Monthly Archives: February 2014

Advertising and Kids

seen on tv

I know how to stimulate the economy.

Not create job growth, necessarily. This plan would almost certainly not address the United States’ breathtaking national deficit.

And it probably won’t increase the nation’s Gross Domestic Product because I’m pretty sure most of the money would be spent on products manufactured in foreign countries.

But here it is: Give a stimulus check—say, $1,500—to every kindergartner in the country and let them spend it however they want.

I didn’t say it was brilliant. I just said it would stimulate the economy.

Would you believe my only economics class was my junior year of high school and that I was smoking a lot of pot during that period of my life?

Highly implausible, I know.

As Seen on TV

My five-year-old son is officially the most-impressionable person I have ever met.

Because I don’t like television commercials, I tend to record things I want to watch on my DVR and view the programs delayed so I can fast-forward them.

It has gotten so bad with my son, that he chastises me when I fast-forward commercials during children’s programming, which is always some really colorful ad showing a bunch of kids having an amazing time with some toy or bad-for-your-health snack food.

He loves commercials. And he believes every single thing he sees in them.

Last night, he saw a commercial for Snackeez! They are colorful dual-compartment cups which the TV advertisement claims will reduce messes in vehicles and living rooms.

The advertisement wasn’t on screen for 10 seconds when…

“Hey dad! Can I get some Snackeez!?”

“You seriously want one of those?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Because they’re cool.”

“You think Snackeez! look cool?”

“Yes.”

“Dude. There’s no way I’m ordering those.”

“Awwww!”

There’s no way that’s true. The eliminate-messes part. I could attach a vacuum hose to my son’s chin, and I guarantee he could still get crumbs and pieces of food on any floor space within a four-foot radius. He almost never spills drinks. But he almost ALWAYS gets crumbs and shit everywhere. It’s uncanny.

The commercial shows a bunch of kids just spilling stuff everywhere. On light carpet, of course. Just four idiot kids spilling all of their stuff while playing video games or watching TV on the living room floor with grape juice and chocolate milk and other dark liquids I’m certain every responsible parent would put in the hands of kids in such a spot. *shakes head*

Snackeez! cups will save the day. Don’t worry. Order now, and you can have a second $9.95 cup (plus shipping and handling) absolutely free! Act fast before your kids spill stuff all over the floor!

It dawned on me just how serious the problem was this morning while getting him ready for school.

“Hey dad! Can we get an I spy bird feeder?”

“What’s an I spy bird feeder?”

(He meant the My Spy Birdhouse, it turns out. I was previously unaware of this thing.)

“You stick it to the window outside, then you watch the birds from inside your house.”

“Do you want to get every single thing you see on TV?”

“Yes.”

“As a general rule, it’s a bad idea to order things you see on TV. Most of that stuff isn’t very nice, kiddo. Do you get a second bird feeder for free if you order in the next 10 minutes?”

“No! You get it in a package at the end of the day!”

“Nevermind. We’ll talk about this later.”

Get Rich Quick

Some people do get rich quick. They win the lottery. They start a business that takes off. They accept Facebook shares of stock instead of $60,000, and seven years later are worth $500 million.

Everyone wants to get rich without putting in the time.

As I’ve aged, I’ve learned to believe strongly in the get-rich-slowly method. That way is GUARANTEED to succeed. We’re all going to be older someday. And we’re all going to have regrets about things we did and did not do. I hope I’m disciplined enough to at least ponder those regrets with a large bank account because I slowly and systematically put money away for Future Old Matt.

One night in college, I was sitting alone in my apartment really late, high from smoking a bowl. (That’s marijuana for all you responsible types.)

It must have been 2001 or 2002. I saw an ad for the get-rich-quick scheme: The Internet Treasure Chest. They promised to refund your money if you weren’t satisfied and rich within 60 days.

I can’t lose!

I ordered it for $100 (which was a lot of money for me when I was in college.)

A few days later, it showed up. I left all the boxes of crap just laying by my computer and never did anything with it.

And that’s the entire story.

I gave the Internet Treasure Chest people $100.

*shakes head*

My Son in the Future

Is this something that’s universal to all kids?

And are these impressionable tendencies I’m seeing now something I’ll have to worry about as the years advance?

I don’t want to wake up in 10 years to find my son on the cover of USA Today because he tried to rob something:

btf usa today “Why would you do that?!”

“Austin called me a chicken!”

“Oh. Right. Do you have any idea how much it’s going to cost to get you out of this?”

“Don’t worry, I’ve got it covered.”

“How’s that?”

“I ordered the Internet Treasure Chest 2.0 last night! It’s guaranteed to make you rich in 60 days or they give you your money back!”

“… ”

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The Jesuit Standoff

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This might be a Jesuit Standoff about to happen. Photo by Neil Beckerman via Getty Images.

Pooping embarrasses me more than almost anything.

You might say I suffer from a super-minor form of parcopresis. It’s not full-blown psychogenic fecal retention. I’m physically able to defecate even in a worst-case scenario.

My mind is telling me “No.”

But my body… my body’s… telling me “Yes.”

I go to great lengths to avoid Matt-has-to-poop detection from others. The thinking seems to be that if they know I poop, they will think me smelly and disgusting and not like me.

“Hey Matt! Are you throwing a party for your birthday?”

“I don’t know. Maybe.”

“Maybe!?!? Why wouldn’t you?”

“What if people don’t come? That would be so embarrassing.”

“Why wouldn’t people come?”

“Well. I don’t know if you’ve heard. But, um. Sometimes I poop.”

“ … ”

“Don’t just stare at me. Say something!”

“Matt. Everybody poops.”

“No way.”

*Brain explodes*

Real-Time Poop Update

About mid-morning, I snuck off to poop in my office building. More often than not, the room is empty. This is good. Very good.

I saw a guy walk in before me. I gambled. I can sneak into a stall without being spotted.

Right when I walked in the room, a guy I know exited one of the stalls.

Boom.

Stealth mission: aborted.

I played it off like I only had to pee and made small talk about the weather with the guy who had recently finished pooping. Not one time during the conversation did I judge him for his biological tendencies. But my instinct was to pretend I wasn’t jealous of him.

I left and returned to my desk to sit in discomfort.

Sometimes, I will go to a separate floor. I know a bathroom in the building that is rarely used and if the likelihood of getting busted seems high in the nearest bathroom, I’ll retreat to that location.

This is not sane. I can’t explain it.

Why?

I don’t know.

I. Don’t. Know.

No one has ever poop-shamed me. At least not that I can remember. But I’ve always been REALLY shy about this. I don’t think any amount of reflection will find the root of this problem.

During the early years of my elementary school experience, the stalls in the boys bathroom didn’t have doors on them. I didn’t like that. It was weird for me to have people look at me while I was pooping. I was equally uncomfortable making eye contact with other poopers.

Maybe my own insecurities are why I made fun of The Dump Kid®.

So, to be sure, it’s NOT simply a phobia related to my desire for women to not think me gross and ugly.

But that is a really big factor.

“Please Don’t Go In There.”

I can’t even begin to tell you how bad my timing was.

What seems like an exceedingly high percentage of the time, my wife would need to go in the bathroom I had just used, or was currently occupying.

I hated this.

Some guys are the proud-to-fart types. I am not. I think it’s a tad disgusting. Every single fart let loose in the company of someone who wasn’t a gross guy friend or my son was done 100-percent by accident.

