Below is a chapter titled "Confidence Is The Way To A Woman's Heart, Or, At Least Into Her Pants " from SMDS by Justin Halpern, America's premier chronicler of patriarchal affection. Buy the book, read the Tweets, pray for Shatner. Chat at 2.
"No one wants to lay the guy who wouldn't lay himself."
Between the end of my freshman year of high school and the beginning of my junior year, I grew ten inches. Suddenly I was six feet tall. "You're starting to look like a man, sort of," my dad told me on my sixteenth birthday, as I bit into a Filet Mignon he ordered for me at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse.
Unfortunately with such a quick growth spurt, I wasn't really in control of my body. I moved around like I was being puppeteered by someone with cerebral palsy. The good news was: Despite barely being able to walk ten feet without tripping over something, I could throw a baseball pretty hard. I was moved up to the varsity baseball team as a pitcher and led the team in wins and strikeouts.. My dad came to most of my games.
That year, the cheerleading coach decided that in a show of school spirit, she was going to force her squad to come to all of the baseball games. Going to a high school baseball game is a lot like going to a student film festival; you're there because you feel obliged to someone involved in it, and after two hours of being bored to tears, you tell that person they did a great job no matter how they did and try to leave as quickly as possible. Needless to say, the cheerleaders mostly passed the time doing their homework and watching the grass grow on the sidelines. But my dad thought otherwise.
"I've seen the way they look at you," he said, after a game.
I tried to explain to him that they didn't look at me any way at all; that if they looked at anything during a game it was at their watches in hopes it was almost over.
"Bullshit," he said.
Fortunately, he left it at that. But not for long.
On Sundays, my dad would usually wake up early and head down to Winchell's Donuts, where he'd buy a dozen donuts for my family's breakfast, including six chocolate glazed "Long Johns" specifically for me. But on one Sunday in the spring of 1997, I woke up and there wasn't a box of donuts sitting on the living room table next to the kitchen.
"Get dressed, let's go get some donuts," he said as I groggily padded into the living room.
I tossed on a pair of basketball shorts and a Charlotte Hornets t-shirt (the Hornets were my favorite team at the time for no reason other than that I loved their power forward Larry "Grand Mama" Johnson, who got his nickname by dressing as an old woman and dunking the ball in TV commercials during my formative basketball watching years of the early nineties), and we headed out into my dad's silver Oldsmobile. When I tried to turn the car radio on and he quickly shut it off, I knew he wanted to talk to me about something.
Then we cruised right past Winchell's.
"I thought we were getting donuts," I said.
"Nah, we're going to have a real breakfast," he replied as he pulled into a Denny's parking lot.
"This is a Denny's," I said.
"Well, aren't you the fucking Queen of England."
We walked into the Denny's and my dad signaled to the hostess he'd like a table for two by raising his fingers in a peace sign. The waitress led us to the far corner of the restaurant, where a small empty square table nestled right up against a large table of six hungover-looking college kids, including two guys who were wearing shirts commemorating a "solid rush class" for their fraternity at San Diego State. The tables were basically attached, save for one leaf of table that had been folded under to provide some semblance of privacy. We sat down and my dad told the waitress he wanted a couple glasses of orange juice for us. She left, and then he turned his attention to me.
"I'm a man, I like having sex," he said.
Immediately the group of college kids next to us froze, then burst into muffled laughter. My dad didn't notice them. In a growing panic, I realized he was about to lay whatever his version of a sex talk was on me here, now, in a Denny's.
"No, no, Dad. What are you talking about? Maybe we shouldn't eat here. I think we should go somewhere else. I don't think we should eat here. Let's go. Let's go."
"What in the hell are you talking about? We just sat down here. Denny's ain't the best food, but you eat garbage like this shit all the time," he said right as the waitress dropped off our two glasses of OJ.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see that the college kids were now focused on my dad and me like they had paid money to be there. Oblivious to my growing discomfort, my dad continued and told me that in his day, he'd "had a lot of fun," and slept with, apparently, a significant number of women.
"I'm not that good looking. Never was. But I didn't give a shit. You're not a bad looking kid. Better looking than I was. But nobody's paying either of us to take our picture, right?"
I nodded in agreement, and right as I did I heard one of the college kids say "wow," prompting his group of pals to burst into laughter.
Then my dad told me that the only way to meet women is to "act like you been there before. Don't worry about them telling you they don't like you. It's gonna happen. You can't give a fuck, otherwise guys like you and me will never get laid."
Our waitress was ten feet away and quickly approaching, on her way back to our half-table to take our order. At this point I was crawling out of my skin. I felt like all of Denny's – all of San Diego – was listening, watching, and laughing, and I just wanted it to end. So I did something I rarely do to my dad; I cut him off.
"Dad, can you please get to the point you're trying to make? I don't want to talk about this the whole breakfast with all these people around us," I said, as I looked to my left and right, trying to insinuate that people were listening and it was embarrassing for me.
He paused, and then glanced he around the restaurant, right at the college kids next to us who quickly looked away.
"You give a shit what all these people think, huh? Even though you never met a god damned one of them," he said.
He nodded, grabbed the newspaper next to him and began reading, which, was almost more awkward, since I had nothing to do but stare at the flip side of his newspaper, alone with my humiliation. We ordered our food and then sat in silence for a few minutes.
"Dad. What was the point you were trying to make?" I said, finally, in a low voice.
"Son, you're always telling me why women don't like you. No one wants to lay the guy who wouldn't lay himself."
"That's all you were gonna say?" I asked.
"No. But if you give a shit about what a bunch of people in Denny's think about you, then the rest of what I was gonna say doesn't even matter."
I told him to stop reading his newspaper, and he put it on the greasy table and looked me in the eye.
"So is that why you took me here? Some kind of test to see if I'd get embarrassed?"
"Son. Do I look like the type with a master fucking plan? I just wanted to talk to you and eat some eggs. Let me finish doing one of them."
I stopped talking and we sat in silence for the rest of the meal while he demolished his scrambled eggs and I picked at my pancakes. My dad never tried to talk to me about my sex life again. I think he would have said something again if he had felt it necessary, but over the next few years I think he saw enough progress in my becoming, as he said, the kind of guy who might actually lay himself.
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