I Love You, Man!

love Yesterday at Costco, a place I visit far too often, the cashier handed me the receipt and said “Love Ya..“.

My wife had to take a step back.  Did she just say what I thought she said?

I know I’m not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’, but hey – beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, right?  Maybe I have that endearing look that made her blurt out that precious and coveted word, ‘Love’.  Maybe she was just from Newfoundland, where everyone calls everyone ‘Love‘.

I suppose in the big picture, I shouldn’t be surprised.  Aren’t we taught to ‘Love our fellow man’, ‘Love thy neighbour as thyself’, and ‘Give love freely’?  Okay, maybe that last one could get you in a bit of trouble. But what is it about this simple little word that scares the bajeebers out of young men, and makes young women swoon?  I guess it’s pretty much the same for not-so-young men and women, too. The three word combination, ‘I Love You’ has to be one of the most powerful phrases in the English language.

Growing up in a house of boys, you can imagine that the ‘L’ word wasn’t thrown around very much, other than in the context of general comments like; ‘I love spaghetti night‘, or ‘I’d love it if this house could stay clean for 5 minutes‘.

Love was shown, it’s its unique testosterone-soaked way, just not spoken a lot. We do say it to each other now and again when we talk on the phone, but I suspect that we all find it a bit strange – like when you go to do a hand shake, and the other one tries a fist bump, and you end up grabbing his fist awkwardly.

“I Love You” can be expected and natural at times, like a mother might say to their child in a tender moment, or in a romantic comedy movie, where the ‘best friend’ of the opposite sex says it as he crashes an impending wedding….what a jerk! BECKY He couldn’t declare his love before she booked the caterer and sent out the invitations?

Couples say it to each other – sometimes even during a fight that gets out of hand.  It can be a peace offering of sorts, or used as a form of preface before you say something negative; “I love you, but you make me crazy the way you squeeze the toothpaste”.

I’ve even heard people say it to total strangers, much like my admirer from Costco.  At a restaurant, the waitress brings you a big glass of water just as you start to choke on a dried out piece of chicken; “I Love You” seems totally acceptable in that situation, because we all see it as a ‘thank you’ when their timing is perfect.

I guess the most awkward ‘Love You’ is between guy friends who aren’t romantically connected to each other.  Typically, we like to qualify it with ‘Man’ at the end, so as to not imply any weird secret affection. “I Love You, Man!” – usually followed by a guy hug – pull him in really hard, bear-hug style, and pat him on the back.

Of course, you better reply in kind, right? You can’t just leave that hanging out there without an appropriate response.  That’s even more awkward than the failed hand shake. Proper responses may go as follows, in descending order of acceptability:

  • “I love you, too”
  • “I love you too, man!”
  • “Me too”
  • “Same…”
  • “Word!”
  • “Uh, yeah”
  • “Oh…um, yeah”
  • “Well, good seeing you…”

…and you have like a nano-second to come up with your reply.  Dead air is deadly.  The length of hesitation directly corresponds to the unwillingness to respond properly.  That’s not a ‘guy to guy’ rule either….in fact, with a spouse or other romantically connected person, you better be like Quick-draw McGraw with the ‘I love you, too’, or else!

I think that too often though, the ‘Love’ word is thrown around a little too liberally. I mean, it should be meaningful, right?  It should be a sought-after expression.  So, when people say “I LOVE this show”, it diminishes the word ‘Love’ a bit doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we look at ‘Love’ like we approach the old supply and demand rule?  The less you hear it, the more important and valued it is?  Maybe we should reserve using it for only those things that truly move us spiritually and emotionally.

No more “I (heart) NY”.  That in itself is demonstration enough to argue the point, isn’t it? Have we become so casual with the word ‘Love’ that we can’t even be bothered to say it? Now we just make this weird shape with our hands…swift Should I really believe that when the adorable Taylor Swift looks at the camera and makes that contorted hand gesture, that she loves ‘me‘?  We haven’t even met!  Maybe she secretly follows my blog….hey, you never know! See what I mean?

