Hey Man: 'Am I Becoming My Dad?'

Our new men's issues columnist Rhys Thomas helps a reader who feels worried about the future. Plus: why do men hang around in cars?
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Hey man. Am I gonna become like my dad? Growing up we didn’t have a good relationship, and the older I get, the more I see his shortcomings in my character. I feel as if I’m on the same trajectory – AKA, the road to absolute nowhere. His face looks back through mine more than ever too.

Back when I was young, life seemed full of promise. But now I’m in my late twenties I can’t escape the thought that my life path is fixed to his. I feel like someone somewhere said that you always turn out like your parents. Is that true? Am I destined to become my dad, the more the years go on? Also will I go bald?


Hey man.

Thanks for writing in. This is a really important set of concerns, felt by many. The phrase “you can’t choose your family” is thrown around all too trivially, often in response to someone’s dickhead uncle or shit cousin. But when it comes to immediate family, it’s important to accept that sometimes we’re not blessed with happy, inspiring or even non-toxic relationships. It can feel lonely looking at the people who raised you, knowing you want to end up just about anywhere else.

While these issues are tied to the idea of becoming your father, I think the main concern is failure. After all, that’s the destination: are you going nowhere (like dad), or somewhere uncharted (your own path). The fact you feel less optimistic as you get older is logical too: there’s less time, more pressure, the doors of the world are closing. But honestly, life only moves forward. The fact you’ve written in suggests you’re being proactive about this – overcoming the anxiety of addressing something about yourself is huge. So there’s plenty to feel optimistic about.

Besides, you might be well on a journey to success already? If you’re not, your late-twenties is relatively young. Samuel L. Jackson had his first big break aged 41; Harry Bernstein gained fame for a memoir he published when he was 96; Stan Lee wrote his first comic at 39; Ian Wright was 27 when he signed for Arsenal (this is very old in football terms). These are all men who made it later in life. The reason I’m citing these examples is that it’s important to try to look for male role models beyond your father.


Destin Gerek, founder of The Evolved Masculine (a coaching and training company for men), says: “The more you hold your father as the primary male role model in your life, the more you're likely to follow those steps, even unconsciously. Having another or several role models, whether they take an interest in you or not, will help you to fixate on what you want to become and not on becoming your father.”

If I’m looking for inspiration, often I’ll type the name of a person I admire into YouTube or a podcast platform and I’ll listen to interviews with them. Men's groups (basically a meet-up system with other men) are another great shout, as they provide an all-male environment committed to growth. Some of the people you meet there might become friends and inspirations, and all will almost certainly support you.

Destiny is never set in stone, nor is it tied to genetics. Though, naturally, how we’re raised will have a large effect on our own behaviour. People can't help but be influenced by their parents/guardians' ways of being. We either unconsciously take traits on, or actively rebel against them – both reactions come from the same stimulus.

Gerek says, “Much of your concern is fear, there’s a focus on what you don't want. It's important to identify what it is you do want. The fact that you are thinking about this consciously means that you have the ability to do something about it.”


As for baldness, sadly that is tied more to genetics. Here, the most important figure is your maternal grandfather, as, weirdly, baldness is usually found on the X chromosome. You get this chromosome from your mum, and one of her X chromosomes is from her dad. So if he was bald, there’s about a 50 percent chance your mum has passed that on to you. Not all baldness-related genes are on the X chromosome, but then it isn’t all genetic either.

There’s not really a full understanding on how baldness works yet, though, so remember this isn’t foolproof. You may, at some point, have to embrace it. About half of men experience balding to some degree, many pull it off.

I hope this begins to help.

Thanks for talking.


Hey man. Why do men love sitting in cars so much? I'll see them parked up in their Hondas or whatever, their lights on, just sitting in the front seat. Sometimes they're not even with anyone or listening to music, they're just doing a solo hang-out on the kerb in total silence. Usually I'd just be like, "Whatever, they're a dealer," but I've seen everyone from middle-aged dads to younger guys doing it. Is it a “man-cave on wheels” kind of thing?

As a generalisation – yeah! I’ve noticed this too.

Think of guys hanging out alone in cars, and “boy racer” comes to mind for many. So we’ll go into that and then men “at large”. Dr Karen Lumsden is a sociologist who researches boy racers. In her research, she’s written that “for young men who are unable to find paid employment, or are in low paid jobs, cars and car-related practices are one means through which they can display their masculinity”.


So in this sense, it’s an ownership thing – you’re sitting in a space that is fully yours. If you live with parents still (as many young people do) and need to escape the house for a bit, you can. You can just drive somewhere with a view, park up, smoke and listen to music until the smell almost goes away. So the solo hangout applies to young men generally, but with boy racers I guess there’s an emphasis on the pride and joy of owning something too – the “man-cave on wheels” idea you’ve mentioned. This is perhaps why there’s a modification element involved too.

As for men who aren’t spending nights on Facebook Marketplace looking for a cheap Nissan Skyline and drift-appropriate tyres, sociologist Dr James Pattison says: “It has a lot to do with the blurring we have between the private sphere and the public sphere.”

This is the idea that, in modern society (and especially because of COVID-19), the public sphere (work and social activity) has been pushed into the private (our home). “We're always connected to the public sphere, whether it’s texts, work emails or social media,” Pattison adds.

Again, the car is their space, although this time it’s less about ownership, more about avoiding intrusion. Does that make sense?

Thanks for talking.


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