Interview: Dave Barry: You Can Date Boys When You're Forty


“One day at 4:30 in the afternoon,” Dave Barry writes in his latest book, his 13-year old daughter Sophie, “went into her bathroom, which is pink, and WHOOM!, some kind of massive hormone bomb went off there.”


The result has been utter chaos, both for Sophie, and especially for Dave himself, who’s having to deal with a massive influx of boys visiting his house. “They come around.  They come around all the time now.  There didn’t used to be boys in our life.  And now there are boys on the lawn, on the roof, in the trees.  They’re like squirrels; they’re just boys coming around.”

“And I don’t like it, Ed,” he insists. “ I used to be a boy.  I’ve been a male my entire life.  And let’s be honest.  We’re scum.  Of all the genders, we’re the worst one.  And that’s exactly the gender that is showing up now around our house.  And I Don’t. Like. It.”

Which is why the title of Dave’s latest book is based on reading the Riot Act to his daughter: You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About.

Perhaps Barry is overreacting just a minuscule amount to the situation. On the other hand, you’d be feeling a bit harried too, if you recently returned from the following nightmare scenarios:

  • Going to your first Justin Bieber concert and listening to a stadium full of teenage girls shouting “I loooooove you!!!! I loooooove you, Justin!!!!!!”  into your ear all night long.
  • Paying a fortune for tickets to take your daughter to said Justin Beiber concert, only for her to eventually discover that the Bieb is an idiot. Which Barry had pointed out to her before plunking out money for the concert.
  • Pondering what women see in 50 Shades of Grey, and asking your wife if she wants to try out the book’s scenario.
  • Visiting Israel on a quest for free Wi-Fi throughout the Holy Land.
  • Rappelling down an Israeli desert cliff and risking pooping on a rabbi due to total loss of sphincter control.
  • Having people approach you constantly to praise your article on the importance of colonoscopies.
  • The easy way for first time authors to promote their works by get booked on nationally-watched network talk shows by showing up at the studio door unannounced 15 minutes before airtime.

All of which we’ll discuss in our latest interview, and more. Click here to listen:


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Transcript of our interview begins on the following page; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.


MR. DRISCOLL:  This is Ed Driscoll for PJ, and we’re speaking today with legendary humorist Dave Barry of the Miami Herald, and the author the new book, You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About. It’s published by G.P. Putnam, and available from and your local bookstore. And Dave, thank you for stopping today.

MR. BARRY:  Thanks for having me.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Dave, we’ll discuss your book, which I thought was endlessly funny  in just a moment, but first, I want to thank for your brilliant column in 2008 on colonoscopies, which helped get me through four of them last year.


MR. BARRY:  Four!

MR. DRISCOLL:  Three were emergencies, one was exploratory, and it led to surgery on my colon, which is why I’m able to speak to you today.

MR. BARRY:  Well, I’m glad you did it.  I never thought when I wrote that column, what I was getting into.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Or what was getting into you!

MR. BARRY:  Exactly.  And I have had ‑‑ as a result of that column ‑‑ it got a lot of attention.  And I have had more conversation with complete strangers about their colons as a result of this.  And I’ll get on ‑‑ to this day, as soon as I get on a plane, somebody will yell, Dave, I got a colonoscopy!  You know, from somewhere I hear this voice calling out.

And I actually won an award, a prestigious award, from the ‑‑ I think it’s called the American Society of Colon and Rectal Surgeons, which usually gives the award to, you know, somebody who actually knows something.  But they gave it to me.  So I was honored.  And I’m glad to hear that you’re okay.  I mean, I assume you’re okay.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Very much so.

MR. BARRY:  Good.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Your new book begins with the following ‑‑

MR. BARRY:  I’m sorry.  That’s my dog.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Wait, which dog is that?

MR. BARRY:  This is Lucy.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Oh, okay.

MR. BARRY:  And I apologize for Lucy doing that.  I’m going to ‑‑

MR. DRISCOLL:  And well, Lucy appears on the book.

