Hands Off: A Touchy Subject

I’m not a touchy person.  By that, I don’t mean that I’m not sensitive.  I’m damn sensitive.  I mean that I’m not one of those types who touches other people.  I just assume that you don’t want me to paw all over you.  God knows that I don’t want to be molested by people.

I’m probably in the minority on this, but I just don’t care much for all the touching.  Why?  I’m not sure.  I’m not autistic or mental or anything (as far as I know).  I don’t have any particularly severe fear of germs.  Oh, sure, I don’t like breathing in public restrooms or touching doorknobs.  I used to wash my hands all the time like Howard Hughes, but I stopped doing that several years ago.  Even though you’re probably all germy, it’s not that big a deal.  It’s really just the touching.

Let’s be clear about one thing:  I’m not talking about sexual touching or any touching you might do in the privacy of your own home.  That’s your business.  Such groping is best left to one’s one discretion.  We certainly do not need to hear about the details nor do I have any advice in that regard.

THE HANDSHAKE

The most basic form of social touching is the handshake.  What a weird custom.  I can understand why some cultures just don’t do it.  I read somewhere that the ancients Greeks started it as a gesture of goodwill to show that they weren’t carrying weapons.  They also had sex with children.  Why the Hell would we want to follow their customs?

I have no issue with the basic handshake–a quick, firm grab of the hand followed by two pumps.  I guess it’s an okay way to greet people.  Of course, there are the people who always shake your hand.  I have a good friend who always shakes my hand when we see each other.  It’s like we’ve never met.  I suppose it’s his way of saying:  “Hello, old friend, I now grasp your hand to show that we remain on good terms.  And that I don’t have a damn gun.”  Then again, I do the same thing when I meet someone I’ve never and will never see again.  It’s confusing.

handshake

In case you are a total dimwit, here is a simple schematic on appropriate handshaking.

What I don’t like is the two-hand shake.  You know this one.  It’s the regular handshake coupled with the other hand grabbing the outside of my hand.  It’s like the shaker wants to make sure I can’t change my mind and pull away.

double shake

The dreaded double-grip shake.

I don’t like the Bone-Crusher.  Many years ago, I met the Governor of Kentucky, a gregarious fellow named Julian Carroll.  He crushed my hand.  I still remember the bones mashing together and the gristle popping. Always remember if you shake hands with a man like me–a man with delicate girl hands–take it easy.  More importantly, remember it with old people.  They aren’t strong and often suffer from rheumatoid arthritis.  Let them dictate the appropriate grip strength.

Hand shaking is fine.  Hand-holding is not.  Walk up and try to hold a stranger’s hand.  It never works.  So, remember:  Shake=Good.  Hold=Bad.

Fist-bumping is a form of handshake.  It’s certainly more sanitary.  I’m cool with this, too, but it’s reserved for people I already know–and only men.  It’s too awkward upon an initial meeting.

Nothing good can be said of the high-five.  Call me racist if you must, but white people must stay away from this.  We lack the coordination to make it work consistently.  There is nothing more embarrassing than whiffing on the old high-five.  Needless to say, women don’t high-five.  Ever.

THE HUG

Full disclosure:  I’m not a hugger.  Maybe you are.  If so, I don’t judge you, but I also don’t understand you.  The hug is the handshake’s amorous cousin.

Huggers will hug you whenever they see you.  Oddly, they don’t hug when they first meet you.  The handshake suffices.  After that, though, the hug is the preferred method of greeting.  Normally, it involves one arm and a delicate lean with a lead shoulder.  You, then, are required to hug back in a similar fashion.  If you’re like me, this is awkward, and you look like nothing so much as a man hugging a cactus.

One thing you don’t do is use the two-armed bear hug in return.  This is too aggressive and could be misconstrued as an assault.  It’s equally important to release the hug after a brief, impersonal embrace.  If you hold the hug even slightly too long, the situation becomes uncomfortable quickly.  This is especially so if you say something like “Mmmm” or “Ohhhh.”

yao

NBA star Tracy McGrady demonstrates an inappropriate hug on Chinese giant Yao Ming.

