Many years ago, in what feels like another life, I was a professional surfer. I had sponsors. I got my picture in the mag. I had a healthy- to bursting-at-the-seams-sized ego.
My father, a man of great humility and wisdom, observed me with a certain tilt. He knew the vicissitudes of life, the what goes up must come down-ness of it all.
One night I was headed out to a party. I wore red patent leather Adidas high-tops of the Run DMC sort. My hair was carefully unwashed and unkempt. I was on the prowl, and my father sensed this. He called me over to the dinner table. He sat alone with a glass of wine, Luciano Pavarotti playing on the stereo.
“Going out?” he asked.
“You know, Jamie, when you’re with a woman it’s important that you stand naked before her.”
I saw myself peeling off my T-shirt and shimmying out of my 501s in a bedroom of wine coolers and fluffy pillows, a delicious blonde waiting under the covers. I thought, How cool, Dad really gets it.
My father continued—
“And what I mean by naked is it’s not Jamie the Pro Surfer, or Jamie The Guy in the Surf Mags. When you’re intimate with someone, it’s really important that you leave behind those constructs of yourself. You can’t bring your surf trophies into bed, is what I’m saying. It’s just you—and you alone is enough.”
I cannot remember if I found myself naked with a woman that night, but if I did, I sure as hell hope that I didn’t get there by playing the surf card. In truth, I was never that sort of guy, or least I don’t think I was. But I am eternally grateful to my father for keeping me in check when I was at my most superficial and hubristic.