Essay: Letter From Home

One young reader takes exception to our columnist’s use of irony.

In the April issue of D Magazine, columnist Tim Rogers wrote about helping his 8-year-old son with his science fair project. The story told of how Rogers swore to himself that he would never become the sort of overbearing, anal-retentive parent who takes control of his son’s project that investigates what makes pennies lose their shine—and yet that’s exactly the sort of parent Rogers turned out to be. The story was meant to be a humorous, self-deprecating look at Rogers’ failings as a father, but at least one reader didn’t see it that way.

DEAR D MAGAZINE: This is Burke Rogers. Tim Rogers is my dad. My mom just read my dad’s story to me about my science project. I felt happy I did all that work. It was the biggest project I ever did. My dad was wrong. All I asked my dad to do was make sure my words were spelled correctly and the sentences were correct. My work wasn’t sloppy. Now I feel kind of sad because the story sounds like he was trying to make fun of me. I wish he’d stop telling things that aren’t true. The only time I wasn’t working on it was when he was tracing over my letters. The problem was he got carried away with my project. I could tell he wanted the trophy, too.

EDITOR’S RESPONSE: Daddy wasn’t making fun of you, and he doesn’t tell things that aren’t true. In fact, one of Daddy’s problems is that sometimes he actually tells things that are too true. Daddy is like a powerful 10,000-watt lightbulb of truth. Or maybe more like a truth laser—which, now that Daddy thinks about it, would be a cool science fair project for next year. But the point is, your little 8-year-old eyes aren’t yet ready to look directly at the type of truth that Daddy radiates. Remember when we talked about what irony is and how you sometimes don’t understand it but you will when you get older? Well, the story Daddy wrote about helping you with your science project was very ironic.

You see, Daddy writes stories in a magazine that’s read by an audience with an average age of 52 and a household income of $227,400. Daddy’s magazine isn’t meant for 8-year-olds. Mommy knows this. So the question you’ve got to ask yourself is, Why would Mommy read you Daddy’s story without first screening it for content that might be inappropriate for an 8-year-old—in particular, the 8-year-old who was featured in the story? Furthermore, why would Mommy call Daddy while he was playing poker at his friend’s house just to tell him, in a tone that could fairly be described as smug, that his story about the science fair project had made you cry and that when Daddy got home there would be waiting for him a letter to the editor dictated by you to Mommy? I’ll tell you why. Because Mommy likes to undermine Daddy. Given the chance, she’ll saw his legs off, right out from under him.

One day, when Daddy has the time, he’s going to write a best-selling self-help book on marriage, using what he’s learned over the past decade with Mommy. The book is going to be called Adversaries for Life: Everything You Ever Need to Know About Having a Happy Marriage Can Be Learned from Watching Tom and Jerry. Daddy’s going to make a million bucks on the book and leave Mommy for a younger woman.

Listen, forget the truth laser. There’s really no such thing. (Like Santa Claus.) For next year’s science fair project, conduct a little experiment in your own bedroom. When Mommy is tucking you in one night, after you’ve said your prayers, tell her that you’ve given it some thought and that you’ve come to the conclusion that Daddy isn’t just smarter than she is, but he’s also funnier, too. Be sure to record your data. And remember: Daddy’s here to help.

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