Ask a Grown Man: Vol. XII

25 Oct

I’ve got a TON of questions in ye ole’ Ask A Grown Man queue. So, we’re going to spend a couple of days answering them, changing lives, and kickin’ it Dear Abby style.  Let’s get to work….

Grown Man,

I am recently divorced.  It’s been ten years since I’ve even thought about dating, and I believe the world has changed quite a bit.  What do I do to get myself into the current dating scene?  A related question, what are your thoughts on e-dating sites?

Thank you for your time,
Michael

My Good Man,

Sorry about your divorce.  While you may be happy it ended, nobody ever goes into a marriage expecting it to fail.  I hope this season of your life hasn’t been too rough.  But, judging by your email, I’m guessing you might be emerging from those woods and ready to dip a toe back in the ever-so-treacherous dating waters — well done.  Allow me to shed some light on your questions.

First, a lot and nothing has changed in ten years. For example, in 2000 everybody was paying attention to hanging chads in hella-crazy Florida while at the same time – get ready for it -  women enjoyed being with a man who was polite.  Here’s another one: In 2000, every Gen Y-er was bemoaning the end of Boy Meets World (and Topanga) – also, eye contact and genuine interest in a woman’s life was getting guys second dates.

So 1998You see what I’m saying?  Basically, Michael, being a good man is always en vogue and ten years changes nothing except current events and fashion (no more paisley ties – ever).  However, and more to your questions, where do you meet Michael-worthy women?

Well, people say you should stay away from bars.  But, what I really think they mean is that you should stay away from places that you, on a normal day, would never go to.  For instance,  if you’re 45, don’t go to the bar that the super-trendy college kids frequent.  While it may seem like a good idea to be flirting with freshmen, it’s not the relationship you’re looking for.

In reality, you should be hanging out in places with people like you.  You should find the local Michael-like establishment(s) and set up camp.  Also, you might need to be creative and create hobbies or situations in your life that foster this kind of community.  Not a church-goer?  Maybe it’s time.  Are you a half-way decent baseball player?  Time to sign up for your local softball league. The bottom line is this: find a community, be bold in asking quality women out, pick yourself up when it doesn’t work, and be patient.  Then, like the shampoo bottles say, “Wash, rinse, repeat.”  Keep at it.

Or, there’s option b) on-line dating.  Here are my two cents on online dating.  Five years ago, it was a little odd and something that good, normal, non-super strange folks should have avoided.  However, the fact that on-line dating has become so popular has helped in shifting the balance from 10% Normal/90% Creep-a-zoid to 80% Normal/20% oogie. This change has caused me to rethink the validity of this option and give it my official, “I Don’t Know Man, If You Really Have To” seal of approval. There’s nothing better than meeting a nice lady organically. However, I realize we live in different and increasingly isolated times, and it gets progressively harder as you get further away from your 20’s to go au naturel. So if you must Michael, you’ve got my semi-support.

heHarmony,
GM

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mean what you say.

18 Oct

I’d like to introduce you to a friend of mine, his name is Tompkins (100% fake name use to protect the innocent and ensue hilarity).  Tompkins, like many of my friends mentioned in this blog (cool Randy!) has inspired this post by being a great man whom I respect a ton.  Let me tell you about Tompkins…

The great Publix Sub

With this I am well pleased.

He is a brilliant musician.  Man-oh-man, he can create music on an out-of-tune guitar whilst half-in-the-bag that, if I were given 10 years of formal training by Andrés Segovia and 6 months off to write, still puts my G-C-D progressions to shame.  In addition to being a musical phenom, he’s got a razor-sharp sense of humor, a gigantic knowledge of fishing, and the ability to make a sub that will – literally – make you cry the kind of tears usually reserved for new mothers or Butterfly Kisses.  In short, Tompkins is a great dude.

But you know what’s most impressive about Tompkins?  Well, probably the sub thing.  But you know what else is blog-inspiring about him?  The fact that he is well-known for meaning what he says.  For instance, if Tompkins says, “Yeah, I’ll be there” – he’s there.  If he knows he can’t fulfill your request, he says no.  In short, his yes is a yes and his no is a no.

