“What an adorable little house!” This was Fiona’s friend talking. They came over to babysit Sophie. Eli wasn’t born yet. It was a long time ago; Eli’s now thirteen. Actually, only Fiona came over to babysit, we told her she could bring a friend. It was close to Sophie’s bedtime.
My adorable little house was surrounded by mansions. Well, maybe I’m overshooting with that term, but really big houses. Five bedrooms, three baths, a dining room, a living room and a family room. Fiona and her friend lived in houses like this. Fenced yards, garages, usually a screened-in porch. We lived in a sought-out section of Washington, DC. Their homes sold for a million dollars. Houses like this were so common among their peers that a fourteen-year-old girl felt it appropriate to point out how different—or how small—mine was.
Susan was still getting ready. It was my job to give instructions and make small talk. I thought I’d try out my new joke. When I say new joke, I really mean it. For years I knew only one joke, a classic that I broke out at every opportunity. When I first got out of college my friends Brad and Lauren lived in Florida. They were certified to scuba dive, and they invited me to visit for a long dive weekend. During my certification class, one of the tests was to tread water for five minutes. When all the students were in the water, each of us churning our own mini whirlpools, the instructor asked “Hey, anyone know any jokes?” My standby:
Why did the Siamese twins move to London?
So the other one could drive.
My friends got divorced two years later. I only scuba-dived twice, both times that same weekend.
Twenty years later, Fiona and her friend were going to be the first people to hear my new joke. Disclosure: It’s not like I made it up. My friend Ed worked in a bar. Late nights, lots of alcohol, countless people to talk with. He told funny stories and jokes all the time. Here’s the one that made enough of an impression on me to replace my Siamese twin joke:
What do Winnie the Pooh and Alexander the Great have in common?
They have the same middle name.
Fiona: “Ugh. That’s a dad-joke.” As far as I know, she made that term up right then and there. I looked up the etymology of dad-joke, apparently it was coined in Washington, DC circa 2004.
The other day, Eli and I were running an errand. As many parents know, the best time to have a conversation with your teenager is while driving. In the car, they bring up the topics they consider too mundane to talk about around the house. Many of the topics are about stuff I actually care about.
“I have a new teacher in Math.”
“What? What happened to Mrs. McLeaf?”
“She just sits in the back of the room. The student teacher does all the teaching.”
See? Topics I care about. I asked if his teacher was any good.
“Yeah, he’s really funny. He tells us math-jokes. Dad-math-jokes.”
Algebra was really easy in ancient Rome. X was always ten.
And down the rabbit hole we scurried. The rest of the ride was dad-jokes.
Why do seagulls live by the sea?
If they lived at the bay, they’d be bagels.
Eli suggested I get an app for my phone so I would always have a dad-joke handy (being a dad and all). “Oh, you really think they have an app for dad-jokes?” There are dozens. I downloaded the first app that showed up. Not because it was first, but because it had five stars. If I’m going to be telling dad-jokes, I want them to be quality dad-jokes.
Whenever the cashier asks my dad if he wants the milk in a bag, he says “No, just leave it in the carton.”
When I wake my kids up in the morning, still resisting, hiding their head under the covers, shrugging off my hand when I shake them, I tell them a joke.
How many South Americans does it take to change a light bulb?
And sometimes I start to tell my family a dinner time story only so I can squeeze in a joke.
My old coworkers said I’d never get over my obsession with Phil Collins. Just look at me now.
I’ve had an iPhone for a year now. For years I resisted getting one because I couldn’t really see the point. It just seemed like a distraction from life. Sure, I missed out on reading emails, catching up on the news, and even responding to comments on my blog, but I was always happy putting those things off until I got home. But now that I have a universe of dad-jokes right at my fingertips, I think I can see the point.
Here’s a last joke that might appeal to Eli’s teacher:
Dad, I’m cold!
Go stand in the corner, I hear it’s ninety degrees.