40.

dadI didn’t wake up today and feel any different. I don’t look different than yesterday, I don’t feel different. Today however, at around 4am, I turned 40.

For as long as I can remember, people have made jokes about being 40. There are the black balloons, the Hallmark isles full of silly cards. But I don’t feel any different. Perhaps a little reflective, maybe nostalgic. I remember celebrating 30 with my oldest friend and her then-husband and my then-wife at an Olive Garden somewhere in Mesquite, TX. (I think?). She had tiny daughters who are now driving and looking at boys. I had more hair, less grey and less experience. So life has changed quite a bit in ten years but then again, not much has changed at all.

mom_jenI feel grateful to have made it to this age. When my own father was 40, he was fighting a losing battle for his life and would be gone by age 42, something I think about often when I need to be humbled. After he passed, I remember armoring myself with thoughts like “He lived a long time!”  To an 8 year old, 40 is a long time but we know that is just not true. I cannot fathom his battle or my mother’s.

me_handI feel lucky to have so far lived the life I want to live. I have an amazing mother and sister, both who inadvertently taught me to be the man I am simply by being strong women. My career is in demand with both Amazon
and just last week, Facebook, trying to recruit me into their fold. I am surrounded by many wonderful people and I have side-lines that let me do what I love such as DJ’ing and Photography with a career that is flexible enough to allow pursuit of them. I have worked hard to get where I am, nothing was handed to me but I am also lucky to have had support from family and friends. However, when all of these things start inflating my ego, I just remember the fight I watched my father battle when he was my age and I remember it can be taken away without warning.

noraThis post isn’t depressing, it is elating. I am excited about the rest of my life. Scared? Perhaps of the unknown but I come from strong people who always made it work and therefore I believe I will.

Because I like lists, which you know if you follow this blog, I’m inclined to create one (or two?)  here.  These are burned into me, are part of me. I can recall them vividly any time.  Some will be vague, some will be recognized only by a few and perhaps some by no one else but myself. So.. Here are my top 20 (that I can think of at the moment) favorite life memories in no particular order.

20) – A trip to Galveston when I was 20 to meet a girl I met by chance in Dallas who was on a trip from Illinois. We spent the night on the beach just talking and I never saw or heard from her again.

19) – Meeting Ghost for the first time.

22171_1306031206313_8312790_n18) – Bus trip to New Orleans with a bunch of crazy kids and a similar trip to Orlando. (two for one!)

17) – The Belton trip.

16) – Yard work with my dad and learning to cut the lawn.

15) – Geeking out in my room when I was 8 or 9 with my babysitter in front of a Commodore 64 writing “games” from the back of a magazine in BASIC.

jessshawn14) – All the music that my parents played on vinyl in the house. Mostly Motown. Best gift was mom finding her collection and gifting it to me a few weeks ago. I’ve been listening non-stop.

13) – RV trips with my grandparents. Or visiting them during trips, I don’t rightly remember if we actually traveled in the RV.

12) – Sledding a toboggan at Pecan Knoll? Ridge? Park something.. (Mom will know) – In Illinois when I was a kid.

11) – My first day at my first “big boy” career job.

10) – Meeting my niece Nora for the first time.

313404_2464320602824_1096512190_32904960_1913039468_n9) – My first scuba descent into the ocean.

8) – Watching deer eating at dawn just outside a glass door in a cabin with a wide-eyed child sitting next to me before anyone else woke up.

599600_10151132877486454_1445420220_n7) – A concert with a favorite band and friend in Deep Elum during it’s hey-day.

6) – My first Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

cel5) – A certain swinging chair in Scarborough Faire in the middle of the afternoon after a bit of Meade.

4) – My 21st birthday at Detour with my best friend and twisting my ankle jumping off one of the aerial dance floors.

linds3) – The first time I ran a 10k (8 mile) race without walking. Still working on that half!

2) – My mother sitting across a table from me when I was a teen explaining some life lessons that have never left me and are a foundation for who I really am.

1) – The helicopter. I know if you are reading this, you’ll think “WHY THIS?!” but it changed me. I doubt I’ve ever thanked you for it, but it did.

…and at least 10 things I have left to do:

 

10) – Space Tourism.

9) – Taking my mother someplace she needs a passport for.

8) – Running a half marathon (Only 5 miles to go!)

7) – Completing my DM.

6) – A couples trip with my best friend.

5) – Ice scuba diving in Antartica.

4) – Thru-Hiking the entire John Muir trail.

3) – Leaving IT for good and building a wedding venue business.

2) – Teaching Nora to drive stick. (Assuming manual transmissions still exist) 🙁

1) – Building bottle schools in Nigeria or Ecuador.

…You handed me the scissors

scissorsIt has been just under a year since I quietly severed a friendship with someone I cared for deeply. There was no drama, no pomp and circumstance – no facebook comment seeking bitch-fest about being wronged. Just a decision to discard someone from my life who I had previously held close and went out of my way for and of whom I feel started taking those things for granted. It was, in this case, the right decision as I have not heard from them in almost a year. No “Hey, what happened” and no “Sorry, I’ve been crappy at friendship lately”. This leads me to believe that 1) It was the right decision and 2) they know what they did.

