In five months time I am going to be a Dad and I've never felt manlier. It's an interesting coming of age moment where everyone shifts position; father becomes grandfather, son becomes father and bump becomes cute yet terrifying little human.
Amongst friends and colleagues who already have children this news has sparked the inevitable light-hearted warnings about an impending loss of sleep, personal space and will to live. Yet despite these warnings I really am looking forward to fatherhood. To the tune of Cat Steven's Father and Son I have a pretty cool montage in my mind. In one scene, against a perfect sunset, we are sat fishing (I don't know how to fish but presume it comes naturally when you're a dad) as my son catches his first turbot. What a chip of the old block! In another scene my son rides his bike towards camera before turning and realising I am no longer holding him upright. A broad smile breaks across his face as he punches the sky. 'You're the best, Dad!' he squeals. 'Shhhhhh' I respond. 'You're starting to annoy me. When I was 27 I had a career and could already ride a bike with great competency. You are a huge disappointment to me and your mother'. Good times.
However, amongst those aforementioned friends and colleagues I have also noticed some subtle changes in their behaviour towards me. As if, by becoming 'a dad' I am somehow transforming in their minds.
Obviously, I have drawn comparisons with the central character played by Will Smith in Hollywood blockbuster, I Am Legend. In the film, Will pretends to be an army doctor in a post-apocalyptic world. A man made pandemic has spread across the globe turning us all into ghoulish, vampire-like mutants (think Duncan Goodhew after a particularly heavy night out) and whilst his family and seemingly everyone else on earth has been lost to the virus, Will is somehow immune rendering him the last of a dying breed. So, he spends his days going for long walks in the sunshine, practicing his golf swing, oh, and capturing members of the mutant population in order to experiment on them in his basement in search of a cure for the virus. So understandably, in a world populated by ghouls, he (The Fresh Prince) is now the one that inspires horror, the strange singular creature that stalks the streets for his prey.
At this point I feel some explanations are in order. Firstly, I am not implying that I have ever roamed the streets at night searching for Duncan Goodhew in order to take him back to my basement for experimentation. I don't have a basement. Secondly, if I did have a basement, I would probably use it for storing bikes or golf clubs......not Duncan Goodhew. My point is that becoming 'a dad' does seem to have consigned me to a special place in the minds of others. It is as if I am suddenly no longer the man they once knew. Where Richard once stood is now simply 'a dad', a creature attached to which we all have set ideas, memories and images.
So, like Will Smith in I Am Legend, am I now the other? Am I the thing that goes bump in the night? Am I the man that sings along to Kajagoogoo, in the car, on the way to see your granny? Am I the man that insists on cooking more roast potatoes than could ever realistically be consumed by a family of four? Am I the man that wears a jumper the exact same colour as his trousers and his shoes and says, "That's ok"? I am. I Am Dad.