Letters to my father part 4

 Should I be worried about my daughter? Was this normal behavior for someone in the future? I was concerned how she knew all of this. Was my daughter a player? I mean, it had to work if she told it would. This time travel thing made her borderline omniscient, but still, we were going to have a talk about boys when she grew up.

Focus, think about your daughter’s dating life later, focus on getting her born. Ten lines in seven days, and they were some doozies. I was going to make such an idiot out of myself. Who said this kind of stuff?

This could be one of her tricks. I heard guys got slapped for saying pick-up lines to girls could get you slapped. Maybe my daughter thought it would be funny to get me slapped a bunch.

I had better buckle down to this, first I would pick a line, then I would need to find a girl to drop it on. So, which line was the easiest? It was kind of creepy to ask for a picture, so the first one is out. Religion is a hot topic, so second one is gone. Marriage was really fast paced, so the third one wasn’t an option. The fourth one had promise. I knew girl’s sometimes kept band aids in their purses, and asking strangers for medical help was kind of socially acceptable. It was cute. I could do it.

Next thing was to find a place. Where had I did girls go? Had I seen any recently? There was the dance hall, but I wanted to go back there sometime, so I didn’t want to make a fool of myself there. I saw girls jogging around sometime, but that took a while. Sometimes I could jog for miles without seeing a single female. There were bars and clubs, but I didn’t frequent such places.

Maybe this was why I needed more help with girls, there weren’t any places I ran into them a lot in my normal life. If I was a girl, where would I go? Hair salon? Nah, I didn’t need a haircut, and I would be strapped down to a chair. If I was going to do this I wanted a quick means of escape.

What about somewhere where they sold makeup? No good, I didn’t know if those stores existed, much less where they were. I needed some place more normal.

Girls had to eat too, what about a restaurant? Oh, a coffee shop would be perfect! There were probably plenty of girls, and I could leave whenever I wanted. It was perfect. I now had a mission, and there was plenty of daylight left to make it happen.

A short while later I found myself in a coffee shop waiting in line between two girls who, as luck would have it, worth both close to me in age. Good, this would be easy. The girl in front of me had three people in front of her, I would spend the next minute or two psyching myself out, and when she completed her order I would ask her for a band aid as she walked passed me. Good, this was good. I could do this.

Alright, two people left, here we go. Wait, isn’t this weird? She’s going to know I haven’t scraped my knee. I’ve been standing behind her this whole time. She’s going to see right through it. This wasn’t going to work.

One person left. No, I was being stupid. It wasn’t supposed to make sense. It was supposed to be cute. It was all for shock view anyway. I just had to get this out of the way so I could continue with my daughter’s plan.

Oh shoot, now she’s ordering, any second now I’m going to have to do it. She’s getting a hot chocolate, can I work with that? Maybe something about girl’s liking chocolate? No, no, stay on topic, don’t make this too complicated.

Now’s she’s turning, this is it. What was my line again, something about bleeding? That wasn’t it. She sees me looking at her! Look away quickly, act like you were looking at the menu. Good, I think I saved it. I forgot my line, but that was okay, there was still the girl behind me. I would order, turn, and drop the line. Make it quick and easy, don’t overthink it.

“Sir what can I get you?” The cashier asks me with a professional smile. What do they serve here again? I managed to not read a single word when I had pretended to study the menu.

“I’ll have what she’s having.” I say, gesturing to the last girl.

“Small hot chocolate?” She asks. I nod and hand her my card. Any second now I’m going to have to turn and address the girl behind me. I needed to focus on the line. ‘Did I scrape my knee falling for you?’. That didn’t make sense.

“Here’s your hot chocolate sir.” The lady said.

“Knees.” I say back to her. Her professional smile slips for a second.

I can’t say anything now, look at the ground and walk away. Just look at the ground away. I walk outside with my drink, too red faced to possibly go back in. I must be one of the world’s most socially inept people. I had whiffed not one, but two chances to drop the line, and had even botched what should be a routine interaction with someone who is paid to be sociable to me.