A man’s ability to be able to say something and be fully trusted is paramount. And one of the ways we earn that trust is through the normal, day-to-day, interactions with people.  For instance, if a buddy calls and says, “Hey, wanna get the families together this weekend?” and you say, “Yeah, that might be nice” (knowing full well that Saturday is already booked and that you’re going to call him on Friday and give the brush off), what is that saying?  Well, it’s saying that a) you’re now, officially, an adult who does things like “get the families together” and b) your “yeah” can’t really be taken seriously.  What if, in that same situation, you replied, “You know, we’d like to (a little lie is okay), but we just can’t.”   While saying no may be initially disappointing to your house-arrested friend and unpleasant for you to express, in the long run, that no will speak louder than a retracted yes.

Grown Men, it’s not always easy to say what’s true.  In fact, it’s typically easier to give someone a soft answer or, if we’re being really honest with each other, flat-out lie when you have to say something that may be perceived by them as unpleasant.  All of us, to some degree, want to avoid conflict and maximize pleasure in our own lives and the lives of those we interact with.  In the Dr. Phil arena, it’s called being a “people pleaser”.  In reality though, a great lie we tell ourselves is that we please people more if we placate them in the short-run instead of being upfront and honest.  It’s just not true.

In your life, you’re going to want people to trust you and, not for a second, hesitate when you give a response.  Because really, and here’s the secret, if you can be trusted with little things like “Yes, I’ll pick you up from the airport”, you’ll earn the respect, privilege, and honor of being believed when you say big things like “I’d like to work for you” and “I do.”

If you say yes to something — follow through.  Do what you said you’d do.  Be where you said you’d be.  And affirm that you are someone that can be counted on.  If you’ve got to say no, say it and don’t look back.  At the end of the day, a man of his word is valued more than a man of pleasantries.  No?  Yes.

Take it from the sub-machine, Tompkins…

You’re a Grown Man, mean what you say.

quit going to semi-strip clubs.

8 Oct

I’m disgusted that I have to write this article. For real, I can’t believe that seemingly regular guys who aren’t ridiculous enough to go to strip clubs (it’s never okay) have no problem frequenting semi-strip clubs.

Um, Grown Man, semi-strip clubs?  You made that up didn’t you?  I mean, c’mon.

Oh heck yeah I made it up, and you know why?  Because restaurants, bars, car washes, and anywhere else where employees are almost naked and survive on your tips for their perceived – again, perceived – flirting are employing the same business model as a strip club.  Let me say that again more simply: If a woman is almost naked in your vicinity, you’re no longer interested in chicken wings.

Grown Man, tell me you’re not talking about [no lawsuits for me] — I love that place!  Straight up, bro, for real, it’s just you and me now — I go for the food.

No, you don’t! And here’s how I know you don’t go for the food.  Men are visual creatures.  The entry point to our hearts, minds, sexuality, and yes, stomachs, is our eyes.  When we’re little guys, everyone thinks we have ADD (which in some cases may be true.)  But the reason all little fellas are ADD-ish is because they’ve yet to reign in their eyes. So everything they see, every new picture on a TV and every shiny object that flashes in the distance, is some new bit of stimulus for their brains to process.  When we’re big kids, we know how to control and maintain some level of attention, but we still see everything: every painted-on pair of orange shorts, every flirty look, and every giggle that is designed to raise the tip to 25%. By design, every second of your semi-strip club experience should engage your eyes, then your brain, and then your wallet.

If you think you go to these places for the food, you’re lying to yourself.  Because the truth is, if an almost naked woman served you a steaming plate of elephant crap, your eyes would change that plate into a Martha Stewart display of chocolate chip cookies made with Jesus magic and unicorn hair. Maybe the food is good – maybe it’s not. Either way, unless you’re a eunuch, you have no way of discerning that.

But we haven’t really hit the main point yet, have we?  Because up until this time, it’s all been about the establishment and how it’s designed to fool you, which I hope you believe.  But at the end of the day, part of the price we pay for living in a wonderfully free society is that even a sleazy business can exist if it’s able to.

The real issue here is that it’s denigrating. To women? Yes, but that’s common knowledge and über obvious. So who else might it belittle, disparage, and generally just cheapen? You, Grown Man, you.

Oh god, you’re about to go deep, aren’t you?  I’ve read enough of these to know that you like to round third with some Montel Williams action.