I hold very few people extremely close, or what I consider “close”. I can count on one hand the number of people I could confide most things in and I can count on one finger the number of people who, aside from myself, know some of my biggest secrets.  I have an amazing amount of filters people have to breach before they get to know who I really am. For the majority of people, I come off as direct and harsh but intelligent and at times condescending. For those who have gotten past all of my filters, or more easily said, for those few I trust to confide in my fears, dreams and mistakes, the person they know is completely different.

With this impending anniversary looming, I give you:

5 Ways to cut yourself out of my life.

1) Take me for granted.

I have been known to drive two hundred miles to help a friend stuck on the side of the road in the middle of the night. I take care of my friends. They are family. Start assuming my good nature is a sign of weakness and I’ll think twice the next time you need help. Eventually, you’ll just stop hearing from me.

2) Don’t hold up your side of the friendship.

We are all busy. I get that. I’m busy. If you know me you KNOW I’m busy. I don’t expect to hear from you every day or even every week. However, it takes about 2.5 seconds to send a text just to say hello and about 2.5 seconds to get one back that says “Doing great, thanks!”. Communication these days is extremely convenient. If you like having someone in your life, it’s pretty easy to keep them.

3) Drag me into un-necessary drama.

If you are close to me and you call on me, I’ll be there. Most of those close to me will back that statement up. However, if you continually drag me into teenager-like drama, you’ll push me out of your life quickly. I’m a positive person for the most part. The direct and abrasive mask I wear is a filter that most people don’t get past. If you have, then you know I will come to your aid, but if you start causing drama just to pull me (or anyone) into it for your own enjoyment, you’ll earn yourself a ticket off my bus.

4) Lie.

I do not stand for liars. Period. I completely understand “withholding to save someone some pain” and sometimes those come about, (Before you say “there is never a good time to withhold”, think about the father who dies while the son is recovering from heart failure.. Think it’s a good idea to tell him now or wait until post recovery? HMM?)  but when you lie to hurt people, you are doing it for your own pleasure and I just do not live like that. This makes you an insecure bully. Plain and simple.

5) Harm yourself.

I’m going to be there for you if you are in a bad way and want to help yourself. The moment I detect you are doing it for attention, and I will, empathy is a gift, I’ll be gone. If you are truly in a bad spot, I’m there. If you consistently do things to harm yourself without trying to move in the other direction, then I cannot help you. No one can help you until you want to help yourself. I completely believe this and I speak from experience.

 And everything else

These are the main reasons, I’m sure there are many more obvious occurrences. In my opinion, some of these should be reasons ANYONE would decide to remove someone from their life. Consistently negative people do not bring anything positive to another person’s well-being.

“If I cut you out of my life, chances are you handed me the scissors…”

Why EVERY man should learn how to dance.

salsa-dancingI can say with some certainty that for as long as there have been humans on this ball of mud, there has been dancing. Our bodies react to rhythm. Some better than others admittedly but we all *want* to move. Each of us stirs a little when our favorite song comes on.

So it baffles me then, as someone who has been part of the club scene as a DJ, the bar scene as an owner and an overall lover of music and  dancing, why I hear so frequently from women the phrase “He doesn’t dance…”. This is usually followed by a tell-tale look of disappointment I’ve seen so many times before.

Men are by nature, “macho”. In Mexico, a place I love like I was born there, “Macho” is actually a term for a man (or more accurately a boy) who is parading himself around like a peacock. It’s a coming of age but during this coming of age, Mexican boys learn something that has seemingly been lost on American’s. Dancing.

In many countries other than Mexico, dancing is an important right of passage as well.

So why doesn’t your man dance?

Most of the responses I’ve heard when badgering a guy into telling me his reasoning for refusing to dance is lack of confidence rather than lack of desire, which is a common instant rebuttal. This  is valid. It takes a little bit of courage to get out there and ask a woman to trust you to throw her around the dance-floor. Never having been taught is another reason I hear. “Dancing is girlie”, “I have no interest” as well as other weak responses are common as well.

If you think dancing is “girly” you should ask a woman what she thinks of men who dance. I did. Several. Just for this blog. You know what I got back when I asked several female friends to give me three adjectives that come to mind when they see a man dancing?

Sexy
Mysterious
Confident
Fun
Intriguing
Light-Hearted
Spirited
Comfortable in his own Skin

Admittedly not all adjectives, but, do you still think dancing is “girlie”?

You can dance if you want to…

Want is the first step. You have to “want” to learn to dance. But why should you?

The reasons TO learn in my opinion far outweigh those NOT to. For a single guy, one of the best reasons to at least familiarize yourself with some simple dancing is, well, women. Women love to dance, women love men who dance. I guarantee you that more women are going to be intrigued with your “Sure, I’ll dance with you” response then your “I’m too much of a bad-ass for that sissy crap” response. Women dig confidence and as I mentioned, it takes confidence to get out there. Dancing is an amazing ice breaker.

For the married or otherwise attached man, dancing is a social activity that you can enjoy with your partner and meet other couples who are of similar interests. Dancing is a challenge and learning new routines can be a confidence builder. It’s something you and your significant other can practice at home. It takes almost no investment and dancing is great cardio.