I kick a trash can on my way to my car. I stub my toe doing this, and spill hot chocolate on myself, which is still quite hot. I barely manage to stop myself from swearing as one of the girls from the shop comes up to me. She had been walking to her car, and had heard me kick the trash can.

“Are you okay? That sounds like it hurt.” She looks at my leg.

“I think it’s okay, but do you have a band aid? I think I scraped my knee falling for you.” She looks like she’s just seen an oncoming train, and I feel like a jerk. Then she laughs and gets a very genuine smile.

“Thank you.” She says, and starts walking away. It worked! Holy cow it worked! I didn’t get slapped, and she had even laughed! I kind of wanted to go back and pick up the conversation. Maybe I could take that somewhere. No, first rule of this thing was don’t pick up numbers. The goal was to get better with girls so I could treat my wife well. I wasn’t actually supposed to succeed.

Wow it was such a rush to make a girl smile like that. It was like that feeling of starting a fire, mixed with the excitement of jumping off the cliff. I felt exhilarated and validated as a man. I could make girls smile and laugh.

As I drive my car home I wonder why she said thank you. I had made a request of her, people usually either gave you what you wanted or denied your request by saying sorry. You didn’t thank someone who tried to get something from you. It was the person who received the gift that did the thanking. I should be thanking her for giving me a smile and a laugh.

It didn’t make sense to me, maybe she was a bit abnormal for a girl, or maybe these pick-up lines didn’t work the way I thought they did. I was going to call it quits for the night. I would think about other places I could go tomorrow. Maybe the other nine would all slap me and this was a one off fluke. I would bask in my victory tonight. I’d select the next line I would use, and then start my nightly fire. Today was a good day.

After work I head to a grocery store. I need to go to the store anyway, and I’ve seen girls in the store before.

I decided last night to use the heart line. I figured I could find a girl who was holding something her hand, and ask for it back. It wouldn’t be completely weird that way, just mostly weird.

It’s not long before I spot my quarry. She’s on the isle with all the sandwich stuff, holding two different brands of peanut butter. Brimming with confidence I stride over to her.

“Come on, give it back.” I say. She looks up, clearly confused. She’s supposed to say what. She doesn’t say anything. Why isn’t she saying what? This is weird, I should leave. No, I have to finish the line.

“My heart.” I say. She puts the peanut butter in her cart and walks away, glancing over her shoulder at me.

I’m a jerk. There’s no other way about it. I’m a jerk. I hadn’t been slapped, but I kind of wished she had slapped me. I would have deserved it.She had probably been having a perfectly fine day before I had walked up to her, and now I had ruined it.

I still had to do this another eight times. I needed to do at least one more today. Did my daughter know it would mess with the girl’s day? She must’ve thought it worth the cost or something.

I had to do this either more times. I buy some crackers and leave the store. Let’s just get this next one over with, and then we’ll call it a day. I already had the next line all figured out.

The interior decorator line was educationally related, so I could go to the local community college. I might maybe, in the right light, pass as college age, and college students asked each other what their major was all the time. It wasn’t that much of a stretch to finish off the line.

I drive to the local community college, and begin walking around. It’s not hard to find a girl, but it is hard to find the courage to say something. I start wandering aimlessly, and eventually begin to just walking in a loop around the campus.

Had I made a net positive with this bold way of talking to girls. The first girl had certainly walked away feeling much better. I think I had made her day, but had the second one balanced that positive emotion. Was I neutral then? That meant this next girl would either put me in a hole or give me a buffer for the next rejection.

As always, thinking wasn’t helping. There was nothing else for it. I’ve got to do it, and the more I walk around the harder it’s going to get.

I pick the very next girl walking up to me, she catches me looking at her and I flinch, but maintain eye contact and walk up to her. She’s carrying some books on her way to class presumably, and smiles as I get closer. I’m so focused I don’t notice.

“Hey, do you study interior design?” I ask.

“Uh, nursing actually.” She points to the large stack of nursing books she’s carrying. Of course she’s carrying books that invalidate my pick up line.

