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VULNERABILITY Seems To Be The Hardest Word … Big Boys Don’t Cry

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Man in war crying

It’s my life and I’ll cry if I want to …

I’ve wasted a lot of time over the years trying to hide my feelings and imperfections.

It’s a stupid exercise, but peer and society’s dictates are strong motivators to bury our intimate thoughts.

As a young teenager in the early ’70’s, I laid in the late, hot darkness of my bedroom, a thin ribbon of warm, amber hall light sneaking through the bottom edge of the door. Thick, humid air off Lake Ontario fell heavily through the window making simple breathing an effort.

My bedroom was typically psychedelic-adolescent of the era with colourful, fluorescent posters of Three Dog Night and Led Zeppelin hung out at odd angles on the walls – groovy, manly music posters of guys with long stringy hair, cool and unemotional as hell; guys I was trying to identify with and mimic in my early years at Glendale High School.

Led Zeppelin

But my attempts at exterior coolness sharply contrasted with the veiled reality I felt laying there – fretting and unsettled about the unknowable possibility of my Mom dying – with small rivulets of tears tickling down my cheek, falling gently, soaking silently into the pillow.

It was a desolate place because these feelings were something I could … would … NEVER share with anyone. Not my Mom or Dad, not my siblings, and especially not my best friends Renato, Frank, or Jerome.

Fears and vulnerability were an inner war to be fought on a minute-to-minute basis. No battle in this realm could be lost, for if even one clash was forfeited, then the war was over. You were a “girl”… none of us boys wanted to be a “girl”.

In my sissy-free mind, I had to be bravely perfect, or close to it.

At my own Mom’s funeral when I was 15, not a single tear escaped my eyes in public.

…………………….

I’m a so-called grown-up now and I can let my hair down (oh wait, sadly I can’t do that the way I could as a ’70’s long-haired kid).

But I’ve found that shedding the cloak of tough guy is not so easy.

Childhood rules are locks and chains with strong forging. Can’t you hear the early voices of your parents, grandparents, and friends warning you to be this, or not to be that?

We want to please our parents, right?

Mommy, watch this … aren’t I good, aren’t I special?” –  “Yes Daddy, boys don’t cry …

These are the RULES.

Correction: Those WERE the rules.

Vulnerability and a willingness to look foolish are first cousins.

Vulnerability ties itself to the post that is perfection. If we have strong knots holding our weaknesses to that post, we’ll never risk losing face. We can always maintain the illusion of perfection, if only the knot holds.

With time, I’ve tried to be more honest about my mistakes and emotions. Even if I’m afraid of what people think.

Yes, I may no longer look as smart as they thought I was. And yes, for a small moment I won’t be the spinning top that never falls.

That’s ok. I’m human. I can be vulnerable and foolish.

And Praise The Lord, ’cause I look foolish a lot these days, and finally … I don’t care. I feel like Forrest Gump gallumping down the road with my leg braces snapping and breaking and flying madly off in all directions. There’s a refreshing wind blowing through my hair and a smile in my heart.

Years ago – maybe I was 18 at the time – I approached a young bikini’ed blond sitting by herself on a beach in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I’d never tried picking up a girl in a bar or on a beach ever ever in my life. But, what the hell, I thought. She looked good, and no one knew me there. I could be foolish in camouflage.

Risk versus reward … Heart thumping in my throat, I went for it.

Mr. Smooth Operator (NOT!!!), I sat down beside her beach towel and introduced myself. We talked and did the ritual animalistic checkout of our ancestors. A quick two minutes later – my jittery breath returning – I think we both knew there was no chemistry happening, no likelihood of making beautiful babies together.

So I stood up, smiled, said goodbye, and walked away… sad that nothing would come of it, but happy that I’d unlocked my vulnerability and exposed myself to potential ridicule and rejection and went for it anyway.

But unfortunately that moment of brave vulnerability was the exception and not the rule for me then and for many long years after.

Now I realize that losing my vulnerability pays dividends just like my stock portfolio and my beloved Tim Hortons’ (er … em … Burger King) shares.

Dividends-become-more-popular-again-NF1LPPHI-x-large

 

 

Creativity doesn’t exist and thrive in houses overstuffed with rules.

This is why I sometimes, really just occasionally, say things that might seem a bit outrageous in this blog. I’m trying to cast off the rules – society’s shackles that hold me back from molding something that approaches “new” (I know that little is truly new, but “idea sex” allows a fresh take on the old).

If I follow all of the rules of life, I’ll live a carbon-copy existence to everyone else. Then I’ll wake up, stuck in a lousy traffic jam cursing the guy in front of me, who’s cursing the guy behind him (that would be me). Give me a wide open country road with wind-blown sand in my teeth and gravel under my wheels.

To be creative and set in motion a billowing mushroom-cloud of ideas, I have to forget about macho perfectionism and playing one or more of the roles thrust on me by others. As a strange consequence, I even think that people like me better when they see how foolish and imperfect and vulnerable I can be.

The time is past due to boldly consider breaking rules. Crossing some boundaries is exponentially exhilarating and joyous.

Sorry, dear friend, but I’ve gotta come clean here.

This blog? I’m really just using you as my analyst.

Thank you for your service! Oh, and your cheque is in the mail!

PS. One last thing.  I still can’t shed a tear in public … some locks were just forged without a key.

Analyst

 

 

 

Your Castration Awaits!…8 Reasons Women Will Dominate Men in the 21st Century

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I’m taking this week to recharge my writing chops, so for the first time, I thought I’d re-post an earlier blog post. This is my most viewed post ever from February 2013.

The King is dead… long live the Queen!

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I’m prepared for the inevitable…are you? Patriarchy is dying…the secret is coming out, and you can say you heard it here first!

…and “I am woman, hear me roar” runs through my Helen Reddy-filled mind…

Helen reddy

The start of the Information Age was the beginning of the end for male domination in western society.

I and my male cohorts are tumbling, tumbling in slow motion down the slippery mountainous slope. Men have “ruled” since before the biblical sighting of the Star of Bethlehem over Jerusalem 2,000 years ago…now, women are the new western Tsars and are going to rule the world.

