We all know you’re freezing.
To: Jack LayBack Tilsdale
From: Ryan A. O’Donahue II
Subject: Real Talk
It’s Ryan. I’m writing on behalf of numerous friends and family, and we speak from the heart when we say that it’s time to put on some pants. Have you looked outside? There’s frost on the cars here in Columbus. Fall leaves have fallen. We dig your dedication to summer vibes and summer jams. No one loves sand volleyball and a barbecue more than you. It’s part of your charm, but this hypothermic weather makes us worry about your health. Also, your appearance. You’re a forty-three year old father of two dressed in Billabong tees, board shorts and Rainbow sandals, and squirrels are scrambling past you gathering nuts. It’s time to add “Respect” to your summer Spotify playlist, because if you can’t take yourself seriously, who can?
Listen, I’m not trying to be a buzzkill. You’re my bro. We’ve been tight since sixth grade, but I have to harsh your mellow and say what no one else will: you look like a tool. We all know you want it to still be July. And May and June and August. But the earth’s axis squeezed summer right out of the northern hemisphere, which is where you live, despite your forwarding address in Fantasyland.
We all wish it was summer. You don’t think Mike, Alex and Bart and I want to keep looking at shapely lady legs? We don’t live in Ohio because we like ice, dude. We’re stuck. Exposing our chapped red calves in thirty degree weather isn’t going to change that.
This is hard for me. Hearing this must be hard for you. You can crack open a bottle of Corona with your teeth, but inside, you’re a softy. Your spirit animal’s a fucking manatee. It’s so right on. Never lose that. But also never forget that you’re going to lose sensation in your toes if you don’t put on real shoes.
You’re a sweet guy who just wants to kick back and pop a tab and let everyone know that it’s cool, bra. Life’s a beach. No worries. But we are worried. About your arms. They aren’t blue yet, but by Christmas they will be without protective layers. Being chill isn’t the same as being frostbitten, which is the real reason you stroll with your hands in your pockets.
When we were teenagers, you got obsessed with California surf culture. O’Neill, Hang Ten, Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax─you mail-ordered everything from Ron Jon in Florida to decorate your room. You lived by that saying “Summer’s an attitude not a season,” until a pair of wet Vans in February proved that summer is a season, too. That didn’t jive with your worldview.
You can hide it from people at Chili’s and by the space heater at bars, but those who know you know you’re cold. We can see you pressing your arms to your sides for warmth. We’re ex-football players, not idiots. Just because you’re wearing sunglasses doesn’t mean the sun’s not down, and just because people tremble when they’re nervous doesn’t mean that’s why you’re trembling now. You’re only fooling yourself, and maybe that scrawny teenager at PacSun who’s also wearing flip-flops and whose mom drove him there. You drove yourself. It’s time to dress like it.
Despite years of Marley-level dope-smoking, nothing can erase the memory of how stoked you were when PacSun opened its Columbus locations. Suddenly your life filled with flannels and “Beware of Dog” towels and longboard decks you never equipped with trucks but that look cool piled in your garage. No longer did you embarrass us each summer in the Redneck Riviera by buying so much swag at surf shops and saying “hang loose” to the guys who worked there. Now you could buy stuff at the mall like the other poseurs. It was like the clouds opened up and let in the sun. Hold that stoke close. Now go back to PacSun and buy some Quicksilver jeans and a hoodie. A fleece one. The cotton one you wear on game days is strictly cosmetic.
You’ve never surfed. Nobody holds that against you. In fact, no one but me knows that the only time you’ve visited Cabo was for mission work with your church. It’s just so convincing when you rap about how surfing’s more than a sport, it’s a lifestyle, even here in what geologists call the Glacial Till Plains.
No one wants you to hang in Margaritaville more than us, man. But you left it when you decided to have kids and a banking career, which might explain why you’re guzzling so many margaritas at the Big Walnut Creek Sports Lounge.
News flash: the two tickets to paradise you bought were actually to Mike’s wedding in Cape Cod four years ago. No amount of Jack Johnson songs or Prince Jammy is going to change that. You can’t bonghit your way back to one weekend where you had a babysitter and no reason not to pass out on the beach clutching a bottle of Cuervo. Your wife won’t put up with this much longer. She insisted I quote her when she said, “I sure as hell am not going to raise two children alone, or with a limping husband who lost his limbs because he won’t wear sensible shoes.” Waste away in Margaritaville all you want, bud, so long as you do it in your heated basement.
College is over. And summer, and that Carolina coast trip we took twelve years ago where you tried to boogie board but the seaweed freaked you out when it brushed your toes. That’s why we got those hibiscus tattoos: to always remember. Times change, memories fade, but that ink and Hokusai wave coffee mug keep their color. Hawaii’s still out there, floating in azure water, awaiting you. So are pending loan applications waiting on your desk, and dirty diapers back home. The Farmer’s Almanac predicts this winter’s going to be a shit storm, which isn’t great news, considering your commute.
Why are you so stubborn? Pants don’t look uncool. Winter shorts do. You have it backwards, like your Hurly hat. Slacks are for stiffs, but jeans tastefully paired with polished leather boots, a nice button up, maybe a jacket─that’s handsome. You want to revive your sex life? Well, there’s your fix.
Fact: if you’re worried that dressing your age makes you look like a dad, it’s too late. Those kids attached to each arm gave you away, and you’re making it worse by wearing a striped tank-top and hemp choker.
Other facts: when you take your kids to the pumpkin patch in a Rip Curl t-shirt and Flojos, the people taking tickets whisper behind your back. No one’s buying the “laid back soul brother” thing. No one buys it in April. You look like an ex-linebacker who dips Copenhagen. What you don’t look like is a person who realizes that Sammy Hagar does not have model facial hair.
Fine. You played football. Anyone can see you’re built, but size won’t protect your extremities when you already have diabetic circulation problems and are on blood thinners. Remember what Coach Adkins used to tell us before games: strength isn’t just physical. It’s intelligence, foresight, and admitting when you’re wrong, and man, are you wrong about summer.
You say you don’t want to be that guy, but you ARE that guy, and you have been since college, which is the last time anyone can get away with wearing a serape and mirrored lens Oakleys at Thanksgiving dinner, and even then, just barely.
Don’t get me wrong. Endless Summer is a classic. The soundtrack rules. Of course an original 1966 movie poster should hang in your and Margie’s bedroom. It’s just, that whole permanent summer thing only works if you’re not already a permanent father.
Everything’s cool. Life’s still a beach. We’ll all keep calling you Jack LayBack Tilsdale. But if you get some weather-appropriate adult clothing, people will stop laughing when they see you walking down the street looking like the kind of guy who overcompensates with sports cars and talks about that one glorious touchdown he made and boo hoo, he sure wishes he’d seen Sublime in concert in the ’90s. Have some dignity. No one under forty says ‘concert.’ And if you’re trying to score weed, don’t ask for ‘herb’ or ‘ganj.’ Say ‘weed.’ Otherwise people think you’re a narc.
Listen, we care about you, but don’t grow up for our sake. Grow up for you. It’s the only way it’ll stick. Until then, know that we’re here if you need us, though what you need right now is a quality down jacket. Let’s set a date with your wife to go get one, and some Oxfords, and a tie. Nordstrom’s is having a sale. While we’re there, we’ll trade that Hurly hat for a Patagonia beanie and buy a snowboard, because summer’s over, dude. It’s time for pants.