It’s such a beautiful word, but it’s been cheapened somehow. But then again, maybe we need to say it as a way to fight off all that negativity in the world. God knows, we could stand to love each other a bit more. Am I being cynical about reserving the word ‘Love’ for only the most important moments in life?  Should I seize every moment to tell all of God’s children that as brothers and sisters, I love them?

Maybe Taylor Swift really does love everyone – who am I to judge her?  She’s happy, rich, and has thousands of fans – what’s not be loving about?

I think maybe I should stop being embarrassed in sharing my true feelings for my friends and family.  Maybe I should tell them all that I love them.

I’m gonna start by heading back to Costco first thing tomorrow!

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Dads – Perfectly imperfect

dumb dadsSince the beginning of time, the male of the humanoid species have endeavored to achieve awesomeness.  Early man created tools of hunting, war, and fixing broken toasters.  They did this so they wouldn’t have to call on someone else to do what they had no business doing on their own.

Fiercely proud, even early man insisted on being the sole ‘go-to’ guy for his families needs.  Tracking wild game never included pulling over to ask a stranger for directions.  They’d rather die of starvation in a quarry than admit they lost the scent of the animal.  No, even our ancient ancestors had a keen sense of stubbornness.  It’s a wonder we ever made it this far!

Luckily, today’s Dad’s don’t often die in quarries looking for food for their families.  We still won’t ask for directions, though.  In fact, even with super high-tech satellite guidance systems, we’ll decide our route is better than the one on the Navigation system we payed hundreds of dollars for.

‘That stupid machine doesn’t know anything!’

Our hunting is usually limited to parking spots – another task that has it’s own weird science to it.  My SUV has retractable side mirrors.  I love this feature!  Because of this sweet little bit of modern technology, I can shoe-horn my gas guzzler into spots reserved for mopeds.  Opening the doors is a bit of a challenge, but hey – look how close we are to the mall entrance!

tight parkingOne thing today’s Dad’s share with our ancestors is the need to pass along life-skills to our kids. It’s this disposition that drives Dads to teach their offspring on how to survive. It’s a fundamental need, developed deep within ourselves as a pseudo immortality, ensuring the manly skills of our forefathers are passed along.  Strangely enough, this need has a blow-back effect, in that while we try to pass along life-saving skills and advice, those very lessons usually involve tasks that could, in themselves, have fatal consequences.

Take swimming lessons for example.  While few can argue about how learning to swim is a significant survival advantage, it also provides great health and recreational benefits.  Where it gets dicey, is in how Dads help us to develop that skill.  It would stand to reason that a parent would register their children for board certified lessons, in a supervised and well equipped swimming pool, that had been tested for cleanliness and life-saving equipment.  It would stand to reason….except for Dads!

That could take years, and cost hundreds of dollars.  Why?  How did we learn to swim?  Pushed off the dock in a semi-polluted pond with no life-saving equipment, ladder, or detailed dry lessons on how to kick your feet.  It was sink or swim, mister!  It built character, and possibly a paralyzing fear of H2O.

They were practical lessons.  We didn’t learn about power tools by taking a class in safety, followed by simulations and ‘role-playing’.  Dad would fire up the saw, hand us a piece of wood, and say ‘don’t cut off any fingers’.  Instant carpenter.  If you were successful, you had the run of the tool shed.  If you weren’t, well, you were learning to write with the other hand…and it was your fault.

Dads don’t live as long as Moms, statistically speaking, so we have limited time to do our data-dump of life knowledge.  Some things just need to be taught on the fly.  We don’t know when our number will be up.  Waiting for little Billy to decide if he wanted to learn a sport was a waste of time.  It was ‘Here – catch!’.

hit with ball…and if you didn’t?  Your fault.

There’s also some key differences in how Dads give advice from how Moms give the same advice.  A Mom might say, ‘Don’t do anything that we wouldn’t be proud of’.

A Dad, giving the same sage advice, would make one small change to that suggestion; ‘Don’t get caught doing anything that we wouldn’t be proud of’.