One of my biggest fears in my newly single life is that I’m going to end up spending the night with a girl after a long night of beer drinking. A bunch of draft beer works the opposite of Gas-X (Note to self: Stock up on that stuff.)

So, she wakes up in the morning to my bed head, looking my grossest, with eye boogers and bad breath, looking infinitely less sexy than she remembered from the low-light beer goggles at the bar or party or whatever the night before.

And I’m farting.

Good God.

The thought makes me shudder. I’m not kidding. I literally shuddered.

I didn’t think my wife needed any help thinking I was unattractive. I tried really hard not to be gross. I don’t know whether she appreciated that. Obviously, in the end, it proved somewhat irrelevant.

The Jesuit Standoff

I didn’t coin this amazing term. A guy who is a co-worker and friend said he coined it at his last job. And it’s so spectacular, I choose to roll with it.

The Jesuit Standoff is something that happens with two people suffering from quasi-parcopresis, like me.

You’re sitting side-by-side. You don’t know who the other person is. You can only see their shoes and the bottom of their pants.

Who will make the first move?

This is a two-stage standoff.

Stage One involves who will actually commit the act of pooping first. There are beautiful moments in the pooping experience where it can be done quickly and stealthily. These are blessings and I say a grateful prayer of thanks every time this happens.

Other times, it’s less graceful. Less covert to both the olfactory and auditory senses. Sometimes, biology wins the day. But if it can wait, the true parcopresis sufferer will wait until the coast is clear. And once in a while that means trying to outwait the guy next to you.

A standoff. A Jesuit Standoff.

Stage Two involves the great escape. This is the trickiest part of a stealth pooping mission. So much can go wrong during the cleaning, flushing, zipping and straightening-up process.

Hurry, hurry, hurry! Someone could walk in any second!

The reason this matters, is because I will NEVER intentionally leave a bathroom stall if there are other people in the room, unless circumstances (time) dictate that I must, or I’m in some super-weird place out of town with a bunch of strangers and don’t care because I’ll never see them again.

But if I did it here among familiar faces?

“Oh my God!!! There’s Matt exiting the stall!!! He pooped!!! He’s so gross!!! I’m going to send an email about this to everyone in the building!!!” they must always be thinking and plotting.

I don’t like it.

I don’t like people thinking I’m gross and smelly.

This happened a few days ago. A Jesuit Standoff. In my super-secret bathroom, of all places. It only took me about 10 minutes to realize the truth: This guy’s a pro. And he’s going to win.

One of my favorite moments that happens within the safe cocoon of the bathroom stall is when I hear people come into the bathroom, notice that all the stalls are full, and then just wash their hands as if they had only come into the bathroom for that reason. It makes me laugh every time.

The reason I know they’re doing this—this play-it-off-like-I-don’t-have-to-poop move—is because it’s EXACTLY what I do.

*facepalm*

How Not to Communicate

My social anxiety on this topic is highly irrational.

After all, you poop. Yes, YOU. *points and laughs* Gross person!

I kid.

When I really think about it, I submit this is the single weirdest thing I do. I’m almost 35 years old. And I insanely sneak around trying to pretend I never poop. It’s ridiculous.

I think we do this in our relationships, too.

I say that, because I did. And if I did, there’s a slight possibility that some of you do the same thing.

We keep silly secrets from those we love. Because we fear rejection with them in the same way we don’t want our friends and co-workers to know we’re pooping. Only the stakes are higher and our sex appeal is on the line.

There are things I didn’t tell my wife about. Things that, had I just been more upfront with her, I think might have made our lives better. But I was too scared.

Like a Jesuit Standoff.

Fear is such a worthless and debilitating emotion. But we all get scared, and that’s okay.

What’s NOT okay is hiding things from those we love—especially when irrational fear of rejection is involved.

We need to be honest and open about what’s inside of us if we want to share a life with someone. We can’t live in the shadows.

We need to live in the light. Walking hand in hand.

We need only be courageous enough to share more of ourselves. To be more vulnerable. To take a leap of faith. The following rejection or acceptance would tell you all you need to know about your relationship’s future, anyway.

What’s the future of our relationship? You and me.

You know… now that you know that I poop?

You probably think that I’m smelly and gross. And I’m sorry. I don’t want to be that.

But I’m taking a leap of faith.

That you and I can still have a next time despite this biological inconvenience.

Only one way to find out.

*PUBLISH*

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An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 6

hand holding

If you’re a guy, and you’re married, you’re probably doing it wrong.

You think you’re being nice. But you’re not.

You think you’re doing her a favor. But you’re not.

You think you’re just staying out of her way. But you’re turning yourself into a large obstacle. The one on her path to happiness.

You’re just another nice guy like me. Just another nice guy destroying your marriage without even realizing it.

I spent my entire life being told how nice and wonderful I am. That mostly still happens. That’s why it was always so surprising when my wife got upset with me and acted like I wasn’t.

But I’m so nice to her!

But I love her more than everyone else!

But I almost always let her have her way!

What’s her freaking problem?

Just another crazy, emotional, hormonal woman!

And I totally get it. I do. It’s often easier to just do what she wants (or what you think she wants) than it is to challenge her, argue with her, fight with her, whatever.

Maybe you really just believe it’s “nicer” to do things this way.

But it’s not nicer. And I don’t want you to learn the hard way like I did.

I don’t want your children to have two “nice” parents who can no longer live together because you spent so many years doing so many things you didn’t even know were wrong.

“Not all women in relationships with “nice” guys are drama queens who want to control, emasculate, or dominate their man. In my case, I was desperate for him to make a decision… have an opinion…contribute 50/50. Instead, he thought he was being “nice” by leaving all the decisions up to me… which ultimately led to me feeling more like his mother than his wife. It was exhausting and frustrating. Everyone thought he was so “nice” and the “perfect” husband. Far from it…he was avoiding responsibility and didn’t want to be blamed for any problems or mistakes. So I shouldered all the burden while we slowly began to resent each other and grow apart.” – @jessiesgirl

The Eye-Opening Moments

I had one yesterday.

I wrote a post which was mostly about two things:

1. Things “nice” men do that turn off women.

2. My general belief that “nice” guys are every bit as viable bedroom partners as “bad boys,” but I left out some details for decency reasons.

The results were fascinating. A bunch of comments similar to @jessiegirl’s.

And that’s when it hit me. Sonofabitch. That’s what I did.

And listen up, dicks. That’s what you’re doing, too.

I helped my wife with about 5 percent of planning our wedding.

I helped my wife with about 15 percent of potty training our son.

I helped my wife with about 25 percent of the housework.

But I want to be careful about confusing the messages here, because we’ve already established this: Yes, asshole. You have to help your wife around the house.

This isn’t about you not doing enough physical work.

This is more about you ACTIVELY PARTICIPATING in your relationship. The little things you don’t realize are huge.

“What do you want to have for dinner?”

“Do you want to go to the Smith’s housewarming party three weeks from now?”

“Can you send the RSVP?”

“Who is getting the gift?”

“Are we going to put little Johnny in baseball camp? Karate? Golf? Football?”

“How much do they cost? When do they start? How will he get to and from these activities?”

We can go all night with these conversations.

“I spent nine years with someone who never contributed, he let me organise everything, take the decisions, etc… and by the end of it there was nothing left but resentment… on both sides.” – @larebe

So, here I was taking a step back. Letting my wife control the action, make the decisions, do whatever was “easiest” for her.

Turns out, in many cases, what would be EASIEST is for us—you and me, guys—to make the decisions. To speak assertively and thoughtfully about what we want and why.

It’s not “nice” to leave all of the decision making for so many people to just one person. It’s hard enough for people to think for themselves without breaking something. And you want to ask your wife to think for both of you, all the kids you have, along with all of the other things that need managed?

Hope you like masturbating.

What Women Feel

Me: “Can I ask you for a favor?”

Friend I trust very much: “Of course.”

Me: “Can you write me an email articulating how it makes you feel when your husband doesn’t show assertiveness in making decisions? In taking care of things at home? In being part of the planning and decision making?”

Fifteen minutes later, I received the following.

How do I feel when my husband isn’t assertive in making decisions, in taking care of the home, in planning and decision making for our family??? Gosh—I feel like I do every day. Worthless… oh yeah… and tired… and alone.

I wonder things like:

“Does he even love me?”

“Why would he let someone he “loved” do all the work around here?”

“Does he think our family was a mistake?”

“Why doesn’t he want to help with work and decisions around here?”

“Aren’t we important enough for him to take an active role with us?”

“Are we not enough for him?”

“Are we too much for him?”

“I guess we just aren’t worth his time.”

My husband is a nice guy. The nicest of the nice guys. The give you his last dime-shirt off his back guy. He just doesn’t pull his fair share of the weight around here. And that is putting it nicely. If you ask him he would tell you that I’ve got the “good life”. (He’s actually said this to people.) I make all the decisions and run the show around here. What he would fail to mention is that I do everything else too: cooking, cleaning, laundry, scheduling, laundry, doctor’s appointments for the children, pick up and drop off for school, bill paying, grocery shopping, laundry, vacation planning, homework help, reading books, school shopping, laundry, saying prayers, working full time, and oh yeah… carrying and giving birth to the children!

So somewhere in his mind he thinks he’s doing me a favor by letting me “hold down the fort” or “sail the ship” or whatever. But in all actuality I’d just like him to take control of a little bit of the “good life” that I have. Perhaps 50% of the responsibilities would be a nice place to start. If you look at the list above there are A LOT of freaking decisions that have to be made to run this family. It’s hard on one person when they have to make them all. It’s even harder when there is another capable adult who can’t/won’t step up and do their part to lead a family.

For me—it gives me a feeling of worthlessness. I’m not worth his time. I’m not worth his effort. The decisions I have to make to run this home and take care of this family aren’t even important enough to him to matter.

For me—that leads to questions about his character and his integrity and his ability to be a partner in this life. Which then leads me to questions about my choice in a spouse… It’s all downhill from there!

You’re Not a Bad Guy. Don’t Act Like One.

One of the most-valuable lessons of writing personal stories has been learning how alike so many of us are. How similarly we experience life in our various human relationships, and how our hearts and minds respond to these things.

If I could get back into Doc Brown’s time machine and tell myself 13 years ago the things I needed to know to avoid my life turning shitty, I would have started with all of my marital screw-ups.

Just in case anyone invents time travel AND reads this, would you please print out the following and give it to me in 2001? Thanks!

Dear 21-year-old Matt,

You’ve spent your entire life telling people your biggest fear was getting a divorce.

I have bad news.

You’re going to get one. You’re going to marry your girlfriend. You’re going to have a beautiful son. And then when he’s the EXACT same age you were when your parents split? You’re going to get divorced.

It’s going to tear your entire world apart.

You’re going to cry infinitely more than you ever have before.

You’ll miss your wife and son WAY more than you used to miss whatever parent you weren’t with when you were a little kid. Read that last sentence again. Let it soak in.

You’ve spent your entire life being coddled by your mom.

You’ve spent your entire life being spoiled by your dad.

You’ve spent your entire life being loved and supported by people who felt sorry for you because your mom and dad lived so far apart.

You’ve spent your entire life being told how nice and smart and funny you are.

These things are going to ruin your marriage. And this beautiful girl you’re madly in love with right now? You won’t even remember what she’s like because everything will be broken and shitty.

Every bad thing you have ever experienced is going to seem like an amazing vacation compared to how you’re going to feel from about ages 32-35.

But you can avoid it. You can choose a better life. One with a happy ending.

Marriage is harder than you think it’s going to be. It’s NOT like having a permanent girlfriend. Wives and mothers are something more.

Choose to be a better you. Choose to be great at the only two things that really matter once you’ve made the choice to marry: being a husband and father.

Don’t just give the bare minimum. Don’t just obliviously walk through the world doing whatever you want and wondering why your wife is getting upset with you.

Be engaged. Every day.

1. Give more than you take. Of your time. Of your energy. Of your love.

2. Choose to love even in the moments that are really difficult. Your feelings are fickle. If every couple ended their relationship during the tough times, no one would ever survive.

3. Love and respect yourself. You’re worth it. You’re a good guy. Be a leader. A kind one.

4. When your son is born, don’t even think about leaving your wife’s side. Stay awake for 72 hours straight if you must. Hold your child so your wife can sleep. Hold her hand when she’s holding him. And assure her every single second that she’ll always be able to count on you. Then prove it every day after that.

5. Start writing soon. More than news stories. Stories about your life. It will help you make sense of things.

6. Have crazier, more-frequent sex with your wife. She’ll like it.

7. Just because you say and feel “I love you” DOES NOT adequately convey the message. It doesn’t matter that it’s true. She doesn’t know. You don’t know how she can get upset with you. You think she’s a crazy, emotional girl. You don’t understand. The same is true in reverse. SHE DOESN’T KNOW if you don’t show her you love her. And all the ways you think you show someone you love them? Only some of it is true. Don’t dismiss her when she asks you what you want to do Friday night. Have an opinion. Don’t wait for her to suggest something then shoot it down because it’s not what you would choose.

Pick something. Have a reason. Care about it. Challenge her, if you must. Just do it with kindness and respect. Compromise.

You will have a MILLION of those little moments throughout your marriage.

Every time you say or act like you don’t care?

You’re telling your wife she’s not important enough to care about. To think about. To put effort into.

It’s going to kill her.

And then she’s going to leave you.

And you’re going to miss your son.

And it doesn’t have to be that way.

You get to write your own story. And I want you to listen to me. Because I’m you. Because I already did all the stupid shit you’re about to do.

If you make the same choices, everything breaks.

As both of us like to say: I hate being right all the time.

So don’t. Make better choices.

Choose yourself.

Choose love.

Then someday when you get a few minutes, maybe you can write Future You and tell me how great you’re doing. Thanks!

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. 3

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 4

An Open Letter to Shitty Husbands, Vol. 5

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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Hangovers and $4 Lobster

Yeah. $4. Right. Maybe with a bunch of pee on it.

Yeah. $4. Right. Maybe with a bunch of pee on it.

Because I had more fun than I usually do last night, I don’t feel amazing today.

While I was being a total waste on my couch, an interesting television commercial caught my attention. It also served as a warning that I shouldn’t be watching whatever I was watching because I don’t want to be part of the demographic the advertisement was aimed for.

The commercial was Golden Corral touting its $3.99 lobster tails.

Wait. What?

So, I hit the DVR rewind button to soak it in.

Yes. It was real. A real-life commercial advertising $4 lobster.

You Get What You Pay For

“Anyone had the $3.99 lobster at Golden Corral? If so, how was it? Thinking about trying it tonight.” – @MinnesotaFatz, who started a thread I found via Google at Day One Patch on this topic

People love to save money. They do. I love it, too.

But there are certain instances where by cutting costs, you actually end up spending more money replacing the shitty thing you bought, and on the therapy you need for the damage that shitty thing caused.

This is not universal.

For example, once in a great while I go to a grocery store called Aldi that you may or may not have heard of. Almost everything they sell is private labeled. It’s inexpensive.

Their Keurig coffee they sell is pretty awful.

Their Just Add Water! pancake mix is amazing. Not even kidding.

I wouldn’t even consider buying beef or dairy there.

But their private-label fake Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles? Legitimately better than the actual Fruity Pebbles and Cocoa Pebbles. True story. Not that I eat terrible-for-you-sugary cereals. *facepalm*

As a general rule, I’m of the opinion that if something seems like a too-good-to-be-true deal, the product is shitty, or there’s a catch. (Fine print: May cause explosive diarrhea or AIDS.)

“It probably tastes about as good as a $3.99 lobster can possibly taste.” – @Boyle5150 in Day One Patch thread

Get Ye to the Golden Corral!

I thought buffets were awesome when I was little.

I think they’re less awesome now. The exception being those crazy seafood buffets in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Unlimited crab legs, yo. However, you also pay about $35 a head for that radness. Still a good deal if you don’t get chronically ill afterward.

I can’t be sure that I’ve ever been to Golden Corral. Probably once or twice when I was little.

But I am sure of two things:

1. I don’t want to go now.

2. I never want to taste $4 lobster, unless it’s on a dare AND I have regular-priced lobster and liquor handy to immediately cleanse my taste buds.

“I heard about a $5.99 lobster that they don’t even have out on the buffet. You have to go to the back and give this guy Mickey a tugjob.” – @caleb1915 in Day One Patch thread

This is LOBSTER, people!

This is the only food of which I’m aware that has a fluctuating market value!

Every dinner menu in the world:

Filet Mignon – 9 oz. – $32

Ribeye – 16 oz. – $29

Sirloin – 14 oz. – $23

Lobster tail – Market Price*

THAT’s how badass lobster is. Dow Jones up in your mouth.

But not at Golden Corral! There it’s only $4.

Lobster. A real lobster tail. For $4.

“This thread makes me want to poop.” – @Bombasador in the Day One Patch thread

Possible Reasons Golden Corral Sells $4 Lobster

This is pure speculation.

1. They only serve lobsters which suffered from Lobster Shell Disease.

2. They actually serve Trans-Ocean Lobster Classic Chunk Style Imitation Lobster.

0071516605201_500X500

3. The lobster has pee on it. Like, literally, when you eat it, you also eat someone’s pee.

4. It’s a typo. Corporate sent a memo to the advertising agency, and the message accidentally said $3.99 rather than $31.99.

5. It’s a clever ploy to get lobster enthusiasts to go to Golden Corral.

Customer: “Oh boy! I’m sooooo hungry! I’ll have the $4 lobster tails, please. I’d like three.”

Waiter: “I’m sorry. We’re all out of the lobster.”

Customer: “What? How? It’s 5:30 p.m. How’s that possible?”

Waiter: “So, the all-you-can-eat buffet, then?”

Customer: “Ugh. Yeah.”

Golden Corral Management watching on a closed-circuit camera: *fist pump*

I haven’t thrown up today, despite feeling pretty bad.

Some of the details from last night are a little fuzzy. There was vodka. And an amazing beer brewed with chili peppers. A Russell Hammond from Almost Famous doppelganger. Shrimp tacos. A Heidi. Lots of laughs. A Lisa (I think). An Irish folk band. More beer.

I don’t think we made any late-night plays for $4 lobster.

But there’s always next weekend.

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I Don’t Smoke Cigars

I loved the news business. And now I love something else.

I loved the news business. And now I love something else.

It’s the little moments that change your life forever.

The whispers.

The That almost happened! moments.

The close calls.

This was my big chance.

In the newspaper business, you rise through the ranks. A couple years here. A couple years there. And maybe a decade or so in, if you’re talented enough and willing to relocate and work hard, you can find yourself at a “destination paper.”

That means something different to everyone.

But to me, it meant a job at a Top 25-circulation newspaper.

Even from the sunny Florida beaches I called home during those first few years after graduating college, I had my eyes set on Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. The largest paper in my home state. The one that covered my favorite sports teams. And a Top 25-circulation paper.

When I let myself dream, I imagined being an Ohio-based reporter for The Wall Street Journal.

But there I was. Standing in the newsroom of one of the dozen largest daily papers in the country: the Detroit Free Press.

I was 26. I had absolutely no business being there and everyone knew it.

But still. I was there.

And they were considering hiring me for one of the most-coveted and most-important reporting jobs at the newspaper.

Falling Into Things

Some of my friends always knew what they wanted to do with their lives. Law school. Family business ambitions. Performing arts.

I never knew.

Still don’t.

I studied business when I first got to college because my plan was to eventually take over my dad’s small company. There was a lot of financial security in that plan. And I didn’t grow up seeing my father often, so this plan made sense to me.

But sometime during my 19th year of life, I started putting words to paper. I’d go park myself somewhere on campus. On some steps. Or a bench. Or a hillside.

And I’d just watch all the life happening around me. I knew I was in a special place. And I was aware that decisions I made then would alter the course of my life forever.

Halfway through my second year, I walked into the college newspaper office and asked if I could write something—anything.

They gave me an assignment. And then another one. And then another one.

And it was that easy. Getting my work published.

I was smitten.

Within six months, I was hired on as the news editor of our twice-weekly published paper. A year later, I was the paper’s editor in chief.

I was going to be a newspaperman.

Ink in my blood.

And it all happened by accident.

The Motor City

I was in awe, standing in the Free Press building. The home of the great Mitch Albom.

Wow. Eight Pulitzer Prizes, I thought. The paper has since won a ninth.

The first thing on the agenda upon arrival in the Free Press newsroom for my job interview was lunch with the business editor.

That’s where he explained to me why I was there.

“You write for page one. And I like that. I want my writers always writing for page one,” he said.

What he meant was he wants his reporters always writing their stories with the mindset that the managing editor could make the call in the daily news budget meetings to put those stories on the front page.

And he told me something else. The job was either mine or one other guy’s.

Either me—the 26-year-old they could mold into whatever kind of business writer they wanted. Or an older, veteran journalist who worked for Reuters and had been covering Detroit’s auto industry for three decades.

If the job was to be awarded based on merit, I had no chance.

The Free Press had a four-person team covering the automotive industry. And I was down to the final two vying for the fourth spot.

An opportunity to learn day in and day out from a group of amazing reporters. Two men and one woman. Writers with law degrees and in PhD programs.

Writing stories that would be read all over the globe. By my heroes at The Wall Street Journal. And by the people I hoped to one day work for at The Plain Dealer.

A Close Call

In the end, the Free Press went with the long-time Detroit journalist. He was the better choice if salaries weren’t a factor (I would have been a lot cheaper).

And a year later, I ended up in Ohio where I wanted to be.

Less than five years later, I was laid off from my reporting job—my newspaper career ending unceremoniously and embarrassingly.

And now I work in internet marketing. It’s a good job. I write there, too.

But really? I write here. And this is the writing I really want to be doing.

Exploring the things in this life that really matter.

I don’t want to track down union officials and auto parts manufacturers to ask them questions they’re unlikely to answer honestly anyway.

