No occasion drags formality out of Jewish humorist Dan Zevin. Instead, when the Forward called to interview him at the set time of 10 a.m. on a Sunday, he was dripping wet. “Actually, I’m just getting out of the shower and walking down the hall to my office,” he confessed. “You know what? Let me just get dressed, and I’ll call you right back on the landline, so everything will be more” — covered? this reporter wanted to ask —“clear,” he said.
Zevin, at 47, is the author of four collections of comic essays on his life progression from slacker to spouse to smitten dad. His fumbling his way through fatherhood from the front seat of his blotational SUV is the theme of his new book, “Dan Gets a Minivan: Life at the Intersection of Dude and Dad” (Scribner). The book is the latest in his series of satirical titles (“Entry-Level Life: A Complete Guide To Masquerading as a Member of the Real World,” “The Nearly-Wed Handbook: How To Survive the Happiest Day of Your Life” and “The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-up.”) All present him as giggling his way toward the milestones of adulthood — yet meeting them nonetheless.
His new book frames him, in kind, as both front-runner and backpedaler. As a stay-at-home dad and primary caregiver to son Leo, 8, and daughter Josie, 5, Zevin is a poster boy for egalitarian — even feminist — fatherhood. But at the same time, he presents himself as a loving goof-off: a guy who’s picked the most enjoyable option — parenting — over working a high-powered, full-time job, while wife Megan, an editor at Little, Brown and Company, makes the sustaining bucks.
“When the kids came, I just decided that being a dad was a lot more fun,” he said. That is, compared with his former jobs of teaching magazine journalism at New York University and writing about celebrity fitness videos for The Walking magazine. (“They didn’t say, ‘Do not be funny,’” he said of his editors, “but it was meant to be a serious review.”) Instead, he sent up the flicks in a satirical piece that he sold to Spy magazine, and he morphed into a humor writer.
Since then, Zevin has capitalized on his endearing schlepdom — instead of a diaper bag, he packs baby gear in his multi-pocket cargo pants! — which he’s made into his visual punch line. (Blogging for The Huffington Post on “Fashion Week for Suburban Dads,” he writes: “For Day Two, we’re turning up the heat even more, because this father is feeling frisky. This morning, I cat-walked into my kitchen decked out in an 8-year-old bathrobe, Adidas tennis pants and open-toe, massaging sports sandals ensemble. Make no mistake. When I wore it to take the recycling outside this morning, it was obvious what Mrs. Lowenstein next door was thinking: [admiring expletive deleted].”) With nods to Woody Allen and Larry David, Zevin has forged a persona of half-dorky (yet all-devoted) Jewish dad that’s endearing and, what’s more, marketable.