￼Back in the ’90s, long before I was a Guy Code Blog editor, I was a teenage humor columnist at my hometown newspaper. My dream was to be “the next Dave Barry,” which is absurd in retrospect — you should aspire to be the first you, not the next someone else — but the man inspired me to become a writer.
I even sent Barry fan letters; in one of them I mentioned (because I was am a dick) that his then-recent columns lacked his “punk edge.” A couple months later I got a postcard back: “As for losing my ‘punk edge’: F*ck you — but good luck with your writing.” I had it framed and hung it on my bedroom wall.
Barry’s latest humor collection, “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty,” just came out, so it seemed like the perfect time to sit down with this Guy Code forefather. We had an awesome conversation, which he ended the greatest way possible: Shaking my hand and telling me, “Hang on to that punk edge.”
What are some ways for guys to impress a girl’s dad, or is that just impossible?
What would impress me is a young man who’s interested in space travel — really, long-term space travel.
Solo, of course. He’s not taking my daughter into space! That’d be the kind of guy I’d encourage to be interested in my daughter, as opposed to people with normal jobs who could be near my daughter physically on the earth.
You have a son, too — was it different when he started dating?
It’s completely different. My son could’ve dated anybody, or even any species, and it wouldn’t have been a big deal to me — I just didn’t worry. Hey, have fun! Girls! Go get ‘em!
Whereas with my daughter, it’s like…every man on earth represents a threat to her, because men are scum — we all agree on that. Women are just not innately scummy the way men are. We learn to hide it and control it for the most part, but it’s always lurking there. I’m very aware of that as a former young man, now an old man, but still a man.
However nice [young men] are to me, and they’re always nice to me — you know, ‘Mr. Barry’ — I just try to hold back how ready I am to rip their heads off.
Unleashing your inner Liam Neeson from “Taken,” as you put it.
I think I really scare them. They always act nervous around me, and I’m glad.
Having written “Dave Barry Turns 40,” “Dave Barry Turns 50,” etc., how would you say each decade changes a guy from the teens onward?
The main difference is you’re less and less concerned about what it is you’re supposed to do to be a guy. This Viagra commercial says, “You’ve reached the age when you don’t back down from a challenge.” The f*ck I am — I’m exactly at the age when you back down from a challenge! I can vaguely remember the last time I jumped off of something into a swimming pool, where I had numerous shots of something. Nobody beyond the age of 23 is on YouTube putting a bottle rocket up their ass.
Clint Eastwood probably doesn’t give a sh*t how manly he is perceived.
No. It’s clearly not even in his mind anymore, if it ever was. In general, your level of confidence increases, or your concern about what other people think decreases — probably more the latter — but you stop giving a sh*t what people think, which is the best part of getting older. You realize how much unhappiness is caused in your life and other people’s lives by giving a sh*t about what people think.
You once wrote, “The great irony of macho behavior: Women never seem to be impressed by it.”
We think at some point that women will be impressed. You learn eventually they’re not. They like men to be masculine, but they don’t want us to be assh*les. If I fix something, my wife is impressed. If I display aggression or yell at somebody in traffic, she doesn’t like that.
What else would you tell your younger self if you had a time machine?
I would say, don’t be so worried about whether you’re going to be successful or not, don’t worry so much about whether you’re going to make money or not, just don’t worry as much…well, I made a lot of money, so that made me stop worrying about it.
But mostly, and this will sound like such a cliché but it’s true, you realize how short your life really was, how little time you really had, and how easy it is to just waste it on ridiculous worries when there’s only a few big worries in your life: Did you find the right person to marry? Were you a good parent to your kids? Those are the things that really matter. Most of the stuff involving your career or work turns out to be utterly meaningless.
There’s a line in your new book, “Like many American men, I just don’t know how to do anything manly anymore.” Is that technology evolving — GPS navigation and auto-flushing urinals — or something deeper?
I think it’s something deeper. Masculinity is now officially frowned upon. It’s politically incorrect to actually be masculine, which is bullsh*t. I don’t think you can change the biology — men and women are very different. Men are more aggressive, there are certain things men are better at, just like there are certain things women are better at. We’ve been trying as a society to deny all that.
We define being a boy as some kind of mental disorder now, ADD or whatever they call it. So, I wrote it as a joke, but I do think it’s rougher to be a boy now than it ever was. I assume the pendulum will swing back the other way at some point, and guys will be allowed to be guys again.