The golden age of might over right that celebrated physical strength and brawn and ability to dominate by force has come to an end for us boys. Society, business, and government are now ruled by intellect, drive, social acuity, and perseverance — all things that women excel at.

Today, I work with a female boss in my lab (in years gone by I might have said “under a female boss” and snickered with my male comrades) who is a better corporate leader than most men I’ve worked for over the past 30 years or so.

Is it because she’s a woman? Yes and No.

I’ve worked for bitchy tyrannical messes of female overlording that were ball busters. But in most instances, women are more supportive and constructive in managing their charges. There are exceptions to every rule, but as a rule of thumb, women make better bosses.

To win in the world up until 25 years ago you only needed your fists and a loud voice, or a sword or a gun and you would win the game, whatever the game. How did we men do it?

Take over government? Send in 5,000 bulky warriors or blast some cannons at the parliament.

Succeed as CEO? Knock back the gin martinis and go to the strip bars with the rest of the boys in charge of the company.

A few signposts of the future:

  • There are more women Canadian premiers than men today.
  • Hillary Clinton and Condaleezza Rice and Angela Merkel are just the tip of the imposing iceberg preparing to sink the manly Titanic cruising along. The following countries have women Presidents or Prime ministers: Thailand, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Liberia, Australia, Bangladesh, Iceland, Costa Rica, Finland, Trinidad and Tobago, Lithuania, Slovakia, Denmark, South Korea, and Malawi.
  • Major corporations like YAHOO, PEPSI, KRAFT, XEROX, ARCHERS DANIEL MIDLAND, AVON, DUPONT are all run by women.

Thailand PM

Women in charge is a good thing for the health of the world.

Despite the peccadillos of Lindsay Lohan, Kim Kardashian, and Paris Hilton…women have begun taking the reins and making the world over. And it will be a more peaceful, environmentally friendly, and orderly place.

The ship of patriarchy is now a leaky sinking hulk which is slowly going down and will not likely rise again except to be dredged from the murky depths someday to be placed in a museum and be marveled at.

Going back in time, men were convinced that the female was “the weaker vessel” and that the “seed of life” was contained within the male until the human ovum was discovered in 1826. Woeful ignorance kept women from voting, signing loan papers, owning property.

But it was really all just a surface farce. Reality was distinctly different. Even on BBC’s 1920’s era Downton Abbey, poor anachronistic Lord Grantham is surreptitiously ruled over by women ie his mother, wife and daughters who were truly in charge of the castle despite the full-frontal appearance of men in control.

downton-abbey

Lord Grantham (in front) only appears to be in charge…

It’s only speculation, but I think if there were women in charge of the Middle Eastern countries, we’d have an end to the interminable tensions and war in the region. Netanyahu and all of those Arab lads would be out on their cans just watching the women settle issues and grievances that have been stirring for centuries. Women wouldn’t allow their sons and daughters to be fed to the war slaughterhouses.

Here’s some reasons why women WILL dominate in years to come:

  1. Women don’t waste time playing video games and watching porn. Girls just grow up and get on with life…well, and obsess over shoes but that’s a minor pastime on the way to the corner office.
  2. Women excel at communication and conciliation, whereas mens’ authoritarian style of coercion is outdated. Women are attuned to social dynamics and know the benefits of collaboration vs. competition.
  3. Women are getting educated and at higher levels. In just about every field, women are either in the lead or are charging hard to take the lead. It’s like China vs the U.S.. Get lazy, and complacent and watch the competition overtake you.
  4. Women know how to balance career and family. Both career and social worlds can thrive simultaneously. Men can’t pull off multi-tasking unless beer and a TV remote are involved.
  5. Men persist in thinking they can rise through manual labour. The world has changed and many men refuse to believe or acknowledge it. If men don’t excel and women do, don’t blame women. Wake up and smell that coffee boys!
  6. Womens’ self-definition is changing. Women don’t feel the need to acquiesce to men to sooth their egos. If a job needs doing, women will just jump in and do it. Damsels in distress are so yesterday.
  7. Allowing women to vote, fight wars, run businesses, and play sports levels the field. Women may never be able to build the physical strength of a man, but can equal or better him in every other facet of life if they choose to.
  8. Men want to get rich quick but don’t want to work or wait for it. Men are too impatient and unwilling to take the longer, slower route to a better solution. Too many impetuous mistakes are made by wanting everything now.

Yes, women are coming on hard and we guys are struggling to adjust. We’re fearful and nervous of a world that doesn’t conform to the notion that we are meant to be in charge without having to prove our worth.

That doesn’t mean that men should just lay down on the tracks and be crushed under the coming locomotive. A smooth running train needs an engine with all of its wheels moving in the same direction.

Women spent the 20th century rejecting the notion that they were just pretty playthings.

The 21st century needs a similar awakening by men who need to exercise their brains as much as their brawn. And if we men can retain some status and influence, our male testosterone competitiveness will provide a nice balance of forward momentum. We need both mens’ and womens’ viewpoints and strengths to experience the best of all worlds.

So, good on you girls for taking the world by the balls and making your mark. Hail to you and your efforts, and please try to be firm but gentle on us fellas as we attempt to keep up.

The question isn’t who’s going to let me; 

it’s who is going to stop me. 

                                                          – Ayn Rand.

Woman Boss with Balls

A woman with balls will always be Boss…

I’m Coming Out of the Closet … Again.

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Hand of a child opening a cupboard door

A year ago in this blog I came out of the INTROVERSION closet. And so in this, my 2nd annual coming-out post, I’ve selected a different closet from which to emerge.

Yin Yang, Hot Cold, Vanilla Chocolate.

The attraction of opposites is common and complementary.

I’m more like the repelling blend of oil and water within the world of gender roles. After all, what kind of real man likes romantic, sappy, poignant movies that tell stories of love lost and won, lost again and then re-won?

What kind of real man can endure Katherine Heigl or Rachel McAdams playing the hard-nosed but oh-so-soft female executive in a man’s world?

