10 Things My Grandfather Taught Me

BrianBrian says:
Growing up in a house without a father meant two things: playing “catch” was primarily a spectator’s sport and by default, you were last when it came to hot water and most other bathroom privileges. This also means acquiring a great deal of manly advice from one of the most influential males in my family, Grandpa Eddie.

Before “1001 Rules…“, and even “S&#! My Dad Says“, my grandfather was (and still is) the authority on all things gentlemanly. His advice is timeless and applicable in a whole host of sartorial and social situations. Here are a few nuggets of wisdom he’s passed on to me:

1. “Never wear a hat indoors. Or sunglasses for that matter.  I’ve never understood such behavior.”

Eddie is an astute man who would spit hellfire and brimstone-worthy admonishment towards any man who had the nerve to wear a perfectly good hat anywhere but in the great outdoors.

2. “A five o’clock shadow is only acceptable during the summer months and “the morning after.”

After many attempts at getting a “morning after” story or two out, he begrudgingly mentioned that for some reason, “women tended to like that scratchy feeling in the morning”. Although quite Freudian in theory, my grandpa always stressed that a nice, clean shave is second only to a cup of black coffee during your morning ritual.

3. “Chivalry should never be mistaken for being a pushover.”

In the end, Eddie is a man’s man. He’s never succumbed to the fact that chivalry is, more or less, dead; on the flip side, he’s never been one to let a woman take advantage of the things he’s achieved in life. “I’ll hold the door for you and pull out your chair, but sometimes, we gotta go Dutch,” he’d say.

4. “Your memory is your greatest asset. Remember someone’s name from the night before and you’ll make a potential friend for life.

Probably the most important piece of information that anyone could ever know. I have found myself stumbling over botched names and titles over the years, but he insists that if you just take the time to stop and actually have a conversation with people instead of miming social niceties you’ll find something memorable about anyone. “When I was your age, people actually looked each other in the eye.” I’ll leave his opinion of Twitter to your imagination.

5. “When it comes to the kitchen, there’s a stark difference between ‘cooking’ and ‘baking’. Make sure you’re at least proficient in the former.

Again being the man’s man that he is, my grandpa never really felt the need to take up the science that is baking. “Women are far more interested in that aspect than most men”, he’d say. Times have changed considerably, but I still don’t think that I’m going to be cranking out the chocolate chip cookies anytime soon.

6. “Embrace your age and all the setbacks that may come with it.

A staunch opponent of Botox, plastic surgery, and all other types of male vanity, Eddie’s regimen has been the same since the early 60s: facial wash and rinse, toner after a good, manual shave, and a bit of sunscreen on the face every day. I swear to you, for a 76-year-old, he doesn’t look a day over 50.

7. “When dressing up for an evening out, comfort trumps formality.

I don’t think he was advocating jeans and a t-shirt to a black-tie event, but more so putting emphasis on both fitting and overall style. If you’re in a situation where you feel uncomfortable in your clothes, especially if just trying to follow a specific trend, that discomfort is going to show to the people you’re around. And for cripe’s sake, please invest in a suit that fits.


8. “The idea of ‘putting away childish things’ includes investing in a money clip.

This is something I run into a lot with men my age and older: the wallet burrito. The same leather wallet you’ve had since high school that’s become stuffed with old receipts, expired Blockbuster cards and that one condom you’ve been holding onto for years. De-clutter your life starting with your wallet. Get a money clip to hold the essentials. “Money and maybe an ID card; that’s it.”

9. “Flattery will get you most places, but you can’t bulls#&! a professional bulls#!$#er.

Painfully crass, yet true, my grandpa made it a point to know who he was fooling and when was being to look like the fool. “Don’t flat out lie”, he’d say. “Just make sure you know when you’re being strategic and when you’re being an idiot.”

10. “Be serious in life, but lighten up every once in a while.

As cliché as this sounds, it holds its water. My grandfather drank the hooch, smoked the finest cigars, fought in two wars  and still has the wherewithal to know when to take a joke. “When you get to be my age, you just stop caring about the small s#$!” he said. I believe it and hope that I can follow through by the time I become a grandpa.

Have a question or comment for Brian? Send it to Brian@home-ec101.com.


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  3. Brian Jacobi Wilder on September 15, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    Got nothing but love for my Pop Pop.

  4. Stacy on September 5, 2010 at 2:09 am

    I never knew my grandfathers–you're fortunate to have him in your life. I did have a very favorite Auntie though, and she taught me things I still think about even now. Having people who love you enough to teach you some wisdom is really one of the greatest blessings in life, I think.

  5. CarolinaDreamz on September 4, 2010 at 12:00 pm

    How wonderful to have such awesome wisdom in your life. I was raised, pretty much, by my grandpa, as the only father-figure, for a long time. Grandpa's are great and I'm so happy that you shared yours with us. ~Heidi

  6. @stevejberry on September 4, 2010 at 10:38 am

    I've learned that Grandfather wisdom is bulletproof against wisecracks.

  7. Linda on September 4, 2010 at 9:27 am

    Your Grandfather sounds a lot like mine. They both could have written for "The Art of Manliness." Thanks so much for sharing.

    • HeatherSolos on September 4, 2010 at 9:30 am

      The Art of Manliness is one of my favorite sites. The author is an incredibly nice guy and it makes me so happy to see his site become so successful.
      Brett is also the one who gave me reassurance when I was first contacted by my publisher. (I was suspicious at first)

  8. Andra Watkins on September 4, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Brian, I love your grandfather, and I've never met him. He sounds delightful. Thank you for sharing this story. I never knew either of my grandfathers. One died years before I came along, and the other passed away shortly after I was born. You're lucky to have him, but I can tell you know that already. 🙂

  9. Alice Dick on September 3, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Your grandfather sounds like a terrific and practical guy. Great article. (I LOL'd at "wallet burrito.")

  10. @ConnectionMaven on September 3, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    I've always known that Brian was very wise, because of the great things he says on Twitter as @GQBound, but here I see there's a depth that he occasionally hints at. Your Grandfather sounds like the kind of man who has many friends, few enemies, and many stories. Thank you for sharing this and Heather, thank you for sourcing the wisdom from others.

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