The Single Guy Hesitates

The following tale is based on actual events which occurred a number of years ago…

There’s an old proverb that says, “He who hesitates is lost.” No one knows this more than me.

Because that’s just what I do. It’s my modus operandi. I hesitate. I think. Then I overthink. Then I miss out.

It’s the definition of insanity, doing something over and over again while expecting different results. But people do that sort of thing all the time, right? Maybe not everyone.

But here’s how it goes: I meet a girl. I spend some time getting to know this girl. This time period varies. Could be days. Could be months. But then, at some point, I decide she’s worth the risk of a broken heart. What I don’t realize is that I’m already too late.

More often than not, I’m too late due to the fact that I’ve managed to find myself in the legendary Friend Zone. The F.Z. can be a fun place to be, as long as one is perfectly content with simply being friends. Although, there’s nothing simple about being just friends.

Usually, when there’s a Friend Zone involved, there’s a good chance that one of the friends will have stronger feelings than the other one will. This happened to me. A couple times. Okay, more than a couple times. All right, it’s happened a lot. But that’s because I’m all the time hesitating. And I’m also a really good friend.

But there are other consequences to hesitation, aside from the Friend Zone. Namely, there’s the missed opportunity. While waiting around and getting to know a girl, a guy can end up letting her slip right through his fingers. It’s easy to let it happen, too.

Part of the reason I choose to hesitate more often than not is because I want to get to know someone before taking a leap of faith. For someone with the vast array of trust issues that I have, it is a significant leap of faith. But then I figure it out, she’s pretty awesome. Unfortunately, someone else has figured it out too.

Once again, he who hesitates is lost.

In the Words of a Non-Parent

Today’s blog post comes as an idea from my friend Jessica. She suggested that it would be interesting to hear parenting advice from someone who isn’t a parent. With as much time as I’ve spent among families and working with kids, she felt that I could offer some unique insights into the art of raising children. So, depending on how well this is received, this could become a regular category on The Confusing Middle.

And as my first attempt at offering unsolicited and (in some eyes) unqualified advice, I ask a question: How involved should parents be in their child’s school?

First and foremost, know your child’s teacher. I say this in the same way that comedians have to know their audience. A stand-up comic really has to be able to read his or her audience to know how some jokes will come across. One audience may think something is hilarious, while the people at the second show might be completely offended. Teachers are just as varied in style and personality as those fickle comedy club audiences.

Have you determined what kind of teacher you and your kids are dealing with? Trust me, it’ll be important throughout the entire school year. It might be best to come up with a list of questions to ask on Back to School night, that way you can begin to familiarize yourself with the person that your son or daughter will be seeing for seven hours a day for the next nine months. Things to ask that you may not think about asking include, but are not limited to:

  • What kind of reward/consequence system do you have in the classroom? (Especially important in the younger years.)
  • How much weight do you give to homework?
  • What is your favorite cookie? (Who doesn’t appreciate a cookie every now and then? And it never hurts to suck up to your kid’s teacher, am I right?)
  • Do you need a hand with anything throughout the school year?

That last question may take some teachers by surprise. A parent who’s interested and willing to lend a hand to their child’s teacher? This is a rare and precious thing in our world today. As I said, teachers and their personalities vary. Some will want a volunteer to help out just about every day. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it’s important to make it known to your teacher that you are available if he or she needs help. There are so many simple things that can be done to take some of the weight off our teachers’ shoulders.

At the same time, don’t step on your teacher’s toes. If you happen to be in the classroom thanks to some free time, which you’ve chosen to spend by volunteering as a helper, remember that you are a parent. The teacher is there doing a job. I’m sure it’s difficult to relinquish control over your own flesh and blood, especially when you’re in the same room, but you have to trust that your kid’s teacher is doing a good job. After all, that teacher has been certified by the state to do that job. So let them do it.

Not all parents can help out during the school days, nor are they expected to. Working parents, for example, just aren’t able to afford time away from work to help in the classroom by making copies or cutting shapes out of construction paper. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still be involved in your child’s education. Yes, the teacher has them during the school day, but you have them in the evening and on weekends.

Show an interest in what your kid is doing at school. Ask questions of them. What did you do today? What did you learn? What did you like about it? What didn’t you like? How did it tie into what you’ve already learned? I beg of you, begin asking these questions at an early age. If you show a genuine interest in what your child is learning, your child will develop a genuine interest in what they are learning. If you have a teenager in high school who doesn’t give a crap about school, look back and ask yourself if you gave a crap about their schoolwork when they were younger.

