Photo: Dana Veraldi
Words: Conor McKeon
LA, 2023

Miles Garber wants you to rethink masculinity. The former model and new dad is on a quest to change the conversation around manhood in America, with a new focus on vulnerability and compassion. Through his venture Call Me Dada, Garber provides material, cultural, and emotional resources for those navigating the nuances of modern fatherhood.

We spoke to him following a shoot by photographer Dana Veraldi in and around his LA digs. Our far-ranging conversation touched on everything from his early punk days, to body dysmorphia in men, to raising a child respectful of trans rights.


Conor McKeon:  Thanks so much for joining us, Miles. Let’s start by going into your personal style a bit. Give us a peek into your aesthetic.

Miles Garber:  I've always dressed Military-esque. Military slacks, vintage Pendleton jackets, vintage band tees. Corridor fits really perfectly into that, the knitwear, all the crochets. I’m really into this idea of men embracing their femininity, so I love to bring together combat boots and military pants and a crochet cardigan, you know what I mean?

CM:  I'm literally wearing wool military slacks, vintage Docs, our Acid Plaid Rumba, and a peach cardigan right now. There are things about that masculine aesthetic I find very beautiful, the clean silhouettes and deep colors, and the knitwear and soft palette adds so much femininity and playfulness.

MG:  Yeah, exactly, you get it. My mom crochets, so it's in my wheelhouse. 

CM: Tell me a little bit about her. 

MG:  She was a first-generation punk, actually gave me my first pair of doc martens when I was 8. She grew up going to CBGB, seeing GG Allin. So punk music, hardcore music, it was playing in my house constantly as a kid. Black Flag, Dead Kennedys, it was all very normalized.

I'm really grateful for my mom, and for the high school she sent me to. It was one of the worst high schools in LA, but I was in an Arts magnet program, with teachers that really cared about us, and I think having teachers like that and a mom like that saved my life.

CM:  Is that punk ethos and aesthetic something you intend to pass down to your child?

MG: I play the music for her because I want her to have eclectic taste, but her mom is really a fashionista, so I think she's gonna win that battle. I just hope that what she gets from me and my mom and her mom and her other grandparents is that she's able to feel how she wants to feel, dress how she wants to dress, and have her own opinions. To me that's the most punk shit imaginable.

CM:  What other elements of her parenting style are you incorporating into yours?

MG: Just the value of having family around. My daughter sees her grandparents almost every day. She's very much a loved child, which I think gives her tremendous confidence. And I've been seeing that now that she started school, her teachers are like, “she's so confident”, and I think it's because she’s surrounded by so much family and so much love. Like, that girl has just been encouraged her whole life, you know?

CM: That’s really beautiful. It also must be so nice introducing her to books you loved growing up.

MG: It is. My favorite book is ‘Goodnight, Moon’ and it’s great because it’s one of her favorites too. I'm also in the process of writing a book. Hopefully that leaves a little bit of a legacy for her. 

CM: How fun, what was the genesis of the book?

MG: I started writing it as a memoir, and it quickly turned into a book for new dads. It’s stories from my life, and how my experiences have shaped my idea of fatherhood. What the struggles in my life taught me and how I apply that to now being a father. It's been a really rewarding experience. It’s always been a dream to write one. 

CM: Has it been a therapeutic and cathartic process?

MG: Yeah, very much so. I didn't really remember a lot of my childhood, because there was a lot of trauma in it, and it's been interesting having to relive that trauma. I didn't grow up idolizing people, I didn't grow up having role models. I didn't grow up being like, “Oh, I want to be an astronaut.” I grew up essentially thinking I’d get addicted to drugs at some point or go to jail, because that's what was around me. And I thought looking back would make me severely depressed, and it's done the opposite. Honestly, it made me really realize how far I've come in my life, and how much further I have to go. It sounds weird to say about yourself, but it's been inspiring. It's like, oh, I went through all this and I came out of it. 

