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Are YOU Afraid of Your Wife?
How many men do you think are afraid of their wives? If “afraid” is too strong a word, how many men believe they must walk on eggshells in their wife’s presence? What marriages do you know - well - that are successful and appear happy? I chose the word “appear” because no one really knows what is going on inside another’s home and life, so all we can make is educated guesses based on how well we know people.
The three happiest marriages I know well have one common theme. The man is clearly madly in love with his wife and lets her run the show. My parents fit that description to a T and were happily together for 73 years, married 66. However, after being part of a men’s group for over a decade, I witnessed way too many men who feared their wives or partners.
What are the signs that a man - YOU - might be scared of YOUR wife?
~~ You are extremely careful with anything you say in her presence.
~~ Some topics are just not to be discussed, whether about your sex life, money, or her opinions on how to raise the children.
~~ She adores her parents; hates yours and you allow those feelings to determine the outcome and invitation list of family events.
~~ Saying “No” to her causes heart palpitations.
~~ You’ve long ago realized that your “fix-it” reaction to her problems never is appreciated and now you just begrudgingly listen and offer no ideas or solutions. Note: in many cases, this is a wise move, period.
~~ When you must bring up something you think will precipitate a tough discussion or a fight, you put if off and/or bolster yourself with substances.
~~ You don’t even remember why you fell in love in the first place.
~~ She controls all the purse strings and when you want something, you dread asking for it.
Well guys, how’d you fare on the above things? Ladies, do you recognize your man in the above list?
We’ve been living through a very feminized time in human history. Women dominate our elementary schools and all our schools seem to favor girls/women in their curriculum and in so many other politically correct ways. Boys are failing at higher numbers than ever and more and more women are accepted to colleges while their male counterparts are often floundering. Plus, the work place is now fraught with HR rules. Men can literally be brought up on sexual harassment charges simply by the perception of a female co-worker saying something he did or even how he peered at a female co-worker was sexual harassment.
Heck, I’d be scared to work in any large environment today. Towards the end of my showbiz career, post Anita Hill, I stopped hiring female secretaries simply because I didn’t want to be walking on eggshells. The irony was that I experienced pretty harsh sexual harassment twice from women in positions of power and was laughed at by my (male) bosses at the time.
So, is it any wonder that our boys and young men might be afraid of their women at home and at work?
There is no easy solution. But, for most men, I think having good men in their lives can make a huge difference. Even without all these societal changes, many men will stick their feet deep into their mouths at times. I am certainly guilty of this far too often. Having an outlet with other men might help prevent the legitimate lapse in thinking that is endemic among many men.
The decade I spent in a men’s group helped me deal with the hardships of my divorce, raising my boys alone, and dating again in a changed world. The men in my group sincerely helped me navigate the new relationship that ended up leading to my second marriage. I’d bring them issues and they’d give a perspective and/or advice that I just hadn’t thought of or realized. They saved me from myself in many cases.
In other cases, it’s just learning that the new World Order is simply different. The empowerment of women is largely a good thing, but it has diminished men to a degree, which is why there are so many men living in fear of their wives or partners. The irony of this column is that I expected it to contain much humor, yet upon writing it, the harsh truth of this topic kept me from my usual quips.
I’d really love to know what you think: men and women? With women, I want to know if you respect the man in your life? Has his kowtowing to you made you love him more, if he’s acting that way? Men, do you resent your wife? Do you feel less a man? And, parents - what are you seeing from your boys and from your girls? Are you happy with the state of Gender Affairs?
(Bruce Sallan, author of A Dad’s Point-of-View: We ARE Half the Equation and radio host of The Bruce Sallan Show - A Dad’s Point-of-View gave up a long-term showbiz career to become a stay-at-home-dad. He has dedicated his new career to becoming THE Dad advocate. He carries his mission with not only his book and radio show, but also his column A Dad’s Point-of-View, syndicated in over 100 newspapers and websites worldwide, and his dedication to his community on Facebook and Twitter. Join Bruce and his community each Thursday in #DadChat , from 6pm -7pm PST, the Tweet Chat that Bruce hosts.)
Why is Everyone SO Darn Busy and Tired?