Finally, ladies and gentlemen, it is inevitable that your kid will get a bad grade someday. And it’s very likely that he or she will get into trouble at some point. When that happens, please, do not automatically assume it’s the teacher’s fault. Granted, there is no such thing as a perfect teacher. But, here’s the thing, (and this will come as quite a shock to a lot of parents) your child isn’t perfect either. I’ll give you a moment to compose yourselves after the shock of that statement has passed.

I’ve seen it too many times. A kid is acting up in class. He’s not paying attention, he’s talking back to the teacher, he’s picking on other kids in the room… could be anything, really. But it can’t be the kid’s fault, right? Parents are so quick to shift the blame to the teacher, that they aren’t able to look at themselves or their precious little angel. I’m gonna say this because it’s something I’ve witnessed dozens of times. If a kid is acting up in class, there’s a very good chance that they’re doing it for attention. If they’re trying to get attention, even negative attention, at school, then there’s a very good chance they’re not getting any attention at home. Getting in trouble at school gets their parents’ attention. But even then, most of the time, the parents will meet with the teacher and blame the educator or even the school for their child’s behavior problems. So the parents’ sudden attention isn’t even focused on their child, it’s focused in the wrong place.

See how it all comes back to showing a genuine interest in what your kid is doing? If they bring home good grades, heap on the praise. If they bring home bad grades, let them know that life isn’t over, that you still love them and that, as long as they’re trying and doing their best, you’re still proud of them. And if they’re genuinely struggling with certain subjects, meet with their teachers. Develop a plan to help them succeed. Because if you’re both doing your jobs and you both care about the welfare of your child, then you’ve both got the same goal: to help that child succeed to the best of their ability.

A Dater’s Guide to Disney Princesses: Aurora

Sleeping Beauty - Maleficent.gifAh, Sleeping Beauty. I’ll admit, this was one of my favorites as a kid. Maybe it’s because they did a lot to flesh out the villain, Maleficent, this time around. She just seemed like a really cool bad guy.

Look, I won’t get into it here, but I’m not a fan of the Angelina Jolie Maleficent film. Well, I liked it, and I thought her performance was phenomenal. I say that not even liking Angelina Jolie all that much. At all, really. My problem is with Maleficent’s modern characterization. My problem is with any modern storytelling that feels the need to make the audience feel sorry for the villain. It works sometimes. But don’t take a classic villain who had no motivation for being evil other than the fact that she was just plain evil. We need to stop looking for reasons why evil exists and just acknowledge that it exists. Stop pestering me about this! I said I wasn’t going to get into it here!

Where was I? Oh, right, Aurora. She doesn’t get a lot of screen time. It’s supposed to be her movie. Seriously, she got more screen time in Maleficent. She’s only around as a speaking character for the middle third of the film. At the beginning, she’s an infant. For most of the end, she’s asleep.Sleeping Beauty - Aurora.gifHow could I possibly judge whether or not she’s worth dating based on minimal exposure to the character? One can draw a lot of conclusions from her few minutes on screen.

Should You Date Her?

Probably not, no. Don’t get me wrong, she’s cute and all. And she’s got more of a rustic appeal than the previous princesses had. It helps that she was raised in a cabin in the woods, away from her royal palace.

But that’s an issue in itself. She’s got family she doesn’t know.  That’s going to cause a significant identity crisis when she goes back home for her 16th birthday.

Also, she’s only 16.

Also, she’s another one that talks to animals. I’m starting to think it’s almost understandable to have conversations with these woodland creatures, though. Snow and Cindy were slaves, so they didn’t get a lot of social time. Aurora only hands out with three old women. I’d probably find myself talking to mice and squirrels, too.

Throw all that out, though. She apparently has a problem with narcolepsy. She and Prince Phillip get married. They settle into their own palace and Phillip might be feeling a little frisky, as husbands sometimes do. All he ever hears from Aurora? “Not tonight, dear. I’m tired.”

Red flag, Phil. Red flag.Sleeping Beauty - Phillip.gif

AFI #55 – North by Northwest

North by Northwest - PosterNorth by Northwest

1959

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

Netflix says… What if everyone around you was suddenly convinced that you were a spy? This classic from master director Alfred Hitchcock stars Cary Grant as an advertising executive who looks a little too much like someone else and is forced to go on the lam (helped along by Eva Marie Saint). Hitchcock’s sure-handed comic drama pits Grant against a crop duster and lands him in a fight for his life on Mount Rushmore–a true cliffhanger if ever there was one.

