Monthly Archives: August 2013

The Top 10 List

top-10

In junior high, most of the kids made Top 10 lists ranking the girls or boys they liked in our class.

We’d write them during study hall. We’d write them during lunch. We’d write them on recess if the weather kept us inside. We’d write them during class.

It was always nice to find out you ranked No. 4 on the hot girls’ lists.

“Well Matt, if she strikes out with Jason, Chad and Andy, you totally have a shot with her.”

So, you’re telling me there’s a chance!

Relationships in junior high tended to be measured in weeks, not months. If a couple was “going together” for three months, they were well on their way toward marriage, comparatively speaking.

So, you could go from being someone’s Plan D to Plan B or A virtually overnight.

My memory is total shit sometimes. But let’s see if I can reconstruct a viable 8th grade Top 10 list.

The Top 10 List, circa. 1992

1. Erin – She was the token hot girl. And I don’t mean that as an insult to her. I can’t recall her mistreating me or anyone else even once. But it is still shallow and cliché to put the hot blonde up top.

2. Sarah – I usually kept her at No. 2, no matter what, even though she was secretly my No. 1 most of the time. We were good friends and had access to one another’s lists, so I had to play coy. I wrote a post called The Other One That Got Away in July. I have never written The One That Got Away, and probably never will. It’s reserved for this girl.

3. Kelly – There wasn’t a lot of sexy (I’m using that as a noun) prancing around the halls of our small-town Catholic school. But if anyone pulled it off, this girl did. I almost feel dirty even thinking about this. I’m trying to channel 13-year-old me here, okay? We have a lot in common. Neither of us get any!

4. Jill – We had a pretty good platonic friendship back then. Meaningful relationships go a long way with me. That was true in junior high as well. We were in band together. Yeah, that’s right, dicks. I played in concert band in 7th and 8th grade. The trumpet. I was, like, the third-best one. One time, we had a concert band show out at the high school. I was wearing a short sleeve button-up with a clip-on tie. And I dripped ketchup on my shirt before the concert. Somewhere in this world there’s a photo of me wearing that terrible, stained outfit. Clip-on tie. Hahahahahaha. That’s probably my mom’s fault.

5. Lisa – Kind. Pretty. Smart. Athletic. She was a Top 10 staple on every guy’s list. I ran for vice president of my 7th grade class and lost to her.

6. Abby – This is the first girl I ever had a legit crush on. Third grade. Sparks flew. She didn’t feel them, though. She got in some legal trouble as an adult with my cousin. They took things that didn’t belong to them, or tried to. My cousin is now married with children and doing well. He’s a very good guy. I hope she’s well, too. Always a sweetheart.

7. Chris – She might have been the tallest girl in our class. Definitely taller than me. And I’m a little sensitive about being short. But—and this is an important point—I WASN’T short in 8th grade. In fact, I was in the upper tier of height back then. Basically, as tall as I am now. I broke my ankle in 8th grade during a pick-up basketball game. Because of that injury, I had a podiatrist take a lot of X-rays of the bone break. That podiatrist—I swear to God—told me and my mother that I could expect to be about 6’0” or 6’1” tall based on the remaining space between my growth plates. I was so excited. But everyone kept growing. And I kept not growing. Maybe smoking and drinking coffee really does stunt your growth. The Old Wives need to get their freaking stories straight so I know what to believe and what to ignore.

8. Kendra – For about three years in a row, my friends and I would toilet paper this girl’s house on Halloween. I have absolutely no idea why we thought this was a good idea. It must have really pissed off her mom and dad and neighbors. Until you’re a homeowner, you just can’t appreciate how annoying it would be to spend hours picking up bits of toilet paper from your yard. I’m quite pleased that I don’t have any trees in my front yard. Some anonymous cock did shoot an orange paintball at my house once. I’m still angry about it.

9. Stephanie – If we’re getting super-technical, she was my first-ever girlfriend. In 5th grade. We were “together” for about a month. Maybe. Our magical romance consisted of a few phone conversations and no kissing.

10. Rachael – I wasn’t particularly attracted to this girl, and to be honest, I’m quite certain I wouldn’t have included her on my Top 10 lists in 8th grade. However, Rachael was the only known non-virgin in 8th grade. In our entire class. That’s the kind of information that can elevate one’s Q rating in the eyes of young, hormonal teenage boys. Just. Saying.

Author’s Note:  In the off-chance anyone from my past is reading this, I pray this doesn’t offend you. Because of my excessive drinking and pot smoking from about ages 17-28, I don’t remember when certain girls came and went from our school. But I can promise that Adult Me thinks you’re wonderful and wouldn’t dream of including you in any rankings today. Probably.

A Whole New World

Everything’s different now.

I’ve said it before. And it’s true.

Every girl I like is married. Every. One.

I don’t have any single female friends. Perhaps in time, I will.

Meanwhile, it’s hard not to long for the past.

Every girl was single. The girl in the most-serious relationship had been “dating” her boyfriend for two months or so and maybe they’d kissed. Maybe.

I’ve been working on this new strategy where I try not to think too much about this. I’m trying to trust that this is the sort of thing that’s going to work itself out naturally. The old “Ehhh. I don’t care about finding a girlfriend, so maybe I’ll finally find one” double-reverse Jedi mind trick.

But how? When? Where?

If I just keep doing all the stuff I normally do? Going to work. Hanging out with friends here and there. Playing a little golf. Playing a little poker. Watching a little football. And focusing on my son the rest of the time?

I don’t know. I just don’t know. The odds aren’t exactly in my favor on this thing.

Here’s the sequence of events that will have to happen for me to date someone locally:

1. I actually have to meet someone. In five months, I have met TWO girls. One lives in North Carolina and was visiting her family for a wedding the weekend I met her. The other was 10 years younger than me and is best friends with my neighbor Ryan’s fiancée. I’m thinking, no.

2. She has to live nearby and be available. I haven’t met even one person who meets that description.

3. I have to like her and she has to like me, gray hair, five-year-old son, and all. Uh-oh.

4. For it to be anything more than a fling, she has to have stepmom potential. She has to be capable of loving my son. She has to be on a relatively similar wavelength as me as far as God and politics and life philosophies and all of that.

Do you have any idea how far-fetched that sounds to me?

Do you have any idea how tired I am of sitting around by myself half the time?