Most men’s heads are a vortex of sports, beer, cars, and sex. Real men thrive on action and violence and muscle cars. Real men don’t like quiche. Real men spit and swear.

I’m not a Harlequin romance reader or cheesy soap opera fan but I must — somewhat reluctantly — thrust my hand out of the macho-closet into the tissue-ready Chick-Flick world.

I’m the oil slick on the surface of this water-world of REAL men.

couple-watches-chick-flick

I like CHICK-FLICKS. Bite me.

Give me sweetly-saccharine Sandra, give me Blonde Reese (Legal or Illegal!), give me Chicago-syrupy Renee and Serendipitously-seductive Kate and Castaway Tom and Silver-lined Bradley and cutesy-Sleepless Meg.

Hold the Terminating Arnold, hold the Die-Hard Bruce, hold the Rambo Sylvester and Delta-Force Chuck.

I embrace this frilly feminine turf filled with feelings, relationships, and emotions. The rise and swell of sorrowful violins is tender therapy.

But really, chick-flicks are all about finding two hours of vicarious love in the form of a charismatic leading man or winsome heroine.

Like in a well-written novel, a clever chick-flick puts us squarely in the starring role — we peer from behind Audrey Hepburn’s neckline or Paul Newman’s blue eyes for a short time.

Let me recall some Chick-Flick history as a chart of my story:

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1960’s  “Honest to goodness it’s the absolute ultimate!” — Gidget (Sandra Dee)

Sandra Dee in GIDGET and Annette Funicello in the series of Beach movies were my early chick-flick loves. They were wholesome but in an ever-so-slightly slutty way. Men like wholesome sluts. It’s walking on the carnal ledge without cruising the dark side streets seeking the perfect hooker for 5 minutes (or 2 maybe) of fun and pleasure.

Julie Andrews sang, twirled, and beguiled us through the Salzburg mountains in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. She teased us and made a nun’s habit vaguely naughty and sexy.

1970’s. “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” — LOVE STORY (Ali McGraw)

One of my favourite 1970’s movies was LOVE STORY. I had a mad crush on Jennifer Cavilleri (Ali McGraw) with her pouty, intellectually preppy attitude. She also had a vulnerability that melted me into liquid chocolate.

1980’s “I’ll have what she’s having.” — When Harry Met Sally (Meg Ryan)

The decade began with AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN when Debra Winger wooed me with her blue-collar longings and husky voice and ended  WHEN HARRY MET SALLY. Meg Ryan was the perfect chick-flick lead — she pulled at my heartstrings with her neurotic tendencies and operatic restaurant orgasms. Why is quirkiness so appealing?

1990’s “Go to the Mattresses.” — You’ve Got Mail (Tom Hanks)

1995  brought us WHILE YOU WERE SLEEPING. Sandra Bullock was my girl of the decade with her crush on comatose hunk Peter Gallagher while honourable Bill Pullman drooled all over her back. Meg Ryan’s cute-vulnerable act continued in a close second place with YOU’VE GOT MAIL and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE.

2000’s “You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”  — Serendipity (Jeremy Piven)

The new millenium began and a new cinematic crush walked into my life as Kate Beckinsale brought a serendipitous attraction into SERENDIPITY in 2001. A year later, Mandy Moore sang and stole my heart in A WALK TO REMEMBER Like Ali McGraw in LOVE STORY, this movie reminded me that dying girls can be hot.

2010’s “I don’t want to fall asleep. Okay? Don’t let me fall asleep. Promise.” — SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD (Keira Knightley)

We’re barely into the second decade of the 2000’s but already I’ve been smitten with Keira Knightley in SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD. Once again, the quirky factor drew me in. I may be detecting a trend here — quirky + dying = irresistible.

Seeking-a-Friend-For-The-End-Of-The-World

So there you have it, I’ve outed myself … again. But I am egalitarian. It’s not only the female leads that make a chick-flick eminently watchable.

Strangely, I’ve developed man crushes on Tom Hanks (YOU’VE GOT MAIL),  John Cusack (SERENDIPITY), and Steve Carell (SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD / DAN IN REAL LIFE) too. The easy humour and vulnerability of the male leading man roles remind me that masculinity is far more than the stereotypical grunting and rutting of the penis owner.

Love ’em or Hate ’em, chick-flicks encompass the meaning of human existence. We work to live, but we love in order to breathe and feel and experience the depths of our emotional consciousness.

I’ve lived and loved my life to the passionate background beat of cinematic romance for more than five decades.

The greater fear that rises within me now is how I might survive the upcoming Chick-Lit-Flick armageddon 50 SHADES OF GREY. Don’t get me started on that one…

50-shades-of-bad-boys

Sexy Man in the Kitchen

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SexyVegeMan

I love to cook, but it wasn’t always thus…

…turning the clock back…

There was a harmony of delicious scent when I excitedly pushed my way through my family’s back door on chilly winter Sunday afternoons.

I was still wearing the ice skates that shrouded my icicly-frozen toes. My friends Larry (yep, another Larry…to avoid confusion, he called me Lawrence, I called him Larry), Dave, Jerome, Hugh and I had just finished a game of hockey “shinny” across the road on the seasonal ice rink the city workers built for us each winter in the school park.

Mom was in the kitchen cooking, the dining room windows were hazy with steamy condensation from vegetable water boiling on the stove and all was well with the world … it just was.

From the living room, I could hear the sounds of the black and white console TV and my Dad’s raucous laughter at something a little tyke had said on “Tiny Talent Time”, a prehistoric version of the many “Idol” or “Talent” shows that litter our current TV screens. If I came in a few minutes later, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom would have a roaring lion or a soaring giraffe crossing the screen.

There were pan-roasted potatoes with a delicious salty-caramelized outer surface sizzling in the oven. A heady beef gravy smell wafted like a culinary aphrodisiac, saturating every room in the house. The dining table was set and soon an oblong ceramic dish would be laid down with large, dark slices of roast beef that occupied centre stage every Sunday evening in our house like a specially-invited dinner guest. I would feel a surge of pleasure when the plate was placed at the table.

downton_table

I’m pretty sure this is exactly what my family’s Sunday dinners looked like…

Idyllic memories aside, there were some downsides to this heaven-on-earth. Squishy piles of pumpkin-orange mashed turnips that I love so much now were a decided turnoff as were insipid soggy pale-green peas delicately served from a Green Giant tin can.

