“Hey T.J. I need some help,” Ben Simmons said awkwardly as he lingered near T.J. McConnell’s locker.
“Well, if you want advice on how to deal with getting curb-stomped by a less-talented team in the playoffs, I don’t have any,” T.J. replied as he stood up from his position picking depleted Gatorade bottles from the bottom of his locker. “But I can tell you for sure that the janitors here will make your life a living hell if you leave even one sweat-crusted sock in your locker, so you better clean up good.”
“It’s not either of those things,” Ben said, scrunching up his face in embarrassment. “I need help with…attracting…females.”
“But you have a girlfriend. Or I thought you had a girlfriend. A famous one.”
“I do,” Ben replied. “But I’m probably going to break up with her because no female has ever appreciated me on my own merits and I’m emotionally stunted because of it.”
“But you’re, you know, you don’t look exactly like a basketball player and even with that trendy haircut you’re like a six out of ten at best, but I see you with girls all the time so you must be good at having an attractive personality, meanwhile I’m over here wondering if I’ve ever felt or received a genuine romantic emotion in my life.”
T.J. seemed to be attempting to process the full contents of his teammate’s outburst, because it was thirty seconds before he said anything. “So, what you’re saying is, you need me to help you create a fake social media presence where women who possess nuanced personalities, are detached from the American compulsion to prioritize material goods above all else, and have formed coherent personal philosophies can be drawn in by your naturally gentle nature and understated intelligence without being biased by your status as a rich, famous sports star.”
Ben let out a sigh of relief and smiled. “Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”
“Come over to my place tomorrow at 9 AM. We’ll figure this thing out.” T.J. held out his fist to bump.
Ben happily bumped the extended fist with his own. “Thanks man.”
T.J. and Ben were sitting across from each other in T.J.’s living room. T.J.’s white cat, Skiles, was fast asleep next to his owner. “So, the first thing you gotta keep in mind is that there’s a hierarchy of foreign accents that American girls are looking for,” T.J. started.
“I thought the point of this is that my personality was more important than my physical characteristics,” Ben replied uneasily.
“Yeah, but you have to get your foot in the door,” T.J. said as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. “The accent hierarchy goes British, Austrian, Armenian, Russian. In that order. So you’re doing pretty good on that front.”
“Don’t you mean Australian?”
T.J. rolled his eyes. “No, Australian is the same as British. Or at least it is in the ears of Americans. We’re pretty stupid over here.” Ben didn’t quite agree with T.J.’s assessment, but he was too grateful for his friend’s help to rebut further, so he let T.J. continue without interrupting. “Even smart girls fall for an exotic accent. I’m just saying it can’t hurt.”
“I’ll trust you, man.”
Grabbing his iPad and holding it in front of Ben, T.J. began to point out the specifics of the new profile that he had set up for his teammate. “So I found this dating site that’s specifically for college-educated people who have advanced degrees. I bet it’s swarming with thirsty, lustful women who value personality over social status, not least because all these sciencey dudes look like absolute dweebs.”
Ben leaned back on the couch and crossed his arms. “But I don’t want thirsty women. I get plenty of those just by stepping outside. Not to mention, I only went to college for one year and I didn’t go to any classes, so I’m hardly ‘college-educated’. Can’t we just create a fake Instagram profile under the name ‘Bob Dimmons’ like I wanted to in the first place?”
T.J. acted like he heard none of Ben’s concerns. “So the only thing left to do now is have you film a sexy striptease video featuring your British accent so that all these ladies see your muscular body in its natural state. You can leave your undies on though. We don’t want to get you banned.”
“Are you sure about this?” Ben asked nervously as T.J. propped up his phone to face an empty section of wall. “I don’t feel like you’re adequately addressing my concerns here. And what if somebody recognizes me?”
“Brandon Jennings made an incriminating shirtless dance video and his career turned out fine,” T.J. replied shortly. “He’d still be averaging eighteen and six if he didn’t blow up his Achilles. Now get over here and start gyrating those hips.”
Ben knew something had gone horribly wrong when he woke up the next morning to hundreds of new texts on his phone referencing his dating profile video, none of them from thoughtful young women interested in dating him, but several of them from his (presumably ex-) girlfriend.
“God damn it T.J.” he muttered to himself as he pulled the covers over his head.