But. You have to get out there first.

You can leave your friends behind…

Confidence is the hill you are going to have to climb. If you have the desire but not the will, push yourself to get out there. Skill will come naturally with time and practice. If your friends make fun of you (like they did to me), you’ll have to ignore it and keep pushing. I promise you they’ll be asking you for advice when they see you confidently walk out on the floor and ask a women to dance.

Dancing and music in general is what saved me from becoming an extremely shy and anti-social adult. I never danced in high-school and I was terrified of the prospect of asking a girl to dance. This changed with the right words at the right time from a friend of mine just after high-school. You have to assume you’ll get rejected and just keep moving. She might lack confidence as well, she might just not be interested in it. She might be where you were when you started. If you are familiar enough, offer to teach and if not, move on.

Most importantly, ignore any ridicule you get from other men for your dancing. Peer pressure is a confidence killer but if you ignore it and move past it, you are going to see looks of envy from those same friends who had faces of disgust. Nothing shuts a “macho” man up faster then seeing you walking out to the dance-floor hand in hand with the women he was admiring. Nothing.

Ok, I admit it, I want to learn, but how?

There are so many answers to that question. If you aren’t standing in a douche-bag laden club full of guys twerking (which is NOT dancing), most dancers will be willing to teach you the basic steps. One of the ways I learned Salsa for example, was simply by going to Salsa nights at local dance-halls and restaurants. Often they will have free lessons for the first hour and because so many people come out, you are bound to find a partner at a similar skill level. I met many friends this way and even a partner who was willing to put the time into it like I was. She was married, her husband came as well but because of build differences, Salsa was difficult for them as a couple but they enjoyed the dance style with others. Later, when they married, both myself and his Salsa partner took the floor after their first dance and did a duet dance.

There are also MANY You-Tube videos out there with free instruction. Books can be found at resale book shops for next to nothing and there is always your social group, surely someone you know cuts the rug?

Repetition is important so you become familiar with the steps and aren’t concentrating on them. When you achieve this, your flow will be smooth. If you are lucky enough to master a school of dance with a partner, you will begin to anticipate their moves.

In ending…

Aside from all of the above, dancing is sexy. Plain and simple. When you are one with your partner on the floor and your bodies are accentuating one another’s, people notice and that is a huge confidence builder. You are looking in each other’s eyes and there is a bond of anything from mutual respect and grace to “I want to rip your clothes off right here and now”. Whether it is a graceful waltz or a sex-emitting salsa, feeling another person’s body in your hands as you ebb and flow through a routine is one of the most beautiful, sexy and primal things you can do with another person.

Additionally, there are a few times in a man’s life where he should be required to dance. Yes, the wedding. Obviously. Nothing makes me cringe more than watching a new husband and wife struggle awkwardly through their first dance. It’s painful to watch. On the other side of the coin, it is extremely joyful to witness the same couple who obviously did a little preparation and choreographed a simple first dance that looks rehearsed and polished. You don’t have to be Fred Astaire out there, you just have to put a little effort in.

Suicidal Tendencies

suicide7Suicide is never the answer little camper. That line comes from an 80’s comedy I know well but there is nothing comedic about suicide.

When I was a teenager, I thought long and hard about taking my own life. I even went “all the way” once which, obviously, didn’t pan out but is a story of it’s own. This might be a surprising revelation to you if you happen to know me now.

I thought I was not loved. Certainly I knew my family loved me but I thought that was as much as I would ever know. Enough of course, the love of your family but somehow at the same time not enough. These were the thoughts of a shy, awkward teenager. I was the fat kid. I was the geek. I was the kid alone at the dance. I thought “this is as good as it gets”.

Tonight I’m sitting I am sitting in a bar around the corner from my loft. The bartender who is usually chipper and excitable looks like someone hit her with a truck. I ask her what is behind the lost look in her eyes. Silence. Contemplation. Finally; “My sister committed suicide this weekend”. She looks me dead in the eye and says “I love her, but that was the most selfish thing she ever did.” I agree of course because I’ve come to believe the same, that suicide is a selfish way to go.

Earlier this year I lost two people to suicide within a week of each other. One I didn’t know well, the other however, is someone I counseled and thought I knew pretty well. He had his demons as we all do but I thought he had them under control.

What I am about to say might piss you off. So be it. Suicide is the chicken shit selfish ass way out. Chances are if you are reading this, you aren’t living on the streets of a third world country. Think you have it bad? Think again. And before you go off ranting about “you’ve never been there, you have no idea” please remember, I have indeed been there. Not been there for attention but been there in my room with a gun to my head counting up the reasons why I should and should not pull the trigger. Yes, I get that depression can play a part. Yes, I understand all too well that teenage angst, hormones and naievty causes our children to think “This is as good as it gets”. Whatever the reason, I stand by my rant. It’s the chicken shit way out.

I spent a good amount of time as a teen mentor in my mid to late twenties. Along the way, I lost two. The last finally pushing me, as it has pushed many, out of the mostly volunteer field of young adult mentorship. I felt responsible. I felt like I didn’t do enough and for years it lived with me as “my fault”. It wasn’t of course. Nothing anyone could have said would have fixed that little girl. She had to want to fix herself. She refused. She decided “this was as good as it gets” and at 15 hung herself in her bedroom where her parents found her. Selfish? Absolutely. Her parents will forever live with the image of their baby girl hanging limp in the bedroom she grew up in. Her friends will never forget the day she left them. Her brother, previous an honor roll student dropped out of school the next semester and last I heard had been put in rehab for a heroin addiction.