“That’s funny, because as soon as I saw you the whole room became beautiful.” She gets the same deer in the headlights look the first girl gets, and then titls her head back laughing.

“We’re outside silly.” She says. This line was about as airtight as a cheese grater.

“Well I guess that means you’re really good.” I say. She laughs again and puts her books down. She extends a hand.

“I’m Hannah.” I take her hand and shake it.

“I’m, uh….” Should I use my real name? Better not. I’ll go with my middle name.

“I’m Jack.” I say. She’s actually going to stick around and have a bit of a conversation? That didn’t happen with the other girls..

“Well, uh Jack, what do you study?” She asks. Oh man, what was I supposed to say? The letters hadn’t gone this far. I had used the pick up line I should just walk away, but that would be rude.

“I’m actually trying out pick up lines and figured that a college would be a good place to ask about what people are studying.” I say. Instantly I regret it as she just blinks at me and glances down at her books, no doubt having second thoughts about talking to me.

“That’s, blunt.” She says. “Nobody says that.”

“Well, I’m not a very normal person.” I say.

“Yeah, I can see that.” She says, getting a bit of her smile back. “Hey Jack, I’ve got to get to class, I’ll see you later.” I say goodbye and she heads off.

I watch her head off, and scratch my head. The letters had given me the impression that there was a method to this. There were different kinds of things you started a conversation with, and rules about how to initiate physical contact. It had started to sound like there was a formula, but I had used the same class of conversation starters with three very different results. This was not doing an experiment to derive a formula. This was going shopping blindfolded and being told to head left when you enter the store because the vegetables are somewhere over there.

I hoped the rest of the process wasn’t going to be like this. I liked consistency. In science you were supposed to use the same input to get the same output. It’s called repeatability and it was how you discovered facts. It seemed like there were no facts here. Every person was going to be different and the most you could hope for was general guiding principles. It was like sticking your hand into dark water. You could pull out a pearl, or you could pull out a piranha.

Thankful that I was one third of the way there, I went home. I spent the evening memorizing and ranking the other lines in order of difficulty. I was starting to get my legs under me, and had resolved the next day to use five lines. The fourth day I would use two, and then finish off with the really hard line. That would give me time to practice the physical bit the sixth day, and wrap up the other lessons on the seventh day, when I would open my daughter’s next letter.

How did people do this? I had one girl spontaneously give me her number. I accepted the number then threw it away to keep with the rules of my daughter. I had a second girl pretend not to hear me and keep walking. Two more girls did the deer in the headlights followed by a laugh, and a fifth looked at me strange and in a gentle but firm way told me she had a boyfriend.

It was like fighting a battle every time. You had to put this big investment of emotional energy into it, and you didn’t know if you’d get that emotional energy reciprocated or if you’d get it stomped on. I was glad I already had an introduction to my wife waiting for me in one of these letters, and wouldn’t have to mess around with this ridiculous nonsense.

It never truly got easier either. The fear and anxiety was still there, you just learned to cope with it and do what you came to do anyway. The last two I had saved were the angle line, and the boyfriend line. I had found two coffee shops next to each other, and was going to knock both of these out so I could go to my final location for the last pick up line.

I enter the first coffee shop, and spot a girl working on a laptop while sipping on a cup of something steaming. I’ve learned to instantly walk over to a girl as soon as you see her. It prevents you from overthinking things and freaking yourself out.

I try and catch her eye as I walk over, but she’s got her nose buried in what she’s working on.

“Hey.” I say as I walk over. She glances up briefly, but keeps working on her laptop.

“Do you know what this shirt is made of?” I ask. To her credit, she gives it a moment’s inspection before guessing.

“Cotton.” She says disinterestedly and returns to her computer.

“Boyfriend material.” I correct her. She snorts and says.

“Cute.” And doesn’t look up from her computer, it’s ,not a horrible response, but not a very good one either. I walk out the back to avoid people staring, and make my wake to the second shop. There’s just one last short line to dish out before the big one.

As with the first shop I enter the second one and as soon as I see a girl reading a book in a corner chair I approach her.

“Excuse me miss.” I say. She puts her finger in the book as she puts it down to look at me.

