Dr. Deja Vu: The Magically Disappearing Friend

In elementary school, it was quite normal to spend years alongside a friend (or at least a friendly acquaintance) then to come back one Fall and after a few weeks of research, only to hear from a teacher or classmate, “Oh, his family moved away during the summer.” And what could I really do or say? Those concrete words became the end of it. Even as a kid, the realization was simple: Sometimes friends disappear forever.

All I was left with was an inch tall, black and white picture in the yearbook to remember them by. No e-mail address or phone number. Just gone.

There was the blonde haired, red-skinned Jesse Jackson who sat across from me in Kindergarten and got in trouble for making Debi Owen cry when he called her “stupid”. And Katy Petzold who moved after 3rd grade, whom I never had a class with or ever talked to, but her weird last name always stood out to me when I saw it in the yearbook. And she must have worn her green Girl Scouts uniform to school a lot because that’s how I remember her.

Ferne Taylor- I sat next to her in 3rd grade while we were reading Charlotte’s Web and everyone bugged her because Fern is the name of the girl in the story. And I also remember her flattening a Coke can to decorate it with buttons to look like a woman, then Justin Burt sang, “Ugly woman, walking down the street”, as he walked the tin can woman across his desk. It was hilarious. (That’s always what I think of when I hear “Pretty Woman” by Roy Orbison, now.)

Zack Bain- a cool kid that loved to play basketball and when he had to draw a personalized license plate for his 5th grade homeroom teacher Mrs. Jones’ class, it read “PARTIER”. She hung it up outside her room on the bulletin board and every time I walked by it I thought, “Really? Surely his Ninja Turtle birthday party wasn’t as cool as mine…”

And of course the classic Jon Peterson with his precise chili bowl haircut who moved away after 4th grade, whose dad always smoked a sweet smelling pipe in the den, wore sweater vests, and worked at the First Methodist Church. I’m sure today these 28 year-olds would have no idea who I am, but I remember them clearly.

I have memories of these random people, now serving as wallpaper in the attic of my brain. Obviously, I have already searched for them on facebook and Google, with no results. It’s strange to think that somewhere out there these long lost classmates are living normal lives just like the rest of us. And surely they have to remember spending their first couple of years in that small school back in Alabama in the late ‘80’s. Who do they remember from my school? Would the people they remember in turn remember them?

People come and go. But when they go, they go somewhere. Sometimes forever a mystery.

“If you’ll be my bodyguard, I can be your long lost pal.” –Paul Simon (“You Can Call Me Al”)

Manspeak, Volume 11: Responsibility

People tend to accept that there is a difference between what is normal in the movies and what is normal in reality, and for the most part we know not to confuse the two. In the world of Hollywood, a 39 year-old playboy bachelor who is “too free-spirited” to get married simply lives for himself in his classic arcade-filled apartment. And he is cool. He is Owen Wilson. Adam Sandler. Vince Vaughn. But in reality, this guy is not cool at all. He’s a guy who needs to grow up.

Because here in reality, we equate responsibility with manhood.

There is of course a false, glamorized idea that a man is defined by his freedom; a lifestyle where he needs to answer to no one. In this unspoken concept the ultimate goal in a man’s life is to win the lottery and never have to change diapers.

But this man is not the kind we truly respect. Instead, we admire a man who while he is still young, gives up his freedom to be become responsible to another human being in marriage. And then of course, within the next few years he is expected to become a father. And an involved father, at that. Responsibility is what helps a man to be normal and have a purpose.

A funny and true proverb I heard a lot in college was this: “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” On the same token, men without real responsibilities are rarely respected. So much of life is showing up and participating. And in order to do that, a man must actively become involved in other people’s lives. The closer I get to age 30, the further away I am from being able to relate to what it’s like to be a child, and therefore the more aware I am that I once was an annoying kid.

I think back to all the hours my dad patiently listened to me tell him all the Ninja Turtle trivia I knew. And the way he made sure I had the coolest project in science and social studies class each time. And since he knew I didn’t like sports, he became the leader of a Cub Scouts group to inspire me to be involved in an extracurricular activity I actually enjoyed- being an adventurous boy with my friends. I couldn’t have really known it back then, but his sincere involvement in my life has everything to do with who I have become as an adult.

It’s amazing how much one man’s involvement makes or breaks his child’s life. I was blessed and still am. I still need my dad. I still learn from him.

And now I’m not all that far from being in the position he was in the early 1980’s. I will become the man looking into the googly eyes of a helpless baby, both of us completely clueless. But that’s the way God planned it. No instruction booklet on how to be a parent. Instead, it all comes down to the humility of a man who makes a conscience effort to be responsible.

“My dad’s been dead for more than 20 years. I still want him to be proud of me.” –Dave Matthews, taken from the linear notes from his solo Some Devil album

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Manspeak Table of Contents:

Volume 1: Humor http://wp.me/pxqBU-1i
Volume 2: Heroism http://wp.me/pxqBU-1m
Volume 3: Filtration http://wp.me/pxqBU-1p
Volume 4: Stance http://wp.me/pxqBU-1s
Volume 5: Movement http://wp.me/pxqBU-1v
Volume 6: Law http://wp.me/pxqBU-3h
Volume 7: Bromance http://wp.me/pxqBU-3W
Volume 8: Relaxation http://wp.me/pxqBU-6a
Volume 9: Appearance http://wp.me/pxqBU-6f
Volume 10: Exploration http://wp.me/pxqBU-6O
Volume 11: Responsibility http://wp.me/pxqBU-8v

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.