I continue to marvel at how busy everyone seems to be these days. Wasn’t all this new technology supposed to make our lives easier? Do any of you feel life is easier today? Or, are you busy and tired ALL the time? My wife has two favorite words - “I’m so tired.” So, I can’t count. Why is she so tired? Why is she so busy? Why are we all so (apparently) busy? Is this a new way of life or do we have some choice in it?
Obviously, we all have certain choices in how we live our lives and allow ourselves to get too busy or tired. Some things are out of our control such as raising a child with learning disabilities, having our own health problems, or dealing with aging parents. These add stresses that we can’t avoid, but we can perhaps manage.
I remember taking a Time Management class long before there were personal computers and smart-phones. Perhaps, we had analog answering machines in those days, but not much else. Pencil and paper and manual or electric typewriters were our tools. Television consisted of three networks and if we wanted to see a movie we had to go to a movie theatre. Oh, and long distance phone calls were expensive and an expensive indulgence. We were busy and tired too, but not to the extreme I feel is going on today!
Yet, then many of us felt overwhelmed with life. Hence, I took that Time Management class and this was before I was married, had kids, or had sick parents. And I thought I was busy then! Looking back, my life was mighty simple then though breaking into showbiz was a continuing challenge that I conquered to a degree. And, that choice of career was as much of a 24/7 job as there was then -and now, for that matter.
My tool of choice for so many years was a handwritten To-Do list. I would write it out by hand every evening. If I completed the list, I’d start another. Since I rarely completed any list, I carried over the undone things -often using the same piece of paper- and added new things to go with the crossed off ones that I’d actually accomplished. When I got to my office each morning, instead of unpacking a laptop or turning on a desktop computer, I simply pulled out my list.
How did I go about doing the tasks on the lists? They usually involved calling business associates, reading scripts, books, or other submissions, and/or replying to correspondence I’d received. No email since everything came by mail. No voicemail of any import, just a secretary or receptionist that would write down a missed call on a duplicate form, putting one copy in my inbox and keeping the other as back up. I’d line up those small pieces of paper and prioritize them.
My secretary would bring in her call log. I’d pencil next to open calls the order in which I’d want her to place the calls for me. Depending on my office configuration at the time, she’d either shout out “Bruce is on line one” or, later, we got this fancy contraption where I’d get a screen sort of notice saying the same thing. Wow, that was high-tech.
That’s my walk down memory lane. Let’s answer the question posed with the title of this column. I think we are busier and more tired today for real. I don’t think it’s anyone looking back and just saying it was easier back in the day, one of our current done-to-death expressions.
We are busier today because most everything today is more complicated. We now live in a 24/7-connected world, if we choose. We now cannot trust our public institutions to take care of our kids and we now -not always for the best - don’t give our kids much independence.
The result is that every aspect of our lives is actually more difficult. Again, we all have choices, but we are also living in one, if not the worst, economic times of my life.
My generation’s ability to get into college, have a summer job, get internships, and ultimately get employed upon graduation from high school or college was bluntly, easier. Many young boys took shop classes in high school - recognizing they either were not interested or just were not college material -and began making money as a mechanic, plumber, electrician, etc. immediately after getting their diploma.
While I don’t mean to sound like Abe walking six miles in the snow to get to school, I actually went to work immediately after receiving my high school diploma. That afternoon! I worked as a recreation aid at a local elementary school and my shift occurred shortly after our graduation ceremony. Can you imagine a high school grad today doing that instead of the myriad sort of after-school affairs that occur today?
Is there a solution to the hectic nature of life today? For some, yes: for others, it may be harder. If unemployed, the pressure is extreme for any individual or family. Support, in the form of extended family, is less present than in the past. Life is harder and I do fear for my kid’s future in so many ways.
So, instead of saying how much harder I had it -which had been the norm for each generation- I actually think I had it easier than my boys will. I also had and made good luck for myself. No one controls that destiny. My wish is that we all can find more balance in life and learn to turn off at least for a few hours once a week. What do you think?