The kids are the hardest but on some level more understandable than a grown adult taking their own life. Young adults don’t have a worldly view, they have a narrow view and so it’s easier to understand why they might think “this is as good as it gets”. You want to scream at them “Just wait, it gets better!” as they are stepping off the roof. But adults? I don’t get it. Yes I know it gets bad. I was married to a bi-polar woman for many years. An amazing woman but one who was off medication for the better part of our marriage. She really hated the meds and when I was young I supported her, I thought “She’s strong”. And she is, but as I’ve gained knowledge and understanding, I’ve also changed my opinion on medication that assists chemical imbalances and completely changed my view that “you can overcome by just trying”. Shortly after we split, she found the right doctor and the right cocktail and she is a completely different person. It works, but you have to want to help yourself.

In 2005 I dealt with my own first experience with complete depression. I had gone through something extremely painful. I went to work, like a robot. I cam home and slept. I was sick to my stomach constantly. While suicide never entered my mind, I started to understand how it could for others going through the same thing. I didn’t seek counseling but I did read a lot. Slowly I recovered and one day I just felt like it was all going to be alright. That doesn’t work for everyone but it worked for me. What it taught me is that depression is for real. It isn’t for the “weak minded” as I once thought. I remember being a teenager and telling my sister that depression was for the weak. I was wrong. I was oh so wrong.

As I sit here writing, I am thinking back to all the people I’ve personally lost to suicide. A girl I worked with in high school who also happened to be on the same volleyball team with a girl I dated. A young adult who I worked with and with whom my ex-wife was also connected to through his wife who shot himself not long after having their first child. A girl I dated in a small town in Texas just after I moved out of my mom’s house. The list goes on and on. The fact that I can remember each one of them proves to me the selfishness of suicide. If I can remember them so vividly, imagine how those close to them were affected.

I’ve rambled quite a bit in this post. For that I apologize. I implore you. If you are reading this. If you think it’s the way out. It isn’t. I know it’s dark. I know you feel like no one will understand. They will. You have to open up and I know that is the hardest part. Take it from someone who has been there, who has been there for other and who has lost still others; your life is worth the effort.

“You’re pretty.” – “&%$# off!”

woman-throwing-drink-on-man(1)I am a hopeless romantic. The first time I realized this was probably around sixth grade. I remember going to an ice cream social and the feelings I had for a cute little curly headed girl. I was pretty shy which people find hard to believe these days so the first time I acted on my romantic inclinations was at a mall when I was approximately 16 years old. A friend and I were walking through the mall and there was a florist pagoda. I bought three roses while my friend stared at me in confusion. I explained to him that I was going to walk up to three pretty girls and give them a rose with no explanation. He thought this was absolutely ludicrous and that we should go down to the arcade instead.

Very few people can fathom that I even have a romantic side. Even fewer can imagine that I would act on it in such a way. As I have matured, I find myself doing these types of things less and less. The reasoning behind this has nothing to do with desire but rather the reactions that I have gotten from people over the years. Where once things like the flowers at the mall seemed romantic and innocent, they are now considered creepy or even assuming. I went back-and-forth trying to decide if this was a changing of the times or simply something that happens with age. I settled on both. The times have changed and we get more suspicious and less willing to be hurt with age and experience.

But. Rant.

Ladies, just because he tells you that you’re pretty, doesn’t mean he wants to sleep with you.

Certainly, many DO want to sleep with you and an opening line like that is supposed to woo you. However, if you come to assume that every one of us  “wants you” because we tell you that you look nice, you are not only an ego maniac but you are going to be lonely too.

I get it. You can get laid any time you want. You are female and have “the power” and you are going to tell me you can brush off as many men as you care to and still pick one up a minute later. This is true. It is. Except that the “guy you can pick any time” is going to have the intellectual capacity of one of the Jersey Shore boys. He is only going to want you for what is under your clothing. Which is what many women end up dating… And then complaining about… To the guy they should be dating.

There is an internet saying I’ve heard where a woman asks “Where are all the nice guys?” and some random off-screen male yells “In the Friend-Zone where you left them!”. There is some absolute truth to this. Many women I know have said to me “But I want to date the bad boy!” There are plenty of bad boys out there who have stable careers, triple digit IQ’s and don’t have to borrow mom’s car to take you out.

I’m not defending the males here. We have ourselves directed you ladies into thinking every compliment really means “can I sleep with you?”. I have in my head a bar graph that shows the lack of innocent comments to the increase of comments said only in hopes of bedding you. The slope looks like a big X. Because of the sheer ratio of innocent, from the heart comments to those made in hopes of getting laid, it is easy to fathom why most women simply blow off romantic comments from someone they don’t know. The vicious cycle is that the guys willing to step up and say something from the heart diminishes each time they are completely and sometimes rudely blown off.

