Expert Q&A

Q&A with Dave Barry: A perpetual adolescent looks at parenting


As his daughter matures, the comedy writer doesn’t, but is thankful his wife can confront credit card-wielding parents of Bieber worshipers

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For Dave Barry, America’s oldest adolescent, ignorance is no excuse not to have a little fun.

In his latest collection, “You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About,” Barry doesn’t let his own cluelessness stand in the way of expounding on Justin Bieber, “Fifty Shades of Grey,” credit card ninja moms or his personal white whale, manliness.

Wedged — or more correctly, wedgied — in between the timeless silliness that earned Barry a Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1988 (“Pending a recount,” he adds), the 66-year-old longsuffering Miamian ponders the daily puzzlements of his 13-year-old daughter Sophie, his Miami Herald sportswriter wife Michelle Kaufman, and the specter of that weird guy in the shadows with the black robe and sickle.

Q: So. Sophie has, what, a quarter century to wait before dating?

A: I’m thinking of making it a little later, actually. I was looking for an age that would be well past my death. I know what kind of scum I’m talking about — I am one — so I speak with authority on the inappropriateness of guys in general having anything to do with any woman, especially my daughter.

Q: Has bringing up Sophie been different from raising your son Rob?

A: Oh, completely, 100 percent different. I love my son, he was a great kid, but neither he nor I are as mature as Sophie was when she was about 4. I think that’s the big difference. Girls grow up fast; they become adults at an incredibly early age. I guess now maybe I would leave my son home alone (he’s 33), but I could have left Sophie home alone when she was 7, and she would have handled everything fine. She’s very mature. And they smell better.

Q: How do you spend quality time together?

A: Well, with Rob, our idea of a really fun weekend would be to go to a computer store and buy software, and she’s not interested in that at all. She’s interested in exchanging 63,000 texts per hour with her vast network of friends. She has way more friends than I do, and they’re all connected, all over the world. If they ever used their connectivity for good or for anything, they would take over the world. Fortunately, they’re really too busy with trivia for world domination, but if they wanted to, they’re much more technologically savvy and organized than we are.

Q: You’re one of the rare male parents to survive a live Justin Bieber concert. What was that like?

A: It’s not about the music. You could barely hear the music, and it’s not that musical to begin with. It’s like this mass worship service with this little dweeb-y, skinny person running around. It’s very hard to understand. The closest I could come was, I was a teenager when The Beatles were big. But in my opinion, The Beatles were a very good band and they were actually playing music.

Q: You write that the merchandise or “merch” table is actually the attraction, “overrun with moms fully capable of decapitating an opposing shopper using only their MasterCards.”

A: The scene around the merch table is one of the scarier things I’ve ever seen, all women armed to the teeth with credit cards. And my wife went into that and came back out with T-shirts! It’s one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen her do. She’s a braver person than I am, by a mile.

Q: Should you be called upon for concert duty again, will you prepare differently?

A: You mean other than having an attack of appendicitis right before? I don’t think I have a choice, but there’s really no way to prepare. I guess earplugs would have helped, but maybe not. I think earplugs might be dissolved by the frequency of the screaming that goes on.

Everybody ends up here, including many animal life forms, including Burmese pythons. Everything that is sort of fleeing from captivity or normal society ends up in Miami.

Q: Since that concert, the Beebs has had his bad-boy ticket punched in Miami. Circumstance or destiny?

A: (Laughs) Yeah, if you’re really going to screw up badly, this is the town. O.J. Simpson ended up here. Everybody ends up here, including many animal life forms, including Burmese pythons. Everything that is sort of fleeing from captivity or normal society ends up in Miami. We’re just a swirling stew of abnormal behavior, so he fit right in, racing his rented Lamborghini on Miami Beach. Where else do you even have rental Lamborghinis, much less let stoned 19-year-olds rent them?