CM: I feel you. I’m always trying to remember to not only love myself, but like myself, too.

MG:  Yeah, that’s so big.

CM: Loving myself sometimes feels a little ethereal, too hard to pin down. And so what I work on is just enjoying myself, and being interested in myself and my humanity. And so now when I fuck up, I can say, “Well isn’t it interesting that I did that.” Makes it easier to learn from the mistakes, and appreciate the wins.

MG: Yeah, man. I mean that's what it's all about. That’s been the reward of not only the book, but in starting my company (Call Me Dada), is pushing the need for introspection. I think it can be so scary and easy to turn away from, but turning in has made me such a better man. 

CM:  Have you found difficulty keeping your role as a dad while simultaneously doing the work of introspection?

MG: I have. When my daughter was born it very much defined me, like I was looking for a definition for myself and I didn't have one for a long time. But now it's interesting, because she just started school. So from nine o'clock to 12:30, I have my work time. And it's so hard to get work done because I'm so used to just being Dad and taking care of my kid with her mom. But at the same time, we have to be adults, and we have jobs. So you have all those headaches and all that stress, and then you have this kid who needs to be fed, and clothed, and who needs to go to school that costs a lot of money. And then you try to spend time with your friends, too.


CM: I’m glad you brought that up. My best friend has two young children, and we’ve talked recently about the changes in our friendship as a result. He wanted me to ask you how you’re navigating that.

MG: I'm actually in the process of rebuilding that. I lost a lot of friends, because I think people don't really know how to handle it. We were young parents, and most of the friends my age weren’t even thinking of having kids. And it’s been a really weird, alienating thing. But I’m still figuring out how to hang out with people, how to find time to meet new people. Luckily with school I’ve been able to meet some new dads, but it’s still tough. Your full-time job is being a parent. Your part-time job is making sure you can afford to be a parent and then your other part-time job is figuring out what kind of social life you can have, you know?

CM:  To that end, do you feel like you have a firmer grasp of fatherhood, or is it something where you’re faced with so many new challenges that it’s hard to feel like you’re getting it?

MG: That's about the only thing I actually feel confident about, if I'm being honest. I know I'm a great dad and some days that's all I got. I'm not the best husband, I'm not the best friend, I'm not the best worker. But the thing I'm most good at is being a dad to my daughter. And that's what I mean about redefining all these things for myself. Like, how do I get better at working? How do I get better at being a friend? How do I get better at being a partner? How do I get better at being a son?

And then, on top of that, when I was diagnosed as bipolar, I learned that I’ve been hurting a lot of people, people who really care about me, for a long time. And I had to realize that, and relearn how to just be a person. Now I’m sober, and on my meds, and still figuring it out. But the only thing I’ve ever been consistent with in my life is being there for my kid. 

CM: I quit drinking a few years ago, save for special occasions, but have had clinical anxiety and depression most of my life. And yeah, going through similar things. Therapy’s a big help.

MG:  You know, I started therapy when I was eight years old, and the therapist had me write a letter to my dad. I didn't grow up with my dad. We now know each other and we’re cool, but I didn’t meet him until about 6 months ago. But the therapist asked me to write a letter to him, and it went terribly, and for so long I was like “fuck therapy.”

But I recently got my own therapist again, while also being in couples counseling, and my therapist is blowing my mind. He's so intelligent, and it's really changed my life. It just felt like the world was out to get me most of my life, and therapy has really helped me realize that one, the world isn’t out to get me, and two, the world’s not even thinking about me that much, and three, how to then deal with the world at large.

CM:  I think the second stage can be so difficult. It’s easy to feel insignificant, but then with time and reflection it becomes so freeing.

MG: It is. When you realize that, it’s almost like life begins. But it’s hard because at the same time, so much of the world doesn’t want to hear this. They’re like, stop whining, handle your business. 

