Friday, October 29, 2004

Change is good for you

A roll of miniature powdered donuts is $1.19 -- I dump a handful of change on the counter and separate out 1.19. But the cashier says, "Let's get rid of all those pennies for you." She slides two nickels back to me, and counts herself 10 pennies from my pile. Except that one of them is a dime. She sweeps the whole bunch into her hand and sorts everything into the till.

Was it on purpose? If so, does it mean she's a racist? Probably not, because both of us were white.

Should I come back every day for the next nine days and take a penny from the "Need a Penny?" dish?

These are difficult times. I ate my donuts in contemplative silence.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

More whining about relationships

Okay, been thinking some more about men & women and their expectations, etc. Since my thoughts are so brilliant, I wrote them down…

Everyone wants their partner to find them fascinating, and be interested in pleasing them. (Whether we actually are or not. Fascinating, I mean.)

A typical man often spectacularly fails to remain interesting to his partner because he insists on pulling the same levers and pushing the same buttons that worked at the beginning. That is, he expects her to remain the same person, with the same tastes, forever. Not sure who said it (some French guy, I think), but there’s a quote that goes:

Women marry men thinking they can change them.
Men marry women thinking that they’ll never change.

Anyway, the point is that

a) guys need to be willing to mix it up a little, and try something new once in a while, and
b) guys need to keep paying attention to their women, because women change their minds a lot more than men do, and one of the ways women evaluate how much you care for them is by how well you’re paying attention to the priority-of-the-week.

On the other side of the coin:
Women want men to be interested in their opinions and likes and desires. But people (men, anyway) have a limited amount of space or energy to devote to this task. It’s like a big water glass – we can only fit so many desires/preferences/requests in it. What women don’t seem to realize is how many things they do to fill up that glass on their own:

1) Just talking. Women talk a lot – they verbalize their ideas and desires and wishes – you talk about what you’re thinking and feeling so much it feels to us like you’re talking all the time. When we talk about something, it’s more likely to be for a reason (we’re all about the Action Item, remember). We don’t say “The car needs an oil change” so that you can validate our feelings about it – we say it because someone needs to take it to JiffyLube and we need to decide who’s going to do it. When you say “The sink is leaking”, we (usually correctly) assume you mean we’re supposed to fix it. But then you also say things like “Susie’s having trouble with her boyfriend” which confuses us. What are we supposed to do about that? Do you want us to beat the guy up? Comfort Susie? (Is she good-looking?) Is this your way of hinting about something, an object lesson for us (ie, Don’t be like Susie’s boyfriend)? The point is that every time you say “I’m worried about my Mom” or “I’m mad at Kristine” or “The guy at the gas station was rude to me” or “I wish we could go to Jamaica” or “I hate my hair” or “My thighs are fat” or “Too bad we can’t do X” or "We never talk" or “I’d love to get a new dishwasher /car /apartment/house”, it may be that you’re just idly expressing your feelings, but all of those things go into the What She Wants glass, and they tend to crowd out all the stuff about what kind of lipstick you wear or what size dress you are or what perfume or flowers or music or clothes or whatever that you like.

2) Complaining: When you complain about things, we typically hear and record that one of two ways (or both):
a. “You’re a bad husband/partner/provider for letting X happen”; or
b. “I am not happy with life/you/me/us until you make X go away.”
Either way, it’s another thing to fill up the glass – another thing we must do in order for you to be content. Even if it’s not under our control, we still stress about it because we (and often you) seem to think it’s our job to make you happy.

3) Nagging: every time you “remind” us of something we haven’t done, you’ve just put more stuff in the glass. We’re thinking “Oh yeah, she’s unhappy because X isn’t done yet.”

Anyway, all this stuff tends to fill up the glass. And if the glass is constantly being filled up by you, we’re never going to be able to devote a lot of energy to figuring out how to please you on our own. So when you wonder “Why does he buy me lame gifts?” or “Why doesn’t he use his imagination and think up some romantic and exciting date or vacation for us?” or “Why can’t he remember [whatever]?”, ask yourself whether the stuff you’ve been filling the glass with is really what’s most important to you.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

One flu over the cuckoo's nest

The Kerry campaign has courageously taken a stand on the issue of Dick Cheney’s flu shot, calling it further evidence of the current administration’s “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy.

