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Hank’s Blog – Smells Like Teen Spirit


I’ve got a new job. Not the one at the office — that one’s a cakewalk in comparison. Photo ops and fundraising, pencil-pushing, desk-jockeying bullshit — how does that even count as work? I can’t wait till they get those super-smart Terminator robots who can take all the shit jobs and just do ’em. Yeah, they might rise up and kill everyone, but man, it’d be worth the risk so long as I never have to file another goddamn quarterly report.

But the new job I’m talking about? Daddy. Did not see that one coming. I always thought if I was gonna be a father, at least I’d get to have the good part first, y’know? The sweaty, dirty, roll in the hay and the little oops-I-forgot-my-pill-but-keep-going-anyway part. The part that makes the eighteen-year prison sentence seem like the crime might be worth it, if you know what I’m saying.

No, what I got is I got extended and indefinite caretaking duties of my Sister- and Brother-in-Law’s kids: a teenage boy and a baby girl. Call me Papa.

The baby’s easy. She cries and she poops and she cries some more. But when she’s not doing one of those things, it’s all a long walk down adorable street. She’ll grab your fingers and stick them in her mouth, and gum the living hell out of you. Yeah: there’s a lot of drool. Yeah: it’s gross. But she’s got those eyes that are just happy lamps when she turns them on you. I dare you not to smile. I’m biased, for sure, but she’s one cute little booger.

Then there’s the boy. You know what sucks balls about being a teenage boy’s dad? Everything. All. The whole enchilada. You don’t know what sulking is until you’re trying to talk to a teenager. Whatever you say: lame. Anything you think: dumb. You’re a hundred years behind the times and you don’t understand and blah blah de freaking blah. I would say it’s like pulling teeth to get him to come out of his room, but when they pull your teeth, they give you laughing gas and some fun Schedule-C loopy juice and you don’t feel a damn thing. This ain’t like that.

Not sure what I can do. Used to be, this kid would come by my house, hang out, watch a movie. Good old Uncle Hank. That was me. We were buds, y’know? The moment I’m the boss of him, he’s a moody pile of frowns I can barely get a word out of. I asked the wife what she thought I should do. She was typically helpful: “Be patient. Try to bond with him about things he likes.” Thanks, professor. I did that! He’s interested in his new car and “stuff.” That’s all I could get out of him.

I mean, I know what he likes. I’m not stupid. He’s a teenage boy: he likes girls and he likes playing “unroll the garden hose” when he’s in the bathroom. But how can I bond with him about that?

My old man gave up on trying to talk to me when I was fourteen. Not like he neglected me or something, he just knew: now’s not the time to talk to this kid. Pure economics: life’s too short to spend it trying to connect with a teenage boy. It was like hitting the pause button for four years until I became a human being again. The last thing he did–and I never could thank him enough for it–was he took me down to the basement. No one else home. Completely alone. So we’re down there and he clicks on the overhead bulb and says: “Listen: here’s everything you need to know about sex. If you like a girl, kiss her for a long time. If you don’t like kissing her, you sure ain’t gonna like anything else you can do with her. And when you’re playing with your thing, don’t ever go barehanded or it’ll chafe.” That was it.

Then he pulled out a box labeled “Xmas Tree Lights,” and under the snarls of lights were a stack of Playboys and a couple Penthouses thrown in for good measure. And that was it. My teen survival kit. He left me down there with the box to get acquainted properly, and neither of us spoke more than two words to each other again until I was in college.

I’m trying to figure out what the version of that would look like these days. With the internet, I’m betting this kid’s already seen porn that would turn my hair white, if I had any. I bought him a Maxim magazine and left it on his nightstand and that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

His parents better get their act together, P.D.Q., is all I’m saying.

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