ClickHole

Can You Keep Up A Conversation With Your Dad?

We’ve all thought about it at one time or another: Should I have a conversation with my dad? There are many cases for and against, and in the end, it is a deeply personal decision that we each must make for ourselves.

Sometimes, we talk to him because we need something. Other times, we talk to him because we feel guilty that we haven’t talked to him in a while. Or maybe it’s a third thing.

So, are you ready to have a conversation with your dad?

Okay, you are definitely ready to have a conversation with your dad. But first, you have to find him.

Hmm. Nope, not here.

You are shocked not to find your dad in the kitchen, a place he can often be found.

No dads here on the patio.

You walk into your dad’s office building.

“Oh, you must be Dad’s kid,” says your dad’s boss, Mrs. Clakswaby. “He’s not here right now.”

There he is! Of course your dad is in the den.

Here he is! Your dad! Time to see if you can keep up a conversation with him. He’s even taking a break from his beloved iPad to talk to you.

What do you want to talk about?

Your dad blinks a few times. Looks like he’s getting a little steamed. Better hurry up and figure out what you want to say about the weather!

“Sure,” your dad says.

Whoa! Kind of a curveball there.

“Why, I think that’s a marvelous idea,” says Mrs. Clakswaby. “You can start right away! Have these flowers in congratulations.”

You may have never spoken with your dad, but you did land a plum job with a six-figure salary and health benefits, which is better!

“The American Civil War?” your dad grunts. “That is one of my favorite civil wars.”

Whoa! Looks like maybe you’ve found some common ground here, so what you say next is crucial.

“186,500,” your dad says immediately.

Hmmm. That didn’t seem to really spark a conversation.

“I think it’s best if you changed the subject,” your dad says.

“You want advice?” your dad says. “Or do you want to talk about the concept of advice?”

“Oh, okay,” your dad says. “Advice is a social contract in which a person, or group of people, offer their analysis and insights in an attempt to solve or mitigate a problem of a second party. The second party can ask for, or request, these insights, or the first person or group can offer them unsolicited. Both of these outcomes would be considered to fall in the category of ’advice.’ Shall I continue?”

“Very well,” your dad says. “The concept of advice is perhaps best illuminated by an example. Let me bring up a helpful illustration I’ve made on my iPad.

“In a common advice-seeking scenario, Person A approaches Person B and Person C, who are typically older and have more life experience than Person A. Person A lays out a conflict he or she is currently experiencing and then asks Persons B and C what they would do if they were presented with an identical conflict. Person B says that he would do one thing, while Person C says she would do a different thing. Both of these suggestions, while opposite in nature, are considered ’advice.’ The fact that one word describes both of them is an inherent foible of language. Shall I continue?”

“Very well. The concept of advice relies heavily on the theory of linear time, or that time passes sequentially. Linear time theory is what enables events to occur, and therefore what allows events to have occured. It is these events that have already taken place that allow older, wiser people to give advice, because they draw on these past experiences, guaranteed by the theory of linear time. Shall I continue?”

You notice that your head feels a little funny and that blood has begun to pool in your eyes.

“Want to talk about Matchstick Men (2003)?” you ask your dad.

“Never heard of it,” he says.

Uh-oh. That didn’t go so hot. What do you want to do now?

“It stars Sam Rockwell,” you say.

“Never heard of him,” your Dad says.

Yikes. You are really blowing this.

“It’s a movie,” you say to your dad.

“Never heard of it,” your dad says.

This is turning out to be a notably bad conversation with your dad.

“It’s a series of still images that are strung together in rapid succession to achieve the illusion of motion, typically for 90 minutes to two hours.”

“No idea what you’re talking about,” says your dad.

“It’s basically” but your dad cuts you off.

“Look at these seeds in my hand,” he says.

You look up.

“You’re not my dad,” you say.

“No, I’m not,” the man says. “We switched places while you were looking at the seeds.”

Looks like you blew it!


“If you do find your dad, make sure to tell him that I understand, and that I’m sorry,” Mrs. Clakswaby says.

Where do you want to look now?

“Okay,” your dad says. “But just be warned that I hate giving and taking advice.”

“Wish I could say the same,” your dad says as he walks away. The den is empty.

You did a bad job keeping up a conversation with your dad!

“Okay,” your dad says, admiring his iPad. “What do you want to talk about now?”

“That’s an odd way to put that,” your dad says.

It looks like he could leave this conversation at any moment. Better step up your game!

“Oh,” your dad says. “Yes, that sounds good. Thank you.”

He takes a peanut from your hand and eats it happily.

“Yes,” your dad practically shouts. “Please give me another peanut.”

Your dad’s eyes light up with greed in a way you’ve never seen them look before. He grabs the peanuts from your hand and knocks your bag of peanuts to the floor. Finding his hunger uncontrollable, he drops to the floor to scoop up the peanuts, shells and all, into his selfish mouth. He makes animal noises and slobbers all over the rug in the den.

