TV and movies lie. I always knew their depictions of birth and infancy were inaccurate and/or exaggerated – the first sign of labour is the waters suddenly breaking, women return to their pre-pregnancy weight the second they leave the hospital, and if you have a penis, you are utterly clueless about childcare – but there was one thing I accepted as the truth: new dads are the sexiest beings on the planet.
I’m perfectly happy with my partner Lizzie, of course. But there’s no harm in basking in the adoration of scores of single women drawn to your self-evident paternal prowess. If TV and movies are to be believed, as a guy, you can’t leave the house with your baby without sexy twenty-somethings swooning at your feet.
And I was kind of looking forward to that. As a balding thirty-five-year-old who can no longer tick the 25-34 box on forms (I’m lumped in with 44-year-olds now, and that feels ancient!), I wanted to feel attractive again, even it wasn’t actually me they cared about but the baby girl strapped to my chest.
It’s not true. At all. It doesn’t matter where I take Izzie – round the village, into town, down to the beach, through the forest – these broody nubile sex-goddesses are nowhere to be found.
But that’s not to say that I go unnoticed.
I’m quite a hit with grandmothers. In fact, I can’t go out without some slightly overweight old lady with blue rinse or a horribly off-putting wig standing too close and reaching a wrinkled, liver-spotted hand towards my baby while telling me about her grandchild’s chickenpox. It’s hardly reassuring me that I can still kick it with the youngsters.
The content of these encounters is equally disappointing. If I’m on my own, they coo and ah over Izzie and then look at me and say, ‘Tell her mother well done for having such a beautiful baby.’ If it’s someone we know they ask how Lizzie is feeling, how she’s coping, and tell me to congratulate her on doing such a wonderful job.
Er, don’t you want to tell me I have a beautiful baby, or ask me how I’m coping? No? Ah, I see, I’m just the dad.
It’s worse when Lizzie’s with me. Strangers and friends alike address all their questions and compliments to her, while I stand there with the baby in the sling and the changing bag over my shoulder like an overburdened caddie whose only job is transporting Izzie and her accoutrements from A to B. Because, of course, the mum does all the real work – the dad’s just decorative.
I take the puppy with me these days to see if that’ll add to my allure, but all that manages to do is interest eight-year-old girls. From this I have to conclude that sexy twenty-somethings aren’t interested in babies, while thirty-somethings and forty-somethings are so up to their eyeballs in their own kids that they don’t care one jot about anyone else’s.
Either that, or I have to accept that as a dad, I’m no longer attractive to young people. But at least the grannies like me.