Why are they wearing makeup?

I was watching the first NFL game of the season on Thursday night - Green Bay versus Chicago - happy to see that football was back at last.

As the network returned from commercial at the beginning of the second half, the cameras focused first on the two booth announcers - legendary commentator Al Michaels and former NFL receiver Chris Collinsworth - and then onto their sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya.

As I watched, something occurred to me:

Michaels and Collinsworth were wearing makeup. I could see it as clear as day.

And Tafoya was wearing a lot of makeup. A ton of makeup. Her face looked like it had been painted onto her head.

For years I’ve been told that makeup is required when you appear on television. Some combination of the lights and camera require it, but then it occurred to me:

None of the players of the field - many of whom are the object of constant, intense close-ups, wear makeup. None of the coaches - many of whom are well into their 60’s and 70’s - wear makeup, and they are constantly featured in closeup. Even the referees don’t wear makeup.

They all look fine. Some of them look great. A few of them have become specifically known for their good looks. I’ve been in the room when women have swooned over Tom Brady during a telecast, despite the fact that he’s appearing on television without makeup.

What gives?

The same holds true for every sport, including women’s sports. The players in the NBA and WNBA don’t wear makeup when they play, and they all look great,. Their coaches and trainers don’t wear makeup, and they, too, look perfectly fine. The same holds true for men’s and women’s soccer and tennis.

No makeup whatsoever, and yet they all look great on television.

Why do the commentators in the booths and the sideline reporters need to paint enormous amounts of makeup on their faces in order to appear on television while the athletes, coaches, and referees who they are covering don’t?

I don’t get it.

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Electrical conundrum

I’m not a handy guy. I can’t fix a damn thing. Nor can I build, construct, or replace. I don’t do plumbing or electrical work. I can’t repair a roof or landscape a lawn or paint a porch.

Loose hinges on cabinets stymie me.

So perhaps the answer to this question is obvious to someone who is not me.

Still, I must ask:

In the single-use restroom at the miniature golf course on Route 4 in Farmington, Connecticut is a set of four electrical outlets positioned over the door. I’ve been in the restroom many times, but I have yet to see anything plugged into these outlets, nor can I imagine what might ever be plugged into these outlets.

Could someone smarter than me please explain?

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I know these men exist, but I don't know any of them

You know those guys - it’s always a man - who drive in the third lane of the highway at high speeds, flashing their lights at any car that get in their way?

Who are these guys?

I’m serious.

In my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever known a man who would do such a thing.

Not one.

Are these the same guys who smoke cigars at sunrise while playing golf? The same guys that park their car on the diagonal lest someone park alongside them? Are these the same guys who are chronically rude to waitstaff? Cat-call women on the street? Order bottle service and then talk about having ordered bottle service long after the night is over?

I don’t think I know any of these guys, either. I don’t think I’ve ever known any of them. I see them all the time, in restaurants, the golf course, my rearview mirror, and other places, but I don’t think I’ve ever befriended or even been friendly with any of these guys..

Do they flock together like geese? Move in herds like buffalo? Cluster like maggots?

I think they must. RIght?

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I am not a monster

Over the weekend, friends and I were discussing a recent revelation on social media:

There are couples in this world who do sleep on the same side of the bed every night.

When someone on Twitter revealed this last week - obviously a monster - Twitter went crazy. People couldn’t imagine choosing random sides of the bed each night.

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Some of their responses included:

“I know what all these words mean but can’t make sense out of how you put them together.”

“I just want to add my voice here by saying yes, this is weird, but I’m happy you weirdos found each other.”

“So you have to keep moving your pillows back and forth? Exhausting.”

“I plan on marching on London to end this nonsense.”

“I thought I was a tolerant and progressive sort. But you have found my limit. A stone throwing mob needs to run you and Amy far beyond the city walls before you spread this contagion.”

But for every thousand or so people who declared their allegiance to their side of the bed, there was the occasional person saying, “Yes, my husband and I also don’t have predetermined sides of the bed.”

The world is apparently filled with monsters.

While discussing this insanity, one of my friends said, “What about all the stuff you keep on your side of the bed? Doesn’t that alone force you to choose sides.”

“I don’t have anything on my side of the bed,” I said.

“Nothing?” she said.

