It’s really easy to talk about things you love.

I love the feeling of freedom you get when going on a bike ride. I love the music of Tegan and Sara. I love the smell of my face lotion, since it reminds me of my first time in Los Angeles. I love my friends. I love ice cream. I love my family. I love my fiancé (oh yeah, also I’m engaged now, which is fun).

I will readily admit to loving these things and so much more. Why is it so difficult to say it to the people you love?

This past weekend, I was in Chicago for a bachelor party (on a related note, I love Chicago, especially those tree-lined blocks chock-full of three flats). One morning, because I’m conscious of the sun’s harmful rays, I went out to get some sunscreen for the group, since we were spending the noon-time at the beach. My friend, who I’ll call Naples, the bachelor for whom the aforementioned party was in honor of, asked me to get him the Neutrogena brand that’s more delicate on your skin.

No problem, absolutely! Went to Walgreens, got some sunscreen, headed on back. Gave the sunscreen to Naples, made some pithy joke, and got ready to go on my merry way. Before I could, though, he said something to the effect of, “Thanks for getting me this, it was really kind and thoughtful of you to do. Love you bro.”

My response?

I uncomfortably laughed.

Why did I laugh? Why didn’t I just accept the compliment and say love you back? Of course I love him, why was I so blindsided by hearing it out loud? The laugh was partially because I wasn’t expecting something so sincere to come from something as simple as sunscreen, but nevertheless, why does it matter what causes the sincerity? If you love someone, romantically, platonically, or otherwise, shouldn’t it be easy to say?

I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have laughed. I love you too. Even your delicate skin.

Since I was in middle school, I could probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve verbally said “I love you” to my dad. It’s not that I don’t love him! He’s incredibly, and I’m indescribably lucky to be his son. In emails, cards, carrier pigeon messages? I’ll throw out love in my signature like it’s rice at a wedding. In person, though? “I love you”, at least on my end, is as rare as a good experience at the DMV. Not unprecedented, but memorable when it happens.

There have been times I remember that I wanted to say it. We’d hug, say goodbye, I’d start to say something, then the proverbial cat would get my tongue.

Since I’m talking about my Dad, I have to say proverbial cat, because if it were a real cat, he’d be busy trying to not break out in hives.

Is it some weird internalized misogyny on my end? I have no problem saying “I love you” to my Mom, to Annah, to other women in my life that I love. But when it comes to my Dad, or my brothers (to whom I’ve said “I love you” too even fewer times), the words just don’t come out. Is it just because they’re men that I can’t seem to say it?

It’s not like my Dad and I are particularly macho, “bro-y” men. He’s an accountant whose television program of choice is The Real Housewives (it was briefly Madam Secretary, which has since ended), while I’m a geriatric 20-something with a penchant for bright colors and increasingly shorter shorts.

I’ve got no conclusion to this, or at least not yet, I hope. To have a buttoned up conclusion would mean that this conversation is over, and that’s just how things are going to continue in the future. I hope that’s not the case.

Dad, if you’re reading this, I love you. If you’re not reading this, I still love you, but not as much. But as I said before, it’s easy to write this out. Whether or not you are reading this, I’ll call you and tell you. The proverbial cat won’t get my tongue, and the actual cat, Poppy, will be too busy watching a squirrel to stop me.

If you’re still reading this, I love you too. Even if I don’t know you.

Dan O'Keefe

Dan O'Keefe is the head chef at 21 in New York City. He has never cooked before in his life. You can find him on Twitter @danokeefe86 or on Instagram @dlraar


Coco · August 2, 2022 at 4:37 PM


Annah · August 2, 2022 at 10:20 PM

Great blog, thanks for sharing. Also just realized you’re a head chef in New York, congrats.

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