Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Chili's Manly Meme

Chili posted the answers to Tense Teacher’s girly meme on her blog recently. Then, in the interest of equality of the sexes (and because we asked) she created a meme for the men, as well. Here are my answers to the questions she posed.

1. Boxers? Briefs? Boxer briefs? Thongs? Commando?
Number 3 on the list: All the support, and none of the wedgies!

2. What’s your fussiest personal care routine?
I am not gay, but I can sometimes take longer than any guy should to figure out what the hell I’m going to wear on a given day. To be fair, some of it has to do with being colorblind and not being sure what properly matches but, more often, it comes down to how I feel. Do I really feel like I want to wear this shirt? Which jeans would feel right today? Do I feel like this faded blue ball cap or that one? Clothing is just a matter of comfort before style for me.

3. Do you have a favorite tool? Power or manual?
In the manual tools category, my Swiss Army knife wins, hands down. Among power tools, I would bestow the award to my drills (I have two, one corded, one not). They’re versatile enough to do a whole lot of the kinds of things I need a tool to do, and they’ve been around for a long time.

4. Can you change your own oil? Do you?
I can change my own oil but, because of time constraints and the cost and inconvenience of disposal, I take my car to the most dependable mechanic in the world, who charges me what it’s worth and treats the car like it’s his own (which it was, in a sense, because I bought it from him).

5. What’s the “manliest” thing you do on a regular basis?
When I’m at home, I belch and blame it on the cat. How lame is that?

6. What’s something “manly” that you never learned how to do?
I have never learned to whistle through my fingers. I’d love to learn because, although my voice carries well, whistling is way better to do at a soccer game. Can anyone show me how?

7. Do you ever cry? If so, what’s your trigger?
You know, I really don’t. I can’t remember the last time I got teary-eyed about anything. It’s not that I don’t feel emotional about things: I can remember being full of emotion over the births of my daughters, I remember feeling truly affected after finishing my 400-mile ride to Lock Haven last summer. I distinctly recall a profound sense of poignancy after watching the movie Cast Away. There are things that really touch me, just nothing that makes me actually cry.

8. Do you have a chivalrous streak? How does it manifest itself?
I very much value many of the qualities idealized by knighthood: Bravery, courtesy, honor, and gallantry toward women. I do a lot to model these in my life. I will zealously advocate for those who can’t or don’t know how to do so for themselves. I work hard to be respectful in my dealings with others, even if they are people I would rather not spend time with. I hope that most women who know me would say I am attentive to their way of being and doing (even if I must readily admit I do not understand it at times). It is important to me that I model the idea of chivalry, but I would defer to others to say whether I truly demonstrate it. I hope so.

9. Do you have a chauvinistic streak? How does it manifest itself?
No, but I can certainly pretend I do! Truly, I don’t think there is a “better” sex, but I am not ashamed of the fact that I am a man and I am proud of the things I can do that distinguish me as such. I love that I can open jars by focusing my chi and that I can fix just damn near anything with a Swiss Army knife! I can protect my family aggressively (with that same knife, if need be). I certainly don’t feel like I’m better equipped to do many things than my wife is (modern life has done a good job of leveling the playing field), but I don’t also mind saying that I like that grilling, mowing and snowblowing are my gigs. They reinforce in me those deeply rooted feelings of masculinity that make me feel like I’m special for being a guy.

There are some things that I do that may appear chauvinist, but which are truly not. For instance, whenever we travel as a family, I really like to drive. I don’t do it because it’s manly, but because it keeps me from getting carsick.

10. What’s your favorite movie?
I have more than one, but the one that comes into my brain first is Running Scared, with Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines. Comedy, drama and a whole book of good movie quotes!

11. What’s the dumbest, testosterone-inspired thing you’ve ever done?
I used to own a sign company, and Bubba and I used to go out to install signage on building exteriors using a 24’ extension ladder on top of a U-Haul moving van (to get that extra 10’ of height). We had no safety equipment, but we would still hang waaaaay out over the edge of the ladder to drill pilot holes well out of arm’s reach. We did this on a regular basis because, well, it made sense. We’re guys, after all! We could do that!

12. What quality do you think makes a good man good? Do you have that quality?
There’s not a single answer to that question. I think it depends greatly upon the context in which a man finds himself. In my world, I think the most important of the essential qualities is a sense of responsibility. A good man here should be able to see what needs to get done and take care of it. Not just the guy stuff. Anything. It has taken me a while as an adult to understand what that means, but I’m getting better at demonstrating it every day.

13. Toilet seat up or down?
I have long held the opinion that what is good for the goose is good for the gander, so to speak. If women get to leave the seat however it is when they’re done (which means men have to look), we should get to leave the seat up (which means EVERYONE has to look). Having said that, I have come to learn that, for good energy flow in the house, the seat and the lid should be down all the time, whenever the toilet is not in use. I do this pretty regularly; the women in my world do not.