“Nope.”

“You don’t have a single thing on your side of the bed?” another friend said. “A book? A glass of water? A phone charger?”

“Nothing,” I repeated.

“Not one single thing? C’mon.”

“It’s true,” Elysha confirmed. “He has nothing on his side of the bed. It’s weird.”

My friend concurred. They concurred far too vehemently for me.

Suddenly I understood how Steve O’Rourke must’ve felt.

For the record, it’s not weird. What the hell do I need on my side of the bed? I climb into bed every night - on my predetermined side - and fall asleep almost immediately. Then sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 AM, I awaken, often without an alarm, and I immediately climb out of bed.

What could I possibly need while I’m in bed?

I know. I probably sound like Steve O’Rourke now, except I bet that lots of people don’t keep anything on the side of their bed.

Right?

Why do teenagers smoke?

The tobacco plant has been disastrous for human beings.

According to the CDC, cigarette smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths per year in the United States, including more than 41,000 deaths resulting from secondhand smoke exposure. This is about one in five deaths annually, or 1,300 deaths every day.

On average, smokers die 10 years earlier than nonsmokers.

In addition to killing millions of people, cigarette smokers are massive polluters of our planet. A recent survey found that 14 percent of smokers don’t consider cigarette butts litter, and an estimated 65 percent of all cigarettes smoked in the US are tossed onto the ground.

But the fact that I find most astounding is that young people still choose to smoke.

Both of my parents were smokers, but they began smoking just prior to the Surgeon General’s first warnings about the dangers of cigarette smoking and long before we truly understood the catastrophic nature of smoking.

My mother ultimately quit smoking via a single session of hypnosis, and my father quit following his first heart attack.

But I understand why they chose to smoke. When they began smoking, more than half of all Americans were smokers, and smoking was still permitted in theaters, airplanes, malls, restaurants, and most public places.

But why do teenagers begin smoking today?

Only about 15% of teenagers smoke today, so choosing to smoke immediately reduces a teen’s possible social circle, and even more important, smoking significantly reduces the number of people who are willing to date you. You can’t smoke in public places anymore, so teenage smokers are forced to linger outside buildings, hang out in parking lots, and go to parks to smoke.

As a result, they become physically isolated from significant portions of society.

If you smoke, you smell like smoke, even when you aren’t smoking. Your teeth turn yellow. Your fingers turn yellow. You personal space becomes littered with the detritus of smoking.

Smoking is also exceptionally expensive. The cost of cigarettes rises by more than 5% every year as a result of a combination of federal, state, and local taxes and a decreased demand for the product.

Smoking is also addictive, and teens are repeatedly told this, too. Once you start, stopping will be damn near impossible. Nicotine is one of the most addictive substances on the planet. If you start smoking, you’ve essentially chosen to marry the cigarette.

Why any teenager would be begin smoking today is beyond me.

And yes, I understand - all too well - that teenagers like to rebel against authority. And yes, I understand that a teenager’s brain is not fully developed. And yes, I understand the experimental nature of teenagers.

I was once a teenager. I remember my own stupidity quite well.

I’m also aware of the rise of the e-cigarette, which I’m not addressing here but also serves to make smoking traditional cigarettes seem even more ridiculous. I’m not supporting the use of e-cigarettes in any way, but if you’re going to be stupid enough to begin smoking, why not at least choose the platform that eliminates many of the negative aspects of placing a burning bit of paper and tobacco in your mouth?

You could’ve smoked e-cigarettes, but you chose Marlboro Reds instead?

Also, given what we know about smoking and the many societal and financial restrictions that smoking can impose upon a person, aren’t there much better ways of rebelling?

I’d make a list of better ways to rebel, but as a school teacher, I feel like posting a list like that might not be wise. But it would be a great list.

An amazing list.

But no. Not wise.

But neither is choosing to smoke as a teenager. It’s so incredibly stupid.

I really don’t get it.

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Is the hand hover respectful and thoughtful or a sign that the end of days is near?

It appears as if Keanu Reeves has decided that the hand hover - once mocked for being awkward and strange - is now the preferred move when taking photos with fans.

There are dozens of photos of Keanu Reeves executing this move online.

