Price Breaks and Heartaches
A journal of retail and failed romance
Work went well, we continued to sell pictures by the roadside and avoid arrest. Athena and I had hit it off pretty well, we had a lot of laughs but sadly they were the platonic kind not the naked kind. I had asked her out several times but she had always politely demurred, explaining to me that this summer all she wanted was a break from the dating scene.
It was during one of those rainy days off that I spent an afternoon with my father and I finally asked him for some advice.
At this stage of his life my Dad was living in a three room bottom floor apartment with his latest in a series of hot girlfriends. I just didn’t know how he did it. Was it his confidence? Was it that he was a musician? Or was it that in reality he was a cyborg sent from the future to nail as many babes as possible?
I didn’t know the answer to those questions and I pretty much didn’t care. The only thing I really wanted to know was why it had apparently skipped a generation.
His girlfriend was in the kitchen making us something suitably Italian to eat. Dad and I were sitting on his couch, I had rented a video and he was trying to weasel out of watching it. I remained steadfast; I still believe everyone should watch The Toxic Avenger at least once in their lives. In 90 minutes it takes you on a journey inside yourself.
Finally the subject changed, “Dad there’s this girl…”
“Oh thank God,” he sagged back against the couch with relief.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Son, let’s just say I was starting to worry that you liked musicals a little too much.”
I was appalled, “I do not like musicals.”
“Fine then,” my old man said.
“I mean sure there’s Xanadu.”
“Consider the matter dropped.”
“Oh and there’s Sweeney Todd. Although I don’t think much of the current touring cast.”
“What was this about a girl?”
I smiled to myself, “And Chicago, who can’t like that one?”
“Oh sorry,” I said. “You see there’s this girl and I think she likes me but I can’t seem to get her to go out with me.”
My Dad nodded with understanding, “I know right off the bat what you’re doing wrong. You’re acting like you like her.”
“Son,” he began, “the only way to get a girl to like you is to act like you could care less about her.”
“Then why would she go out with you? I mean me?”
“Because women want what they can’t have. So if you act like she can’t have you then she’s all yours.”
“And when do I tell her I like her?”
“Never! The minute you tell her you like her, or God forbid love her, she gets the power in the relationship and women hate that. They can’t respect you if you do that.”
“I don’t understand.”
He shook his head in frustration, “Watch.”
Suddenly his voice became a booming shout, “Tracy how the Hell long are we going to have to wait to eat?”
Tracy looked in from the kitchen, her hair was pinned up in a bun, her eyes were glittering, her nipples were starting to push against the flimsy fabric of her shirt- not that I was looking, “Any second now honey.”
“Just hurry it up.” he gave me a wink as he said it.
She grinned at him as she retreated into the kitchen.
I was appalled. This wasn’t the stuff of fairytales and romantic comedies, “But… But… I don’t want to play games.”
“You could have fooled me with all the money you spend on Dungeons & Dragons.”
“Dad… can’t you understand how awful all this sounds?”
My old man frowned, “The only reason that you act this way is because your mother raised you wrong. She made you too sensitive. She didn’t teach you how to act like a man.”
And this was true, my only male role models had been Batman, Doctor Who and Popeye. Kind of sad I know but I yam what I yam. Would one of you punks like a jelly baby?
“Then why didn’t you raise me? You could have gotten custody after the divorce.”
“You know better than that,” he said, “I couldn’t raise a kid with all the hours I work and travel. Do you think those Mary Kay products would have sold themselves?”
“You’ve always had a girlfriend or a wife around. They could have kept an eye on me.”
“If I did that then either they’d ruin you or you’d ruin them. The last thing I needed was you getting their biological clocks ticking or worse yet you getting a crush on one of them.”
I was appalled he would say such a thing, “I would never-”
“Really now?” my Dad said with a smirk, “You’ve spent half the night trying to read the front of Tracy’s t-shirt.”
“Well the lighting in here is bad.”
“There’s nothing written on her t-shirt.”
“I can read brail.”
I shrank back in my seat, “Sorry Dad.”
So what had I learned that night? That the only way to get the girl you wanted was to act like you didn’t want her. The idea was like a cross between the teaching of the Zen masters and the collected wisdom of Andrew Dice Clay.
Thing was I had heard this before. The ladies of the Julia shop had warned me time and time again I could only win Lilly’s heart by being a jerk. When I considered the parade of douchebags I had fought my way through just to get past first base with my high school sweetheart it almost made sense.
A lousy kind of sense.
And do you know what else I learned? Only to stare at my Dad’s girlfriend’s Gazongas when he wasn’t in the room.