Do you have zaddy problems?

Of all the improbable cultural archetypes that have emerged in 2023, the Zaddy was the one I least expected. The word, used to describe a charismatic older man who is both stylish and sexually attractive, first appeared around 2008 but was not popularized until singer-songwriter Ty Dolla $ign wrote a 2016 song called ” Zaddy” published. Most of his lyrics are sub-release, but “she keep on callin’ me zaddy” is her favorite refrain.

Unlike a daddy (also popular as a slang term for an older sexual partner), a sugar daddy, or, god forbid, a dilf, the zaddy is more charisma-conscious. He’s more provocative. A flirt. Zaddies are usually unshaven, familiar with some gym equipment – although not married – and possess a gorgeous grin. He is dated but likes fashion – a paternalistic action man. The cable‘s Idris Elba is a zaddy. So is Gary Lineker and them mad Men Actor Jon Hamm. Brad Pitt is supposed to be a zaddy but somehow doesn’t make it.

TikTok has blossomed the expression into a new era, best in reference to Pedro Pascal, actor and star of The last of us. The mustachioed, 47-year-old has exploded into public consciousness as the series’ appointed protector of teenage girl Ellie, who (of course) holds the key to saving humanity. As someone who can shoot on target, stand guard while he sleeps, and look smoking in a leather jacket or sparkly silver lurex sweater, he’s the poster child for what Zaddy is all about.

Pascal has leaned into his new status with surprising nonchalance. Not everyone would be comfortable with being reminded of their age. In my experience, telling men they’re old enough to be your father isn’t usually the best way to flatter them. I remember a friend describing how a “slightly younger” colleague developed a habit of calling him “Dad” when they went to work events. She probably thought she was going to engage in a low-level banter. He avoided ever having to speak to her again.

What is even more surprising in this developing, emancipated epoch is that we should fall for such a retrograde archetype. Shouldn’t we be turning to more modern, less traditional models instead of reaching for the oldest man in history? I was searching last week Woolf works, choreographer Wayne McGregor’s interpretation of three books by Virginia Woolf. The section dedicated Orlando finds a troupe of dancers who transform into silvery, asexual beings. Seeing her was a reminder of how extraordinarily prescient Woolf was. Certainly, in this era of fluid gender identity and attitudes, the zaddy belongs to a bygone age.

Or maybe he’s just what we want in a time of flux, and the rise of the tough male protector hero is a corollary to these complicated, undivided times. As Freud would be the first to tell us, attraction to father figures has long been one of our creepy desires. It probably arose out of self-preservation, as until relatively recently women were often married off to men more than twice their age. Fiction is full of charismatic older guys willing to “save” women and give them a more exciting life. Mr. Rochester gives me total Zaddy vibes with his “little girl” endearments and references to “the man who only had a little lamb that was dear to him as a daughter.” (Of course, Charlotte Brontë doesn’t stick to any rules: in a clever reversal of the hero complex, it’s Jane Eyre who finally saves our man.)

Likewise, American culture is full of classy, ​​quiet beauties who transport teenage women across the continent. The last of us is basically a repeat of True grit or any other western where an epic journey must be taken to avenge an ancient justice on the open plains.

The zaddy is a cute twist, at least for the more toxic macho archetype. Like so many signs of cultural dominance, it owes its popularity to the enthusiasm of young women and gay men. And who wouldn’t love him? He’s comfortable on the dance floor, wears stylish clothes and knows how to have a laugh. But ultimately, he’s just the latest manifestation of a deep-seated need in Western culture to reassure men that their attractiveness doesn’t diminish with age.

Unfortunately, the female equivalent of a zaddy is still rare: Sigourney Weaver played the most epic of adoptive mothers in Foreigner, but that was almost 40 years ago, when she was in her mid-thirties. Meanwhile, the exhortation to “be my mom” on social media just doesn’t have the same appeal. Though it has been used to describe such icons as Beyoncé and the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the term “mother,” even as a feminist epithet, suggests a stronger emotional responsibility than it does with badassery and power. Intended as the ultimate form of flattery, it just doesn’t have that zaddy ring.

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