Thirteen in Franklin

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.


  1. Sandi. - January 5, 2023 10:20 am

    I grew up in Georgia during the 1960’s era, and in 6th grade we had daily cursive penmanship lessons, which I actually enjoyed.. You can bet the bank I developed a ‘writer’s callus’ on my middle right finger, and it’s still there today! Not until reading your post did it even occur to me to think about this little bump, but I’m proud of it!

  2. Dina - January 5, 2023 12:33 pm

    All very sound, true and hilarious advice! Ya, nailed it Sean!

  3. Priscilla Rodgers - January 5, 2023 1:00 pm

    Good advice for teenagers and a lot of adults.

  4. Trudy - January 5, 2023 1:22 pm

    Great advice and very funny. And , yes, I’ve got a writer’s callus, too.

  5. Joe - January 5, 2023 1:31 pm

    Happy birthday Mac!

  6. mccutchen52 - January 5, 2023 1:35 pm

    So True Sean. You might have missed your calling as a counselor or possibly a motivational speaker. I remember Lawn Darts. Kept us quick on our feet.

  7. helen - January 5, 2023 1:42 pm

    Love reading your stuff. Just good, down to earth “stuff.” Good Stuff.

  8. Ann Thompson - January 5, 2023 1:49 pm

    Good piece of writing. Enjoy your day.

  9. Sean of the South: Thirteen in Franklin | The Trussville Tribune - January 5, 2023 1:57 pm

    […] By Sean Dietrich, Sean of the South […]

  10. Anne Arthur - January 5, 2023 1:58 pm

    All that and lots of fun. Happy 13th to new teenagers, including those who have been celebrating that birthday for several decades. Happy New Year.

  11. Susie - January 5, 2023 2:26 pm

    Love to you, Sean. Enjoy so much starting every day with a dose of Sean. Thank you.

  12. Suellen - January 5, 2023 2:28 pm

    Happy Birthday Mac.

  13. Sal - January 5, 2023 2:33 pm

    Such good advice!!

  14. Oliver Rhett Talbert - January 5, 2023 2:37 pm

    Really enjoyed this column on thoughtless cellphone use. My wife & I were at a restaurant last spring, near a table of 8 girls dressed for a prom party – every single one on her cellphone, not speaking to or even looking at each other. We’ve lately noticed more and more dining-out couples doing the same thing. Then last night I saw that my wife & I had fallen into the same disturbing practice.
    I’m pretty sure we’ve all been infected with alien spores of some kind… like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” a reel classic well before the Donald Sutherland(?) re-make. The alien spores are rectangular, with illuminated faces that mimic your favorite screenshot.

    • Sandi. - January 6, 2023 6:40 am

      I agree with Mr. Talbert 100%. Statistical data proves that the average 14 year old today who lives to be 75, will have spent almost eleven years of his/her life on a cell phone

  15. Patricia Gibson - January 5, 2023 2:46 pm

    Extremely well said as always!!!

  16. Nena M - January 5, 2023 2:58 pm

    I actually saw Billy Vera and the Beaters in concert in Owensboro, KY in 1986. He also sang a fun song called “Peanut Butter”.

  17. David - January 5, 2023 3:17 pm

    Good advice!

  18. Stacey Wallace - January 5, 2023 4:19 pm

    Happy Birthday, Mac! Sean, that was some good advice. Love to you, Jamie, Marigold, Otis Campbell, and Thelma Lou.

  19. Gigi - January 5, 2023 4:43 pm

    Happy Birthday Mac ! Sean just gave you some great advice.
    I remember Lawn Darts, what a fun game ! I’ll bet you can’t even find them anymore because they’d be considered too dangerous. We also played a lot of Croquet growing up. After supper Mom, Dad, my sister, and myself, and sometimes my best friend who lived across the street, would play a game of Croquet at least a few times a week. Precious memories ❤️

  20. sjhl7 - January 5, 2023 4:59 pm

    Happy Birthday! Have fun! Enjoy life!

  21. Terri - January 5, 2023 6:28 pm

    I laughed out loud at the brandishing of the middle finger! I’d have literally shouted if I’d had a student who could write using voice just a fourth as well as you!!

  22. AlaRedClayGirl - January 5, 2023 9:01 pm

    Good advice, especially about growing older, but not growing old. I didn’t have lawn darts, but just a set of regular darts. But you know, I found out those little darts can cause injuries as well if someone is stupid enough to stand in front of your target. And all these years I thought I was the only person with a writer’s callus.

  23. MAM - January 5, 2023 9:14 pm

    Oh, Sean. If you speak into your phone, I hope that YOU always check for auto-correct. Speaking and typing into a phone often cause oopsies. I have a columnist that gets funny mistakes speaking his column. and my typing into that tiny keyboard on the phone creates really interesting errors! Happy Birthday, Mac! Do grow up a little, but keep the fun in adulthood.

  24. Linda Moon - January 5, 2023 10:19 pm

    Welcome to teen-land, Mac. There’s nothing like it! And Sean, your last paragraph describes My Guy and me to a T, so I’m glad Mac got good advice from you that’ll last him a lifetime!

  25. Bev - January 6, 2023 1:21 am

    Growing older is a part of life.
    Growing up, is not.
    Great advice, ditch the electronics and LIVE!!

  26. George Robert Leach - January 6, 2023 4:44 am

    Wish someone had told me this at 13.

  27. Karen - January 6, 2023 5:43 pm

    I learned not to dictate on my phone without checking before sending. Great advice for all ages.

  28. Carolyn S Allen - January 6, 2023 5:53 pm

    Pretty awesome advice, Sean, especially about the deodorant!!
    PS Wish they made deodorant for teenage boys’ feet.


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