14. If your wife/partner/significant other is away, do you cook for yourself or eat out of cans and boxes (or rely on local drive-throughs and delivery)?
All of the above, depending on why I’m alone. If, as was the case in grad school, I’m alone to work, I’ll focus on working and not worry about cooking. If I’m free to relax, I’ll often cook because I very much enjoy it. For me, time in the kitchen is relaxing time.

15. What societal expectation of being a man do you most resent?
I hate the fact that, as a man, I am automatically distrusted for working to have quality, supportive and nurturing relationships with (particularly female) students. Society believes that men are not capable of entering into relationships like that and, when they do so from positions of power or authority, are looked upon with derision and suspicion. Bullshit! I’m here to tell you *I* am capable, and I resent the implication that it is not appropriate to do so *for me*. People need to understand that, while I recognize there are men out there who would abuse their position (and their students), *I* am not one of them. I take the safety and emotional comfort of my students very seriously and, if they are feeling unsafe or uncomfortable around me, I will do whatever is necessary to make things better. I have a great deal to offer as a male role model to my students. They deserve to know that it is at least possible for a man to be trustworthy and upstanding in his relationships (particularly with teenage girls).

16. What’s the best part - societal-wise - about being a man?
As a man, I get to enjoy women and femininity without having to live all the complexity that is the female existence. Also, the ability to piss pretty much wherever is a real advantage. There are no lines when guys need to piss!

17. Will you stop to ask for directions?
If I need to, sure. I do a pretty good job about being prepared before I step out the door, though.

18. What’s the one thing you wish your wife/partner/significant other understood about how you think or behave?
I can do ONE thing at a time. I can think about ONE thing at a time. I can be ONE thing at a time. I have a very difficult time doing more than that and, once that one thing has begun, I need to see it through. If it makes me late or requires that things change to work around the ONE thing, I’m ok with that. Time is a consideration in the planning of what things get done in what order, but not in the actual doing part. Doing the thing and paying attention to the clock are TWO things.

19. What’s one thing about your wife/partner/significant other that you just cannot understand, no matter how hard you try?
My wife flits and floats between distractions and interests like a butterfly in a field of violets. When we travel anywhere, she has to load up the passenger seat with enough stuff to keep her entertained which, for even a short trip, can fill up the seat and spill over onto the driver’s side. At minimum, she brings books, knitting and a crossword (the last of which, at least, I can participate in). She also brings notebooks into which she writes her myriad lists of thoughts, calendar events, favorite songs, things to do for next Christmas and childrens’ costume ideas for Halloweens until they’re 14. To have that much going on at any one time just makes my head hurt.

20. What do you need to have in the shower?
Soap and/or Johnson’s Baby Shampoo, water. The rest is icing.

21. Do you burp/fart/scratch in public? Do you do anything stereotypically male?
Yes, but discreetly/Yes, but discreetly (who doesn’t?)/Not consciously. Other stereotypical male behavior, which is not observable all the time (or maybe it is, I don’t know), includes thoughts about sex every 7 seconds (the stereotypical male average). Although it’s not along the same vein, I also watch sports on television a lot.

22. How big a part does porn play in your life? Your thoughts?
Out of respect to a number of people who read this blog, I will discuss the topic of porn only generally. I think that pornography has a place in the world. I think that, properly approached, it need not be a threat to the formation and cultivation of quality adult relationships, though it often gets vilified that way. Quite to the contrary, there is some value in it in marriages, where it can go a long way toward allowing asynchronous sexual appetites to harmonize in the middle of hectic or inconvenient individual schedules (this is a common source of marital tension). If it’s used as a substitute for building those relationships, it’s destructive (but there are a great many otherwise benign things that would fit into that same category, as well). Also, and I may get crucified here, it’s a good teaching tool for learning about sexual techniques. You may not use the freaky positions you see in videos, but you’ll at least discover that more is possible than what you knew before. Sex is, after all, about exploration and discovery--both individual and mutual.

23. What scares you?
People who are cunning, but who use the skill to hurt others, frighten and unnerve me because I am not able to anticipate or understand their behavior. On a less psychological and more mundane theme, I hate being surprised by animals in the dark (stepping on roaches or spiders, seeing raccoons or cats bolting out from under the car, etc.)

24. What’s your best feature (physical or otherwise)?
Physically, Wifeness likes my shoulders, but I think for the impartial crowd, it might be my legs. As for the otherwise, I like to think I have a good way with storytelling, and that I entertain well the women in my life. I don’t know why that last thing is important to me, but it is.