Gentlemen, you’ve been designed well.  Your propensity for seeing a woman and recognizing that she’s lovely is part of who you are and shouldn’t be viewed as a bad thing.  When you’re single, you should harness that part of you just enough to notice that there’s something worth summoning up the courage, putting on your big-boy pants, and asking her out on a date. When you’re in a relationship, use your eyes to grow closer, to be more committed, and to appreciate her, and only her.  You’re not ADD, you’re hard wired to be a visual animal.  Honestly, it’s a good thing.

What’s not a good thing is that your eyes (and all they lead to) are being fooled by semi-strip clubs.  Because you, me, all of us, are just dumb enough to think that maybe, just maybe, the giggle was real, the flirting was genuine, and that she’s super stoked about bringing you – wow, YOU – extra blue cheese.  Guess what, she’s not – no more than you care about the spreadsheet you created 2 days ago at work. She’s not remembering the dude who was super nice 2 hours ago. She’s working, and you’re doing a disservice to yourself by thinking otherwise.

In closing, let me say this: good chicken wings are a staple of any man’s diet.  If you’re mourning the loss of your favorite place because I’ve guilted you into submission, here’s what you need to do: find a local, Italian owned, pizza place that sells wings.  I can assure you, wings from a Mario Brother will put Hoo[no lawsuit]rs to shame.

You’re a Grown Man, quit going to semi-strip clubs.

slow down.

7 Oct

It’s been a while, hasn’t it?  Nice to see you again.

I just got back from Greece and I must say that:

-Greek food is of the gods and should be mandatory consumption for all planet Earth.

-Sailing in the Aegean Sea makes even the doughiest and landlocked Grown Men (I might be talking about me) feel like a trident-wielding Poseidon.


self-portrait

-Exploring new places is good for the soul unless you get lost — in which case, Greece doesn’t participate in the popular “street sign” method of navigation. You end up walking forever to get to a place that was one block from where you started.

-Greek people are tremendous.  Well, not the one Greek guy who wouldn’t let us take a picture of him grilling an entire freaking octopus, but everyone but that dude is awesome.

-There’s nothing better than an uninterrupted week with Mrs. Grown Man (my wife).

Anyhow, it’s good to be back in the intensely jet lagged saddle and getting the opportunity to share with you something else that stood out to me whilst gallivanting around Greece — we move really freaking fast in America.

I first noticed my own Gonzales-ness when we sat down for our first Grecian meal.  In Greece, the waiter wanders over at some point, asks if you’d like water, disappears for a bit, comes back with the water, leaves again, asks if you have menu questions, leaves, takes an appetizer order, leaves, brings bread, asks if you’ve decided, leaves… you get it, it’s slow.  And this phenomenon doesn’t just occur at fancy restaurants where they’re trying to separate tourists from Euros, this is the norm.  They just take at least an hour to eat meals, even during the work day.

The second time I noticed that Americans move too fast, or was rather told quite bluntly that we’re on cultural caffeine, was by a local man named Simon who struck up a conversation with me.  By the way, Greek men actually talk to each other and converse quite freely with strangers.  Anyhow, Simon and I were doing the typical vacation chit-chat where I tell him where we’ve been so far and he asks me questions about American life (“No, most of us only know English — and poorly at that.”  “Yes, we have to pay taxes.”  “No, we don’t generally live close to our families.” “Yes, many people work 7 days a week in New York City.”)  Anyhow, he shared with me that his son had recently visited America and was shocked by the pace of our people.  To quote Simon (he’s speaking wonderful English by the way): “My son says you work all the time, talk on the phone all the time, and are always go go go.”  To Simon I replied (in average English), “Yep, that’s us.”

Grown Men, the Greeks have given the world a lot of great advancements over the years — philosophy, art, architecture, and the crossbow. Now they’ve given us, by way of Simon and yours truly, some important advice — we’ve got to slow down. 

Get ready for an old guy statement, here we go… everything we do nowadays is fast.  We multitask, we “grab a quick bite,” we value working 10+ hours at a breakneck pace, and we generally find every possible way to speed up our world.  I know you’re busy, aren’t you?  Yet don’t you feel like the more gadgets you acquire to save time and the more activities you squeeze into the iCal white spaces, the less actual time you have and the less you get done?  In the words of Kenan Thompson, “What’s up with that!?”  Here’s what’s up: going faster and doing more has diminishing returns on living a life of quality and purpose.