Do you have any idea how concerned I am about turning into THAT guy—that older single dude you’ve known for so long who shows up alone to parties and family functions that eventually everyone just assumes is a closet homosexual because he never has a girlfriend?

I’m sure I’m over-thinking this. I do that a lot.

But I can’t lie. I wish I could make a Top 10 list right now. I wish I could write on a piece of paper the names of 10 girls that interest me and are available.

Not because I’m dying to date someone. I’m not.

But it would be comforting to know the option was available.

Oh well.

You play the hands you are dealt, I guess. You fold, fold, and fold some more.

Then once in a while, you get dealt a couple aces. You win a huge pot.

Then everything starts to change.

And maybe—just maybe—today’s that day.

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Back to School

It's back-to-school time for my son. And it's back-to-school time for me. The excuses must stop.

It’s back-to-school time for my son. And it’s back-to-school time for me. The excuses must stop.

Today was my first day being a single dad on a school-day morning.

This meant dressing my five-year-old son a little bit nicer.

This meant worrying about whether he can effectively manage the hook fastener and zipper on his shorts to avoid stressful trips to the bathroom.

This meant wondering whether kindergarten teachers assign homework.

This meant revisiting when boys and girls started liking one another.

I want my son to do well in school. Both academically and socially. I worry about how much I’m not doing to foster his development on both fronts.

It all feels a little too big and too scary sometimes. With no one to talk to about this stuff. With no one there to read books to him while I fold laundry. With no one to clean up the kitchen while I give him a bath.

There aren’t enough hours in a day.

But that can’t be an excuse for lazy parenting.

School at Home

I finally feel like I’ve turned a page. Like I have finally arrived at a place where I can begin the process of growing accustomed to my new reality.

Half the time, I’m a dad. Half the time, I’m a middle-aged bachelor.

And I need to figure out how to achieve balance with all of that.

I’ve only cleaned my house twice in five months. Gross, right? I know.

I keep the kitchen tidy. I wipe the dining room table each night. I never let the bathrooms get disgusting. And I certainly spot clean if something is amiss.

But still. Twice in five months? It’s pathetic.

My garage door opener bunked out on me about three months ago. All I have to do is get the model number off the unit and call a local repair shop. Probably won’t cost $50 to fix. I have issues.

I still haven’t established a financial budget for my life.

That’s right. I bought a brand new vehicle without budgeting for it.

I. Make. Bad. Decisions.

I’m still not working out. It might be a figment of my imagination, but I think I look even worse when I get out of the shower than I did two months ago when I was feeling sensitive about it.

Do you know how hard it is to wake up an hour earlier, do a little cardio and lift a few weights?

It’s not. I have all the equipment at home in my basement. I used to be down there every morning.

NOT. THAT. HARD.

Yet, something stops me. Mental exhaustion? Depression?

I think it is simply a lack of discipline. For example, I’m at work almost every day. I do what’s needed. I don’t forget to pick up my son, or pay the day care lady, or to post as often as possible here.

I don’t want to be undisciplined. It’s no way to live. Because when you lack discipline, your responsibilities start falling through the cracks. And the consequences begin to pile up. And the stress emanating from all of those dropped balls is not something any of us need.

Moreover, there is a direct correlation between my reduced waistline and toned arms, and my self-confidence.

If I don’t get better at anything else, I MUST resume regular exercise. I must.

Because I’m a viable male companion when I look how I’m supposed to look. And the trickle-down effects of that could be tremendous.

Routine.

Discipline.

Increased energy.

Heightened mental aptitude.

Better sleep.

Enhanced confidence.

Improved attractiveness.

These are very good things. Things I crave.

What am I waiting for?

I honestly don’t know.

To Be a Man

What does it take?

To be a man?

To be a father?

More than what I’m doing.

I can keep the wool pulled over my son’s eyes for a little bit. He’s five. He’s easy to con.

But it won’t be long before his powers of observation are keener than my ability to justify inaction.

I am that boy’s best chance to follow whatever path leads to success with life management, with health, with friends, with girls, with extracurriculars, and whatever else.

It has never been more important for me to walk the walk than it is now.

One of the things I miss most about marriage is that I genuinely like doing things for others.

I used to enjoy keeping the kitchen spotless or dusting surfaces because it made my ex happy. It lightened her load. I was serving a purpose. I was serving her.

I used to enjoy cooking meals. Large, made-from-scratch meals. I’ve made two meals I’m proud of since she left. Two. Both for guests.

The rest of the time, I’m whipping together quick things like breakfast or tacos or salads or mac and cheese, or something worse.

He deserves better. He deserves more. He deserves a father who never takes the lazy way out.

A father who does things the “right” way—the difficult way—in virtually all situations.

To see me walk the walk. All the time. Every day. In all I do.

What does it take for someone who knows what should be done to actually take action and do it?

What’s worse?

The lazy and ignorant person who doesn’t know better, or the person who’s well-informed, has a blueprint for success, and makes shitty choices anyway?

Me, right? I’m worse.

I think so.

I want to help people. I want to help people very much. But I can’t help anyone if I can’t figure out how to help myself.

People keep telling me I’ll be fine. That I’ve been through a hard time and should cut myself some slack.

Bullshit.

When it gets hard is when character is formed. Perseverance isn’t just about surviving. It’s about thriving despite the odds.

My son couldn’t work that little hook fastener on his shorts this morning. Instead of being cool and just finding him some different shorts, I chose to sort of let him sink or swim when he goes to the bathroom today.

He had trouble working the mechanism. I got frustrated with him because he quit when it got hard. Because he didn’t keep trying. Because he didn’t overcome.

What a hypocrite, I am.

But I feel bad about it. Which is why I know there’s hope.

I won’t quit trying to be better today than I was yesterday.

And I hope that’s an idea everyone can get behind. Just trying to be marginally better today at anything than you were yesterday. Constant improvement. In all areas of life.

Because children need us. Not just ours. All that look to us for guidance.

Not to spout off a bunch of hot air at them.

But to lead by example. To blaze the trail. To be someone they can emulate and be proud of.

Could anything be more important than that?

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The Fantasy Life

Fantasy football trophy

Let the record show that I am skinnier than this guy and do not own an incredibly rad old-school helmet.

Because I’ve been busy getting divorced and stuff, I was woefully ill-prepared for my fantasy football draft weekend extravaganza these past few days.

