Planting The Flag

pink toothbrush

It’s like any other morning that she has stayed over.  We have been doing this for a little over a month and a half.  “Dating,” or “seeing one another” I guess you would call it.  We have not made anything “official,” haven’t had “the talk.”  It’s pretty nice actually.  No labels.  No drama.  No fuss.  We simply spend time together and enjoy each other’s company.  If only it were always this easy.

On any given morning we wake up, roll around under the sheets, push it until the last possible moment, phone alarms blaring, then spring out of bed… her to her car so she can get home and get ready for work, and me to the coffee machine in my place so I can begin my day as well.  I give her a gentle hug and a kiss, she smiles, tells me to have a nice day, and she heads out the door.

If only it were always this easy.

I check e-mails as the coffee is brewing, take some vitamins, down a protein shake.  A little Facebook.  Online news.  Twitter.  The usual morning routine.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  I head to the bathroom, and as I round the corner, I see it, plain as day.

Why does it have to be this hard???

Hanging smugly, almost triumphantly over my sink, is her toothbrush.

It stares at me.  Challenges me.  Stuns me.

She has planted the first flag.  The invasion has begun.  Shit has gotten real… real fast.

I do what any man in my situation would do.  I FUCKING PANIC.  Not because I don’t see myself with her.  Not because I don’t want to be with her.  But because this toothbrush brings us to an entirely new level.  A level to which I had not yet agreed.  The toothbrush itself is inherently symbolic of the very thing that has allowed our time together to be uncomplicated… the toothbrush is in and of itself, a label… a statement of  her intentions.

In my mind, I am confident it won’t be long before I am surrounded by candles and oils and scents I don’t understand, colors I cannot pronounce, and plants I did not know existed.  I will lose all privileges in deciding housing appearance (“decorating”), I will have more “show” towels (you know, the kind that look good, but can’t soak up a single droplet of water?!) than I know what to do with, I will have more throw rugs and more pillows than any human being could ever need.  And when I only have 1/16th of the closet space I once had, I will look around, accept my defeat, and think back to the day, not so long ago, that the toothbrush was firmly planted on the side of my sink.

This toothbrush, that I stare back at now, signals the beginning of the invasion.

“Come on, man.  She accidentally forgot the toothbrush.  Calm down,”  you might say?!  Oh… really.  When, in the history of time, I ask you, has a woman ever done something “accidentally?”  We need to give women more credit than that.  They are creatures of great ability, with impeccable planning skills, and powers of persuasion (sometimes manipulation) that no man can resist.  Even when a woman tells you she doesn’t know why she did something, in the end there is always some kind of purpose behind it.  Even the accidents are on purpose!  And how can we, as men, defend against it?  Well, if we really truly like the woman and have developed feelings for her, the answer is… we cannot.

And that’s the point.  She didn’t leave her toothbrush behind on day one, or week one, or even month one.  That would be a true accident.  She has brushed her teeth every single night she has stayed at my place over the past month and a half , and without fail has taken the toothbrush with her every time she has left.

But now, here it sits.  And why?

Because I caught the most dangerous STD known to man… I caught feelings for her.  I like her.  I like being with her.  I want to keep spending time with her.  And she can sense it.  She knows.  And she also knows I am male… so she knows I have a deep seated, intrinsic, carnal fear of commitment.  So she knows I will shy away from commitment any chance I get.

And with this knowledge, she plants her flag, not only announcing the impending invasion, but even more importantly, announcing our connection.  It is an unspoken gesture.  She has gambled, and she has gambled correctly, that I won’t say a word about the toothbrush.  After all, that would lead to an actual discussion of “what this is,” a Q&A with questions like “what are we doing,” and  “are we girlfriend and boyfriend?”

And yet, in not saying a word about the toothbrush, I silently submit to a connection beyond just hooking up, dating, and/or booty calls.

This is my dilemma.  I either quietly accept the toothbrush and silently admit that this is in fact becoming something more serious between us, or I confront the situation head on, mention the toothbrush, and get into the ever-dreaded conversation about the state of affairs and labels.