My first thought:

“Have we really reached a point where a person’s hand can’t come in contact with another person’s arm, shoulder, or even waist when taking a photo? This is stupid.”

My second thought:

“This is Keanu Reeves. He probably takes photos with strangers all the time, so maybe he’s thinking better safe than sorry.”

But then my third thought:

“You know… maybe this is the thoughtful and respectful choice. When a fan or a stranger asks to take a photo with you, they are asking to appear in an image with you. Not be touched around the waist or shoulder.”

I am occasionally asked to appear in photos like these, oftentimes after I have performed onstage or while I’m signing books at a literary festival or book event. It’s always an honor to be asked to appear in these photos, but perhaps my willingness to drop my arm around a shoulder or pull someone closer to me isn’t as friendly as I think.

Also, is this a move that only applies when dealing with the opposite sex or should the hand hover be applied in all circumstances?

And what about acquaintances? What if I’ve spent a day or two teaching someone storytelling or consulting on an advertising campaign? What if it’s the parent of one of my students?

These are not necessarily friends, but they are people who I’ve gotten to know well over time. Is the hand hover still appropriate or would it seem impersonal and insulting?

I’m not sure.

I’m thinking about it.

On the one hand, I like the respect that the hand hover affords another person, but at the same time, I’m worried that it’s a sign that we’ve fallen off a cliff into the realm of overly-sanitized personal interactions.

For the record, when it comes to me, go ahead and grab me all you want. People touch me all the time. They don’t even realize that they are touching me as much as they do. It turns out that when you share your life as openly as I do with the world, people feel deeply connected to you even though you’ve never met them.

As a result, they touch you. A lot.

I told this to a group of lawyers in Vermont during a workshop earlier this year, and they laughed. But later that evening at dinner, an attorney named Mike was sitting beside me, chatting with me, and he kept touching me. Patting my shoulders and forearms. Even sitting a little closer than normal. One of his fellow attorneys finally pointed it out to him, and he was shocked.

He hadn’t realized it, either.

So go ahead and drop your arm around my shoulder or yank me closer if we’re taking a photo. I don’t mind at all. No big deal.

Then again, I’m a white American man, so perhaps my perspective on this issue is skewed a bit.

This is a consideration that all white American men would be wise to keep in the forefront of their minds at all times, as Keanu Reeves might be doing every time he’s asked to take a photo with a fan.

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I am Springsteen

Huge conundrum, people:

Elysha compared me to Bruce Springsteen.

She told a friend - not even me, so it must be true - that I’m like Bruce Springsteen because the two of us are tough, rugged men who make great art.

While I admittedly can’t repair a hinge on a cabinet, change my own oil, or even hang a picture on a wall, I’m fully equipped to keep the family alive in the event of a zombie apocalypse or similar collapse of civilization. My years of Boy Scout training and my ruthlessness in the face of danger make me capable of keeping our family alive when it matters most.

Plus I write good books and tell good stories.

Not unlike Springsteen, who also appears tough as nails but writes and sings great songs.

Wrote a terrific memoir, too. You should read it.

My conundrum:

What do you do in your marriage when you know you’ve reached the absolute pinnacle and everything from this moment on is going to be significantly less perfect than this very moment?

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Perhaps we don't disagree on sleep as much as you think. Perhaps.

Yesterday I bestowed favored animal status to the giraffe, based primarily on its ability to sleep less than 30 minutes per day. People were surprised - as they often are - by how much I hate to sleep, and particularly how irritated I am every night when I need to fall asleep.

In response, many readers and friends declared their everlasting love for sleep.

Here’s a question I’d like to pose:

Do people really like to sleep, or do they like to fall asleep and possibly wake from sleep?

Since human beings are functionally unconscious while they sleep, the ability to take pleasure in the act of sleeping seems almost impossible. You can certainly love the subsequent feeling of renewal and vigor that sleep has on your body and mind, but when sleep is actually taking place, it’s impossible to experience pleasure in the act of sleeping because you’re not aware of your surroundings or even of your own body.

Is your arm under the pillow? Resting on your chest? Draped over a loved one? You don’t know, so how is it possible to experience any kind of pleasure given that level of unconsciousness?

Do people really love to sleep, or alternatively, do people enjoy occupying a horizontal position in a space of comfort and relaxation, unburdened from the expectations of the world?

