Baby Names: Jack vs. Frank


In naming our first child, my wife and I were very careful to choose a name that fit several important criteria: a) it has to be familiar, yet not overused or trendy; b)  there can only be one obvious way to spell it; c) there can only be one obvious way to say it; d) it has to be a “classic” American name; e) it has to be a strong name, f) it has to sound good with my last name(“Alex Shell” couldn’t work because it sounds like “Alec Shell”- same thing with “Max”). So Jack was the most obvious choice.  But as we have daydreamed about what to name another boy if we were to have one, we’ve had trouble finding another boy name that would fit our criteria.

All I could come up with is Frank.  But here’s the problem with Frank.  It’s not a cool name these days.  You can’t name your baby Frank.  Despite all the cool, classic, all-American Frank’s in our nation’s history, Frank isn’t a cool name for a baby in the 2010’s.  Even Frank Sinatra’s legacy of coolness can’t change that.

So why has Jack remained cool but Frank has not?  I’ve only got ridiculous theories.  But here they are:


1. Frank is another word for “hot dog”.  Jack is not.

2. Not a lot of cool young names start with “fr”.  Like Fred, for example.  But a lot of cool young names do start with “j”.  Like Josh, Jerome, and Jake.

3. Frank is pretty similar to the f-word.  So is Chuck.

4. Frank sounds rhymes with both “stank” and “rank”, which indicate bad odor.

5. It’s not easy to think of a recent, young Frank who is cool.  The closest I can come up with is the Jewish Frank from the Ali Fedotowsky season of The Bachelorette.  But by referencing that TV show, it obviously is an indication of “not cool”.  (So what does that say about me for admitting I watch the show?…)

6. It’s easy to think of cool Jack’s- like Jack Donaghy (30 Rock), Jack Tripper (Three’s Company), and if this were 2003, Jack Black.

7. I can’t think of any negative associations with Jack, where I obviously easily was able to with Frank.

8.  As you continue eating leftover Halloween candy, keep this in mind: Jack O’ lanterns are cooler than Frankenstein.

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Why Tap Dancing is Officially Masculine (And Most Other Kinds of Dancing are Feminine)

Le tap dance; la clog.

Unlike the French and Spanish languages, English doesn’t have masculine and feminine nouns.  Yet still, there are subtle gender clues and accents if we look closely enough for them.  Like the way that Coldplay is masculine, while The Fray is feminine (because they got famous by having their songs featured on Grey’s Anatomy). And the way a Dodge Dakota is masculine; while a Nissan X-Terra is feminine (this was referenced in an episode of The Office).

During dinner a few weeks ago I happened to catch 20 minutes of So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a results episode so they were mainly filling the air time with professional tap dancers, all of which were male.  Mainly dancing solo, but there were a few duos.  Interestingly, after each of them danced, they were briefly interviewed.  I couldn’t help but notice that none of these male tap dancers were the least bit effeminate or sexually questionable in any way- they were ordinary, straight dudes.

I’m okay with being politically incorrect in stating this fact that we already know and recognize: It’s common for professional male dancers (especially on reality TV shows) to not be straight.  Which is ironic because as we watch these couples dance, the male is being represented by a man who in reality may not be sexually attracted to women.  Typically, straight men are not the ones representing the guy in the relationship in these dances.

Why are straight men typically inclined not to be good dancers?  Because group dancing and dancing in pairs, as a whole, are more of feminine acts.  Dancing as we know it today is free-spirited and emotionally expressive.  It often shows the ups and downs of relationships and/or life in general.  That doesn’t work for most men, because a man’s mind is wired to be formulaic and often emotionally repressive.  Most men have to “learn to dance”.  Tell me what to do so I can get this right. It’s more about straight memorization for a straight guy to learn to dance.  He’s learning to dance to make his girlfriend or wife happy- not to express himself in a new exciting way.

When I think of famous tap dancers throughout American history, I think of classy Italian, Jewish, and African-American men wearing black suits like Fred Astaire, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., Gregory Hines, and of course, the legendary Tony Danza.  Although, this isn’t to say that all or even most tap-dancing men are straight.  But what I do recognize is 1) that because tap dancing is simply based on rhythm and formula (which are masculine elements- famous female drummers are a rare thing), and 2) that tap dancing only really evokes one basic emotional feel, which is always positive and upbeat.  I never remember seeing a tap dancing routine which went from happy, to sad, to angry, back to happy, to a feeling of loss, to happy, to acceptance of grief, to contentment, the way a typical 2 minute dance song on Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance typically does.