So what do we do? First, we acknowledge the fact that we do live in a fast freaking culture and, though two-hour siestas and evening strolls on the cliffs of Santorini would be ideal, we just don’t live in a society that always allows it.  Second, because we acknowledge that there are demands on our time that are extreme, we must force margins into our life.  Finally, we must guard those margins with all our might.

For example, let’s go back to the Greek (and I’m guessing rest of the world) tradition of taking longer meals: Every time MGM and I were served food, we would take a bite, make those weird mmmmm-ing noises, drink a spot of wine, and intentionally put down our forks.  By habit and culture, we were going to plow through the meal and easily move on to the next activity.  But, because we were doing everything we could to savor the time (and the tzatziki), we made ourselves put just the smallest margin of time around the simple, everyday activity of eating.  What if you started to do the same?  What if power lunches were replaced with just regular old lunches?  What if the morning cup of coffee wasn’t spent in front of CNN, with a newspaper, with the laptop, but rather on the back porch just injecting 20 minutes of silence into the day?  What if those small margins of time were placed strategically throughout every day?  What if I stopped asking questions?

A few weeks ago, I sold my iPhone and got a free, boring one.  Today, I sat with old and new friends for a one hour relaxing lunch.  Tomorrow, I’m going to put away the laptop, go out in the refreshing fall air, and start building a picnic table.  My encouragement to you is to do whatever needs to be done to slow down, create some pockets of free time, and enjoy life.  At the end of the day, it’s not what you’ve done or how much you’ve made, it’s how well you invested in the lives of others and used the time you’ve been given.

You’re a Grown Man, slow down.

Greece is the word

27 Sep
Bringing back the .gif

Bringing back the .gif

Well, my loyal readers and friends, I’m off on a vacation to Greece with my BFF, Mrs. Grown Man.  And, while I thought it might be a great idea to pre-post a bunch before I left and trick you all into thinking I was really here, I decided against it.  For real, because I love the day-to-day comment interaction and Twitter conversations that happen as a result of the good/bad advice I give, I just didn’t want to un-box Grown Man Robot and bring him to life.  Thank you all for being such kind readers.

In the man time, here are a few sites that I really enjoy that, as a whole, may equal the wisdom and humor of yours truly.

About men…

1,001 Rules For My Unborn Son - This guy has an uncanny ability to tap into the deepest thoughts of the male psyche and make us laugh and cry.  Often, he can say in a sentence what takes me 900 words or more — sorry about the “get out of debt” series!

The Art of Manliness - A great site with a number of helpful articles.  Also, they’re one of the few dude sites around that doesn’t use women to get you to read – bravo!

About music…

Play List Play - One awesome song, every day, with a nice dash of writing.  It’s, by far, my favorite way to start a work day.  Well that and coffee, gallons and gallons of delicious coffee.

About writing…

Letters of Note - A brilliant blog that posts letters from famous or influential people.  It’s really a fascinating look at what makes great (and not so great) thinkers think.

So, I’ll see you on Thursday, October 7th, and really look forward to continuing our dialogue about what makes good guys, Grown Men!

get out of debt (part 2).

23 Sep

In case you didn’t read You’re a Grown Man, get out of debt (part 1). Here’s a quick recap — 1960’s Batman TV Show style:

Last time, on Grown Man

We learned that Grandpas are awesome (WOW!!!)

We found out that evil Dr. Debt is probably in YOUR HOME (ZOK!!!)

But just in the nick of time, Grown Man swooped in (WHAMM!!!) to save the day and let you know that your life is worth more than just money and possessions! (OOOOF!!!)

Then, just as you were about to stop reading, Robin came to the rescue and yelled, “What are you worth, and how can you find contentment in that?  It’s a hard question but one that’s really at the heart of our crazy spending!” (OPRAH-ED!!!)