C’mon, people – a flu shot? Out of 260 million people, I can’t think of anyone more important to give a flu shot to than Dick Cheney. He’s the vice-president, remember? He has a history of heart disease. He is 178 years old. If there were only two shots left in the entire country, I’d give them to the president and vice president.

I mean, with all the stuff we could say about Bush/Cheney, we focus on a flu shot? Talk about grasping desperately for something to differentiate oneself with.

The most disappointing thing is that much of the country is so disenchanted with GWB, we’d vote for a pile of wet cow turds if that’s what it took to get him out of office. But apparently Kerry is the best the Democrats can come up with, and his campaign people get up there and talk about stupid flu shots. Just shoot me now.

Dating fun

I just finished reading Bridget Jones Diary – The Edge Of Reason. Yeah it's a chick book, but it's enjoyable and really funny.

I must also state for the record that I am astounded and dismayed to learn how much analyzing and talking and assuming and presuming and worrying and concluding that (many) women apparently do. Gadzooks. It seems like women are constantly setting themselves up for disappointment, primarily with the following thought pattern:

If I were my boyfriend, I would do X.
My boyfriend hasn’t done X.
Therefore, [insert tragic conclusion here].

She might conclude that he’s seeing someone else, or he doesn’t like her any more, or a hundred other things that have no basis in fact. What may have actually happened is that he wasn’t thinking at all. Or maybe, that he just wasn’t thinking about how his actions affected you. Because you’re like spaghetti (see previous post), apparently there’s often a little strand of thought connected to your relationship even if you’re doing something else. Because we’re like waffles, as astounding as it may seem, sometimes we’re not thinking about you at all.

I recently read that women readers and movie-goers are especially interested in the development stage of relationships. That women especially like to read about/watch the getting-to-know-you part. That writers of TV shows and book series featuring the same characters have to be careful: one might think that what women viewers/readers want is for the romantic leads to get together – and they do want that, no question – but once that happens, many women lose interest and look for a new show/series about a couple getting together rather than actually being together.

In real life, during the development stage of a relationship (assuming it’s one the woman is enthused about), she is likely to be thinking about the guy a lot, guessing what he might like, trying to surprise him with a cool gift, analyzing his words/actions, trying to guess his motives, etc.

The problem is, she wants and expects the man to be doing the same thing. She wants him to be fascinated with her and constantly thinking about her, etc. She wants him to be trying to figure her out, asking her opinions and feelings, etc, wanting to get her little gifts, etc.

But we aren't built that way. We learn to do it, yes, but it’s not because we feel like it – it’s just that we know that’s what you want, and it’s what will get us what we want. The early of a relationship is exciting for us, but mostly it’s a baser sort of chemistry – it’s not necessarily exciting that we’re getting to know a new person, it’s that we might get to see a new set of boobs or whatever. For many of us, the getting-to-know-you part is actually quite stressful and frustrating.

Anyway there are three main reasons that we fail to act the same way you do when first entering into a relationship:

#1, As mentioned in a previous post, we are waffles. We compartmentalize well. While we're at work, we're not thinking about you. When you call us up for no reason in the middle of a meeting or project, etc, we’re not charmed, we’re frustrated. For you, it was a matter of sliding down one of your spaghetti strands, and Presto, you arrived at “Let’s call Jack and talk about possible vacations we could take.” For us, we have to drop all the stuff we had going in one of our waffle compartments, and shift over to another compartment, then later come back and figure out where we were in the first one. Context-switching takes energy, and it wastes time and resources – we’re not as good as you are at multi-tasking.