There are what we call comfort foods.

This is what I would call a comfort meal.

It was a warm, friendly, dreamlike scenario that played out once a week, every week. My parents and my brothers and sisters and maybe their partners gathered around a family table. We shared a roast beef and we shared the stories of the past week, both good and bad. This was the scene of many many middle-class WASP families in Canada of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

There were no cookbooks in sight or for that matter anywhere in the house. Food preparation was something handed down from mother to daughter with time worn recipes (sometimes hand-written on cards) that were part of the DNA of any woman worth attracting a man of substance.

But we boys and men didn’t cook. We might help out a bit on the side mashing fluffy potatoes or carrying plates to the table. And on hot summer weekend days, men held dominion over outdoor cooking on the BBQ where clouds of charcoal smoke, beer and red meat encapsulated the spirit of manliness.

danger_men_cooking_

But real cooking belonged to the girls.

In yesterday’s world, men were the bread winners and women were the bread makers.

And yet, something that was taken for granted just 50 years ago, that is, that woman do the cooking, has been totally turned upside down.

Today, I love to cook. Lots of men do.

The reason? Men have finally learned one of the great secrets in life.

Good Male Cooking = Sex

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I first came to enjoy cooking as a way into a young lady’s pants.

Some guys build big vein-streaked muscles or hunch over greasy car motors to attract cute girls. For those of us non-hulky young fellows lacking any sort of mechanical aptitude, we had to resort to other means to draw sweet bees to our hives.

I developed two strengths that assisted in my often weak attempts to seduce and capture the hearts of young women. I learned to strum the guitar. And … I learned that cooking for the fairer sex could be a powerful aphrodisiac. Go figure.

Women chefs cook with their hearts and souls in pursuit of nourishment of the body and their families, while male chefs cook with their head and their private parts in pursuit of … well, you know. An exception to this is poutingly-hot TV cook Nigella Lawson who has cornered the sexy female side of food preparation. I would devour uncooked scorpions from her fingertips.

My go-to dish was French Onion Soup.

French Onion Soup with Stringy Melted Cheese 500

It was my fishing lure of choice in the sea of attraction. The broth was dark and rich and tantalizingly fragrant, with a hint of fresh thyme. It had the whiff of European sophistication that layered me with a hint of cosmopolitan elan. And there is something very pre-orgasmic about a dish that has a guy and a girl eyeing each other across a table with gooey strings of molten swiss cheese hanging teasingly from a spoon.

I used my cooking skills on one or two (OK, maybe 3!) occasions in my teen and early 20’s years to lure and seduce. Did it always work? I would say yes, although to be honest, I didn’t normally cook for someone until the outcome was almost 100% secured. Cooking just sealed the carnal deal!

Years have passed, and now that I’m older and happily coupled, cooking is a pleasurable part of my everyday existence, and not just BBQ’s! I love to combine spices and flavours to make something exciting to look at, savour, and taste.

My kids don’t see anything sexy or alluring about the dishes I set at the table, which is a good thing. While it’s all simple and straightforward, the colours and textures of foods are still a sensual experience of pleasure.

The sight and scent today of a plate of steaming roast beef at the table takes me inside myself to a warm time of family pleasure and the company of my long-gone parents. I longingly wish that I could make pan-roasted potatoes or apple pie that compared to my Mom’s.

Life has its cycles and rhythms. Yesterday my son in Nova Scotia phoned while walking on his way home from purchasing fresh beets to make Borscht … hmm … could this be his “seduction” dish?

If my kids only knew the thoughts that course through my head when we sit around the table together and I sip a spoonful of French Onion Soup … well, I can hear them now…EWWWWW!

When I grow up, I'm gonna cook sexy food just like Dad...

When I grow up, I’m gonna cook sexy food just like Dad…

 

Half A Man In Gym Class?

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My legs were screaming at me to stop. But the finish line was tantalizingly close, so I ignored them – as best I could manage when it feels like there’s a newly-graduated surgeon extracting a bullet from your quadriceps – and pretended I was a swift Kenyan runner.

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“My” group of Half Marathoners…me in red, my daughter Emma in blue…

I enjoyed a run through the park with 25,000 others a week or so back … Stanley Park in Vancouver, as a matter of fact.

The mass of multi-colour clad, multi-aged runners combined in a tidal blur of sun, sweat, and spectacular vistas of the snow-capped mountains on the north shores of Burrard Inlet. With the bright sunshine warmly carpeting our pathway, a prettier running location would be hard to find in this world.

It was a half marathon run, part of the Vancouver International Marathon held each May.

Distance running like this is not something I was naturally born to. I’m no Wayne Gretzky, who, I’m pretty sure sliced and diced his Mom’s hoo-ha figure-eight style on the way out at birth with his sharpened ice skates. HE was a natural.

I’ve been a slowly smoldering work-in-progress, one New Balance running shoe step in front of the other to where I stand today as a middle-aged middlin’ runner.

Pet Peeve time: Calling the race a “half marathon” inflames the ire in me because it makes me feel like I could only bother to run half the REAL race. The medal hung over my neck at the end declares, “RAN HALF“.

It’s like they’re snickering and cruelly announcing to me and the world … “real athletes run a full marathon, but YOU could only run HALF a marathon. Lazy Slob!”

Don’t worry… I’ll get over it.

All of this is really just an introduction to telling you that I didn’t like gym class in high school.

It was populated by jock types and smart-ass morons and squat, juiced-up gym teachers with bulky brawn, shrunken testicles, and even further diminished brains. The gym corner office was full of male and female Sue Sylvester wannabes. It didn’t make me feel “GLEE”-ful.