This is what they really love when they profess their love for sleep. Right? They actually adore that period of time prior to sleep and immediately following sleep. The feeling of coziness. The removal of most of the physical demands on the body. The ability to push aside responsibilities and worries for a period of time.

Isn’t this - and not the unconscious state of sleep that follows - what people love?

Shouldn’t people be saying:

“I love assuming a horizontal position on a soft surface, my head slightly elevated by similarly soft surfaces, while simultaneously covered by soft linens. And while in that position, I enjoy closing my eyes and pushing the worries and cares of the world aside for a time.”

Isn’t this - and not the unconscious state that follows - the thing that people love?

I’m just asking.

Though I hate to sleep and am genuinely irritated almost every night with the need to stop my life for a period of time to recharge my brain, I admittedly enjoy lying down in my soft bed (particularly if my wife is present) and assuming a position of comfort.

That part of sleep is great. No complaints whatsoever. If that part could last about 15-30 minutes, and if I could remain conscious for the entire time, I would also profess my love for sleep. The problem is that I remain conscious for less than a minute before I drift off into stupid, unproductive, unconscious sleep for a ridiculous 4-6 hours.

Yes, it’s true. I despise sleep. But lying down in a soft place beside my wife for a little while? That sounds great, just as long as I can remain conscious and therefore aware of the enjoyment that I’m experiencing.

Isn’t this how you feel, too?

Again, just asking.

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Winners get ice cream. Losers get nothing.

I was sitting at Charlie's Little League game yesterday, thinking that we might get some ice cream if the game ended early enough, when I suddenly remembered something from my childhood:

When I was playing Little League baseball, you only went for ice cream if you won the game.

As a boy, this made sense to me.

To the victor go the spoils. Winning is rewarded. Champions receive trophies.

But just imagine what might happen if the Little League coaches of today decided that only the winning team of each game would be rewarded with an ice cream cone.

I think parents might lose their minds.

I’m not sure how I feel about this.

As a boy, I know this made perfect sense to me. I remember how exciting it was to pull out of the parking lot, waving my orange cap outside an open car window, knowing that I would be devouring victory ice cream soon.

I always wanted to win the game, but the ice cream was truly the cherry on top.

And I remember losing, too. Heading home absent any frosty reward, thinking that next time, we needed to win so I could get my ice cream cone.

Winners celebrated with frosty treats. Loser got nothing.

This all made sense to me. There were no tears. No pleading. No upset feelings. I think I would’ve been embarrassed to show up at the ice cream shack if my team hadn’t won the game.

The ice cream shack was a place for winners.

But today? I don’t know.

Charlie is playing in a developmental league right now. Coaches are pitching much of the game, and instruction takes place throughout the game. Runs are scored, but the number of runs scored doesn’t matter. Even the kids aren’t keeping track yet. But assuming that Charlie continues playing next year, he will eventually find himself in baseball games where box scores are kept and winners and losers are ultimately determined.

How I would I feel if only the winning team drove off for ice cream after each game?

I’m not sure. Honestly, I think it makes sense to me, but I’m writing while Charlie is asleep in his bed. I’m not faced with a downtrodden boy and his disappointment over his team’s failure to score more runs than his opponent. I’m not battling the notion that he tried his best, so perhaps effort should be rewarded, too.

Maybe I would crack. Maybe Charlie would get ice cream, too. I’m not sure.

But here is the one thing I know for sure:

I’m glad my parents and my coaches didn’t crack. I’m glad I only received ice cream if my team won. It made the victories that much sweeter. And it made sense to me.

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Stop complaining. It's killing you. It's killing us, too.

A friend recently sent me me a piece on the hazards of complaining.

They are extensive.

  • The more you complain, the more likely you are to choose negative over positive thinking in the long run. Remarkably, each time you complain your brain is actually physically rewiring itself, making it easier to adapt to that reaction in the future.

  • MRI scans have shown that constant complaining can lead to the shrinkage of the hippocampus, which can lead to memory decline and an inability to adapt to new situations.

  • The more you complain, the higher your cortisol levels, which can lead to health problems like increasing depression, insomnia, digestive problems, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease.

  • Constant complainers often find themselves socially isolated from colleagues, peers, and even family members.