I mentioned earlier that women “have the power” and it’s true. I only recently had a conversation along these lines with a female friend. It’s not hard for a woman to get a date. On the contrary, it takes a bit more for a guy, even a confident one, to step up and ask a woman out on a date. Most of us got past our rejection issues early on but they still linger there, whispering in our ears as we build the courage to ask you out. We know from experience how easily and quickly we will get blown off. We pick the situation carefully in which we will ask.

So women have the power. Men also have some of this, especially confident men. Yes, some of us could probably go out and pick up a woman tonight. The difference is, those same guys who are in the business of making sincere compliments are the same ones who aren’t going to pick up a woman for the night because it is not chivalry and the same ones you left in the friend-zone and complain about not finding.

Next time a guy walks up and says you are pretty, utilize some of your natural empathy skills and decide if he is just trying to get laid, or, if something you did caught his attention. “Pretty” might have been all he could muster but it could have been the sway of your hair, the glint of your eyes or the way you sipped coffee that intrigued him rather than your chest, backside or what he imagined you to be like in bed.

5 Mistakes Men make about Strong Women

strongwomanI’ve been known to wax poetic about strong women in my course of blogging over the years. People generally write about things they are familiar with and while I am familiar with strong women, I won’t say I’m an expert.. on women.. at all..  As a male, to have the gall to say “I understand women” is akin to talking in the men’s room or not looking straight ahead while standing at the urinal. Men just don’t do it. Boys do. Which is why they are still boys.

I was lucky to have been brought up in a family of tough women whom I’ve written about. My oldest and closest friend is one of the strongest women I know. I have previously been married to and dated strong women. Along the way I have figured a few things out which you will find below.  I’m sure I have a lot more to learn.

1) She needs you.

No she doesn’t. Confused? She doesn’t need you. Simple as that. As a male, there is a good chance you’ve been brought up by a father who instilled male pride. That is great. If he also taught you about chivalry, courtesy and protecting your people then he is a saint. But. She still doesn’t *need* you. Women are no longer brought up to serve you. They are brought up to be independent, career oriented and self sufficient. The days of the hunter bringing home the game and the woman toiling in the house day in and day out are all but gone. Certainly some households still operate like this but not because they HAVE to, rather because they DECIDE to and believe me, being a housewife while you are out in the world at your “day-job” is a much harder job then whatever you are doing.

So. She doesn’t need you. You are going to have to deal with that. The mistake many men make here is to *treat* her like she needs you and you can never lose her. Taking advantage of a strong woman and acting as if you can get away with anything and she will put up with it is the fastest way to make her claw her way out of your life (and maybe your face along with it).

She does need you, she just doesn’t need you to tell her what to do or act like she can’t go on without you.

2) Treating her like “One of the Guys”.

Don’t get me wrong, many of the strong women I know like to be “one of the guys” but almost all of them will tell you that it should end when you leave the bar, pool hall, bowling alley, etc. When you and your lady are standing at home in the kitchen. In morning comfy clothes. Making eggs and brushing your teeth at the same time (I’ve seen this. In person), you shouldn’t be elbow nudging her in the ribs about that great hockey game you both watched last night. Yes she was screaming at the goalie louder than you, yes her man card might actually have more notches in it than yours but she is still a woman. No matter how strong a woman is or appears to be she is still the fairer sex and should be treated as such. I’m not saying coddle her, I’m definitely not, but putting your arm around her or stroking her hair instead of the elbow to rib nudge is a good start. Even if she is a bigger hockey fan then you.

Many men make the mistake here of thinking that her “one of the guys” personality is her all the time personality. This can especially happen when you’ve met for the first time in a public setting dominated by men such as sporting events, etc. Take time to get to know all sides of her and find things you adore about all of them.

3) Control Issues

Being in a relationship with a strong women is beneficial to the man who knows how to communicate and compromise. If you were brought up in a house where dad told mom what to do all the time, you probably do not appreciate strong women the way someone (like me), who grew up raised by a hard working single mom does. Strong, independent women don’t want to be told what to do. They want a partner, someone who compliments their strength with his own strength. Men who seek out women with weak constitutions usually do this due to insecurity within themselves. You’ll hear many men say “I love a strong independent woman” but then get into a relationship with one and two weeks later tell his buddies “She was too head strong” or “She was stubborn”. No. She was strong and independent and you couldn’t handle it. Simple as that. We all have insecurities but the difference is who controls the insecurities and who is controlled by them. A man whose insecurities control him will enter into a relationship with a strong woman and either be controlled by her or end up resenting her strength. A man in control of his insecurities will enter into a relationship with a strong woman and admire her courage, adore her strength and seek to build her up as she seeks to build him up.

4) The Gold Rush

I often hear “Men don’t want Gold Diggers”. Neither do women. Especially strong women. If she is out there building her career or making ends meet while you stay at home because you “can’t find a job” – eating Doritos and playing Call of Duty all day, she is going to kick you to the curb. Quickly.  A strong woman still wants a strong man who *can* take care of her, but doesn’t *need* to take care of her. Women find men who are “taking care of business” very sexy.

I have a close friend who years ago jokingly said “Nothing turns me on more than a man doing laundry”. That is a strong women who see’s a man taking care of his business. The opposite of lazy. The opposite of Doritos and Call of Duty.

