Words of Advice for Graduates: Clean Your Room, Buy a Gas Grill

Because my sweet baboo is graduating from high school this week, I thought I might be asked to deliver the commencement address. I did it once before, and I was a rousing success--especially when I offered congratulations to "the graduates of St. Michael's," and the school was actually named St. Matthew's.

OK, I made a mistake. But as I told them: "There's a lesson in this for all of us. The lesson is: This is what happens when you don't pay your graduation speaker."

It turns out I won't be making graduation remarks this year. In a foolish moment, one they'll regret during the fall fund drive for years to come, my daughter's school got some nobody to take my place. I hesitate to even mention his name. Ted Kennedy.

Not that I'm bitter. But let me say I won't be at all shocked if he steers clear of a real meaty topic like, "Is the lunchroom Mystery Burger made from mad cow?" And he concentrates on something a little less controversial, like, "Contour Plowing in the Next Century."

Actually, a graduation address is where this Kennedy guy could show off his wide-ranging grasp of important issues that face us as a nation. With his decades of distinguished public service, he could really send these young people off with purpose, dedication and direction. But isn't that overrated? I mean really, who cares? My advice to the graduates would have been: "Who do I look like? Ted Kennedy? Hey, figure it out yourselves."

I intended to confine my remarks to practical advice gleaned from my hard-won experience. Like: "On job applications, when it asks you to list 'personal achievements,' do not write, 'I got my tongue and nipples pierced.' "

Ah, what the heck. I might as well let you hear the rest.

"Graduates, faculty, parents and honored guests: As the proud father of a graduate myself, I know I speak for all the parents here when I say to each and every graduate: 'Clean up your room. It's a pig sty. And believe me, the day you leave for college I'm going in there with a shovel.'

"I've been asked to say a few words about what I've learned in my life. Here it is: Don't make the same mistake I did. I waited too long to buy a gas grill. Other than that, my life's been pretty good.

"Except for my senior prom. If I had it to do over again, this time I'd take a hooker. I hear hookers are terrific dancers.

"My senior prom was a disaster. Carrie had a better time than I did. Carrie's classmates had a better time than I did.

"The girl I wanted to ask didn't think of me in 'that' way; she thought of me in 'this' way: a cross between the most annoying person she actually knew . . . and Jerry Springer.

"I ended up taking Cathy, a girl I didn't particularly like and who didn't particularly like me. And by 'didn't particularly like me' I mean, when I picked her up at her house, she suggested we take separate cars. She introduced me to her mother, who smiled and said, 'I disagree, dear, this might not be worse than no date at all.'

"During dinner, I had an allergic reaction to the shrimp cocktail, and I started sweating profusely--right through my powder blue dinner jacket. It looked like I'd eaten dinner under a garden hose. I tried to be nonchalant, but it may have embarrassed my date when her friends wondered why she had agreed to go to the prom with 'Flipper.'

"The couple we double-dated with wanted to drive to the beach and stay out all night. But Cathy said: 'I have to be home by 10 p.m. My father is performing elective gall bladder surgery on me in the morning.'

"Years later, I ran into her and I told her the experience was traumatic for me. I said: 'I never ate another shrimp; I never even drove to the beach. After that night, I didn't date another woman for four years! I wallowed in a black pit of self-loathing and. . . . Hey, will you look at me going on and on about traumatic dates and how they change the course of your life forever. But I guess I don't have to tell you that, Sister Catherine.' "

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