There are only three kinds of people in the United States:

  1. Girls
  2. Men who don’t watch football
  3. Everyone else

And everyone else plays fantasy football.

For the uninitiated, fantasy football is a game in which a bunch of guys (and sometimes a super-rare, almost-mythical girl) form a league with typically 10-12 players. Sometimes more. Sometimes less.

And what we do is draft players—real-life football players—to play for our fake fantasy teams.

As their performance on the field goes throughout the NFL football season, so goes the relative success or failure of your fantasy football team. If they play well, your team does well.

Fantasy Football Tip #1 – Do NOT draft Danario Alexander. Someone did that in both of my drafts. He tore his ACL and is out for the year. When you draft guys who will not play this season, you look like an asshole.

Fantasy football is almost universally hated by wives.

Non-football fan wives simply can’t understand why their husbands would spend so much time poring over football stats and watching relatively meaningless games for the sole purpose of fake-managing a fake team of players.

Ladies, it’s not so different from how men feel about women who go to the bathroom together, or your propensity to watch television programs that exploit fake-tanned, catty, drunk women who spend every episode bitching about their husbands and/or one another.

Did I just totally nail every episode of Real Housewives of <insert random place here>, ever? I bet I did, and I have never seen one.

Let’s chalk this up to gender differences.

Boys Have Penises, Girls Have Vaginas

Men are different than women.

Always have been.

Always will be.

We have known that boys and girls are different since the dawn of pink “It’s a Girl!” balloons versus blue “It’s a Boy!” ones.

This idea was made popular by John Gray in 1992 when he published Men are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

I can’t emphasize how important I think this fact of life is, particularly in the context of making a male-female romantic relationship work.

Fantasy Football Tip #2 – Every year, a running back or two comes out of nowhere to have a big year. This year’s guys are going to be St. Louis Rams running back Daryl Richardson and Cincinnati Bengals running back Giovani Bernard.

Men, respect women. They’re not dumber than you because they don’t understand the rules of football, or why we like it, or because they tend to be driven by emotional swings more than we are. The female’s fear response, while a source of stress for you, served as an early warning threat system throughout our early ancestry, alerting tribal and other hunter-gatherer communities to danger. We might be extinct and unable to drink beer and play fantasy football without this system. RESPECT it. Understand and appreciate it. And work hard to alleviate whatever fear she feels, even if you consider her fears irrational. The chemical response to fear didn’t disappear just because we all live in relatively safe houses, condos and apartments now.

Women, respect men. We’re not dumber than you because we don’t understand why it costs so much to have your hair done when we’re unable to tell the difference anyway, or why you like shoes, or because we do the same thoughtless thing over and over and over again even though you’ve asked us not to. Like what we do with our clothes when they’re not put back in the closet or dresser, but are not yet dirty enough to be tossed in the laundry. (This is very common with guys and jeans.) Nor are we emotionally stunted because we don’t handle conflict in the same ways you do. In fact, we feel one emotion VERY strongly. And it will help us if you learn to understand it.

Shame. We feel shame. In profound and relationship-damaging ways.

If you’re complaining about something we do, big or small, we feel shame. Because it suggests we’re not good enough at something. We’re failing you. We’re not providing for you. We are inadequate. And most of the time, you don’t even mean it that way. You just want us to be better for the health of the relationship. But this is important.

You don’t want us to feel shame. Because when we feel shame, we withdraw, almost involuntarily. It is ingrained in our DNA as much as your fear response is ingrained in you.

And if you’re the kind of person who chases and engages men who are trying to withdraw, and/or interprets that withdrawing as a sign that he doesn’t love you or respect your relationship, then you’re already halfway to your breakup or divorce.

Ladies, I know that same little thing done over and over eventually adds up to a big thing.

Not putting dishes in the dishwasher. Leaving clothes laying on the floor. Not putting the toilet seat down.

That those thoughtless actions (or inaction) directly correlate to how loved and respected you feel. And that you deserve a better effort from us to respect how doing or not doing something little might make you feel unloved or like your feelings don’t matter.

And guys, I understand how frustrated and helpless and shamed you feel when your female partner has an emotional reaction to something you did without bad intentions. And turns it into “You don’t love me.”

Fantasy Football Tip #3 – Kenbrell Thompkins. Draft him. DRAFT. HIM. He’s a wide receiver for the New England Patriots. Those same Patriots who lost Wes Welker to free agency and Aaron Hernandez to a murder rap. Danny Amendola will assume the Welker position. Thompkins is going to do most of the damage outside of him until Rob Gronkowski returns from his injury. You’re welcome.

I know what it feels like to NEVER be good enough. No matter what you do, it sometimes feels like she’s always telling you that you’re not good enough. You feel unappreciated. You feel like you’ve changed so much to accommodate her wants and needs and STILL she wants more and more and more. Like she only focuses on the bad, and whatever good you do isn’t worth acknowledging.

We all need to learn to respect these gender differences. If we can all find a way to do that. To truly learn the ins and outs of one another’s differences (and it’s not rocket science! Everyone can do this.) Then we can have peaceful, satisfying, and sustainable relationships.

I believe this strongly.

Fantasy Life Tip #1 – Read the book How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. I don’t care if you’re married, about to be, think everything is great, single and want to be married someday, or believe your relationship is beyond saving. READ THIS BOOK. Might save your life. Better yet, you might save someone else’s. No joke.

The Return of Normalcy

This is the 20-year anniversary of the fantasy league my friend started the summer before our freshman year of high school.

I won the championship last year for the first time in 19 tries. We have a little bobble-head football player trophy to commemorate the victory. It’s sitting proudly on my fireplace mantle.

To prove that almost all men have at least a little misogyny coursing through their veins, we also have a sombrero with the word “LOSER” dangling from it along with a dozen or so tampons. You get your photo taken in it if you finish in last place.

“Normalcy” is probably not the right word, actually.

I still live alone half the time, and as a single father the rest.

My son started kindergarten today. I wasn’t there to walk him in because it wasn’t one of “my days” with him.

And I’m legally single again. It all still feels so strange sometimes.

But that said, I’m better than I’ve been since Easter.

Fake Rich Guy is a memory. And that has eliminated about 90 percent of the anger and stress I have been carrying around.