If you must hug, I suggest the Man Hug.  This consists of a quick upper-body embrace followed by one brief pat on the back.  DO NOT REACH UNDER THE ARMS FOR THE MAN HUG!

The reverse hug is nothing more than a sexual assault.

Related to the basic hug of greeting is the conversational hug.  Typically, this is a man who puts his arm around you while talking to you.  I can’t put too fine a point on this:  NO ONE LIKES THIS.  It’s just weird.  Don’t do it.

THE KISS

I’m not talking about sexual kissing.  After all, who among us doesn’t appreciate a vigorous make out session?  This kissing is the non-sexual Greeting Kiss.  This is the man or woman who, while shaking your hand or hugging you, gives you a big, wet kiss.  It’s not on the mouth–usually.  It will be on the cheek.  I’ve never seen two men do it, although it makes as much sense as two women.  Come to think of it, I think French men kiss each other, but they’re French.  Need I say more?

Truth be told, we have too many rules in our own country to worry about bizarre and possibly socialistic customs of foreigners.

bushkiss

Even our own President can be caught unawares by bizarre foreign kissing.

Why, oh, why do they do this?  This isn’t like your Grandma or Aunt kissing you, either.  They’re your relatives.  Kissing is a really intimate thing with non-relatives.  The next time you are in public, take a look around and count up all the people you wouldn’t kiss under any circumstances.  It’s probably 90%.  We reserve kissing for those we want to kiss or, again, our relatives.  And, let’s face it, we’d rather not kiss or be kissed by most of our relatives, but it’s expected of us.

obamahug

This photo depicts a nightmarish scene of hugging, kissing and groping.

I think of myself as a fine fellow, but I don’t kid myself–I’m not a handsome man.  Women do not look at me and desire to kiss me.  So, if you kiss me as a form of greeting, it’s almost like you’re sympathetically kissing an animal.  I am not an animal.

I try my best to avoid the Greeting Kiss.  I’ll abruptly turn my head.  Sometimes, I’ll kiss back–on the neck.  That’s usually the end of it.  Usually.

HERE’S THE RUB

Some folks like to rub.  Oh, I’m not talking about strippers or masseuses.  This is the guy who will rub your back while talking to you.  Worse, he may walk up behind a woman and rub her shoulders.  He is a lawsuit waiting to happen.  It’s just a matter of time.

I once worked with a woman–a very nice woman–who would do this.  She wasn’t unattractive, but I didn’t like it.  It’s too familiar.  Rub someone you know well–very well.

TOUCH TOO MUCH

Perhaps the most troubling aspect of all this touching is that there are very few areas on the human body that are acceptable to touch on another person.  We all know that genitalia are off-limits, at least most of the time and always in social settings. In fact, almost the entire human body is off-limits.  “But,” you say, “we know the hand is acceptable because of the handshake.”  Oh, really?  How about the back of the hand?  When you meet someone, caress the back of his or her hand.  You won’t be introduced to anyone else that evening.

Let’s examine the human back.  Certainly, the buttocks area is off-limits, except in sports where it may be slapped as a form of encouragement.  How about the lower back?  Hmmm.  It doesn’t work, does it?  Imagine the Hugger’s reaction when you grab her lower back and pull her toward you.  Security will remove you shortly thereafter.  The mid-back is perhaps acceptable; however, it makes for an awkward hug.  The upper back is generally okay, as is the shoulder area.

I pride myself on having a typical human back:

johnback

The red line is the line of demarcation indicating the border of acceptable touching area on my back.

The front of the human body is completely off-limits.  There is no way you can rub the tummy of co-worker without violating every sexual harassment rule.  The chest?  C’mon!  No way.  Chest touching is appropriate only for getting to second base or picking a fight.

