I’ll wait…

Occasionally people who don’t know me well ask “Jeff, why haven’t you ever gotten married?” I can think of several reasons, but the biggest one is simply this: On Saturday I did the grocery shopping for the week, did a big chunk of the fall yard work, made dinner, and tucked in for the night with a good book and a well made cocktail. On Sunday morning I had soup simmering away for Sunday dinner, ran four loads of laundry, made ham salad to enjoy for lunch, spent some quality time with all the animals, and had the house cleaned by noon.

I pay my bills and handle my business. I’m self sustaining and self sufficient and have been for a very long time now – although I’ve lived enough life to never rule anything all the way in or all the way out. If I were to break with a lifetime of habit it would take a pretty remarkable set of circumstances – and an even more remarkable person.

I’ve found through occasional, unscientific sampling that the only thing a fair proportion of the population brings to the table is a vagina and a metric shit ton of drama. Sure, both of those can be entertaining for a while, but what possible incentive would there possibly be to welcome that into my life on a full time basis

Show me someone who makes my life better and less complicated and I’ll eat my words. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

The wrong sort of man…

I’ve commented on it before, but every time I come down with some kind of bug, I can’t help but be reminded of all the commercials, social media posts, and general sense that there’s something called a “man cold,” some kind of received wisdom that says men are somehow unwilling or unable to function when laid low by a head full of congestion. I’m sure it follows from the contemporary school of thought that wants to “smash the patriarchy” and paint all things masculine as evil, bad, and wrong, but that should probably be a different post.

I find the whole “man cold” line of thinking particularly odious as I’ve gone through the last couple of days getting up, feeding and watering the critters, making meals, cleaning the homestead, handling the yard work, and schlepping into the office for a day’s work… all miraculously while simultaneously having a cold and being a man.

It occurs to me that for those of you out there who complain about the stereotypical “man cold” and the periodic uselessness of the man in your life, the problem might not be men in general… perhaps your taste in partner is problematic and you’ve simply hitched your individual wagon to the wrong sort of man. Food for thought, I’d think.

It’s harder and probably more politically incorrect to make a meme about that, though… so as usual, this post will surely reflect the minority opinion.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Ghosting. If you thought dating at 18 was an exercise in the absurd, you should really try dating at 38. I don’t do it often, which is a testament more to my incredible shrinking tolerance to people than it is the number of opportunities available. As obnoxious as I find most human interaction, I think the thing that bothers me most are the ones that just disappear. You plug along being your normal charming self, go on a few dates, and *poof* suddenly they disappear from social media and stop answering texts. It’s one of those times when having generally low expectations of people is such a valuable trait. If you had any kind of decent personality I’ll probably spend a day or two wondering if you ended up in a ditch somewhere, but after that I’ll file you under T-for-twatwaffle and move on with my day. In retrospect maybe I shouldn’t be annoyed and just appreciate that I’ve been saved from discovering that factoid six months down the line after I’ve invested more than a few hours and a couple of meals into figuring out if you are a total asshat.

2. EpiPen. I’m always a little perplexed when people seem to be surprised that it costs money to keep yourself alive if you’re not in perfect physical health. As I pointed out to a colleague, a hundred years ago, people who needed EpiPens or really any significant medical intervention to save them from the earth’s flora and fauna just kind of dropped dead. While I’m not endorsing that as the ideal solution for people with allergies, but when death is the consequence, spending a few hundred bucks to stay alive doesn’t feel like too stiff a price to pay. Somewhere along the lines in this country we’ve developed the idea that more and more “essentials” should just come at no cost to us. I have no idea where that kind of mindset comes from. There’s a cost for everything in life, the only real question is whether it comes out of our pocket in the retail line when we decide it’s a necessity or at the point of a gun when government decides the next installment of our tax bill is due. We can give the government enough power to feed us all, to house us all, to clothe us all, and to medicate us all… and on the day that happens we’ll all be well and truly slaves.

3. Accountability. I’m bombarded multiple times a year with reminders to fulfill approximately 178 yearly training requirements. Among them are such classics as ethics and cyber security. Let me not check those boxes on time and there’s hell to pay. Let me violate one of the rules, policies, or laws they cover and there’s a good chance I’ll end up seeing the inside of a courtroom if not the inside of a federal minimum security prison. I’m smart enough to know that the rules are always somewhat different for the rich and powerful, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. It certainly doesn’t mean I have to give my vote to a candidate who doesn’t feel in any way constrained by the rules and requirements that have a tendency to make the job such a pain in the ass for the rest of us. Just once I’d love to see a little accountability and a story of a senior official caught in a web of misconduct that resulted in more than solemn-faced apology or blanket denial.

Of beans and books and possibility…

About six days a week I drive past a little shop on Main Street that specializes in providing whole coffee beans and tea leaves to the more discerning hot beverage enthusiasts in the surrounding area. About once a month I stop in and pick up a pound of really good beans and sample of whatever brew they’re serving up that day. It’s the kind of shop I like to think I’d own if I had any interest in being a shop owner or working with the public in any way.