5) Mr. Tough Guy

That crap you pull in the club to attract those little insecure minions? That won’t work with a strong woman. She is attracted to your strength, yes, but also to many other qualities. If you walk around all day like a peacock, it’s going to get old real fast. Strong women are still women and women have this thing called compassion that is built in. Men have it too, of course, but women are natural nurturers. There are going to be days when she comes home and just wants to curl up next to you. If you are too busy strutting around like Johnny Bravo, she’s going to find someone else who gets her softer side. On the contrary, she also wants to nurture. If you refuse to let her, say when you are not feeling well, you are taking away a natural joy that is built into her.

Hard to Handle

I’ve had many strong female friends say things like “So-and-so says I’m too independent”. Ironically one of those friends said this to me only a few minutes ago (which reminded me I hadn’t finished this draft yet!).

So, are strong, independent women “Hard to Handle”? That depends on the perspective. Instead of that phrase I tend toward “intriguing to know” or “always-keep-you-guessing personality” or even “an ever challenging intellect”. For an insecure man who is needy or wants to control the woman he is with, “hard to handle” might be the term that first comes to mind. In his case, he needs to decide if he his just not cut out to date a strong woman or address his personal insecurities and “be good for himself” before he can be good for another person.

Back that… Pic up?

brokenhddPass the Pepto

I remember the sick feeling I had. I remember nearly vomiting from the anxiety that followed the “click, click, click”. I was twenty-seven years old and as an IT guy with a Photography habit, I was very familiar with the hallmark noise a hard drive makes when it has spun it’s last bit, byte or gig of data. This time however, the data in question was twenty-five hundred pictures from a wedding I had shot three weeks prior. My knee-jerk reaction was that I had lost everything from a very important day in someone’s life for which I was responsible  (and paid to) memorialize. When my heart dipped below 160 bpm, I realized there was a good chance all the data was still on the card’s I’d shot with.

I had only been accepting money for my photography for a short time before this incident. Although I had been shooting for many years and even selling my print work to various area restaurants, hotels and coffee shops, it had always been on my terms. If I lost something, I lost it. I had also only recently transitioned from film to digital. My career in IT left me no excuse for not backing up my data and going forward that is exactly what I did. I have over 700 shoots backed up these days in three different locations including an “offsite” backup location (more on that below).

Whether you are technically savvy or not, there are some very easy ways to make sure you never have to experience the pit-of-your-stomach-loathing that is losing someone’s work. Even if you are not a professional photographer or a photographer at all, backing up what is important to you should be… Important to you.

Local Backup

The phrase “Local Backup” is a fancy term for keeping a copy of your data in the same place where it actually lives, in the case of my photography, it lives in my studio. This can be as in depth as a RAID based NAS file-server like I use (If you aren’t technical, that is gibberish) or simply another hard drive with an exact replica  of your primary photography work drive. There are also many programs out there which allow easy backups of directories on a schedule so you never have to worry about whether you remembered to back up.  OSX (Apple’s Operating System) includes “Time Machine” which is invaluable to the non-computer-geek photographer. Other applications also mimic this functionality and a quick search on Google for “Backup Utilities” will generate hundreds of websites that provide software for local backup scenarios on both Windows and OSX. If you are a photographer who uses Lightroom (and why wouldn’t you), during import you can simply check a box to “Make a Second Copy” to a location, that being your second hard drive.  Should your primary drive fail, you now have your backup to copy all of your work from once you restore your primary, buy a new computer, etc.

Remote Backup

Remote backups refer to backups that do not live where your primary data lives. This means if your computer is stolen or an earthquake swallows your home where your local and primary backup are, your data is still safe. There are many ways to do this including an example of a photographer I know who keeps a second backup drive in a safe deposit box and updates it once a week. That is a bit extreme and there are easier examples. Data storage is cheap these days and there are several companies that offer remote backups for less than $10 a month. CrashPlan and Backblaze are two. I use the former. You simply install a client, tell it what directories you want to back up and it begins it’s initial backup. As things change on your drive, it uploads them. Simple and a cheap piece of mind.

Women who Call Men — “Boys”

boysslap punch in the face

Ever since I got punched in the face in 7th grade for calling a classmate “boy”, I’ve cringed every time I’ve heard the term. The “boy” in question was indeed a boy, but the term and the way I said it was derogatory; something I had no idea about at that age. Today, I hear the term used widely by adult women to describe the person they are dating and I have to wonder; “If he is a “boy”, why are you still dating him?”. As a man, I prefer to be known as a man and let my actions show I am a man. If the person I am dating should call me a “boy”, I’d have to ask myself what I’m doing to earn this derogatory name.

Panel of “experts“?

I spent part of the holidays sending out emails to a few people I’ve known a long while in the blogging community asking them about this topic. The guys all came back with the same reasoning I have and will explain. The women were divided, most came back explaining that while they understood the derogatory sense of the word, they thought most women who use the term were probably doing it because it sounded cute. A few even shared my belief that songwriters such as Taylor Swift and Beyonce have ushered this trend by utilizing “boy” in a cute way to refer men in song lyrics.  I understand this, and that is probably correct, but what about the guy? If he doesn’t like it, will he stand up and say something about it? The response I got from these same people was a unanimous “Depends”. Not too helpful until I pressed further at which point most came back with “Well, if it is something that bothers them initially, they probably won’t say anything because they don’t want to start an argument over something they can blow off especially in a budding relationship where he is completely enamored”. Later however, when the relationship settles, they may say something if it bothers them. Makes sense but why do it in the first place?