See the difference? Mom’s advice is absolute – no wiggle room.  Dads are more pragmatic than that.  They know you’re gonna do dumb stuff.  They just don’t want you to get caught doing it.  If you do, they have to make an example out of you, and that means repeating a lesson they already taught.  Dads HATE having to do things twice.  Any time a Dad can cut a corner on something, the better life is.

That probably explains this:

Dad cutting cornersEven fixing that toaster often had a unique and dangerous aspect to it.  If you’ve ever seen footage of a brain operation, the surgeon often has the patient awake, so they can be sure they’re snipping the part of the cortex that is causing the problem, and not the one that controls breathing.  Well, Dads tend to follow that same logic.

If the toaster is unplugged, how will you know if you’ve fixed it?  Common sense.  If it’s good enough for a brain surgeon, it’s good enough for Dad.

fixing toasterDads have a way of getting things done without those pesky instructions.  Sure, there’s the odd extra bolt left over, but the mental triumph over stupidly complicated directives more than makes up for the questionable safeness of said project.  This is what Dads teach us.  Sometimes you just have to throw away the script, wing it, and rely on your ancient instincts to guide you.  Trust in your gut.  Those thousands of years of evolutionary trial and error suggests that your gene pool is deeper than most, just by the fact that you’re alive and reading this.

It’s those shortcuts and bypasses that really are the fruit of living, aren’t they?  How boring life would be if we didn’t get the crap scared out of us once in a while.  Take the path less traveled – even if it’s less traveled because it leads to quicksand or some other potential catastrophe.  These are where our great memories are formed.

We all should thank our dangerous, spontaneous, and sometimes insensitive Dads this Father’s Day.  They keep the spark alive…sometimes with a knife in the toaster.

What’s up, Doc?

When you reach a certain age, you spend more time getting prodded and poked and tested by the medical establishment. I hear that some people, especially when they are in their senior years, actually look forward to visiting their doctors, like it’s a lunch date or something.

I don’t. Like a lot of men, I don’t enjoy going to the doctor.   I don’t want bad news about my health, I don’t want them to ask for ‘samples’ to test, or to stand on the weigh scales in the open area of their offices.  And I don’t want to undress and lay on a cold examination table, especially when my clothes are out of reach and the door doesn’t lock from the inside.

It’s not that I’m unhealthy or anything, in fact, despite trying to prove Newton’s first law of motion of an object at rest tending to stay at rest, I’m actually in fairly good shape, against all odds.

But, when you hit that magical age, regardless of your perceived level of health, you really do need to suck it up and get on that cold, ugly table.  So, I did.

I’m starting to really understand why I find these things so unpleasant, and surprisingly, it’s not the reasons that you might think.  Things like giving a blood sample, while not a happy feeling, isn’t all that bad.  In fact, I even donate blood on occasion.

By the way, if you ever want to have a little fun when giving blood, there’s a question in the screening process about being close to or having contact with monkeys.  When you get to this questions, ask out loud, “Does anyone know if a lemur is considered a monkey?  I’ll just put down ‘no'”.  That usually gets their attention.

It’s not even the actual procedures that bother me, or giving ‘samples’ that I find difficult, although it’s totally gross.

It’s all the prep stuff.  I had to give some bodily fluids for testing, which seemed simple enough, since doing this is pretty normal, other than how it’s collected, but things get complicated to do that properly.  First, you have to starve yourself for 12 hours, then you have to deprive yourself of any fluids for 6 hours before going to give of yourself.

They tell me that this gives them a ‘normal’ reading.  Really? What’s normal about that?  If they wanted a normal reading, they should come by the house around 10 at night after I’ve finished a big meal, and I’m sitting on the couch with a bag of chips and a cold beer.  That’s normal!

Unless you’re a survivalist, or living in a 3rd world country, there’s nothing normal about not eating or drinking for half a day, and your body hates you for it!  I really feel sorry for women who are very pregnant then have to drink 4 gallons of water, wait for an hour, then drive to the doctor’s office for an ultrasound.  Then, just to test their constitution, they push on your bladder while sliding a cold, gooey devise all over your belly.

Years from now, the medical field will probably look at this like witchcraft or a weird voodoo ritual.