One of the charming features of this shop in particular is that they’ve blown out a wall to open their space into the neighboring building that does business as part antique shop / part used book store. There’s something in the scent combination of several hundred pounds of coffee and tea mixed with old objects and aging paper that just appeals to me. For whatever reason, I enjoy it and the shop owners seem to enjoy taking my money so it’s a win-win for all involved.

Sometimes I find a few things worth adding to the shelf, other times not, but until my last visit it’s always been a happy experience either way. On my last stop for coffee and a good rummage through the shelves, a youngish human, female type, injected herself into my personal space and struck up a conversation – mostly about the shop, the books, and general pleasantries. It’s not the kind of activity I usually encourage, but she was brunette and pleasing to look at and didn’t “like” or “you know” her way through the English language. She showed me a few of the books cradled in her arms and then asked what I was reading.

Right there, you see, is where I should have read the question as a danger sign. Instead of offering up something blandly inoffensive or popular or even one of the old classics, I had to open my mouth and gush about the intriguing book I was currently reading about the 6th ship in the Royal Navy to carry the name HMS Warspite and its service from Jutland to the end of World War II. I clearly missed the part where her eyes glazed over, but the “uh, that’s… uh, nice” as she suddenly found renewed interest in the stacks was unmistakable. I can’t help but remark on the grand irony of being torpedoed because of my great love of British naval history.

So that’s the story of beans and books and possibly squandered because I wasn’t smart enough to disengage half my brain and approach with caution. Next time I’m just going to say I’m reading Harry Potter for the 3rd time and try to avoid any topic that might hint that I’m anything more than a redneck in a golf shirt. Go ahead and file that under lessons learned.

Stood up…

For purposes of this post I’m operating under the assumption that we’ve all gone through that awkward phase when we’re dating and actually trying to impress people. While things aren’t quite as awkward as that here in Cubicle Hell,  effs to give.pngthere are certain moments when it feels like it is actually far worse. By way of example, I was stood up today. Twice. I haven’t found myself sitting quietly and quite alone at a table like that since sometime in the late 1990s.

The up side is that being stood up at the office doesn’t generally feature deep, painful rejection of you as a human being or potential sexual partner. It does, however, send the unmistakable signal that your time isn’t worth a tinker’s damn and that the one doing the standing up had something more important to do. Believe it or not, I can almost understand that. I’m a cog way down deep in the belly of the beast. There are absolutely people whose time is more valuable than mine. I understand that with perfect clarity and I’m fine with it.

What I’m not fine with is that no one even bothers with an explanation. Lord knows I’m not sitting around waiting for an apology, but a simple explanation or some acknowledgment that there was some intentional or unintentional pooch-screwing and that as a result your time was wasted would be nice. I have it on good authority that from time to time people may appreciate that kind of gesture. Some people, anyway. Others have clearly already been pushed well past the ability to give any additional fucks.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Date night. Ever been on a date where you spend the entire time waiting for a polite interval to pass so you can extract yourself from what was clearly one of the more serious mistakes you’ve made in months without seeming like a total ass? Because I have. It’s the kind of experience that makes me a) appreciate the quiet companionship of a good dog; b) regret missing the first half of Maryland Farm and Harvest on public television; and c) wish I hadn’t worried about seeming like an ass and saved the cost of the drinks for better purpose – like setting the cash aflame or throwing it directly into the Elk River. Every single time I leave the house I’m just that little bit more sure that I should do it as little as humanly possible.

2. Leaving the country. For my entire adult life I’ve heard people bitch and complain and definitively assure the world around them that “if that happens I’ll leave the country.” If your love of country is made of such delicate stuff, then I urge you to go now, pack a bag, and enjoy your trip. I’m comfortable telling you that it is entirely possible to love your country without loving its leaders – or even most of the people in it. At any given time half the country is going to viscerally loath the person we elect in November. That’s the nature of the politics we’ve made for ourselves. People who would never dare speak a civil word of President Bush are the same ones who immediate condemn even the slightest criticism of President Obama. Likewise, those who long ago supported President Bush turn almost the exact tired arguments against President Obama. There’s plenty enough reasons to dislike all of these people without falling back into a trap where the world can only exist in black and white – or where the only acceptable outcomes are total victory or taking your ball and going (to a new) home. We should be smarter than that. America is my country – it’s yours too – even when she’s being a bit bi-polar, but if it’s all too much for you to bear, I urge you to go ahead and run off to join the foreign legion at the first available opportunity. Perhaps your exit can help free up some space for those with a thicker skin.

3. Raise. After a pay freeze that lasted for about a quarter of my career, it’s safe to say I was underwhelmed with the prospect of the whopping 1% raise we received this year. The actual cash value, after taxes, fees, and insurance premiums, works out to a staggering $55.30 a month or something like $.32 an hour. I get to keep a whole 47.3% of this new found windfall. I’ll try not to spend it all in one place, but if I go anywhere other than the Dollar Tree that goal could prove seriously difficult to achieve.