The women in my little panel came back with the same opinion I have on the matter; “Women who call men “boys” typically have control issues  and believe they “own” the man. Calling them a “boy” is their way of slapping his nose and keeping control”. Now. If you are reading this and saying “I CALL HIM A BOY CUZ IT’S CUTE OMG” don’t fret, you might be doing it because it is cute… Or… You might subconsciously have control issues and feel like you need to control the man you are with. Perfectly fine if he is a good puppy and likes being lead around.

Common Traits

One commonality I’ve found on my own is that the women I know who use “boy” in this regard are often strong women… with huge insecurities in the relationship department. It was an interesting enough trait to warrant more research. I asked two women I know who fancy the term and both, who I’ve known long enough to be direct with and get direct responses from were very candid. Both readily admitted they had thought about it in the past and come to the conclusion that it was probably a control word. Both also replied that they had some very rough past relationships and the outcome was as long as they felt in control, things were fine. “Boy” was their subconscious way of feeling in control.

At the end of the day, to most men, who have proven they are indeed men by taking care of their family and friends, helping without reward, fathering and raising children, being half of a successful relationship, etc the term “boy” is a slap in the face.

It doesn’t matter if you are 20 or 60, it doesn’t matter if we laugh about it or act cutesy when a woman calls us “boy”, we do not like it. A boy is not yet a man. When a woman refers to a man as a boy we don’t hear it. What we do hear is “You are not yet a man, you have no experience, you are un-formed, you are without wits, you are useless to me as a woman”. That last one is especially terrifying. Every “man” wants to be a hero to his lady. Boy’s are not heroes. Every “man” wants to be the rock, the protector for his lady. Boys are not rocks and rarely can they protect. I could go on and on but I think you get the idea.

When a man *is* a boy

There are plenty of completely acceptable situations to refer to a full grown man as a boy. I’ve listed some of these below.

  • A boy donates sperm but refuses to take responsibility of raising his child.
  • A boy treats you like he owns you, trashing you to his friends.
  • A boy shows you no respect.
  • A boy only keeps you around because his insecurity makes him
  • A boy is afraid to say “I love you” when the time is right.
  • A boy thinks of his needs first and you needs last.
  • A boy thinks you are a tool for his satisfaction.
  • A boy takes no interest in your dreams and tries to destroy them.
  • A boy looks forward to his game console after work rather than time with you.
  • A boy physically or verbally attacks you.

Does the man you are dating sound like any of these?

No?

Then perhaps you should stop calling him a “boy”. It isn’t cute. It isn’t sweet. It is unflattering and demeaning.

Tips on Ice Driving in Dallas – From a Displaced Yankee

helpAs I was driving on the partially sanded, ice packed bridges to work this morning after what the Dallas Observer is dubbing “Winter Storm Cleon” (Click the link, it’s hilarious.), I was struck by how many locals just don’t know how to handle driving in this crap.

Thus I bring you:

How to drive in Dallas when it’s icing.

  1. Don’t be an asshole – This speaks for itself.
  2. Stay Home – You suck at driving in anything under 60 degrees. Get some Oreos, turn on Netflix and put on your comfy pants.
  3. Don’t ride my ass – It is you, me and some 87 year old great grandfather out here on I-35. There is no need for you to crawl up my tail-pipe. If I have to stop suddenly, which I might do anyway just to piss you off, you’ll slide right into me and I left my nice car at home just so I could let you.
  4.  Learn to Engine Break – If you drive a manual, congratulations, you are a badass. Even if you don’t, you can engine break to slow down on icy bridges if you are tailgating like an ass-hat (see #2). Down shift or in your automatic, click it down into “2” or “1”. Slamming on your breaks on an iced bridge is about as efficient as eating an ice-cream cone in hell.
  5. Don’t stop on a hill (or park on one) – Gravity sucks. Literally. And it’s trying to suck your car down that hill/ Normally that is not a problem but when there is three inches of ice on the road, all you are going to do is spin. Be conscious of where you park. Once you have some momentum going, moving up-hill becomes easier.
  6. Keep your speed consistent – You think you are better than everyone you are passing but every time you come to a bridge, your sphincter clenches up and you slow down. Stop it. You are impeding the natural flow of traffic. Keep a consistent speed and coast (that means letting off the gas, genius) over areas of ice. When you are applying energy to your wheels and hit a patch of ice, you are going to lose control. Coasting allows you to maintain control.

Communication Dynamics in the Online Community

social.media_If you know me or you have kept up with my old relationship blog,  you know I make mention of communication quite often. I believe it is the heart and soul of any relationship from friendship to marriage.  Today, our need for instant gratification through the Internet, cellular phones and other media outlets has in my opinion both stymied and accelerated our use of communication. As with anything else, advancements come with a price and in the age of Facebook, Twitter and Global news outlets pushing feeds to your phone, that price has often been lack of research in favor of pushing information to the masses quickly.