The side of the torso is a gray area but should be avoided.  It carries with it the connotation that you are grabbing the other person.  Not good.

Below the belt line is also completely taboo–front, back, sides–it doesn’t matter.  There’s no way to do it without causing a scene.

The face and head are out-of-bounds, too, unless for the Greeting Kiss.  Pawing around on someone’s face or head is creepy.  Don’t do it.

What of the neck?  Do we even need to discuss this?  What kind of weirdo are you?

This leaves us with the arms.  They are mostly okay, I suppose, but be careful.  Touching someone’s arm while talking to him or her is usually not offensive or suggestive.  Rubbing that same arm is bad news.

Once you consider the human body and its many untouchable spots, there is no point in all the touchy behavior.  You are tip-toeing around disaster the entire time.  Why take the chance?  You know that the basic handshake is safe. Stick to that.

SO, WHAT’S MY PROBLEM?

At this point, you’re wondering about my psychological well-being.  That’s probably a legitimate concern.  I don’t really have problems with so-called “personal space,” although I will admit that I don’t like crowds, either.  It’s just the touchy stuff.  Before you say “Lighten up, Francis,” consider that I may not be so unusual.

I’ve never been one to engage in public displays of affection, so it’s understandable that I would be reticent to paw around on strangers or mere acquaintances.  Nevertheless, should we ever meet, extend the hand of friendship, and I will gladly shake it.  It’s my way of saying:

I am pleased to meet you and now gladly mash our hands together with no idea whether you’ve washed your hands in the past few days.  I am, however, glad to see that you do not have a weapon. Now, excuse me, while I look for some hand soap.”

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Fast Food Follies: A Brief Personal History

Like most, if not all, Americans, I’ve eaten quite a bit of fast food.  Several years ago, I made a concerted effort to eliminate it as a regular part of my diet, and I have done just that.  Nevertheless, I still occasionally dine at these well-known eateries, especially when traveling

I’m not one of those who condemns fast food, mind you.  I don’t even mind the pink slime that became an Internet sensation.  Hey, if it cooks up into something tasty and moderately safe to eat, I’m fine with it.  Fast food gives us consistency.  When you travel for work as I do, it’s comforting to know what you’re ordering.  A Big Mac is a Big Mac whether you order it in Hawaii or Pikeville, Kentucky.

What is fast food?  My definition is that: (1) You must order at a counter or drive thru; (2) The food must be subject to uniform preparation rules; (3) You must pay when you order; (4) the food must be served in paper bags and wrappers; and (5) the restaurant must at least strive to get your food to you quickly (i.e., while standing at the counter or sitting in the drive thru).  I except delis and sub shops from this definition for no reason other than they just don’t seem to fit.  You can come up with your own definition.  I really don’t care. After all, this is about me, not you.

Recently, I was standing in line at a Dairy Queen and pondered how much time I’ve spent waiting for food in one of these establishments.  I gave up trying to figure it out, concluding that it was just a hell of a lot.  It did, though, make me think about my long history with fast food.  It’s been a quite a trip.

RAY KROC WAS A GOOD GUY

Through most of my childhood in Harlan County, Kentucky, we didn’t have fast food.  The closest things were a couple of drive-in restaurants, but they weren’t all that fast.  We did, however, travel outside the county often.  One of the highlights of such treks was passing through Corbin, Kentucky.  Corbin had a McDonald’s.

Dad would always stop and get us something from McDonald’s.  Burgers, McNuggets, Egg McMuffins and french fries–they were fascinating taste treats.  Dad would usually send me in to get the food.  I loved it.

It was  1978, when I was 15 years old, that I had my encounter with Ray Kroc.  For the uninformed, Kroc was the founder of McDonald’s and its CEO for many, many years.  As a young baseball fan, I also knew that he was the owner of the San Diego Padres.  I used this to my advantage.

