My Wife and I Debuted Our New T-Shirts in Lake Tahoe: “Hi, I Don’t Care. Thanks!” and “I Hate People”- A Blog Post about Identity Protective Cognition and Emotional Intelligence

I turned 38 a couple of months ago. I have entered Life: Part 2. In other words, I have come to terms with the fact my life is now half complete; assuming I live the typical lifespan of an American man.

When you’re pushing 40, there are certain things that tend fall into place in your life:

Your strengths, your weaknesses, your family, your career, your finances, your retirement plan…

To steal a quote from a book I will never read called Anna and the French Kiss, it really comes down to this:

“The more you know who you are, and what you want, the less you let things upset you.” 

In other words, my identity is well established. While I remain open-minded to a certain point, I am at the place in life where I am no longer seeking confirmation of my identity from other people; the way Michael Scott and Andy Bernard did on The Office.

I no longer subscribe to the delusion that I am a good person, because then I would fall victim to the mentality, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

Not to mention, the concept of being a good person is simply relevant to others I would perceive as bad people.

There will always be people who perceive me as morally or intellectually inferior to themselves in some way. I am okay with that. I embrace it. I even celebrate it.

To quote Matchbox Twenty in a song called “Busted” from their debut album from over 20 years ago, this is how I feel:

“I’m the flame, I can’t get burnt. I’m wholly understated.”

In my 38 years, I have learned that most people predictably fear being perceived as wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

But I don’t. I am immune because I already know those things are true:

To some people, I will always be wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

I have taught myself that anything a person believes is true in their own mind; even for crazy people.

This is only magnified because of Identity Protective Cognition, which explains that when another person tries to convince someone against their strongly held beliefs, anything they hear in an attempt to convert them will only reinforce what they already believe.

Therefore, I don’t care what other people believe. I have no desire to prove anyone wrong, as I have learned that often the subconscious goal people have in trying to prove another person wrong is that they are ultimately trying to earn that person’s respect.

I don’t crave for people’s respect by proving them wrong, as I believe it’s nearly impossible; and ultimately, a poor choice in the game of time management.

People tend to think their opinions, beliefs, and ideologies actually matter to other people.

They don’t.

No one cares what anyone believes. It’s an illusion. Instead, people are simply seeking to identify members of their own camp; while demonizing the other side; believing those with opposing views are wrong, ignorant, and/or immoral.

(The bipartisan structure of American politics has made this clear by now.)

I have peace knowing that I can privately disagree with other people’s moral codes and lifestyles; as they surely disagree with mine. I am more interested in learning what I have in common with others; not what we disagree on.

So surely you can understand why a guy like me has proudly adopted this as my current life motto:

“Hi, I don’t care. Thanks.”

Further exploring my mindset, it is important to note that I have also climbed the ladder of emotional intelligence high enough now to know this:

It is always a choice to be offended, insulted, and/or disrespected by another person.

Similarly, forgiveness is always a choice, as well.

I turned off the breaker switch to allowing others to affect my emotions. I now control my own emotions, thanks to some gentle reminders from the surprisingly emotionally intelligent band Metallica, in legendary songs like “Master of Puppets”:

“I’m pulling your strings/Twisting your mind and smashing your dreams/Blinded by me, you can’t see a thing.”

This is a great illustration of how most people, by default, allow other people’s control of their own emotions to rule their lives.

Imagine the unnecessary burden that has been removed from my own mind. Imagine the freedom I must feel:

To not allow other people to control my emotions because I ultimately don’t fear being perceived as wrong, ignorant, or immoral. To know it’s vanity to believe I can gain a person’s respect by proving them wrong.

So it’s only natural that what I really wanted for this Father’s Day was a basic t-shirt that shares my motto with the world:

“Hi, I don’t care. Thanks.”

(To buy this shirt for the best price on Amazon, click here.)

I was able to debut it during our recent family vacation to Lake Tahoe, where my shirt was a hit among random passersby… my age and older. They are clearly riding they same vibes I am.

And my wife was able to debut a t-shirt that shared her equivalence of my motto:

“I hate people.”

(To buy that shirt on Amazon, click here.)

It’s subtle deadpan humor, as the backdrop is a camp scene in the mountains.

No, my wife doesn’t really hate people.

But like me (she is just a couple of months younger than I am), she has come to similar conclusions about life.

She regularly responds with, “People are crazy.”

So this is where I’m at in life. This is who I have become. This is who I am now.

I have lived enough life to understand and appreciate what little actually matters.

It is now even easier for me to enjoy my life and to love my neighbor as myself.

I am no longer distracted by the things that held me back in Life: Part 1.

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Being a Handsome Man Vs. Being a Hot Guy

And why it ultimately doesn’t matter anyway thanks to a little something called “charm”.

Recently I asked my facebook friends via my status update, this question:

Females, I need your input for something I’m writing: What is the difference between a guy who is “handsome” and a guy who is “hot, sexy, etc.”?

To summarize the similarities of the responses, with a man who is “hot” there is an attraction (mostly physical), whereas  with a man who is “handsome” is someone who simply is a good-looking guy, though there is not necessarily any kind of attraction there.  Of course the ironic thing about this can best be summed up by what my friend Holly Arnesen said:

“if i refer to a guy as handsome, it usually means that physically speaking he’s nicely put together, but doesn’t necessarily mean i’m attracted. hot and sexy usually has to do with more than what a guy looks like. like some women think intelligence is sexy so, they’ll go for a smart guy over one that they think is nicer to look at.  i once heard someone say, ‘men fall in love with women they are attracted to, and women are attracted to the men they fall in love with.’ i’m not a guy, but i’m pretty sure this tends to be way things go.”

On the right, Bronson Pinchot, who played "Balki" on Perfect Strangers.

What enticed me to walk up to my future wife on October 5, 2006 and talk to her the very first time I saw her from across a large crowded room was her appearance.  Though it wasn’t until four months later to the day, on our first date (I knew it was a date but she didn’t until it was over), that she actually thought of me in any kind of romantic way.  My physical looks were irrelevant to the equation up until the point I made it clear I was interested in her, given that I’d shared with her my personality and character prior to day that we crossed the line from being friends to dating.

Until we started dating, I was just another average-looking dude.  A forgettable face.  Perhaps the most memorable physical trait would have been my dark hair.  Based on the celebrities that people have told me I look like in the last couple of years (“Cory Matthews” from Boy Meets World, “Balki” from Perfect Strangers, “Ross” from Friends, as well as David Arquette and Paul Rudd), I evidently have the looks of a Jewish-American comedian, which all of those Nick Shell look-alikes are.  Men that are remembered not for their looks, but for their personalities and talent.  Are those men handsome?  Sure, why not.  It’s irrelevant either way.

Ben Savage, who played "Corey Matthews" on Boy Meets World.

Speaking of David Schwimmer, I don’t believe anyone could have played the part of Ross better.  But to be part of one of the most popular romantic American TV couples ever, he was a very ordinary looking guy.  Fans of Friends always think of Ross and Rachel fondly, though never once have I ever heard anyone comment good or bad on David Schwimmer’s looks.  But regarding Jennifer Aniston, it’s not that way at all. Her looks were so relevant she actually started a hairstyle craze in 1995 called “The Rachel”.

When my wife and I reminisce on when we first started dating, she always says, “You always had interesting stuff to say so I knew we’d never run out of things to talk about.”  It’s possible that’s what won her over.  My quirkiness.  Some people would call it my ability to “think some crazy crap up”.  Others more reverently refer to it as “thinking deeply”.   My lifelong habit of daydreaming during math and science class definitely paid off.  I charmed her.

So if a guy is simply average-looking, how can he improve his situation?  The “Makeover Week” on the TV show The Biggest Loser would tell us he would need to slim down, get his hair cut shorter, shave off his beard, and wear nicer clothes.  But I know my wife always prefers me to wear jeans, t-shirt, and a ball cap, and she never notices or cares whether I have a beard or not.  There’s really no official way for a schlub or average Joe to gain “handsomeness” or “sexiness” since that’s up to the girl they’re trying to attract.

The more colorful and eye-catching cockatiel bird is on the right. The female is on the left.

And I think that’s why it’s a guy thing to not care as much about our appearance as females do.  Because unlike male birds (which are always more attractive and attention-grabbing than the females they attract), male humans know they can attract a woman who is out of their league looks-wise as long as they are funny enough, smart enough, rich enough, strong enough, sensitive enough, or whatever else it takes to charm their love interest.  From Doug Heffernan to Barney Rubble, charm certainly has its advantages.

Swiss Army SUV (Nick Shell’s Turtle Shell): 2004 Honda Element

If I was an action figure, what would my accessories be?

My wife always goes to sleep before me.  Sometimes, when she’s lucky, I sing her a lullaby to help her transition into dream mode, to coax her into visions of happy clouds and riding unicorns.  Of course, I only serenade her with original songs that I sing as I compose them, on the spot.  Last week, with Avatar fresh on my mind, I sang to her in my finest Styx performing Mr. Roboto voice:

“Nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life

So put on your purple jump suit and watch a pterodactyl fly by

Because nothing can prepare you for the unicorn ride of your life”

Pause.

Then she asked, “How can I prepare for the unicorn ride when you just said nothing could ever prepare me?”

She made a good point.  The only disadvantage of having the ability to make up and sing Grammy award winning songs on the spot, is that sometimes I forget the lyrics I’ve already sang earlier in the same song.

Ironically, I was the one who wasn’t prepared.  As for the rest of the time, in everyday life, I am prepared.  Because from 1st grade to 5th grade, I was in Cub Scouts and one of our main mottos was Be Prepared”.  Evidently, that has become a law of life for me.

Take my car, for example:

Honda Elements have been compared to a lot of things: a boot, a shoe, a toaster, a box.  And I’m okay with that, because after 4 ½ years of owning one, I am still in love.  And when the day comes to get a new vehicle, my plan is to simply buy another Honda Element.

I have transformed my already versatile duckbill-platypus-like SUV into the vehicular equivalent of a Swiss army knife.  It’s time to take a tour of my Honda Element and see what I keep on hand at all times, just in case I need it…

Typically I keep one backseat always folded up so I can have my mountain bike with me.  It stays secured between the wall and other seat.  The blue t-shirt helps prevent scuff marks on my seat from the bike and doubles as an emergency back-up shirt.

The way I got that shirt was way back in the summer of 1998 when I went on a mission trip to Ecuador.  One of the old t-shirts I had packed for the trip was one that I got from a church youth conference from the summer of 1993.  It was a white t-shirt with the phrase “JESUS IS FOR NOW” on it.  And that’s all it said.  (In Junior High, my classmate Scott Rothell joked with me: “Jesus is for now; Satan is for later”.  He was a funny guy.)

So when I was in Ecuador, a guy my age (17 at the time) saw me wearing the “Jesus is for now” t-shirt and said he liked it so much that he wanted it.  Because I have developed a friendship with him that week doing skits in city squares and painting schools, I negotiated a t-shirt trade.

He let me look through the old t-shirts he brought along, and the blue one was the one I chose: “Con Amor de Tennessee a Temuco, Chile” (With love from Tennessee to Temuco, Chile”.  Which was the official t-shirt my friend got from a previous mission trip.  It remains a comfortable t-shirt after the 12 years of me owning it.

Behind my passenger seats is where I keep my helmet.  In the cubbies on the sides, I have an old atlas I stole from work, a bandana (for days I don’t feel like wearing a hat but want to cover my head- works well in sweaty or rainy situations).

This is also where I keep my bike maintenance tools and restaurant coupons (which I’ve made several copies of on a color copier so I can reuse them).  As well as flyers for selling my house.  And an atlas in case my GPS stops working.  And windshield defroster spray.  Plus a back-up t-shirt just in case…

In the backseat that is not folded up I keep a black fedora.  Because this kind of hat will instantly make me look classier if need be, even if I’m wearing a t-shirt and jeans.  Plus an old baseball cap I got in 11th grade (1997), as well as a new stylish hat that my mother-in-law mailed me on my birthday.  The right hat for the right situation is key to being a model citizen.

Underneath the seat I keep my Birkenstocks (Christmas present from my parents in 1999).  They make the perfect back-up shoes in case I’m wearing nice shoes and it starts to rain.  In the rear side doors, I keep two books at all times.  Just in case I need to kill some time.  One is about speed reading, the other is about “reading people”.

In between the two front seats, I keep some musk incense I bought at an Indian grocery store, to help keeping my Element smelling like a forest.  I received the toothpaste and toothbrush from my most recent dentist visit- always good to keep around.  And of course it is vital to always have nail clippers handy.

The plastic cup remains empty.  Maybe I’ll end up in a place where there’s water but nothing to put it in.  Then the cup saves the day.

I put Velcro on the back of my iPod (with an FM radio receiver so I can listen to it through my stereo speakers) and my steering wheel so it’s always right in front of me.

In the hidden cubby next to my steering wheel, I keep a few spare wedding rings (made out of hemp) just in case I ever forget to wear my actual one.  Next to some papaya supplements to aid indigestion (for my pregnant wife).

Up in the front passenger dashboard caddy, I keep sugar-free gum, business cards (mainly so I can write my website on them to give to people I meet who after talking to me, are curious about my website).  And a bendable Pink Panther- just because he is awesome.  He is my animal cartoon role model.

There are also some pictures from my wife and I from exactly a year ago when we met her aunt in Chattanooga.  The felt letters say “amp” but they used to say “camp”.  But the “c” fell off and I never found it.  I just wanted to enhance the “camp” theme of my car.

Lastly, in the passenger seat of my Element, I keep my Gap one-strap bookbag.  Inside are my laptop, earphones, camera, Bible, and whatever the main current book is that I’m reading at the time.  I usually bring the bookbag with me when I take my mountain bike for a ride so I can be prepared to entertain myself if I need a break.

With the exception of my TV and my Wii and guitar and my clothes which are in the house, the things I keep in my Element are my earthly possessions.  My Element is like an overnight bag.  Like a turtle’s shell.  My action figure’s accessories.

