Why men are terrified of being told they're turning into their fathers

I'm of the firm belief that there are two distinct types of people in this world, those who will ask for more bread at a restaurant and those who won't.

I was recently out for breakfast, and it became pretty clear to which camp I belong. I had opted for the Shakshuka eggs, continuing my practice of ordering things I will never make at home.

Before the food's arrival, I spent the entire time talking to (boring my) fiancee, Kate, about Shakshuka eggs. This included a solid five minute bit about how wonderfully the word 'Shakshuka' rolls off the tongue.

The eggs arrived, and when the waiter placed them down, I noticed that there was only one small piece of toast. So miniature was the accompaniment, it was more Monopoly piece than actual bread. When taking into account the volume of the eggs, the ratios were way off.  

"Just don't worry about it, it looks delicious," encouraged Kate, possibly fearful of what was to come. Ignoring her, I grabbed the waiter's attention and asked for more bread. The waiter, clearly hungover and beyond caring, nodded and agreed to bring some shortly.

Then Kate hit me with it.

Born and bread

"You are so much like your father."

And with that one comment, all the extra breadbaskets of my youth came flooding back to me. I saw myself as a chubby six-year-old, watching on in horror as my father wildly gesticulated for "more bread!"

Turning into my old man was something I'd feared internally, so to have confirmation was terrifying. Now as a disclaimer, I should mention that my father is not a bad person, not by any stretch.

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But he has traits which I would prefer not to inherit - he's impatient, quick to anger, easily stressed, a bread lover. What makes it worse is that I already see those same qualities in myself, bubbling beneath the surface.

Worrying about becoming your parents isn't the exclusive domain of men, but it seems to me – anecdotally at least – that we are more hung up on it. And to be honest, I can understand why.

Flipping familial coins

If I survey my friends' parents, the mothers are mostly angels. Whereas the fathers fall into two distinct camps - 1) Silent Scowlers and 2) Obsessed with negative gearing. Basically, what I'm saying is mums are great, and dads can be weird, but Oscar Wilde put it more eloquently in The Importance of Being Earnest.

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does, and that is his."

Tell me about it Oscar, now pass the bread.

I think this stems from the way the father-son bond has been bastardised by pop culture over time. The ladies got lucky with Gilmore Girls while we had to settle for Luke and Darth Vader – talk about dysfunctional.

Add to that, the messaging around male role models is consistent only in its inconsistency. For every, 'Like Father, Like Son' there is a 'Be Your Own Man' waiting around the corner.

Continuing a legacy

This dual narrative means we spend a lot of time trying to figure out exactly who we are. It's a painful process which involves loads of poor decisions and questionable choices, but you hope that the end result is worth it.

So to suddenly feel that it was all pre-ordained, that every 'decision' you made, wasn't a decision at all, is confronting. But as you get older and the "you're exactly like your father" evidence continues to mount, perhaps we have to accept the inevitable.

Having registered how shocked I was at the realisation during the extra bread fiasco, Kate has taken to using this tactic at every opportunity. When our search for a Saturday car park at Westfield enters its third hour, and I'm prepared to abandon the vehicle forever, out comes the line - you're so much like your father.

I try not to let it get to me (I'm working on being less quick to anger), but it's not easy. Eventually, we find a parking spot. Kate smiles and says "A little patience goes a long way." I can't help myself.  

"You know you sound exactly like your mother…"

After continually being told to "use his words" as a young boy, Thomas Mitchell took that advice on board and never looked back. Since then his words appeared all over the place, including in the Sydney Morning Herald, Time Out, The Huffington Post and GQ. Thomas spends his days observing the unique behaviour of the Australian male, while trying not to overstay his welcome at the local cafe.

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Have you seen the signs that you're becoming your parents? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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