Carl Neilson’s life is centered around his college-aged son, Chester, who is home for the summer. At forty-seven years old, Carl is content with his thinning shoulder length hair, bushy sideburns and Hawaiian shirts, much to Chester’s dismay. Chester sets up a blind date for his dad with artist Benjamin ‘Ben’ Brooker.
Their first meeting is a disaster. Carl is horrified by the flamboyant and very opinionated Ben -- a man whose hair reminds him of a patriotic skunk with its red, white, and blue stripes -- and who manages to call into question all the things about himself that Carl holds dear.
It takes Carl a while to admit that there are changes he needs to make, especially to stop using his son as a crutch. With the help of plain-speaking Ben, Carl gets a haircut -- thank God -- and takes a few fumbling steps toward something new.
“Are you staying here all summer, or hanging out with Dre mostly?” I knew the answer I wanted, but I probably wouldn’t get it. He had his own life now, and that was hard to take. Chester seemed to sense a little of my melancholy.
“I’m gonna hang out with him a lot, but I’ll still be here, too. Is that okay?” He looked at me, trying to gauge my mood.
“Of course it’s okay. And you don’t need to ask. You’re an adult now. I trust you to make good decisions. I guess I just need to learn how to let go of you.”
“I know, Dad. It’s been you and me for a long time. We’re still a team, yeah?” He was trying to make me feel better.
“Yeah, we are.” But that was changing, too.
“Hey, I wanted to show you something on the internet. Can we use your computer?”
“Sure. What’s up?”
A few minutes later I stared in horror at my monitor and shook my head vigorously.
“No way in hell,” I said, unequivocally. A man’s garish profile grinned at me while Chester tried to convince me to participate in online dating.
“Why not?” he prodded.
“The guy has red, white, and blue stripes in his hair. He looks like a patriotic skunk.”
“Like you can talk with your thinning, shoulder length, blond hippie hair and seventies sideburns. Neil Young would like his hair back.” I now regretted watching all those documentaries on the History Channel with him when he was younger.
“Funny. I don’t see why I need to change anything.”
“For one thing,Carl, your hairline’s receding. And another, it’s 2014. No one wears their hair like that unless they’re a part of Greenpeace.”
“It’s Dad to you, and I like my hair just fine, thank you very much.”
“You’re in denial. All you need is some patchouli.”
“Where’s all this coming from?”
“At least you don’t wear tie dye, though the Hawaiian shirts --”
“What’s your point, rugrat?”
“Is your mirror broken?” He glowered at me. I channeled my inner Yoda.
“Broken, the mirror is not.”
“I mean, are you trying to make a statement, or something? It’s not that you’re ugly or anything, but --”
“You’ve got potential, Dad, and you’re still in good shape, for as old as you are.” That word again.
“I’m forty-seven, not ninety.”
“You’re tall, fit, and good-looking, in a scruffy kind of way. You have crow’s feet that make you look distinguished. You have killer dimples. Cut that hair, make a little effort and guys will be banging down your door to hump your leg.”
“I’m not looking to date a dog.”
“Come on, Dad! You haven’t been on a date in ... well, forever. I’m in college now. I’m an adult, just like you. You don’t need to worry about scarring my psyche anymore because --”
“Of course not, because you’ve scarred mine enough over the years.”
“I know you love me, so I’ll pretend I didn’t hear you say that.”
“Chester, leave it alone, please? Read my lips. I. Am. Not. Going. On. A. Date. Period.”
“Look, I worry about you. All you do is work, hang out with the guys, and text me at midnight. You need to, at the very least, get a sex life, if only to stop you from interrupting me mid-coitus.” That my son was getting more sex than me was not up for discussion.