MR. BARRY:  ‑‑ I’ll kick her out of here in a minute, if she keeps doing that.  A very disturbing thing happened, which is that a dog went by outside.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Oh, okay.

MR. BARRY:  And so somebody’s got to point that out, or ‑‑

MR. DRISCOLL:  Your new book begins with the following terrifying moment, involving your daughter, where you write that, “One day at 4:30 in the afternoon, Sophie went into her bathroom, which is pink, and WHOOM!, some kind of massive hormone bomb went off there.”  How on earth does this happen, and what are some of the ramifications?

MR. BARRY:  Well, I’m not sure how it happens.  I have son.  He’s an older son.  He’s grown up.  He went through puberty a long time ago.  And it’s not a big deal when the boy goes through puberty.  A boy becomes a larger, hairier, smellier boy.  But he’s still a boy.  And to be honest, biologically, men are nothing but larger, hairier, smellier boys.

But girls, I was not prepared.  I mean, I was prepared sort of for the physical changes, I guess.  But that suddenly there would be this woman walking around, where there used to be this little girl.  And I could ‑‑ I guess, I could handle that, if it weren’t for the fact that it brings boys around.  They come around.  They come around all the time now.  There didn’t used to be boys in our life.  And now there are boys on the lawn, on the roof, in the trees.  They’re like squirrels; they’re just boys coming around.

And I don’t like it, Ed.  I used to be a boy.  I’ve been a male my entire life.  And let’s be honest.  We’re scum.  Of all the genders, we’re the worst one.  And that’s exactly the gender that is showing up now around our house.  And I Don’t. Like. It.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, as you write in the following chapter, “I have already made the ultimate sacrifice.  I took my daughter to a Justin Bieber concert.”  As Ed McMahon would say, how bad was it?

MR. BARRY:  It was so bad! Honestly, I’ve been in a hurricane.  I live in Miami.  And I went through Hurricane Andrew, and that was very loud.  It was a loud thing to listen to.  But it didn’t compare, volume-wise, to the decibel output of just the single girl standing next to me all night at the Justin Bieber concert, who ‑‑ and the thing about it is, there were 17,000 people in that ‑‑ in that arena, of whom maybe 8 were dads.  And everybody ‑‑ the rest of them were girls.


And girls, when they’re really happy, they’re experiencing joy, ecstasy ‑‑ there they were with Justin Bieber, make this sound ‑‑ it doesn’t sound like a happy sound.  It sounds like weasels are gnawing their feet off.  It’s like this wail, “I loooooove you; I loooooove you, Justin!!!!!!”  Right in my ear, all night long.

So it was painful.  And the thing is, it cost a fortune to buy the tickets to the Justin Bieber concert.  And I had to sit through a Justin Bieber concert.  I’m not a fan.

And now, my daughter doesn’t even like him anymore.  She thinks he’s an idiot.  Which I pointed out before we went to the Justin Bieber concert.  But no, now she thinks he’s an idiot, after we paid for the tickets.  Now she likes something called One Direction, which is scary, because there’s five of them.

MR. DRISCOLL:  By the way, I loved your referencing the Electric Factory in Philadelphia.  I don’t think I ever went to the Electric Factory, but God knows, I saw plenty of rock groups at the Philadelphia Spectrum, growing up in South Jersey.

MR. BARRY:  Oh, man, I didn’t realize you were a Philly boy.  But yes. And what I was pointing out there was, in the day, back when I used to go to concerts, the band stood still.  You know, the band kind of had to.  They had instruments. If you went to see the Rolling Stones, maybe Mick would run around a little bit.  But the rest of the band stood in one place.  Keith, I don’t think, could move, even if he wanted to.

But now Justin Bieber, it’s like a track meet.  He comes down out of the sky.  He’s running over here.  He’s running over there.  He’s got dancers running around with him.  It’s very frantic.  And I think it’s to distract your attention away from the fact that their music sucks. And I don’t mean to be judgmental, but their music does suck.

And every time he runs by, there’s more “I loooooooove you.”  It stirs them up.