Anecdotally, I’ll also add that constant complainers often accomplish less, create more problems, and generally suck as human beings.

But here’s my quandary:

Do constant complainers know that they are constant complainers?

I don’t think so.

Why would anyone wander through this world, purposefully but ineffectually whining and complaining about every little thing, while the people around them roll their eyes, turn their backs, and further distance themselves from their incessant negativity?

Why would anyone be so intentionally off-putting?

Right?

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Be happy for others, damn it.

Years ago, before the kids were born, Elysha and I went to the movies.

We’ve gone to the movies since the kids were born, of course, despite warnings from those rotten people who like to make parenting sound like guerrilla warfare that we never would. In fact, in the two years after our first child, Clara, was born, Elysha and I saw 29 movies together. Many of them were drive-in films, viewed while Clara slept peacefully in the backseat.

You can suck or you can find a way.

On this particular evening, it began to rain while we were watching the film, and by the time we exited the theater, it was a downpour of Biblical proportions. Standing under the shelter of the awning of the AMC theater, I told Elysha to wait while I ran for the car.

In the 30 seconds it took for me to sprint across the parking lot and get into the car, I was soaked to the skin.

As I pulled up to the front of the theater, a large crowed had gathered under the awning alongside Elysha. Some were waiting for partners to retrieve cars, but a considerable number were waiting out the downpour, hoping it would ease up a bit before they braved the storm.

In that crowd was a colleague. A fellow teacher. Someone who worked alongside both Elysha and me.

Realizing that even the 12 or 15 feet that Elysha would have to traverse between the sidewalk and the car would leave her drenched, I had an idea. The sidewalk in front of the theater was wide and graded rather than curbed, probably to accommodate people with disabilities.

“Perfect,” I thought.

Instead of stopping, I turned and pulled right up onto the curbing, stopping the car on the sidewalk, thereby allowing Elysha to climb in without getting a drop of rain on her head.

I was feeling pretty good about my ingenuity, and so, too was Elysha.

The next day at school, I learned through the grapevine that the colleague who had been standing in that crowd and had witnessed my maneuver had been less than impressed.

“Who does he think he is?” she told my fellow teachers.

“Why does he think he can drive right up on the sidewalk while the rest of us were waiting or getting wet?”

“A teacher shouldn’t be setting an example like that.”

She told a lot of people about my maneuver. Many came to me, both amused and impressed with my clever solution. A few warned me of my colleague’s ire and subterfuge. A couple who agreed with her assessment chided me on my decision.

She, of course, never said a word to me. She was a coward.

But I’ve never understood her anger, even though I see examples like it often.

No one was harmed by my decision. Allowing Elysha to avoid the rain didn’t cause anyone else to become any wetter. Elysha got lucky and they did not, but they lost nothing in the process. My decision didn't cost them a single thing.

Yet my colleague was angry just the same.

I’ll never understand the anger that I so often see from people when someone is the benefactor of luck, ingenuity, a calculated risk, or excellent timing.

When your colleague is unexpectedly chosen to lead a conference in Miami because she submitted an application on a whim and was accepted, why be angry that she will miss three days of work in the cold of January and you will not?

When your coworker forgets to complete a report that took you hours to finish but no one ever notices or cares, why be outraged that he was lucky enough to avoid the work? His failure to complete the report cost you nothing. Why not be happy for his good fortune?

When your friend falls ass backward into a job that pays her twice as much as you with double the benefits and quadruple the vacation - a job you never wanted in the first place - why not be thrilled for her?

And when a husband chivalrously drives up on a sidewalk to allow his wife to avoid the rain, why not be happy for the lady who stayed dry and the man who protected his love from the elements?

When a person’s good fortune, ingenuity, willingness to take a risk, or good luck rewards them with good fortune while costing you nothing, why not simply be happy for the that person?

I didn’t mind all that much that my colleague was angry with me. I was annoyed that she was speaking about me behind my back because I can’t stand that level of cowardice and deceit, but even that I could ignore.

But the difficulty that people have in celebrating the good fortune of others will always baffle me. It’s an awful, ugly, small-minded tendency that says a lot about a person, and nothing good.

NOTE: This does not apply to the game of golf. When your opponent slices his drive deep into the trees, but the ball somehow ricochets back into the center of the fairway, you are permitted to despise your friend for the next three holes.