CM: It's funny, I’ve been thinking about my maternal grandfather a lot, not just ‘cause I’m rocking his fits (laughs) but because I’ve thought a lot about the mythos surrounding the men of his generation. He grew up in Hell’s Kitchen, flew planes in the Pacific, played college football, raised 3 kids, just the definition of classic American masculinity. And there’s this aura around guys from his generation, around their stoicism, how they never complained, just handled their shit. And it’s like, well he was also a fucking alcoholic and had untreated OCD that made his day-to-day a living hell, y’know? Think of how much better off he’d be if he’d been able to talk about it.

MG:  But back then they didn't have the language, man. I mean, my grandfather had eight kids, smoked three packs a day, and died at 68. And to him, he was just like “This is what you do.” Just handle your shit. And he was probably bipolar like me, had addiction issues, but he didn’t know how to talk about it. 

CM: Exactly, if you don’t address it, that shit’s gonna make its way out into your life in some way, shape or form, whether through addiction or abuse or something else.

MG: We posted a podcast clip about body dysmorphia on TikTok recently, and had so many supportive comments. And then at the other end, guys were saying stop being a fucking whiner. And it’s like, damn dude, I’m just talking about feeling bad about my body. We still have a ways to go with the way men talk about themselves and each other.

CM: I saw that clip. I was gonna ask you that because I dealt with anorexia in college.

MG:  Damn, dude. Sounds like we should be friends.

CM:  (laughs) For real. But yeah, I was an accomplished athlete growing up, went to college to play basketball, fucked my back up and just drank and smoked and gained a ton of weight that first year. And you can maybe relate as a model, but so much of my identity and self-worth was tied to my body. And when it changed, I had a crisis of identity and confidence. And I dealt with it by starving myself, I think as a punishment more than anything.

MG:  Yeah man. I've been modeling since I was 15, for the most part it's been the only job I've ever had. And I grew up in an era of modeling where it wasn't body positive. I remember watching women swallow cotton balls with juice on ‘em backstage at fashion shows. I had an agent who called me Piggy for a decade, because I wasn’t a size 30 all the time. It became a running joke in my agency, and it was so damaging. I was embarrassed to go outside. That's a huge reason why I'm trying to quit modeling, I don't want my daughter to grow up thinking that this is a normal way to be. And it severely affects men, and it’s not talked about nearly enough.  That's why I wanted to talk about it, because I'm still battling it, even at 33.

CM: It’s such a large part of why masculinity is a prison, right? Because it’s not just the discomfort in our bodies, but the discomfort with talking about that discomfort. But the way I try to work through it is focusing on the process and not the result. Like I’m not trying to get rid of the sliver of extra fat on my chin, I’m just trying to eat healthy and exercise and assume the results will come from that. But it’s hard, ‘cause you’re looking at yourself every damn day.

MG: And the worst thing is when people tell you like, “Wow, you look great”, because you can't see it, because you're with yourself every day. It's hard to see those little incremental changes, you know?

CM:  Right, right. I’ve tried to change my thinking, and understand that when people compliment how I look, it’s usually a result of the good habits shining through, rather than the visceral visual of my body.

MG:  It's a constant struggle. The best thing that ever happened to me, just healthwise, is when I stopped drinking. I lost six pounds instantly. But that is a new confidence that I have to learn too, just going out and not being drunk. It's so easy when you feel bad about yourself to just get drunk or do drugs and just be like, okay I don't really care now. When you're sober it's like you're facing the music and you're like, fuck, I feel bad about myself, and you have to explore that all day.

CM:  Though I will say that, while you are facing emotions in a far rawer state, being sober helps me process those emotions far better. I couldn’t handle anything hungover.

MG: No one tells you about those hangovers when you turn 30, man, like it changes everything.

CM:  The hangovers are worse and they last way longer. I have enough shit going on, I don't need to make things harder for myself.

MG:  Yeah, man. The happier you are, the happier relationship you're gonna eventually have.