On the way to a Cincinnati Reds game, we stopped at the Corbin McDonald’s.  I was the only patron at the counter.  The workers ignored me.  They were engaged in some sort of inane banter behind the counter.  Now, you must know that, even as an adolescent, I had a bit of an overblown view of myself.  Thus, I became increasingly agitated. Finally, I said:  “Hey!  Customer here!!”  The young lady at the register gave me a look of contempt and said “Just a second” and continued talking.  Eventually, she took my order, but I was incensed.  So, I wrote Ray Kroc a letter.

I had a written quite a few fans letters to baseball players.  So, I knew that a letter addressed to “San Diego Padres, Jack Murphy Stadium, San Diego, California” would get to Ray.  I wrote him and told him of the vile treatment I received.  I typed the letter, so as not to indicate that I was a sullen teenager.  It was heartfelt and my indignation dripped from it.

What I didn’t expect was that he would read it.  He did, and he wrote back:

IMG

Ray was none too pleased with the laggards in Corbin.

As you can see, he wasn’t happy. As Ray promised, I also got a letter from a Regional Manager for McDonald’s.  He said that he had heard from Mr. Kroc and offered his apologies (and gift certificates).  The manager of the restaurant wrote me too (with gift certificates, of course).  I felt like kind of big deal.  It took us a long time to use all those gift certificates.

Ray Kroc was a generous man, leaving millions to charity when he died.  He was pretty cool, too.

GOD SAVE THE (BURGER) QUEEN

To the best of my recollection, Harlan County’s first fast food restaurant was Burger Queen.  That’s not a typo– Queen, not King.  Its logo looked like this:

burgerqueen

As you might expect, they sold burgers.  They were thin little meat patties mashed between a tasteless bun.  They were exceptionally salty, too.  BQ also sold mediocre fried chicken.  The Cherry Sprites, by contrast, were excellent.  We loved the place.

(Okay, I know you Harlan Countians out there will point out that we had a Kentucky Fried Chicken first, but I just can’t count that.  I don’t know why–maybe it’s the lack of burgers).

For you young folks, fast food restaurants used keep piles of burgers under heat lamps–no microwave ovens.  If you wanted anything non-standard, you had to wait.  I am well-known for my aversion to condiments–mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, etc.  These befoul burgers and are unacceptable.  BQ struggled with this concept.  I always ordered two plain cheeseburgers, and they rarely got it straight.

One day, I met a couple of friends at BQ.  I ordered my burgers and took them to the table.  I unwrapped them, and-of course–they were smeared with ketchup, mustard and pickles–all the crap which would trigger my gag reflex.

My disgust showed immediately, drawing the attention of another patron, a rather rough-looking fellow with long, greasy hair.  He walked to our table and asked:  “Did they f–k up your order, buddy?”  I said “Yeah, they were supposed to be plain.”  My new friend advised:  “Look here, take them damn burgers up there and stomp on ’em right in front of that bitch! I’ll do it for you, by God!”  Despite the appeal, I declined his suggestion.  I did get a couple of new burgers, though.

That’s my Burger Queen story.  It’s not much of a story, but that’s it.  Burger Queen became Druther’s (slogan–“I’d Ruther Go to Druther’s“), but it was pretty much the same food.  Druther’s died out, except for one left in Campbellsville, Kentucky.  I know.  I saw it in the summer of 2012:

Druthers_IMG2008

I asked a local about it, and he said it was the last one.  I don’t know if that’s true, but I’d like to think so.

FAST BUT NOT FRIENDLY

When I was in high school, Harlan experienced a bit of a fast food revolution.  Kentucky Fried Chicken and Druthers were joined by Wendy’s.  Pizza Hut also came on board, sort of a fast food pizza palace.  My friends and I made use of Druther’s, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s as hangouts–sometimes in the parking lot but often inside.  Three or four of us would order Cokes and we’d sit there for hours (maybe it just seemed like hours).  We weren’t really good customers, and we weren’t always welcome.  A tale from Wendy’s illustrates the point.