Why Our Kids Should Take Risks
Yes, we should encourage our kids to take risks. Of course I don’t mean foolish or dangerous risks, but those that will help them succeed in life. In our contemporary world, it’s the risk-takers who will succeed. Too many kids feel entitled, have been pampered or helicoptered, and the idea of taking a risk is completely foreign to them. Thomas Edison is a perfect example of a man who not only took risks, but also didn’t allow failures to deter his determination.
I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work ~ Thomas A. Edison
Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time ~ Thomas A. Edison
Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up ~ Thomas A. Edison
In essence, I’m equating success with taking risks. And, I’ll back it up with several examples in my own life. I would define my life as a combination of passion, perseverance, and risk-taking. Within that definition, there were plenty of misses and failures. If I allowed those failures to either define or discourage me, I’d not be writing this column right now.
Let’s be clear on what I am calling a risk. I do not mean jumping out of a plane with a parachute, skiing over a cliff that appears not to have a landing clearly in sight, or bungee jumping a deep cavern or high bridge. Those certainly have their place, and in fact, I’ve taken my share of that kind of physical risk though I think with care, thought, and preparation. The risks I’m referencing are those that involve putting yourself out there, taking a chance on rejection whether personal or professional, and maybe venturing outside your comfort zone.
My favorite family example is what my older son, Arnie, did when he was sixteen. It has become -in so many ways- the defining moment of his life, so far.
My son found his passion in music. I did everything in my power to steer him toward sports but upon giving him an electric guitar when he graduated elementary school, it was clear where his future was heading. He took to it like the proverbial bee to honey. I recognized that passion as the same I had for tennis, which was my first big life passion. And, wisely, I let go of my hopes for a future NBA or baseball hall-of-famer.
Naturally, his music tastes ventured all over the music landscape. But, a singular hero for him was Chris Cornell, who was part of two major rock ‘n’ roll groups, AudioSlave and Soundgarden. He is a premier rock guitarist and vocalist. . My son literally knew how to play every song of his. I supported my son’s love of music by first taking him to concerts of the greats of rock such as Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen. As his own tastes developed, he would “take” me to his favorites such as Green Day and The Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Over time, we attended dozens of concerts including twice going to the Outside Lands music festival in San Francisco. I came along both times and I was the old man on the festival grounds. He also got to see his idol, Chris Cornell, a couple of times at smaller music events.
When he learned that Chris Cornell was going to give an acoustic performance for a charity, he begged to attend. It was expensive, but I knew it would mean the world to him. So, I sprung for two tickets. He was now just sixteen, with a girlfriend, and this was clearly a time that dad was not needed or wanted as a chaperone. I was simply the driver.
That day, at school, he exclaimed to all his friends that he was going to jam with Chris Cornell at this show, where it was a small venue and he expressed this with unwavering conviction. His friends indulged his claim with good humor and considerable skepticism, as did I.
Given that it was an acoustic concert at The Roxy, where attendance was limited to 300 or so standing-room only fans, Arnie was able to get a prime position near the stage. Cornell was performing with an acoustic guitar and a cello as his only back up.
Much as Eric Claption did in his first unplugged concert, Cornell did his heavy rock music in a passionate but slower style. Also, given the nature of this concert, there were short, quiet breaks between songs. During one of those breaks, as recounted to me, the following dialogue took place between Arnie, Cornell, and the audience:
Arnie: Hey Chris, can I ask you a question?
Note: At the time, Arnie had very long red-hair and stood 6’2”.
Cornell (looking a bit confused): Yeah kid, what is it?
Arnie: It’s been my lifetime dream to jam with you!
Cornell (more confused): Oh, what instrument do you play?
Arnie: I’ve played guitar since 6th grade!
Audience (getting into it): Let him. Let him!
Arnie’s Girlfriend: He can do it!
Cornell: What song would you like to play?
Arnie: Fell on Black Days
Cornell: Heck, that’s our next song.
Audience (louder now): Let him. LET HIM!
Cornell (looking around, a bit bewildered): Okay, what the heck.
Audience (shouting): YEAH!
