You can spot him from 50 yards away. He comes in many reincarnations. He may be passively holding a purse and staring off into the distance, standing there like a lost puppy in the middle of Nordstrom Rack. He may be a scowling lump on a couch outside of a Brighton store. At his most enthusiastic, he may be distracting himself from the pain of being surrounded by hoards of teenage girls by scarfing down his feelings – in the form of a Cinnabon or a Crunchwrap Supreme; but this is in rare form, as his wife will probably materialize at any second and tell him to ‘throw that crap away’ because ‘his blood pressure is already skyrocketing’.
He is heckled by the tween friends of his children that he was forced to take to the mall. “Mister, can we go here? Mister, can I get a soda? Mister! Mister! MISTER!” His wife is consumed by some camel skin novelty at Saks, so he has to fend them all off alone.
Some are more seasoned veterans at being the beer-bellied guardians of the consumerism orgy known as the mall. Many of them start when their children are still in strollers, and don’t stop until two or three more children finally hit mid adolescence. These are the most tragic brand of mall dads. Their flabby waistline, patchy facial hair, and dismal hair line are often more exacerbated as compared to dads of only children.
He gives the other mall dads a knowing nod, and sometimes, two of them is, on a rare occasion, left alone on the uncomfortable mall benches to commiserate passive aggressively by talking about some ‘man subject’ (hunting, work) instead of broaching the topic of their indignance – that they will be relegated to the role mall dads until their daughters turn 14. And at that time, they turn into “forgotten dads” that wait up at home until 11 p.m. on weekends waiting for some shmuck with a faux-hawk wearing Abercrombie and Fitch and bleach white Adidas to bring their sweet baby girl home after God-knows-what forbidden activities. The extent of his conversational skills with said mall dad is a flippant, “Sup”.
But even though all mall dads have an understanding and a clandestine cult amongst themselves, there is still a hierarchy within their midst. Of course, rich doctor dads are at the top of this hierarchy, ones with only one child. But, after one kid, it all goes downhill for doctors. Wealth and conspicuous consumption only look cool when there is one spoiled brat to bestow these worldly blessings upon. On the second-to-top tier are the regular dads. These are the dads that wear regular guy clothes that come from Dick’s Sporting Goods, as opposed to wearing Banana Republic and brands like Hugo Boss that doctor mall dads wear (but only to be ironically metrosexual). The regular dads are relatively unfazed by having a huge clan of children, and unlike Doctor Dad, his status in the mall dad hierarchy isn’t dependent on the number of kids that he herds. Either way, regular mall dad may look great and be semi-athletic in his 20’s (if he’s lucky, his early 30’s as well), but he will end up fat with a shaved head to cover up his bald spot by 45. At the bottom of the totem pole is the bashful Old Navy dad, who is always confused, always moneyless as a result of his 4+ children, and always checking out barely legal blonde girls in the absence of his frumpy wife.
Regardless of hierarchy position, the mall dad has many woes, one of which is the ‘cool’ mall dad (a.k.a. pre-mall dad). He has athletic thighs and great cheekbones and fashionable leather flip-flops or that he somehow pulls off with athletic shorts and a skintight, neon yellow Under Armour shirt. But then the mall dad sees ‘cool’ mall dad’s expectant wife, and he smirks. The fate of ‘cool’ mall dad is sealed, and he will be sitting on the mall dad communal bench this time next year, chowing down on a cheese-filled pretzel and slowly dying on the inside.