How I Stopped Annoying Women

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In high school I was in love with a girl who had long, dark, very straight hair, brown eyes, a heart-shaped face, and a demur attitude. (Some will say I was not really in love, which is in some sense true. They will say I was merely infatuated, but the fact is, having experienced both infatuation and real love, I can say with some authority that they feel the same. The main difference, as far as I can tell, is that infatuation makes you insane, but real love is always eminently reasonable. But once again, when you’re in the midst of it, insanity seems oh, so reasonable.) We were in the same grade, so we had some classes together. We also attended some of the same religious meetings. Whenever she was near, I was very aware of her presence, and I schemed to be with her and show her attention without seeming to intend it. Crazy, right? At prayer meetings, I would sit next to her, so I could hold her hand during prayers. My prayers were not exceptionally spiritual, but I did make a number of extravagant promises to God which I have since forgotten. He probably still chuckles over them.

Girls did not flock around me. In fact, they avoided me as if I had cooties. With the advantage of hindsight, I know now that in my teens I was uncommonly ugly and socially awkward. It would be hard to imagine a combination more deadly to incipient romance. I lacked both grace and good looks. I was also naive. All I had going for me was an impressive grasp of calculus—not a trait over which many girls were known to swoon.

After high school I spent a decade with my heart on my sleeve, always ready to be in love with any young woman who was civil to me. If she were more than civil—if she flirted even in the most desultory fashion—I was instantly smitten and made myself intolerable until she utterly spurned my affections. This happened more than once. Possibly more than 5 times. It is still painfully embarrassing to contemplate.

As I grew older, despite remaining absurdly naive, my physiognomy changed. I became more or less average-looking and acquired enough social grace to pass for an ordinary guy. By the time I met the woman who is now my wife, I effortlessly and unwittingly impressed her with my erudition and aplomb. But she was different, too, from the kind of woman who usually attracted me. She was not demur. She was vivacious. She acted as if life were a present she was just about to unwrap. She had firecracker eyes, and she was infectiously alive. She dragged me out of my woebegone stupor and loved me unflinchingly.

These old bones live to learn her wanton ways:
(I measure time by how a body sways).
Theodore Roethke

Suffice it to say, I stopped annoying all woman and began to annoy just one. (At least, I think I stopped. One can never be entirely sure.) For some reason I have yet to grasp, she considers knowing me a privilege for which a little annoyance is not too steep a price.

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Posted in about me, love, sexism | Leave a comment

Let’s Get the Vote Out in 2018! #80in18

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One effect of complaining is that it diminishes our capacity to find effective solutions to the very problems we complain about. It leaves us “feeling helpless, hopeless, victimized, and bad about ourselves.” This is no good state of mind for taking positive action to change our situation. Yet we love to complain, and social media makes it not only easy but attractive to complain to those who agree with us. We trade complaints for affirmation from our friends that our complaints are justified.

A favorite source of our complaints is our government. We seem to forget that our government answers to us, that we live in a democratic republic where those who make and enforce our laws are our elected representatives. We, the people,—the voters in this republic—have the power to call our representatives to account. We act instead as if we have no power, as if our vote does not matter, as if we are helpless to change the things we don’t like.

During the last midterm election in 2014, about 40% of eligible voters actually took the trouble to cast a ballot. More than half of eligible voters did not think it worth their while to express their opinion about who would represent them in Congress, yet many of those same people complain bitterly about what Congress is doing now. To maintain our republic, we need much more than 40% participation from voters. Ideally, we want 100%, but that may seem unattainable. I propose we shoot for 80% turnout in 2018. I believe this is an attainable goal. If you agree, start using the hashtag #80in18 on Twitter and Facebook in any posts calling for the people to take back the government. We’ve tried letting special interests and corporate lobbyists run things for too long. It’s time for we, the people, to make our voices heard.

  • Vote your mind.
  • Vote your conscience.
  • Vote your values.
  • Vote your self-interest.
  • Vote your party.
  • Vote for the most reasonable candidate.
  • Vote for the most passionate candidate.
  • Vote for the best-looking candidate.
  • Vote against the candidate you don’t like.
  • Vote against sexism.
  • Vote against racism.
  • Vote for the status quo.
  • Vote progressive.
  • Vote so you can complain.
  • Vote according to whatever criteria you deem important.
  • Vote!

Don’t just vote. Encourage others to vote. Whenever one of your friends complains about the government, ask them how they voted. If they say they didn’t vote, refuse to listen to their complaints. Ignore political ads and do your own research. You can find resources about how your representatives have voted and what positions they have taken on issues you care about here, here, and here. In the Internet age, there’s no excuse for voter ignorance.

If you want to make a difference beyond your vote, consider ways you can help. Volunteer to help unregistered citizens register to vote. Research early voting and absentee voting laws in your state and work to change them or help others navigate the system to make sure their vote counts. Offer rides to the polls on election day. Join a political party or an issue-oriented political action committee. Write and call your representatives about the issues you care about, especially before important votes are scheduled. Write letters to the editors of your local newspapers.

Don’t complain; do something. Make a difference. Vote!

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Posted in politics, voting | Leave a comment

Good Question

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My daughter-in-law brought homemade cinnamon rolls to our Thanksgiving Day celebration. Our family decided to get together all day, so we started with breakfast. She asked me what I thought of her cinnamon rolls even though everyone else had already raved about them.

“I don’t know if they’re really good,” she said, “or if everyone is just saying they are to spare my feelings because I’m pregnant.”

So she asked me.

I have a reputation in my family for speaking my mind without regard for people’s feelings. I have this reputation for two reasons:

  1. I have a high regard for the people I love and their ability to accept my opinions.
  2. I am an insensitive asshole.*

I tried her cinnamon rolls. While I was eating one, it occurred to me that if anyone spared her feelings, it was because they love her. I asked her, “Would you rather experience some doubt about yourself knowing that your friends and family love you, or would you rather be certain but know that they do not?”

She thought about it for a minute. “I don’t know,” she said.

“They’re very good,” I said. Indeed, they were.

*I sometimes shamelessly use the first reason as cover for the second. I’m sorry. I’m only human.

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Posted in about me, family, food, love | Leave a comment