The Ghosts of Girlfriends Past star discusses family, fatherhood and his latest flick

Credit: Desiree Navarro/Everett

His fans asked, and Matthew McConaughey happily obliged. The leading man in the new romantic comedy Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, costarring Jennifer Garner, answered readers’ questions about life as a new daddy (yes, Levi has relieved himself on his father!), growing up in Texas and his love of music.

What was it like working with Jennifer Garner in Ghosts of Girlfriends Past?
ALICIA HOAKS, Lafayette, Ind.

McConaughey: I had a ball with Jennifer. She’s very elegant, yet sort of a classic woman, actress. She does her own thing, and she also doesn’t bring a lot of hoity-toity false drama to the process. But she’s also very sly and cunning and witty. She’s with it and she’s fun to work with. You might think you’re pulling one over on her, and she’ll flip it right around. She’s very keen and coy.

Did you ever get your heart broken? How did you get over it?

McConaughey: Oh yeah, I had my heart broken several times, especially growing up. It starts off with having a good mom who comes in, sees you’re heartbroken, lets you sit there for a while and then the next morning it was like, “Let’s get on with it! You’re going to get back out there.” She’d always tell us, “It was their loss.” It made us feel better. It got us back out the door. We were never allowed to stay around and sulk about anything.

Was your j.k. livin foundation really inspired by Dazed and Confused?
SHANNA HAWKINS, Quispamsis, New Brunswick, Canada

McConaughey: j.k. livin was inspired by the passing of my father. A week into shooting Dazed and Confused, my father moved on. So I was dealing with the loss of him and how do you maintain a relationship with somebody who is no longer physically around on the earth, right? So, I was dealing with how do I maintain that relationship, how do I keep him alive in my mind and in my spirit and that’s where “just keep livin” came from. So in the film there was a scene where I actually said it. That sort of got quoted and laid down into immortal words in a film but it came from what I was dealing with and how I was approaching my father’s death.

What is your funniest memory of an experience you had with your father?

McConaughey: Dad was very funny. This won’t sound funny, but I’m gonna tell it anyway. There was a time when I was 19, it was after work and I was home for the summer and there was a little bar down the street we went into. And there is a guy at the door and some locals and they’re all getting pretty sauced and getting real lippy and as we were leaving I remember the guy at the door going, “Whoa, whoa, hey, did you pay your bill?” My dad goes, “Yeah, son” and removed his hand [from my father’s shoulder]. We did pay the bill. And all of sudden two other guys come, and they come running at Pop and this one guy – as soon as he started lifting his arm – I just decked him and took [him] down over this table. I handled it pretty quick. One punch and down! Then dad comes over and lifts me off the table and he’s just laughing. We were hootin’ and hollering and laughing! It was like me and Pop in our first fight!

Do you help change nappies? And has [your son Levi] peed on you yet?

McConaughey: Yes! And yes! More than a few times to both. And he gets the joke when he pees on me. He laughs. He laughs his butt off! I think I am [good at changing diapers]. I could have a race-off with some other dads out there.

How has Levi changed you? And what is the best thing about being a parent?
STACEY BELL, Bothell, Wash.

McConaughey: The coolest thing I’ve learned from Levi is kids really remind you of [your] sense of humor. Like I was just saying, they pee on you and they’re just laughing and all of sudden you’re reminded of having a sense of humor about everything. You can watch Levi, and everything he sees is for the first time, so you see the wonder in something we see every day. You see the wonder of picking up a coffee cup and hitting on the plate and it makes a sound and all of sudden for 15 minutes the kid is just entertained with this little thing. So it’s reminded me to see things for the first time, not in a na ve way, but in an innocent way. It’s a ball!

What are some of the things you want to share with Levi that your parents and grandparents instilled in you?
SARAH LAYNE, Mechanicsville, Va.

McConaughey: First of all, work ethic … Then respect of elders, particularly respect of women, which I was very much instilled [with]. We believe in “yes, sirs, no sirs” and “yes, ma’ams,” and “no ma’ams.”

You always look so relaxed and calm. What’s the secret to your casual style?
SELDEN GRAY, Greenwich, Conn.

McConaughey: I think I’m pretty good at localizing and I also enjoy people and conversations and I like to share opinions. I’m not as chill if I don’t get my sleep, I’ll tell you that. So getting a good night sleep and I don’t really leave crumbs in my life, if you know what I mean. When you leave crumbs in your life, you have a reason to look over your shoulder. A lot people tend to be anxious because they’re looking over their shoulder a little bit.

How important is music in your life?
PAULA HUMPHREY, New Carlisle, Ind.

McConaughey: Music is very important in my life. I’m a more grounded and happy guy with music in my life. There are times where I look around and go, “I’m a little bit off. I’m a little out of rhythm.” And I’ll go, “Oh, when’s the last time you’ve put on some tunes?” Right now I’m listening to this guy, which I think is the best country album in a long time, named Jamey Johnson. That album is so good! Now with Levi, I’m making up little rhymes and nursery rhymes.

What’s your favorite thing about being a Texan?
LAURA LESTER, San Antonio, Texas

McConaughey: We’ve got an honor when you come out of Texas. And when you leave Texas and come back to it – if you’re from Texas – there’s a certain a way you carry yourself, with an honor and a certain pride and certain independence.

For more of McConaughey’s answers – to questions about Levi, marriage and his culinary skills – pick up this week’s PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday