Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The First Day of Fourth Grade

     Tomorrow is my son's first day of fourth grade.  FOURTH FUCKING GRADE.  Do you realize how insane that is?  He's had four school years since preschool.  After this year he'll have four school years until high school.  I don't have anything profound or even semi-coherent to say about that.  It's just crazy.
     When I went to tuck him in tonight we had to move his clothes he has picked out for tomorrow off the bed.  There was a nice, button-up shirt and a tie and he even remembered socks and underwear.  He wants to look fly for his first day.  Then there was also a pair of sweatpants because he couldn't find anything else.  Yes, he was planning on wearing a nice shirt, a tie, and sweatpants because that's who he is.  I'm usually a hands-off parent who doesn't interfere but I did help him find a pair of slacks to wear instead. If there's time I'll try and take a picture in the morning and include it in this post.
     At the risk of making myself look like an idiot when I post this in the morning without a picture, I'm going to bet there will be plenty of time for me to take one and upload it. He's easy in the mornings.  There's no yelling and screaming at our place and there's only franticness if I wake up late.  Otherwise, he just gets up and does what he needs to do. Tomorrow I'll feel like he's saying look Dad, there's already so many ways I don't need you.

     That's what is supposed to happen, of course.  Children are supposed to learn to take care of themselves.  That's successful parenting.  That's one more thing no one tells you before you become a parent, though.  Sometimes successful parenting hurts.
     I won't tell him any of this.  There's no reason to make him feel bad about growing up. Instead, I'll just make sure he actually puts on the socks and underwear he has laid out and help him with his tie.  Then when he's ready to go I'll tell him he looks pretty good for a big old dork and he'll remind me that he is my son.  Then will hug, I'll drop him off, I'll head off to work, and he'll head off a little more into the future where he can live without me.
     Sometimes he'll catch me looking at him and ask about it.  I want to say that he's getting so big on me that I just can't believe it but I don't.  Instead I tell him I'm just daydreaming about the day I can turn his bedroom into a library.  He says go ahead and do it now Dad and I'll never move out.  It's always good to know I have a backup plan.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A New Place

     We moved into a new apartment this weekend.  When I first moved into my own place, after my marriage ended, I took the first place I could find that was close to my son and where we used to live.  It was run down, dirty even clean, and neglected but I never intended to be there for long.  It was supposed to be temporary, maybe a year tops, while I got my feet back under me.  Now over two years later I've finally managed, with plenty of help, to move us somewhere better.  When people talk about their houses they sometimes say "it ain't much but it's mine."  When I talk about my new place I say "it ain't much but it ain't crappy like the old one."
     It feels good.  It is tempting to call it a fresh start or a new chapter or a new phase in life but I won't.  Life doesn't work like that.  Life, and the impact of it, isn't organized in acts.  There are no true rebirths.  We call times childhood and adolescence and adulthood but it isn't like they're separate.  The things that happened to us as children still affect who we are when we're ninety.  Thirteen and thirty really aren't that far apart at the core of ourselves.  In life there is a beginning, called birth, and an ending, called death, and the rest is middle without the organization of chapter or verse.
     I don't mean that things don't get better.  I just mean that it doesn't happen in a moment or because of an occasion.  Things get better, we get better, a little bit at a time over time.  This new place of mine holds the promises of cleaner, nicer things in our lives but I wouldn't trust it at all if we hadn't already been improving our habits.  The best way I can explain what I mean is to say that an alcoholic doesn't quit drinking the day they have their last beer.  They quit a little bit whenever things got worse and they got disgusted with themselves and they quit a little bit every time they try and fail to quit gathering the strength for when they, hopefully, try and succeed.  Then even afterwards they are still an alcoholic.  They are still who they are before just better.
     That's the way life improves; gradually a little at a time if you work at it.  That's why I'm a fan of baseball.  I think it's the sport most like life.  There might be a mid August game winning homer that puts a team in first for good that they might be tempted to point to as the turnaround for the season but that homerun doesn't happen without hours in the cage in April and studying video in May and stubbornly playing through a slump in June.  They work and work and it leads to that moment in August or September but that moment isn't the season.  It isn't a sudden change and it doesn't happen without the hard work of the rest of the season.  That's how life is.  We grind it out and things get better a bit at a time.
     Some will say that over time I'll forget how much I hated my old place and have nothing but fond memories of it but it doesn't really work that way for me.  I do have some fond memories.  I'll remember the banter and the love between my son and I but I'll also remember staying up late listening to the leaks and staring at the stains and doubting myself as a father for not providing a good enough place for my son.  It'll be much of the same in this new place.  My son and I will still be bantering and loving and living but will just be happier.  Since we were pretty happy anyway things will be great.  I'll still stay up late sometimes wondering if I'm a good enough father too but that's just because certainty is for chumps.
     The new place is just a new place.  We will be happier so it's worth being happy about.  It isn't a new chapter or a new beginning or anything though.  I'm still Brad's dad same as I was I think before I was even Brad's dad.  I think sometimes my mom and dad were just preparing me to be Brad's dad even though they didn't know it.  They might have, though.  They are that wise.  It's the same as I'm preparing Brad to be a dad or an astrophysicists or something I can't even imagine.  Life just blends together like that.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Funny Dating Moments

     Somehow I managed to hear this song and this song back to back tonight without even trying.  Yes, I know I'm a dork with a terrible taste in music.  Anyway, it's made me what this guy once described as a "morose motherfucker," so I'm saying screw this mood and telling funny dating stories rapid fire like.  It might not make much sense to you but it'll amuse me and that's what is important right now.

     "Turn right now."
     "But that's a cornfield."
     "Turn right now."
     "She doesn't live in the middle of a cornfield Ms. GPS."
     "How do you know?"
     "What did you say?"
     "Turn right now."
     "There's no house in the middle of that cornfield."
     "Turn right now."
     "Fuck you GPS."
     "Fuck you too Paul."
     I may have been slightly insane with nervousness.

     Different woman.
     "What do you plan on doing with that thing?"
     "I normally hook the electrodes up to a guy's testicles and see how much he can take."
     "Uh, NO."

     Same woman.  Same date technically but we're out for breakfast the next morning when my phone rings.  It's my ex wife.  I only answer because it could be an emergency with our son.
     "Hello," I say annoyed.
     "Hi Paul.  How was your date?"
     "It's still going on," I delight in telling her.
     "Oh," she says, "Um, I was going to see if Brad and I could come over and use your shower because there doing work down the street and shut our water off."
     "Sure, we're out having breakfast," I said, "I'll tell you where I hid the key so you can get in but you better make sure to go in before Brad does."
     "Why's that?"
     "Because we couldn't find her panties or vibrator this morning," I delight in telling her, "They could be anywhere."

     Different woman a half hour into our only date.
     "So Paul, I have to tell you something."
     "Um, okay."
     "I'm homeless, my mom kicked me out, I only have enough money for one more night at the motel, and I'll do anything you want if you let me move in with you."
     "Uh, NO.  Check please."

     Different woman after I foolishly agreed to meet right after work for our first date.
     "I swear this is little pieces of cardboard I'm picking off my shirt not dandruff."
     "Sure, Paul, sure."

     Same woman I somehow got a second date with.  Before the date I'm thinking she's cool and quirky and I need to wear something interesting that might amuse her. I look at my limited clothing selection and dismiss the Cardinals shirt, the other Cardinals shirt, the Cardinals shirt with holes in it, and the one button up shirt I own.  Then I find it, my A Christmas Story shirt that says "You'll shoot your eye out" on it.  She'll love it.
     Months later, "He wore a stupid Christmas tee shirt on our second date.  Here I am dressed up to make myself look great and he's wearing a dumb fucking tee shirt.  I couldn't even listen to what he's saying because I'm just thinking about that stupid fucking shirt.  I'm thinking what balls on this moron."

     Same woman and I have no idea why she kept dating me either.  I'm meeting her son for the first time and their cable is messed up.  I'm behind the television thinking I'll be a hero for fixing it.  I knew kids didn't really give a damn who fixed the cable as long as they had cable but for some reason I thought it would impress him.
     "Go back to your precious wife and son," her son says from the sofa while he waits for me to fix the cable.
     I don't say anything.  What could I say to that?  I get the cable fixed and then talk to her in the other room and I tell her what he said.  She looks at me like Dick Cheney just jumped out of my eye and I swear to her he said it.  We have a long conversation about what it means and how to handle it.  We decide the best course of action is to do nothing and see what happens so we head back into the living room.
     She picks up a short story collection by Kurt Vonnegut that she had set down on the couch earlier and starts laughing me.  She nudges me and points to the page she had left the book open to.  The next story in the book was titled Go Back to Your Precious Wife and Son.

     Different woman on our first and only date.
     "So Paul, tell me something astonishing about yourself."
     Awkward silence.
     "Well, I'm an awesome dad and I have a big penis but those two don't have anything to do with each other."
     Awkward silence.
     "Check please."

     Different woman and things aren't going well.
     I text my friend, "Help me I'm in white trash hell."
    "How can I help?"
    "Call me and tell me you have car trouble so I have an excuse to leave."
    Phone rings, "Hello."
    My friend speaks loud enough for anyone within ten feet of my phone to hear, "Hi Paul.  Who has car trouble again, me or you?"

     There's more stories.   I didn't even include "She took away your pork rind privileges, didn't she?" or "He's the guy with the vasectomy and the clown nose."  Still, I'm no longer morose.  It's strange that my failures with women often cheer me up as much as they depress me but I'm strange after all so it only makes sense.  It might be the only thing about dating that does.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

My Happy Ending

     There are divorced people that don't deserve a happy ending but find it anyway.  They aren't good people and they do everything wrong.  They're selfish and prioritize their own happiness over everyone else's including their children's.  Yet, their lives makes a mockery of karma when they get exactly what they want.  Still, there are good divorced people that are dedicated to their children and actually learn from their previous mistakes that find exactly who they deserve and get their happily ever after on their second or third chance.
     There are divorced people that don't deserve a happy ending and don't get one.  They get exactly what they deserve by never getting married or marrying someone just like them and fans of karma stand and applaud.  Still, there are divorced people that deserve to meet someone new, someone good for them, who never do.  They get to the point where they either cling to someone not good for them out of fear of loneliness or they just accept loneliness as part of life and give up.
     Most divorced people don't fall into any of those groups.  For the rest of us there isn't a deserve or don't deserve.  We're neither saints nor sinners but just people that one thing didn't work out for so we hope to find another.  Deservedness nor karma really enter into it.  It's mostly about patience and luck and if our patience can last until luck comes along.  The bad news for us is that no one is entitled to love.  The good news for us is that there's a lot of love out there if we don't give up on it.
     Love is mostly luck.  That's something that most people don't acknowledge but probably should.  If we have it we like to think we earned it and if we don't we like to think we can earn it.  If you're happily married, though, think about how you met and how much luck was involved in it.  My parents met at a VFW function.  Given how active my dad and my mom's family were in VFW activities in that area is was probably likely that they would meet sooner or later.  They were active in the Veterans of Foreign Wars, though, because my mom's father and my father had both fought for their country.  Think about that.  If my grandpa hadn't fought in and survived World War II and my dad hadn't fought in and survived the Vietnam War my parents might have never met.
     It's not just about meeting each other either but meeting at the right time to be able to be with each other.  If the man is ready to settle down but the woman isn't yet, or vice versa, it's not going to work.  There's this myth that persists that love conquers all but it really doesn't.  Loves greatest rival is circumstance and love has lost out to circumstance a lot more than it's won.
     That's why love is harder to find for single parents.  The circumstances are less likely to be right.  I've had a couple of relationships not be able to actually become relationships because the demands of parenthood, and doing what is best for our children, meant we couldn't move closer to each other.  I had another relationship die because I was just learning the demands of being a single parent and neither of us were at a time in our lives where we could handle the adjustment and love too.  Circumstance is an even tougher opponent for love when you're a single parent.
     It isn't just circumstances, though.  Tonight I had to tell someone that I couldn't have a relationship with them because they have problems in their life that I couldn't have in a potential partner's life.  They were problems I, as a parent,  couldn't risk potentially bringing into my son's life.  If I ever do move in with someone or get remarried they are going to be one of the primary female influences, one of the primary influences of any kind, in my son's life just by virtue of being here.  Given that fact, I have to hold a potential partner to the same high standards as a potential parent as I hold for myself as a parent.  Since I often don't live up to those it's probably not fair to ask someone else too but love isn't fair.
     So to settle down again I have to not only meet the right person for me but I have to meet the right person for my son, I have to be the right person for them and their children if they have any, and I have to meet them at a time in their life when they are ready for me and all my baggage and a time in my life when I can handle them and their baggage.  Plus, I can't move to do it and I have limited chances to do it because I'm busy being a parent.  That's a lot of luck to ask for and I'll have to be really patient.
     I have to admit my patience is wearing thin, though, as it does for all single people from time to time.  Fortunately for me, I might do some stupid things out of loneliness but I'm not the type to end up in a relationship I don't want or need out of loneliness. Still, if you're single, your patience is dwindling, and you won't settle for less because of it then there's only two choices left.  I can either give up on the idea or focus my life on finding someone really quickly and become desperate.  I don't like either of those choices.  I suppose there are a couple of other choices.  I can whine about it on the internet or just get drunk and forget it.  I'm not above employing either of those strategies.
     Whenever I write something like this I get people telling me that I'm a great guy and I'll find someone.  That I just have to be patient.  I'm always flattered and grateful that people say that but it's not really what I want to hear.  Obviously, I know I have to be patient and I know I'm an alright guy.  What do I want then?
     Mostly, I want summer to be over and my son to be back home.  I want less time to myself and less time to think about all of this.  I want to be rushing to practices and cheering on the sidelines at football games.  I want to be talking about books and playing video games with my buddy.  I want him sitting on my lap making me watch silly videos on YouTube.  I want to be tucking him in every night and him hugging me and trying not to let me go anywhere.  Really, when I have all that I don't much think about not having anyone else.  That's my version of a happy ending and I get it in just a few weeks.  I think my patience can probably hold out that long.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The New Masculinity?

     In a recent post I wrote, "Masculinity is a confusing thing sometimes."  It seemed like a throwaway line but it didn't feel like it.  Every good man has times in his life when he wonders if he really is a good man.  With the combination of stubbornness and self doubt that sits like an unlit Molotov cocktail in my gut, pretty much my entire adulthood has been that time in my life.
     My son has a stepdad now.  He has for a while really but it becomes official in a week or so.  The book Rich Dad, Poor Dad was a crock because the poor dad wasn't that poor. Driving home to my crappy apartment in my truck that's missing the mirror on the passenger's side, it became pretty clear to me that I'm the real Poor Dad.  Providing financially has traditionally been one of the hallmarks of masculinity.  I provide though. My son has food and clothes and somehow is able to participate in any sports he'd like. Most of the time I don't think he notices much how we suffer financially.  We get by with a little help from our friends and family and yes, his mom and stepdad too.
     Still, sometimes my failings at the provider role get to me but then I remember I do provide.  I provide my son with a voice that reminds him to wear socks and underwear everyday and brush his damn teeth.  I provide him with an example that shows him to be himself and let the world think what they will.  I provide him with a friend that he knows is always there even when I have to provide him with authority and punish him.  I provide him with the confidence to question himself and everything around him and be a thinker. I provide him with someone to joke with and hang with and occasionally hug when he wants something.  I provide him with the knowledge that money isn't everything and that the important part of Poor Dad is the Dad part.  I provide him with a Dad and I feel manly because of that.  Maybe that's what is masculine now.
     There's a woman that I would like to be with that just doesn't go for guys like me.  I mean she'll date us and be friends with us but she doesn't want to be with us in a relationship.  She likes mechanics and manual laborers and guys that build stuff.  She gets turned on by guys that do stupid stuff with vehicles and talk about getting in fights.  Of course, I've done many stupid things in my life and I work a dirty, sweaty job but I don't talk about it much.  It doesn't seem to me to be much of what makes me, me.  Men have always defined themselves by their jobs.  Ask a man what he does and he'll respond that "I'm a carpenter" or "I'm a plumber."  He won't say "I work at..."  He'll say "I am."  I've always, instinctively, rejected that.  A man that reads Walt Whitman can't define himself by what he does for a living.
      Still, sometimes I wish I was more traditionally manly.  I wish I enjoyed working on cars and fixing things around the house instead of seeing them as chores that have to be done.  I wish I could carry myself in such a way that women would swoon because of how tough I appear.  That women may not want to be with me, though, but her son thinks I'm awesome.  He's good friends with my son but he wants to hangout with me sometimes even when my son isn't here.  Sometimes he even asks me for advice and actually listens. I'm a positive in his life by just being me and I feel pretty manly because of it.  I'll take a child's adulation over a woman going weak in the knees anytime.  Maybe, that's a new sort of masculinity.
     I write crap like this.  I admit my vulnerabilities and that I question myself.  Real men aren't supposed to and if they do they damn sure aren't supposed to admit it.  Manliness is being cocksure and strong and never thinking you might be wrong.  Action heroes are allowed a moment of introspection but they always emerge more confident with guns blazing.  I emerge with words but they are rarely blazing.  No matter how much I question myself, though, I keep on doing what needs to be done and in moments of crisis I'm actually pretty damned decisive.
     Still, I do wish I didn't question myself so much, and that I wasn't compelled to share it so much, but I can't help it.  I actually care if what I'm doing is right.  I give a shit if I'm a good person.  Knowing this, once they get to know me, makes people trust me.  They know that I'm going to be a part of their life safely.  Guys know that even if I were to develop a desire for their wife or girlfriend that I would never act on it and women know they can be around me without me doing anything they really don't want.  I might not be the kind of guy that walks in a room and instantly makes anyone feel safer and more sure of themselves but I'm the kind of guy that people can confide in and feel good about getting advice from.  People trust me with the safety of their secrets and their souls and I'm pretty proud of that.  Maybe, that's a new way of being a man.
     While I'm thinking of all of this, and questioning myself, I remember things, too.  I remember having men with more money than my dad being great influences on my life.  I also remember that never making me question my dad because he took care of me in ways no other man could.  I remember those men and my dad when I think about men and their jobs and how they appear to women and children.  I remember so many kids calling my dad, Dad and I remember my other fathers.  I remember that the men I admire most did a variety of things for a living but were always more proud of the effect they had on people's lives and I remember that those men always ended up with beautiful women.  I remember that the manliest moment I've ever seen was an old man crying and kissing his wife's forehead as he told the doctor she didn't want life support.  I remember that Steinbeck and Hemingway questioned themselves and admitted their vulnerabilities and women swooned over them.
     So I remember that this new masculinity that I think I have isn't that new and that I learned how to be a man from some damn good men.  I remember that questioning myself is really questioning those men too but I remember that it's okay because I learned from them that being tough enough to question yourself is manly.  I guess people just didn't talk about this type of true masculinity until it became the new masculinity. Either that or the loud, insisting, doubtless voices of boys claiming and pretending to be men just drowned them out.  Still, I'm glad I heard them and learned how to be a man.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

I Am A Night Owl

     I've always stayed up late into the night.  I don't know why.  I am the youngest child of a very loud family and the only place I could hide for peace and quiet was in the silence of the night.  That isn't the only reason, though.  For as long as I can remember, I've felt compelled to lay awake with my eyes open in the darkness.  Is it possible for a seven year old to hunger to stare into the void?
     When I was seven I would stare at the faint suggestion of a ceiling that my eyes could see, without my glasses, in the dark and I would listen to the Beastie Boys tape that my brother went to sleep to every night. It sounded like poetry to me and it still does.  I've since figured out that the poetry wasn't in the lyrics but in the grooves.  The poetry of life is so often found in the grooves and cracks.  There was something I learned right away too, though.  Something I didn't have to wait for age and wisdom to reveal to me.  Poetry can drive you fucking crazy.
     When I was fourteen I would mark my spot in the Stephen King book I was reading, turn off the lights, lay in bed, light my Marlboro Red, and stare at the fire that burned at the end of that cancer stick.  I thought I was so fucking cool.  I just knew I was destined to stay awake pondering the things no one else had the guts to ponder and then spend my days writing about them.  Even then, however, I somehow sensed destiny could be a tricky bitch and I wondered if I was actually going to end up in a mine or factory or something other working class job like the rest of my working class family.  That thought didn't bother me much.  After all, with the grades I was pulling down by going to school high everyday that possibility was far more likely.  Besides it was everyone else that thought I was destined for something special not me.  If those thoughts seem contradictory, well I was a teenager.
     When I was twenty-one I was already married and I worked two full time jobs.  After I finally got the gas station cleaned up in the middle of the night after September 11th, I found the darkest spot I could find in the parking lot.  Exhausted, I stared at the neon lights and the stars I could barely see and the burning end of a four in the morning cigarette.  I wondered what was becoming of the world and what the hell I could do about it.  Then I finished my smoke and went back to work.  I'm sure I wasn't alone in my late night pondering that night but when it came to shaking them off and getting going again I had an advantage over most people.  I was already well practiced at dealing with the thoughts that are thought in the darkness.
     When I was twenty-eight I would sneak out to the smoke shack at the factory where I worked and watch the deer graze in the moonlight.  I would puff my cigarette and ponder my life.  Mostly I would think about my marriage and wonder if it was worth it.  There wasn't anything apparently wrong but it didn't feel right either.  Still, in the middle of the night I would always decide everything was alright because I had my son and we were good parents and that was enough to keep going.  Obviously, she eventually decided differently but I doubt her decision was made in the middle of the night.  She never understood the light I could find in the darkness.
     When I'm thirty-five, well that's next year but I'm sure I'll still be awake when I should be sleeping.  Hopefully then when I'm laying in bed I see the glowing of the battery on an electronic cigarette or no glowing at all except for my evil cat's eyes.  I suppose it's even possible that I'll sleep more then but I'm not optimistic about it.  Of course, it's not yet two a.m.  Ask me again then.  I find my optimism in the dark.
     A strange thing has been happening lately, though.  Being at home alone, my son gone for the summer, the evenings have begun to feel like midnights.  As the days get longer my mind seems to ignore the sunlight and pretend it's dark except for the moon and stars.  I think about things I don't normally think about except for in the middle of the night.  I think about the Beastie Boys and poetry, destiny and what I'm doing with my life, the world and what it's coming too, love and family, and, of course, nicotine.  Summer has become the season of the hours before dawn for me.
     Some of you reading this will think it sounds depressing and grim and far too heavy and dark.  Some of you will get it, though.  Some of you will know.  These thoughts in the dark, of the dark, are what keep me going.  They are what get me up in the morning when I manage to get up in the morning.  Sometimes I don't because I am a night owl and as much as I complain about not sleeping I don't think I'll ever be any other way.  I'll always rather hoot at the moon than bathe in the sunshine.

Monday, June 30, 2014

I Am Me

     I've been sitting here sucking on my electronic cigarette, sipping coffee on a ninety degree day, eating Oreos in my underwear and my Game of Thrones "My Mind is My Weapon" tee shirt, stroking my tangled beard, staring at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, and trying to figure out what to write.  Sometimes I feel like I should write but there are no words.  Sometimes I feel like I should talk but there are no words.
     So I just sit here staring in silence, trying to figure it all out.  I don't sit here wondering how to express myself but instead wondering what parts of myself are worth the risk of expressing.  I know I seem slightly strange to most people and strangely enough not strange enough to other people.  I know that in most of the prepackaged groups it the world, the ready made cliqs, the most I will ever fit in is partially.
     Things could be different for me.  I could be different.  I could pretend.  I write fiction sometimes.  My marriage could have been different.  I could have been someone that she would have been happy with instead of being the man that she married.  I don't have to be single right now, either.  There are a few women I could be with if I just wanted to be the type of man they want.  It wouldn't even be difficult.  It would be easy hiding the real me.
     I have practice at hiding myself or at least parts of myself.  As I said, I only ever partially fit in so I tend to keep the parts of myself that don't fit in, in a given situation, to myself.  I tend to be open about many things so people think they know me but there are very few people who truly do.  As I told someone the other day, just because I'm open doesn't mean I give guided tours.  I didn't tell them I have no idea what that means but it just sounded like a clever thing to say.
     With friends, family, and coworkers this hiding parts of me thing works well.  Most of them suspect there is more but at least know me well enough to know that they probably don't want to know the more.  When I'm with someone, though, it doesn't work so well.  Eventually, and usually sooner rather than later, they get to know all of me because I want to know all of them.  I'm not interested in falling in love with a stranger.
     Not long ago I had someone advise me I'm too upfront too soon about my flaws.  They said I scare women off by showing them what is wrong with me before they get a chance to see how much it is outweighed by what right with me.  I gave them a reasonable and not untrue excuse.  It's an excuse that will probably be the topic of a post on this blog sometime.  I told them that I can't risk falling in love with a woman that wouldn't be right in my son's life so I have to find out about their flaws right away.  The best way to encourage them to be open about their flaws is to be open about mine.
     That's not an untrue excuse but it is still just an excuse.  Mostly women see my flaws right away because I have no desire to hide them.  I don't want to sell myself.  I just want to be honestly and completely me.  That, to me, is intimacy and it's really what I'm after.  If that scares women off so be it.  If I find less intimacy because of my desire for intimacy I can at least enjoy the irony.
    Once I post this I'll get reassurances about how I'm a good man and I'll find someone and blah, blah, blah.  It's not that I don't appreciate those messages because I do.  It's just that I don't need them.  That's not why I write these things.  I write these things, more often than not, just because I started typing and this is what came out.  I might fear being lonely forever but I don't fear being single right now and I don't need reassurances.  Most likely, if I cared to examine my motivations I would find that writing things like this is my way of reassuring myself.  I will happily take criticisms, though.  That way I can discover more of my flaws to scare women away with.  I'm quite sure stubbornness is one of them.
     Since I didn't plan this, or even have the idea rolling around in my head for days like I usually do, I have no idea how to end this.  So I guess I'll just tell a story on myself.  In one of his standup bits Ron White talks about being naked on a beanbag chair eating Cheetos.  Whenever this joke is brought up a friend of mine will usually look at me and smirk because he walked in on me once naked on my couch eating Oreos.  That's me.  He'll usually make some wisecrack about it and I'll just shrug.  That shrug is me too.  Moral of the story, you should probably be happy I didn't say I was naked as I was writing this.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Men and #YesAllWomen

     I don't know much about women.  The ways that their humanity intersects with mine I understand but, like most men, the ways that their humanity is dissimilar from mine are a mystery to me.  There is one thing I know about women, though.  There is one thing I understand and am certain of and it is an unfortunate thing.  Every woman has felt threatened by a man.
     I don't think most men understand what that means.  I don't think most men realize how huge a thing that thing is.  They say but men have felt threatened by women too and sure some of us have ran into women scorned and armed and there are dangerous, violent criminals that are female. Most men, however, have never been scared of a woman.  Most men have never felt physically threatened by a woman.  All women, yes all women, have felt physically threatened by a man.
     The other reaction men have is that not all men are like that and I understand the frustration that response originates from.  I remarked to a friend the other day how sick I was of paying for the things that other men have done.  I was talking more about the emotional baggage from past relationships that people carry with them into potential new relationships but I could have just as easily been talking about fear and the threat of physical violence.  I've had relationships ruined, or never start, because of the evil that other men have done and my inability to understand or help with the lifelong scars caused by it.
     Still, simply saying not all men completely misses the point, men.  Saying not all men are like that does nothing to help all women that have felt that and does nothing to keep our wives and daughters from feeling that way again.  We need to acknowledge the way the world is, accept the roles we've played (even if they've been passive roles) in making the world this way, and begin to figure out what we can do to remake the world.  Most men don't see women as objects that they can take by force if necessary, or beat if they aren't being agreeable, but there are things most men can do to get the world closer to the day that all men don't see or treat women that way.  If we aren't doing them we are at least somewhat responsible the next time our wives or daughters feel threatened by a man or worse are physically hurt by a man.
     That is my first response to the not all men defense.  Like I said, I've been there, I understand it, and I feel the frustration.  There is another response to that defense, though.  Men, if we are honest with each other we must admit that maybe not all men but most men, at one time in our lives or another, have been that man that a woman felt threatened by.  Even us nice guys have made a woman feel physically threatened at some point.
     About six months after my son was born my ex- wife (who wasn't yet an ex at the time) and I were having what my family would call a discussion.  My family usually discusses things at the top of our lungs, however.  I won't get into the details but it wasn't just an argument but it was the kind of argument that ends relationships.  She had dropped a bombshell on me and I felt betrayal and with betrayal comes anger.  My hands clenched and unclenched, seemingly unable to just do nothing, and finally I picked her purse up and threw it against the wall.  It made what was to me at the time, I hate to admit, a satisfying boom.
     I know a thrown purse isn't much to admit in the grand scheme of things but I still remember the look in her eyes.  The woman I was married to was looking at me shocked and scared and trying to decide whether she needed to run or not.  As it is for many men, that look was all it took to bring me back to my senses.  I decide I needed to leave and I walked out before I could do something stupider or worse.
     Masculinity is a confusing thing sometimes.  That's a proud moment in my life.  I was taught that a man doesn't hit a woman ever or he isn't a man and I was able to walk away before more than a purse was hurt.  I was in a situation where many men have become weak and I stayed strong and stayed a man.  Still, that's a shameful moment in my life too.  Why wasn't I able to walk away before I threw that purse?  Why wasn't I able to walk away before I scared her?  Why am I proud of having left before I hit her?  Why did the thought of hitting her even occur to me?
     I know a guy that broke his hand hitting a wall instead of punching a woman who was literally begging him to hit her.  I was proud of him but again why did he have to hit the wall?  Why couldn't he just walk away?  Maybe not all men but most of us have been that guy that scared a woman at least once and I don't want to be too hard on us guys. Throwing a purse instead of throwing her, hitting a wall instead of her, screaming instead of choking, these are all good things to do and you aren't less of a man if you've had to do them.  Still, we have to learn not to have to do them and we have to understand that all women have been through them or worse.
     So that's the dirty little secret of those of us that say not all men; at one time or another yeah, probably all men.  However, if it were just men scaring women sometimes before walking away and leaving them unharmed there probably wouldn't be much discussion of it.  Some men don't walk away, though.  Some men take pride in scaring women, hurting women, treating women as prizes to be claimed and objects to be used. What should the rest of us men do about those men?  We shouldn't tolerate it.
     When you see a man in a bar harassing a woman, pushing up against a woman who clearly doesn't want his touch, say something.  If you hear your neighbor's wife cry out in pain during an argument call the police at the least.  If you hear a friend talking about how he's going to tap that ass or how he did tap that ass don't act impressed instead point out to him that, that is more than an ass.  Even if during an online discussion someone calls a woman a bitch or a cunt speak up or remove that person from the discussion if you can.  Respect women and demand that the men around you do too. That's what we can do.  That's the least we can do.
     I was lucky enough to be taught that a man respects women and I'm teaching my son the same thing.  I was taught that a man who doesn't isn't a man and I'm teaching my son the same thing.  I hope I'm raising a son who will be able to walk away before even throwing the purse but will still be able to step between that guy at the bar and the woman he's harassing.  I said masculinity was a confusing thing and it is but not on this topic.  We should not do this to women because we are men.  We should do our best to see this not happen to women because we are men.
     That's our only acceptable response to #YesAllWomen, men.  It is to say we understand, we are sorry, and we are going to do our best to change the world so women don't have to feel this way because #WeAreMen.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Fear of Loneliness

     People are scared to be alone and they do stupid things because of it.  They get married, stay married, move, have sex, return to an ex, go out with someone they know isn't right for them, get engaged, get drunk and hookup in bars, all just because they're desperate not to be alone.  Mistakes both big and small are made just because of the fear of being by themselves.  I have friends and family that are doing all of those things right now, some are doing more than one of those at the same time, for no other reason than that they're scared to be alone.  They try to convince themselves that they have better reasons but deep down I think they know the truth.
     I've never understood it.  I don't enjoy being lonely.  I don't think anyone does.  I don't get fearing it, though.  I'm not going to change myself or my life just to be with someone especially if that person isn't the right one.  If they person is the right one they won't expect me to change myself or my life.  We'll help each other improve ourselves and our lives.  I guess I just think it's logical that being alone is better than being with the wrong person and I don't understand how anyone else can see it differently.
     I like to try to understand things I don't understand, though.  So I've been searching for an explanation as to why people do these things.  Most of those who study such things attribute it mostly to a biological imperative to be social.  The survival of our species depended on us developing relationships to aid and procreate so they think that there is still something deep down in our DNA that drives us to desire relationships and makes us afraid of loneliness.  It's hard for me to buy that though.  As the days when we had to fight for survival have become longer and longer ago we've left many instincts and fears behind.  Why would we hold onto this one?
     Others claim that the fear of being alone is mostly a product of our modern environment.  They say that living in close quarters, social media, the internet, and many other facets of modern life have not just fostered an expectation of being with someone, and being in constant contact with them, but have actually made people afraid of loneliness.  They also say that our culture is built to support relationships and that can cause those that are single to feel shunned or outcast.  This sounds a little more plausible to be but it doesn't affect me much.  Probably because, while I pay a lot of attention to the people around me, I'm often oblivious to the world around me.
     So I still really don't have an explanation as to why the people around me are so afraid of being alone that they make tremendous mistakes.  I guess it's one of those things that has a thousand different causes and those causes are slightly different for everyone.  I do know one thing about these people in my life though.  If they're reading this right now they're wondering if I'm talking about them.  All I can say is that if you're wondering if I'm talking about you I probably am talking about you.
     It's nothing to be ashamed of.  It's something to realize about yourself and deal with better than you are but it's nothing to be ashamed of.  At least, I hope it isn't because all of those things I mentioned that people do out of fear of being alone; I've done them all because I'm afraid of being alone.  That's really why I seek to understand it.  I recognize that most of the time nothing good comes from acting out of fear of loneliness and I'd don't want to do it.  Maybe if I could understand it, maybe if we all could understand it we could keep ourselves from making those mistakes.
     I'm doing better too.  I haven't made any of those mistakes lately but that could just possibly be because no one wants to make those mistakes with me.  I still want to understand it though so I don't struggle so much with it.  Sometimes I'm close to understanding too.  Nights like tonight, a day after my son went to visit his mom for a while and when a date flakes out on me, I feel that loneliness so deeply and fear it so much that I almost understand it.  I sit outside by myself and stare at the night sky and I almost understand why I'm scared to sit outside by myself and stare at the night sky.  I can feel it so deeply that I almost convince myself I have an understanding.  I don't though.  I think the fear of loneliness just might be like love; the more you feel it the less you can truly understand it.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Thirty Questions

     Just for fun,and to keep myself awake so I actually make it to work in the morning, if I could ask just one question of various people here's what I would ask them.

Barack Obama
     What is Michelle like in the bedroom?

Stephen Colbert
     How often do you give the Colbert bump to yourself?

Derek Jeter
     What do you think about the fictional diaries of yours that Mark Lisanti writes for Grantland?

My dad
     Looking at your dad, yourself, and your children, do you think it's fair to say that awesomeness skips a generation in the family and if so how do you explain your grandchildren?

My mom
     One does not question my mom.

Stephen King
     If I had the chance to look Stephen King in the eye and ask him a question I wouldn't. Instead, I would kidnap him and force him to write books just for me.  If he tried to escape I would break his ankles.  Eventually he would develop Stockholm Syndrome and together we would kidnap George R. R. Martin and force him to finish the Song of Ice and Fire series.

Abraham Lincoln
     What was Mary Todd like in the bedroom? (She wasn't exactly a looker like Michelle but you know what they say about crazy women and sex)

     How can you call yourself a feminist and still make such sexist jokes?

Steve Jobs
     How much does it amuse you that you were called a genius simply because you figured out that a business can make money by making cool stuff, having it all made by cheap Chinese labor, and then marketing it well so you can charge far more than it's worth?

Anne Rice
     How hard has it been trying to reconcile the side of yourself that is fascinated with human darkness with the side of yourself that was raised Catholic and also what are you like in the bedroom?

Shigeru Miyamoto
     Is it possible for me to inhale your essence and absorb your staggering creative poweress sort of like a real life Kirby's Adventure?

My son
     Where the hell is the remote control?

Lebron James
     Do you ever wish you'd became a ballet dancer instead of a basketball player?

Jesus Christ
     Does it amuse you or depress you that so many of your followers get so bogged down in semantics that they forget about your central philosophical tenet of loving one another and also what was Mary Magdalene like in the bedroom?

     Do you really think this is funny?

Stone Cold Steve Austin

My cat Simba
     How often do you think about killing me in my sleep?

My potential dates
     How much more unlikely does reading this make you to ever go out with me and what are you like in the bedroom?

     Can't you go a little longer without using sex as a crutch for your disabled sense of humor?

Seth MacFarlane
     Was the secret to repeating a joke over and over and still making it funny?

Hank Williams Jr.
     Why must you live out them songs that you wrote?

My brothers
     What has life been like knowing that you can never match the wit and intellect of your younger brother?

Mark Twain
     How pathetic do you find this weak attempt at humorous writing?

My exes
     How often do you find yourselves simultaneously wishing you could sleep with me one more time and wondering what the hell you ever saw in me in the first place?

My friends
     How embarrassed are you by me?

Albert Einstein
     If God does not play dice with the universe how do you explain the existence of fart apps on smartphones?

Hulk Hogan
     Whatcha gonna do, brother?

     If all the world's a stage can you speak to the director for me about giving me a better role?

Tom Cruise
     How do you feel about being a name I picked at random just so I could call the post Thirty Questions and also what are Rebecca De Mornay, Nicole Kidman, Penelope Cruz, and Katie Holmes like in the bedroom?

     You just couldn't resist beating that dead horse one more time, could you?

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A Conversation About What I Want in a Woman

I had an interesting conversation with a friend tonight about what I'm looking for in a woman so I thought I'd share it here. I've removed most of their side of the conversation and any details that could identify them to protect the innocent. Also, to save their reputation from being known as my friend.

Them: What would you describe your type of woman as?

Me: Intelligent, creative, sexual, challenging.

Them: What does challenging mean to you?

Me: Someone I can know but not completely figure out. Someone that is comfortable disagreeing with me. Mostly though I could probably say complex as truthfully as I say challenging because I don't want some that bores me. Or maybe strong. Strong and complex equal challenging I guess.

Them: I think that's a good explanation of your definition of it. And it sounds like you have a good sense of what you want

Me: Something I didn't mention is a sense of humor. You'd think that would come with intelligent and creative but it doesn't always. When I get comfortable with someone the smartass in me comes out and I like a woman that at the very least can deal with that and hopefully participate in and appreciate it. How would you describe your ideal partner?

Them: I think I'm looking for a lot of the things you mentioned. Complex, but compassionate. Also interesting and funny. My ideal partner though.? No idea.

Me: I don't know if anyone has an ideal partner anyway. I try to be open to different people because they may be something I never knew I wanted in someone until I met them. More than anything I just want someone I jibe with. Someone that gets me and I get them. I guess in a way when I describe what I want I'm really describing how I see myself.

Them: I agree that you don't know what you want until you find it sometimes. And that it's not necessarily fun to be with someone who's very simple and doesn't provide a challenge.

Me: This conversation is interesting. I hope you don't mind if I turn it into a blog post.

Them: Blog post? I don't mind. I'm interested what it'll be about though.

Me: Mostly just a transcription of this conversation. It would be about what we're talking about. Basically it occurred to me I just did a lot of writing and some of it was interesting.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

I Am Still Dad

     A couple weeks ago on this blog's Facebook page I mentioned that I was working hard on a new blog post.  This is not that post.  That post has become paralyzing to try to write; not because I don't know what I want to say, or how to say it, but because I don't think many people will understand it.  I often find myself staying silent because I don't think people will get what I have to say.
     I don't do that when I'm talking to my son Brad, though.  I will self censor myself for many reasons when talking to him.  He's often asks questions beyond his age and there are situations and people that it just wouldn't be healthy for him to know my true feelings about.  However, I never avoid answering a question of his just because it's difficult to answer or hard to explain.  Mostly because I don't want him to stop asking questions like that.
     Tonight he asked me, "Dad, who are you?"
     "I'm Dad," I answered.
     Taking it as a dismissive, smartass response he said, "I know that but who is Dad?  Who is Paul Murray?"
     He was asking me this because I had asked him something very similar about himself a few days ago.  I encourage him to think about things like that.  I like watching him consider questions like that and puzzle over them.  In this case, he hasn't answered me yet but the answers aren't the point.  The thinking is the point and I knew he was still thinking of this one when he asked me the same question.
     "I mean it, though," I said, "I'm Dad, Brad.  That's who Paul Murray is; Brad's dad."
     After 9 years of being a father, 52 blog posts that have mostly been self indulgent journeys of self discovery, and almost 34 years of life the conclusion I came to in my first blog post is still the best answer I have for that question.  I am Dad.  I don't know how healthy it is for me to have so much of my identity wrapped up in one person but I don't worry about it much.  I'm a parent.  Life isn't about what's best for me.
     "But you're more than that, Dad," my son said.
     "No," I answered, "I am other things besides that but there is nothing of me that is more than that.  Do you understand that?"
     He nodded slowly the way he does when he doesn't really get something but he's working on it.  Then he grinned as comprehension sank in.  I love being able to read his mind and watch it work like that.
     "I love you, Dad," he said after realizing what I meant.
     "I love you too Son," I replied.
     "So what else are you besides, Dad?" he asked.
     "You ask difficult questions," I said.
     "Gee, Dad, I wonder where I get that from?"
     I laughed and then tried to give his question the consideration it deserved.
     "I'm lots of things," I answered, "I'm a son, brother, friend, lover.  I'm a reader, sometimes writer."
      I shrugged to buy myself some time.  Apparently a shrug didn't meet his asking price.
     "What else?" he asked.
     "Well, I'm a game player and a heart breaker," I said with a wink, "And a bald, four eyed guy with an awesome beard."
     "Be serious Dad," he said laughing.
     "Mostly, I hope I'm a good person," I said being serious.
     "You seem pretty good to me," he said.
     "So good that you'll clean your room for me?" I asked.
     "Let's not get carried away here Dad," he said and then went back to playing his video game.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Son Presents His Habitat

     While I've been banging my head against the wall trying to finish a post for over a week now my son effortlessly wrote an oral presentation for class in under a half an hour the other evening.  We had to build an animal's habitat and he had to present it in class. Thinking creatively, as he usually does, he chose humans as his animal and we built a four room apartment inside a cardboard box as the habitat.  His presentation was good enough to overcome our shared lack of crafting and building skills to earn himself an A+. It was smart, clever, and slyly funny.  It was everything I try so hard to make my writing be and he did it easily.  Of course, as a proud father I'm biased so I shall share his presentation with all of you.  Yes, I'm just using my blog to show off.  Deal with it.  The only thing I helped with was the spelling.

     My habitat is not rainforest, ocean, wetland, or desert.  My habitat is a modern household.  I can't tell you much you don't know about it because it's a house and you all have one; but I can tell you about my project.
     This house is a simple four room structure that serves as a habitat for a human being. It is a suitable habitat for a human because it provides everything a human needs in a simple and convenient fashion.
     In the kitchen there is water from the faucet and, most of the time, food in the fridge.  In the bedroom they can sleep safely and get they rest they need.  In the living room all of their entertainment needs are provided.  In the bathroom they can cleanse themselves of the dirt and filth they have acquired outside of the home.
     The human in my project lives by themselves but in other cases cats, dogs, birds, chipmunks etc. share this habitat with human beings.  This habitat has air conditioning and heating which keeps the weather nice all year long as long as they don't step outside. The home is the habitat that keeps the human safe, fed, comfortable, and fed.

     It was a short, sweet, and to the point presentation.  He knows when to shut up and leave the audience wanting more.  It's obviously another talent he has that his father lacks.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Anything Else

     These days I barely get nervous before a date.  I go through the whole routine of trimming various hairs, picking out the right outfit, and making sure I smell good but I do it with a sort of clinical detachment.  I really fake most of my self confidence but I do have a very healthy sort of screw 'em if they don't like me attitude.  Then again maybe it isn't healthy because it leads to me not trying to impress anyone and therefore only impressing those that I can impress without trying.  Still, that attitude is part of who I am, part of who I've always been, and it's probably never changing.
     That attitude must have been on vacation, though, when it came time for my first date after my marriage ended.  Even the asking was a long, drawn out mess.  I had no idea that I should have a time and place in mind.  I was used to the what do you want to do, I don't know what do you want to do, screw it we'll stay home rhythms of marriage. Eventually, she figured out that I was trying to ask her out and said yes and picked the time and place.  It wouldn't be the last time she would lead me like a little boy through some of the rituals of dating.
     Then, of course, I realized I had nothing to wear.  That wasn't the worst though.  I had no idea what I should wear.  I didn't know what I looked good in.  I didn't know I looked good in anything.  It didn't help that for at least the last half of my marriage when I asked my ex-wife what I should wear her answer was that she didn't care.  I probably should have seen that as a sign.
     I didn't know who to ask either.  My mom always likes it when I dress like an old man. My brothers both have styles, if they can be called that, that I wouldn't work for me.  I knew that much at least.  I had a friend that would give me grief about my wardrobe consisting of a variety of Cardinals shirts but he apparently didn't know the meaning of irony because he would mock me while wearing one of the five different colors of tank tops he owns.  So I turned to a married friend of mine for advice and she suggested I wear green.  I must say she has good taste.  I don't know if it's the Irish in me or what but green has turned out to be a lucky color for me.
     I shaved my head and my face.  I hadn't stumbled upon the magic of the beard yet back then.  I cleaned my truck of the trash and kid junk for the first time in ages.  My friend that mocked my wardrobe mocked me for this too.  It felt nice having so much support and with that vote of no confidence I pretended like I knew what I was doing and set off for my date.
     She lived forty-five minutes away so on the drive I cranked the radio to drown out my doubts and cranked the air conditioning to cool my nervous sweat.  I smoked way too many cigarettes but took comfort in knowing I had at least thought of breath mints and to bring along some smell good.  Somehow I managed to ignore my sense of impending doom long enough to make it to the gas station where we were meeting in one piece.  I made it to this less than romantic rendezvous half an hour early.
     Being early is a habit I can thank my father for but that night I was cursing it.  There isn't much at a gas station that can distract me for thirty minutes.  I played some scratch offs, gulped a couple cups of coffee, chain smoked, got worried about my smell and appearance, checked myself out in the bathroom, put on some smell good, popped some breath mints, told myself not to smoke anymore so I would still smell good when she got there, and then chain smoked some more.  I needed to talk to someone that would remind me how ridiculous it was that I was so nervous but the woman that gave me fashion advice wasn't responding and I was too much of a man to admit to other men that I was nervous.  So I sat there by myself as the night grew dark and convinced myself she wasn't coming even though it was still ten minutes until the time we'd agreed to meet.
     She texted that she was on her way so I quit worrying about being stood up.  It should have been a relief but it wasn't because it meant that this was actually going to happen. I was going to go on a date.  I'd been sixteen the last time I'd truly went on a date and dates aren't really dates at sixteen.  I was really about to go on my first date and I was as nervous as a virgin.  Actually, I was more nervous than I had been when I lost my virginity.  Not that I was thinking about sex as I sat in that gas station parking lot.  I'd only ever had sex with one woman and the possibility of sex with another didn't seem like a real possibility even though I was going on a date.
     I sat on the tailgate of my truck and watched cars pull into the parking lot.  She'd told me what car she drove but for some reason I got nervous with every car, truck, van, or big rig that pulled in.  Finally, after minutes of waiting, a car matching the description she gave me showed up.  I managed to get to my feet without falling down, though it was close, and walked toward her car.  As I did she opened the driver's side door and emerged.
     "Oh shit," I thought, "She's far too good looking for me."
     I didn't know whether to shake hands or hug so I awkwardly tried both and accomplished neither.  She chuckled and I didn't know if she was laughing at me or the situation.  Still, I chuckled too and although I knew I was laughing at myself it still calmed me just a bit and smoothed over the situation.  We decided where to eat and that she should drive because I didn't know the area.  That was a life saving decision because right then if I would have had to try and drive as nervous as I was around this beautiful woman I probably would have driven us off a bridge.
     We talked on the way to eat, talked while we were eating, and sat in the car and talked when we got back to the gas station.  The more we talked the less nervous I felt and the more it seemed that she wanted to talk to me.  Funny how that works.  I didn't have enough of a history of dating to appreciate it then but it was one of those rare first dates where everything clicked.  I'm lucky that my first, first date was like that and not like some others I've had.  Otherwise, I might have given up on this dating thing altogether.
     As I've said, we sat in her car in that gas station parking lot and talked for hours. Occasionally, she would look at me like she was waiting for something.  I caught the look but I couldn't imagine what it was she was waiting for.  It wouldn't occur to me until I was halfway home.
     We had both worked before our date, I had a long drive home, and two in the morning really was pretty late to be sitting in a parking lot.  So we said goodbye, I successfully executed a hug this time, and I drove away.  After I was sure I was on the road I needed to be on to get home I texted her to thank her for the wonderful evening and said I hoped we could do it again.  It made me seem like a gentleman but I was really just fishing for reassurance because I was beginning to doubt myself again.
     She replied that she was glad to hear I had a good time because she hadn't been sure. That shocked me that she would doubt herself.  I was amazed that this beautiful woman was as human as the rest of us.  I wondered why she would be unsure.  What had or hadn't I done?  Then I realized and I actually did the Homer Simpson d'oh out loud.
     "I should have kissed you," I texted her.
     "Why didn't you?" she replied.
     "Because I'm new at this and I'm an idiot," I answered.
     "Well you can kiss me next time," she texted.
     I went to bed with a smile on my face that night and marveled that a beautiful woman could like a goofy looking dumb guy like me.  When I woke up in the morning I convinced myself that she didn't really like me and we would never talk again.  Then she replied to my good morning text and I was ecstatic all over again.  That week we kept talking and texting and we planned the second date and I was almost convinced she actually liked me.
     The second date was a lot like the first except I actually kissed her before we went into the restaurant.  It was a damn good kiss too so this time when we sat in the gas station parking lot afterwards we talked and kissed and talked and kissed for a long time.  I still didn't think about sex.  I mean obviously my body was reacting to kissing a beautiful woman but I still just didn't consider sex a possibility.  She asked me if I would be okay driving home because it was dark and raining and late and blissfully ignorantly I assured her I'd be fine.
     We made another date as soon as possible and she decided that I should come to her place and she would cook for me.  She lived out in the country and my gps insisted that I should turn into a cornfield but I found the place okay.  I cursed my father again because I was there so early she wasn't home from work yet.  She was on her way though and sitting outside watching the sunshine on stalks of corn was easier than sitting in a gas station parking lot.  It turned out to be good that I was there when she arrived anyway.  I was able to help her carry groceries in.  So score one for Dad's influence I guess.
     She wasn't happy I'd been early though because she was still in her work clothes.  I told her she looked beautiful and that smoothed that over.  She started cooking without worrying about it.  That was the first time I realized the power of being able to look a woman in the eyes and truthfully tell her she's beautiful.  It has served me well that I find many women truly beautiful.
     She cooked.  It was great.  We talked and drank.  Then she decided that we should watch a movie.  We curled up together on her sofa and didn't watch much of the movie. We kissed and touched and I grew braver but not that brave.  Finally, she said untangled herself and said that she needed to shower.  There was exasperation in her voice but I didn't realize it then.
     I sat there like a bump on a log, a frog on a lilypad, like the clueless man I was.  I played on my phone and listened to the sound of her shower.  I won't say thoughts didn't run through my mind but they were the sort of background perversions that are like low level white noise playing in the back of a man's mind most of the time.  I heard the shower shut off and her go in her bedroom and I sat there waiting for what I didn't know. Then I heard her walk into the room.
     She walked in wearing black lingerie with her blonde hair flowing free.  She shuffled nervously but whatever reaction she saw in my face and eyes reassured her and she bravely walked over and stood in front of me.  My brain hadn't been working well but it was working and I knew the score now.  She'd basically had to hit me over the head with a hammer but I figured it out.  That's sort of what I felt like too, like I'd been hit over the head with a hammer but in a pleasant way.
     I still moved hesitantly and ran my hand up her thigh slowly and softly.  Part of my hesitation and methodical pacing was nervousness but part of it was just how I believe things should be.  That's how a woman should be touched the first time she shows herself to a man like that.  A man she be reverent to a beautiful woman's body.
     I stood up and kissed her and touched her and we ended up in bed.  Then...well I mentioned losing my virginity earlier.  This lasted shorter than that.  I stared at the ceiling in shock.  I'm well aware that every man says that's never happened to him when it happens to him.  I truly meant it though.  That had never happened before and I had no clue how to handle it.  I muttered an apology and she said it was alright, turned off the light, and pulled my arm around her.  She fell asleep while I was holding her.
     Instead of sheep, I counted excuses to try and fall asleep.  It was my first time with another woman.  She was just the second woman I had ever been with.  It was the first time since my vasectomy and I just didn't have any confidence.  I was nervous period. Eventually, I drifted off to a nervous sleep while still holding her and by morning had almost convinced myself that everything was alright.  Then the same thing happened again when we tried in the morning.
     She cooked breakfast for me and we talked about it matter of factly like it was no big deal.  I'm convinced she knew how much that helped me.  She asked about my vasectomy and I said I far as I know that can't really affect performance.  I was on anxiety medicine though and I told her that could be a side effect.  She reminded me of something she'd said before she went to bed.  She said there were physical reasons she was very hopeful that would be able to perform next time.  She said she was quite sure that she would enjoy it.  I left that morning having had sex twice for a total of under a minute and yet somehow confident in myself and assured that she would still have me.  That woman is magic I tell you.
     That confidence lessened before our next date though.  We didn't talk about it but we didn't talk about it in such a way that it seemed that was all we talked about.  I reassured myself that by myself everything was working properly and that seemed to rule out any physical reasons.  That wasn't as reassuring as it should have been though.  I didn't care how I reacted to my own touch.
     We went on another date and talked and laughed and had a great time.  I've glossed over that part of things but it was the most important part of things.  If there hadn't been the instant connection she probably wouldn't have put up with all the hand holding she had to do.  If that connection hadn't quickly developed into a deeper caring she wouldn't have been as patient as me.  If I hadn't had wanted to know her so much and gotten to know her so easily I wouldn't have cared enough to be as nervous as I was about everything.
     She was sarcastic and got my sarcasm and that was wonderful to me.  Her eyes would light up when she talked about her kids or other people she loved.  A sort of tragically, beautiful resigned anger would set in her face when she talked about her ex and then it would be gone just as quickly.  She was interested in everything I had to say and I in hers.  She was more beautiful inside than out, and that was saying something, and damned if she didn't think I was a pretty good guy.  She was everything I needed in a woman then and she has told me since that I was the man she needed.  It really was like the beginning of a good romantic comedy except funnier and more r rated.
     We ended up in her bed again, naked again.  I should have been relishing the feel of skin against skin.  My eyes should have been feasting on her curves and her lines.  I was too nervous, though, and feeling too much pressure.  I was too outside myself and thinking too much.  That's a problem I often have in life but not when I'm naked so I didn't know how to handle it.  It seemed at least this time I wouldn't have to worry about things ending too soon because I couldn't get them started.  Then she pulled me on top of her.
     "Come on, Paul," she whispered as she looked into my eyes, "I know you can make me scream your name."
     It was, and is, one of the most erotic moments of my life.  The combination of the challenge and the desperation in her voice, that she was desperate for me, worked wonders.  Everything went great after that.  I've probably already went into more details than most of my readers are comfortable with so I'll just say this.  As we drifted off to sleep that night, with my arms once again around her, she whispered, "I told you that you could make me scream your name."
     If life was the romantic comedy I mentioned earlier we would still be together and have had a happily ever after.  We aren't though but it wasn't from lack of trying.  We didn't have to try when we were together everything came naturally and easily after I got past all of my early difficulties.  It was getting together that we had to work at.  We both had kids.  She had different days off than I did.  We lived forty five minutes apart.  We tried like hell to overcome it, to the point of exhaustion and I think we came close.  We didn't quite make it though.
     I've had people tell me that it was just a rebound relationship.  It still offends me when someone says that because it seems like they're dismissing the importance of it.  She was everything I needed at the time and I was what she needed.  Two people being what each other need is important no matter when it happens nor how long it lasts.  I know I've mentioned before in this blog that I seem to be good at that.  I seem to be just the man to remind a woman that she is beautiful and is worth something before she moves onto the man she's going to stay with and I'm okay with that.  I'm kind of proud of that.  If I'm good luck Paul that's alright with me.  If I'm the Charles Barkley or Dennis Rodman of relationships than that's cool with me.  After all, they'll always be women in need of a rebound.
     Besides in this case I'm pretty sure it meant more to me.  I learned so much from her and our relationship.  I learned that there were women out there that would be interested in me.  I learned that beautiful women will want me.  I learned that I was a good man and had value still to the right woman, that life goes on, and that I could love again.  I learned that I should look for the type of woman I want not just the type of women I could get because I could get the type of woman I wanted.  Mostly I learned that there are some damn fine, damn beautiful, damn wonderful women out there and that we could touch each other's hearts.
     Two people came together at the right time for each other and gave each other the comfort and joy and pleasure they needed.  Then they left each other with hearts hurting but not broken; with hearts more mended and intact than when they found each other.  They left each other better than when they found each other and remain a fond memory in each other's mind and a warm feeling in each other's hearts.  The poets don't write it and it doesn't happen in romantic comedies but that's as much of a fairy tale ending as anything else.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Wasn't

     What could have been isn't that what could have been
because it is what wasn't,
but thinking about what wasn't is allowed.
Regret isn't a musn't.
     What wasn't is really what we want, and what we hope could be,
in the future,
but it's what wasn't so I pretend I don't want her,
but someone like her.

Friday, April 11, 2014

So My Ex-Wife Got Engaged

     So my ex-wife got engaged.  Not today or anything, it happened about a month ago.  It bugs me when people say they have mixed feelings because most of the time it's a cop out answer to avoid saying their true feelings.  If there's ever a situation when mixed feelings is the truth, though, this is it.  I wasn't stunned by it.  I pretty much saw it coming but I hadn't felt any way about it until I heard it actually happened.  Then I felt a lot of ways.  The two most immediate emotions I felt were relief and anger.
     I was relieved because of a promise I made to her mother when I was sixteen.  I promised her mother I would take care of her and the seriousness of that promise was compounded when her mother passed away not long after.  It would have been easy to view that promise as just foolish words uttered by an adolescent but I've never looked at them that way.  That promise stayed with me during long nights at two full time jobs, when she battled cancer, her pregnancy and labor, her later lost pregnancies, and that promise is part of what kept me from even considering leaving in the final few years when our marriage wasn't working well.
     Obviously, since we separated I haven't really been capable of keeping this promise but I've still tried when I could whether she realizes it or not.  In the first year after we broke up, when we were navigating our way to divorce I made financial sacrifices to pay child support that was never court ordered and that I didn't ethically owe because we had fifty-fifty custody.  I also fixed things several times for her and even gave her advice about dating and the tricks men will play.  I didn't do these things because I wanted to win her back.  I gave up on that pretty quickly.  Of course, I didn't do these things completely because of the promise I made her mom either.  I was also trying to do what was best for our son but the promise was on my mind, too.
     Then when she decided to move away and give me custody of our son I made a very forgiving divorce settlement with her.  Judging from her divorce filing the settlement I made with her was much more forgiving than any settlement she would have made with me if she had the upper hand.  Then since she's moved I've done everything I can to make sure she sees our son as often as she can even when it's meant six hour drives or pinching pennies.  Again, it hasn't been all for her but mostly about what's best for our son.  Still, I can't forget the promise either.
     Since we split though, and especially since she's moved, it hasn't been possible to keep that promise and it has weighed on me because of what she has been through, or put herself through might be the more accurate description.  She sort of came unmoored.  In the two years since then she's lived in four states, in six different houses or apartments, had four different jobs, and has owned four different vehicles.  It worried me but I couldn't do anything about it.  I supposed that she would listen to what I had to say about her life about as much as I would listen to what she had to say about my life so I kept my mouth shut.
     Some people reading this are probably expecting me to write that I felt relieved over her engagement because she was someone else's problem now.  That does sound like something I would say but it wouldn't be true.  She may have caused me some problems but she hasn't been my problem, in that way, since we split.  I've felt the burden of the promise but haven't had responsibility for her if that makes any sense.  The relief I've felt is because her fiance has seemed to help her find her moorings in life and getting engaged is one more sign that her life is going to stabilize.  Marriage is the tie that binds they say and she seems to need that so I'm relieved that she seems to have found it.
     I'll bet people think the anger is easier to understand but unless they've been the custodial parent after a divorce their understanding is likely wrong.  It's not a jealous anger.  Jealousy is there, of course, but it's a tiny twinge of jealousy that's always going to be there.  I can see it in her when I'm with someone and I'm sure she can see it in me. After fifteen years together there is always going to be little bits of flotsam of feelings in the bloodstream of our hearts that will cause those twinges but the time has long since passed that the jealousy would be strong enough to be angering.
     The anger is over it being so much easier for her to find someone.  I don't even know if I want to find someone but I'm still angry that it's easier for her.  It seems it's always easier for the non-custodial parent to find someone else and I'm sure if I cared enough to look I could find data to support that conclusion.  After all, they simply have more time to look.  She has our son four days a month and I have him the rest of the time.  She could date on weeknights and she never had to worry about a babysitter or had to cancel dates because our son got sick.  I'm certain she never had someone say to her that they can't date her because she's too good of a parent as a few women have said to me.
     In all fairness to her, I have to mention that over the summer this situation is reversed but that's ten months compared to two months.  Maybe, it'll help me if I fall in love with a school teacher.  It isn't just the time, though.  She could and did move to find love while I stayed here because I feel it's what's best for our son.  I'm an odd bird, as the saying goes, and I don't think anyone will disagree with that.  As an ex-girlfriend of mine said eccentric attracts eccentric.  Most of them are beautiful and intelligent, thankfully, but there's only a small portion of the population that I'm compatible with.  If I could move to a more populous area I would have a better chance of finding someone but I can't and that pissed me off when I first heard the news that she was engaged.
     There are plenty of reasons that I shouldn't be angry about this and that's why anger was just an immediate emotion I felt and hasn't lasted.  Being the custodial parent helps to weed people out.  Those women that said I'm too good of a father to date, I wouldn't have wanted them anyway.  Plus, I'd be lying to myself if I didn't admit that my parenting is part of the attraction for women that are attracted to me.  I've often been told how cute it is us two guys living on our own.  I've always been slightly offended by that because no one would tell a single mom how cute her difficult living situation is but I keep my mouth shut because I realize that when it comes to sexist remarks women owe men about billion of them.  Besides, they think I'm cute so it's all good.
     I don't even know if I want to find someone and get married anyway.  There's a simpleness to living by myself that appeals to me.  Also, it's pretty cool it being just me and my son.  We've always had a stronger bond than even most fathers and sons but this just makes it get stronger day after day.  If I were forced to answer now I'd say I'm open to a serious relationship with someone if the right person in the right situation comes along but I'm not really looking for one.  So the anger I felt at first has since faded.
     As time has passed the relief has remained but it's a relief that doesn't have much to do with the promise I made her mother.  A while after our marriage ended it sank in that she would eventually find someone else and that worried me.  Someone else was going to come into my son's life that I had no control over choosing.  That was frightening to me. There are some really bad men out there and my ex-wife hasn't always had the greatest of taste.  After all, once upon a time she actually chose me.  I knew my son was going to have a stepdad someday but I didn't like it.
     Now obviously I don't know a whole lot about who her fiance really is.  Guys generally don't reveal themselves to their woman's exes.  Still, he seems mainly to me to be just a nice guy and, all joking aside, that makes sense with my ex-wife's taste in men.  I'm pretty sure she fell for me mainly because I'm a nice guy and that she would tell you she divorced me because I wasn't so nice anymore.  That's true too but she wasn't exactly nice to me anymore either.  Trying to figure out who stopped being nice first is a chicken or egg type thing that's just a waste of time so I don't bother anymore.
     More importantly than me thinking he's nice, our son thinks her fiance is a nice guy.  They get along well and they like each other.  I always assumed I would feel some jealousy if my son bonded with whoever ended up being his stepdad but I haven't.  When I see a picture of the two of them smiling together I'm just happy my son is having a good time.  I think there are a few reasons I don't feel jealous.  My bond with my son is so strong that his bonds with anyone else don't feel at all like a threat to it and to her fiance's credit he doesn't seem to want to be a threat to it or interfere with it at all.  I was lucky enough to have a few extra father figures and have many bonds with men besides my father when I was growing up and it didn't lessen my bond with my father one bit so I know from experience.  Plus, I'm just too relieved about the kind of man her fiance seems to be, to be jealous of him.
     There are, of course, other emotions stirred up by this but they're more subtle, more complex, and would take a novel or two to explain if I was talented enough to be able to. It's mostly relief I feel and because I'm so relieved I'm happy for them and I'm happy for my son.  Since I'm happy about it I'm also a little worried that in describing my immediate reactions I might offend her.  She might not read this but I have a feeling she'll probably be curious so I want to say a few things.  I might have made it sound at times like our marriage going south was all her fault, I think everyone does that to some extent with their past relationships, but I hope she knows I don't actually think that.  She didn't get into our marriage by herself and she didn't get out of it by herself either.  It takes two to tango and two to duel.  She also might be offended by my saying that she became unmoored but I think that if she examines her life since our split she'd realize the truth behind that statement.  She's just another human being trying to figure out life and she has a hard time of it sometimes like the rest of us.  It should just make her feel grateful, and maybe even as relieved as I am, that she seems to have found the man she needs.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

I Ramble On About Relationships

     There's a common complaint about how couples are portrayed on television.  Over and over again we are shown a very attractive woman in a relationship with a less attractive man.  On shows like King of Queens and The Big Bang Theory, to name just two of many examples, we see larger men or nerdy men, men who aren't what society generally considers attractive, coupling with gorgeous women.  This is considered unrealistic especially since we seldom are shown the inverse.  I can't really support this criticism, though, because it just seems like a realistic portrayal of many relationships to me.  I think these sort of couples can be observed quite often in real life with Julia Roberts and Lyle Lovett, and, Prince Charles and Princess Diana being two of the more famous examples.
     Women often claim this as proof that they aren't as shallow as men but Magic Mike, Twilight, Fifty Shades of Grey, my friend's infatuation with Benedict Cumberland, and hundreds of sexy firefighter, cowboy, construction worker, etc etc memes floating around Facebook prove otherwise.  There is a difference in the way men and women generally evaluate attractiveness.  One small detail, like Lyle Lovett's smile or Prince Charles being a Prince, can make a man attractive to a woman while guys tend to be attracted more to the whole and one small detail can make a woman less attractive. That's where horrible terms like butterface come from.  That's much of the reason there is more pressure on women to look perfect.  Yes, much of it is the society and culture we've created that puts this pressure on women but much of the cause of that creation is that one detail can ruin a woman for a man whereas a man often only has to get one thing right, like a sexy beard, to be attractive to a woman.
     Still the phenomenon of men coupling with women that society deems out of their league goes beyond just looks.  There are many doofuses, dorks, and idiots dating amazingly complex, complicated, intelligent, fascinating women.  There are many men that are truly lucky bastards.  I think this is all because of the difference in what men and women look for in a relationship.  Men look for what they think they deserve in a woman while women look for what they think they need in a man.  Both are often wrong about what they need and deserve but that's not the point here.  The point is that there is a huge difference between need and deserve and it makes a huge difference when men and women are looking for a potential significant other.
     The best way I can explain the difference is that people need to eat but they deserve bacon wrapped lobster tail.  I'm saying that I, and I think most guys at one time or another, have been a woman's Hamburger Helper.  I'm easy, convenient, and I fulfill a need and sometimes I don't have a problem with this.  Why then am I pointing this out if it is something that benefits me and guys like me?  It isn't as beneficial as it first seems and often causes problems later in a relationship.
     It leads to resentment from both sides.  A woman will get with a man because he provides security or emotional support or mind blowing orgasms or whatever combination of things she thinks she needs that he supplies.  Then as time goes on she'll think that she wanted a man with a farmer's tan or that was romantic or that gives her mind blowing orgasms and she'll resent him for what he isn't that she wanted him to be.  So she'll ask or demand or cajole the man into trying to be what she wants.  The man then, thinking he deserves her, will be approaching things from a place of entitlement and wonder why he should have to change or be different for her.  After all, he deserves her so he should just get her.  A man thinks he should just have the things he deserves.
     This leads to the whole thing becoming a complicated morass of motivations and desires, like most human relationships, and often it comes crashing down under the weight of it's own problems and perceptions.  So that's the problem, men looking for what they think they deserve in a woman and women looking for what they think they need in a man, and that's why it's a problem.  What's the solution?  For starters, men and women should both change the way they think when looking for a potential significant other.  They shouldn't look for what they think they need or deserve but instead they should look for what they want.  They should be more selfish.
     The way many relationships work, especially the ones that don't work, is that they start out unselfish.  After all, she's what he deserves and he's what she needs so they wouldn't ask for or expect anything more.  Then they gradually become more selfish as they go along because she starts to want more than she needs and he starts to want more than he deserves and they both want to know why the other one can't seem to see what the problem is.  It's human nature.  So I think by being more selfish in the beginning this curve of selfishness could become the inverse of what it normally is. (That's romantic language right there, ain't it?)  I think that when they have what they want people would be more satisfied and more likely to let imperfections slide and a relationship would become less and less selfish over time.
     Of course, there are problems with this approach too.  Our perceptions of what we want can be just as wrong as our perceptions of what we need and deserve.  I might think I want a pretty smile when what a really want is an optimistic person, a person that smiles.  I might think I want someone with a sense of humor when what I really mean is I want someone with a pretty laugh that will get my jokes or at least pretend they do.  I might think I want someone that reads when what I really want is someone that will leave me alone and let me read when I want to.  Most of us only think we know what we want.
     Another problem with this approach is that it's limiting.  I often tell men and women that by not even giving people a chance because of random characteristics, like whether they have facial hair or not, whether they wear glasses or not, whether they're bald or not, or how much they make, could mean missing out.  The perfect man for you might be a bald, bearded, four-eyed factory worker and you would never know because you dismissed him from consideration.  Plus, there are plenty of things, like smartphones and Facebook, that we didn't even know we wanted until after we had them.  What makes us think that characteristics in people can't be the same way?  After all, how often do people not even know they wanted Hamburger Helper until after they started eating it?
     Besides sometimes we aren't as in control of who we're attracted to as we'd like to think we are.  I know from my own efforts at changing the type of women I find myself wanting that it's often a futile effort.  What we find attractive is caused by a confusing combination of our pasts, our past relationships, our personalities, our strengths and weaknesses, pheromones, personality compatibility, and probably a bunch of other things.  The degree of control we have over what is attractive to us might not be very high.  Also, we can't only concern ourselves with who we're attracted to but with who is attracted to us also.  My son once told me, jokingly I hope, that he wanted a rich, redneck stepmom but redneck women tend not to be attracted to me and I don't come across too many, or really any, single rich women.  So I can want a wealthy, country girl all I want but it ain't going to happen.
     So looking for what we want instead of what we think we need or deserve will only be part of the solution.  The other part I think is to just be mindful of these differences in perspectives while we're in relationships.  If you aren't getting what you want in a relationship stop and evaluate if what you want is truly necessary to your happiness.  If it is and things can't be changed cut and run.  Don't feel guilty for getting yourself and someone else in that position to begin with.  Everyone makes these kind of mistakes at one time or another and besides that other person is just as responsible for causing the situation as you are and human nature and the natures of men and women are probably most responsible of all.  Stop blaming yourself and feeling like a failure.  If you know things can't be changed and you aren't happy get out because the relationship was probably doomed from the beginning.  I've had a few women do this to me, really for me, and after I got over my sadness I've always been grateful to them.  It's best for everyone in the long run.
     The best example I know of this is with an ex of mine.  We were going at each other like it was the Airing of Grievances during Festivus and I finally said something along the lines of this is who I am and this is what I can do for you.  Then I said, "If I can't be enough for you then let me go."  Her response was, "Okay, I am."  It was sad, awful, almost tragic and very beautiful.  There can be just as much beauty in endings as beginnings it's just harder to see.  I think we proved how much we really did care for each other right there in the end of our relationship.  Honesty is just as important in the end of things as during any other time in a relationship.
     So what do all these words I've written mean for me or anyone else?  I'm not sure.  If I knew I probably wouldn't be single.  I do know though that it's good to think about all of this before and during a relationship and I'm going to try to do more of that.  Most of the time I just let a relationship take it's course without considering if I really want it to be where it is or where it's going or even thinking about where it is going.  I'm going to try to think about things more in the beginning of and during my next relationship.  I'm not going to be like a lot of women and be sitting there on a first date wondering if I could ever marry this person but I'm going to move more in that direction.  It's strange that I think that thinking more could be an improvement in relationships because in most other things in life my biggest fault is that I think too much.  Still, relationships aren't like most other things in life and there's no one size fits all fix for life's problems anyway.
     In the meantime, when I see an average guy with a beautiful gal on television I'm not going to sit there and think it's unrealistic and shake my head.  Instead I'm going to smile and laugh about how that idiot thinks he deserves her and that moron thinks she needs him and I'm going to remember that I'm really smiling and laughing at myself and that will amuse me even more.  After all, most of the women I've been with have been out of my league and I've always had a very good time until they've figured it out.