I want to talk to you about real life. About what really motivates us. About what’s really important on the inside of us. About why we’re really here.

Who knows what would have happened had I gotten that job in Detroit? Maybe I’d still be a journalist. Maybe I’d be a good one.

Maybe I’d still be married. Maybe not. Probably not.

I can never know what opportunities would have existed for me on that path.

Just as I can’t know what opportunities lie ahead.

But I love the blank slate in a lot of ways. While a little scary, I also see it as an unwritten book waiting to be written—both metaphorically and literally.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

What next week, next month, next year will bring.

But I know that I’m here.

That you’re here.

And that we can be whatever we want to be.

We only need to be brave enough to choose it.

Your dreams of yesterday are likely not your dreams of today.

And there’s no way to know what we’ll dream up tomorrow.

The storybook journalism career?

Close, but no cigar.

And that’s okay.

Because I don’t smoke cigars.

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The Greatest Generation

willow-tree

After my parents came back to the house to tell me which one of them I was going to live with, everything’s a little fuzzy.

I just know the judge picked mom.

So, I said bye to dad—see you in several months!—and mom drove four-year-old me 500 miles east to her parents’ house back in Ohio.

I have memory flashes of sleeping and bathing at my grandparents. We lived there for a while. Celebrated my fifth birthday there.

My first life-reset.

My grandparents lived on a 43-arce farm in the Ohio countryside. A big, white farmhouse with black shutters.

A huge concrete porch where I spent countless hours playing. Barbecuing with my grandfather. Staring at the majesty of the vast night sky.

A red barn. Where I was chased by angry chickens. Where I would sometimes sneak into the hayloft to read books. Where I killed, cleaned and filleted untold numbers of fish caught by my grandpa and I.

Huge grassy expanses for unlimited running. Fields full of arrowheads and exotic-looking rocks to be found after the soil had been tilled. Tall maple trees I used to climb.

There were pear trees. Cherry trees. Apple trees. They attracted bees.

I was never afraid of them.

The flower beds were full of some of the biggest spiders I’d ever seen.

I was never afraid of them, either.

The surrounding fields and forest, highlighted by a gorgeous fishing pond and a one-room, non-plumbed cabin with a picturesque weeping willow tree represented my playground.

My new home.

Even when we didn’t live there, we lived there.

I spent more weekends there than not throughout my childhood.

That was a good thing.

My grandfather owned a mom-and-pop furniture and flooring store in the small town. A business started by my great-grandfather.

My grandparents have eight children.

My mother is the eldest of them. I am the first grandchild by several years. My mom’s youngest sister is only four years older than me.

What that means is I grew up in a big-family environment even though I am an only child.

Salt-of-the-earth kind of people. Barbecue chicken and hamburgers on summer nights. Fish frys. Chicken and dumplings. Hot dog and marshmallow roasting over an open fire.

These are the people who showed me how to love.

These are the people who taught me about family.

These are the people most responsible for me being whoever and whatever I am today.

My grandfather included me on his fishing trips. On his excursions to watch his beloved local high school football team vie for state championships. Running errands on the farm.

He taught me patience when the fish weren’t biting.

He showed me what it looks like to handle a life where so many people are pulling you in so many directions.

He has been a loving and faithful husband for the better part of 60 years.

As a child, I got lost two times.

Once, when I ran off to go see Santa at a relatively large shopping mall during the holiday shopping season when my mom wasn’t looking.

The police found me.

The second time, when I wandered off into the woods in search of a large waterfall like one I’d seen in a book or on television.

That time, my grandfather found me.

My grandmother often included me on trips to see her parents—my great-grandparents—about 45 minutes away.

My great-grandfather was a chess champion. And a very kind and gentle man. I can’t remember one visit where he didn’t do something very gentlemanly toward my great-grandmother. He ALWAYS helped her with her coat.

His funeral was my first experience with a family member passing with whom I was very close.

My great-grandmother could run in her 90s. Not, like, jogging. But I remember seeing her run from a doorway to a car in the rain. Things like that. One of the most-amazing women to ever live. She always had cookies. Always. Cookies.

Thick German accent.

My great-grandparents were so magnificent, it stands to reason that my grandmother would turn out so wonderful.

And that’s what she is.

I’ve shared many afternoons with just her.

We used to play Yahtzee and Boggle together. Boggle is one of the games that helped me find my love of words.

She hopped a plane with me on my first flight to visit my dad, once everyone decided me flying back and forth made more sense than driving back and forth.

Despite her unhealthy crush on Liam Neeson, my grandmother is a picture-perfect model of love, patience and forgiveness. For her husband of nearly 60 years. For her eight children. For her 19 grandchildren.

My grandmother had another surgery on Tuesday. Her legs are in bad shape after they were run over by a car.

While she was still knocked out from the surgery, my grandfather, who has had open-heart surgery twice, was admitted to the hospital due to chest pains.

Apparently his heart is only operating at about 20-25 percent. Every day we have him is a blessing at this point, mom says.

The Greatest Generation

Former NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw coined the term “The Greatest Generation” to describe Americans born during The Great Depression who grew up in poverty, and then went on to fight, or contribute in some way to the war effort during World War II. My mom’s parents just missed the window, born just a few years after the generally accepted span between about 1914-1929.

I’m not going to get in the business of ranking generations of people.

We are all dealt the hands we’re dealt. We have no control when or where or to whom we are born. Whatever that reality is represents our individual “normal.”

Some people never knew a life with electricity and running water.

Others will never know a life without iPhones and self-parking automobiles.

Every generation’s job is to do the best they can with the resources available to them. So that the next generation can do the same.

There is a lot of neglect and apathy in this world. But I sure do see a lot of people choosing good. Choosing the harder path for their children and future generations.

More than a century ago, my great-grandparents were like me. They gave life to my grandmother. Who gave life to my mother. Who gave life to me. Who gave life to my son.

And maybe he will give life to my grandchild someday.

Everything is gone.

Youth. The time together. The big-family environment. My great-grandparents. The farm. The fishing trips.

Innocence is gone.

But everything is not lost. The stuff that really matters tends to stick.

That stuff that lives inside us.

In our memories. And stories. In our personalities.

In our ability to love. To share. To connect. To be generous. Charitable. Forgiving. Hopeful.

It won’t be long now. Until I have to say goodbye to them.

Maybe this year. Maybe in a few years. But not long now.

The people responsible for getting me through my first life-reset after my parents’ divorce.

And now I’m going through life-reset No. 2.

My own divorce.

And everything’s mixed-up. Inside-out.

There’s no rock anymore. Nothing steady to lean on.

The world’s asking me to become my own rock. So I can be a good father. A good son. A good friend. And someday, a good partner.

The world’s asking all of us to do that as we slowly lose everything on which we once relied.

So we get strong. Because we must.

And we hold one another up.

We do it for ourselves and each other. And we do it for our children.

Because our ancestors mattered.

They gave you your grandparents.

And they gave you your parents.

And they gave you yourself and an opportunity to do something great.

Maybe that’s some great big thing that everyone’s going to see and hear about in our media-saturated world.

Or maybe it’s not.

Maybe it’s just making the world a better place.

Maybe it’s just raising a child who will bring a child into the world who will bring a child into the world who a hundred years from now will change the world.

Maybe that’s why you’re here.

Maybe that’s why I’m here.

Like my grandparents.

Like yours.

The greatest generation.

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“Dad! I Have to Show You Something.”

Growth. It's a process.

