Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Empty Headed Animal

Men like to pretend to be thoughtful. On occasion we’ll bring home flowers or candy. We’ll write a love note or bring home a card. We like the reaction and enjoy the adulation much like a toddler who learns to poop in the potty.

Women also like to pretend that men are thoughtful. You enjoy the heartfelt words expressed in pen and paper. You are delighted to open an unexpected gift from the wind beneath your wings. You love to brag on your man and how sensitive he is.

Here’s the truth. We brought you home something as a reflex action to something we saw or heard. Perhaps we saw it in a movie or on TV; possibly a coworker or neighbor had recently done something nice for his wife (no doubt as a reflex action to something he’d seen) and we wanted to do the same. The most probable reason is because you’ve dropped several not so subtle hints that such a gesture would be appreciated and it finally sunk through our thick skulls. Both of us erroneously believe that this idea sprung forth from some instinctual attentiveness. It’s not that we don’t love you or think about you; we do, it’s just that we’re incapable on our own of reaching that level of consideration.

There are those reading this right now who are thinking ‘Not my man, he’s so thoughtful’. He’s not. You are compiling a list of nice things he’s done for you “out of the blue” and formulating a comment to retort what I’ve said and defend this supposed thoughtful man. Let me just stop you right there.

It’s not that men don’t do thoughtful things. We do. That only perpetuates the illusion of thoughtfulness that later gets us into trouble. An expectation is set that will only lead to a letdown when you realize what an empty headed animal you are dealing with.

Case in point. Let’s say that, hypothetically, there is a day where it is customary to exchange gifts with those you love. It could be a jolly holiday just passed or a rapidly approaching day that might fall somewhere in the middle of February. In the course of preparing for this day you and your significant other discuss the whole arbitrary gift giving situation and through this discussion it is decided that you won’t get each other anything. This idea comes from the woman mind you because no man in his right mind would suggest such a thing. She may be motivated by the amount of money already spent on others or by a sincere feeling of contentment. It doesn’t matter. The point is an agreement is struck and both leave with an understanding of haud donum verto [that is Latin for I’m not getting you anything because that’s what you freak’n said we were doing].

In the words of Admiral Ackbar, “IT’S A TRAP!”

The man leaves the conversation fully confident in his love for her and her love for him. He feels a sense of relief not having to stress about what he’s going to get her and whether she’ll like it.

The woman leaves the conversation fully confident in her love for him and his love for her. She feels a sense of relief not having to stress about what she’s going to get him and whether he’ll like it. But then…

You start to think about how much he does for you and how much you care for him. You think of something he might like or need and the thought of him opening it. You then imagine that, although he agreed to it, he’d probably be disappointed if he didn’t have something to open (because deep down you know you would be). After all it is a small gift and he needs it anyway. You then buy it, wrap it and hide it. You smile to yourself thinking of how surprised he’ll be (and he will be surprised since you told him you weren’t getting him anything).

Meanwhile the man naïvely goes about his business barely aware that the holiday is approaching.

Now the day of reckoning arrives and to his horror he receives an unexpected gift while having nothing to offer in return. You’ll tell him not to feel bad and justify why the agreement you made didn’t really apply to this gift. You’ll tell him that you really didn’t want anything but he sees the mourning in your eyes.

It’s not mourning for the lack of a gift but rather mourning for the death of the thoughtful considerate man you both imagined.

It’s nobody’s fault really. We want to be thoughtful and you want to believe that we can be. The problem is that if not compelled or prompted to do something we will happily choose to do nothing.

Sadly, there is no electroshock therapy that will condition us to behave the way you wish we would (raise your hand if you just pictured your man strapped like a chimpanzee with an electroshock headband) (Now raise your hand if you just raised your hand) (Stop raising your hand I can’t see you).

I propose a plan to eliminate such frustration and disappointment. Ladies if you want something say so. We’ll be glad to do almost anything you want because we love you. Waiting around for us to discern what you want us to do is just frustrating for you and baffling to us because we seriously have not a clue. It’s a game that we are going to lose nearly every time because we’re ill-equipped to play.