Golf isn't the real world. Golf is polite, friendly, fun-loving warfare. All bets are off.

What is the meaning of life?

During the Q&A portions of my author talks, I always invite audience members to ask me challenging questions. No subject is out of bounds. The stranger the better.

I even give away prizes to the most challenging questions. 

At a recent author talk, perhaps in an attempt to receive a prize, someone asked me "What is the meaning of life?"

It's an age-old question that has been answered a million different ways (and probably be avoided more often than it is answered). 

For example:

“Our prime purpose in this life is to help others. And if you can’t help them, at least don’t hurt them.” ―The Dalai Lama

A good answer, but apparently not convincing enough, because the Dalai Lama has also said, “The very purpose of life is to be happy.”

You can flip-flop on your favorite diner, but the meaning of life should probably be more certain.

Other answers that I liked:

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” ―Nelson Henderson

"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence." ― Aristotle

The meaning of life is not to be discovered only after death in some hidden, mysterious realm; on the contrary, it can be found by eating the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life and by living in the here and now as fully and creatively as we can. ― Paul Kurtz

“42” ― Douglass Adams

My least favorite answers to this questions come from actor Alan Alda:

“The meaning of life is life.”

Thanks, Alan. That really says a lot.

My answer on the night I was asked was this:

“The meaning of life is to stay alive for as long as possible.”

As soon as I said it, I knew that I liked it. Simple, straight forward, and in my experience, accurate.

If you’ve ever faced an honest-to-goodness life-or-death situation, you’ll know that taking just one more breathe can quickly become more important than any else in this world.

When standing on the brink of oblivion, another moment of existence feels like a lifetime.

What is my obstacle?

I completed a questionnaire recently in preparation for a radio interview.

One of the questions asked was:

“What personal obstacles stand in your way from living your fully realized creative life?”

I stared at the question for a long time, trying to think of what is preventing me from living my creative life to the fullest. I imagined the possible answers that someone might give:

  • Procrastination

  • Focus

  • Writer’s block

  • Doubt

  • Fear

  • Inability to manage time

  • A lack of emotional support

  • Lack of inspiration

None of these things apply to me. Even when I lacked emotional support in my life, I simply used that as fuel to work even hard. Be better. Produce more.

Spite is quite the powerful motivator.

Time might come closest to describing my primary obstacle, but if I’m being honest, I think I use the 1,440 minutes I have each day the fullest. And if by greatest obstacle is time, it’s hardly personal. We’re all stuck with 1,440 minutes per day.

And I think I use those minutes quite well.

Elysha suggested that my personal obstacle is sleep, and while she’s right about how annoyed I am about needing to sleep, that need is not exactly unique to me. I also suspect that I couldn’t be creative without the cognitive benefits of sleep.

She also suggested that my day job (teaching) is standing in the way of my fully realized creative life, but I think of teaching as a part of my creative life. Not only does it fill my heart and soul with joy, but I think of teaching as a creative art, just as much as my writing and performing.

In the end, I wrote:

“My greatest personal obstacle to living a fully realized creative life is answering stupid questions like this one. They waste my time and make me feel like a jerk for thinking that nothing is standing in my way and that I eat personal obstacles for breakfast. It also probably makes other people like me a little less, too, for saying such things.”

I’m sure the interview is going to go splendidly.

Many jobs. Many, many more dreams.

I met with a college graduate recently who told me that she doesn’t know what to do with her life. Has no career ambitions. Isn’t excited about any particular subject or field.

I’ll never understand this. I find it utterly incomprehensible.

I’m a person with a lot of jobs.

  • Elementary school teacher.

  • Author and columnist

  • Wedding DJ

  • Minister

  • Cofounder and artistic director of Speak Up

  • Professional storyteller and public speaker

  • Communications consultant

  • Life coach

I also occasionally earn money writing musicals and screenplays, performing standup, and most recently recording the audio version of my latest book.

My business card (designed by the clever Elysha Dicks) reads:

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Despite all that I already do, the joyous and frustrating thing about my life is there is so much more I want to do. I keep a running list of careers that I would love to try if given the time and opportunity.

