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Papa Don't Preach

Summer of 1986. I was beginning to stew in a broth of pre-teen hormones, growing conflict with my mother, and a miasma of self-hatred and anxiety over my grades. Eighth grade was looming, and both my parents—Dad from over the phone—were putting pressure on me now that high school was imminent on the horizon.

“Your grades will start to matter now,” my mother pressed. “This is your last year to loaf and space out in school. Pretty soon you’ll have to start thinking about college, and you can’t just fart around anymore.” Dad rumbled the same ominous warnings. I was so used to his stern, reproachful voice over the phone that I began to perfect my forty-yard stare even before my mother handed me the receiver. He’d talk to me as if addressing a business colleague.

“Y’know,” he’d say in his faint, toasted-caramel Texan drawl, “you only get one chance to impress these people.” And I’d stare fixedly at some point past the walls of the house, playing tricks with my eyes to see how long I could…

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