MR. DRISCOLL:  I interviewed P.J. O’Rourke last month about the contrast ‑‑

MR. BARRY:  Ahh, good man, P.J.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Indeed! P.J.’s new book is on the contrast between the Greatest Generation and the Boomers; you mention in your new book that your dad built your house.

MR. BARRY:  Yes.  Yeah.  I wrote an essay about manliness, and my theory being that ‑‑ that we are not as manly as our dads were ‑‑ the greatest generation dads.  And my dad was a Presbyterian minister.  He had no training in carpentry or being an electrician or plumbing or anything else.  But he also had no money, when ‑‑ when we were growing up in this little town called Armonk, New York.

So he built the house.  I mean, he dug the foundation by hand.  He poured the foundation, put up the walls.  He would read books or get people to tell him how to do these things.  And our house had a lot of flaws as a result of this; it’s a giant do-it-yourself project.  But he did do it.

I could not do that in a million years.  I mean, I am very excited, I consider myself very manly, when I successfully install an app on my phone.  I’m like, whoa, look at that — I put that on there!  But building a house, I couldn’t do it.

So I wrote an essay about how to do manly ‑‑ how to do manly things:  how to cook a steak; how to jumpstart a car; how to survive in the wilderness.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, do you think that these tips will help usher in the return of the manly, capable, manly man?


MR. BARRY:  Not if they follow my tips they won’t!  It would result in many deaths.  Like for example, the way I say you should survive in the wilderness, I’m giving it away ‑‑ but it’s free! — just a free tip.  If you are lost in the wilderness, anywhere in North America, the important thing is to panic.  Just get up and run, screaming, in any direction.  And if you are in North America, within twenty minutes, you will come to a Starbucks.

But really, the manliest tip I give is – and I believe in this very strongly ‑‑ how to dress like a man.

The New York Times, among many other things, has a bee in its bonnet about men wearing Capri pants.  Every six months, for like decades, the New York Times’ men’s fashion section has declared that Capri pants are going to be in for men.  And they always have a picture of models, you know, who are paid to wear them, wearing Capri pants.  And even they don’t look that happy about it, you know.

And very few people outside of New York are stupid enough to actually go buy Capri pants.  But I argue that you should not. But people say, yeah, but there are some countries where men wear Capri pants.  And I go yeah, but none of those countries has ever won a war.

MR. DRISCOLL:  But they looked fabulous in defeat. Have women become equally confused by the arrival of the twenty-first century?

MR. BARRY:  Well, I don’t know if confused is the word.  But one of the essays that I wrote in the book is about a very woman phenomenon, which is Fifty Shades of Gray, which is the bestselling book of modern times ‑‑ the bestselling book.  I believe 100 million copies of this book were sold.  Almost all of those to women.

And so I thought I’m going to read this book.  I cannot imagine a book selling that amount.  I’m going to read this book and find out what it is that we can learn about women from the book.

So I read the book, and Spoiler Alert: the plot of this book.  This young woman gets into a relationship with this guy.  He’s 27 years old, he’s very hot.  She cannot tell you enough times how hot he is.  And he’s a billionaire.  Okay, so, again, I can get that.  Okay, 27-year-old hot billionaire.

But the key to the plot is, he wants to tie her up and hit her.  That’s his thing, sexually.  And so he ‑‑ the whole book ‑‑ the plot goes on ‑‑ I mean, the book goes on for 300-or-some-odd pages, during which, you know, they have sex, and then he wants to tie her up and hit her, but she doesn’t want to tie her up and hit her, because she things it might hurt.  But the sex is really great, and she really likes him, but he wants to tie her up and hit her.

So it goes on and on and on like that.  And finally, at the end ‑‑ spoiler alert! ‑‑ she lets him tie her up and hit her, and it hurts.  She doesn’t like it.  And that’s the end of the book.

I read this whole book.  And I’m very confused.  I go to my wife who has not read the book, and I say, do you secretly want me to tie you up and hit you?  And she goes, “No.”  So here’s where we’re left with.