“Can I get a photo with you to proof to all my friends that angels exist?” I ask. She stares at me.

“I don’t let strangers take photos of me.” She says. Ouch, it’s the first time a girl puts the guilt on me. The girl in the grocery store had just walked away, but this girl had basically just called me a creeper.

“Cool.” Is all I can think to say before walking out the back. I had wanted to finish on a high note. I had this image of the girl calling one of her friends over to take the picture with me, and maybe get a number out of it. I didn’t use the numbers, but they made me feel a lot better.

Now I’m heading into the granddaddy of all pick-up lines with one tepid response, and one cold response, great.

The college campus is about the same as I left it, still plenty of girls walking about. Only I’m not just looking for any girl. I need a girl with a cell phone out. Which isn’t much of a restriction, but it is during the summer, so most people are running quickly to and from summer classes.

Eventually I see her. Like a hunter spotting a deer in the distance I instinctively froze. I was lucky she was standing in one place, but not lucky that she was angrily talking on the phone with someone.

I could find someone else. I could turn around go somewhere else. I could even come back another day. I still had plenty of time. I didn’t need to do the rest of the stuff in the letters. All she said was use the ten lines. That was it.

But that wasn’t the point of the lesson. It wasn’t about saying ridiculous things. It was about not letting fear determine your actions.

I walked forward, and didn’t even wait for her to finish her call.

“Hey, excuse me, can I borrow your phone.” She rounded on me like a lion about to pounce on her prey. Her eyes tried to bore holes through my skull, and she exasperatedly handed the phone, with the other person still on the line.

“Hello, is this…” I didn’t know her name. “What’s your name?” I asked. I couldn’t believe I was doing this. She was totally about to take her phone back or slap me or something.

“Lindsey.” She practically spat out the name.

“Is this Lindsey’s mom?” I asked.

“It’s her father.” A rough male voice came through the earpiece.

“Great, listen, I just saw your daughter, and she was so beautiful I wanted your help in getting her on a date. Where do you think I should take her.” Everyone stopped. Lindsey’s dad didn’t say anything. Lindsey’s jaw had dropped, and all the students in a ten foot radius, who had been rushing to get to their exams, now stood stalk still watching me.

“Hello?” I said. There was still nothing, and I was still being watched. It was like I was performing a magic trick or something.

The line went dead. I looked at the phone to make sure that the call was indeed over, and then handed the device back to Lindsey.

“Nice bracelet you have on by the way.” I tell her as she takes her phone back, her mouth it still hanging open wide enough to fit two cheeseburgers, and no one has started moving yet.

I had bombed, and bombed bad. I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to go back to the campus for months without somebody pointing me out as that weird guy that called the girl’s parents.

I don’t care. I’ve won. I did something so entirely gutsy that most men wouldn’t even dream of. Things that people joked about, but never did. Every guy I know wanted this, this total mastery of self. This ability to defy social pressure and take hit after hit, and still keep coming, was something every guy wanted.

I walk back to my car with twenty plus pairs of eyes following me. They can’t believe what they’ve just seen. Some of them are horrified. Some of them are envious. Some of them are so shocked that they don’t know what to think. All of them know they’ve witnessed a profound act of courage.

I go back in the attic to complete a little ritual. After every trip out to drop pick-up lines I had returned home to check off a line from the list Sarah had wrote me. This was to make sure I didn’t repeat any that I didn’t have to, and to give myself a reward for sticking it out and having the guts to do it. I would now cross off the last line, and emerge victorious from another of my daughter’s challenges.

I open the box and pull out the letter, pen at the ready, and find there is new text. A few weeks earlier I might have dropped the letter like it was burning my hand, now I just read through it, curious at the new words. They are certainly new. I had read this letter many times, and there was never any additional text below the lines. It read:

I’m proud of you dad. As bizarre a thing as it is to be proud of, I am. I remember how crushed you were when that one girl didn’t call you. A single rejection ruined your day, and you’ve just walked away with your head held high from one of the most spectacular rejections I’ve ever see. You are an awesome man who is deserving of a wonderful person. There are still a few more letters, but know that I’ve written them to you knowing that you are the kind of strong man who can do what needs to be done even when all societal pressure and emotional turmoil tell him to stop. You’re the best, I love you, and I’m proud to call you my father.”