I, as most men would, choose the quiet route.  Why?  It is a way to let her know that I accept things are moving forward, but allows me the “out” in the future to still be able to say “we never talked about this… we never decided on a  label.”

It’s a guys silent relationship parachute.  At least, that’s what we tell ourselves.  That’s how we can sleep at night and not be in constant fear of the commitment we just entered into.  Is it a delusion?  Yes, most definitely.  Because, let’s be honest, if shit does hit the fan and things go sideways, the “we never put a label on this” defense isn’t going to cut it anyway.  Actions will always trump words.  And inaction (failing to confront the toothbrush head one) ultimately serves as an action (conceding to an agreement that the relationship is more than just casual).

But I digress.  The fact of the matter is, I like her.  She is very high quality, we get along great, and I want to spend more time with her.  But, I cannot articulate that to her as simply as I just wrote it in the previous line.  Absolutely not!  Why?  Because I am a commitment-phobe, like the majority of the male population.

So, as the toothbrush continues to sit defiantly on the edge of my sink, I think to myself, “why does it have to be this hard?”  And in the midst of my panic, I find a glimmer of happiness, and I start grinning.

Why?

Because this toothbrush, this flag of defiance, this signal of the ensuing invasion, means she is into me just as much as I am her.

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The Next Great American Novel

I’ve written it a hundred times in my head.

Pages upon pages of concepts, ideas, themes, plot and story lines swirl around in my head… minute by minute, hour by hour, day after day after day.  Current events juxtaposed with the pervasive and unifying social themes from time immemorial.  All the makings for an excellent novel…

The next Great American Novel… with me as its author.

And what do I have to show for it?  Nothing.  I have yet to commit a single word of it to paper.

To be sure, all of it is clustered in my mind.  It’s all there.  Completely unorganized, yet immediately accessible at the worst of times… driving in the car, showering, out on a run, during work, in the middle of a dinner conversation.  Everywhere and anywhere that I can think, but cannot act, the novel has been and is being written…  But not on paper.

Oh, it makes so much sense in my head.  It is so powerful.  My commentary on the human condition.  My contribution to a greater understanding of ourselves, of our society.  My calling.  My purpose.  My contribution…

Again, what do I have to show for it?  Nothing.  I have yet to commit a single word of it to paper.

So then, who am I to even begin to presume that I could offer anything of substance, anything worth reading on a blog… let alone a contribution to the American literary collection?!  I mean, come on… I am going to write the next Great Gatsby?  To Kill a Mockingbird?  Or wait, maybe I will just crank out an easy Moby Dick or Grapes of Wrath, and cap it off with the present times version of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn?!

I so desperately want to speak about the profundities of the American experience.  But what could I possibly have to offer that would ever be viewed as a contribution to the collection of American Literature?

One day, I have promised myself… one day I will commit it all to paper, in an organized an intelligible way.  I will make my contribution to society… In a literary masterpiece, the likes of which would place my name in the same standing as Faulkner, Salinger, Steinbeck, Fitzgerald.

will write something, the thing, that will resonate in readers for decades and centuries to come.

In the meantime, I guess I will just go for a run after work, take a shower, and drive to meet some friends for dinner.

Look At Me?!

“So you’re a swimmer?”

She was blonde, she was beautiful, she was popular.  And she was talking to me?!

“Um, yeah… Er…. Uh… I mean yes, yes I am.” I try my very hardest to assert some kind of authority over my words, but I can’t believe “Jenny” is talking to me. I am, for the first time in my life, being noticed, like really noticed. And not for my oily skin, cracking voice, and just plain old awkwardness… But for something I do.

“That’s cool,” she says with the kind of casual elegance you would expect from any one of the 80s movie teenage stars I had ever fantasized about. “We have a good swim team, don’t we?” she continues with a smile, as her hair blows gently in the wind, emanating from some fan I am  presently unable to locate.

“Yes, we do have a really good team,” I state with some semblance of authority in my voice. “We won the sectionals last year.  We have a really good shot of winning again this year.”

“Why are you saying weve won?” She asks.  And not in a condescending way, but in a truly inquisitive one. “You’re not on the the Varsity Squad, are you?” This time there is a hint of sarcasm.