Deal breaker…

A few days ago, I was asked why I was so intransigent about not wanting kids and invited to come up with a post expounding on my view of what has been described more than once as a deal breaking issue. At an age when nearly all of my friends have settled in to the routine of child manufacturing and upkeep, it’s a fair question. It’s also a question I approached with some trepidation, because of the inherent risk of causing unintentional offense as I refine and clarify my own thinking on the issue.

While these may not be the best or most altruistic reasons, they are mine… at least my top five.

• People seem hard wired to think babies – their own, ones they pass on the street, any babies really – are adorable. That gene seems to have skipped me. My response is more along the lines of “Ohhhh look… a small scrunched up human.”

• I’ve heard my entire life “having a child will change everything”. That’s great and all, but I like my life. I like the things that are important to me now and I want them to continue to be important to me in the future.

• Having dogs has meant giving up a certain degree of freedom to travel and do things on short notice – but I can lock them in a cage for a few hours and go do what I need to do or drop them off at the kennel for a few days and fly off to whatever tropical place interests me. With a baby, that’s apparently considered “neglect.”

• It sounds selfish, and it undeniably is, but I’m my own highest priority. I’m not wild about the thought of completely subsuming my goals, wants, and priorities to a small human for the next 18-25 years.

• Kids are crazy expensive. I bitch about $200 vet bills and $50 a bag dog food. Want to guess how I’d react to a $500 stroller or thousands a year in private school tuition?

I’m not a militant kid-hater (unless they’re crying in a movie theatre or throwing food at a restaurant). I’m a three time Godfather. My friends’ kids are awesome. But when the end of the day rolls around, I’m not the one with the responsibility for clothing, feeding, and educating said friends’ kids and I’ll be going home to a house not strewn with toys, without crayon on the wall, grape juice stains on the carpet, or crumbs on the couch. Being Uncle Jeff is great like that. It’s having all of the perks without any of the drawbacks.

I just don’t see how this can be a point of compromise. It’s a binary sort of thing – unless there’s a lease-purchase arrangement that could be worked out – maybe two days a week and every third weekend. If there’s any uncertainly at all about the desire to procreate, it seems best to err on the side of caution. I don’t want to spend the rest of my days resenting the hell out a child or its mother for finding myself living a life I was never sure I really wanted. Maybe in my declining years, I’ll wonder “what if I had….” But those thoughts for a few years in my dotage seems like a far better option than spending the next 30 years wondering, “what if I hadn’t”.

For me at least, it’s about risk management. I’m mostly happy with the life I’ve got. As much as I love a good day at the casino, I’m not about to give up a sure thing now to roll the dice on the long shot that I’m wrong about all this. If that’s a deal breaker, I guess it is what it is.

Used Car Salesman…

No, I’m not changing careers, but having the ability to talk like a used car salesman has a plethora of important uses. Among the most important of them was trolling for freshman as a junior on the 5th floor of mighty Cambridge Hall. Now you all know that I’ve never really had any game to speak of, choosing instead to rely on sheer force of will and infinite patience in pursuit of the fairer sex. Theoretically, Cambridge was reserved for upperclassmen, but the 5th and 6th floors were assigned to the Honors Program, which guaranteed an influx of freshmen every semester… We’d later learn to call this a target-rich environment.

I suppose it would have been October of 1998 and I was targeting a particular freshman with lots of attention, long talks on the back patio, romantic,lingering dinners in the dining hall, and of course, booze. After an extensive “softening up” period, I decided that a frontal assault was in order, saying simply, “I’m gonna sell this like a used car… What do I need to do to make this deal?” Well, in making a long story short, for some totally unknown reason, it worked and began a whirlwind romance that would practically end with a war between the north side of the floor and the south… That’s right, our own little version of the Civil War. Come to think of it, that was also the night I learned that no matter what you are doing, having two people in a single bed is just damned uncomfortable. So, yeah, that’s the story of How “like a used car salesman” came to be a phrase in regular use. I don’t get to use the phrase often these days, but it still crops up from time to time.

Ladies lying about in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government…

I’m generally considered a pretty smart guy, but I have never understood the thought process that goes on in the mind of chicks when they are making potentially life altering decisions. I’m a planner by habit as well as by profession and one thing I can say with a far degree of certainty is that “butterfly feelings” in the stomach area and how cute it was because he cried are generally not major planning considerations. In fact, I’d go so far to say that they are, in fact, a poor basis for any decision-making process.

Decisions of significance are made after careful analysis of the possible and likely outcomes, the severity of risks, consultation with subject matter experts, and a through “scrub” to make sure you are even asking the right questions. Without applying an overlay of logic to the process, decisions basically become “guesses.” And quite frankly, it has been my experience that life is far too short and time is far too precious to stumble from one point to another based on my best guess

I don’t mind dispensing advice; in fact I rather enjoy doing it. But please, ladies, when you ask, remember that I’m going to apply logical analysis to the situation rather than take stock in whatever butterfly effect you might be feeling. And if at some point one of you can explain to me what I’m missing here, please, please clue me in. I’m serious here people, I know there are a lot of you out there who read on a regular basis. I just want to understand what I am working with here. Can one of you dear readers enlighten me?