Growth. It’s a process.

Uh-oh.

That can mean so many things.

“Daaaad! I have to show you something,” my five-year-old yelled from down the hall.

It can mean something was broken. Ugh.

Or just that he wants to show me a cool scene in whatever show he’s watching.

“Da-da! Daaaddddddd! Daddy! I have to show you something.”

It can mean a huge mess was made. Grrr.

Or that he created something fantastic and imaginative with his toys and craves my approval.

“Dad. Dad. Dad. Hey dadddddddddddddddd! I’m calling you. Can you hear me? I have to show you something.”

It can mean there’s a pukey or poopy mess. Gross.

I can usually tell whether the thing he wants to show me is good or bad based on his tone of voice.

But it was late. I hadn’t been able to sleep. Everything was surreal. Confusing.

I looked over at the clock. “It’s 3:29 a.m., asshole,” the clock said. “It doesn’t matter that you’re tired. It doesn’t matter that you have to get up in less than three hours. It doesn’t matter that you’re alone and there’s no one to help you. Get up. Take care of your child. He needs you.”

Shit. The clock’s right.

In the months leading up to our son being born, I spent a lot of time in our nursery which had previously served as our home office.

I would just sit there, in a comfortable old recliner from college—our baby’s in-room rocking chair.

That was such an exciting time. Such a hopeful time.

The walls were already a soft yellow. Gender-neutral. So we left it alone.

We never learned the baby’s gender during the pregnancy. Surprises have merit.

My crafty wife made some curtains. Our very first baby item was a mobile for the crib. I think we bought it with a gift card at Pottery Barn Kids because it was literally the only thing we could afford there.

I’d glance at the crib, picturing a little person standing inside, waiting for mommy or daddy to pull them out of bed.

For some reason, I thought we were having a girl. But I was guilty of slightly favoring a boy. Because of all of the fond memories I had with my dad and stepdad. I was excited to share in those types of father-son adventures.

Gender didn’t matter, though.

The love was swelling. As I visualized the child. Rocking him or her in that chair. Playing with him or her in the backyard. All of the future games the three of us would play. And maybe four, as at that point, I still hoped there would be one more joining the family, too.

Mom and dad. Hopefully son and daughter.

My little family fantasy.

Babies are Hard

They are.

It’s hard to take care of everything that needs taken care of in a day for yourself AND for another little otherwise-helpless human being. They don’t care that you’re in a hurry. They’ll puke on your shirt.

They don’t care that you just stopped a few minutes ago on your long road trip. They shit in their diapers. Really foul, awful shit, too.

They cry a lot. It’s really the only way they know how to tell you what’s going on.

If they cry, it means they’re hungry. Or they’re tired. Or they’re uncomfortable. It’s always one of the three.

Which is good because it doesn’t take long to solve. Universal problems. Universal solutions.

It’s funny that I wanted another child.

Because I was a bad father. Check that. I wasn’t a bad father. I was a bad husband to a brand-new mother.

Yes. That.

My wife got two children right away. Or at least, that’s how she felt. Because she had to take care of all of us.

When you have a baby, everything changes. And you have to make radical adjustments. Solve problems.

Two loving adults pulling in the same direction can figure out how to solve those problems together.

But when one parent doesn’t give as much as they take?

That’s how you make a new mother feel alone. That’s how you make a woman resent a man. That’s how you lose her respect. And eventually, her love.

She did it all. She really did.

She read all the books. She baby-proofed the house. She created his schedule. She managed all of his medical care. She organized his clothes and baby needs and always had the baby bag packed and ready to go.

She made all of his homemade baby food. It was an awesome system.

She found the daycare family who, to this day, still cares for our son.

I’ve failed many things in my life. Many things.

But I’m not sure I’ve ever failed anyone harder than I did my wife during the first year of our son’s life. I was lost. And so was she.

But she figured it out.

And I didn’t.

Not until later. Not until the day we were both sitting on our deck one afternoon having a beer in the sunshine and I asked the question: “Am I the reason you didn’t want to have more kids?”

“Yes,” she said. “That is a big part of it.”

Growing. Always Growing.

Both of us.

Father and son. Twenty-nine years separating us.

But still. Growing. Every day.

The weather has been terrible. Absolutely frigid temperatures. We got six inches of snow overnight two nights ago. But right now, it’s in the mid-40s. It will be 50 tomorrow.

Those temperature swings make people sick.

My son developed a cough from sinus congestion. He coughed so hard, he vomited right when he got home yesterday.

I cancelled my plans for the evening to focus on him.

We watched a couple shows. Had dinner. Had his nightly bath.

We practiced his “sight” words. Little flash cards. His writing is improving. His ability to figure out what a word is based on the letters is really impressing me. He’s learning so much in kindergarten. I feel immense pride when he shows an ability to problem solve. Hell. I feel immense pride all the time.

And here we are, six years later. Only he’s here now. All those visions dancing in my head turned into a real flesh-and-blood person. A sweet one. A funny one. A smart one. A loving one.

One capable of the stubbornness of his parents. Of the irresponsibility of his father. Of the antics of many small children.

But still.

My son.

Everything I could have hoped for sitting on that recliner late into the night six years ago, daydreaming about fatherhood.

And now it really is fatherhood. It’s not just me leaning on my wife (now ex) for direction, even though she still gets a lot more right than I do.

I’m here. Really doing it. Really being a dad.

“White.”

“Blue.”

“Three.”

He rattled off his sight words as I flipped through the handwritten flash cards.

“Is.”

“The…

“Hey dad! Did you know ‘the’ is the most-important word of all the words? It is. I know it.”

I flipped to another.

“I don’t know this one, dad. You say it.”

“You can figure it out, bud,” I said.

“Wa. Ah. Te. What!”

I love when he figures things out on his own.

“Very good! Yes! That spells ‘what’!”

We read a book. He spotted the word “lion.”

“Hey dad! I know a secret code.”

“You know a secret code?”

“Yes. He pointed to ‘lion.’ If you take out the ‘L’ and the ‘I,’ it spells ‘on.’”

I laughed.

“Yes it does. Very good!”

It’s such a joy seeing their little minds work. Grow. Morph.

Little miracles.

He was coughing really hard. Even after the cough syrup.

He’d rolled off his propped-up sleeping position. Laying flat, the coughing frequency and severity increased.

“Dad! I need more water!”

I still use his last remaining spill-proof sippy cup for his nighttime water cup. I’m not sure whether that’s bad, given his age. I don’t like cleaning up spills.

I had fallen asleep around 9 p.m. and woke up at midnight just in time to catch the second night of the excellent and hilarious Jimmy Fallon rocking The Tonight Show.

I couldn’t get back to sleep.

Tossing. Turning. My son coughing down the hall.

Hot. Cold. Busy mind. More coughing.

“Dad. I need to show you something.”

It was 3:29 a.m.

I walked down the hall. He was sitting up. Wide-awake.

“Hey man. Why aren’t you sleeping? What do you want to show me?”

He climbed out of bed and walked to the hallway closet and opened it.

He pointed inside.

There was a humidifier sitting there.

A device that hadn’t left the closet since the last time my ex-wife used it.

I smiled. I have no idea how he even remembered that was in there.

Smart kid.

“Okay. You get back in bed. I’ll take care of this for you.”

I put the basin in the sink to fill up.

I ran downstairs to grab salt—the crappy iodized table salt—not my delicious Kosher salt I use for all my food prep.