Clogging, on the other hand, though similar to tap-dancing, is not masculine.  It often involves groups, costumes, and festive music- therefore making it a feminine art form, since there is room for “artistic expression”.  But square dancing is masculine because, like in tap-dancing, the mood is always the same (upbeat) and there is no guesswork on how to do it, since the instructions are typically spoken to music.

So how could a man and a woman dance to music and it realistically represent them and their relationship?  I’m picturing a guy tap dancing in his own little world while the woman ballet dances around him, and the guy is seemingly oblivious to what is going on.

Most of Life is Just Simply Showing Up

There is an art to “being there” when it comes to discovering The Quality of Life. From gaining educational degrees, to getting a job interview, to meeting one’s future spouse, showing up is the most important part. The rest is just details.

Showing Up: 75%
Getting a person to show up for anything is a task in of itself. Because I am a first-born child and because my wife was born of both first-born parents, she and I have both been wired to be planners. There is a schedule and a calendar. When at all possible, we live by them.

It’s easy to get us to show up if we have been told two weeks in advance. But we’re bound to be no-shows when we’re told about an event the day of, via text message. Because chances are, we already have plans.

Anyone who has been married in the last several years surely has a fresh-on-the-brain story or two about RSVP’s gone wrong. Like guests who say they will be there, RSVP for guests of their own (which were not invited), then don’t know up at all. Even at just $35 a head, it still stings when the bill comes after the wedding.

Human presence at a specific event at a specific time is a flighty thing. More fickle and unpredictable than any other aspect of The Quality of Life. A person has to be there before anything else can happen. But once they’re there, things tend to work themselves out.

You show up to class, you’re likely to learn at least a little something.

Experience: 5%
How can one person qualify to relate to another without the minimal proper experience? Whether it’s enough work experience, educational experience, or just simply life experience, without a history and understanding that is similar, it’s difficult for people to be on the same page.

Appearance: 5%
Not a matter of physical beauty, but instead what a person wears when they do show up. In other words, I’m referring to the importance of “wearing the right costume.” Despite what our bodies look like underneath our clothing, what we use to cover our bodies up with is worth more than the money we spend to buy it. Just like a nice Frank Sinatra-style hat can make any slob look a little bit classier, so can a person’s well-presented wardrobe make anyone look at least a bit more attractive.

Not necessarily a matter of expensive clothing. Just simply the right “costume”. A good presentation goes a long way. Or at least 5%, according to my calculations.

A few weeks ago on the “makeover episode” of The Biggest Loser, I laughed when I saw Allen. He already was a clean-shaven, clean-cut man to begin with. They just stuck him in a nice suit and tie. That was his makeover.

Personality: 5%
People like people who remind themselves of themselves. A person is much more likely to positively respond to another person who uses the same speech patterns, who positions their body in a similar stance, who laughs and shows sympathy at the right cues, who uses the other person’s name sporadically in conversation, and who maintains good eye contact. Dale Carnegie 101.

Performance: 5%
I have a philosophy I live by at work. “Do your best constantly. That way it’s easier to have your boss never say anything negative about you during a performance meeting or mass e-mail, especially when the boss is having a bad day.” With so many slackers in the world, when a person proves that they are competent, creative, and dedicated, they automatically stick out from the crowd. Just like we are quite aware of the inflation of money in our economy, it seems the same thing is happening with work ethics.

To acknowledge I can do something better is to say that I’m not already doing my best. And sometimes, for a person to do their best means that they are meeting their co-workers’ and superiors’ reasonable expectations. Which includes not pushing the dress code, taking constant personal calls, and leaving regularly for outside appointments. And that goes back to simply showing up.

Random Chance: 5%
Right place, right time. I showed up to a random filming of the CMT show “Crossroads”. I had the life experience of a 25 year-old American guy and could relate to a 25 year-old American girl. I was dressed neatly (not wearing Bachelor Pants). I was friendly and confident, not obnoxious or desperate. I successfully entertained the beautiful girl who I noticed as soon as I walked into the room, while we waited in an hour long line.

Without random chance (divinely guided or not) I wouldn’t have met the girl I would eventually marry. On October 5th, 2006 a stranger would walk into my life who would forever change it.

But of course the “random choice” of her being there too that night only reflects the importance of the most important element of the Quality of Life: being there. She showed up.