And one more thing… Now that you’ve read my take on Honda Elements, why not read my perspective on being a dad?  That’s right- parenting from a dad’s point of view.  I have been documenting my thoughts as a dad since the week we found out my wife was pregnant.  I formally invite you now to read my “dad blog” by clicking on the link below:

dad from day one

Comfortable Friday


 

Of all people, I should appreciate the quirky American tradition so many offices participate in once a week called Casual Friday.  After four hard days of working while dressed in a restricting long sleeve shirt, tie, and pants (or at least a polo shirt and khakis), the dress code nearly disappears on the 5th day.  Jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops are completely acceptable.  Goofy.  Just plain goofy.


 

The whole idea behind dressing professionally for work is to establish a mentality for the workers to act the way they dress. It also helps draw lines between superiors and those who answer to them, as managers and bosses tend to dress a little nicer, accordingly. But then that all goes away on Friday.  The playing field is leveled out, according to appearance.


 

If the way a person dresses does indeed reflect their initiative and performance at work, why play around with that once a week?  The answer:  It must not really make a difference.  Often, Friday is my most productive day of the week.  And I’m dressed like it’s Saturday morning.


 

Last week’s rerun of The Office addressed some of the tackiness that often accompanies Casual Friday.  Meredith’s lack of clothes, Oscar’s nasty feet, and Toby’s clashing colors.  It just makes me laugh: the double standard of dressing professionally for 80% of the work week and dressing like a slouch for the other 20% of it.


 

Typically on Fridays I wear my comfortable, worn-in/worn-out jeans (circa 2002 so they’re that light shade of blue that used to be the standard), along with a comfortable t-shirt (usually something I got for free from an event I participated in during 2002 and should now only be wearing to wash a car or do yard work in) and my 2002 Etnie skate shoes I wear not because I skate, but because they’re so comfortable- I refer to them as my Marshmallow Shoes because they’re so soft and cushioned.  The obvious recurring theme: clothing from the year 2002.  The other obvious recurring theme: comfortable.


 

Casual Friday is really Comfortable Friday.  If I dressed casually on Fridays, I would wear slimmer fitting darker jeans, an untucked collared shirt, and sneakers.  But I don’t.  And while I call it Comfortable Friday, “comfortable” can easily become a synonym for “sloppy”.  Sloppy is in the same word family as “slob”.  Slob Friday.  But I’m not complaining.  Some people like to play dress up to look and feel important at work.  For the rest of us, there’s Friday.


casual Friday

 

Stuck in Back in Time Like Ned Flanders, Dwight Schrute, and Austin Powers

 

Been there, done that, got the t-shirt…

Like a good bottle of Pepsi Clear or a box of Pop-Tart Minis, every person has an expiration date. Of culture, that is. There comes a certain year in a person’s life where they no longer continue moving forward concerning the way they dress, wear their hair, speak, and use technology. I’m not talking about a 16 year old kid who buys all his clothes at Goodwill, proudly showing off his 1985 Huey Lewis & the News t-shirt, and fashions his hairstyle after Ashton Kutcher in “Dude, Where’s My Car?”. Being retro on purpose doesn’t count.

For me it’s most obvious when I’m at Wal-Mart and the cashier lady’s hairdo consists of teased bangs brushed back into a permed Brillo pad of a mullet: 1984.

Or the retired farmer who is still wearing his Dwight Schrute style glasses and refuses to use a cell phone or the Internet: 1979.

Sometimes it’s less obvious- maybe that co-worker with a thick goatee, wearing a cell phone belt clip, still saying quotes from Austin Powers like “Yeah, baby, yeah!”, and whose cell phone ringtone is “With Arms Wide Open” by Creed: 2000.

This concept became obvious to me when I was accompanying my wife as she shopped for clothes on a Saturday afternoon. I walked into a Van Heusen outlet and realized that while they did have some good deals, if I actually attempted to buy anything from the store, my wife probably wouldn’t let me wear it. Why? Because everything available in a Van Heusen store is designed for men who are stuck in 1994.

It amazed me that a whole company would purposely make outdated clothes. But the executives at that company know their audience. If these outdated clothing stores suddenly stopped making pleated light khaki pants, their abandoned customers would just pledge their allegiance to another outdated store instead. Customers who still say “been there, done that, got the t-shirt”. And the t-shirt they are referring to is a Big Dogs shirt with the quote “If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay off the porch!” Yes, because that’s still cool.

Even though I am well aware that every person at some point in their lifetime freezes in the culture of a certain year, my awareness does not exclude me from the inevitable. I admit that whether it’s when I start having kids, or maybe not until I retire, still I will definitely get stuck one year, not even realizing it until it’s too late and I’m either too stubborn or apathetic to change.