I can’t say I’ve seen too many Hitchcock pictures. Surprising since I absolutely love Psycho and Rear Window. The latter of those, in particular, is an all time favorite of mine. But I’ve never seen this one, despite having so many classic scenes. Cary Grant being chased down by a crop duster? Check. Hanging on for dear life from the edge of Mount Rushmore? Check. Alfred Hitchcock missing a bus in the opening credits? Check-a-roony. It’s a pretty good movie displaying a case of mistaken identity. I’m inspired to give more of Hitchcock’s movies a look. I’d like to see Vertigo, is that any good?North by Northwest - Crop Duster

#DescribeYourselfin3FictionalCharacters

Jess, over at You’re Fine did a post about this hashtag phenomenon she came across on Twitter the other day. I’m sorry to say, I missed out on the Twitter trend. I’m not sure I should admit that, seeing as how my new job requires me to constantly keep my finger on the pulse of social media.

Anyway, I saw her blog post and admitted freely that it was something I was going to steal. No, I’m not going to take her answers. Because, really, do you see me as an April Ludgate, Pam Beasley, or Jessica Day? Maybe a little April Ludgate…

But this is actually something I’ve thought about for some time. Even before this hashtag hit the internet, I’ve claimed that I was sort of an amalgam of three sitcom characters. Jess was able to back up her choices with real world examples from her real life. I’m not 100% sure that I’ll be able to do that. Not because those real world examples of why these characters can be used to describe me don’t exist, but because my memory might be a little rusty and I lose the specifics sometimes.

1. Chandler Bing

Dropper - Chandler 2Chandler Bing, of Friends fame, is insecure. He’s sarcastic. He’s a dropper. He has a job that no one really knows how to describe. Could I be any more like this guy?

In fact, when it comes to women, I’d say I’m more of a Chandler than even Chandler was. At least he was able to fall in love with Monica. The only time I tried to fall for a Monica in my life, I walked away with a broken heart and the inability to even ask another girl out for nearly a decade. True story.

Chandler - Fear and Self LoathingI think that anyone who knows me in real life is aware of how sarcastic I am. Sarcasm is my love language. It’s my strongest spiritual gift. And I’m thinking of writing to the people behind the Myers-Briggs personality test to suggest that they add it as a fifth personality quirk.

As for the other things… I wasn’t allowed to play flag football with my friends in college because I couldn’t be trusted to hold onto the ball. People don’t want me to play ultimate frisbee with them because I have a tendency to let it slip out of my hands after I’ve caught it. I am a dropper. And anytime anyone asks me what I do for a living, I kind of stumble over my description and it takes about a half an hour to actually explain what it is I do.friends-transponster

2. Ted Mosby

Electronic Harmony - Ted's MatchOh, Teddy-boy… Ted Mosby, architect, is a hopeless romantic throughout most of How I Met Your Mother. I’m probably a bit more cynical that Ted is at any given moment, even at his lowest after being left at the altar. But I would say that I do have a romantic streak deep inside. Just because I never have anyone in my life to show it off to doesn’t mean it’s not there.

And then there’s the part where Ted is a douchey know-it-all. He is all the time correcting people. I catch myself doing that to my friends all the time. There have been times when I’ve even apologized immediately after correcting someone’s incorrect facts. On multiple occasions, my closest friends have thrown me dirty looks that silently communicate, Why do you do that? Aloud, I respond, “I don’t know why I’m like this.”

HIMYM - Figuratively.gifThere’s also Ted’s tendency to tell stories. I love telling stories. I hope I’m never crass enough to sit my kids down on the sofa and tell them all kinds of inappropriate stories of my pre-fatherhood days (not that I actually have many stories that are actually inappropriate), but I can spin a good yarn if I’ve got a laptop and an open Word document.

Oh, and I’m all about a cheesy dad joke, even though I’m not yet a dad.HIMYM - Shellfish.gif

3. Nick Miller

new-girl-nick-millerI chose New Girl‘s Nick Miller as my third fictional character mostly because he’s one of those guys that just can’t seem to grow up. It can be argued that his character has shown growth over the last five seasons of the show. But, overall, he’s still the same guy.

Emotionally, Nick seems to be kind of stuck. That’s definitely me. I look at my friends growing up, getting married, starting families. There’s a part of me that thinks it would be nice to be that guy that’s getting married and starting a family. But it’s a small part. I know the reality is that I’m 36 and I’m nowhere close to the marriage/family thing. And I just keep telling myself the reason for that is that I’m not ready for all of it. But if I’m not ready now, will I ever be?