“Well, yeah, actually I am. I swim the 200 and 500. I beat out one of this year’s Seniors for the spot.” I am half proud and half scared as I make the announcement. I hang on her every word, as she says…

“Wow! And you are only a Sophomore?! That is really impressive.”

And in that moment, ALL of my self worth becomes tied to my athletic performance. How could it not?! One of the hottest and most popular girls in high school, who just happened to have her locker next to mine, actually spoke to me,  actually offered me recognition for my athleticism. She validated me.  The feeling is intense… a lusty adrenaline filled pride.  I want more. I need more. In this moment, with the words of a popular and beautiful teenage woman, I am empowered.

I now know what I have to do. I have to become the best athlete I possibly can.  This is my ticket to inclusion.  This is the validation that I had up until this point been unable to acquire. The equation became so clear, so simple…  Become a great athlete and people (important people… like Jenny of course, one of the hottest girls at school) will take notice of you, talk to you, accept you…

It is often strange, the things we tie our identity to, isn’t it?  It is strange how we choose to define ourselves.  Stranger still are the discrepancies in how we view ourselves versus how others view us.

Years after my encounter with Jenny at the lockers, a very close girlfriend of mine turns to me during a conversation about life, existence, and contributions to friendships/relationships/society and says, “You know you have more to offer than just your athletic ability, right?!”

I would look at my friend completely and utterly puzzled. How could anyone see anything in me other than my ability to perform in athletic endeavors? What other qualities do I have? No seriously, I had no idea what she was talking about. Not until many more years after my close friend pointed out that I might have more to offer this world than my athletic prowess, did I ever truly understand what she was getting after.  And although I feel I haven’t yet fully figured it out, I have a better understanding that I have the capacity to offer more to this world than my accomplishments.

Going back to that fateful day in high school… All I knew was that in the moment Jenny recognized my ability as a swimmer, she brought me into existence.

And, at that point in my life, that’s all I needed to know. Her validation and acknowledgement years ago made me into someone.  Or perhaps better stated, she set me on a path to become someone.  Showed me the way.  The encounter with Jenny created within me an identity.  An identity  I clung to for years and years. Because of Jenny, I was no longer, well, a no one. I was no longer the introverted high schooler with acne.  I was no longer (as) awkward.  Regardless of the “nod” from Jenny, I was still every inch the introvert.  That didn’t change instantly. And yet, in my brief encounter with Jenny, with validation on my side, I could feel the tide was shifting.

The desire to express myself, to open up, to unveil myself to the world was in motion. It didn’t happen all at once. It was gradual.  From introvert to extrovert… it was a journey.  From high school, to college, and beyond.  But it was one I eventually completed, in only the way a true overachiever could do.  I swung from bashful to confident, from “(PLEASE) don’t look at me” to “HEY EVERYBODY… LOOK AT ME!”  Did I swing too far in the direction of confidence, perhaps to a level of over confidence?

You’re damn right I did!

But you know what? It sure as hell beat the non existence I had lived from Kindergarten to Tenth Grade.

Oh Jenny, if you had any idea what a service, and disservice, you did me this day….

Condoms Are Emotional Barriers

Condoms are GREAT! They serve as a physical barrier to potential exposure and contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, as well as a physical dam that would prevent any of your fearless swimmers from setting forth on their journey in hopes ultimately diving headlong into the egg.  At the same time, I also humbly suggest that condoms serve as an emotional barrier.  After all, taking that big step with your significant other and deciding not to use condoms represents a very high level of trust.  And trust is inherently bred from an extremely strong emotional connection to your partner.

So, every time a buddy of mine tells me he had a one night stand and decided not to use a condom, my mind is blown.  Seriously?!  You just met this chick, don’t know her from Eve, and you are gonna throw it in there raw dog?!  I understand how my buddy got there (ending up bare back with a woman they barely know) in so far as for guys there is a massive difference in feel between condom or not.  When I ask a dude why he had adownloadcondom-less one-nighter, generally the response is,  “It just feels so good without a condom, bro.”  Yeah, I know it does.  But you know what else feels so good?  Living STD free without a bunch of unplanned little kids running around calling you daddy.