Hitting 50 means I had to deal with the ‘C’ word….yes, Colonoscopy. This word usually sends most men into the hills in fear, almost as quickly as the frightful ‘vasectomy’.  I probably just lost half of my male readers.

I will tell you that the procedure itself was a breeze (if you’ve had one, you’re probably laughing at the ‘breeze’ reference).  Really – it was not in the least way painful, uncomfortable, or in any way difficult.  I was given a nice dose of a drug that put me into a dreamy snooze.  I slept through the whole thing.  It was great!

That’s the good news.

The bad news is, again, the prep.  I won’t go into details, other than to say that they need ‘clean plumbing’ to do the procedure, so you’ll be spending a good 24 hours using a lot of bathroom supplies.  Oh, and you can’t eat for about a day and a half before hand.

Luckily, if you get the all-clear (hee, hee), you don’t have to repeat it for another 10 years. I even have pictures of my procedure.  I’ll share them if I don’t get enough responses to this blog…you’ve been warned!

I’d also like to know exactly when and how the medical profession, particularly dentists, figured they’d change the word ‘pain’ to ‘discomfort’.  With a small drill boring into my excited tooth nerves, the dentist will say something like, “this might be uncomfortable“. I don’t know what medieval school she went to, but my idea of uncomfortable is an itchy wool sweater, not a piercing pain shooting from my hairline to my toes.

There’s something else that you never expect when you get tests done.  Doctor’s who are surprised or don’t know what you’ve got.  I had a few instances where medical specialists had these reactions.  You don’t want your medical specialist to be surprised or baffled – ever!

A number of years ago, I was tested for allergies.  I had a pretty good idea of what I was allergic to, but they had to test me to see what could be done about it.  Apparently, they graph your back or arm, and do little ‘scratches’ with different types of allergens.  If something swells up, or gets itchy, presto – you have an allergy.

I was asked to lay face-down on one of those lovely exam beds, then the allergy doctor did his scratching.  He and his nurse left the room, and said they’d be back in about 5 minutes.  It only took enough time for them to leave the room and close the door, when it felt like someone had dropped a Molotov Cocktail on my back.

The nurse came back in to get something from the room, looked at my back and said ‘Oh, my GOD!‘, then ran out of the room, yelling for the doctor.  Trust me on this one.  It’s not something you ever want your healthcare professional to say.

Turns out, I was more allergic to cats than I thought.

Recently, I had a growth on my right foot.  Nothing serious, but the kids would tease me about the extra toe growing on the top of my foot.

Reluctantly, I went to the doctor, who sent me to a specialist to get it checked out.

While doing an ultrasound on the little growth, the doctor said, “Hmm.  I have no idea what that is, but I think we should remove it”.  No idea?  10 years of education, another decade of seeing people just like me every day, and she has no idea what’s growing on my foot?

I was referred to a surgeon to get my new little foot friend taken off. In the operating room, he introduced himself, examined my foot, then promptly told me what it was and what he was going to do about it.  Thank goodness!  Someone out there knows what they’re doing!

Like other procedures, the removal was easy…the freezing was another story all together.  It felt like he let loose a swarm of angry wasps on my foot, who kept stinging me over and over.  shortly, the freezing kicked in and I stopped crying.

The surgeon was performing his magic on my foot, then stopped and said “Hmm.  This isn’t what I thought it was”.  Super!  I was halfway waiting for him to ask me if I’d been in contact with a monkey recently.

In the end, the small lump was removed and I was sewn back up, almost as good as new, but a little wary of the medical profession.

I guess medicine is like any other business, really.  They’re just people who come across new things every day, and deal with them accordingly.  I only wish they had more classes on how to NOT react to something new.

I also wish more research went into how to get prepared for a test without putting your body through bizarre food and water deficiencies.  It doesn’t seem to make sense that preparing for a test is worse than the test itself…or the initial problem for that matter.

Anyone want to know what you need to do to prepare for a vasectomy?  Anyone?

