Dear Sean


How do I get a girl to like me? I am a 7th-grader who goes to (blank) Middle School and I really want her to think I am cool even though I’m not one of the cool kids… I am a little chunky, but I’m really nice.

Please write me back with advice,


Let’s take a look at “coolness.” First, when I was your age, coolness was dependent upon a surprisingly short list of criteria.

1. Did the child in question own, or have sufficient access to, and was thereby able to use at will, without administrative or parental restriction, a Sony Walkman radio?

Secondly: Did this kid wear dorky khaki pants?

It was that easy.

The problem for me was, of course, my mother believed in the Gospel According to Khakis. She ironed my slacks with so much starch the creases could slice cantaloupes.

Thus, while other kids wore blue jeans, I wore khakis that had been—and this is very hard for me to say—purchased from Sears.


These were not just pants. They were “Husky” pants. You might not know what that is. They were pants designed for boys who loved church potlucks. I looked like a khaki-colored Butterball ham.

So anyway, there was this girl. Her name was—never mind, it doesn’t matter. I thought she was wonderful. She was one of the “cool” kids. I wanted her to notice me.

More importantly, I wanted her to notice me AT THE ROLLER RINK.

Now, I know what a kid from your generation might be thinking: “What’s a roller rink?” I’m glad you asked. Because long ago, after the dawn of the electric lightbulb, we had big buildings that were dimly lit and smelled like body odor. We would skate for hours to such unforgettable hits like: “Do the Hustle,” “Love Train,” and “Tico Tico.”

If you were worth your salt, you asked a girl to couple skate. And if you were “cool” she would give you her hand. You would skate in circles until you agreed to get married and eventually invest in real estate.

If you were an athlete or a champion spear fisherman, girls would couple skate with you. But, if your lot in life was to stand with fellas who frequently quoted lines from Star Trek and ate their own boogers, you were “uncool.”

So, in a desperate effort to win this girl’s attention, I asked my mother how I could be cool.

My mother said, “You already ARE cool, sweetheart.”

“No I’m not,” I reminded her. “I am a dork.”

My mother looked at me long and hard and offered a few words. They didn’t strike me as wise words at first, but they were:

“Be yourself,” she said. “The right people will love the real you.”

Then, in a sacred moment that can only be described as divine, she said, “Take off your pants, they need ironing.”

At the skating rink, I saw the girl I told you about. She was standing beside the soda machine. There were two “very cool,” nicer-looking boys standing beside her. I didn’t have a chance in a hailstorm.

Even so, I thought about what my mother said. And somehow, I worked up enough courage. I tightened the belt on my Sears khakis and waltzed straight to her.

And it hit me. I knew what I would do. I would tell a joke! Of course! That’s what the real me would do!

Humor was my thing. Chubby kids, you see, have a distinct advantage in the area of comedy. Chubby boys can say almost anything and people snicker. A boy my size, for instance, could recite the 23rd Psalm and bring the house down.

So, I looked straight at this girl and said, “Do you believe in love at first sight, or should I walk by you again?”

She laughed.

I decided to go for the gold.

“I’m NOT asking you to couple skate,” I said. “But… Would you hold my hand while I solo skate?”

What happened next is a blur. She actually gave me her hand. And I remember “Unchained Melody” playing overhead. And I vaguely remember breaking my tailbone to a chorus of laughter. That’s all. Roll the credits.

Now here’s the part you knew was coming: you’re beautiful, brother. Truly beautiful. There are pieces of you so bright they can only be seen from outer space. You can’t see them. And this is good, or else the glimmer would blind you..

So I’m going to share some advice my mother once gave:

“Be yourself, the right people will love the real you.”

And here’s some advice from me: avoid khakis.


  1. Brenda Badenhop - September 17, 2021 11:34 am

    “Be yourself”, perfect.

  2. Susan - September 17, 2021 11:41 am

    Your mother gave you very good advice. Thanks for passing it on!

  3. Joan Moore - September 17, 2021 11:58 am

    Even if you have to wait until you are 42 to find the right cool guy!