Arnie heads to the stage where Cornell helps him up. He whispers in Arnie’s ear, “What’s your name kid,” to which Arnie answers. Cornell takes off his guitar from around his neck and hands it to Arnie. Cornell pulls a chair up and motions to Arnie to sit in it while asking someone backstage to bring him another guitar. An electric guitar is brought out. Cornell checks the tuning, looks at Arnie and they exchange that Are-You-Ready look between musicians and then Cornell launches into the nearly seven-minutes song.
Arnie matches Cornell note-for-note, including the somewhat complicated solo, which you can see in the YouTube video that we fortunately got from another spectator. The audience is whooping it up and some are shouting to Arnie’s girlfriend, “This was a set-up, wasn’t it?” because they played so well together.
When the song ends, Cornell gives Arnie a bemused expressed and says in the mike something to the effect, “Not bad. Not bad at all.”
Throughout the song, the expression on Arnie’s face was one of unmitigated joy -an expression I hadn’t really seen since he’d become a teen.
The YouTube (http://ow.ly/jKPGw) of that performance, in my opinion, was one of the factors that contributed to Arnie’s acceptance at The Berklee College of Music in Boston, given he had poor grades and didn’t even take the SAT. By then, Arnie’s primary instrument was drums so he had auditioned at Berklee on drums.
How many young kids would take that risk? And, really, what did he have to lose?
I had a 25-year career in showbiz that was defined by taking such risks. I brought a baby black-spotted leopard to a series pitch about a wild animal vet. I brought two WWF famous-at-the-time wrestlers to another series pitch that involved the participation of wrestlers. They came in full regalia. In recent times, I walked up to Guy Kawasaki at a conference and asked him to be a guest on #DadChat after he’d just given a keynote speech. He said, “Yes” (Note: He’s coming back to #DadChat on April 25).
Had I held back out of fear or embarrassment, where would my life be? Had Arnie not gone for it at that concert, where would his life be now as he’s finishing his freshman year at Berklee?
Taking risks can be a good thing. Teach your kids to go for it. Teach them the when and when-it’s-not boundaries and perhaps model some risk-taking yourself since our kids learn so much from what we parents do. Mostly, don’t be afraid. Don’t let them be afraid.
Losing Friends Over Politics
In last year’s election cycle, it seemed that the discourse was more raw, rough, and angry than ever before. It seemed that posturing was taking place among the candidates, of course, but also mainstream media was clearly favoring one candidate/party over another. How does this impact our relationships? Does it impact them? And, since the election, has it changed? I think not.
One of my favorite movies of all-time is a 1970’s French film by the renowned director, Claude LeLouche. This movie, “And Now My Love,” has a conceit in its concept that only the French would do and, in this case, pull off magnificently. It is the story of love at first sight. However, the destined lovers do not meet until the very end of the movie as they are figuratively passing ships in the night. We do learn that they share one thing in common -they both take three lumps of sugar in their coffee.
That is ultimately the McGuffin of the movie to use a movie term that I believe began with Alfred Hitchcock films and doesn’t really apply. Let’s just say it’s the device that threads throughout this adorable, lyrical, and amazing cinematic achievement. For me, it’s also been a lifelong lesson in relationships that has now encompassed political views -for me.
Should taking three lumps of sugar be the basis of a relationship? Maybe not, but it was an allegory for this particular couple’s destiny. When I got divorced and began dating again, I realized that my three lumps of sugar were not what I had always thought they would be. Religion turned out not to be that important a difference since my (second) wife turned out to be Christian, while I’m Jewish. But, the fact that we both shared the basic tenets that both our religions share, turned out to be more relevant than if I’d met a secular Jew. She believed in the Old Testament, just as I do. She believes in the values it espouses and our only difference, essentially, was the role Jesus played in the world.
Similarly, we shared the same politics and I realized that I could not be with a woman who thought the opposite of me. The consequences of that thinking, in my opinion, would be catastrophic for our country, our world, and more importantly to me, for the future for my boys. Of course I don’t mean on every single policy, but an overall belief system. So, how could I share a life with someone who believed otherwise?
As my view of the world and my values solidified, I began looking at my friend’s values and views. I found that with many on “the other side,” we could just not have a respectful dialogue. In some cases, we agreed to just take politics off the table and continue to stay friends and talk about the more micro issues of our lives: work, family, fun.