Gym teacher

To be fair, some things were OK, but most of the time my gym experience was being squeezed like a stress ball wearing regulation blue gym shorts. The atmosphere was suffused with wrestling room acidic-scented body odour and unattainable rope climbs and gymnastics pretzels. My life flashed before my eyes a dozen times while attempting to do the mandatory spread-legged vault over the pommel horse.

In my gym classes, participation wasn’t the desired outcome. It was either total mastery of death-defying contests or utter, adolescent, esteem-crushing failure. The good-looking popular girls in their cute boy-melting mini-skirts knew within minutes if you failed to jimmy up the rope to the gym ceiling. Who needed Facebook or Twitter?

Somehow, I scraped through with only semi-crippling psychological damage.

And now, fast forward to today’s gym world.

Fitness-Club

The modern-day commercial gym is an amusement park wonder to gawk at.

There are machines with handles and barbells sticking out in various directions, all laid out in beautiful straight lines. Bright spotlights peer down from above onto stationary bikes, and rowers, and treadmills, and ellipticals, and all manner of thingamabobs with names that only Dr. Seuss could have contrived.

Huge numbers of average folks throng to these high-tech halls of power and fitness to make themselves more beautiful and buff and just plain healthy. It’s good to see but I’m mightily confused – as I am by so many things in my life. Let me explain.

The guys and gals pour through the doors, and plunk down their hard-earned membership dollars. Then, like in the old smoky-hazed drinking parlours from a hundred years ago, the men and the women disperse in opposing directions.

Men drift off towards the big heavy lifting machines and barbell racks where bench presses and monster leg squats await tantalizingly like BBQ’d steaks and beer on a hot summer day. The 350 lb. “grunt” lifts soon begin and the muscles bulge and ripple. This is the “BRO ZONE”.

Meanwhile, women amble towards the organized group classes of TRXBOSU, Kick Boxing, PilatesSpinBoot Camp, Yoga and…well, you get my drift. Lululemon butt-hugging apparel bursts out all around like an untended field of pretty dandelions, music volumes crank up and movement begins. There is hard work to be done and sweat to be shed. One of the best things resulting from these classes is a killer “aerobic” workout that pushes the heart and lungs way beyond the comfort zone.

Now, maybe it’s just the gyms that I go to, or the small’ish city  where I live in British Columbia, Canada, but in most of the group classes that I stop in to participate, I’m the ONLY guy. It’s a lonely world for those of us with a Y chromosome.

yoga ine guy

…alone again…naturally…

WHY??

Why do my male brethren avoid the group workout in a room filled with the fairer sex?

  • Too much talk? Who can talk with a heart beating hard enough to be heard across town?
  • Not enough muscle aggrandizing work? Guys…there is no lack of muscle building activity in a TRX or Boot Camp class, believe me!
  • Music too distracting?  Maybe, but it helps to take the mind off the pain and make time zip by faster.
  • Female Intimidation? Are the men coming to the gym fearful of what women might think of them if they can’t keep up in a class setting? Are the “ball-busters” just too much for the male ego to handle?

I wish I knew the answer to my own questions.

Today’s world is taxing enough for a man who is trying to understand how the double X chromosome sex thinks. But then to run into a wall of confusion regarding his own gender-kind seems perversely mean-spirited.

Have I been somehow cluelessly parachuted inside a Twilight Zone world where I’m straddling a gender fence surrounded by a dark, murky haze?

Maybe hanging out with my BRO’s will clear the confusion in my head and remedy the lingering pain in my HALF MARATHON legs.

I’m heading off to the gym to think about this.

kid planking

Way to go BRO!

UGLY Ducklings Become The SWANS

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It was the Age of Innocence.

There was a time when little girls were just…little girls. They weren’t creations of Victoria’s Secret, or Estee Lauder, or Valentino, or Hugh Hefner.

I think I discovered girls in Mrs. Putns’ Grade 1 class at Glen Echo Elementary School in Hamilton. But I didn’t discover the right girls until much later.

Larry Grade 1 Glen Echo 2

Grade 1 Glen Echo School 1962…me in bottom right holding the ‘S’…

Kindergarten and Grade 1 girls in my classes played hopscotch and hot-pepper skipping rope with all of the fanciful rhyming verses that went with it:

 Ice cream soda pop , Lemonade Punch,

Tell me the name of my honey-bunch .. A, B, C, D ….

girls-jumping-rope

We boys played tag and road hockey and Red Rover. They didn’t like the same things we liked, and yet there was something about them that made us just want to chase after them, hit them and pull their hair. These were the heartfelt signposts of love in the kindergarten fraternity. I think the girls knew this, but we boys were woefully ignorant of any deeper meaning to our intentions.

We told everyone including our best buddies that we hated girls, but who were we kidding. Girls were different, but they were a GOOD different and we wanted a piece of their action.

These curiously perplexing creatures were usually smart and attentive, often pretty like spring daffodils, they wore colourful wool plaid skirts and white tights that they were always yarding up. We hadn’t experienced hormonal tides just yet. So while we wanted their attention and to interact flirtatiously, we didn’t really know until a few grades later what the outcome of the flirtation involved. It was innocent, and it was exciting.

But we were young and we were boys which meant we could often be callously cruel to girls. Just like we would be savagely heartless to the boys we called fags and homos later in high school. Bullying was an expected repercussion of showing up at school most days.

female-bully

We teased the pretty girls for sure. But it was light-hearted and harmlessly playful teasing. The, shall-we-say, less appealing or less cute girls received a much more vitriolic approach. Not only were they less mouth-wateringly tempting in our boyish eyes, but they often came with strange sounding names. My  school was in an area that attracted many European immigrant families from places like Italy, Yugoslavia, Hungary, and Ukraine. I grew up with girls named Zdenka, and Bozica, and Jadranka, and Eunice, and Gunta. We didn’t even TRY to pronounce their last names.

It was the cutesy little blond girls with pig tails named Dale and Cathy and Linda and Anne that drew us in like slightly confused moths to a flame. We were smitten and as the years went by we sent our best buddies across the playground to ask if they would be our “steady”.