And it was a simple thing like a fantasy football draft with some old friends that showed me just how far I’ve come.

We drank. We ate. We laughed. We mocked picks. We envied others. We used bad words and told off-color jokes. And we talked about football.

Normal stuff.

Stuff I used to do back when there was balance.

Pleasant diversions.

And it was beautiful to get a taste of that again. A taste of normalcy.

I’m eager for more.

And for the first time in several months, it’s more than just a hope.

It’s an expectation.

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Technical Difficulties

I spilled beer on my computer keyboard and broke it.
It got drunk. It passed out. And then died of alcohol poisoning.
In my infinite wisdom, I ran to Target tonight to buy a replacement so I could write something about the weekend.
I was embarrassed while walking in the store because I dripped food on my shirt like a small child during dinner and didn’t stop at home to change it. It is stained and pathetic.
They only had wireless keyboards at Target.
So I bought one, thinking I had solved my problem and my writing could continue.
When I went to turn on the keyboard, I quickly realized I needed to download a special driver to make it work. In order to download software, my Mac requires I type a password.
But I can’t type a password because the damn keyboard is nonfunctional.
So I’m sitting here pissed and typing this on my phone.
I’ve already gotten shit from two people for not posting this weekend. I traveled and was busy, but still should have tried harder.
I’m not happy that I can’t write. Nor am I happy that I’m not smart enough to troubleshoot this wireless keyboard situation.
This is the sort of bizarre, bad-luck situation in which I often find myself. So I’m at least used to this kind of thing.
Beer on the keyboard. Ugh.
Another lesson learned the hard way.
To the two people in the world irked with my lack of posting, I sincerely apologize.
As long as I don’t die from chronic renal failure or falling in a sinkhole, posting should resume tomorrow.
With the operative words being “renal failure.”
In closing, I’m a guy who spills food on shirts, and beer on keyboards.

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“Be Still and Know that I am God”

Strictly from a faith standpoint, this is my toughest test.

Strictly from a faith standpoint, this is my toughest test.

God talks to me.

Not from a burning bush.

Not from the heavens above.

Not in my dreams.

Not through any voices in my head.

Nothing weird.

But, once in a great while—as in just a few times in my life—He talks to me.

And the message I’ve been getting since Easter weekend—just hours before finding out my wife was leaving—is Psalm 46:10 from the all-time No. 1 bestseller which I’ve still never read all the way through.

Be still and know that I am God.

We Walk by Faith, and Not by Sight

At least, I’ve said that in church before. But I don’t always do it.

I have a little trouble letting go sometimes.

I was raised in the Catholic church. I don’t like to say that to too many people because I don’t want to give Catholics or Christians a bad name.

I don’t Bible thump.

I don’t judge other people’s personal choices.

And I don’t think I’m better than anyone. Ever. Quite the opposite, actually.

I don’t go to church every Sunday, even though I believe I should.

I don’t do a lot of things I believe would be best for my mind, heart and soul.

We’ve all got a little self-destructiveness in us. And I’ve been dabbling in that lately.

Drinking a lot. Even by my proud-to-be-a-social-drinker standards.

Smoking. Even though it’s a disgusting habit I kicked when I found out I was going to be a father six years ago.

And on the spiritual side of things, I’ve been angry and lazy and lax in my prayers.

I pray for my son.

I pray for my friends—particularly those who are going through tough times.

I pray for my family.

But most often these days, I pray for strength and courage. I pray for wisdom. I pray that I can be brave enough to walk the tougher path.

The one with steeper hills. The one that doesn’t have any “easy” shortcuts. The one that promises a real sense of accomplishment upon completion.

God Said it in the Bathroom

It was the Saturday before Easter.

And I was using a restroom in the home of one of my lifelong best friends. He and his wife are my son’s godparents. He is representing both my ex and I in this “amicable” dissolution which will conclude on Wednesday. My son’s godmother is an incredible example of how to do things even when they’re hard and inconvenient. She’s inspiring.

In their bathroom, they have a black-framed photo of a boat dock jutting out into a lake.

Printed on it: Be Still and Know that I am God.

And it stopped me in my tracks. And I just stared at it for a long time, thinking about its meaning. Wondering whether I really obtain the faith to cede control of my life during my most-challenging moments.

I still, in my heart and soul, believed my marriage could survive in that moment. That there was still a chance.

That very day, in fact, while my friend and I were rifling through old football cards like we were in grade school again, his wife—a good friend of my ex—looked me in the eye and said: “She’s not giving up, Matt. She sat right here last week, and I asked her: ‘Are you done?’ And she said no. She said she’s not done. There’s still hope.”

It was hard to believe. She’d grown more distant than ever. But I wanted to believe. I wanted us to make it.

Be still and know that I am God.

God Said it in my Grandmother’s Kitchen

My grandmother is ridiculously kind and sweet.

She is nice to everyone.

She loves her family.

And she loves her God.

She’s not afraid to supply chocolate bunnies, and plastic treat-filled eggs, and large food spreads. But you’re also not walking out without at least one token designed to remind you what Easter is supposed to be about for the faithful.

This year, my grandmother was handing out these little gray plastic fake stones. When they’re upside down they look real enough. Maybe three inches wide, two inches tall, and an inch thick. Faux stone finish.

There was a short Bible verse on the bottom side of these—all of them unique, no repeats—in this huge bucket of fake gray stones.

As people arrived, my grandma would hold out the container and ask us to take one.

It’s the kind of thing I normally would have thought was cute then never looked at again after that day.

But then I flipped it over.

Psalm 46:10.

Be still and know that I am God.

There were a lot of stones in that bowl. But that’s the one I grabbed.

Message received.

Are you There God? It’s me, Matt

Four hours later, after my son and I made the drive back home, I sat on one of the living room couches I no longer possess. It only took me a minute to notice.

She wasn’t wearing her wedding ring.

I’ll never forget that exact moment. It stopped me mid-sentence, and I don’t even remember what I was talking about.

She didn’t want to talk about it in front of our son. I remember dreading that walk downstairs to see her after kissing my son goodnight.

The last night we were a family.

She moved out the next day. My life has felt wrong and surreal ever since.

Most of the things that have happened between then and now have been documented here.

One month at a time. One week at a time. One day at a time.

I keep learning little things. I keep piecing more of the puzzle together. I keep learning things that make it hurt more.