In other cases, the extreme views and values of some friends just made it hard to continue the friendship. I found that these friendships more or less drifted apart in a natural way without any rancor though for me, with the realization that our time had passed (as friends).
Of course, we should not choose our friends solely by their ideological views. Or should we? I would suggest that friends we had from years past should be given more slack in this regard and just as with the example described earlier, maybe some topics are just not discussed.
However, with new friends and especially with a life-long partner, I believe sharing similar values and (political) views just is easier. Of course it does none of us any good to just have friends and/or family that simply agree with everything we say or do. But, on the other hand, some views/values are just beyond casual discussion and inevitably lead to passions getting inflamed.
I’m a pretty out-there guy with out-there views of life and the world. I could just keep my mouth shut and not let some of these macro issues of the world intrude in my personal life. But, I’m just not that sort. Passivity about anything isn’t in my blood.
I have no doubt that this column will stir much debate and disagreement with this point-of-view. You are welcome to express those contrary views to me via email or in the comments section of my website. When I wrote a pretty over-the-top rant about the Occupy Wall Street movement, the response was significant.
Happily, the vast majority of those that disagreed with me did so with thought, respect, and intelligence. They were still wrong, of course, but at least the discourse was civil. Those that simply called me names usually did so anonymously and I did not delete a single one of those hateful comments because they really did speak for themselves and require no response.
In my personal life, I’d rather not have the rancor that we are seeing in the public sphere. I am glad that my friendships have evolved so that the majority of those close to me do think along similar lines, though with varying degrees of harmony.
Frankly, most of the friendships that have drifted have done so not due to politically different views, but just the natural evolution of our changing lives and/or a silly, small incident that grew to more than it ever deserved and unfortunately, derailed the friendship. I’m not proud of those friendships that ended over trivia, but I’m far from a perfect human being.
What do you think about this issue? Have your friendships endured significantly different political positions. Have your views of the world changed while your friend’s views haven’t? Please share your thoughts.
Men vs. Women: Looking and Flirting
I had a discussion the other day with a young woman friend who said she preferred dating older men because the guys her age were only interested in one thing. Ironically it was the guys that either were not interested or feigned disinterest that attracted her the most. I was struck by the irony of her statement, though I was sure it was true for her and many other of her contemporaries. Like the song said, “Love is strange.”
There are so many things about men and women that are generally and inherently different as I hope this blog series has demonstrated. I’ve chosen to tell the truth rather than adhere to any gender politics or higher education belief systems. Sometimes that has generated some raised eyebrows, but not nearly as much as I expected. I still want some Women’s Studies and/or Gender Studies professors or students to weigh in.
So, let’s look at “looking” and flirting. Again, I will represent several generalities that I assert to be largely true. Again, I acknowledge that there will be exceptions to every one of these generalities. And, again I say, “So what, they’re generally true for a reason - they’re generally true!”
First, I want to admit that I have that looking disease that afflicts many men. It’s almost chemical that when a woman enters the room, I will take notice. When I’m with my wife or when I was with any other women prior to my marriages, I did everything I could to try and be subtle about it, but I usually failed miserably. I took to sitting facing the wall whenever we’d go out to a restaurant. At least that would inhibit my insulting and useless looking behavior.
What struck me most about this pattern that I and many other men suffer from is the reality of what we could possibly think might happen with our gazing at an attractive woman across the room. Did we think -or hope- that said woman would cross the room, come directly up to us, give a cursory and dismissive glance to our female companion, and insist we leave the restaurant immediately because she hand to tear our clothes off right now. Really, what could we men possibly think might happen, especially if we are with a date or permanent partner?
It’s laughable, really. It’s even more pathetic when you do the lookie-loo thing while driving. We men see a woman running and do an exorcist-like turn of the head -- expecting what?
For this series of columns, I’ve usually done lists in which I’d alternate men and women’s differences on a topic. This time, I will just carry on in the style I’ve already begun -list-less.
Let’s face it; women are just more classy and subtle around these issues. Perhaps, it’s changed among the younger generation, but I suspect not much. Part of the reason is that women are generally less “turned on” by looks and much more attracted to a man’s mind and wallet contents, neither of which are that readily apparent at a glance.
