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Bad with Girls

One evening in Brooklyn, feeling enterprising, I wandered into the kitchen and sat down on the chaise lounge opposite my father, who was parked in his favorite reading chair. "Dad?" I said. I'm sure I said this several times, as there is no way he heard me the first time, being deaf from Vietnam gunfire and engrossed in his book. So it probably went more like this: "Dad? Hey, Dad.... Dad!"

At which point he looked up and smiled his sweet smile. "Yes?"

"Dad," I said, "what...do you say to women?"

He struck a bashful pose. "Whatever do you mean?" he gasped.

I rolled my eyes. "Da-ad."

He set his book on the arm of the chair, settling himself for the answer. He is prone to doing this; though he'd never admit it, Dad can be theatrical in his good-natured buffoon routine. He is a great storyteller and born fabricator, unabashed in his hysterical lies, many of them historical. One favorite of mine is his rendition of the evolution of the blimp, which involved Mr. Colonel Zeppelin and the Honorable Lord Dirigible.

But the forthcoming utterance, as I should have known, would beat them all, would be my father at his finest. He was smiling to himself, showing his teeth, which was a sign. My father has a thing about his dental work.

"Women," he began. "Well, first you walk up to them, and then you look charming, and then you say, 'Excuse me, you have lovely bosoms.'"

Delighted and appalled, I half laughed, half gaped at him.

"Dad," I admonished.

He grinned winsomely and shrugged.

"That's how I got your mother," he reasoned.

I must have blushed. "DAD!"

One may assume that it is due to this gene pool that I cannot get a date, but that is untrue. First of all, fearsome jokester that he is, his suggestion was in jest, meant to make me laugh, which it did. Second, my father was and is a dashing fellow, chivalrous without being chauvinistic, and wickedly funny. His teen and 20s photos show a strong-chinned, European Buddy Holly look-alike -- a boy ready for fun. Now in his 60s, he looks a decade younger, sporting a head of salt-and-pepper hair and an elegant posture, black eyes under thin-rimmed, contemporary glasses. Girls liked him in high school and women like him now, easily captured by his natural grace and lack of self-consciousness.

I, on the other hand, do not fare as well. When it comes to women, I am tongue-tied, though it stands to reason that, being female, I should be all aces. Unfortunately, this is not the case. No matter how many times I am told, "Just say hi," I fail every time, opting instead to watch the object of my attraction from a safe distance of five feet or more. I wait and agonize and pray that someone will approach me -- which, to my credit, they have done a few times -- so that I don't have to run the risk of imposing myself, unsolicited, on the elusive female in my sightlines. This self-protection, an act of habitual pessimism and safety in the face of ego-crushing rejection, is self-defeating.

And it doesn't stop there; not only am I terrified to talk to a girl, but my signal reading is abysmal. One doesn't need to be discreet for me to be oblivious. Observe: a woman at a dance hall once said to me, point blank, "If you were older, I'd go home with you in a hot minute," to which I replied, without hesitation, "Are you out of your mind?" I can go an entire night chatting with someone and entirely miss that she might dig me due to the fact that she had her hand on my knee the whole time. Oh, she was just resting it there , I reason, or, It was an honest mistake . I do this with my pals as well, soliciting their advice time and again.

"She asked me my name," I related to a friend after a night on the town, "and then was, like, 'Who are you with?' and when I said, 'No one,' she goes, 'That's crazy!' [Pause] What does this mean?"

The friend sighed in exasperation. "She LIKED you," she explained. "She thought you were CUTE."

"Oh," I said.

Last year, when I turned 21 and was (legally) allowed into bars, my fear for lack of mating-ritual skills (however dampened by alcohol) threw a wrench in my new life of social freedom. Tired and frustrated, I turned to my father.

"Dad, seriously, what do you say to women?"

"Bosoms!" he replied.

"No, Dad, I mean really. Honestly."

He looked up from his manuscript and thought a moment.

"Ummmm," he said, breaking into his silly smile, "you could pinch their butts."

www.pianogoesbackwards.negimaki.com

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