It’s is a big day for you, Mac. You’re turning 13. You are officially a teenager! Congratulations! Wear deodorant!
Seriously. If there is one piece of practical advice I have, it’s that deodorant is important for teenage boys.
This is especially true when you think you don’t need deodorant. Because chances are you probably do.
Boys, you see, have a hard time being objective about the aromas emitted from their own personal armpits. This is because male noses are less sensitive than female noses.
Take my wife. She can smell spoiled milk in the refrigerator of the International Space Station. Whereas, each morning I sniff my dirty shirts to see if I can get a few more days out of them.
So wear antiperspirant. That’s all the wisdom I have. The rest of your life will take care of itself.
The main thing is not to worry about life stuff. Our culture is very into worrying. This is why being a teenager in today’s world is far more difficult than it was for your dad and me.
A long time ago, when your father and I were born, beneath the John Quincy Adams administration, there was very little worrying going on.
Our parents didn’t worry about dangerous things. We didn’t wear bicycle helmets or seatbelts, or catcher’s masks. We ate refined sugar, gluten, cholesterol, and we played lawn darts.
Lawn darts, for crying out loud.
We had no internet. No Whole Foods. No Disney Plus. Our televisions only received six channels, and we had to watch all the commercials.
We used old-school rotary phones which—I know this is hard to believe—did not even shoot good video. The most high-tech device my family owned was a crockpot with a timer.
Also, we had to learn cursive. In school, we would practice cursive for upwards of six hours each day at knifepoint. This is why every child in the American Public School System developed something called “writer’s callus,” which is a permanent bump on your middle finger.
We were proud of our calluses. After you earned this coveted callus, you would immediately run around the playground, brandishing your middle digit to your friends and loved ones until you ended up in the principal’s office.
Today, sadly, cursive is disappearing. Only 21 U.S. states currently require kids to learn cursive. The rest of the states make students communicate with teachers via smartphone, using SMS text lingo. (OMG! U R such a gr8 teacher! LOL! <3).
Which brings me to my second point about being a teenager: Use your phone less than you think you should. Don’t be that kid who is always on his phone.
As you enter your teens, you’ll probably be using a phone more. It’s only normal. But don’t let the phone take over your life.
To help you, I have come up with some guidelines on responsible smartphone usage:
—Never use your phone when hanging out with others.
—Never use a smartphone on a date.
—Not even if your date is scrolling cat videos on TikTok.
—Don’t touch your phone at the supper table.
—Not even to look up song lyrics to the classic song playing overhead on the radio.
—Which happens to be “At This Moment”, the 1981 single by Billy Vera & The Beaters.
—Which Google says wasn’t very successful until four years later when the song was featured on an episode of “Family Ties” in 1985.
—Which, Google also says, re-catapulted the song to number one on Billboard charts.
—Don’t use your phone in gym class.
—If you must use your phone in the bathroom, make sure to keep one hand on the urinal for balance.
—If you see someone drowning, do not remove your phone and shoot video until after mouth-to-mouth respiration has been administered.
—Never use a lowercase “i” as a personal pronoun.
—When you go to a concert, do not video the concert and stare at your phone screen all night.
—This also applies to the Grand Canyon.
—Do not take selfies at funerals.
—i am not kidding, i have seen it done.
And while I’m on the subject: Always doublecheck outgoing texts for problems with autocorrect.
I say this because one time my friend Michael texted his future wife, Karly, after their very first date. Michael thought he texted Karly the following sentence:
“So when’s our 2nd date?! I can’t wait to see those big beautiful dimples of yours.”
“Big deal?” I can hear you saying. “What’s so bad about that?”
The big deal is that autocorrect changed “dimples” to a word that rhymes with “fipples.”
Simply put, using a phone is not gentlemanly. It’s rude. It’s thoughtless. I’m sorry, but it’s absolutely true. Also, keep in mind I wrote this column on my phone.
Other than that, Mac, I don’t have much advice for your 13th birthday except this:
Enjoy your life. I know those words sound like a no-brainer, but believe me, as you get older it becomes more difficult to find joy. Life is not for wimps. In fact, life is the hardest thing you will ever do. But that doesn’t mean life can’t be fun. Life is fun, Mac. It is a non-stop bronco ride. And it’s over way too soon.
So have fun growing older. But don’t ever grow up.