Toronto Fashion Week – a guide for middle-aged men

When people stop me on the street and ask for autographs or pictures, the ladies will often ask me when I’m going to write about Men’s fashion, given my impeccable, age-appropriate style and looks.  It seems that their fellas are having some difficulty transitioning into middle-aged fashion-wear.

Although I do my best to steer clear from offering advice most of the time, I too have noticed the struggle many men have when it comes to their wardrobes.  So, in order to encourage and support my fellow mature male counterparts, I will walk you through some helpful hints, ideas, and logic that should make dressing yourself appropriately simple, easy, and comfortable.

Gentlemen – let me be clear about this.  Middle-aged fashion is ALL about comfort.  If it doesn’t feel comfortable, toss it.  You’ve complied with tight, itchy, bunchy and downright annoying clothes all your life – it’s time to liberate your body.  You deserve nothing less.

Lets begin by reviewing some of the common issues men often face when it comes to choosing and wearing clothing.

COLOUR BLINDNESS

If you’re like me, you either play golf, talk about golf or watch golf on T.V.  What do you notice most about golf attire?  Colour!  Multi-coloured pants that do not match the shirt.  White shoes no matter what the rest of the outfit looks like.  There’s a good reason for this.  You see, in nature, it is the male of the species, not the female, that has all the style and colour and pizzazz. This is natures way of creating a visual distraction that temporarily blinds or confuses other males, allowing one to ‘swoop in’ and take its rightful mate.

In golf, although there aren’t a lot of ‘mates’ out there with the guys, the basic principal is the same – you want to create a distraction with your wardrobe so that the other players can’t focus on their game.

I get a chuckle when I’m leaving the house to go golfing and my wife questions my wardrobe choices.  She’s so cute!  She doesn’t understand that the colour choice of the golf outfit is almost as important as the club choice.  In fact, if you golf like I do, its a more important choice.

When it comes to colour, gentlemen, you need to dock the dockers, burn the beige, grind up the gray, and put on the loudest, mismatched outfit you can get your hands on.  Nothing will tell the world you’re over 50 and ready to take it on, more than a bold colour pallet on your back.

WHERE DO I WEAR MY PANTS?

The debate over belt height is a contentious one, to be sure.  Because of a wardrobe malfunction on a ‘gang-banger’ in East L.A. back in the ’80’s’, kids all over the world, in an attempt to stay young, have abandoned their belts.  This has allowed their pants to continually droop down to the point where they not only look like they’ve messed themselves, they can barely walk at all.  Ironically, that’s exactly the same look you’d find in a senior’s home.

Most pants these days don’t allow for much freedom when it comes to where the waist sits on your body.  Many men with ample, trophy-sized mid sections, tend to hunker their pants below the waist, since getting them any higher would mean buying their clothes from a tent maker rather than a good men’s store.

Others are unnaturally slim, probably from a vegan lifestyle.  These people only wear clothing that has drawstrings or are made of spandex, and they ride bicycles.  Fashion is irrelevant to them.

There are some men, due to no fault of their own, perhaps due to a terrible illness or a meat allergy, have grotesquely small waists, and tend to wear their pants as high up as possible.  I assume that this is to hide an embarrassingly small mid-section.  I don’t blame them for doing this, but it isn’t a good look.

Either way, there is only one solution for all of these body types – do not tuck in your shirt.  Tucked in shirts are for uptight corporate types and people under 40.  What do you need to prove, anyway? Let it hang, gentlemen.  This negates any further conversation of where on your waist you should wear your pants – it doesn’t matter, as  long as it’s covered up.

SHIRTS

This is a real struggle for most men.  Bottom line is, wear a shirt at all times.  There are hairy, lumpy bits that the rest of the world doesn’t want to see (I’m really hoping the guy at the end of my street reads this before he works in his yard again).

