Courtney Barnett
June 17, 2012 8:00 am

Ties? Cologne? Something related to motorcycles? Two ties? As the idiom goes, what do you get the man that has everything? And by everything, I of course mean the right to claim creation to one of the darlin’st gals a gent this side of the Mississip’ could ask for. *Tousles hair* His words, of course. You want to do something nice, thoughtful, and unique for all those consecutive hours he’s had to listen to you vent your stresses and for never bringing out that shotgun before a date like he always threatened he would. Cheers to Dads! They deserve the world for their efforts and the wrinkles we’ve caused them.

I figure the best gift to give the man who put up with late night panic attacks over math homework and who oversaw my potty training with utmost accuracy and precision would be to impart the knowledge he has so graciously awarded me throughout my 24 years as his daughter/hellion. He’ll be so pleased to know I’ve been paying attention all this time.

1. If you don’t know how to cook, at least know how to make omelettes

Ne’er the avid chef myself, I grew up watching my dad make two things: grilled cheese and omelettes. If it couldn’t be done on a griddle, he’d just doesn’t make it. I blame him for my lack of interest in cooking, which I don’t necessarily consider a bad thing. We gotta keep those restaurants open, y’all.

2. Don’t laugh at your own jokes

I’m often all too guilty of this, but with every cheesy line I crack as I obnoxiously, snort, cackle and win friends, I always remember hear these words in the back of my head. Saying something you assume witty and immediately chuckling as a way to get others to laugh he always found to be tacky and self-serving. Maybe he just grew up around people who weren’t all that funny, but there’s a moral in that sentiment that extends to other ideas – of having modesty and humility in all aspects of your life. Be confident but not full of yourself, be wise but not overbearing.

3. It’s okay to repeat a story to someone as long as it’s funny

I’ve countlessly heard over and over stories of random stuff I did as a kid or of “this hilarious scene from Reno 911 where they get tacos” as though it was the first time he’s told it. I correct him, “Dad, you told me this last month, remember?” Him: “I did? Sorry. Well, it’s still funny.” Touche. Who cares if you’ve said it 562 times as long as we’re holding onto things that make us happy?

4. Never call when Two And A Half Men is on

I’ll never get over the embarrassment that this his is favorite show, but the least I can do for him is consider our time zone differences and the CBS lineup so as not to interfere with his 30 minutes of unabashed joy after a stressful day at work. I think of how many TV shows he had to sacrifice so I could fit in my daily crack that was Wishbone and Arthur, and of how many times I interrupted him watching Cheers because I didn’t want to go to sleep. No one exists to him during that time slot, and rightfully so. I don’t want anyone interrupting my Top Chef/boxed pasta nights.

5. Kin will always be kin, so go ahead and fart around ’em

Take pride in the people you come from, you can’t change it anyway. Family is here to love you unconditionally and never judge you for how uncoordinated you are at touch football or how you can clear a room from your gas. They accept you and your farts, since your condition is probably genetic.

6. You have too eloquent a vocabulary to cuss

A retired Naval officer, my Pops has never lived up to the “cursing like a sailor” stereotype. He’s always had a love for words and a disdain for swears, so he always told us as young’ns that there are more creative ways to express what we’re feeling. I don’t completely agree with this now that I’m an adult with real problems and frustrations and have the liberty to say whatever colorful language I so desire, but there’s still a time and a place. That’s why I keep some made-up G-rated expletives in the back logs of my memory banks, so, if I happen to stub a toe in front of a stranger’s kid, I exclaim, “GOON!” rather than the alternative and look like a goon myself.

7. You have your mother’s scowl

The line of distinction between my mother and myself thins a little more each day. Even a fight last week with my boyfriend left me feeling concerned at how much our angry voices are starting to merge, so it’s no surprise that since as I was old enough to argue I was told I purse my lips and glare just like my mom. It’s something so inevitable I might as well embrace it and consider it arsenal in father/daughter disagreements. Remember this face?! Ya, this is the same face you got when you walked inside the house with your shoes on right after Mom vacuumed, prepare for it’s retuuuurn! Can I have $10 for the movies?

8. “No drinkin’, no druggin’, no sexin'”

A lecture given every weekend night throughout high school. Don’t do anything stupid, and keep away from weirdos! When did these words finally fade away? College. Never assume your parents are oblivious.

9. Avoid the ‘what if?’ later on and overcome your fears now

My Dad and I were both painfully shy kids, and as a result he always tried to push me to do things I was too bashful of because he didn’t want my meekness to hold me back from experiencing life. A story he often refers to is of a girl in high school he had a huge crush on and never did anything about. Flash-forward to a reunion, and my recently divorced Dad finds out from the lady herself that she, too, fancied him, yet both were too shy to do anything about it at the time. Not to take back having me and my brothers with my Mom, but he liked to use this as an example of never second-guessing yourself or thinking you’re not good enough for something or someone. You just have to swallow your fears and give it a try. What would your life would be like if you acted upon all of your dreams?

10. A person who gossips to you probably also gossips about you

One of the most important pieces of advice I think I’ve ever been given, especially being a female. My Dad’s a dude, how did he know this? You know that girl at work that vents to you about everyone in the office? More than likely she’s talking to them about you and sharing stuff you’ve told her. It’s probably not even in a mean-spirited way, gossips are just gossips and have to keep gabbing or else they’ll die, like a shark that stops swimming. Point is, you don’t have to be a part of it. Let that girl talk to your ear off on your lunch break, but you don’t have to share anything in return and jeopardize your character or people’s respect for you.

11. Always focus on the positive

The negative just makes you feel worse. The world may have dealt you a heavy blow, but you also decide how you choose to handle it. Are you going to harp on how something didn’t work out or how unfair someone is, or move on from it and take from it only a lesson? I would call my Dad after a fight with a college roommate and he would show me that the more I talked about it, the madder I got and the more stuff I would keep rehashing until he would hush me up completely and make me see what I was doing to myself. Staying mad. It’s hard for me sometimes, I have a very harsh attitude when I see people doing something stupid or unjust and I’ve always had a tendency to boil over. But I know I have to keep it in check. I’ve got a roof over my head, food in my fridge, good health, and family I can call at anytime. I don’t want to cause myself anymore unhappiness and headaches than the situation has already brought me, and I see how much smoother my day goes when I choose to just let it all roll off.

12. Do what makes you happy (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else)

In the summer of 2010 I moved out to Los Angeles after college in Austin to pursue a career in comedy. It didn’t take long for the epic punch in the face that is reality to hit, as it was hard to find a job, affordable housing without living in fear of your neighborhood, or even seeing the payoff from nights upon nights of shows and open mics. I missed Texas more than anything and questioned my decisions everyday. I should just go back to Austin. It’ll be easier. My friends are there. I’ll be closer to my family. Then I talked to my Dad, who had apparently told his friend that same day, “I don’t care if Courtney ever gets famous, but she’s pursuing her dream.” I realized, then, that even though times were hard, I had still put myself in a positive situation by at least being out here and doing what I wanted to do. I wasn’t letting anyone in my family down as long as I was doing what I loved to the best of ability.

And that’s why I always appreciate the words my Dad ends every phone conversation with. “Proud of ya, kid.”

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