I salted the water, not bothering to measure.

A couple minutes later, the humidifier was sending hot steam into the air. Relieving my son’s congestion.

My little man.

Thinking for himself.

Solving problems.

Helping himself.

And helping me, too.

Growing.

Always growing.

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The Problems That Remain

To Do List

The list stresses me out. Maybe it does you, too. Time to make it smaller.

When I have a bunch of chores, I tend to save the hardest stuff for last.

I think there’s probably an argument—a good one—for knocking out the more-challenging stuff first. But I’m a world-class procrastinator. One of the best of all time.

And if anyone knows how to push off challenging tasks for later, it’s me.

Finance coach and get-out-of-debt proponent Dave Ramsey preaches a debt-elimination method he calls the Debt Snowball Plan.

It calls for listing all of your debts from smallest to largest, making only minimum payments on all of them, except the smallest one. On the smallest one you put everything you can into paying it off.

When that goes away, you take all of that same money budgeted for debt elimination and you apply it to the second-smallest debt. The amount of money each month dedicated to paying off debt “snowballs” until your debt is completely eliminated.

Ramsey is coaching people to knock out the easiest stuff first. To taste the small wins. And to feel the motivation to tackle the bigger challenges and win those, too.

Whatever problems you’re facing in your life are probably the most-difficult for you to overcome.

Any problems you had which didn’t require a lot of time, money or effort to solve, have most likely already been solved.

What’s left is the really hard stuff.

One of my favorite writers and thinkers—Seth Godin—wrote about this a few days ago in his “The problems you’ve got left…” post.

Godin writes about business. About marketing principles. I work in marketing so I try to read him every day. But he has a knack for writing things that cross over into other aspects of the human experience as well. I think he’s a genius.

In this post, Godin is asking us to evaluate the remaining problems, challenges, obstacles in our lives at work.

I think we can just as easily apply this to our lives at home.

He wrote this:

“The problems you’ve got left are probably the difficult ones.

“We’d all like to find discount answers to our problems. Organizations, governments and individuals prefer to find the solution that’s guaranteed to work, takes little time and even less effort.

“Of course, the problems that lend themselves to bargain solutions have already been solved.

“What we’re left with are the problems that will take ridiculous amounts of effort, untold resources and the bravery to attempt something that might not work.

“Knowing this before you start will help you allocate the right resources… or choose not to start at allthis problem, the one that won’t be solved in a hurry, might not be worth the effort it’s going to take. If it is, then pay up.”

I immediately started to evaluate my “problems.”

Which ones lend themselves to bargain solutions?

There are some that do. Facets of my life that can legitimately improve if I’m only willing to make a few small, disciplined changes to my schedule, to my work ethic, to my routine.

The big problems are big.

They require big ideas. Big effort. Big solutions.

But in the meantime, maybe we can start building some momentum by knocking out some of the simpler ailments that impact our lives.

For most of us, the biggest obstacle to getting started is inertia.

People don’t think enough about it. I know I don’t. But it’s important. And it’s real.

Inertia is the resistance of an object to any change in its state of motion. You know. Isaac Newton shit.

It means that objects at rest tend to stay at rest. That’s the bad news.

Because it’s really hard to get moving sometimes.

But inertia can be our friend, too. Because the same principle applies to objects already in motion. They tend to stay in motion.

Our lives, I think, work the same way. When we’re stuck in ruts… financially, spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally… we tend to stay stuck in the rut.

Until something—hopefully our will—forces us to do things differently.

And that’s when real change happens. A snowball effect.

Building problem-solving momentum, feeling the joys of those small wins, and using inertia as a tool rather than a hindrance.

I don’t know if I’m ever going to achieve the life mastery skills I want to feel in control of all the important parts of my life.

But I know that I have big problems.

And I have small problems.

Seems extra foolish to not at least get those small ones marked off the list.

Because I don’t believe life should be a list of chores.

I believe it should be a list of adventures.

Of hopes and dreams.

What do I want to do today?

I think that’s what happiness looks like. But there are still things that must be done.

Responsibilities. Obligations. People who need us.

I really want to play. And I intend to. Perhaps more this year than I have in a very long time.

But there are some things which require my attention first.

And it’s time to get down to business.

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The Art of Dating Discrimination

Image courtesy of nana-eddy.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of nana-eddy.blogspot.com

I’ve only had three girlfriends ever make it past the get-to-know-you phase.

It’s because both my mom and dad had gone through divorce, and both preached “playing the field” and to not be in a hurry to get married.

Spend time with lots of different girls, they said. Figure out what you like. Figure out why.

Not every girl approved of my way of thinking, but I didn’t particularly care. The thinking was: As soon as you know there’s no chance of this ending in marriage, why be in a committed relationship with one another?

I didn’t believe in having a girlfriend simply for the sake of having one.

That was an easy choice to make back then. I was young. With a hard stomach. And constantly surrounded by young, single women.

I’m sure I wasn’t as honest as I should have been. But I also wasn’t a lying, sneaky prick.

As far as I know, I didn’t leave very many hurt feelings in my wake as I navigated my youth.

Everything’s Different Now

It’s a much more-difficult choice to make now. Being discriminatory. But I choose it anyway.

I am no longer the most-important person in my life.

The day my son was born changed everything.

From that moment on, my decision making revolved entirely around the fact that I was his father.

Divorce hasn’t changed that.

But that has also come with a cost. It means I spend a great deal of time sleeping alone, dining alone, watching television alone. It means, for the first time in my life, I do most things alone.

I’m still adjusting to that.

It hasn’t been easy.

When my wife left, it was as if someone hit the reset button in the middle of my game.

I was on high alert. I knew it was possible. But the reaction was still: “WHAT THE… !?!?”

Then, after the dust settled, it hit me: A fresh start.

Kind of a do-over.

There are certainly geographic and financial limitations due to the shared custody of my son. But it’s not as if I’d trade him for anything, so I don’t see the point in lamenting his wonderful existence.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

My mom always used to say that.

But, guess what?

I’m not begging.

I wrote a post about an encounter with a girl at a bar on Valentine’s Day. It was a nice moment, I thought, and wanted to write about it.

There were more than a few people who told me both online and offline that they thought I was doing it wrong. There are probably several more who agree with them but didn’t bother to tell me about it.

One lady wrote:  “I just happened upon your blog and I sorta agree with elbrookman (who was very disappointed with my choices). I understand not wanting to get involved with someone not geographically close, however, asking for her number is not a marriage proposal!…

“Maybe your inability to connect has more to do with your idea that you don’t measure up vs others thinking that you don’t! And connecting with someone doesn’t mean sleeping with them right out the gate! You have a lot of soul-searching to do my friend!”

She did a pretty good job of summing up my entire life and every word I’ve ever written in one comment.

But I dabble in the honesty business now. More than I ever have. So, let me just come out and say it:

I was pretty annoyed with everyone who suggested they knew better than I did what the best play was while meeting a strange girl at a bar. I was there. I was having the actual conversation. I was minutes away from picking up my five-year-old son to take him home and get him in pajamas and tuck him into bed.

It was suggested I made a mistake not trying to “romance” her. Perhaps a stroll under the full moon.

I’m not opposed to such things, I guess.

When I don’t have a sleeping five-year-old at home.

When it’s not 10 degrees outside with a shit-ton of ice and snow everywhere.

Whatever. Totally beside the point.

Why didn’t I try harder with the pretty stranger at the bar? Let’s discuss.