There are four elements to this guy.  All right: he’s 27, he’s hot, he’s a billionaire, and he likes to tie people up and hit them.  Of those four things, the only one that I could actually do is tie somebody up and hit them.  And my wife doesn’t want that.  Okay?  So I’ve got nothing.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, but what if there’s free WiFi Internet access involved?


MR. BARRY:  You’re referring to there to one of the essays I wrote, which involves a trip I took to Israel with my family.  I am not Jewish.  My wife is Jewish.  She’s actually Cuban-Jewish.  There are a lot of them in Miami, Cuban Jews.  They call themselves Jewbans, believe it or not.  And they didn’t come over on rafts.  They parted the Caribbean to get here.

And anyway, our daughter’s being raised Jewish.  And so we belong to a temple which allows me, even, to belong, even though I’m not really Jewish.  And so this last summer, we went to Israel.  And I wrote an essay about that called “Seeking WiFi in the Holy Land,” because one of the things about modern travel, I guess everybody knows this now, is that the first thing you want to determine, no matter where you are, is, is there WiFi there?

I mean, if you go the Sphinx, you are going to check the Sphinx out, but first you’re going to say, does the Sphinx have WiFi? Because you know, it’s very important to be able to send, emails and stuff, and check Internet.

So I we went to Israel, and it was really interesting.  We were kind of nervous going over there, [asking,] would it be safe?  And we felt safe; nothing bad happened.  We actually loved it; we had a good time.  I would say the scariest thing I did, one of the scariest things I did, was ride a camel.

I do not advise riding the camel ‑‑ it’s not a comfortable ride, the camel.  It’s scary.  And after half a mile on a camel, I was thinking, if this is how people had been getting around this part of the world, no wonder it’s so tense here.


Photo from Kindle edition of Dave’s book. Click to enlarge.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Perhaps even more dangerous than riding the camel, how serious was the risk of pooping on a rabbi while rappelling down a chasm in Israel?

MR. BARRY:  Yeah.  My daughter kind of was the reason for [this]. I shouldn’t be blaming my daughter for everything bad that’s happening.  But one of the activities, one of the optional activities, was called rappelling, where you go off a cliff on a rope.  I’m not big on heights.  I didn’t really want to do this.  But my daughter thought it was a great idea; thought it would be fun.

And you can’t say, okay, I’m afraid to do that, you go ahead and do it.  You have to do it, if your daughter’s going to do it.

So we get to [the cliff], and I just assumed that there would be some kind of ‑‑ I don’t know, in America if you’re going to go off a cliff, and somebody is running this as a business, you’re going to spend like two hours watching videos on safety and signing release forms generated by lawyers.  And this was not the situation.

We get out there, we’re on this cliff, just overlooking the Negev desert.  It looked way down there, straight down there [from atop] this cliff.  And there’s this one guy standing there with this ring bolt bolted into the cliff, and some ropes, and that’s it.  That’s the whole thing.  You don’t sign anything.  He puts this on you, and then you’re going to back off the cliff.

So our rabbi, Rabbi Edwin Goldberg, went first, very brave of him, I thought.  And he’s down at the bottom.  Okay, he’s at the other end of it.  Anyway, then this other kid went.  Then it was my turn to go.  And I’m thinking, I’m going to lose sphincter control here.  And I don’t know what the penalty in Israel is for pooping on a rabbi.


MR. DRISCOLL:  It can’t be good.

MR. BARRY:  Probably pretty serious.  I could have started an international incident here.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Well, you survived rappelling down the chasm.  You apparently did not poop on the rabbi.  Then you visited the ‑‑

MR. BARRY:  That I know of, no.

MR. DRISCOLL:  ‑‑ the Dead Sea?

MR. BARRY:  Oh, the Dead Sea.  Yeah, this is a good example of the kind of thing only tourists are stupid enough to do.  When you think about it, the Dead Sea, you know, nothing lives in the Dead Sea.  Even really, really, stupid animals like fish, don’t live in the Dead Sea.  They’re smart enough.  They’re smarter than tourists.