Nick also tends to have an anger management issue. I’m not saying that I explode on people at the drop of a hat. But I do tend to road rage like it’s my job. Also, just the other day, I did go off on the other guys in the office because someone used up the rest of the paper towels in the dispenser in the bathroom and did not refill the thing. It happens a lot and it’s fast becoming my biggest pet peeve. I have a lot of pet peeves, apparently. I blatantly accused someone of lying. Logic dictated that someone was lying. I later regretted yelling. But I refused to refill the dispenser myself. I took a stand. It was kind of pathetic.new-girl-push-if-i-want-to-push

What three fictional characters remind you of you? Let me know in the comments!

Question of the Week #83

If you were helping to raise money for a charity and someone agreed to make a large contribution if you would perform at the upcoming fund-raising show, would you? If so, what would you like to perform? Assume the show would have an audience of about 1,000.

When I was a kid, maybe 2nd or 3rd grade, I was asked to perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” for a beginning of the school year teacher’s conference at the Roanoke Civic Center. It was in the auditorium where, I was told, there would be about 1,000 people in the seats. No sweat.

So yeah, I’d perform something. I’d probably offer to sing a song of some sort since that’s what I’d be most comfortable with. And, you know, since I’ve got the voice of an angel. Not sure of the song I’d do, though. Any requests?

*The Question of the Week can be found in The Book of Questions by Gregory Stock, Ph.D.

Alex’s Challenge

Challenge AcceptedTime to come back to another challenge issued by another reader. The fourth comment on my initial blog post came from Alex, who provided the following prompts…

  • Character Name: Pablo
  • Setting: Law School
  • Object: A candle
  • Emotion: Sad

“Doesn’t it feel like the 19th century?” asked Wash as he brought two more lit candles over to Pablo’s desk.

“How do you figure that?” Pablo said, clearly annoyed with his roommate’s constant interruptions.

“You’re reading by candlelight!”

Pablo looked up from his book and rubbed his eyes. “No. It doesn’t feel like the 19th century. It feels like I’m still in the 21st century and I’m desperately trying to study for an exam on constitutional law in the middle of a very inconvenient blackout while my roommate attempts to sate his boredom due to lack of X-Box and WiFi.”

“Yeah, that about sums it up,” said Wash as he picked up a large textbook from the pile on the edge of the desk. “Torts: Cases and Problems… What’s a tort?”

“A wrongful act or an infringement of a right leading to civil legal liability,” said Pablo as he returned to copying down notes.

“Dude, did you memorize that?”

Pablo sighed. “Yes. I did. Look, I appreciate the extra candles. God knows my eyesight will probably be shot trying to read and write in the dark. But I really need to concentrate on this stuff.”

“You got it, buddy. Say no more,” Wash said as he turned to leave Pablo’s room.

“Thanks,” said Pablo.

He took a deep breath and dove back into his 863 page text on constitutional law. He tried to regain the concentration he had prior to the lights going out. Reading in the dark made that difficult. Intermittent interruptions from a roommate who failed to understand the rigors of law school made it more so.

Pablo ran a hand through his hair and turned the page. He skimmed the first few lines in a paragraph introducing Article IV, Section 2 of the US Constitution. As he read, he realized he had no idea what he had finished reading on the previous page. He was spinning his wheels. Studying in the darkness was getting him nowhere.

He’d been studying nearly non-stop for days. His exam was the next day. Yet he still felt he was not fully prepared. Pablo realized it was just a little depressing.

He wasn’t feeling sad because he was unprepared for his exam. That was frustrating for him, sure. It was thinking about his friend sitting out in the living room binge watching Lost on Netflix while he sat in his room with the door shut. That’s what made him sad. He could take or leave Lost. He just missed hanging out with his friends.

Wash had been able to go out with everyone without considering consequences. Because he had none. He could go out to eat. He could go see a movie. He didn’t have to worry about writing papers or studying for tests or, eventually, passing the bar.

That’s what Pablo missed. He missed having a carefree attitude in his social life. He hadn’t even seen his girlfriend in a week because she understood how crucial it was for him to hit the books. He’d spoken with her and they Facetimed once or twice, but it wasn’t the same as sharing a meal or watching Wheel of Fortune together. He didn’t even like Wheel of Fortune. But Amy did. And he missed her, too.

Pablo slammed his book closed. He stood up and blew out the four candles sitting on his desk. Walking into the living room, he said, “I’m done studying until the lights come back, or until I take the exam, whichever comes first.”

“Yes!” yelled Wash.

“Let’s go loot the hardware store!”

“Okay,” Wash said, grabbing his jacket. “Wait, I’m not the future lawyer, but I have to think that’s some kind of illegal.”

“Yeah, it is,” Pablo said, “but we’ve gotta get out of here and find something to do. Someone must be having a blackout party somewhere.”

With that, the roommates walked out of the apartment and stumbled through the darkened hallway in search of a cure for Pablo’s sadness.