I have just one priority as it pertains to my failed marriage: I want my son Owen to grow up feeling loved, safe, and being able to count on both of his parents to provide a stable, supportive foundation for him.

I don’t think that’s too much to ask for.

I found out yesterday that my ex has officially made plans to co-habitat with Rich Guy. My son told me.

I’ve found out over the course of the past few months, one small nugget of information at a time, what a horrible human being Rich Guy is.

He’s not a man that I can, in good conscience, allow to be part of Team Raising Owen.

He’s a man with no moral code. He’s a man with no ethics. He’s a man who doesn’t value family. Not his own, nor others. He’s a man who liked sex better than his high-paying job. But it doesn’t matter. Because he’s a trust fund baby who has always been able to buy his way out of trouble.

I want to burn this motherfucker down.

But I also want to maintain dignity and discipline.

I want to destroy their bullshit, poisonous, built-on-lies relationship.

But I also want to always take the high road—to be a good person even when it’s inconvenient. Because way too much has been broken already.

I want to expose this fraudulent asshole to my ex and to everyone else. Because, in the deepest recesses of my soul, I believe he’s a bad person.

And I have a real problem with bad people.

And I have a real problem with doing what I should.

And I have a real problem with having faith when life keeps delivering sucker punches.

Be still and know that I am God.

Man, I’m trying, Lord. And I know things happen on your schedule, not mine.

But please. Pretty please. Show me the way on this one.

Because I’m trying to walk the walk.

But I’m fresh out of walking shoes.

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 3

I know a birthday girl. I just met her husband. I don't know if they'll make it. But I really want them to. And I believe they can.

I know a birthday girl. I just met her husband. I don’t know if they’ll make it. But I really want them to. And I believe they can.

I met a shitty husband last night.

And I liked him. First impressions go a long way with me.

And I don’t think he’s a bad guy. Not at all. But I do think he’s a shitty husband.

He’s 34 like me. He reminds me of me five years ago. He’s not a father, and that can be a disadvantage for guys from a maturation standpoint. Sometimes, you don’t really figure out what unconditional love looks and feels like until you hold your child.

And I think that revelation—that recognition of what it feels like to love something more than yourself—can be a very useful tool in a marriage.

Applying the Love for Your Children to Your Partner

Anyone who has ever been in a relationship for any reasonable amount of time understands the infatuation phase—while the most fun—can’t and won’t last.

Just the smallest amount of effort can do wonders for her emotional security, which is directly correlated to how much she wants your penis touching her.

Infatuation and lust will get you so far, then you’re inevitably looking to recreate that feeling with someone else sooner or later.

And sometimes, during the eternal pursuit of that next passionate romance, you just end up breaking a bunch of things.

Families.

Friendships.

Children.

Yourself.

But with a little self-recognition and awareness, we can combat this.

With the realization that the grass is most certainly not always greener—that there is no perfect partner with whom you’ll never have conflict or disappointment or hurt feelings or dissatisfaction—you can learn to stop trying to change your partner. Or change partners.

And you can start trying to change yourself.

There’s only one constant in the lives of those people you know who are constantly in and out of unhealthy relationships. And that’s the individual who keeps putting his or herself there.

They are the common denominator. And that cycle must be broken.

It can’t happen until those people learn how to be honest with others. And more importantly, with themselves.

Once we accept that it’s not going to be lovey-dovey happiness forever, we can move on to learning how to love in ways that matter. In ways that are sustainable.

1. Stop making it about you.

Stop asking why that person doesn’t make you feel the way they used to. Or why all of these things keep happening to you.

2. Make it about them.

Ask yourself how you can make your partner feel the way you want to feel. How you can make good things happen for them. Lead by example, even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t feel like it.

3. Choose to do that every day, forever.

The same way your parents did for you. The same way parents choose to do that for their children—even when they’re acting like little heathen assholes. THAT’S real love. Because it’s not about how we feel. It’s about the choices we make.

I’ve Already Seen This Movie

And it has a tragic ending.

That’s what I was thinking last night when I saw her being ignored by her husband. Literally, the entire night.

The birthday girl.

She looked magnificent. And I’m not sure he told her once.

She misses his company and attention because he has a pretty inconvenient work schedule. But I don’t remember him standing next to her.

I don’t remember him kissing her. Touching her arm. Whispering in her ear. Even just a nice smile from across the room to let her know how happy he was to see she was having a nice birthday.

I’ve seen this fucking movie.

I starred in it.

I played the male lead.

Because that was me. Not doing all of those things I so desperately wish I had the opportunity to do now.

I didn’t tell my ex how perfect she looked. Not enough. I didn’t make sure she knew—without a doubt—how much she was loved and wanted. I was too busy telling jokes and talking football with my friends when we’d all get together.

Guys, you have got to get better at this. I have got to get better at this, should I ever have the opportunity to try again some day.

Don’t do the thing where you ignore them all night and then try to have late-night drunk sex because you’re feeling horny. Please.

Just the smallest amount of effort can do wonders for her emotional security, which is directly correlated to how much she wants your penis touching her.

Tell her you love her. Whisper that you want her. Make eye contact from across the room. Smile. Touch her. Pay attention to her. Maybe when she least expects it.

Care about the things that she cares about—NOT because you give a shit about how her hair color didn’t turn out like she wanted or what color she painted her accent nail or whether she’s wearing new shoes or why she chose to carry that particular purse or handbag that night. Not because you like talking about the same things as her, because maybe you don’t.

That’s okay.

Care about the things she cares about BECAUSE she cares about them. That’s the reason to care. That’s the reason it matters.

Because these things matter to her.

This applies to her hobbies. Her hopes and dreams. Her career. Her passions and interests. Her stories about her friends or family or coworkers that maybe you don’t really want to listen to.

Fortify your relationship by doing the little things. Every day.

Do that, and there will be an every day.

Don’t? You might be sitting right here feeling sorry for a birthday girl who deserves the world and an oblivious husband who doesn’t know the damage he’s causing.

Tequila Makes Me Smart

Ever drink a bunch of beer and vodka, and then switch to a perfect salted-rim margarita on the rocks and start solving the world’s relationship issues with a fellow divorcee from Scotland in an open-air rooftop bar?

Me too!

Dear Jesus, you should hear me pontificate after eight or nine drinks.