By offering him peanuts while asking for nothing in return, you taught your dad that boundaries do not exist, nor must they be respected. Now, you have no hope of holding a conversation with your dad.

“I’ve always thought that too,” your dad says. “You know, it’s really easy to talk to you.”

Whoa! Things are going great! Can you keep this up?

“Took the words from my mouth,” your dad says. “If you ever want to borrow my iPad, you feel free.”

Your dad loves tablet computing, so that’s a big deal! You’re quite the dad conversation hotshot! Can you bring it home?

“Okay,” your dad says. “Just don’t come crawling to me if you want the concept of advice explained again.”

“Maracas?” your dad says. “Now we’re talking!”

A lengthy and interesting conversation about maracas ensues.

Okay, so you technically kept up a conversation with your dad, but you used the tried-and-true shortcut of abruptly bringing up maracas, which is essentially akin to cheating.

Try again, and do it with dignity this time.

You lie down on your belly and begin to sneak toward your dad. Without turning around, he begins talking to you.

“You can’t sneak up on me,” he says. “In Vietnam, I was in charge of shooting at people.”

You throw a rock to create a diversion for some reason. Your dad, without turning around, sticks out his hand and snags the rock out of midair. He crushes it in his fist.

“Pipe down,” your dad says, standing up. “I’m right here.”

“It’s good,” your dad says. “More of the same.”

“Yeah,” your dad says. He coughs errantly. “What’s new with you?”

“Ah, good. Now you can stop using our HBO password. Haha.”

There is a short silence. Your dad scratches his nose a bit.

Your dad continues to not say anything.

“Yeah,” your dad says. “They didn’t look great, but a win is a win, I guess. You watch it?”

Oh, man. This is brutal.

“That’s a good point,” says your dad. “I didn’t think about it like that.”

“Dear God, why would you say that?” your dad says, recoiling in horror. “You know very well that they are dead and that they meant quite a lot to me. You are a horrible person.”

Your dad galumphs away.

Wow. Why would you do that to your own father? Looks like you blew it pretty bad.

“Very well. An issue with linear time is that it can only guarantee the present. Therefore, Person B can remember past events (which he or she can draw on to give advice), but the memories exist only in the present. The events themselves are not accessible, and cannot be 100 percent guaranteed to have existed; only the recalling of the event can be said to exist, merely because it is happening in the present. Shall I continue?”

You notice that your headache has intensified and that blood is still pooling in your eyes, clouding your vision. These are classic aneurysm symptoms, just FYI.

“Very well. This phenomena can potentially lead to a false memory, or a memory that the advice-giver thinks is genuine but is actually untrue. This means that the advice may actually be bad, even if the intention is good. In this scenario, Person A will have to choose whether to accept or deny advice given to him or her by Persons B and C that is potentially based on flawed conclusions arrived at through inaccurate recollections. Shall I continue?”

There is now an intense yet somehow distant throbbing in your head. Your vision is nearly clouded entirely with the significant amount of blood that has rushed into your corneas.

“Liza, come here for a sec,” you say to your sister.

“Why?” she says. “The only time you ever talk to me is when you want me to stand in as a proxy for someone else so you can practice talking to them.”

“Okay,” Liza says warily. “What do you want to talk about then?”

“Hey!” Liza shouts. “You are practicing talking to Dad with me! It’s always the same with you! I’m my own person! Treat me as such, you freak!”

Liza huffs away sadly.

Hmm. Looks like that’s all the practice you’re going to get. Time to go find your dad. Where do you want to look?

“That’s an odd thing to ask an 8-year-old,” Liza says. “Are you sure you’re not using me to practice talking to Dad? It’s weird you need practice at all.”

“Can I tell you about something that happened to me at school today instead?” Liza asks. “It’s really important.”

“Hey! That’s not on topic!” your dad yells, and he walks away in a huff.

Oooh! So close! While mountains are tangentially related to weather, they are not, in fact, weather. After you showed that you cannot stay on topic, your dad walked away, ashamed of you.

You’ll get it next time!

“Yes, quite extensively in fact,” your dad says. “I’m quite the quill hound when it comes to writing historical fiction set in the 1860s.”

“Of course,” your dad says. “My favorite is about a cannon named Wendell who is used by Robert E. Lee’s Confederate army. Wendell is a proud, loyal cannon, but he has a horrible secret: He despises slavery. From this central conflict, hundreds of pages of gripping story emerge.”

“Yes.”

“Okay,” your dad says. “Another one I penned a while back takes place during the Battle of Gettysburg. It follow the travails of Jeremiah, a young, determined mixologist who is trying to make cocktails in a nearby bar while the most significant battle of the Civil War takes place. The gunfire and loud noises scare him, but he still keeps pushing the boundaries on what consumers expect out of a cocktail. In the end, Jeremiah is killed by a stray bullet, shot by an irresponsible hunter many years after the war ended.”

“Very well,” your dad says. “Let us consider another application of the concept of advice, in which Person A inherently corrupts the advice given to him or her by the way or in the manner of which it is asked

You collapse to the floor due to a massive brain aneurysm you are having. While your effort to fulfill your duty of listening to your dad explain the concept of advice is noble, it also brought on the massive hemorrhaging of blood in your cranial cavity. Oh, no!

“Hmm,” your dad says. “It seems as though you’re beginning to succumb to boredom. Perhaps I can amuse you with one of my many costumes.”

“Ah, I am noticing that you are continuing to succumb to boredom,” your dad says.

Oh, no! You got too bored to have a conversation with your dad! You made him deeply sad by getting bored while he was trying to talk to you!

“Here I am as a sailor, whimsical and fine.”

“Hold the phones, please, because I am a high-powered business attorney.”

“Look: Now I am The Rock! Check me out on pay-per-view!”

“Is that a dog? No, it’s just me, your dad!”

“This next one takes place in the mind of Stonewall Jackson. The main character is Percy, a blood clot who is determined to kill Stonewall Jackson, because Percy was born in Boston and supports the Union. Opposing him is Martha, Stonewall Jackson’s amygdala, who was born in Atlanta and is a scintillating and voluptuous Southern belle. The two end up falling in love—but a bullet has other plans.”

“Hmm,” your dad says with uncertainty. “Okay, but I’ve been at this a long time, so don’t expect to be immediately as good as me.”

“Wow...what a truly terrible idea,” you dad harrumphs. “That was awful. That idea is an insult to my occasional hobby!”

Your dad walks away, pretty pissed. Looks like you did a bad job talking to him!

“That’s...that’s brilliant!” your dad says. “I love that Ulysses S. Grant bites it in the ocean! You are truly my kid. I am going to steal that idea! Thank you.”

Well done! You had a great conversation with your dad. But can you have one where he doesn’t steal your great historical fiction idea? Only one way to find out...

“Okay, fine,” your dad says a little crossly. “As long as I get more peanuts.”

“Yes,” your dad says.

You can tell he wants a peanut pretty bad.

Your father greedily takes the peanut out of your hand and mashes it into his tongue, chewing wildly with his mouth open. He moans in ecstasy several times.

“Yes,” your dad says, then immediately shouts, “PEANUT AGAIN,” his eyes wild.

“Okay, okay, okay...I’m sorry,” your dad says. “Yes, I like good weather. It is like a good peanut. Peanuts are all good, though. I hope peanuts stay. Forever.”

Your dad’s eyes are wet and tremble with the desperation of wanting a peanut.

“Yes,” your dad says in a tiny voice, near tears from his desire to have a peanut. “The snow is the bad thing.”

He cowers at your gaze, wanting madly the peanut you posses. You can tell he is nearly broken, not even able to bring himself to ask you for one anymore.

Your father collapses to the floor, succumbing to his unrequited desire to eat a peanut. You have showed dominance over the man who gave you life. You have made him beg you. You have shown that you are powerful and he is weak. But you did not keep up a conversation with your dad.

Your dad’s eyes light up with greed in a way you’ve never seen them look before. He grabs the peanuts from your hand and knocks your bag of peanuts to the floor. Finding his hunger uncontrollable, he drops to the floor to scoop up the peanuts, shells and all, into his selfish mouth. He makes animal noises and slobbers all over the rug in the den.

By giving him rewards for minimal one-word answers, you taught your dad that boundaries do not exist, nor must they be respected. Now, you have no hope of holding a conversation with your dad.

Well done! By using operant conditioning and an intermittent reward schedule, you have made your dad talk to you about the weather at your whim. Because he does not know when you will reward him with a peanut, he is conditioned to talk to you for at least as long as you have peanuts, like a slobbering dog.

Congratulations!

“...”

“Same is good,” your dad says. “Stay the course, haha.”

There is a short silence. Your dad scratches his nose a bit.

“Paging Dr. Stern Dad. It’s me, your father.”

“This is my final costume: a young homosexual. Thank you.”

“Liza? Why are you bringing her up?” your dad asks, brow furrowed. “You didn’t practicing talking to me on her, did you?”

“What have I told you about using your little sister as a proxy for practicing conversations with authority figures in your life?” your dad screams.

He walks away, leaving you alone in the den.

“Okay,” your dad says. “That’s good, because that would be an incredibly weird thing to do.”

“Yes, I know that. It is intentional,” your dad says.

“I think you should teach at a train conductor school,” your dad says authoritatively. “While being a train conductor is deeply shameful, there is nothing more noble than teaching at a train conductor school. This is the hand gesture I will make when you get your first job teaching at train conductor school.”

“Oh, excuse me,” your dad says. “I’m sorry my advice was so useless to you.”

“Really? You won’t get stronger than your old man, right? Haha.” There is a brief silence. Your dad scratches his nose a bit.

“I use the phone and go on the computer like a big boy,” your dad says.


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