My therapist tried to comfort me last week by telling me that it was important for my kids to see my faults and weaknesses. Learning that your parents are in fact human, he assured me, is easier to stomach in small measured doses, rather than a giant paradigm shift in those developmentally sensitive preteen years.
In other words, its fine – ahem, developmentally beneficial – to tell your kids that no, you don’t know how to build that goddamn 1200-piece Lego airplane (for fuck’s sake, you can’t even assemble an Ikea art table) and that, yes, you said fuck becomes sometimes grownups say bad words when they are really fu- err, fed up. Move on kids, life’s a bitch.
So this got me to thinking about the things my parents (more specifically my dad, since it’s Father’s Day weekend) taught me not by being perfect, but by being real. I’m not talking about like, math or history or how to light a fire with a stick (still can’t do any of those things – thanks for nothing dad) but rather, the more important things – like how to get a customer service agent to waive a flight change fee, or upgrade your rental car from compact to full size for free.
So without further adieu, 3 perfectly imperfect things my dad taught me:
The spin move
I was not born to play basketball. That’s for damn sure. I am 5’3 (and a half), not particularly fast, and a piss poor shooter. Since my dad gave me ZERO help genetically in the balling department, I think he felt compelled to teach me something that might prevent me from spending my entire youth filling water bottles. Enter: the spin move.
To be clear, I never even played High School basketball, so I’m not sure this move would have really made my career outside of Pioneer Valley Rec League – but when it comes to relatively unskilled and highly competitive balling, this move is KILLER.
Dribble down with the right, approach a defensive player, turn your back to them, switch to the left hand, and rush the hoop.
Then pass it to someone else, who can actually make a basket.
Hey at least I know my weaknesses.
I’m well aware that this is not some revolutionary move in basketball. But let me tell you, when you can pull that shit at 11 years old on some 6-foot tall 5th grader that’s three times your size – you DOMINATE. You also frequently foul out – but that’s a story for another day.
How to buy tires
In addition to rec league basketball domination, most super dads teach their daughters how to change tires. I don’t know how to change a tire. But I do have a AAA card that I never let expire, and I’m excellent at convincing other people to do things for me, so it was never really a skill I needed to know. What’s more important, according to my all-knowing dad, is knowing how to buy tires.
You can’t change a tire until you obtain a new one, am I right?
Buying tires is a horrible pain in the ass. There are like, 100,000 tire brands, each with 50 different SKUs. They all cost a different and unreasonable amount at various stores, and they all come with different mileage warranties that are all 100% non-enforceable.
“I’m sorry ma’am, you didn’t get your tires gold plated within 26.5 miles of use? Oh, yep, and I see here you drove them on a paved road. Yea, that actually voids the 100-billion mile warranty. Bummer.”
So when it comes to buying tires, naturally, I look to my dad for advice. After all, he knows how to use google, and he even has patience for reading reviews written by people with enough time to review tires online.
“UnemployedInAtlanta51: Xtreme Awesomeness Tires are the best! I bought them yesterday and they haven’t worn out yet. I mean I haven’t had them mounted or anything, but still, they look great in my garage.”
My dad has two main criteria for buying tires, which he has graciously passed on to me. They are as follows.
- Choose a semi-name brand middle of the road all-season tire.
- Don’t pay retail price.
Thanks to every single tire retailer in the history of ever guaranteeing the “lowest price” on tires, it’s fairly simple to quote the same tire at 3 or 4 different stores and take the quotes around to each, asking them to continue beating each other’s prices. Eventually one of them folds and you end up paying less for a Bridgestone than what most people pay for a donut. It’s a wonder more people haven’t figured this out. And also that tire retailers haven’t figured this out and stopped lowering their prices and instead lowered the amount of bullshit you have to go through to actually buy one.
For real though, my dad is pretty smaht.
Fake it til you make it fake it like a pro
Even things that my dad isn’t super smart about, he’s really good at acting like he is. This, in my estimation, is a much more impressive life skill than actually knowing how to do things. After all, once you learn how to fake it you can be an expert at pretty much whatever you want, whenever it’s convenient. Like when you call the insurance company and tell them you’re a “lawyer” calling on behalf of your “client.”
Yep. So much easier than actually getting a law degree.
So this is how I’ve managed to land pretty much every job I’ve ever had.
Anyway, “faking it,” is actually a much more complex skill than just panting loudly and – oh wait – wrong kind of faking it. For realz, though, there is an art to faking expertise, and it goes something like this.
- Google some background info: are you sensing a trend, here? Google = life.
- Listen up: listen to experts talk about the issue and try to identify one or two interesting yet subtle details about the subject.
- Parrot it back: present those expert details to your audience in a soft and unassuming way, as if you have a depth of knowledge on the subject, but don’t want to dominate the conversation.
- Let it flow: let others jump in and take it from there, commence nodding, probing questions, and making critical thinking faces.
I learned this technique from my dad, who managed to convince everyone including me that he was an expert in college basketball – when in reality he picked his March Madness teams based on “gut instinct” (i.e. wild guessing).
So after witnessing his technique first hand, I gave it a try in my own social circles, with astounding success. I managed to convince all the boys on Shutesbury Elementary Bus #41 that I was a college basketball statistics pro.
“Hey did you guys see that so-and-so busted his knee last night, that’s gonna be killer for UConn. Their percentage from the field is barely 20% without him! Do you think Duke will adjust their lineup to take advantage?”
In reality, the games all took place well after my bedtime. But on the bus, I was the expert. Thanks Dad!
I owe it all to you…
Happy Father’s Day!