Communication within relationships has not escaped this trend. You do not have to look hard to find someone on your Facebook news-feed complaining about their boyfriend or girlfriend or asking advice for a situation concerning their marriage. In other cases all out arguments are taking place in cyberspace. In my opinion this is no more acceptable than opening up all the windows and doors in your house and having a knock-down-drag-out fight with your spouse. It is not classy and it is a terrible way to seek attention.

What gives?

So what has caused this uptrend in open air arguments on the world’s public websites? I believe at least part of the responsibility goes to the ease in which we are able to access Social Media. Twenty years ago, we were forced to “think about it “. We did not know our significant other was out at the club with his or her friends until someone called us on the wall phone or we found out through the grapevine. When we found they had been lying to us about their whereabouts, we could not just pick up the iPad and immediately splatter Facebook with anger and hate over the deceit. We had time to think about it, time to prepare our argument and in that time we also naturally cooled down which allowed us to think more rationally. Today we simply pick up our smart phone, iDevice, log onto a computer or text a friend instantly. No time to think about our response, no time to rationalize what we will say. In this, we have become children, un-thinking in our words, lashing out with knee-jerk reactions to situations that might otherwise be handled like adults.

Facebook Official

Another area where communication utterly fails is in courting. If you don’t know what “courting” means, you should look it up. When I was nineteen I had a crush on a girl within my group of friends. I didn’t have her phone number, there were no cell phones, text messages, Facebook or Twitter. Instead, I talked to her friends, found out where she worked and asked her out while she was checking out customers at the grocery store. In person. Face to face. We spent time with each other and we talked on the phone; the kind that screwed into a wall or sat on a table with a cord attached. When we had an argument and one of us hung up as teenagers do, I couldn’t text her to apologize, I couldn’t run to Twitter to spew 160 characters of anger. I had to wait until the next day. When we were “going steady” it was official because we decided it was, not because my relationship status changed on Facebook. Social Media, online dating, etc has become the go-to for beginning and ending romances with the unfortunate consequence of pushing courting to the curb.

Growing up Connected

Our teenagers have grown up with the internet and most do not have any concept of life without instant access. This is not necessarily a bad thing but it does change the social dynamic  quite a bit. Our kids no longer have to gather in the library together to study. They do it online. They no longer get together after school to hang out and gossip. All of this happens online and at times with tragic consequences. Bullying has bled out of the hallways and lunchrooms and into the chat room and more importantly, into the private bedrooms and living rooms of the victims. Where once bullying lived in the lunchroom where faculty and friends could witness and thereby stop or offer support, it has now been relegated to the victim’s private computer where parents might go unaware until tragedy strikes. It is absolutely the duty of every parent to understand what their kids are doing online until which time said child is recognized as developed enough to deal with the everyday pressures of the online community. The internet is not a babysitter and should never be used as one.

What can be done?

Our instant everything way of life isn’t going away, so what can we do to adapt? This is where communication must alter. There are extreme measures people have gone to such as swearing off social media. This won’t work for everyone. Open communication is still my favorite reprisal when someone comes to me for relationship advice. I’ve made plenty of mistakes both online and offline and I don’t consider myself an authority on relationships but for whatever reason, my friends are drawn to me with questions of “what to do”. Some of the advice I have given follows.

  • Talk. In person. – Body language and eye contact can never be replaced with text messages and Facebook statuses. The quality of conversation in person is drastically altered when you are making eye contact with someone you have an issue with.
  • Be understanding of a snap reaction. – They called you out online. In front of your friends and theirs. You are mad and your gut reaction is to retaliate. Online. Instead, contact them and ask them to speak to you over the phone or in person. There is absolutely no need to air the dispute in a public forum. Your friends do not need to be put in the awkward position of taking sides. If they refuse requests to talk in private and insist on using social media, perhaps it’s time to consider whether this person is mature enough to be in your life. Delete the status. If it persists, it’s time to block them until they cool down or come to you to discuss.
  • Don’t end relationships online if you can help it. – If it’s time to part ways with a friend or significant other and they are willing to speak with you offline, it is your duty to extend them the respect of communication. No one likes to wonder “why”. There are extenuating circumstances to this of course and you’ll make the judgement on those.
  • Plan “disconnects” – Something that some of my friends do from time to time is get together for dinner and when we sit down we place our phones in a pile in the middle of the table. The first one to pick their phone up gets the check. This can be done in a variety of ways and if you are dealing with social media issues involving your kids it can be something you do at home. You’ll be surprised at the amount of conversation spawned when everyone isn’t nose deep in their phones.
  • Utilize your online time to build offline relationships. – Social media, forums and chat rooms are amazing ways to meet people  and cultivate friendships, dating relationships, etc but they are nothing without face to face interaction. Get your online friends together for a meet and greet and get to know them offline.

There are many ways to positively utilize our online presence. The online community, just like any big city, has it’s beautiful parks and dark alleys. Navigating them in a way that brings the most positive experience to your life is something that only you can do. Trial and error are your friends here and finding your comfort zone between your online life and your offline reality can be tricky but it is achievable.