My father had rules. They governed everything from his clothing to his business dealings to a day at the ballpark, and they were based on the notion that there are certain things a Good Man does and certain things he doesn't do.
Recently, I set about compiling a list of his rules with the goal of presenting my own future offspring with an instruction manual for proper living. But for every one of my dad's sartorial commandments or motivational sports idioms, there was something else I wish he had told me. Some maxim drilled into me that could have helped me get a job, find love, or just spared me some embarrassment along the way to becoming a man. What follows are my top 10 things I wish Dad had told me.
10. How to fish
Every boy should learn how to bait a hook, cast into a shady spot, and catch a fish. My dad took me deep-sea fishing once. The captain hooked a fish and handed me the rod to reel it in. That's not fishing, that's shopping. The point of fishing isn't the fish itself (unless of course, it's how you make your living), it's the qualities required to do it well: patience, perseverance and the ability to be quiet.
9. How to work on a car
My father was a product of the '50s, so it always came as a surprise that he wasn't more of a car man. I figured everyone from that era could rebuild the engine on a '57 Chevy, but his advice to me was to know how to change a tire and a fan belt, and leave the rest to a mechanic. Not terrible advice for owners of cars where everything short of the radials is computerized, but I still wish I could wrench my own ride back to life. What's more American than that?
What other painful life lessons did Dad forget to warn us about? Read more after the jump
8. Get a haircut
What happened to dads at the turn of the last century? There's never been a sorrier display of men's hairstyles than the parade of short-longs and sensitive ponytails found on campuses throughout the '90s. And I was not immune. I sincerely wish that every time I slinked home for spring break, my father had marched me into the nearest barbershop with a photo of Johnny Unitas pinned to my shirt. I might not have scored the English lit chick, but at least my college pictures wouldn't look like early-years Michael Bolton.
7. It is not enough to be well rounded
Is it just WASPs who insist on this notion that being above average in multiple disciplines is superior to being the best at just one thing? Don't get me wrong, a real man should be able to dress a deer, set a bone and plan an invasion while reciting a Kipling poem. But if you want to make a living, it is wise to excel in at least one discipline, preferably the thing you love.
6. Go left
The old man was an all-state basketball star in an all-white era. He taught me to shoot, pass and hustle. But in the drive-and-dish world of pickup hoops, what I needed was a left hand. When your opponent discovers you can't go left, you might as well hang it up.
5. How to love running
I hate it. To be the kind of guy who goes out for a run to sweat out last night's Jager shots, you gotta start early. And while dad's "executive workout" (steam room, shower, cocktail) might help you tackle a case of the Mondays, it's not the best long-term plan for taking care of the ticker.
4. Do more in college
When else in your life will you have that much time and freedom to actually put your education to the test and create something? Every college-bound boy not working for his tuition at the local pizzeria should finish his schooling with a body of work: short stories, mechanical drawings, a rock opera, something. Not just a degree and a taste for cheap beer and bad jazz.
3. You cannot win without a good quarterback
As a long-suffering Redskins fan, this has been a painful lesson to learn. My father died thinking his beloved home team was a linebacker away from a championship. He was wrong. Defense does not win championships. Mannings do.
2. Use sunscreen
The old man had a habit of burning himself to a deep lobster red at the start of every summer. He called it his base. And paired with a blue blazer and some go-to-hell pants, he somehow pulled it off. Following his lead, I spent most of my summers looking like a flame-broiled English tourist. A good tan, among other things, requires patience and protection. Which brings us to ...
1. Never underestimate your fertility
My father actually said this all the time, but can you ever stress this point enough?
Walker Lamond is the author of the blog and upcoming book "Rules for My Unborn Son" from St. Martin's Press.