If you want us to pick up our socks off the floor you are going to have to say something, probably many times. Angrily staring at the back of our head as we walk away isn’t going to make us think about our actions. If you want a bite of ice cream we’ve just scooped for ourselves then speak up because we’re not giving up that rocky roaded goodness on our own. You subsequently ceasing to speak to us doesn’t convey your thoughts it just makes us worried for what we’ve done…or haven’t done…or might have said…or didn’t say or notice...? Wait, what were we talking about? Oh right, for the love of Flannigan Flynn just say what you want! We don’t know what you are thinking, we’re barely aware of what we are thinking.

If we thought about it we’d be just as disappointed in ourselves as you are.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Cookie Van

A couple of times a year the cookie van comes to where I work and sets up in the parking lot. Without fail I’ll make an appointment to visit the cookie van at some point in the day. I’m a big fan of cookies, before my wife vetoed it the plan was to name our third child Cookie (true story). However, each time I go to the cookie van it’s quite an ordeal just to get some free cookies. So this time I formulated a plan.

I walked into the cookie van at my appointed time. I signed in and read the required literature. When it came time to step into the closet with chairs I followed the cookie attendant in and announced:

“I’m feeling well today. I don’t have a cold or the flu. A friend in the 3rd grade had hemophilia but we didn’t share more than a No. 2 pencil. I’ve taken nothing outside of ibuprofen in the last 12 months. I haven’t traveled to Europe since 1980 and neither I nor my mother has spent more than three months in Mexico since 1977. I’ve never had malaria, syphilis or gonorrhea. I don’t use needles to take drugs not prescribed to me by a doctor. I have no body piercings or tattoos. I’m a heterosexual male who’s never traded money or drugs for sex. I’m 6’1 and my weight is none of your business.”

I then stuck out my hand Colbert style to accept my cookies. The attendant looked at me quizzically for a moment and then stabbed my right index finger with a pin. I recoiled in pain and she promptly wrestled control of my hand and squeezed a drop of blood into a small container of Windex. After briefly watching it float to the bottom she had me sign some papers and exit the closet.

As I emerged from the small closet with chairs I spotted at the other end of the van the object of my desire, a bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies. I made a beeline for the cookie area but found my path blocked by a stocky serious looking woman; for a moment I thought about giving her the old shimmy shake head fake but the cramped quarters of the van precluded such a maneuver. I made a desperate appeal with my eyes towards the cookies but she remained firm gesturing towards the seat to her left. I acquiesced and lay down in the recliner.

She set to work scrubbing my arm at the bend in my elbow, which was odd because I’ve never tried to eat a cookie with my elbow pit. After handing me a small piece of pipe to hold she stabbed me in the arm and instructed me to squeeze the pipe every 30 seconds, which I dutifully did still not understanding what any of this had to do with me getting a cookie.

I nervously watched a couple of coworkers already in the cookie area visiting. One of them reached for the last visible bag of Famous Amos Chocolate Chip cookies in the pile. Instinctively I leapt forward but was restrained by the stocky serious looking lady who warned me to lay still. I thought to myself if there’s a god in heaven that won’t be the last chocolate chip bag leaving me with only lemon cookies. Following a brief supplication with deity I again scanned the pile for a tan bag with blue letters to no avail.

A few minutes later she removed the shank and bandaged my wound with all the care of a battlefront field medic. She then told me I had just 15 minutes to stay in the cookie area! I had to move fast.

I bolted to the cookie pile and picked through the bags like a child in search of the prize at the bottom of the cereal box. Chex Mix, fruit snacks, the dreaded lemon cookie, more Chex Mix. ‘I can’t be gone,’ I thought. ‘It must be here.’

After what felt like an eternity I abandoned my search for Amos’ Famous cookies with chocolate chips. Collapsing into a chair with a juice box I tore open my bag of Knott’s Berry Farm’s Raspberry Shortbread cookies.

As I sat there, trying to swallow this dry tasteless cookie topped with hardened raspberry goo, I began contemplating what it was all for. What kind of diabolical organization would throw so many obstacles and hardships between a man and his cookie?

They told me I was a hero. No. The real heroes are those men and women who wake up every day to make and bag cookies for those poor souls forced to endure the rigors of the cookie van to get them. Those are your heroes, folks. I’m just a man looking for a cookie.

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