I only want to date women who live close to me. That stranger in the bar? She lives 2,380 miles away.

That’s a 34-hour drive, if you don’t stop for gas and food and sleep and bathroom breaks.

I only want to date women who live close for the same reasons I didn’t waste a lot of time in committed relationships in my youth I knew to be doomed for failure.

What’s the point?

I don’t want to date a woman I can’t see.

I don’t want to like a woman who I’m going to miss because she lives far away.

I’m really confused about why people don’t see the wisdom in that.

And I don’t care if this makes it hard for me to find people to date. I’m not going to suddenly change all my criteria, just to increase my odds of finding someone who meets my dating criteria.

My standards are my standards. I put thought into formulating them.

If I end up liking someone enough to be in a relationship with them, I want to be able to see them. You know, so we can have dinner and drinks and go to concerts and the movies and make out on the couch. This can’t seem weird to very many people. Right?

I only want to date women who could theoretically be a potential stepmom to my son. Even if this pretty photographer didn’t live in California, I can assure you—beyond all doubt—she wasn’t looking to spend all her time in the Ohio suburbs with a divorced guy and his kid.

She was awesome. Very funny. Very smart. Enjoyed her company immensely and would have had a great time with her for as long as the night allowed had I not been on parenting duty.

But even if my son hadn’t required my care?

There was still no happy ending to that story, from a “dating” or “relationship” standpoint.

So, I fail to see the wisdom in treating the encounter as anything more than it was. A nice moment that made me smile.

If people care enough about my personal life—and I realize I invite this commentary by publishing stories about my personal life—to offer criticism of my conversations with strangers at bars, I’d love for them to get on board with the idea that I actually think about this stuff (probably too much, actually) and have reasons for the choices I make—even the bad ones.

They are not accidents.

They are thoughtful and deliberate.

So, Yeah. I’m Picky.

Fastidious.

Discriminating.

Particular.

I am.

And I’m not sorry, either. I have all kinds of personal rules about the kind of women I’m willing to hitch my wagon to. And, yes. I’m totally smart enough to realize just how challenging that’s going to make this next chapter of my life from a dating standpoint.

I’ve written about just how frustrating I consider it several times.

But I don’t think the answer to one of the most-important life decisions one can ever make is to all the sudden lower ones standards in the interest of increasing the candidate pool. That’s how the Cleveland Browns hire all of their head coaches, and anyone paying attention to American football can appreciate just how well that works out for them.

I want to meet someone who lives close to me. Period. Because if I like her, I want to see her.

I want to date someone who is mostly on the same philosophical wavelength as me. Because if it were to ever morph into a long-term thing, and she’s going to serve as a part-time parent to my son? I need her to be supportive of the values I want to instill in my child.

I want to date someone in my relative age range.

I want to think she’s beautiful in all the ways I evaluate beauty, both inside and out.

I want her to like me. To want to be here in Ohio where I must live for the next 13 years, minimum, until my son graduates from high school.

And I want the two of us to have lots of common goals and interests. On superficial things, and on all the stuff that really matters in relationships—all the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual components required to make it work.

I do not want to sleep with random strangers in bars.

I would not want to casually hang out with a random stranger in a bar UNLESS I wanted to sleep with her.

I have a million rules. All of them matter. Every single one.

And sure, it makes my life more difficult. More frustrating. More lonely.

But I’m not compromising my values.

And I’m not setting myself up for emotionally devastating long-term failure.

I think back to my first crack at dating. How I would never even start down the path with someone when I knew it couldn’t last.

And in many ways since, everything has changed.

But in some ways?

Nothing has.

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A Girl at a Bar

Kind of like this. Only next to me.

Kind of like this. Only next to me.

It was to be a different kind of Valentine’s Day.

I was okay with that.

My five-year-old son had a special event scheduled at his karate dojo. Something just for kids.

Maybe I’ll meet some other parents.

I had been looking forward to it. It’s fun to be a parent at little-kid things.

But as I signed a permission slip for my son to take part in the evening’s scheduled activities, it dawned on me that this wasn’t something parents would be attending.

I thought it was curious they would schedule something on Valentine’s Day. But when I realized they did it intentionally to give adults some time to do adult stuff while the kids had fun together in a safe location, it all made sense.

Well, shit.

I decided right away I’d go have dinner somewhere. The dojo is located in a strip mall a couple suburban towns away. There were a couple pubs and restaurants nearby.

So, I parked the Jeep and walked into an Irish pub I’d never been in before.

The Bar Crowd

It was an interesting crowd.

I’m like Jason Bourne when I’m sitting alone, only instead of being a badass prepared for anything, I’m really just creepily digesting everyone’s conversations and making judgments about them based on very little information.

The bar was U-shaped.

To my left was a couple I assumed to be meeting for the first time. They seemed an odd pair. Like they’d decided to meet for drinks on an online dating site.

Three stools to my right, in the middle of the U, sat a man by himself who walked in not long after I did. He immediately ordered a pint of Fat Tire—the same beer I was drinking—and a shot of Jägermeister. I was at the bar for nearly three hours. He never took that shot while I was there.

There were two intoxicated couples and one guy who boasted about how he dumped his wife at home to come drinking with his friends. They sat directly across the bar burning money on losing attempts at Keno.

A male gay couple came in and sat in a booth on the other side of the room. A couple guys who looked like they were really into science-fiction and comic books came in and sat between the guy who wouldn’t take his shot and the drunk Keno players.

Those guys LOVED the song “Sail” by AWOLNATION. It’s probably the fifth-best song on the album.

And back to my right sat two couples in a booth. One of the guys was older than my father and was with a girl younger than me. And yes, they were a couple.

What am I doing wrong? Honestly?

Everything, probably.

The bartenders were sweet. Two girls. One was gorgeous. The other was not. The one who wasn’t flirted with me all night.

I didn’t mind.

I left the bar and walked down to the karate place to check on my little man. It was shortly after 8 p.m., and the pizza delivery person was JUST getting there as I walked in. Dinner for the kids. My son is usually in bed at this time.

Whatever. Special occasion.

I chatted with a couple staff members. Everything was under control.

Screw it. I’m going back to the bar.

I sat down in the same stool.

I smiled at the bartender who thought I’d left for the evening.

“Another Fat Tire?” she said.

“Yep.”

A couple minutes later, a pretty blonde girl walked in and sat right next to me.

“A Miller Lite and a Fireball,” she told the bartender.

“Nice work,” I said, holding out my glass.

She clinked it and we drank.

She asked me to do it again when she took her shot.

“I was supposed to be out with my mom,” she said. “She dumped me.”

“Dumped by your mom on Valentine’s Day? Brutal,” I said.

She was only in town visiting.

She lives in Venice Beach, Calif. A self-employed action-sports photographer. A very talented one. I checked out her work.

She just travels around, sometimes internationally, shooting cool stuff.

Very pretty.

Very funny.

Very engaging.

Not quite an hour later, I didn’t want to leave.

But my son always has, and always will, come first.

“Devon, I’d love to stay and get silly with you. But I gotta go be a dad. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

A smile.

“Likewise.”

And I walked out, leaving that lovely stranger to have whatever adventure the night was going to deliver her.

And I smiled.

A chance encounter.

A simple thing, really.

But a big thing.

A reminder that life just happens.

That plans are great. Expectations are fine. But life just happens anyway.

The beautiful stranger chose me to sit next to.

Smile.

And someday, there will be another one.

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