Late one night, two friends and I were sitting at a table in Wendy’s, nursing our colas.  I was pouring salt into a pile on the table while we discussed the news of the day.  At some point, I asked if perhaps we should order something else in order to justify our presence.  One of my cohorts remarked:  “Hey, we bought Cokes.  They can’t make us leave.”  One of the employees at the business end of push broom heard this remark and said:  “Then, you can sweep up this f—ing mess, you mother——s!”  We took this as a subtle cue to leave, only to discover that we were locked in! While we fumbled with the lock, our former hostess hurled more invectives our way. One of my companions, in an ill-conceived effort to defuse the situation, said:  “Look, bitch, why don’t you just fly away on that f—ing broom?!?!” The end result was that we were banned from Wendy’s.  It has been over 30 years, and I have never set foot in that establishment since.  As far as I know, the ban did not extend to all Wendy’s.  I’m please to say that I have been to many others over the years without incident.

Today, I occasionally encounter unfriendly workers.  You know them, too, I’m sure.  They blankly stare at you with what my father called a “hang-dog” look on their faces.  They mutely take your order, perhaps muttering a disingenuous “welcome” after you thank them.  I try not to be offended.  They don’t like their jobs and no civility on my part will change that.

KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID

The old military acronym KISS or “Keep It Simple, Stupid!” applies to dealing with fast food establishments. My aversion to condiments makes this difficult for me.  For example, here’s a recent exchange with a McDonald’s employee:

HER:  Can I help you?

ME:  Two Angus Snack Wraps.  No onion or sauce please.

HER:  Do you want cheese?

ME:  Well, yes.  No onion and no sauce, though.

HER:  Do you want lettuce?

ME:  Yes, yes.  Lettuce is fine. No onion.  No sauce.

Here’s what I got:  Two Snack Wraps with no cheese but onions.  I blame myself.  I threw off the order of the fast food system.  It isn’t designed for gadflies like me.

Another thing is that I’m confident that they spit on special orders.  I try to keep it simple.  If there is something festooned with all manner of objectionable toppings, I just avoid it.

TAKING THE FAST OUT OF FAST FOOD

One obvious advantage of fast food is the fast part.  We knowingly trade careful food preparation for speed and uniformity.  We want our food quickly–at least I do.

Here’s a suggestion for everyone.  If you and–say–5 of your family members walk up to the counter, take note if there is a lone person behind you.  Allow that person and his simple, one-person order to go ahead of you.  Think of it as the fast food equivalent of playing through in golf.  Likewise, if you are a lone patron but are placing an order for scads of other people, be considerate of those behind you. Many of us are impatient and explosively violent when our patience is taxed.

Another suggestion is to have your act together when you order.  If you need to ponder the menu and consult others before ordering, YOU ARE NOT PREPARED TO ORDER! Get the Hell out of the way!  I just can’t stress this point enough.  It’s a fast food restaurant.  The menu should be well-known to you.  There are even pictures of all the food on the wall, for God’s sake.  It can’t be all that confusing.  Your family members should also get their heads out of their…well, you get it.  If you must have a family meeting at the register, you should be at home eating together in order to become more familiar with your family’s eating habits.

The restaurants themselves can help us, too.  How about having more than one person working at the register?  I fully understand why only one person can take orders at the drive-thru.  When only person takes orders inside, this happens:

mcdonalds

Your author is tormented by one register plus a confused family placing order.  Note the obvious disgust of the arthritic biker in front of me.

If our society is to continue to function, this kind of thing can’t be allowed. I’m confident that the Roman Empire’s decay began over something like this.

CONVENIENCE

Convenience is the great calling card of fast food.  Believe it or not, there was a time when you could drive great distances in America without finding decent food–unless you were lucky enough to encounter a Stuckey’s.  Now, we have fast food at almost every Interstate exit and in most towns of any size.