Okay, if that is the case, maybe women are as superficial as men, just in other areas. Women generally care about a man’s ability to provide and to engage their attention intellectually and humorously. Both are, I suspect, to some degree built into a woman’s DNA and both, especially the provide part, relate to historical needs of our species.
Taking my generalities even further, I will really go out a limb by stating another generality. Men can and will be promiscuous and would always be promiscuous if they were allowed, could get away with it, and not risk bringing home any diseases. It’s societal pressure and their partners that help domesticate the wild rover in most men.
On the other hand, women are generally more interested and comfortable in a monogamous relationship. I’ve never known a woman - granted this statement is an unscientific sample of women- that has ever had anything beyond a brief period of promiscuity, and usually in reaction to a breakup and an attitude of “if they can do it, so can I.” But inevitably, women will wake up at some point during this promiscuous period and recognize they plain don’t like it.
I believe women flirt simply by being a woman, the way they dress, the way they display a smile, and a look they choose to give a man that may interest them. Again, it’s subtler and I would assert classier than many of the guy’s come-on lines, the lameness of most being laughable and fodder for comedy routines.
Where does all this leave us? Ahhh, that is God’s handiwork. We will never fully understand the opposite sex but, if we are wise, we will learn from each other and grow as a result. Rather than try to be like our counterpart, let’s express wonder at our differences, celebrate them, learn from them, and perhaps actually enjoy one another simply because we are so different, yet fit together so very well when it works.
Kids On a Leash
Before you start getting upset at me, the title of this column is about much more than those kids we often see tethered to parent by a leash! Walking in a park the other day, my 14-year-old son pointed out a kid being controlled by just such a leash and thought it might make for a good column. Do you teach your children self-reliance?
My first reaction was that it was too limited a topic until we discussed it further and both realized the metaphor this physical image inspired. So, with full credit to my youngest son, I realized what a great topic this could be given the degree of helicoptering and tethering my generation of parents have employed!
I’ve written a lot about the infantilazation of our teenagers by parents. Please note that “Infantilazation” is the second word in this column that has been rejected by my spell-check program as non-existent. Not even a suggestion of a better spelling for it or “Helicoptering,” yet I am willing to bet 90% of you know exactly of what I speak (or write, to be exact)!
Finding jobs is indeed harder than ever for teens today. But, given how many of them are spoiled rotten, do they even know the word, “Persistence” when it comes to looking for work? Both “Finding jobs” and “Persistence” have been subjects of previous “A Dad’s Point-of-View” columns. Their commonality is the reason d’être for this column. Teaching our kids independence is one of first jobs of dad and/or mom. Tying them up with a leash, whether literally or figuratively, is not included in the job description.
In defiance of the PC police, I will declare that I believe there is a bigger tendency towards “Helicoptering” from the estrogen side of the parenting equation. “Hovering,” “Control,” “Spoiled” all may come to play as well. Dads certainly have their share of gender traits that aren’t helping their kids, too. I’ll focus on the general notion of teaching kids to be independent rather than caring whether dad or mom may be the worst offender at this aspect of parenting.
Letting go is hard. But, teaching our kids that ability to not be dependent on mom or dad is essential to maturation and ultimate independence. Teaching financial tools, how to do laundry, basic cooking (and cleaning), are required skills for living on your own. There’s more to raising kids than learning to say “Thank you” and “Please” or to succeed in school and sports.
Faith and trust are not words often associated with parenting. But, in so many ways, if children have been raised with the skills necessary to be independent, then mom and dad should have “Faith” and “Trust” that the children can be independent and survive.
I experienced both faith and trust recently when I left my older son in charge of the house and dogs while my wife and our other son went to visit my in-laws. I chose to give Will the space to shine, the room to grow, and demonstrate his maturity by entrusting him to take care of the house and dogs. I was rewarded with regular check-ins from Will and, sadly, an unfortunate early morning call from him as well.
We have three dogs and one of them was quite old, Tache, and had become both weak and a bit senile and disoriented. Late on this particular evening, Will was looking for Tache late and couldn’t find her. He went outside, turned on the pool lights, and discovered her lying below the surface, in the shallow end. We believe she chose to end her life, but only God knows for sure.
