A text message arrives. The preponderance of emoji tells you that one of your children is manning the keyboard. At that moment, you have a choice. You can respond in full dad mode—with just the facts—or you can respond in kind. What do you do?
You pull up that other keyboard and you send the kissy winky face, that’s what you do. Sure, it’s not befitting your age and you always swore you wouldn’t be that dude, but you’ve forgone the graphic tee and the jeans that scream early twenties. Moreover, there’s no convertible in the driveway and you don’t try to go to the club on Friday nights. You’ve earned the right to embrace some slang, even if you’re 18 months behind the popularity curve.
Fortunately, in our modern communicative age, there are a plethora of tools to help us achieve this, much like El Guapo and his piñatas. Alas, like Hefe, we don’t necessarily understand all that lies in the arsenal, including the word “plethora,” and we fumble a bit. Ultimately, though, we’ll stumble into a close-enough approximation of meaning so that our random smattering of emoji, slang, and abbreviations prove sufficient. In fact, they’ll prove sufficient AF.
What Up, Fellow Kids?
In other words, it’s up to us to be that dude, to grow old with dignity, but not too much dignity. To be Steve Buscemi holding a skateboard and saying, “How do you do, fellow kids.” Being a little lame as we age is one of the proudest traditions we haven’t totally abandoned yet. It’s up to us to preserve it.
To do this, we’re going to have to go a little native, get into the spirit of all the ways kids aren’t using words to express thoughts and emotions. History is useful, given that our ancestors once used cave paintings and fire to get their messages across. In fact, in 2017, we’re pretty much back to using cave paintings and fire, though we’ve added dank memes to the mix, whatever those are.
Fire never really went out of style, I suppose, and is perhaps the dankest of communication methods. It’s hot, it’s cleansing, it pairs nicely with a torch and outrage. Nevertheless, we dads can skip past any discussion about fire, unless we’re less dad than we are pathetic waste of existence. If we can’t handle fire with skill, then we have failed and should cease all communication with the outside world post haste.
Proper Drainage Is Important to Lawn Maintenance
The gifs, the emoji, the acronyms are a bit tougher. They don’t come naturally as one progresses from being a stupid young boy to being a stupid young man to being a less stupid, slightly older young man to being a slightly less-stupid middle-aged dude who goes to Lowe’s on the weekend to buy bags of rocks. Six more bags should provide the depth you need so the water flows around your sitting area during a thunderstorm instead of through it.
This isn’t about rocks and drainage, though. No, we’re here because you busters need to learn how to pronounce gif. Then you need to learn how to share them. This is after you learn how to drop some fire emoji.
First, supposedly they have meanings. Ignore those and go at it with reckless abandon, choosing them based on what you think they’re conveying. Also bear in mind that some emoji look radically different on Android than on iOS. When in doubt, just go with heart eyes, which depending on audience can mean anything from “looks delicious” to “I love you, honey” while also serving as a valuable tool in expressing sarcasm or liking cleavage pics inspirational messages on Instagram.
Growing Old With Grace and Silliness
This means you’re going to have to have some platforms in which to use your non-words. Texts are most important, but Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are also fine venues. Granted, they’ve all got the potential to be dumpster fires. It’s up to you to keep them from reaching that point.
Most platforms have search functions that allow you to poke around and sort of figure out which gif or sticker is appropriate for the moment. Use those searches to your advantage, then say “screw it” and go with reckless abandon. Since they’re not actually words, you can’t mess up that badly. Plus, being too cool in old age makes you that guy which, as we established, is not the goal here. We’re staying a little lame.
Growing old gracefully doesn’t preclude you from having a little fun and enjoying the silliness life offers. You may even receive the shocking news that your nine-year-old’s friends consider you the “cool dad” because you know how to use emoji and don’t dress like you’ve given up, even if you skip the graphic tees.
Of course, it’s ephemeral. You will achieve lame dad status soon enough. But for a time, you will have met the young ‘uns on their level, assigning chores and expressing affection in a way they appreciate. Then, when the kids finally don’t have their grubby mitts on every electronic device your wife owns, you can send her the eggplant emoji and a winky face. She’ll get the message.