The restaurants also have restrooms, and most of them are reasonably clean.  If one must make a–[ahem]–major transaction, cleanliness is paramount.  There are no condom machines in them, either.  I have never been comfortable with the public condom machine.  What kind of person uses those?  Worse yet, I don’t want to be confined in a men’s room with one of those folks.  I have nightmares of washing my hands when I glance some demented drifter in the mirror opening a condom.  While we have many fine truck stops in our great land, the combination of condom machines and showers just makes me uncomfortable for obvious reasons.

You are also fairly safe to nap in the parking lot of a fast food restaurant.  What?  You don’t do that?  Well, you should.  Napping at a rest area or truck stop is just an invitation to a serial killer.

THE FUTURE

Despite pleas from the likes of Michael Bloomberg and Michelle Obama, I suspect that fast food is here to stay.  I’m fine with that.  Technological advances will likely make the food faster and better for our children and grandchildren.  I envision a day when lobster tails, deadly blow fish and prime beef will be served to me by pimply faced teenagers and ex-cons.  I also hope that someone will perfect my idea of the “reverse” microwave oven which freezes hot things in seconds.  I’m not sure how they’d use it, but I’m sure someone will figure it out.  In the meantime, I’ll continue to indulge my weakness for Dairy Queen’s Reese’s Cup Blizzard and McDonald’s French fries.

Remember, too, that a lot of folks working behind the counter don’t like their jobs. Someday, robots will take our orders.  Until then, teenagers and part-time workers will have to do. Be courteous, unless of course they’ve made you wait too long.  After all, it is fast food.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

The Thinking Man’s Guide to Men’s Swimwear

My wife has never read my blog.  We’ve been married 25 years, and I guess she’s heard all the stories and all my opinions.  When I told her I was starting a blog, she said “One of those things full of trivial bullshit that no one wants to read?”  Indeed.

Communication is the key to a strong marriage, so I have asked her on occasion if there is a topic which would interest her.  She always says the same thing.   I should write something about men’s swimsuits.  No, that’s not a typo.  That’s what she wants to read about.  She used to work in the clothing business, so I suppose fashion will always interest her.  Here goes.

Although I am a man, I am not an expert on men’s swimsuits.  Like most heterosexual men, I try not to look at men in swimsuits, out of an irrational concern that they may see me looking at them and get the wrong impression.  The worst case scenario would be that an especially attractive man might cause some sort of shift in my sexual orientation.  My ignorance, you see, knows no limits.

But, what of swimsuits?  Why are they called “suits?”  They aren’t suits at all.  I’m lawyer, and to me a suit is a coat and matching slacks, cotton shirt and silk tie with a Windsor knot.  Add a smart belt (matching one’s shoes, of course), and you have a suit.  I would never swim in such attire.

Back in more modest times, folks tended to cover up quite a bit when swimming.  No one was tempted to take indecent liberties with the young ladies of the day.  I don’t know if the same could be said of the men:

swimsuits

I’m not sure what these fellows are doing, but those certainly qualify as swimsuits.

What kinds of swimsuits are there?  What should YOU wear?  Personally, I prefer basic trunks–not too long, not too short. Conservative is the byword for your author.

beach

Your author in appropriate beach attire with an unidentified woman.

Of course, others prefer the Speedo-type swimsuit.  The small, tight swimsuit is known as the Speedo, although there are many different brands.  Regardless, this is definitely NOT a suit.  It’s more of a slim-fit loin cloth.  Whether you call them Nut-Huggers, Tool Bags or Junk Slings, the form-fitting racing suit is not for everyone.  Some would suggest that they are not for anyone.

I’ve only known one guy who wore Speedos.  He was a co-worker of mine and a bit of an odd bird.  We belonged to the same neighborhood pool.  He would show up in his lime green Speedos.  I would pretend I didn’t know him.

Needless to say, most men suffer from varying degrees of superfluous body hair.  The Speedo will only draw attention to this evolutionary mishap. It also will accentuate certain body flaws such as, for example, a hideous or undeveloped physique.