Robin always was kind of a buzz kill.  Anyhow, let’s continue on with the reasons why you should get out of debt (KAPOW!!!) Okay, I promise I’m done with those now.  Here we go…

2- Debt destroys relationships. Even great relationships have an impossibly hard time navigating the waters of financial stress.  Research — real research, not like some junky middle school science fair project — has shown that couples are more likely to survive gigantic problems with children, in-laws, or sex than they are with financial issues. Yes, it’s that big of a deal and it a-bombs good couples every day.  If you love that girl, balance the budget.

Me an Ole' Betsy?

3- Men need to dream. They need to be able to entertain thoughts like, “Maybe I’d like to move out west when I retire and open a dairy farm” (and yes, this is a real one I had last week.)  Why do I want to be a dairy farmer when I’m lactose intolerant?  Hell of a question. In any event, being debt free gives us the freedom to entertain crazy thoughts like that or less bovine dreams like, “Maybe I’ll buy my friend dinner tonight” or “What if I gave away some money to good causes?”  We need freedom, it’s in our DNA.  And being shackled by debt locks us into a life that’s void of new horizons.

4- Trust is earned. My grandfather (a.k.a. The Great One) trusted the mailman. Because every time the mailman took five minutes out of his Friday to pay the tab, he was clearing his debt, clearing his name, and looking The Great One in the eye and saying (without saying anything), “What you give to me, I will take care of — even if it’s just a sandwich and nickel Coke.”

And that, Grown Men, is why people trust you.  Because you own what’s yours and take care of what’s others.  If you are in debt, you’ve let the world (and more importantly, yourself) know that you’ll take others’ money and not give it back.  Yes, I know you’re usually borrowing from “the man” who “has plenty of money, so why do I have to pay them back!?”  Because you said you would, and at the end of the day, your word is the only true currency you’ve got.

But Grown Man, I’m in debt for school!  Are you saying that’s wrong? Also, why didn’t you tell me that a degree in LaserDisc Repair wasn’t a good idea?

Let’s talk briefly about the terms “good” and “bad” debt.  Good debt typically refers to a house or an education where there’s a possible, if not likely, positive return on investment.  Conversely, bad debt covers everything else that rarely returns equal or positive numbers.  These bad debts are things like cars, credit cards, and that $200 eBay vintage Glowworm.  None of these things, except maybe the Glowworm, will end up yielding you a profit and are widely understood to be dumb ideas.  However, I want to flip-it-and-reverse it on you…

There is no such thing as good debt.

Oh my, how shocking!  Yes, I’m telling you that you should try desperately to pay off your house as soon as possible and not have school loans.  Yes, I’m saying what you think I’m saying — no debt means no debt. Zero.

Now listen, I’m a reasonable man. I know people can’t usually plop down multiple thousands of dollars for these things. But, I am saying that you should do everything in your power to turn your 30-year mortgage into a 15-year one.  And, if that’s not possible, consider if you’ve got the buying power to be in your home in the first place.  If not, turn your dreams of living some other person’s life into realities of living the life you have. Get a house you can pay for – quickly – and stop leaning on the bank to prop you up for 30 years.

As far as school loans go, do everything in your ability to pay your way through school.  Even if you have to wait a year, live like a pauper, and save a ton for tuition — do it.  It’s only in recent history that school loans became the norm.  It was never common for most people, including the generation before us, to take out money for education. And, because they didn’t, they weren’t handcuffed to interest rates and creditors during the second chorus of Pomp and Circumstance.  You, however, will be.  And trust me on this one, you don’t want that pressure right out of school.

Having said all of this, please know that you can still be a Grown Man and have debt.  In full disclosure, I have a mortgage.  However, you can’t be resigned to it being okay, as you were never designed to live a life playing servant to the lender.  You were meant to do great things, to use your mind, to keep your word, and to own your own life.

Here are a few ways you can start reclaiming your world and get out of debt (none of these suggestions are affiliated with Grown Man or have any clue I exist):

1- Listen, read, ingest, and do everything Dave Ramsey says.  He’s intense and brilliant with money management.  You need him.

2- Start using Mint.com.  It won’t make you not crazy with money, but it’ll show you how crazy you are.

3- Find your friend who is out of debt and trade his/her advice for beer (that you buy with cash!)

4- Talk to The Great One, he’ll straighten you out — and give you a Werther’s Original.

You’re a Grown Man, get out of debt.

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