#2, We’re practical. When it comes to gifts -- or anything else, really -- we’re not big fans of guessing games.
You buy us stuff like watches, wallets, sunglasses, etc – it’s nice, but personally I’d rather pick that stuff out myself. If you get me something I don’t like, now I have to use/wear it. Basically, I’d rather you gave me something you *know* I like, like sports tickets, or cash, or best of all, some of your sweet lovin’. :-)
By the same token, we want you to tell us what you like so we can get/do/be/buy that. And it’s hard enough to guess what someone likes when they’re consistent, but it’s really frustrating that women seem not to be able to figure out what they want half the time anyway. Or maybe they know what they want, it’s just not the same thing as it was yesterday. It’s like trying to shoot mosquitoes with a BB gun while blindfolded.

#3, Re opinions: Men like to think that we operate from cold hard facts. We don’t, actually – humans seldom do – but we *are* slightly more objective and less emotional than you are. So we like to think we have some basis for our opinions. We like to get as much data as possible beforehand. We don’t think out loud much, we don’t throw everything out to our friends for review. Feelings about an issue don’t loom large for us as things to talk about. What does it matter how we FEEL about something? That makes no difference to what will happen – what matters is what to DO. Everything comes down to Action Items for us – when we’re thinking, we’re devising a plan of action.
In fact, when there’s no task for us, we’re kind of at a loss. If there’s nothing for us to actually DO, we usually just power down into standby mode and think about sex, sports, and things to do in 4-wheel-drive vehicles.
As one guy responded to the “What are you thinking about?” question: “If I wanted you to know, I’d be talking instead of thinking.”

Men are like waffles, women are like spaghetti.

This idea apparently comes from a book by Pam & Bill Farrel. I haven’t even read the book, but I understand that the basic concept is this:

Men compartmentalize well. Like waffles, with their little squares. We concentrate well on one thing at a time. We can discuss issues with less emotion. We divide and organize the world in our minds.*

For women, everything is tied together, like a plate of spaghetti noodles. Every issue is connected to other issues. (I’m told women actually have more right-left brain connections than men do.) Women are less able to divorce issues from emotion, but are better able to see the big picture, and to make connections that men may miss.

This might account for “women’s intuition”, and for why women seem to be better (on average) at relationships and communication, and men at math/science/spatial stuff.
Waffles are great for building bridges. Not always so good for negotiating, mentoring, etc.

This is why when guys watch sports on TV, they’re not anxious to begin a conversation about something else. We’re focused. It’s Hockey Time. We should be able to discuss your sister later, during Talking Time, right?

I think this is also why women become bored with their mates, and wish they’d mix things up once in a while – try something new, something exciting, some new way to be romantic. But guys spend all their lives figuring things out and trying to tame/control/direct them. Once we figure out what you like, it confuses us when that changes. Things should stay in their proper waffle compartments and not be sliding around all the time.

Side note: It’s absolutely critical that we be able to compartmentalize, or everything we did would be about sex. The space shuttle would look like a giant penis; every swimming pool we designed would be shaped like a big set of breasts.

Hating the Yankees

Last night was sweetness. I’m not even a Boston fan, but you can admire the heart they showed, and appreciate their battle with the Curse of the Bambino.
The NY Yankees, on the other hand, are the Evil Empire of baseball. Rooting for the Yankees is like rooting for Darth Vader. They are arrogant, rich, and they win all the time – mostly because they can afford to stack their team with only the best players. All right-thinking people must hate them. If the Yankees were playing Hitler, I would still root against them.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

fellow traveler

Stuff that's happened on my trips. None of it is interesting:

- On a Delta flight out of Salt Lake City, during his Welcome Aboard announcements the pilot said "You may know that some of the most attractive flight attendants in the business work for Delta airlines. [Pause] Unfortunate that none of them are on this flight..."

- Hit a low-pressure pocket, or whatever it's called that makes the plane fall straight out from under you. A couple times it was so bad that the drinks of the people in front of me appeared in the air above their heads. Their cups were in their hands, but a big blob of coke and ice cubes floated for an instant in the space just below the overhead bins. Then it landed on them. Schadenfreud.

- I woke up to find a 50-yr-old woman straddling my lap as she tried to get out into the aisle. Rather than wake me up I guess she thought she could climb over, but her legs were too short and she kind of stumbled and the next I know there she is -- in some cultures we'd be married now...