I really don’t trust any woman who comes home with me on night one (I see the irony, and potential hypocrisy in that statement).  But seriously… if a woman comes home with me on night one, you can safely assume it isn’t her first time doing this sort of thing (despite her protesting, “I never do this kind of thing”.  Um, yeah, sure you don’t).  Furthermore, I really don’t trust a woman who comes home with me night one and says she wants to do the dirty without a condom (and yes, that has and does happen).  Yeah, that’s not for me.  And it shouldn’t be for my buddies.

Condoms provide peace of mind.  The only time that that peace of mind can exist sans condom is when you trust the woman you are with.  If I have sex with you without a condom, I am making a statement that says, I trust you with my sexual health and with my family planning.  After all, there is no pill for men, and that fancy form of contraception known as “pulling out” isn’t always fail proof.

This is all to say that I really see a connection between condoms and emotion.  Now, this isn’t to say that couples who continue to use condoms throughout their relationship do not have a strong emotional bond.  For them, it’s just the chosen form of contraception (especially if a woman doesn’t want to be on the pill).  But, this is to say, when a condom is taken out of the equation, a certain emotional barrier is removed along with the physical, and a statement of trust is issued.

For those of you who aren’t like my “horny health gambling let’s just go raw dog on night one with a completely random woman” buddies, do you feel there is an emotional component to the removal of condoms from the equation in your intimate relationships?

Insecure Women Are Liabilities

There is no nice way to say it. Insecure women (and I am sure men too, although I’ve never been with a man) are liabilities.  And when I say they are liabilities, I am saying this within images (1)the context of a relationship.  An insecure woman is not an issue if she is not connected to you.  In this case, she is just the girl at the bar trying to grab the attention of every guy she can, by any means possible.  But what happens when that random attention seeker in the bar is actually your girlfriend who is on a night out with the girls… without you?  Liability alert.

When I am single, I am very single.  I’m all about me.  And not in a dickish way, just in a “I don’t need to worry about anyone but me” way.  Yet, when I am in a relationship, I am very different.  I am exceptionally loyal and committed to the woman I am with.  You can imagine how difficult this proves when my significant other decides to show her bat shit crazy cards about 3-6 months in to the relationship (and yes, in my experience 3-6 months in is generally where a girl who is actually crazy, will start showing crazy).  And to someone like me, who doesn’t shy away from the commitments they have made very easily, you can see why when things go sideways 6 months into the relationship that I am now very committed to, I end up willingly enduring a lot of shit before ending things (because again, I try to make good on promises and commitments).  I was once likened to the captain of the Titanic.  If you remember in the movie (yes, the one where Kate Winslet got her kit off and banged that Leo fellow in the back of a steamy car… anyway, like I was saying about me and the Captain) when shit was going down and the boat was sinking, the Captain calmly walked back into the bridge, grabbed the steering wheel, and waited for the icy cold waters to rush in.  That’s me.  And that is why I feel I have a certain insight into insecurity, and the crazy it brings.  Because I have seen it to the bitter end, numerous times.

Insecurity comes in all forms, and for all reasons.  I am not a psychologist, so I feel very inept when helping a woman deal with her abandonment, daddy, popularity, appearance, attention, mean girlfriend issues.  But, I do try. Hard.  And in trying, I have learned over and over that telling/showing/proving to a woman that you “are not that guy” is an absolute impossibility.  You will never overcome the power of her insecurity.  It has nothing to do with you, and therefore you have no power over it.

Jealousy, computer/email/phone/text snooping, clinginess, paranoia, insistence on a detailed report of every single second of a guy’s night out (including who was there, did you talk to any girls, did the other guys talk to any girls, did anyone at the bar talk to any girls), dependence issues, and the ever popular “why are you checking her out?!” statement are all part and parcel to the consistent state of the insecure.  And they are all a drain on the relationship, and consequently on you.

When you strip it all down, in its simplest form, the insecurities a woman brings to the relationship are a liability to the potential success of the relationship you are trying so hard to maintain.  And when you are in a relationship and you feel all of your effort goes into maintaining things, and there is little energy for anything else, where is the hope for growth and progress?  Or better yet, where is the joy, the excitement, the fun?