CM:  And I think it goes back to being kinder to yourself, right? Making that decision, and sticking with it, helped me develop the confidence to go to a party without needing to down 4 beers as a warmup, just to get to a social state.

MG:  Absolutely. Absolutely.

CM: You mentioned your podcast earlier, and your co-host is trans.

MG: Yeah, my buddy and my coworker Ernie.

CM: I’m wondering how you hope to raise your daughter to be attuned to social justice issues, like trans rights.

MG:  My daughter is so lucky. She’s two and a half, she's been to seven or eight different countries, and so many of her “aunts” and “uncles” are gay, queer, trans. And I’m going to tell her, hey your Uncle Ernie is trans and this other uncle is gay and this aunt is a lesbian and this other aunt doesn’t identify as any of that. And it's actually something we talked about on the podcast, where I feel like I'm doing her an injustice if I don’t talk to her about it. And I think it does a disservice to people in those communities if we don’t talk to our kids maturely about it.

CM: We don’t give kids nearly enough credit in this country.

MG:  We don’t. Kids are so fucking smart, man.

CM:  And intuitive.

MG:  I totally agree. I mean, that's a big part of what I'm trying to do with Call Me Dada, is to help people see that their kids are big ass sponges, and the way we talk to them and each other informs them in such a deep way. And the way we treat each other, too.

CM: Go into that more.

MG:  Just how you talk to your kid's mom, how you talk to your mom, how the mom talks to the kids. You have to think about all of that when you have children, because that's how they're gonna talk to their partner, or their friend, or their family member. And I think you're totally right, we don't as a society give kids enough credit. It's the same thing with men being behind in our discourse. We’re behind in child-rearing, too, because we not only don’t respect them, but we don’t think there’s anything to learn from them. I learn from my daughter all the time.

CM: Of course. So much of our issue as a country is that we never really desegregated in any meaningful way. And that desegregation metastasized, and daily life has become so atomized, that we’re segregated not just by race, but by class, by gender, by sexual orientation, everything.

MG:  It’s been on my mind with my daughter starting school. I don't want her to go to the schools I went to, because they're extremely underfunded, and I want her to have a fighting chance with her education, but at the same time it's like the schools that are available to us, that are well-funded schools, they're predominantly white. And it's a real struggle for me because I was the only white kid at my high school and I loved it. There were 45 languages spoken at my high school. It's a hard decision when you're raising your kids, because you want them to be surrounded by all different people. And it's hard to do that when you're essentially sending them to segregated schools, and the private school system in this country is completely segregated by design.


CM: Not even just private schools, but the funding and resource allocation in New York City Public schools is completely fucked. And yeah, I was the same way, I could hoop, and so by the time I was 13 I spent my non-school hours in Police Athletic Leagues, in public housing courts, at the YMCA in the under-resourced parts of the city. And thank God my parents pushed me out of my comfort zone, ‘cause I grew up in a small, mostly white town, and I’d be a different person if I’d just spent all my time there.

MG: I think that's why the greatest gift you could give your kids is to take them places where they can know that they’re different from everyone else. So they can deal with stuff that's out of their comfort zone. If you could show your kids that, and teach them how to be comfortable in that environment, it's the greatest education. I’m not saying everyone should travel to, like, Istanbul, though that can be hugely educational, but that’s a privilege most can’t enjoy. But if you live in LA, go to the Japanese market. Go to Glendale, where there’s such a strong Armenian population. Just go where you’re the odd man out.

CM: Well, she’s a lucky kid, and I really appreciate you taking the time. This was great.

MG:  Seriously, man. We should hang when I'm in New York.

CM:  For sure, let’s connect when you’re in town.

MG:  Definitely, definitely.


Miles Garber founded and hosts Call Me Dada, a media platform surrounding everything dealing with fatherhood in this confusing time in society. Learn more about the platform here, and follow Miles and Call Me Dada on Instagram.


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