Robbie Williams miming to his own song while his wife gives birth (Thumbnail image via)
On Monday, Robbie Williams tweeted several videos of his wife Ayda in labour. In terms of retweets, favourites, YouTube views and all those other measures of online eminence, the clips have to feature some of the most viral contractions to ever grace the internet. However, unfortunately for Robbie and his nascent vlogging career, there were a few people who didn't approve of him dancing around and mouthing the lyrics to his own songs while his wife tried to push the couple's second child out of her vagina.
One commenter, for instance, said she'd "rip his bits off". Another called him a "narcissistic prick".
Mind you, the neggy commenters were in the minority; many more thought Robbie was just trying to lighten the mood in his own, typically annoying way. And given he probably understands the dynamics of his and Ayda's relationship better than some people on the internet, it's fair to assume he knows what's helpful and appropriate whenever they take a trip to the maternity ward.
Of course, that's a strange concept for some to comprehend. Because if Seth Rogen, Friends and - to a lesser extent - Junior have taught us anything, it's that men in the presence of childbirth are always bewildered simpletons bearing witness to something their brains just can't compute. Not confident entertainers drowning out their partner's screams with a rendition of the Frozen OST.
There may well have been a time where men would have stared, dazed and slack-jawed, at the scene unfolding in front of them. But nowadays - for a certain demographic, at least - the ritual of childbirth plays out in a very different way. For the banter generation whose adolescence was hinged around UTIs, Monster cocktails and muscle vests, labour isn't about gawping at the majesty of new life; it's about snapping yourself a banging selfie as your new-born takes its first gasp of hospital air.
Robbie's bedside performance reminded me of a "labour selfie" I'd originally seen posted to The LAD Bible Facebook page:
This guy isn't pacing the corridors or trying to comfort his soulmate any way he can, he's taking a selfie and posting it to the internet's "largest community for guys aged 16-30".
Shortly after his photo was uploaded, a few more banter merchants followed suit, posting similar selfies in the comments, accompanied by quips about the ease of childbirth. In every picture, the guy is grinning and the girl is grimacing - understandably, as they're all in the process of forcing a human being out of their own bodies.
Just like Robbie live-tweeting his wife's labour, these selfies probably seem a little objectionable to some. However, I couldn't help but warm to all these cheeky dad-lads. Were they really displaying a level of immaturity that suggests they'd make terrible fathers? Or were they just easing themselves into a life of responsibility in a manner familiar to them - a smooth(ish) transition from late-night tequila eyeball shots to early morning bottle feedings?
A number of commenters went with the former, decrying lad culture and lamenting the state of a world in which these men are setting an example. Thing is, there are plenty of guys I'd describe as "lads" who aren't complete pieces of shit. Just because you have a Fitness First membership and a Tapout hoody, doesn't mean you're suddenly more likely to grope, bully or vomit on strangers. Like any demographic, there are a few bad guys. But for most, being a "lad" just means having a laugh with your friends. You know, like a normal person.
And like any normal person, your liver will eventually tire and your dozens of sexual conquests might be distilled into a single partner. Lads will, like any generation, grow up. They might also start having kids. And they might, like hundreds of millions before them, realise they're accountable for another person besides themselves and learn how to be vaguely responsible. A few years down the line, they might even end up as pretty decent parents.
Robbie singing a song from the Frozen soundtrack while his wife gives birth
It's all this that made me wonder why people were so quick to criticise the dad-lads. The comments about these men "needing a slap", for instance, just came across as sanctimonious and completely misguided. Who actually believes that a jokey photograph or video determines a man's capability as a father, or as a husband? I contacted one new dad who'd posted a photo, and he agreed wholeheartedly. Admittedly, that was no huge surprise, but he raised a good point: "It was just something to look back on in a few years and laugh about."
I'm no expert on the subject (my only experience of childbirth was when I was being born, and I don't really remember that), but I always figured the experience was supposed to reveal a whole range of human emotion - an event where pain and anxiety might occasionally share space with joy and laughter.
Granted, Robbie was your mum's favourite singer long before the contemporary incarnation of banter; he had gold records when Robin Thicke still looked like Jennifer Aniston and bought a mansion a decade before Dapper Laughs started accosting women outside chicken shops. But his maturation into actual proper adulthood was presumably quite a recent one, coming sometime after he got the Xanax addiction and UFO hunting out of his system. So considering he came of age with the rest of the UK's most divisive sect of millennials, it's safe to lump him in with all the guys you'll soon see populating your Facebook feed with bedside baby selfies.
And I, for one, welcome that influx of identikit photos. Because for all the criticism of Robbie and his fellow dad-lads, they are present and supportive during the birth - ready, willing and excited to welcome their child into the world. Even if they do it in a way that might aggravate some people they're never going to meet.
As one commenter wrote, "Since when does labour have to be so serious?"
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