It was the rare and very courageous boy who would make the direct approach to express his love wishes. This was early diplomacy at its best. Once the arrangement had been made and agreed upon by both sides, the brief courtship then got underway. At the next recess or lunch break, the conventionally-handsome couple would be found wandering the playground, holding hands and being admired and sometimes jealously hated by the other kids. The affair would usually last two or three days and then dissolve like strawberry Kool-Aid in cold water.

swan

And then something quite strange happened in early high school (Glendale was its name). I learned something very important about the physical maturation of girls. And it was more startling to me than the swelling of breasts and curvature of hips. Health classes in which we boys snickered throughout had forewarned me about the expected, and gloriously welcome feminine changes. The nasty and unexpected part was when all, or at least most of the ugly ducklings that I and most of my pals had cruelly teased, transformed into delicate and beautiful swans over the period of a year or two. Faces and bodies remodeled, rejigged, and reorganized themselves. Awkward features morphed like larvae into radiant butterflies. Beauty emerged where we boys least expected it and it was time for our reckoning.

My bridges were burned.

I paid the price for the evil I had unleashed in years gone by.

My earlier cruel deeds of teasing, mocking, and ridicule now came back to haunt me. My teenager hormones were swelling to a high-school crescendo. I wanted the attractive girls, both the cute ones from earlier days (who often didn’t seem as attractive as they once had) and the newly-minted swans with fresh appeal. I wanted them badly. In a savagely cruel twist, the same hormones that were responsible for pumping blood in enormous quantities to regions below my waist, were also triggering ugly, pus-filled facial eruptions that I couldn’t hide from.

My pre-adolescent sweet looks were tumbling into an abominable reversal and I was becoming the UGLY Duckling!

And maybe worse, the new swans weren’t teasing or heckling me as I had them earlier, they were merely ignoring me. SOME…ANY… attention would have been better than none at this point but I became invisible for the next 3 or 4 years of high school. WOE was me!

Shakespeare couldn’t have written a more heart-rending tragedy for an adolescent young man.

It wasn’t until Grade 12 that I finally began to emerge from my well-deserved visit to the penalty box. A new maturity and understanding of peoples’ dignity was developing. Any tease left in me became more sophisticated and gentle. My face, though still somewhat pimply, began to take on  more manly proportions and appearance. The old and new swans with whom I had grown to this stage, never really came around to the realization that I could be a keeper. My bridges had been truly burned.

But fortunately, brand-new swans blew into my realm who had never experienced my earlier, less comely stages. I was now an unknown entity with no history of cruel intentions or pock-marked face to recall. It was like starting kindergarten all over again, and I was older and a smidgen smarter this time.

Larry Grade 13 3

Me…A Grade 13 grad with just a few pimples and a new attitude…

Finally I was able to swim with the swans, of all types, again – but I wasn’t only graduating from academic high school. My education in life and people had now begun. Pretty swans still had their appeal, but there was a greater depth to relationships than just the beautiful plumage. The complexities and richness we encounter daily when we trace our lives by passing through others’ was beginning to settle in.

And here I am decades later, a whole lot wiser (in some ways!), yet still working daily to fashion poetic rhyme and reason of the people, the words, and the images from my past.

I Should Have Been Born A Woman…

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Nora Ephron is responsible for the crush I used to have on actress Meg Ryan.

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when harry met sally restaurant            Meg ryan orgasm

I’ll have what she’s having.”

    When Harry Met Sally

I think it was Ryan’s cutesy little nose and her transparent fragility and vulnerability, not her ability to fake a great orgasm, that drew me in. God, she was as adorable as a fluffy little puppy! But it’s the death of Ephron earlier this year that reminded me that maybe I should have been born a woman…

Certainly I’ve got all the right junk down below for AMAZING manhood (I say modestly … TMI you say emphatically!). I could go on and on here but I’ll try to stay on point, OK?  I love to watch and play manly sports like hockey and football. I don’t think that I display effeminate characteristics in style of dress or mannerisms. I feel a STRONG attraction to women and NONE towards men.

But I find that many of my thoughts and opinions and interests roll into shore along currents that most of us might think of as feminine.

Men are supposed to have a passion for swearing, hunting and drinking lots of booze, while eschewing things like shopping, reading and gardening. Real men vote Conservative or Republican, not the Liberal or Democratic bearing that attracts my vote and those of the majority of women. Tough manly studs admire violent Action or Adventure movies and TV shows that star chunky behemoths like Chuck Norris and Sylvester Stallone who run and dodge bullets and explosions with the casualness of me picking up a latte (oh, and real men don’t drink lattes either!) at Starbucks. Men avoid genuine personal conversations that deal with emotions and relationships- I prefer to dive right into the nitty gritty of the heart.

And it’s in this realm of emotions and relationships that Ephron found her calling and strengths.

So… Who’s this Nora Ephron I’m talking about here? I’ll bet many more women than men could answer this question.

noraephron_merylstreep

Nora Ephron and Meryl Streep

Ephron was a fine American blog, book, and screenwriter, and director of what most would use the term “Chick Flicks”. Her tally includes movies like “When Harry Met Sally” “You’ve Got Mail”,”Sleepless in Seattle”, and “Julie and Julia”. Something else she was famous for was once being married (of three marriages in total) to Carl Bernstein, one of the Watergate-exposing journalists that resulted in President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

I’m going to really miss Ephron and the humour that she mined from human relationships. Because despite the drama and traumas that exist within any couple-type relationship, there is just a boatload of funny stuff that goes on, some intentional, and a whole lot accidental.

Who hasn’t had an argument with their significant other over something as trivial as the proper way to slice a tomato, or from which direction the toilet paper should roll (on top, or underneath), or whether that wagon-wheel coffee table should be ditched? Ephron could turn these sorts of simple things into movie hysterics. Perhaps because of her own life experiences she created characters who desperately wanted the enchantment and longing and harmony that makes us all idiots in the love domain.

wagon wheel when harry met sally

Most of us live lives similar to those of Ephron’s characters. Ordinary people going about our day-to-day existences. Searching for meaning, connection, and love in a busy and impersonal world that often passes us uncaring or uninterested on street corners and shopping malls and offices, or in today’s more-connected world, on Facebook or eHarmony.

