shit my dad says, justin halpern, twitter

IF I HAD my own choice of fictional dads, my list would go like this:

First, I would want Rupert Giles, the father figure from “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The man would kill for you, but then go home and make you a cup of English tea and discuss your boyfriend problems.

Then there’s Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” basically because there isn’t a more ethical or upstanding character in all of modern American literature.

And lastly, Benjamin Sisko from “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine” rounds out the top three, because have you ever heard that man talk? Best bedtime-story-reading voice ever.

But while Giles, Finch and Sisko all seem like pretty cool guys, probably none of them would tell you to “pick up your shit so you don’t leave your bedroom looking like it was used for a gang bang.” Or advise you to “try not to piss yourself” when sleeping over at a friend’s house for the first time. And for those hilarious quotes and dozens more, Justin Halpern’s first book, “Shit My Dad Says” is a fantastic continuation of his relationship with his father, Sam Halpern, whose quotes have been feeding the younger’s Twitter feed of the same name.

shit my dad says, justin halpern, twitterIf you follow @ShitMyDadSays, you’re aware of the always blatantly vulgar and often uproariously funny things Sam Halpern says, whether discussing his own life (“War hero? No. I was a doc in Vietnam. My job was to say ‘This is what happens when you screw a hooker, kid. Put this cream on your pecker”) or his family’s newfound fame (“Your mom just ordered 35 copies of your book. I’m not paying for one. Fucking. Copy. Mine’s free”).

But what makes the book form of “Shit My Dad Says” transcend those 140-words-or-fewer updates is the fact that Justin Halpern creates an emotionally engaging portrait of his dad and their relationship, from the time he was a young child embarrassing his father at academic lectures to when he moved to Los Angeles to try and break into the moviemaking industry and was surprised by his father’s unwavering support.

Those personal anecdotes provide context to the elder Halpern, who, according to his son, “grew up on a farm in Kentucky; served in Vietnam; had two sons with his first wife, who passed away from cancer shortly after having my brother Evan; married my mom nine years later and had me; and spent his career doing cancer research as a doctor of nuclear medicine.”

But by the time Justin Halpern moves home at the age of 28, his father is 73, retired and perfectly comfortable lounging around the house and judging his son’s work.

“My dad had a hard time understanding that someone sitting in his pajamas and searching through Google Images for silly pictures of Jesus Christ was working” as a writer for Maxim.com, Justin Halpern explains in his introduction. “So he treated me like I wasn’t.”

But little of the book focuses on the present-day, because the Twitter account is generally responsible for that; readers are more presented with memories from when Justin Halpern was growing up, which he then pieced together by sitting “down with family and friends, rehashing many different stories about me and my dad. We recalled things he said, and things they said, and we pieced together as best as we could everything that’s in these pages.” Each chapter of the book focuses on a specific memory or situation based around a quote that heads that chapter, and then in between each of those are a few pages sprinkled with between eight and 10 quick-hit quotes.

shit my dad says, justin halpern, twitter

And some of the best are the ones that go deeper than Sam Halpern’s curse-heavy exterior and examine the caring man inside (it’s kind of weird to imagine delivering such vulgarities to kids, but as his son notes, “For as long as I’ve known him, my father has been a blunt individual”).

You’ll laugh, and maybe also cry, at the chapter “Not Everyone’s Balls Should Be Busted,” which recounts Sam Halpern’s experience coaching his son’s Little League team and attacking other parents for singling out and harassing a child whose “family’s a goddamn mess.” And one of the last chapters, “Sometimes It’s Nice When People You Love Need You,” is charming as it describes Sam Halpern’s relationship with his dog, who “likes garlic salt, so I give him fucking garlic salt.”

And though Justin Halpern quotes his dad as saying, “I don’t care what people think of me” when he learned his son was publishing a book about him, there’s no need to worry. After reading “Shit My Dad Says,” the only thing the man will be getting is your affection.

Written by Express contributor Roxana Hadadi
Photos courtesy the Halpern Family