Will called my wife and I immediately, shocked and scared, and unsure of what to do. We guided him through the challenging emotional process of pulling Tache out of the water, wrapping her cold body in towels, and gently placing her in the laundry room. I am writing this column, several hours later, in the waiting area of the airport gate of which my flight home is scheduled to depart.
My son needs my support now -in person. He’s demonstrated his capacity to handle the slings and arrows that life throws us all. I am proud of him for not panicking, not totally freaking out, and immediately knowing that calling us in the middle of the night was the right thing to do.
This is part of growing up. I wish I’d been there when Tache died. But, I wasn’t, nor can I be there for each and every tough time my boys will face. Teaching them to stand on their own is my job. And, it’s your job.
Don’t be that parent that keeps that baby/toddler leash on any longer than it is necessary. Again, I am not taking a position about the value of that physical leash itself, as I’ll leave that to the parenting experts. I am taking a position on letting children learn, grow, fail, and succeed, without mom and dad by their side every step of the way. Do your job and they will do theirs…
Cup of Coffee - It Really IS About Communication
When I grew up there were coffee shops, not places that more or less exclusively served coffee and snacks. Coffee shops were diners and casual restaurants, which often had counters with stools for individuals. There was a local chain of them in our area that my family loved to frequent. Now, it’s fast food and Starbuck’s. But does a cup of coffee mean communication or just a cup ‘o joe while surfing the web, sitting alone, and isolated? Is it just the older retired people who actually meet at the local coffee spot to talk and people watch?
I’ve previously and regularly addressed my concerns that our kids are failing in the art of conversation. Whereas I spent hours on the phone -when my parents allowed it- speaking with my guy friends and later girl friends, my boys text as their primary form of communication. The actual cell-phone talk usage is negligible except for my wife and me. Not that my wife and me are actually speaking to each other!
And, even my phone habits have changed with the new technologies and how busy I am so much of the time. My primary phone time is when I’m driving somewhere at least 15 or so minutes. I then reach out to connect with family and friends and enjoy a real conversation. Or, I like to speak while walking around our nearby lake since I consider that a good dual use of my time. At home, I don’t even answer our land-line and only glance at my cell to see who it is and usually feel disturbed when it rings -yet not so when it beeps a text. Interesting, isn’t it?
When I ask someone to meet me for a cup of coffee, it’s because I actually want to communicate with him or her. It may be for business or it may simply be a friend, but I want to look them in the eye and engage. I wonder if the notion of a cup of coffee means the same to my kids, millenials, and others in their thirties or younger?
How often do you see a group of young people -physically together- but each in their own worlds on their smart-phones? That sight always amuses me. How often have you texted your kid IN your own home?
The art of conversation is truly an art. It gives you a meaningful opportunity to know someone better, to learn, and to develop a meaningful and deeper personal or business relationship.
In my first career in showbiz, everything was done over a meal or drink, it seemed. Getting a breakfast with someone of import was a coup; a lunch was better, and the home run was dinner. Why the difference? Because each had its own designated time-frame expectations. Breakfast was invariably rushed; lunch was a bit more relaxed, while dinner could be open-ended.
When my career in showbiz began, there were no cell-phones so the only interruption to face-to-face conversation -at a meal or drinks meeting- would either be the waiter, someone coming over to say hello, or the rare interruption from a phone call to the restaurant for one of us. That meant a rushed “excuse me” and going to the front desk, where a short but quick conversation would take place, usually involving very basic information sharing. It also usually entailed a bit of anxiety because getting such a call was unusual.
Wow, just writing the above makes me feel not only old but as if those practices are ancient and oddly quaint. They were anything but. They were great times. I made my career at those meals. I also made my career on the tennis court, selling my first television-movie to the head of movies at CBS, after securing a date with him to play on his home tennis court.
Maybe the golf course still allows these kinds of interactions, but where else is it present today? Email? Texting? Twitter? Facebook? I think not. A deep relationship or a real connection takes more than 140 characters or a cute Instagram photo?
