Introduction, Rules for My Unborn Son
“The hardest job kids face today is learning good manners without seeing any.” - Fred Astair
My father rarely wore socks, a sartorial quirk made permissible by the fact he was often the best-dressed gentleman in the room. This perhaps best exemplifies his approach to life. A vigorous dancer, a dedicated sportsman, and the tireless life of any party, he understood that a man of strong character, who took pride in his appearance and behavior, was given the most liberty to have fun. And so he had rules. Many of them came from his father, and presumably his father before that. They governed everything from his dress to his business dealings to a day at the ballpark, and were based on the notion that there are certain things a Good Man does and certain things he does not do. My father was a Good Man. And he was the kind of father I aspired to be. He passed away shortly after my twenty-second birthday.
This small book began simply as a way to preserve the lessons my father had taught me, and perhaps add my spin on what makes a Good Man. I hoped to have a son of my own one day, so I thought it best to write it all down before the mayhem of actual fatherhood made me too soft or too sanctimonious, and most importantly, before my own childhood was too distant in the rearview mirror. It would be a father-to-be’s promise to his future son “To get some things straight before I get old and uncool.”
Rule 23. When in doubt, wear a tie.
Rule. 241. Ride in the front car of a roller coaster.
Of course, the list needed a bit of updating. My dad could fold a mean pocketsquare, but he didn’t have much to offer on Internet etiquette. But as the list grew, what struck me was how many of my father's rules stood up unchanged--even for a recovering hipster living in New York. Rules for my Unborn Son was a set of instructions for being a good man and a good father as much as it was as a rulebook for my future son.
My father and I are not the first men to attempt to define and defend the qualities that make up the modern gentleman. In the book I acknowledge the influences of some very fine men who have offered wise and practical advice through the ages either through their words (Benjamin Franklin, Buckminster Fuller, Mark Twain) or their example (Fred Astaire, Jack Kennedy, David Bowie). Some of the advice the reader may have heard before. And I should hope so, as many of the rules are distillations of some universal lessons in ethics and etiquette. I have made efforts to cull the classics from the outmoded. Not all that is old is good. However, what I hope makes Rules for My Unborn Son unique is the inclusion of lessons drawn from my own experiences—the good, the bad, and the ugly. The rules included herein may evoke from the reader a hearty endorsement or a spirited objection. Or perhaps inspire a sentimental journey back into the reader’s own childhood. And maybe, for a particular kind of discerning young parent, Rules for My Unborn Son will be just what it says it is—a good old-fashioned book of rules for you and your family. I hope it proves useful.