Alex Barnett had his son later in life. And he wants to give his son dating advice before he forgets what it was like to date.
Your mother and I had you “later in life,” meaning we managed to have you just before your mother went into menopause and before my chronic back spasms made sex a distant memory, like baseball before the D.H. and television stations that went off the air at night. As a result, I fear that by the time you are old enough to begin dating I may be too old to recognize you, let alone offer any practical advice on the topic. Accordingly, I now put pen to paper (just writing that is an anachronism from a time when old farts like me actually wrote with a pen on a piece of paper), and offer the following advice:
1. Be a good listener: It’s so simple to listen, but almost no one does it. This is especially so in the era of social media (which, by the way, did not even exist when I was your age). In today’s world, it’s all outgoing messages. People love posting, but they’re not checking their inbox (except if it’s about hooking up). This is a problem because, to paraphrase Larry King, you don’t learn anything while you’re talking, only when you’re listening. So, listen. Then think. Then, if you really have something to add, say something. I think you’ll find that you understand people and the world better, that you say smarter stuff, and that people relish your opinions more. And, it just may make the difference between that beautiful girl going out with you or walking away and then texting her girlfriend to tell her about the good-looking guy she just met who turned out to be an insufferable a-hole who never stopped talking about himself.
2. Be well-dressed: Women decide whether you’re worthy of their affections in the first two seconds after they see you, so you have very little time to make a good impression. The key to doing this is to look good, and looking good means dressing well. Think of it this way: men are like socks. Yes, there are different kinds, but in the end, they all serve the same purpose. Now if you gave someone a functional gift like socks, they might not be too excited about it. But, if you wrapped those socks in tissue paper, inside a really nice box, with really snazzy gift-wrap and a bow on the outside, then, the gift-wrapping itself would create a sense of mystery and anticipation that would make the person excited and almost desperate to find out what’s inside. The analogy holds for men. You are a pair of socks, so gift-wrap yourself accordingly, especially because after a certain age, you will no longer be just a pair of socks, you will be a pair of socks with a smelly pair of feet inside, and it’ll be that much harder to meet a woman who will love you at that point.
3. Be fit: Nobody’s saying you have to look like a bodybuilder. But if you want to tilt the odds in your favor, be in shape. Women don’t want a guy who’s fat or too thin. They want a guy who looks like a guy. They want someone who appears capable of protecting them or defending them in a fight, even if it’s not remotely true and the guy is afraid of spiders and gluten. So, run, jump, lift, do pushups, pull-ups, cross-fit, P90X or some regimen that will be invented long after I can barely lift myself off the couch. On the other hand, don’t get carried away. Having a neck that’s wider than your head isn’t so much alluring as it causes people to spend time wondering whether you suffer from goiters.
4. Be passionate: I don’t mean you have to be a silver-tongued, European Casanova who hands women rosebuds, recites poetry, and seeks out adventure-based vacations like running with the bulls in Pamplona. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. It’s just that our family tends to be nervous, anxiety-ridden, hypochondriacs, so I have difficult time envisioning you as Don Carlos the jet-setting, thrill-seeking love machine. When I say “passionate” I mean as in “caring.” You should care about something. Many things. Preferably things that matter (e.g., climate change versus getting blind drunk in Vegas). By the way, if you’re lucky enough to be a dad one day, you may just find (as I did) that the thing about which you are most passionate is your child and making sure that he/she/they has a better life than you did (which, by the way is a passion that will drive you to the brink of exhaustion, sanity, reason, good sense, and laughter, often at the very same time). I hope you get that lucky. But, whether you do or you don’t, let me just caution you about getting too passionate about the Mets or Knicks.
5. Be Humble: You’re my son. I think the world of you. But, I’m not Jor-El and you’re not Kal-El. You’re not faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. I’m not saying you’re not special. You are. Everyone is special in some ways. But just remember that even in the case of George Clooney, his ex-girlfriends just went out and found someone to take George’s place. And that’s Clooney. You’re not Clooney. So don’t walk around thinking you’re the best thing since sliced bread. Because believe me, no matter how good you think you are, some other dude is better. So, be confident, but be humble, and remember: people who really are great never talk about how great they are (with the exception of Ali). So if you talk about it, everyone knows you’re full of it.
Now, go out and have fun because life is too short (and so are the men in our family).