Q: Now you’re starting to sound your age! Speaking of which, you were less than thrilled to be on the receiving end of the Medicare mail tsunami that arrives when you turn 65.

A: They never, ever, ever stop reminding you! It’s bad enough to be old without being constantly reminded of how much being old sucks, with all of these people who want to help you with all of these problems that you old people have!

Q: On the other hand, with age comes wisdom, right?

A: No! That’s the thing! I keep waiting for it to strike, to kick in, but I feel as though I know less now than I did 20 years ago! I’ve forgotten a lot of things, and whatever I did know is useless now, like how to operate a slide rule. I don’t feel wiser.

Part of it is, I just keep thinking there must be older, wiser people than I am at the helm. And I’ve got to stop that because everybody running the entire world now is younger than I am: the president, all of Congress, the justices on the Supreme Court. If I don’t know anything, what do they know?

Q: To compensate for your want of wisdom, you have an encyclopedic recall of song lyrics by the Beach Boys, the Kingsmen and Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs. Can you explain this?

Your brain is very stupid, in my opinion. It’s the dumbest, most overrated organ in your body for what it chooses to remember.

A: (Laughs) I don’t know. Your brain is very stupid, in my opinion. It’s the dumbest, most overrated organ in your body for what it chooses to remember. For example, I do not know my blood type, I don’t know my daughter’s blood type, but I do know all of the lyrics to thousands of songs, many of which I detest. My brain has elected to make those the highest priority, far higher than something like my blood type, which could actually be useful at some point!

Q: Still, you’ve used this accident of nature for good — well, arguably — as vocalist and principal guitar god for the late, lamented Rock Bottom Remainers, the all-author oldies band that included, among others, Mitch Albom, Stephen King, Amy Tan and Ridley Pearson.

A: Nobody lamented it, and nobody has asked for us to come back together — although we did briefly in November, and we were as bad as we remembered; we had not improved at all. The actual professional musicians that we performed with, including Roger McGuinn, Warren Zevon and even Bruce Springsteen, were unanimous that we should not quit our day jobs.

Q: You address the “big D” with your usual candor. You’ve even sketched out your funeral program, including a eulogy to be delivered by William Shatner and a choir singing Howlin’ Wolf’s immortal version of the Willie Dixon classic, “Wang Dang Doodle.” So, in the afterlife, will you be able to “pitch a wang dang doodle all night long,” and if so, what would that involve?

A: (Growl-sings) “All night long.” Like a lot of blues lyrics I sang in college, I really never did understand what the hell they were talking about. For instance, I remember singing a lot about having my mojo working, but I don’t really know what a mojo is. I didn’t really have my mojo working; I had nothing working when I was in college.

Q: In addition to being a repository of useless song lyrics, you’re also a fan of anagrams. In fact, you tweet under an anagram of your own name: rayadverb.


I do love anagrams, and I don’t know why. I do have one in this book about Leonardo DiCaprio, and I think it’s kind of a triumphant one: a ‘ripe raccoon dildo.’ There’s a lot of information about Leonardo DiCaprio out there, but I don’t think anybody ever dug that up.

Q: Your chapter “Seeking Wifi in the Holy Land,” which chronicles your experiences as a family traveling to Israel on a group tour, takes place primarily in gift shops. How is this possible?

A: That’s because my wife is the Navy Seal Team 6 of shoppers. She got through to the Justin Bieber merchandise counter, there’s nothing she can’t get through to buy something. We ended up with just a couple menorahs on that trip, but I don’t think we’re done. We’re going to maybe corner the world market on menorahs before we’re done. Somewhere in the high 80 percentile of all the world’s menorahs will be in our house before Michelle is done.

Q: Here’s the big reveal: Does Sophie have a credit card yet?

A: Bite your tongue! I would rather she wait until I’m dead! But no, she’s very responsible. She could probably have a credit card now. But don’t tell her that.

See related:Q&A with ‘What To Do When I Get Stupid’ author Lweis Mandell

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