The funny part? People think I’m smart! I con them with my above-average vocabulary and my cocksure attitude on subjects I may actually know nothing about.

I don’t know if any of this shit has merit. I don’t!

But, cocksure or otherwise, I do think I can identify the marital sins of my past. And I REALLY want to help men avoid going through what I’m going through. I REALLY want children to have the opportunity to grow up with both of their parents under the same roof.

This doesn’t have to be a pipedream. It doesn’t have to be so goddamn hard.

It just takes two people willing to give more than they take. Two people trying to out-give one another. Doesn’t that sound fun? Isn’t that something everyone can get behind?

My marital sins were on full display last night. The oblivious husband was me. And the birthday girl was my ex.

And it doesn’t have to be like this.

They are two good people. Two kind people.

She loves him.

And I don’t know for sure, but I just vibe that he’s a good man—a good man who loves her back.

And I know they can make it.

And I want them to make it.

And I believe if he only knew what I knew—felt what I felt—that he’d dig in and try his very best to make sure she felt the way she needs to feel for this to not fall apart.

Loved.

Safe.

Needed.

Appreciated.

Validated.

Respected.

Desired.

If they can make this happen, maybe I can be at her birthday party 10 years from now. Maybe she’ll be smiling. Maybe he’ll be smiling. Maybe it will be at one another. Maybe everyone who sees it will privately Awwwwww. And maybe they can be what the rest of us envy.

Happily. Ever. After.

In real life, it doesn’t look like it does in the movies.

But it can be beautiful.

And I still believe in it.

You May Also Want to Read:

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 1

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 2

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 7

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 8

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 9

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 10

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 11

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 12

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 13

…..

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New Thought: I Don’t Know The Secret

Psssst. You're doing it wrong, Matt.

Psssst. You’re doing it wrong, Matt.

I read The Secret. I still don’t know it.

I also read Wallace Wattles’ The Science of Getting Rich. And I’m a far cry from that.

They’re both the same book, only Wattles focused on money and wrote his version 94 years before Rhonda Byrne repackaged his ideas and made a fortune.

The genre is “New Thought.”

The premise of both books is that we create our own realities via the Law of Attraction. The law of attraction is as true and constant and impartial in our universe as the laws of physics or gravity, the authors write.

I read these books about four years ago.

My life has been infinitely shittier ever since. Which could mean a variety of things:

1. I’m doing it wrong.

2. My cosmic universal wiring is totally jacked.

3. They’re total bullshit.

Are bad things happening in your life?

Well, it’s your fault, moron!!! At least, that’s what Byrne wrote.

You caused that car accident!

You made your Aunt Gwendolyn die of cancer!

You’re the reason life sucks and there’s no money and insurance premiums are rising and the FDA is allowing all that shit into our food and the politicians are all on the take and people are getting raped and children are starving in Africa and those baby seals got clubbed!

“Your ability to think is unlimited, and so the things you can think into existence are unlimited,” Byrne wrote.

If you believe her, by tuning your mind to the proper “frequency,” you can think things into reality. You want a 1993 beige Mercury Topaz? Think about it really hard. Feel gratitude in your heart for it. And then The Secret Elves in deep space who probably aren’t even getting hazard pay build it for you, and—BAM!—you’ve just Secret-ed yourself a fancy “new” ’93 Topaz. Booya.

“You have the ability to choose what you want to experience,” Byrne wrote. “The Universe offers all things to all people through the law of attraction.”

Maybe I’m Doing it Wrong

This is totally possible. I do tons of things wrong!

Maybe I’m just bad at Secret-ing stuff. Maybe I need to practice harder. Maybe my mind isn’t on the correct “frequency.” Maybe I should stop trying to conjure up 20-year-old Ford Tempo knockoffs. But seriously, since reading those books, I’ve lost a job and my family.

Worst. Secret-er. Ever.

Did I lose my job because I attracted the layoff back in 2009?

Did I lose my wife because I feared losing her?

Did her dad die because she was afraid of losing her father?

Are we only in control of us, Rhonda Byrne? Can we make other people do things with our minds?

Do bad things happen to other people because we worry FOR them? Are all of my friends and family in mortal peril because of me? Can the space elves make things for other people?

Don’t sleep on the space elves.

They can make ANYTHING in their magical Universe toy-building shop.

You just have to know The Secret.

But I’m still not in on it.

My Cosmic Universe Wiring is Totally Jacked

Sometimes, electricians—amateur and professional—make mistakes. They put the red wire where the blue wire was supposed to be. The yellow wire and the green wire get crisscrossed. Shit happens.

Maybe, just maybe, my wiring into the Universe was not installed correctly.

Case in point: My personal life.

Fact #1 – I read The Secret.

Fact #2 – I read The Science of Getting Rich.

Fact #3 – I tried to incorporate many of the principles into my daily life. I have an open mind. I swear.

Fact #4 – I tried to visualize being wealthy and living happily ever after in a gorgeous home with my wife and son.

Fact #5 – My wife filed for divorce. My son is now gone half the time, and I have less money than ever.

They’re Total Bullshit

What if?

What if there are no space elves out in the Universe building the things we think up and sending it to us in magical rocket ships that materialize as new jobs, or lottery wins, or chicken pox, or AIDS?

What if the law of attraction is more of a metaphor?

A reminder that visualizing success and working for it and being positive and helping others and having faith and being a good person and displaying gratitude is simply a universal recipe for someone to whom good fortune tends to smile upon?

Isn’t that possible, Rhonda Byrne? Isn’t that possible, Wallace Wattles?

I don’t know.

I. DON’T. KNOW.

If I’m Secret-ing all these bad things into my life, I need to figure out how to stop.

If I’m getting royally screwed by the space elves because my wiring was installed by some disgruntled electrician from the Local #2749 Secret Universe Electrical Workers Guild, I’m going to be pissed. But more importantly, I need to figure out how to rewire it.

And if it’s all bullshit, then I’m just annoyed that Wattles wrote something revolutionary in 1910 only to have Byrne repackage it, make a fortune, and get a bunch of people’s hopes up about their futures, and then tell us we have no one to blame but ourselves when we get a galactic-sized dick in the ass.

You know what, though?

I think there’s a chance Byrne just wants to help people. I want to help people, too. I just whine a lot more than she does.