  4. Karen Snyder - September 17, 2021 12:04 pm

    You, too, shine brightly, Sean. Every. Day. ❤️

  5. Gina T from NC - September 17, 2021 12:26 pm

    As the mama of a 33 year old man, and now of an adopted 9 year old boy, The words “Be Yourself, the right people will love the real you” have come to life for my 33 year old, and are yet to be said to my little guy.

    I am still trying to get past this one: “One day you will remember for the rest of your life that at little girl has told you either: ‘You smell good’ or ‘You smell bad’. Make sure it is the ‘you smell good’ one. ” NOW TAKE A SHOWER WITHOUT COMPLAINING ABOUT IT!

    Haha, boys.

  6. Suellen - September 17, 2021 1:20 pm

    My advice probably would have been leave the girls alone for a couple of more years. Go out and have a blast with your friends. Girlfriends only complicate things.

  7. Tom Usher - September 17, 2021 1:32 pm

    I’m a charter member of the Sears Husky Club, though in my day we wore corduroys, not khakis. I’ve never been able to get away from the memory of that fabric and the noise it made when I was walking down a quiet hallway in the school. With the way those pants legs rubbed together I’m still surprised that I never burst into flames on the way to math class.

    Lucky for me, way back in 1974, in 9th grade, my future wife was able to look past the pants and see the real me. Or, perhaps it was the platform shoes that won her over.

    Dorkiness knows no limits.

  8. Rikki - September 17, 2021 2:25 pm

    OMG! I spit out my coffee laughing about “Gospel according to Khaki”……brilliant Sean! Still laughing and need more paper towels!

  9. Linda Moon - September 17, 2021 2:50 pm

    AT THE ROLLER RINK. A cute guy skated up to me there a long time ago. He asked me if I liked to travel. I answered, “Yes”. Then he said, “Here’s a dime. Go to Hell.” Well, that was definitely NOT cool nor humorous. I love the real you, S. Dietrich. And, hey…I love me too.

  10. Tim Hancock - September 17, 2021 3:11 pm

    Dear Sean, we are so sorry that you weren’t able to perform at Baylights this year due to illness. We wish you a speedy recovery and get back to (Sean) normal soon. When we first heard you were going to perform this year, we rushed to the website to make reservations, and right in the middle of the process, the lady informed us of your cancellation. We were sorely disappointed. We hope you are scheduled to perform next year because we thoroughly enjoyed the concert the last time we were in Alabama.
    Wishing you and Jamey the best, and we want to express our sorrow in your loss of Mother Mary. She was a blessing for you both.
    Tim and Chris Hancock
    Versailles, KY

  11. Christina - September 17, 2021 3:17 pm

    Sean, you still crack us up and bring the house down.

  12. Edna Isdell - September 17, 2021 3:28 pm

    Loved this column.
    Excellent advice for us all
    I am making an Atlanta Braves quilted throw.
    Approximately 45 x 63 inches. If you would like it please send me your mailing address
    Free to you..I enjoy reading your columns every day

  13. Stacey Wallace - September 17, 2021 3:39 pm

    Sean, that was so sweet. And you’re correct. My husband and I are nerds who wear khakis and quote Star Trek. And as a former student once said, we were made for each other.

  14. Theresa N Collins - September 17, 2021 5:14 pm

    Great advise for anyone at any age! If I haven’t told you lately, I LOVE YOUR writing so much!
    Love you too! MamaT

  15. caryl clem - September 17, 2021 11:40 pm

    Not only the secret to being cool is being you it is a road to the life you deserve because you will be among those who appreciate your originality and bright spirit. Thank You for your wisdom for this emerging star 7th grader.

  16. Diana - September 18, 2021 3:12 am

    I knew this advice in the 1970s as a teenager without anyone telling me… as did my friends. Maybe we all “just knew” the right thing to do back then. But! I did tell my boys when they were teenagers in the 1990s… be yourselves… stop being stupid brats showing off. LOL! Seems to have worked… they both married lovely girls and have given me several grandchildren. Proof the advice works. Be blessed, Sean!

  17. dixie7744gmailcom - September 23, 2021 2:25 pm


  18. Sara Wood-Kraft - September 27, 2021 5:15 pm

    “There are pieces of you so bright they can only be seen from outer space” is the most brilliant wordsmithing and most generous comment I know. Thanks, Sean, for your writing in general, but I am going to embroider this one.


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