Thoreau said, “Most people lead lives of quiet desperation, and go to their graves with the song still in their heart.” I don’t know if any of Ephron’s characters discovered the song in their heart, but they all seemed to live lives of quiet desperation and were searching for an escape route or at least a respite. More often than not, that search began and ended with a human connection.

meg-norah-remem

The overwhelming reality of most of humankind’s romantic relationships is a spellbinding launch of euphoria and then a harrowing finish that doesn’t truly end with “’til death do you part”. For most, the narrative pendulum swings between some inexplicable sense of ecstasy and grim anguish. Very few of us cherish the storyline that ends with hard feelings and tears. Ephron led us down sinuous romantic pathways, and despite the tears shed along the road, always had us leave the theatre with a sense of elation and hope in our hearts.

I don’t know the exact reasons why I have a more-feminine mindset. There’s probably some deep-rooted psychological undercurrent that could be hooked and brought to the lake-surface of my mind by years of analysis and a few tens of thousands of dollars. But then it could be just because my mother was the parent that took me to my hockey games and teacher interviews, or it might be that I was unselfishly housed and fed by my saintly sister while I went to high school and college for four years after my Mom died. Or…maybe I’m just a serendipitous genetic artifact, like a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Anyway, I don’t lust after you anymore, new Meg Ryan  (sorry Meg, your plastic surgeon has turned you into someone I don’t recognize). But it’s because of women that attract me like you and Nora Ephron that, in the end, I’m really happy that I wasn’t born a woman…

I’m content to just think like one sometimes!

meryl-streep_julia-child

Streep as Julia Child sings “YMCA” in JULIE & JULIA…

SHAMELESS Like Me… YEAH, I’m a Bad’ish Ass!

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I hate him but I love him.

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If I could start out in life all over again, I’d be a real BAD ASS, like Frank Gallagher.

Arguably the most aptly named show on TV, it is profane and crazy and lusty, and even a bit far-fetched. BUT it’s great fun, so not MY life.

Frank Gallagher is the most lovable, hateful boozer out there (despite being the possessor of 3 testicles!)  He’s shameless, and so are all of his kids in their own uniquely dysfunctional ways.

Canadian actor William H. Macy plays the role of the alcoholic father of 6 children in the TV show called SHAMELESS (based on a British show by the same title). He would sell his soul and anyone else’s besides if he could get a freebie support cheque from the government to support his drinking ways.

WILLIAM_H_MACY SHAMELESS

Like the Shakespearean Fool–and despite all of his unforgivably, incredibly bad behaviour– he often utters the least fool-like and most intelligently profound statements. He has cachet and charisma.

Frank Gallagher is the perfect old-man bad boy. He pays none of the bills. Totally narcissistic, he lures his youngest daughter and sundry other women at various times to do his bidding, with a charm that is both loathsome, yet irresistible. There’s nothing physically appealing about him yet he attracts female attention like elder bees to autumn honey.

I’m even attracted to him and I’m a Straight Guy!!

Bad Ass Boys

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The world is full of bad boys that a substantial cadre of women are drawn to, like moths to a flame. This bad boy attraction strikes girls at a young age. By the time they wake up to their folly, they fall exhausted –alone– into bed at night, the adjoining bedroom containing 2 wee moppets who struggle at school and eat poorly because Mommy can’t afford to feed and clothe and supervise and educate them while simultaneously working a dead-end job at just above minimum wage…sans BAD ASS BOY or his bankroll!

It’s been described as “ovulation goggles”, the period leading up to a woman’s period where she’s most attracted to the bad boy who bizarrely…paradoxically… looks like the great father type. Women love a man who appears confident…and for Bad Ass Boys it really is just an “appearance“. Women are attracted to men who take risks and who take the initiative to meet them. They say they want the solid, caring, sensitive type of guy but what women say and what they actually do are generally miles apart.

BAD ASS BOY harbours only a smatter of important dreams in his little head…a great car, a beer in his hand and a great piece of ass in his bed at night…probably in that order of appearance and importance.

BAD_BOY

So let’s look first at some of the traits of the typical Bad Boy and see what we can learn from him.

The typical Bad Boy:

  • is cocky, arrogant
  • always puts himself first
  • is inattentive to a woman’s needs
  • does what he wants when he wants to do it, regardless of what anyone else thinks
  • acts like a loose cannon
  • struts his masculine sexuality
  • treats women badly
  • often uses women for sex

The lure of excitement and cocky self-confidence draws women into their “Bad Ass” moats like a desiccated wanderer in the desert lacking water for days.  Akin to Lady Chatterley’s lover Oliver Mellorswomen feel the draw of the stereotypically aloof, sarcastic but masculine woodsman whom Lady Chatterley falls for.

How do these relationships usually turn out? In a word, poorly. That’s because bad boys won’t change unless they want to—no matter how long-suffering their partner might be.

Further, despite initial attraction, most women get tired of bailing a man out of jail, wondering if he’ll make it home from a party, or catching him with another woman. Women who sign on with bad boys enlist for endless conflict and turmoil. Ironically, the very thing that draws good girls and bad boys together also sows the seeds of the relationship failure. Many women have learned the hard way that bad boys make bad dating partners–and even worse spouses.

SENSITIVE_MEN

What woman wouldn’t want a piece of these BAD BOYS! Bad Ass though…who knows?

Women are all to blame, right? Yes, and NO!

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Typically, we blame women for falling under the spell of these magicians. But maybe we should look at this from a different side. Men can be a part of the solution too.

The world needs good men. Good women need good men too! But good men need to change. There are too many good women who end up in dead-end lives because they’re fooled and taken in by the tricksters…the BAD ASS BOYS. Fear of failure keeps many nice guys home alone while faux-confidence keeps the bad boys busy.

Nice guys need to learn to be a bit more shameless…confident and cocky and adventurous and risk-taking, while simultaneously retaining their sensitive and caring side…we talk about a perfect woman possessing beauty, intelligence and charm. Men need to be the perfect 10 of humorous, adventurous and compassionate.