If I can just get the space elves to deliver me some Secret ass lube, I might be able to walk a little straighter.

Then, my friends, we can let the healing begin.

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The Final Wedding Anniversary

Here's to seven semi-happy years, and two shitty ones.

Here’s to seven semi-happy years, and two shitty ones.

Don’t roll your eyes.

I’m not gonna do what everyone thinks I’m gonna do.

Today does feel heavy, though. And not just because of what’s going on inside my brain.

I have a friend and co-worker who has been walking this walk with me. His divorce hearing is today.

He’s a very good man. The kind of person I want to be. And with all due respect Married People, if this can happen to him, then none of us are safe. Ever.

My divorce hearing is one week from today.

So this is it. My final legally wedded anniversary. And taking a look back feels like the right thing to do.

Delayed Embarrassment

Ever been drunk and thought something was a good idea that wasn’t?

Yeah, me too. One of those times was at my wedding reception.

There’s a movie called Frequency. It’s neither great nor shitty. But my wife and I liked it.

We watched it a few times. And there’s a cute scene where Dennis Quaid comes home from the fire station to his wife in the kitchen. Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds” is on the radio.

They dance in the kitchen while Quaid serenades her.

We’re caught in a trap.

I can’t walk out.

Because I love you too much baby.

I think maybe that scene represented how we thought our marriage would be. A collection of priceless moments just like that.

Because I was often drunk, high and stupid when I was in my early 20s, I didn’t know what the song “Suspicious Minds” was about.

In fact, I didn’t even know that song was called “Suspicious Minds” until that very day. Nine years ago.

I seriously used to smoke a lot of marijuana.

I remember telling the deejay: “I want to dance with my wife to the Elvis song where he sings ‘Because I love you too much baby.’ I don’t know the name of it.”

“Ahh, Suspicious Minds,” he said, without warning me that it was a song about mistrust in relationships. I should write him a negative review on Yelp.

But I think he may have covered for me, because when he got on the mic, he told the crowd exactly what I’d told him.

But for all the attendees that maybe didn’t hear that or catch its meaning, they saw me and my wife dancing on our wedding day to “Suspicious Minds.”

They must have thought we were retarded. And doomed.

I feel embarrassment every time I recall that moment.

That was a good day, though.

It was 2004.

My SUPER-conservative short and round grandmother who is almost certainly in the top 1% of People Jesus Loves was old-lady dancing to Kid Rock’s “Bawitdaba.”

A bunch of guys in their early 20s are jumping around like idiots. And my sweet grandmother who says things like “Heavens to Betsy!” was on the dance floor doing this.

Bawitdaba da bang a dang diggy diggy diggy said the boogy said up jump the boogy.

And my great uncle Jim. My grandfather’s brother. He owned a furniture store in a small Ohio town most of his adult life. One time, he was shot and mugged outside of his store. He survived and always carried a loaded gun in his briefcase after that.

He developed Parkinson’s Disease over the past decade. His hands shook a lot when I’d see him at family get-togethers.

At my wedding reception, he was dancing his ass off to whatever Usher song was popular then.

Uncle Jim died this year and I didn’t go to his funeral because I didn’t want to talk about my marriage.

Our First Wedding

In my post about being invited to The Bruno Mars Wedding, I told the story of how I was just minding my own business one summer when my future ex wife called me out of nowhere and made me believe I was living a Hollywood-style fairy tale.

During her visit to Illinois, my stepmom’s youngest sister got married. My future ex wife went with me. It was the first time she had met any of my family.

Our first couple photo was taken at the wedding. It was a cute one. I still have it somewhere.

My defining memory of that day is that she wore a dress she made herself. She’s crafty like that. Black and white patterned. The front section crisscrossed across her chest.

She looked very pretty.

The downside was, if she leaned forward a certain way, one of her bra-covered breasts would peek out more than she was comfortable with. The front side of the crisscross would stick out and reveal a little too much.

I invented a sign-language symbol to let her know when this was happening. The Boob Symbol.

I probably didn’t actually invent it. But whatever.

Using my two pointer fingers and thumbs, I would make a circle, and then I would hold it in front of where my left boob would be if I had man boobs. My dad caught on and did it once, too. She was embarrassed. I thought it was hilarious.

We drank beer. Danced. Laughed. Had a great time.

There will come a day, I hope, where that’s the stuff I remember.

The good times. Because there were some.

My Final Anniversary Gift

And he’s the gift that keeps on giving.

My five-year-old son. My anniversary dinner date tonight.

He brings me joy. In my worst moments, he can do or say something that makes everything else in life seem unimportant.

I don’t know what we’ll have for dinner. Probably pepperoni pizza. It’s his favorite.

And he’ll probably watch one of his favorite shows and ignore me. And that’s okay.

I won’t ignore him. I’ll just watch him. All 44 inches of him, of which he’s so proud.

“You know how tall I am, dad? I’m 44!” he told me yesterday.

And I’ll concentrate on feeling grateful for all of the blessings in my life.

My health.

My home.

My job.

My family.

My friends.

My fancy new Jeep.

You.

But mostly I’ll be feeling grateful for my son.

Because he, without question, has made this entire nine-year exercise totally worth it.

He’s the perfect gift.

So, thank you, sweetheart. Happy anniversary to you, too.

See you at the hearing.

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Two Poles in the Pond

I may catch fewer fish. But at least they won't look and smell like this.

I may catch fewer fish. But at least they won’t look and smell like this.

My neighbor Ryan is going to be so disappointed in me.

I changed my mind and canceled my online dating subscription yesterday.

At midnight tomorrow, it’s gone.

I just wrote a week ago that I was going to renew my subscription. And under normal conditions, I really prefer to do what I say I’m going to do.

But I feel good about my decision which probably means it’s a bad one.

I wrote to one final girl yesterday. We have a lot in common. She’s pretty.

My note was charming and funny.

She didn’t write back.

Maybe she didn’t like that I’m a dad.

Maybe she didn’t think I was tall enough.

Maybe she thought I looked fat and ugly.

Why I’m Quitting Online Dating

Yeah, sure, it’s one of the Three Poles in the Pond.

But I’m done. Or at least going on a long hiatus.

Here’s why:

1. I’ve reached my rejection threshold

“You’re too hard on yourself, Matt.”

