Dear Jack: The Paradox of Receiving a Berenstain Bears Book and HALO Action Figure on Valentine’s Day 2018

7 years, 2 months.

Dear Jack,

I don’t know how normal it is to receive so many little gifts from your parents on Valentine’s Day, but apparently, you are one lucky kid. Because before you even left for school yesterday, you got all your Valentine’s Day gifts from Mommy and me.

It was funny to me; I remember on your 2nd Valentine’s Day, Mommy asked me to pick out a little toy for you. This was a new concept for me. I had never heard of parents getting their kids gifts for Valentine’s Day.

I picked out an 88 cent Hot Wheels red monster truck for you. And since that day back in 2012, I have seen your Valentine’s Day gift selections grow a little bigger each year.

This year, you received a mini Hatchling, a stuffed animal ball, a bag of Trolli gummies, and an inflatable Hulk.

But looking back, perhaps it was slightly ironic, and definitely easily hilarious, that two gifts in particular couldn’t be more opposite:

A Berenstain Bears book called Valentine Blessings, which includes Bible verses about the Biblical definition of love.

And…

A Mega Construx HALO action figure, ready for war!

But in addition to it being both ironic and hilarious, I also see it as perfectly ideal for you right now, as a 7 year-old, 1st grader boy.

While you very much enjoy action of any kind, including your now growing collection of HALO figures, as well as your obvious and, by default, fascination with super heroes like the Hulk, you still are very excited to receive a fluffy stuffed animal or another book from that lovable family from Bear Country.

You are a sweet and sensitive boy, yet I see those undeniable glimpses of you as a pre-teen, as well.

And really, this is exactly how I remember being, 30 years ago, when I was this age.

I think your Valentine’s Day gifts from Mommy and me were a perfect representation of who you are to us at this age.

Love,

Daddy

Picking Up Where We Left Off Last Time: Going Back to the Future After “To Be Continued”

The phrase “to be continued…” is a way of life for me.

In the summer of 1988 one of the things I remember most is watching reruns of The Incredible Hulk with my mom.  So many of the episodes ended with “to be continued…” flashed up on the screen.  For some reason, that really excited me.  Even to this day, if a TV show ends with that phrase I like it more than a regular episode.

Yes, closure is an important part of life.  But in my mind, the door is never really closed just because time separates me from another person.  (Obviously, I’m not including the given exception of ex-girlfriends. Instead, I’m referring to everyone else.) Childhood classmates and guys from my college dorm.  Anyone I’ve ever met in my life- I don’t forget them.  I may not remember many details about them- but at least in the smallest of ways, I remember them.

Therefore, something I have to remind myself of is this- my way of thinking and exceptionally good memory are not necessarily the norm.  Just because I can remember specific quotes from something someone said in 5th grade, it doesn’t mean they do, or necessarily even care.  The file folder in my head for that person reads “last seen: May 1998- to be continued…”  Theirs for me reads “last seen- sometime in high school- relationship terminated/cancelled”.

When I am reacquainted with a person I haven’t heard from in years or decades, I have this habit of immediately bringing up the first positive memory I have of that person.  For me, it’s like time never passed.  Interestingly, that’s how I think it will be after we die and are reunited with people in eternity.  Since time doesn’t really exist in the afterlife, we just pick up where we left off.

Sometimes, Being Dressed as a Wolf in Public at the Right Moment Can Have Its Benefits

I cried wolf.  And it didn’t end badly.

In high school I played a wolf in the senior class play (1999), Beauty and the Beast. One afternoon during school hours, dressed in full shag-carpet costume, I had just left from a photo shoot for the local newspaper, as class had just gotten out.  There happened to be two girls getting into a fist fight, as a crowd was gathering accordingly. I was faced with a decision:

A) Enjoy the fight.

B) Break up the fight by simply making a scene.

I rushed up near the girls and began growling and howling, similiar to the transformation process on the TV version of The Incredible Hulk. The crowd started laughing at me instead of paying attention to the girls pushing each other around. The two fighting girls both looked at me with confused faces. It’s difficult to continue a fist fight when there’s randomly a 5’ 9” wolf waving around his claws at you, who is making so much racket that the fight itself is no long interesting.  The fight was over.  Both the crowd and the fighting girls walked back to class like nothing ever happened.

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.