Good guys need to wear the disguise of the BAD ASS. Become a BAD’ish ASS Too!

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Three Things to Bring out the Bad’ish Ass in a Man:

  1. A good humour can be cultivated by anyone, good or bad. Just as math and spelling can be learned, a sense of humour isn’t necessarily an inborn trait. Guys, learn how to tell a killer story and women will love you for it. Try to learn a funny line or two,  absorb the funny things that happen in life. The everyday stuff gives every Jerry Seinfeld out there plenty of material…it just needs to be observed and absorbed. Women LOVE a funny dude. A bit of attention to humour will bring life and love into a man’s life. Nothing Bad Ass about this, but it still looks edgy.
  2. A life well-lived means taking a bit of risk. This doesn’t have to be a jump off a cliff with a hang-glider, although, why not? Cultivate some additional interests that push the edge even a bit. Rock-climb…learn to sail…mountain bike on trails…play the drums. Women want to see someone who LIVES life because it makes them feel alive just being with you. Bring some passion into your life, and others will feel passion for you.
  3. Ditch the gut. Even a bit of regular exercise outside the bedroom will pay off here. We know that women are far less beautiful-body absorbed (in their men anyways), but showing that you care about your own body and health will show her that you might care about her too! BAD ASS BOYS always look decent in a pair of jeans!

I’m trying to be a bit more SHAMELESS! I’m as lucky as a guy can get in my life, but running a bit closer to the edge adds some zing to life. Just writing this blog makes me way more aware of the silly things that happen in everyday life.  And the next time I get the opportunity to parasail, I’m there!

So girls…save yourself a lot of agony and despair, and search a bit deeper for the caring, sensitive, good, BAD’ish ASS BOYS. They exist. Relationships can be exhilarating and edgy, and still be filled with compassion, commitment, and equality.

And guys…being BAD’ish ASS can be cultivated while still retaining the passion and gentlemanly qualities that make a dude a MAN.

Let’s all put Frank Gallagher out of business and keep him as a fictional guy on the tube where he belongs!

MANSCAPING…Will That Be Clear-Cut or Bonsai?

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She asks me why, why I’m a hairy guy.
I’m hairy noon and night, my hair that’s a fright.
I’m hairy high and low, don’t ask me why, ’cause he don’t know. ~HAIR–The Cowsills

English: Androgenic body hair, photograph take...

evolution…MAN or MONKEY?

I’m a pretty hairy guy (except sadly- in the last few years- for my head!)

A while back in William’s Lake, B.C., a female physician (former!) friend perused the curly dark hair sprouting over the open collar of my button-up shirt and labelled me as “The Missing Link“…ouch.

I don’t want to look like this guy in the photo. Does this man look attractive to you? If you said yes, then all I can say is…REALLY??!! I want to look and feel sturdy and mannish. And while I can appreciate a certain amount of fur on my corpus firmum, there comes a point where I scream …ENOUGH!

MANSCAPING has joined my league of masculine rituals such as the 3 S’s (SH**, Shower, and Shave). I don’t do it daily. But once a month or so I haul out the electric hair cutter gizmo and knock back the forest on my chest and back, and even a little on my legs. I’m talking trim and shorten here, not shave to the nubs. I do the legs because I like to see my great quad muscles (please read this as sarcasm!) glistening during Bike Spin Class…talk about vanity!

Of course there is true irony here. In high school, I WANTED hair- down THERE, you know what I mean- sooo badly. Changing and showering after gym class was monster torture for a late bloomer…I get nervous sweats even today thinking about it.

What really bugs me now is that here I am later in life and just learning that hair not only can grow on your head, legs, armpits, chest and groin.

It ALSO sprouts on and in your ears and in your nose. The rims of my ears grow hair. I have to shave my EARS. This is patently unfair and just one more reason that I doubt the existence of God.

Shouldn’t this be commonly shared with young men at the time of puberty? Why aren’t fathers and uncles sitting down with their young charges between hockey games- or spitting and crotch-grabbing sessions- and explaining what the future holds in store for them?

It has been traditional in earlier generations- and in some other cultures currently-  for knowledge and secrets of manhood  or womanhood to be passed on to the young by elders who had lived and experienced what it meant to be a MAN or WOMAN.

“First you shave up here, and then you wax down there!”

Women are pretty well schooled by their moms, grandmoms, sisters, aunts, etc. on what the trappings of femaledom mean. In North America, for example, women, by and large, shave their legs and armpits (I won’t dive here into bikini lines and international techniques that begin with “Brazil”). Because young girls undergo the start of menstruation, it is pretty important for them to get “the talk” from their Moms. These discussions probably get around to hairy issues like shaving and waxing at some point, don’t they?

The discussion, other than “carry protection”, never really happens for boys. Men don’t encounter a major life change in the same way that women do. Voices deepen and muscles swell. Hair bursts out on the chin and pits, chest and groin, and our hormones show us how to drive a car at high speeds when our buddies are nearby. Pretty routine stuff in the larger scheme of things.

Fathers, uncles and grandfathers are not so good at sharing the information of what it means to become a man. Jewish boys have a bar mitzvah when they turn 13, but I don’t think reading and understanding the Torah includes  tips on keeping body hair at a reasonable level. Christians have their Confirmation, Buddhists have Shinbyu, Islamists have Sehra…none of these touch on hair or manscaping.

I’m not  advocating that we men should go all Steve Carell in “The 40-Year-Old-Virgin” chest-waxing, expletive-screaming crazy over hair issues. BUT, I don’t think being macho means we have to allow ourselves to sprout out from every orifice and in all directions to look like Chia Pets. Perhaps (alright, definitely) this is all just a demonstration of my superficial nature. But, a little Bonsai-style judicious pruning makes me a happier dude, so there!

Male or Female…where’s your level of depilatory comfort…Maybe ALL. Maybe NONE?

(In 2008, I shaved my chest and had a logo painted on when I WON a bet for a Lab Congress that I was helping plan)…sorry about the gratuitous skin shot!