25. What would you do for love?
This last one is a hard question for me to answer in the conditional. I can say that I have certainly done some strangely contradictory things in the past: I’ve given up the life of a traveler, but moved to the other side of the country; given, and refused, casual sex; shaved parts of my body, and let hair grow out; gained and lost weight; let my closest friends give me advice, and reject their opinions. Love is nothing, if not complicated!

Thanks, Chili! This was fun!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Skip steps 1 - 11, and start with the comfort food...

EDITOR'S NOTE: We got 8" snow at Wayfarer House on Saturday. Normally I take care of snow removal, but I had taken the girls to Nana’s for several days and wasn't expected to be back in time to clear the snow away in a timely manner. Wifeness, who remained at home to enjoy some alone time, was therefore responsible for clearing it all away.

When I do it with the snowblower, I can do the driveway and parking lot in under two hours (which beats the entire day it will take otherwise), so Wifeness asked for instructions on how to start our archaic, well-used, fitty, cranky, too-small-for-most-of-the-storms-we-get snowblower. She has played with it before, but never had to actually use it to clear out the entire space. Below are the instructions I prepared for her.


Step zero: Drink some caffeine and consume a prophylactic amount of pain reliever. You’re going to need them both.

Step one: Make sure you have good gloves, and wool socks. Your hands will get cold and wet grabbing the cold handle. Your feet will also get cold and wet if the snow is deep at all.

Step two: Bring the gas from the back hall outside and shake it up to mix the oil which, by now, will have settled to the bottom.

Step three: Take out the snowblower and drag it out where you have a fair amount of room to fill the tank and pull the cord.

Step four: Fill the tank, trying not to spill gasoline all over the place (good luck with that).

Step five: Turn the key in the ignition so that it is horizontal. I think it says “start”.

Step six: Prime the motor by putting your thumb over the hole in the big rubber button next to the ignition and slowly pumping it about 5 times.

Step seven: Pull the cord. Actually, it’s not as easy as that. DO NOT GRAB THE CORD AND HAUL ON IT THE FIRST TIME. YOU WILL DISLOCATE YOUR SHOULDER. You need to pull it out as far as it will go, then tug harder on it from that point to see if you can get the cylinder to turn. It will only do it a little bit the first time. Then, let the cord retract and repeat this process the several times that will be necessary to get the cylinder lubricated enough to turn from the instant you pull on the cord (when it is fully retracted). When you think you can really yank on the cord from a fully retracted position, grab it with both hands, put your foot under the nearest wheel to keep the machine from coming with you, and yank. It will take three or four times of full on yanking (and I mean FULL ON), but by then it should start. If it doesn’t, you can keep trying a few more times before the engine floods, but that’s about it. Then, you’ll just have to let it sit. If you actually get it started, proceed to step eight. Otherwise, move straight to step eleven.

Step eight: Blow the snow in the parking area, as best you can, toward the maple tree. I usually start by clearing a line from the house between my car and Buffy’s, then moving the snow on the south side of the drive first. That way, I can move the stuff from the north side that way in two steps if I can’t put it under the hedge.

Step nine: Blow the snow along the driveway in two parts: The part along the house goes under the hedge, as much as possible, and the part that runs from the porch to the road goes across the walkway to the front lawn. You may have to do that in a couple of steps.

Step ten: Deal with the rest, if the snowblower lasts that long and if your arms aren’t too tired. NOTE: If the snowblower should stall because it has choked on snow, you must attempt to start it IMMEDIATELY. Failure to do this will mean that the machine thinks you don’t need it any longer and will simply refuse to start, resulting in an immediate jump to step eleven. Otherwise, proceed to step twelve.

Step eleven: Grab a shovel.

Step twelve: Reward yourself with some comfort food and a warm shower! Good job!

FURTHER EDITOR'S NOTE: Despite several attempts to do so, Wifeness was unable to successfully start the snowblower and was, therefore, required to spend all day shovelling. It was not until we were talking about it afterward that I realized I'd left off a (fairly essential) step:

Step 5b: Pull the choke.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Ummm... Hi.

So, anyone who still checks in with this blog is, I warrant, to be rewarded well for such admirable persistence. You’ve demonstrated dedication to a cause that I, myself, have vacillated upon for a long while. It is not that I have rejected it, for truly, that is not the case. I very much enjoy sharing my (mundane) experiences with people. I find it rewarding not just because the stories are usually entertaining (if sadly lacking in drama), but because to put them into words is a form of creativity that I find relaxing and enriching.

The problem is not desire.

After considering it, I think the reason I find blogging so challenging revolves, at least in part, around the way I tend to do things. I like to spend dedicated time with what I’m doing. I like to be in a particular mood, in a particular place (not necessarily a single place, just the “right” place for the moment) and, most importantly, I like to have time to focus only on what I’m doing. When any of the above are not as they need to be, then I often choose to avoid tasks out of a desire to properly enjoy them.

