as culture talk about it more?
I think it is a feeling shared by most men, if not all of us. I’m sure there are some fathers who’d rather be working or waiting at the bar during labor (like in the old days) but I bet that would be really frowned upon. Fathers are supposed to be “hands on” in 2012, and if you don’t see that written about much, or discussed in magazine articles, it probably has to do with the male resistance to emoting. You know, just letting loose and gushing about fatherhood (or being a husband, or being a son to aging parents, etc.). I think that resistance probably drives the culture more than the culture not wanting to hear it.
5) What one bit of advice can you see yourself giving your son when he turns 16?
Oh, boy. There’s so much I hope to tell him when he gets older. At 16 he’ll probably just scoff and roll his eyes at me, but here’s the biggest thing: always do your work. Prepare for your test, or your term paper, or your debate, or your soccer game, more than the other guy. Know what you need to do before you get there and the unexpected won’t throw you. It sounds more like coaching than parenting, but I’m also my son’s soccer coach, so I think I can get away with it!