 

Your adoring daughter,

Sarah

She came back again! This is proof that she has been traveling back and forth through time on more than one occasion. Not only is there additional text, but the original text, the list of 10 lines, has been moved to the top of the page where before it was in the middle. My daughter must have rewrote the letter, but put the lines at the top. The lines I drew across the paper are also gone. She had to leave the old one, and then sometime while I was gone, she traveled back again, and then replaced the original letter with this new one. She was coming back and forth multiple times for me. I win at life.

The rest of the two days is fun. I enjoy practicing all the various kinds of lines and touch games. I start with the compliment openers, finding the right compliment was a game in itself. I would see a girl and instantly size up what she wanted me to compliment her on. Hair is in a ponytail, standard low effort style, no good, generic plastic necklace, t-shirt with no brand name, bracelet just looks like her name. Oh wait, it looks like silver, bingo.

“Hey I love your necklace.”

“Oh thank you, my mom got it for me on my last birthday.

T-shirt with band name, but I don’t recognize the band. Hair all the way down, no bracelets, ear ring, or jewelry.

“Excuse me, I just had to say you look very perky today.”

“Thanks, I’ve been getting a full nights rest.”

“Clearly, it’s showing in your face very well.”

Some girls were harder than others, but if you had a minute to think about it, you could always find something.

These lines were okay, you often got a conversation started, but only if you immediately had something else to talk about. That was why the situation based opening lines worked best, you just jumped straight into the middle of a conversation about something.

It was during these conversations that I mastered the fun little touch games. It was easier than I thought. First I usually picked something to point out. Just touch their shoulder and say ‘hey do you see that?”. Didn’t matter what, maybe someone was wearing a shirt you liked, or someone had a bumper sticker you identified with.

I would point out several things, and then I would progress to the hand games. They were ridiculous things. My favorite one started with me asking for a girl’s hand. I thought it would be a strange request, but people will just give you their hands if you ask. I would then place one of my hands below theirs, and one above theirs. I would then gesture with my head for them to put their hand on top of mine, so we had a pile of alternating hands. I would then slip my bottom hand onto the top of the pile. Without fail, every single girl would then slip her bottom hand out and put it on top. You could then keep going, building up until she couldn’t reach. You could move your hand from the top to the bottom. Or you could just pull both of your hands out at once.

My next favorite came from dancing. I was thinking dancing worked so well because it was something not a lot of guys did, but girls wanted to do. What if I did other things that girls liked to do?

I tested this theory by just walking into a coffee shop, and when the cashier asked what I wanted I responded by playing patty cake with her. She went along with it for two whole minutes before a gentleman at the back of the line clear his throat loudly. The cashier giggled, and then wrote her number down on the receipt.

I enjoyed messing around with all of the various ways that I could employ to start conversations and play touch games. I would think of an idea. I would execute that idea, and some worked, while others bombed. When the sun went down I had a small arsenal of games and lines in my back pocket that I could pull out whenever I wanted to. If I ever ran out of things to say, I would resort to a touch game to buy some time, or drop a cheesy line to change the subject. In a few cases I decided to literally pick the girl up and swing her around a few times. That seemed to reset the conversation and put a grin on the girl’s face.

I almost regretted climbing the stairs to read my daughter’s next letter. I was enjoying myself.

05/26/14

Well done father. I knew you could do it, and you have proven once again you are the kind of man that can be relied on. You’re one of the good guys. I’ve got a light task for you this week. Just spend some time talking to girls. Not just any talking of course. You’re going to be looking for information in these girls. See, you won’t know anything about the girl you’re going after, and you need to start gathering intel. Have you noticed that girls respond very differently to the same comment because all of them are their own unique person? You need to start figuring out what kind of person they are so you can find the right girl.”

                “To do that, you have to ask the right questions, see if she can carry a conversation, and pick your topics well. We’re going to start with the last one.”