- Full flight, space in the overheads is tightly contested. By creative maneuvering of other people's stuff, I cleared a spot for my carryon. I bent down, picked up my bag, and straightened up to see a guy stuffing his seatmate's stuff into my hard-won spot. She was gushing about how great he was to help her out, and he was going Aw shucks, Ma'am, no problem, and I just stood there like a putz with my bag in my hand...

- Standing in line to check in at the ticket counter. Behind me are two young women -- med school students, it turned out -- one of them looked like she could be a model -- extremely pretty, very fit, big smile. Guys are gawking, but I'm too cool (okay, old) for that, so I smiled at them and then ignored them. Just before we get to the front, the one of them touches my arm and says urgently "Sir, sir..." She's trying to hold up her friend -- the future model -- who is in the process of fainting. Long story short, I caught her and held her up for a minute or two, then laid her down on the floor on my coat. Someone called 911, and we ended up with:
- two firemen
- two paramedics from the ambulance
- two nat'l guardsmen
- one airport cop
- one respiratory therapist (passenger)
all hovering around. I stayed out of the way, and enjoyed watching all the rescue guys vie for her attention. They eventually took her away on a gurney, I got my coat back, and for some reason the airline personnel gave me a $50 travel certificate, I guess for catching her before she hit the floor or whatever. All very gratifying for a guardian-protector-provider personality like mine. (And she turned out to be fine. Combination of just finishing finals, no sleep, nothing to eat/drink that day, on her period, just popped a couple Midols, etc.)

blues traveler

O'hare was a mess again on Friday because of weather, so my flight from Harrisburg to Chicago was held several hours. By the time we finally touched down it was 9:31, and my Chicago->Seattle flight was scheduled to take off at 9:35.

I watched the world's slowest passengers deplane in front of me. (What is wrong with people? Don't they grasp that there's a whole planeload of people waiting to get off? How can they stand their farting around with their bags with whole aisle full of people behind them and empty space stretching out between them and the door?)

Anyway, I finally got out and ran from one end of the B concourse to the other (approximately eleven miles). The Seattle flight was delayed, so I made it just before they closed the doors. Got home before midnight. My luggage didn't make it of course, but the airline delivered it to my house today.

I didn't say it was an interesting story.

books and cetera

You know when you discover a really great book, and then you hope the author has written other stuff, and then you find s/he has, but the other stuff totally honks? Well, that's not what this is about. This is about Terry Pratchett, and all his stuff is really great. And yeah, he's been around for 20 yrs and I'm probably the last person on earth to read his books, but just in case, I thought I would... you know... Okay, I'm done now.


In my cynicism, I have decided that:

1) When women say they want a sensitive man, they don't mean a man who has sensitivities of his own (ie, emotional weakness or neediness). They want one who is sensitive to *their* needs -- other types of sensitivity are of little importance. Sensitivity to art, fashion, etc fall into the "nice bonus" category; sensitivity as in being easily touched/hurt are a huge turnoff. Women absolutely *hate* guys who are like puppy dogs.

2) Women complain that men don't talk, share their feelings, etc. But the truth is that a woman doesn't want to hear her man say what he's thinking -- she wants to hear her man say what *she's* thinking. The proof of this is that 75% of what men are thinking is considered by women to be somewhere between evil at worst and unworthy or a waste of time at best. There are no rewards for sharing what we're thinking -- only punishments. We start learning this at about age 11...

Friday, October 01, 2004

reaching for material...

Bumper stickers/T-shirts I like:
  • Practice random acts of intelligence & senseless acts of self-control.
  • This isn't an office. It's Hell with fluorescent lighting.
  • One of us is thinking about sex... OK, it's me.
  • I like cats, too. Let's exchange recipes.
  • Errors have been made. Others will be blamed.
  • Sarcasm is just one more service we offer.
  • Whatever kind of look you were going for, you missed.
  • Do they ever shut up on your planet?
  • Are those your eyeballs? I found them in my cleavage.
  • You look like crap. Is that the style now?
  • I'm not tense, just terribly, terribly alert.
  • Everyone thinks I'm psychotic, except for my friends deep inside the earth.