So you get there; you’re on a bus; you get out of the bus, and there’s all these signs leading up to the Dead Sea, which would be the same signs you would see if it were a toxic waste dump.  It was like:  do not open your eyes. Do not immerse your head.  Do not swallow the water.  You know, seek help immediately. In other words, they’re basically saying, you moron, don’t go in this.

And of course, you notice the Israelis aren’t in there.  The Israelis are hundreds of yards away.

So no, we’re the tourists, so we just go okay, let’s go and take a picture of ourselves bobbing around in the Dead Sea.  And, on the one hand, everything they say is true.  You can’t sink in it; you kind of bob ‑‑ which tells you it’s not really water.  It’s some kind of toxic sludge.

And then after, I would say, ten seconds after you’re in there, every orifice in your body starts to sting. Every. Orifice. In your body.  It’s really an unpleasant feeling.  And then, you wonder, why ‑‑ why did I do that?  Because I’m a tourist!  That’s why.

MR. DRISCOLL: One serious question I wanted to ask you, based on your chapter on Israel.  Our mutual friend James Lileks has written about keeping politics off of his blog, because of the likelihood that half your audience will read your political writing and think, “Oh, man, you’re one of those guys.” Did you have serious concerns about writing the chapter about Israel and the Palestinians?

MR. BARRY:  I did, for two reasons.  One is, I’m not really qualified to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  You know, I’m on the Israeli side of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, if that means anything.  In other words, I support the State of Israel.

But I don’t feel as though I’m intellectually competent or educationally competent to argue that.  And the other is, there’s so many emotions, so strong on both sides.  James’ point is valid: why drag that in, when you’re really not trying to convince anybody of anything, you’re just trying to entertain them.

And I’ve generally stuck to that in my writing and in my columns and my blogs.  I mean, I’m libertarian.  I’ve been one for a long, long time.  And I guess that maybe you could guess that if you read what I write about the government.  But I try hard not to just shove it down people’s throats.  My feeling has always been there are enough people shoving things down our throats already.  And most of them know more than I do anyway.

But yeah, that was a concern.  You know, should I write about this?  And there was one part in the Israel chapter; I went to Yad Vashem, which is an incredibly difficult experience.  It’s the Holocaust memorial museum in Jerusalem.  And it’s incredibly powerful.  There was no way I was going to leave it out, but there was also no way I was going to write about it as a humor thing.  So I got a little dark there, but I thought that was worth leaving in.


MR. DRISCOLL:  And Dave, last question, which deals with the last chapter in your new book, which is titled “How to Become a Professional Author.” For the benefit of those listening who would benefit from your advice, could you give our listeners your most important recommendations?

MR. BARRY:  Yeah.  I would say that, you know, first of all, don’t worry, it’s not that hard.  I’m not saying that if you read this book you will, in three months, be making as money as Stephen King.  That could take your as long as six months, if you follow the advice in my ‑‑

But my main piece of advice is on the one big question: how do you get on a big-time TV show?  How do you get on the Daily Show or the Today Show, that kind of show, to promote your book?  And the answer is: You just show up.

They’re always looking for guests.  And if you’ve got a book to push, just show up, knock on the door, you know, usually, 10, 15 minutes before air time.  They’ll be glad to have you on the show.

MR. DRISCOLL:  And snacking is involved in journalism, isn’t it?

MR. BARRY:  Well, a professional author snacks a great deal.  I probably eat ten to fifteen things involving peanut butter per hour.  That’s very important.  You need a lot of peanut butter to be a successful author.

MR. DRISCOLL:  Dave, we’ll let you get back to your peanut butter and other snacking. This is Ed Driscoll, and we’ve been speaking with real life professional author Dave Barry, whose latest book is titled You Can Date Boys When You’re Forty: Dave Barry on Parenting and Other Topics He Knows Very Little About. It’s published by G.P. Putnam, and available from and your local bookstore. And Dave, thank you once again for stopping by PJ today.

MR. BARRY:  Ed, it was my pleasure. Thank you.

(End of recording; for our many previous podcasts, start here and keep scrolling.)

Transcribed by, with minor revisions (including hyperlinks) by Ed Driscoll. Artwork created using elements from


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