It includes:

  • Behavioral economist|

  • Bookstore owner

  • Therapist

  • Instructional coach

  • Attorney

  • Camp director

  • College professor

  • Financial analyst

  • CEO of Boy Scouts of America

  • Firefighter

  • Filmmaker

  • Newspaper columnist

  • Postal carrier

  • CEO of Girl Scouts of America

  • Professional poker player

  • Hot dog vendor at an MLB stadium

  • Bartender

  • President of the United States

Some careers are more realistic than others, and I’d be excited about some more than others, but I’m also passionate about every single one of them.

It kills me to think I might not be able to do them all.

With all the remarkable and fascinating and compelling things in this world, how could anyone possibly have absolutely no career ambitions?

Shouldn’t everyone have a list of possible future dream jobs?

Do you? Would you be willing to share?

Why people think women aren't as funny as men (maybe)

A while ago, I sat through a four hour meeting. 

18 women and me. Par for the course in elementary education.

An observation:

About halfway through the meeting, it occurred to me that I was the only person trying to be funny. I was the only one going for the laugh. The only one speaking off topic in order to make a joke. The only one making fun of himself.

It wasn’t that the women in the meeting were incapable of being funny. I know one woman is especially funny, and I’m sure others were as well. They were simply choosing not to be funny.

That got me thinking:

I'm often the only one in these female-dominated situations going for the laugh.

It’s important to note that I think women are just as funny as men. Michelle Wolf, Nikki Glasier, Amber Ruffin, and Elysha Dicks are four of my favorite funny people alive today, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that despite their ability to be funny, I don’t think women try to be as funny as men in many situations.

In situations like a meeting, they don’t go for the laugh nearly as often.

At least in my experience.

I have two theories to possibly explain this:

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THEORY #1

So much research indicates that women find humor attractive in men, but the reverse is not always true. In an effort to get the attention of women and be perceived in a positive light, perhaps men have been conditioned to try to be funny over the course of their lifetime, regardless of the circumstance, and therefore the perception becomes that men are funnier than women because we simply go for the laugh more often. 

Men aren’t necessarily funnier than women. They just try to be funny more often than women, because there is a greater incentive for them.

Honestly, if I had the choice between being good looking or funny, I would choose funny in a heartbeat, and I suspect that many men would feel the same.

Would women make the same choice? I don’t know.

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THEORY #2

Women are often fighting for respect in the workplace, and perhaps humor does not serve this purpose well. If I’m a woman in a meeting hoping to be taken seriously and have her ideas thoughtfully considered, perhaps humor isn’t the best way to approach things, so they lean towards professionalism rather than the laugh.

A man, however, often has to fight less for the same level of respect and therefore feels more confident that he will be taken seriously, therefore he can afford to dare to be funny and will more often go for the laugh.

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I don’t know if either of these theories are correct, and perhaps there are many professional settings where women go for the laugh just as often as men, but in my experience, it’s simply not the case, despite my belief that women are capable of being at least as funny as men.

But I do know that there are plenty of people - mostly men - who claim that women aren’t as funny as men, and I think it’s nonsense. And perhaps it has more to do with how often women try to be funny as opposed to how funny they really can be.

Would you be more likely, less likely, or just as likely to marry your spouse today?

Interesting question posited by a friend recently:

Would you be more likely, less likely, or just as likely to marry your spouse if you met him or her for the first time today?

My friend believes that couples who were married when they were young would be less likely to marry their spouses if they met them today, because the person you are in your teens and twenties is oftentimes vastly different than who you are in your thirties and beyond. 

This doesn't mean that these people don't still love their spouse and want to remain married. It just means that they would be slightly less likely to want to marry their spouse if they were going on their first date today because their spouse has changed so much over time. 

I think she might be right.

"I thought I was marrying a reliable tax attorney who wanted three kids and a house on a quiet street. But since then, he's learned to play the drums and discovered a passion for death metal. Thanks to his band's rehearsals in our garage, the street isn't quiet anymore, and we have six children because he also discovered a love for babies, too. He wanted a dozen kids, but we compromised at half that."

You might still love the guy with all your heart, but if you met him today, you might think twice before marrying him. 

It turns out that this is not an easy question to ask your spouse.

"Hey honey, if you met me for the first time today, would you be more likely, less likely, or just as likely to marry me as you were on our wedding day?"