                “Picking your topics well, there are a few things you’re going to want to know about a girl. One is her education. Education is the first step in a career, and you need to find out where she stands. This one is easy. Know that interior design line? Drop it in the middle. That line does ask what she studies. She will most likely tell you.” I remember, the girl had said she was nursing. “From there you can talk about what her career plans are fairly easily. There are other more direct ways of asking things, but be she sure you make a mental list ahead of time so you hit your subjects. Don’t get stuck discussing favorite movies. If you want movie reviews they have websites for that. You’re here to find facts.”

                “As regards the first one, here’s a fun question ‘you get three wishes, but can’t for anything that can be bought or sold, and the wish has to be selfish. Sounds like an intriguing thought experiment right? It can be rephrased ‘describe to me the three things you value most’. For the rest of the questions you want to stick with the interrogative ‘why’. What she does, how she does it, where she does it, who she does it with, are not nearly as valuable as knowing why she does it. All four of the other things can change, but the core of who she is can be defined with ‘why’. Find the why, and you find what truly makes her who she is” I strongly suspect that my daughter writes philosophy.

As for the third one, I’ve got one instruction for you. Close your mouth and let her talk. Girls like a guy who can carry and lead a conversation well, but you need to know this girl can hold her own. You don’t want to do all the talking in the relationship do you? Let her talk, see what she talks about. The compliment that means the most is the one that is unsolicited, so the conversation topic she picks on her own is the one that she assigns the greatest importance to. Keep a firm hand on the conversation, but also pay attention to where she steers it when you let her have the wheel.”

                “Got it dad, ask meaningful questions, ask ‘why’, and close your mouth every now and then. One last note, this may seem that I’m asking you to talk about personal stuff. That’s because there’s one more thing. Enjoy yourself! Goof it up a bit, mix things up, have a ball, but remember that you also want to figure things out about her.”

This and the next letter are the easiest my daughter gives me. I easily do both in the span of a week. The second one asks me to plan out the conversation so that we talk about a mutual interest that also makes for a great date idea. If you talk about the date the whole conversation, naturally you should go on it. It hardly seems like a date at that point. It’s just doing that thing you talked about doing.

When two weeks have passed I go into the attic once more to open the box. I take in the box before opening it, appreciating the craftsmanship and once more wondering whether it is made by my daughter’s hands. I take the time to enjoy it because I’m delaying.

In the box is the last instructional letter. There are four in total. I have a guess what the second to last is, but not what the very last contains. I do know what the one I will read today talks about, and I’m dreading opening it.

07/03/2014

Father, as I have said before, you have done wonderfully. You have become healthy, gained a fun lifestyle with multiple hobbies, and gained confidence and skill in the art of talking to girls. You just have one last thing on my list to do. It’s just one thing, but I won’t help you with this.”

                “See, I can’t fix this for you. I could figure out how. Like so many other things I have told you. I could find the precise words and acts necessary to do what needs to be done. I could craft the ideal plan and outline it for you that you can resolve the matter, but that would destroy the meaning of what I’m about to ask.”

                “Father it’s been weeks since you’ve talked to your siblings. Every last one of them is hurting and needing your support. I want you to fix your relationships. This is the last thing you need to do father, and then, we will bring this period to a close. I’ll be waiting for you dad. Show me you can take care of family.”

                So my siblings were hurt. It hurt that I didn’t know that. They all seemed to do well. Ever since I had missed out on my little sister breaking up with her boyfriend I had been checking their facebook pages pretty regularly in order to insure I was up to date with all of their information. They had all done well in school. My two brothers were active in summer sports, and my sister was having a blast preparing for college, what could be wrong with them?

I decide to call Grace first. She’s the one I’ve spent time with most recently, and it would easiest to talk to her. I already know we can discuss dancing. I could invite myself over, and we could dance, then talk about my other siblings in detail.

I dial the number, and she picks up halfway through the first ring. I don’t even get a chance to say hello. She starts talking as soon as she answers the call.

“Our youngest brother has run away.”

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