Now, this isn’t a one way street.  Ladies, I am sure you have stories about Captain Clingy, his constant need to be held, his anger toward that guy who approached you at the bar, and his strong worries about your interest in Tom Brady (“Why do you have to wear his Jersey?!”).  Insecurity a problem for both sexes.  So, assuming you missed the early warning signs, and ended up in a relationship with a significant other who managed to play it cool for a while, but then started showing signs of insecurity, how do you handle it, if any other way than cutting them loose?

Truth Serum

For a man, his orgasm is the sexual “moment of truth.” Upon completion, a man is instantly filled with unrivaled satisfaction… Or unrivaled regret. And not until orgasm can he truly know what he will feel. And to he honest, not until completion does he actually care. Up until that point, he is blinded by lust, and thus his judgement is severely compromised.

I mean seriously guys, have you ever been with a woman (maybe on a first date, maybe a one night stand, or maybe even in a relationship on the edge of moving forward or needing to be cut off), done the dirty, climaxed like a champ, and then thought to yourself either… “Fuck, that was amazing!” OR “Fuck, I have made a terrible mistake” (for any number of reasons)?

You probably saw the pros and cons going into the situation.  But were you able to really see past the end of your dick?  Likely not.  Did you even care before that point?  Again, likely not.  Why?

Because semen is your truth serum.  Not until you’ve released it do you realize what you’ve done… good or bad.  There is nothing quite like an orgasm to instantly clear those lusty cobwebs in your head.

I really wonder what sorts of decisions (in general, in all areas of life) men would be making if they weren’t so sex driven?  Is there a female equivalent? Are women blinded by something as equally powerful as the primal male desire/need to “spread his seed?”

I Call Her Sally

I don’t have the slightest clue what her real name is. I’ve never stopped to ask.  She looks like a Sally, and since I know myself and I know that I will never stop to find out her name, then in my reality, Sally she shall be.

Sally and I, we have a real connection. I see her most every day on my midday run.  And everyday I run by, she waves and says….

Well, at first I had no idea what she said. I run with my iPod at such a deafening volume. It motivates me. But, after running by Sally day in and day out for weeks, I decided to pause the music.

As I ran by, Sally waved and said, “Have a good run, sir!” She smiled and continued to wave as I ran on by.  And when I came back from the opposite direction on my return trip home she said, “Have a good end to your run, Sir!”

And ever since that first day I paused my iPod, it is now my ritual to pause the music ever single time I run by Sally. And it is Sally’s ritual to wave and wish me a good run on the way out and good end to my run on the way back.

Perhaps I should now tell you that Sally is most definitely homeless, and likely mentally ill. She is probably in her mid fifties. She is dressed in dirty frumpy clothes and the same straw hat everyday. She is sitting in the same spot almost every single day I do a midday run. She waves to all the runners, wishes them good runs.  She receives confused and cautious looks from out of towners.

I don’t know if any of the other locals wave back, but I do. I make it a point to acknowledge Sally and wave back. She is kind enough to cheer me on. It’s the least I could do. And maybe I hope that when people see me waving to Sally, they will accept her as I have. You see, I am a little bit envious of Sally.

I don’t remember where I heard it or when, but I have always been struck by the quote, “life is not based on reality. Instead, life is based on the perception of reality.”

Imagine that. Imagine that you perceived the world in the way Sally does. Likely, she has little or no idea what her condition is. If she did, how could she possibly be so happy?! Seriously, she seems so content. So happy. So free. In her perception of her reality, life just simply be perfect. Sunshine, the outdoors, interacting with people, without a care in the world.

Sally exists beyond the boundaries of society. She is neither bound by convention nor the constructed realities of the modern world. Every time I run past Sally I try and draw something from that. I try to be more free in my thinking, less critical of myself. I try to accept myself for who I am. And in that moment, as I run by her, out of breathe and unable to fight anymore, I accept myself.

But, this freedom is fleeting. By the time I am back home, I have given up on acceptance and gone back to the conformist policies of the everyday rat race that is modern human existence.