Okay, so now you have to decide what kind of shirt to wear, depending on the event.  Here are some basic ground rules:

  • If you’re wearing a t-shirt you got in a case of beer, or at a concert or NASCAR event, you should only wear it to flea markets, rib eating contests, doing chores around the house, or to your mother-in-law’s home.
  • Golf shirts are the ultimate fashion ‘must-have’ for men – casual as a t-shirt, classy enough for the office.  Because of the collar, it can be worn with shorts, jeans, or even dress pants.  It’s our version of the little black dress.
  • Long-sleeve button up shirts are for serious business only, or funerals and weddings.  They don’t go with shorts, unless you’re at a really hot wedding…

Again, be sure it fits comfortably, and isn’t too short – nothing is worse than a good old beer t-shirt that doesn’t cover the beer holder gut you worked so hard on. This will also take care of the whole pant height thing too.

FOOTWEAR

I know – sandals and socks, right?  Well, it’s more complicated than that.  As a rule, if you’re wearing sandals, it’s because you’re wearing shorts, or God forbid, a Speedo, which means it’s too warm to wear socks. However, due to horrible foot fungus disfigurements or toe-nail removals, there are times when socks are not only a good idea, but a necessity in order to keep the general public from loosing their lunch as you stroll around town.

For all other purposes, slip-on shoes are the way to go.  You’ve bowed to the lace gods for far too long.  Stand up straight and slide those dogs into something that doesn’t ask anything in return.  Velcro straps are also a stylish and practical option as well, but they require bending over.  No one wants to see that.

I’ve heard that some people claim the shoes should match the belt, but I think that’s a sexual reference that I don’t understand.  Do what feels right.  If you only have a black belt, any kind of footwear is fine – please refer back to my comments on pants and shirts.

UNDERGARMENTS

It used to be simple – boxers or briefs.  For the sake of any squeamish readers or the very young, I won’t post an image on undergarments. Today, there are any number of hybrid underwear styles, shapes, materials, and colours.  This is typical fashion industry propaganda, foisted upon an unsuspecting public who are just trying to keep the ‘boys’ from going where they shouldn’t go.  Let me make it simple:

  1. In warm weather, briefs will keep things from sticking to other things, if you know what I mean
  2. In cold weather, boxers are a comfortable, breathable vacation to your buddies, who have been crammed together all summer

If you’re wondering about thongs, you’re on the wrong blog page.

With these basic principals cleared up, there is always one question that remains for the fashion-challenged mature man;  How do I know I’m dressed appropriately?

Interestingly, the rule of thumb for men is diametrically opposed to the strategy of the fairer sex.  If a lady enters a party in a beautiful dress, the most embarrassing thing that could happen, other than toilet paper stuck to her shoe, is seeing another lady in exactly the same dress.  Horrors!

For men, if you enter a party and some other man,or even better, a group of men, are dressed in exactly the same outfit, it’s a very good thing.  This confirms that you dressed correctly. Since there’s safety in numbers, you now have a brotherhood of like-minded peers in which to discuss the game, the toilet paper on that woman’s shoe, or what to do with those little shrimp tails from the buffet.

There’s also another important rule of thumb to follow when it comes to dressing for the occasion.  I call it the rule of ‘wife’.  When you’re waiting at the front door for 20 minutes with the keys and a bottle of wine in your hand, you don’t want her to come down and tell you to go and change.  This will make you the reason you’re late.

When you’re dressed and ready to go, you should give your better half a ‘once-over’ twirl on your wardrobe selection.  This accomplishes two things:

1 – it tells her that you are ready to leave, and the clock is officially ticking.

2 – it gives her a chance to review your outfit.  If she says anything along the lines of “Are you wearing that?”, you better drop the keys and dig through the closet for a new outfit.

If she asks you to do some random job around the house, like water the tropical fish, she’s stalling for time.  This is okay, because it’ll keep you busy, and it tells you that your clothing choice will not embarrass her.

I think you’ll find this blog a handy and insightful guide when it comes to the problematic world of dressing oneself.  You might want to print this off and attach it to your dresser, so you can reference it when you’re standing there in your bedroom in your underwear and socks, scratching your head about what to put on.

Oh, one last thing. If your better half scoffs at this guide, be patient.  It’s only because she has spent decades being brain-washed by the fashion establishment, with those glossy magazines and impossible to walk in clothes.  Eventually, she’ll be dressing exactly the same way as you.