Those who know me can say that my individual wiring explains the problem. You see, I don’t multitask very well. I do one thing at a time well. I can do more than one thing on occasion, but it often leads to problems because my attention doesn’t truly split, it shifts back and forth. Eventually, it will zig when it should have zagged, I’ll short circuit and, like the juggler who misses the first flaming sword, I’m unable to prevent everything from clattering to the ground.

Since school started this past September, I’ve been chasing my tail and it has been rare that everything has been right for to do creative things of any kind. There are several reasons for this and, in a detached frame of mind, I can say that it is unusual that all these things have happened one-after-the-other as they have this year, but that doesn’t make it any better. It’s still annoying that I haven’t been in a place where I can sit down with time, place and spirit to be creative.

Actually, it recently passed beyond the point of being annoying, and so I decided to examine how I might adjust life to solve the problem, so I can be a blogger again. Here’s what I came to:

There’s a lot in my professional life right now. Granted, much of it is there by choice and, when the universe is properly aligned, it is all wonderfully energizing. Lately, however, quite the opposite is true. I may write about this later. Right now there’s still a great deal of emotion tied up in what’s going on and I don’t want to write something that would get me “dooced”.

When I write, I like to sit over it for rather a long time. I can, when the need arises, spit out quick, unedited email to people, but rarely do I just throw something down and kick it off. I futz with my writing. As you can read, of course, this doesn’t necessarily make it any better or easier to read, but at least I feel comfortable that it says what I intend. I hate it when I’m misunderstood in my writing, but it’s a constant hazard, especially when I try to convert to print all the things that make my oral communication effective. The facial expressions and hyperbolic gestures that so often grace my speech do not often translate well to print.

I suffer from seasonal blahs. I hesitate to call it depression even though that’s probably what it probably is. The term “depression” is on its own, well, depressing. Every year, I get all the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder: I begin to eat everything in sight (I’ve gained 15lbs. since October 1), I want to sleep all the time (which is different from needing naps—I’ve always needed naps, no matter what the time of year), I get irritable much faster than normal and I more often than not just want to be alone. I’ve explored ways to deal with it (or, rather, to moderate the effects of it), but it never seems to go away entirely. That leaves me with a more or less constant feeling of preferring to curl up and do something mindless, which is not often conducive to blogging.

All this has brought me to the conclusion that to try to blog every day is simply untenable. It takes an awful lot of time and psychological effort to keep up with a blog in the middle of my very full day, and it ends up leading me to an ever more frustrated place when I can’t keep up.

So, what to do?

Some of the blogs I read (when I take the time to read them) have routine days that they post. For example, this blog I read by Kristin Espinasse posts three times a week. I think I like the idea of regular deadlines, so I’m going to work to build a routine of two committed posts a week: On the weekend (most likely Saturday) and on Wednesday. I think that this gives me adequate time to write and futz over what (and how) to say what’s going on, but still get it out there often enough that I will feel like I’m keeping you, dedicated readers, in the loop. I really like doing 10 Things Tuesdays, but I think it’s best to focus on a routine that I can handle for now. Maybe I’ll be able to join in again sometime later.

That takes care of when to post.

The next thing is the what. I wrestle with this because, quite frankly, I cannot believe that my view of the world is worth spending your valuable time on. There are lots of things that *I* might find worthy of recording for posterity, but it just seems so insipid when put in the context of what I read. Add to that the feeling that this blog just seems to lack a certain focus. It seems like the content of my blog over the last year has been all over the map. I’d like to narrow its focus some.

The tagline of this space reads, “Take a path and follow it”. I value this quote because it reinforces the belief that, if I make the choice to do something, I have succeeded in something wonderful and, whether I eventually succeed or fail at what I have chosen, I have learned something in the process. The choice is the important thing, together with the appreciation and reflection of the experience afterward, because it leads to self-understanding. I think this is the essence of what I have always wanted to write about: A journey to self-understanding that comes from living life by choice.

Of course, that’s not all I’ll put here. JesusGod, but that would be sickening to read! No, I like a good meme, the random news item or political rant, and I think it’s important to be able to say, “Sorry, kids, but I’ve got nothing for you today. Here’s a video.” If I have a central idea for my space, however, I’ll feel more directed in filling it up properly.

Finally, I’d like to ask your help. If you read this, I could use some encouragement to keep it going. I’m not expecting it to be a blog that wins the popularity contest, but I think all of us that spend time blogging can say that, when we know people are out there, we’re more inclined to keep posting. I think part of the deal is supposed to be that I comment on your blog and you comment on mine? OK. I think can do that, but I may not be able to do it every day. When I do, though, I’ll do my best to make the comments thoughtful and worth the read.

So, there it is. I’m going to try blogging again. Thank you for your patience as I wrestle yet again to create this incredibly challenging, yet thoroughly gratifying habit.