Image Credit: William Beteet
“Son, there are genetic limitations keeping you from ever playing in the NBA”
My Dad told me that when I was ten.
He called me into their room. He was sitting on the bed, my mom was standing to my side, and he told me that my dreams of becoming an NBA basketball player were invalid.
I protested. I listed a host of sub-six-foot basketball players.
He then said in a calm and collected manner.
“It’s not just that you will be short. You lack the athletic intelligence. You don’t have the hand-eye coordination.”
At this point tears streaming down my face and snot was pouring out of my nose.
I told him I would practice everyday, for hours a day. I would work extremely hard.
He stopped me and said, “I don’t doubt you can be very good son, but there’s no amount of hard work that you can put in to get you into the NBA”
There was a long pause, and then he said, “Son, there are genetic limitations keeping you from ever playing in the NBA”
I ran upstairs and cried myself to sleep. My dreams of being a professional basketball player were murdered that night.
And although at the time that seemed like the worst thing anyone had ever done to me. I have called and emailed my Dad multiple times thanking him for his brutal kindness.
Today I stand 5′9
Which is too short to get dates with girls on Tinder, let alone get in the NBA.
My Dad stopped me from sinking thousands of hours into a dream that didn’t want me. The part I left out about that night was the last thing he told me before I ran upstairs leaving a trail of tears.
He said “Son, I know this is hard to hear but you don’t actually want to play in the NBA. You want to be successful and important, and I have no doubts that you will one day be both, but I don’t want you to miss out on becoming who you are supposed to be, trying to become someone your genes were never going to let you become”
I was 16 years old and ugly.
I had horrible acne and cysts. Acne are those reddish whitish bumps that eventually get squeezed into pus that runs down your face.
Cysts are huge and purple and are constantly leaking pus. I had one cyst that was on the side of my nose and stretched the whole way down. Dark purple.
I had braces. Not like braces today. These were train tracks. Big grey pieces of metal on every tooth, top and bottom, connected by a cat’s cradle of rubber bands and metal that constantly hurt.
I had huge glasses because my vision was so bad. I had thick curly hair that couldn’t be combed and all the athletes in my school had straight blonde hair.
I was physically clumsy so didn’t play any sport or exercise at all. My chest was concave and I was skinny and afraid to change clothes in the locker room at gym time.
I asked a girl out once and she yelled, “NO!” and ran away. I asked another girl out once and she went silent because she maybe she didn’t want to hurt my feelings. So I just stood there and eventually one of the guys on the football team came over to her, while he was staring at me, and he said to her, “hey, do you need any help?”
Once a month my dad took me into the city to go to a dermatologist who would drain all of my cysts and leave dark red holes in my face.
These were the best days of the month because I wouldn’t have to go to school even though I was in pain for hours afterwards.
One time I was eating breakfast. I ate three bagels every morning. I ate breakfast very early so I wouldn’t have to be with anyone in my family.
My mother walked in the room and just stood there looking at me.
My hair was messy. I was chewing on my bagels, trying to read a book, and my face was simply leaking, like it did all the time.
She yelled, “UGH! YOU’RE SO DISGUSTING TO LOOK AT!”
And she walked out of the room rather than join me for breakfast.
I kept eating but then later that morning instead of going to the school bus I walked to the backyard and hid behind the house.
I waited until the garage door opened and closed twice, meaning both my parents went to work.
Then I went back into the house. I read books all day instead of going to school. I kept hearing in my head my mom yelling at me how disgusting I was.
And I guess I still keep hearing it.