Manspeak, Volume 7: Bromance

It’s not simply a fad. It’s much more complex than that. It’s not simply a gimmick to make more money in the theatres. It’s a clue that we as Americans have missing been out on something. The newfound popularity and acceptance of bromance is simply a realization that men were meant love each other, not just women.

America is good at teaching men masculinity: Rocky, Rambo, The Terminator, He-Man, GI Joe. It’s been ingrained in us our whole lives. We don’t have a problem accepting the fact that men are meant to be tough. Men are born to protect and defend. I think we do that pretty well. But while the bald eagle holds 13 arrows in one claw, he also holds 13 olive branches in the other.

Living overseas in Asia taught me a lot about American men. Though I was told that there were a lot of transvestites in Thailand, it wasn’t until my second summer over there that I was able to recognize them. I then came to the conclusion that the reason there are so many men living their lives as women there is because it is not culturally acceptable to be gay in Thailand, at all.

So when it’s not acceptable in a country at all to be gay (as compared to America where it’s not popular but there’s a growing level of acceptance), to take out the possibly of any men around being gay, it affects the cultural behavior of a nation. Men can be close without any possible thought of the other thinking he is sexually attracted to him. And even more relevant, there is not so much a possibly of awkwardness because of that. In the Philippine’s, it is common for men show their friendship publicly by holding hands.

But before there was Jackie Chan & Chris Tucker, before there was Owen Wilson & Ben Stiller, before there was Joey & Chandler, there was a time when men truly weren’t afraid to hug and be close. It simply symbolized their friendship but was nothing more.

My eyes were opened when I read Moby Dick in college. The 1851 novel was written in the American-Romanticism period, and while the theme of Christianity is more obvious than Season 5 of LOST, something else that really captured my attention and even became the topic of my final paper for that class was the bromantic relationship between the protagonist Ishmael (a 5’ 9” New England native) and his ship mate Queequeg (a 6’ 7” South Seas tribesman of mixed race).

The two men quickly become best friends and the narrator, Ishmael, is not reluctant to elaborate regarding his friendship. They simply slept in the same quarters and were close friends, but reading it with today’s mindset can make it easily be interpreted differently:

“How it is I know not; but there is no place like a bed for confidential disclosures between friends. Man and wife, they say, there open the very bottom of their souls to each other; and some old couples often lie and chat over old times till nearly morning. Thus, then, in our hearts’ honeymoon, lay I and Queequeg—a cosy, loving pair.”  -Herman Melville (Moby Dick)

Something else that really opened by eyes to bromance was when I started paying close attention to Jesus and His disciples in the New Testament. They were not hesitant to show physical affection for each other. At the Last Supper, look at Peter’s physical closeness to Jesus during dinner.

“Then, leaning back on Jesus’ breast, Peter said to Him, “Lord, who is it?”  -John 13:25

Imagine 12 dudes eating dinner in today’s society and one leans back on the other’s chest to ask him a question. Completely not acceptable.

Even this week I ran across something odd in the Old Testament as I was finishing up Genesis. This is where Jacob is blessing his sons before he dies:

“He called his son Joseph and said to him, ‘Now if I have found favor in your sight, please put your hand under my thigh, and deal kindly and truly with me. Please do not bury me in Egypt.”  -Genesis 47:29

In their culture, a son could make a vow to his father by placing his hand under his father’s thigh, or as my Bible’s study notes explain, it was a gentler way of saying his “procreative organ”. Think of how not acceptable that is today.

We’ve obviously come a long way since Biblical times regarding same-sex friendship and closeness. But even the culture that was present 158 years ago in Moby Dick paints a completely different picture compared to what is acceptable in American same-sex friendship today. The title of Moby Dick itself serves a perfect example of how far we’ve come. Add to that the fact that the story involves the close friendship of shipmates. That’s a lot of joke material for a 15 year-old boy to work with.

In fact, in recent decades there have been critics of Moby Dick claim that the book has homosexual undertones. Key phrase: “in recent decades”. For its time, the behavior found in the novel was not seen at all as a curious thing. It was normal back then.

I say it’s no wonder that today’s culture loves bromance. Men were made for close friendship with other men but are taught to hide their feelings because it’s not masculine to show them. When I think about it, several of my top favorite movies of all time have a heavy dose of bromance: Rocky 3, Plains Trains and Automobiles, Zoolander, Pineapple Express, Band of Brothers. And Hollywood knows it’s a winning formula.

The truth is, compare the box office sales of pretty much any Judd Apatow and/or Seth Rogan movie (bromantic comedies) to any romantic comedy made since 2005. Bromance wins every time. Romance, on the other hand, can be an unpredictable thing.

The best 3 minutes of recorded bromance, courtesy of 1982:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0qVUn4797g

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

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

bert-and-ernie

Originally posted in April 2009 on facebook as “The History of Bromance”, which helped inspire the Manspeak series.