I honestly have no idea if my dad had a way with the ladies back in his day. He certainly portrays it that way, but if I know anything about his storytelling habits, there is certainly plenty of room for stretching the narrative. However, intentional or not, he’s managed to impart a few things when it comes to interacting with the opposite sex that I think are useful enough to share.
1. Be good at talking.
Some people are naturally great talkers. Sentences just flow out of them fully formed, with the ghost wit of Mark Twain imbued in them. I wasn’t alway a great talker, but I could always write. My dad was the one who pushed me, the kid who gave monosyllabic responses when interviewed for some stupid thing on the local news, to get out of my comfort zone (which I prefer to call the pussy bubble) and start doing public speaking. If I could write something, then I sure as hell was going to learn how to say it. I started with speech tournaments, and it culminated in debate. I’m not really speaking in front of large audiences anymore, but it’s astounding how much that affected my life. Sure, I’m using my powers now to give toasts at parties and make women roll their eyes, but it works for me. My dad always told me that you can be whatever person you think you are, but no one will know it if you don’t have the ability to tell them.
2. Teasing isn’t the same thing as being mean.
It’s astounding how many guys’ flirting methods haven’t changed since recess. Yeah, I used to be mean to girls I had a crush on…when I was six years old. That ended pretty quickly after Pops watched me “teasing” a girl I had a thing for once. He pulled me aside later to inform me that not only was I being a dick, but I’d probably already shot my chances with her. Let’s be clear: you should ALWAYS tease girls. It’s fun. They’ll laugh it off or act like they’re mad at you when you know they really aren’t, or you’ll just frustrate them, which is even more funny. None of that involves being straight-up mean. I don’t understand how guys don’t know the difference. Some of it can be blamed on stupidity, like the people who say really direct, angry things and then claim that they’re being sarcastic, but sarcasm is a fencing art, not a bludgeoning tool. Same goes for teasing. It requires finesse and a disarming smile.
3. Humor is important.
Everyone thinks he or she is funny, or so I assume, but it’s not always about being able to tell jokes. Studies have shown that most laughs between friends come from familiarity, not necessarily the hilarity of what is said. That means that knowing your audience is more important than being quick on the joke draw. I know that if I respond to certain friends of mine in a particular tone of voice, it will make them laugh no matter what. Same goes for references. Established familiarity through experience is much funnier than a great turn of phrase, which is why inside jokes always elicit the biggest laughs. The same goes with women. My dad always made a point to create inside jokes with my mom. It was stuff that only they found funny, and it confused the shit out of my brothers and me. It’s never too soon to start an inside joke, either. Make a funny observation about something you both saw on your first date in a context only you two will understand, and boom–manufactured chemistry.
4. Know who you are.
Seems pretty standard, right? You know more about yourself than anyone else. Maybe that’s why we’ll often attempt to portray ourselves in certain ways, especially if there are things about us that we’re insecure about. Someone who is normally a reserved person and not as outgoing will often try to swing him or herself to the other side of the spectrum when he or she feels as if something is “on the line”–in particular, the affection of a member of the opposite sex. This might work in some instances, but it can also have the unfortunate effect of making you appear disingenuous. Just as important as knowing who you are is knowing who you are not. I grew up playing sports, mostly because that’s what my friends were doing, and I enjoyed competitive athletics. But there was also a part of it that was me trying to manufacture popularity, which, in middle school, really just means wanting girls to like you. However, I didn’t have the natural gift for it that many of my friends did. My pops always supported me playing baseball because I liked it and I was pretty good at it, but when I wanted to try out for quarterback, he told me something that I’ll never forget: “Try out if you want to, but you’re never going to be a good quarterback if it’s just a means to date a cheerleader.” I never became a quarterback and I never dated a cheerleader. Oh fucking well. Now I focus on doing things because I want to do them, not because I think they’re appealing to the outside world. If someone comes along who happens to dig what I do, well that’s just icing on the life cake.