Your existential dread must reach a crescendo. Your fifteen-year-old daughter Brie walks into your study to tell you, “Dad, can you not come to my parent-teacher conference.” She explains how you’re too embarrassing. You tell her to stop barging into your study while you’re working, and she responds by telling you, “You work at Home Depot; you don’t need a study.”
Her mom never seems to be around. She’s probably out shopping with her friends. At least, that’s what she says she’s doing. You ask your daughter, “Are you asking mom not to go either?” Brie says, “Sandy isn’t as embarrassing as you.”
You reluctantly nod and let out a grunt of acceptance. Conferences never interested you, but your already deteriorating pride can’t help but crumble away completely.
This is 50, and the bottles of Jack Daniel’s and the refurbished Harley bike in the garage aren’t enough. The motorcycle always looked dumb sitting next to old paint cans and recycling bins. Friday night football can no longer fill the void deep in your cholesterol-clogged heart.
It starts with asking the sales lady at Kmart how to dress a little more like John Hamm and George Clooney. The woman kindly tells you this isn’t the store that sells that “look,” but our deals on toilet paper and grills “can’t be beaten.” So you drive to the best consignment shop in Michigan and tell them, “Make me look like a sexy stud.” The saleswoman gives you a leather jacket and five-hundred-dollar dress shoes. Your balding continues to worsen, so your baseball hat collection grows exponentially.
Sandy finds your shopping receipt on the kitchen counter and rolls her eyes. Brie makes a stink face each time you wear the jacket. She says, “Leather is for bad boys, not balding men.” You conclude this must be what her fashion magazines are saying, or she doesn’t like you. The former is more comforting than the latter.
You begin visiting the strip club by the highway overpass. Sandy is too old, despite her being ten years younger than you. You meet a young girl named Candy who asks if you would be interested in a Sugar Daddy relationship. She wants to go to college. At first, you hesitate, but you aren’t getting any younger.
A hot babe like Candy wouldn’t want a loser driving a 2010 Chevy, so you take out a loan and buy a Porsche. The car doesn’t interest her, but it seems worth keeping. It’s the most aroused you’ve been in a year. Brie asks why you spend so much time washing the car in the driveway. And you say, “So the neighbors can see it.”
Candy texts you that she thinks she’s pregnant. Thankfully, it is a false alarm, but it scares you enough to stop seeing her. Viagra and Pornhub will do. The family has grown concerned over your “erratic behavior,” so Sandy suggests Brie spend Sundays with you. Your daughter groans and throws a fit, but you pretend not to notice. It would hurt too much, and that’s what a cool dad would do: not care.
Brie finally lets you take her fishing; you haven’t done that since she was a little girl. She frowns a lot more and seems keenly observant of those around her. While you reel in a giant catfish, Brie smiles for the first time in the day. Both of you are excited and surprised at the size of the fish. After ten minutes of battling the fishing pole, you reel it in. Brie tells you, “I wish I was as good at fishing as you, Dad.” And slowly, you begin to finish your mid-life crisis.
Susan Peck is a Creative Writing MFA student living in Boston. She enjoys writing short fiction and nonfiction and plans to publish a memoir in her 30s.