The answer to this question could be disastrous.

Still, I asked Elysha. She gave me the best possible answer. 

"I think I'd be more likely to marry you today. Though I don't know... I really, really wanted to marry you when we got married, too. I don't know."

Honestly the best possible answer. The best of both worlds. Spoken without calculation or consideration. Straight from the heart.

My heart soared. It's a moment I'll never forget. 

For the record, my answer is that I would be more likely to marry Elysha if I met her today. Had you asked me this question on our wedding day, I would've said that I couldn't love a human being more.

But then we had children, and I was able to watch Elysha become a mother for the first time - a brilliant, beautiful mother - and I found a new and even deeper love that I could've never before imagined.  

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If you could recover a single object from your past, what would it be?

When I was 16 years-old, I went to Pasadena, California with my high school's marching band to perform in the Rose Bowl Parade. At the time, I had just begun dating my high school sweetheart, Laura.

Laura was traveling to Pasadena, too. Though she wasn't actually a member of the marching band, she had somehow finagled her way to California to watch the performance and join us on our various excursions to Disneyland, San Fransisco, and others. 

Our first kiss came in a hot, stinking stairwell in a hotel in Pasadena at about 6:00 AM. I tell a story about it. 

Since we were taking separate flights across the country, Laura made me three mix tapes for the trip. I expected them to be filled with the music she adored, but instead, Laura combined music with spoken word. She told me stories, read poetry, and even sang a little in between songs recorded off the radio.

I probably fell in love with her while listening to those tapes somewhere over the Rockies.  

I don't know what happened to those tapes. It's unbelievable that I lost them, but somewhere along the way, I did.

A bout of homelessness will do that to a person.  

But if I could recover one object from my past that has been lost, it would be those yellow, Memorex cassettes.

Laura passed away a few years ago after a battle with cancer, but before she died, she held me to a promise that we made on the steps behind our high school just before we started dating. We promised that no matter what happened in our relationship, we would always be friends and always take care of each other. When she discovered that she had cancer, she brought me back to those steps and made me promise that when her girls, Ava and Tess, are old enough, I would tell them the stories of Laura, the teenager, and our adventures together.

I will do this when the time is right. but I can't imagine a better gift to those girls than those mix tapes, filled with their mother's words and songs from a time long ago.  

If I could recover any object from my past, it would be those tapes.

Not for me, but for Ava and Tess.  

And for Laura. 

If you could recover a single object from your past, what would it be?

Mattress PSA

I know it might seem a little odd to purchase a mattress via a homemade sign planted on the corner across the street from a gas station.

And yes, the fact that the creator of this sign felt it necessary to indicate that the mattress was "Brand new!!" might also be a little disconcerting.

And yes, anytime someone indicates that their product "must sell," you can't help but wonder about the reason for this state of apparent desperation.

And yes, the sign admittedly looks like it was made by someone who was fleeing the police and had just seconds to scratch out their message.

But if you need a new mattress (and who doesn't?) this might be just what you were looking for.  

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Pickle smooch?

At the Olive Garden in West Hartford, CT there is a men's restroom. 

Inside that men's restroom, there is a framed photograph of a house and a tree. 

I'll never understand restaurant restroom art. Why?

Below that frame are two words, scribbled in pen. 

"Pickle smooch"

Here's what I want to know:

What does this mean? Who put this here? What is the story behind "Pickle smooch?"

Ideas? Thoughts? Suggestions?

These are the kinds of things that have been known to launch my novels.

When will she die?

Sometimes I listen to a despicable person - politician, commentator, talk show host - and find myself compelled to run to Wikipedia to find out how old the person is, hoping that he or she is at least ten years older than me, thus reducing the chances that I will have to share the planet with this person for my entire life.

It's not that I am wishing death upon this person. I'm just hoping that he or she is so much older than me that the natural course of their life will run out before mine does, and for at least some measure of time, I can enjoy this life with all it has to offer absent the hatred, the lies, and the general vileness of the person in question. 

I hesitate to tell you whose age I just look up, in fear that it will seem that I am wishing for her death, which I am not. But I was pleased to discover that she is exactly ten years older than me, so perhaps I will someday know a world in which she does not exist. 

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