“You should hold your head up high, Matt. You’re a great catch.”

“You’re amazing. You really are. Any girl would be extremely lucky to have you.”

I hear this crap all the time. From married women and old friends and my grandma.

It’s nonsense. I appreciate their endless concern and support. I like to say nice things to people too.

But I’m me. I’m the guy walking around in this bag of bones. And I need you to accept this as truth: Whatever life skill I possessed that attracted girls in my youth (physical fitness?), I possess in much less quantity now.

2. I like the old-fashioned way better

My best trait is my kindness and friendliness.

I can be a little obnoxious and over the top, sometimes. I’m not for everyone.

But occasionally, I do charm members of the opposite sex with my personality.

And despite my ability to string grammatically correct sentences together, women online still apparently prefer the 6’2” meatheads who type: “ur hot. we shoudl meet so u can play w/ my uncircumsized penis.”

Just kidding. Those clowns can’t spell “uncircumsized.”

3. It’s lazy

If I’m really motivated to meet new people, I need to be out in the world doing it. Not stuck behind the same computer screen where I spend so much time punching the keyboard typing things I hope people I don’t know will read and people I do know, won’t.

I need to be out. Smiling. Having good times. Being adventurous. Feeding off the intoxicating energy of others having fun.

I went to a party at my neighbor Ryan’s house this past Saturday. I met a girl named Stephanie. Ryan incorrectly assumed I was trying to sleep with her, even though she is his fiancée’s oldest childhood friend, 10 years younger than me, and I have a conscience.

But it was nice meeting someone and having a good time. She had made Jell-O shots. We ate a bunch. We snuck off to smoke cigarettes. She was my Beer Pong partner despite having a complex about how poorly she plays it. It was fun.

And those are the moments I want to keep having, rather than having scary women reach out to me online. And that’s another thing…

4. Only women I would never date like me

It’s like a sick joke. Honestly. It’s not that NO women like me. It’s just that no women I like back like me.

“Are your standards a little high, Matt?”

No. Piss off. I like what I like.

“What kind of girls are reaching out to you, Matt?”

Is it mean to say fat and stupid even if it’s true? I think it is. I HATE being mean. Hate it. I’ve carried on email conversations for a couple weeks with a few women I would never date but just didn’t have the heart to tell them so.

“What is it that you’re looking for?”

A. Kindness. B. Intelligence. C. Attractiveness. D. No more than two children. (This is purely a financial decision.) E. Similar life philosophy. F. Relatively close proximity.

Forgive me Person Who Thinks I’m Reaching for the Stars, but I don’t think this is that much to ask for.

5. It sucks ass

And I’m going to stop doing things that suck, not counting bill paying. I’m just going to stop. Things that suck do not enhance my life. And damn it, I’m in the market for some life enhancement. Not male enhancement, Viagra Spammer. Life enhancement.

Who do you respect more? The art history professor or the artist?

Who do you look up to? The college journalism instructor or the crime beat reporter at the local daily?

Who do you aspire to be? The person who’s well read or the person who lived? Really lived?

I don’t want to be one of the railbirds. I want to play in the poker tournament.

I don’t want to watch Sideways. I want to drink in the vineyard.

I don’t want to look at women on a screen. I want to wake up next to one.

I want the next date I go on to be with someone who wants to be there.

Someone I at least kind-of know.

So when she tries to pull some stupid shit like doubling all the guacamole ingredients, I can step in and save the day.

For both our sakes.

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Bad Luck Brian is My Neighbor

Thinks-hes-unlucky

Well, shit.

I thought I had the market cornered on misfortune.

And it turns out I’m not even the unluckiest guy in my neighborhood.

Bad Luck Brian—the real flesh-and-blood guy from the Internet joke—is my neighbor.

The randomness and hilarity of this discovery makes me happy.

BLB4He’s the perfect kind of famous. Famous enough to capitalize on his Internet success. But anonymous enough to live as normally as he wants to.

His real name is not Brian. Yeah, I was disappointed too.

His next-door neighbors probably don’t know who he is, yet he once got stopped at an airport bar by a couple Indonesian airline pilots who recognized him from his viral memes.

How I Met Bad Luck Brian

My neighbor John from a couple doors down had come over to check out my new Jeep. We drank a beer in my driveway.

A pickup truck pulled in front of his house.

“There’s Bad Luck Brian,” John said.

I chuckled. He must know someone who looks like him. That’s funny that he knows that Internet joke too, I thought.

BLB5“He was just out in L.A. shooting videos with The Overly Attached Girlfriend,” John said.

“Wait. What?” I said.

“Yeah. Bad Luck Brian. It’s one of the biggest things on the Internet. Do you know it?” he said.

“Of course,” I said.

“He’s going to marry my daughter,” he said. “I hope he makes a billion dollars.”

I thought he was kidding. I had some yard work to finish. So I said goodnight, watched John walk home and greet the guy he called Bad Luck Brian in his driveway. Bad Luck Brian had brought over a pizza for dinner.

Is that really him?

I texted a few friends: “Um. I think Bad Luck Brian is my neighbor. That’s fucking rad.”

BLB6The next day, I decided I had to know.

I texted John: “Is that REALLY Bad Luck Brian? The actual guy from the Internet meme?”

He replied: “The one and only.”

Me: “You have no idea how interesting I find this.”

John replied by telling me what street he lives on, just five short blocks west of my house.

Me: “I’m giddy. I have to meet this guy.”

Within five minutes, John had pulled into my driveway in his classic 1968 Ford pickup.

“Get in. We’re going to see Bad Luck Brian,” he said.

Three minutes later, I was standing in the guy’s living room. He’s very nice and apparently accustomed to people like me being curious about people like him.

I gave him my business card and told him what I do professionally.

Then I told him about this blog, and asked: “So. Bad Luck Brian. Do you think there’s any chance of doing a Q&A with you for my blog?”

BLB3I explained that my life is total shit and that I thoroughly enjoyed the idea of Bad Luck Brian weighing in on how to deal with it all.

He agreed and it will be happening soon.

He showed me around his place, explained that he’d just gotten back from Southern California where he shot his first video, which at the time had yet to be published on his YouTube channel.

Here’s that video:

He’s good friends with The Overly Attached Girlfriend in real life.

I love the Internet, so everything about this is awesome to me.

Hell. One might even call it good luck.

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