People are the meaning of life. And most of life is just simply showing up. To work parties. Service projects. Family reunions. School plays. Church activities.  People tend to notice, remember, and appreciate the ones that are there in person, not just in spirit.

This post is based on a concept presented to me by Shawn Garbett, a guy I met at my wife’s Christmas work party. We both showed up. Our initial conversion produced this as the result.

Manspeak, Volume 9: Appearance

I thought it was just me. But it’s not. After talking to several of my guy friends (and after seeing He’s Just Not That into You with my wife, which chick flick or not, was a good movie,) I realized it wasn’t just me that had a token pair of Bachelor Pants. Every guy in his singlehood has an awful pair of pants that he’s kept for several years, unaware he is committing a crime. They are typically baggy, have cargo pockets, and are outdated.

The thing with Bachelor Pants is that a man is unaware of how horrible these pants are. In fact, men promote each other’s bad fashion tastes by mimicking what their friends wear. A guy doesn’t want to think about what to wear, so the tendency is to go with what’s comfortable and familiar, by default.

The girlfriend will remain silent about the offensive pants during the dating period, all the while she is plotting a plan to eliminate them from her boyfriend’s wardrobe. Traditionally, she will wait until one month after he proposes until he hears the out-of-nowhere newsflash, “You know you’re not bringing those pants into our house once we’re married…”

My contraband was a pair of brown pants I got in 2006 from a Banana Republic outlet. To fit the stereotype, there were quite baggy and had cargo pockets. Those were my Bachelor Pants. My defense was always, “But I got them from Banana Republic- they can’t be that bad…” They earned the name Potato Sack Pants.

So I made them disappear. By that I mean I hid them in a big bin full of winter coats in the storage closet. After being married now for almost 15 months, I decided to nonchalantly bring my Bachelor Pants out of the archives. To my surprise, I wore them around the house for the last two weekends and my wife didn’t say a word about them. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore: “I’m wearing the Potato Sack Pants. Didn’t you notice how awful they are?”

Regarding Bachelor Pants, the main issue is that a man can no long wear them in public after marriage. It’s a bad representation of his wife’s tastes if she allows him out of the house in them. However, Bachelor Pants are permissible inside the home, as they are the equivalent to the women’s sweatpants. Bachelor Pants = women’s gray sweatpants. Okay, it’s a deal.

Every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp dressed man, but left on his own, a man typically makes the wrong decisions when it comes to fashion. And if he actually does know a lot about it, he may find himself in the questionable “is he or isn’t he?” territory like the professional hired dancers on Dancing with the Stars. So what is a guy to do? Listen to a woman.

When I think of a well dressed man, I think of Frank Sinatra and James Dean, with their stylish, never-out-of-style clothing and classic, never-out-of-place hairstyles. I allow myself to believe they took care of themselves. But I’m sure they had women dressing and styling them the whole time.

Believing that haircuts are annoying and expensive, I ended up in an Owen Wilson situation with my hair for the last several months. Then it all just hit me two weeks ago: This is annoying, I need a haircut. My wife’s eyes lit up when I said that out loud, responding, “You should get it buzzed.” I thought about it for two solid minutes in silence, then replied, “Okay, let’s go.”

What’s interesting is that during my recent Italian mobster days with the long hair, several different guy friends literally said this to me out of the blue: “You got cool hair.” But during that time, all females in my life said, “It’s time for a haircut… What does Jill say about it?” Now that my hair is 1/8th of an inch all over my head, universally every female has praised my decision, while most of my guy friends say, “Oh… you got rid of it…” I hear the hint of disappointment in their voices.

Men have a Survival Mode setting. Without the help of a woman, a man’s appearance shows this Survival Mode mindset: “I took a shower, I shaved, I’m dressed, I brushed my teeth, time to go.” He may be wearing pleated black pants with brown shoes and a wrinkled shirt with the right side of the collar folded up funny on one side and his tie may be a little too short… but he is dressed, and that is all that matters to him. He is convinced he looks good.

Bottom line: If it’s mainly fellow dudes that are approving of my sense of style, I am listening to the wrong gender. Because other men enabled and encouraged my ways, it made me confident in my own ability to look presentable and good. But women are the ones born with the sense of good fashion. I have to accept the fact that there is no shame in depending on a woman for this.

I wear the pants in the relationship… but she tells me which ones to wear.

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

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My appearance with and without the help of a woman.