“Hi, Mister Sean…” the letter began. The entire letter was penned in a neatly-written cursive such as I have never seen before.

“…I don’t know how to ask a girl I like out, to be my girlfriend, kind of. I would normally ask my grandpa about this kind of girl thing but he is dead from a brain aneurysm, and I don’t know who else to ask because it’s just me and my mom now, and Mom says just be nice to the girl and be myself and she will like me. What do you say?”

The letter was signed by an anonymous 15-Year-old boy. I’ll call him Tyler because that is his real name.

Tyler, I was raised by a Single Mother, so I can relate to what you’re going through. My mother always used to tell me the same stupid thing: “Be yourself,” she was always saying. Give me a break.

The problem is, being myself means being a complete Knucklehead McSpazatron.

To prove my point, I want to tell you about an average adult experience I had a few days ago. An experience you are bound to have as the product of a single mother.

Recently, my wife and I were at the auto mechanic when the technician looked at us and said, flatly, “Your wheel bearings are shot.” He said this with a frown, using the same serious voice you’d use to tell someone their cherished family member had been run over by a car.

“Wheel bearings?” answered my wife. “What’s that mean?”

“Your bearings need to be machined and repacked,” the mechanic said.

My wife immediately looked to me for a response. Namely, because I am a guy. Guys are expected to respond to automotive statements made by mechanics.

We guys are expected to be manful and have some technical know-how when it comes to things like cars, trapping spiders, hiring refrigerator repairmen, discussing supernational foreign policy, and putting the toilet seat down. None of which are subjects I know about.

I am the child of a single mother. I know nothing about wheel bearings. Back during my schooldays, guys from my generation were apparently herded into a classroom when I was absent, and the essentials of guyhood were discussed.

Things like automobiles, home appliance repair, oil changes, razor stropping, spitting, armpit odor, etc. Wheel bearings must have also been covered the day I was out sick. I was probably at home, learning how to crochet from my Aunt Eulah.

FACT: I learned how to crochet potholders when I was 12.

I was also, evidently, sick the day when teachers taught boys how to get girls. Which I never learned to do. How I ever managed to get married remains a mystery.

As a child of a single mother, I was shy and could not talk to girls.

I remember when I was 13 years old, there was a lock-in sock-hop dance wherein everyone got locked in the school gymnasium, danced their brains off, then watched movies and slept on wrestling mats that smelled like nuclear foot odor.

Boys were supposed to invite girls to this dance. I desperately wanted to ask Margaret Allen to accompany me, but I was afraid that if I went the traditional route of asking her face-to-face, I would run the very real risk of spontaneously urinating my pants.

So I asked my cousin Ed Lee to give me private lessons on how to get girls. Cousin Ed Lee was a highly regarded expert on women. He had never, technically, had a girlfriend. But he did sit next to them in home-ec class.

So my cousin gave me an exhaustive course on how to woo a female. We covered all the basics, such as: Polyester wardrobe selection, excessive cologne application, eyebrow trimming, advanced pimple maintenance, and how to get to First Base within 9 seconds or less.

After several lessons from Ed Lee, he deemed me ready to ask Margaret to the dance.

So there we were, at the skating rink when I approached her. I was trembling and could hardly speak without my voice quavering. I skated directly up to Margaret and said the exact words my cousin Ed Lee taught me:

“Here I am, baby. So, tell me, what were your other two wishes?”

Margaret’s face did not change. Her demeanor looked the same as if she had just smelled a pair of sweaty underpants.

Needless to say, I did not take Margaret to any dances. I believe I stayed home that evening and watched Shirley Temple movies with my aunt Eulah.

Years later, I would discover that if I would have just listened to my mother and “been myself,” I would have had a much better chance at a meaningful relationship with the opposite gender.

So in closing, I still have no idea what wheel bearings are. But I have plenty of potholders, if you ever need any.

Sean Dietrich is a columnist and novelist known for his commentary on life in the American South. He has authored nine books and is the creator of the “Sean of the South” blog and podcast. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.

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