Today, I occasionally try these old methods of asking a potential business associate to meet for a meal, drink, or coffee. IF they are under thirty, the answer is invariably a No, followed by “let’s exchange emails or have a quick conversation on the phone.” The only time I’ve regularly been able to have meaningful face-to-face time has been at conferences and then, it’s often interrupted by cell-phone usage.
I completely value the tools of Social Media and modern technology but I may sound like an old fart by stating I miss the connections we used to make -regularly- by speaking on the phone and meeting for a meal or really having a cup of coffee together.
Valentine’s Day: The Greatest Love Affair of Them All
Love and Marriage was a classic Sinatra song. Its lyrics truly seem quaint and decidedly old-fashioned today. But, my parents lived a love affair that stood the test of time and incredible challenges. Their love affair was a model that was pretty hard for their peers to match and certainly impossible in my generation for both my wife and any of my married friends -at least those that I know well.
Let’s face it, how well do we know our friends? Do you think they love each other or have an ongoing love affair? How many friends really open up and express -especially in couple’s situations- the reality of what goes on beyond closed doors. Ironically, and I’ve written about this before, I think if couples were more open with one another, we’d all be better off learning and sharing about our money, sex, in-laws, job, kid issues, etc. But, most of the time, people don’t expose their issues with others and that happy front encourages most of us to believe our issues are unusual.
Thankfully, we have reality television to counter than illusion. And, in my case, I had my parents to observe for over 50 years. They knew each other 73 years, having met at a lake in Michigan when my mother was 14 and my father 17. They were married 66 years, until my father died at 90. My mother lived another year or so in despair, for the most part, taking some comfort from her one son and my two boys - her only grandchildren. Their marriage was the epitome of a love affair, in every sense of the words.
My boys did not have that amazing model of love that I observed my entire childhood and, from afar, in most of my adulthood. I saw a man that worshipped his wife. My father felt as strongly in love with my mother when she was somewhat disabled by a stroke, which changed her sweet disposition to a more sour one, as any other time during their decades together. His only fear about dying was not being around to take care of his beloved wife.
Theirs was also an old-fashioned traditional marriage in which my father was the breadwinner and my mother the homemaker. Their life plans included having a family of five, but as we sadly know all too well, we make plans and G*d laughs.
One of their very first challenges took place within the first couple/three years of their marriage when my mother got tuberculosis and was bed-ridden for a full year. She lost partial use of one lung and that meant her stamina was reduced forever thereafter.
But, the thing that truly tested my parents was the loss of two of those three “planned” children. To me, there is almost nothing more horrible than parents surviving their children. It just isn’t natural nor could it possibly be in G*d’s plans for us, though I don’t believe G*d actually impacts our daily existence meaningfully. That’s the whole concept of free will, a subject of which I’ll leave to the religious scholars.
What is not commonly known is that the death of a child often leads to the end of a marriage. There are so many powerful emotions going on during that turmoil in a home and men and women grieve and deal with this tragedy in such different ways, that many marriages simply cannot survive such a loss.
My parents survived it twice.
A baby girl died, before I was born, at about eight days old. Jacqueline Kennedy also lost a child in the same fashion when the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby’s neck during delivery causing partial suffocation from which the baby ultimately died.
At the time, my parents had a son, my older brother. Later, they had me when my older brother was 11. When I was five, he died in an accident -nobody’s fault-" but lived on machines for a while, bankrupting my parents in the process. His death was kept from me in many ways since my parents were given, we all realized much later, very poor advice on how to help a young child cope with such a loss.
Not counting the many other challenges my parents faced, from financial struggles to ten serious illnesses and surgeries between them, the love affair never waned. The ONLY time my father and mother were apart for a night was when one of them was in the hospital. They had lunch together EVERY day. My father dutifully listened to my mother’s detailed description of her day at ever dinner meal. He spoke minimally but was enthralled by everything my mother did or said.
This Valentine’s Day, as with every year at this time, I reflect with wonder, awe, and longing at their incredible love affair. The wonder and awe is how they did it and felt that way. The longing is simply missing their smiles at each other and their presence in my life and their missing the growing up of their two grandchildren. But, I suspect they’re holding hands and watching us with pride somewhere above…