Body image is the biggest problem with Speedos.  Men just don’t see themselves accurately.  Here is how we think we look:

Settle down, ladies. This guy will not be at the beach. He's somewhere doing crunches or shaving himself.

Settle down, ladies. This guy will not be at the beach. He’s somewhere doing crunches or shaving himself.

Sadly, here is how we really look:

This guy--he's at the beach.

This guy–he’s at the beach.

It’s just best to leave the Speedos to the Olympics.

Then, there is so-called boxer swimsuit which combines the worst of trunks and Speedos:

Too small for trunks.  Too big for Speedos.

Too small for trunks. Too big for Speedos.

Again, note that no one looks like this dude.  I’m not sure who can wear these.  Maybe the same guy who can wear these:

No one wears these.  No one.

No one wears these. No one.

Good taste prevents me from showing examples of thongs or more revealing unitard swimwear.  Suffice to say that no woman is interested in seeing your hairy ass hanging out of your swimsuit.  Just because we men like to see women dressed like that (hairy ass or not) doesn’t mean women find the same thing appealing.

Steven Tyler. If a rock star can't pull off this look, neither can you.

Steven Tyler. If a rock star can’t pull off this look, neither can you.

When you get right down to it, swimwear is nothing more than underwear worn for swimming.  In fact, most swimwear contains a lining  which acts as an underwear of sorts.  Women may not be aware of this, but it’s true.  I don’t think women’s swimwear is like that, but it might be.

Don’t confuse your underwear choice with your swimwear.  Personally, I am a briefs man.  The boxer brief is also good.  Nevertheless, this is not appropriate for my beach attire.  (See illustrations above).

You might be a boxer man.  If so, I pity you because your underwear is nothing more than a loose-fitting lining providing no support or comfort.  In essence, it is simply a prophylactic barrier between your clothes and whatever foul discharges your body emits.  It’s just another layer of clothes.  The boxer lacks both function and originality.

Oddly enough, though, this same style is ideal for swimming.  It is loose-fitting and modest enough that there are no embarrassing revelations.  The swim trunk contains the aforementioned lining, too; thus, it is a functional swimsuit plus effective underwear.  The lining, being similar to the classic brief, provides the needed protection plus practicality.  It is the best of all worlds.  You can’t go wrong.

Some men do the unthinkable and wear swim trunks AND underwear.  My sons do this.  Why?  I don’t know.  The redundancy is obvious.  There is no point to it, so I guess you can go wrong.

Regardless of one’s personal taste (or lack thereof), due regard should be given to your choice in swimwear.  Here are several factors to consider in choosing your swimwear:

  • Body hair:  The more you have, the more you should conceal it.
  • Abs:  You don’t have them.  Don’t make a point of proving it.
  • If you are a competitive swimmer, the Speedo is for you.  That’s it.  No one else.  Even then, confine that look to the racing pool.
  • Be considerate of others, especially your family.  One embarrassing incident can haunt them for a life time.
  • Just because you think you look good in your underwear doesn’t mean you’ll look good in a similar swimsuit.
  • Walk around your house in your underwear.  Gauge the reaction of your family.  That’s the same reaction they’ll have at the beach.
  • Better yet, wear your underwear in your yard.  Get your neighbors’ input.
  • T Shirts are acceptable swimwear, too.  Examine your physique in a full length mirror and do the right thing.
  • Anything that fits snuggly is likely a bad look for you.  Trust me.
  • Nude beaches are off-limits.  Just know this:  The only people who frequent nude beaches are those we do not want to see nude.  This includes you.

Now, my wife can read my blog knowing that I have contributed at least one worthwhile post.  Plus, this should help her when shopping for our vacation. Something tasteful, of course–maybe in a mesh?

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2013

Hatin’ on the Hate

Haters keep on hatin’, cause somebody’s got to do it.  So said the eminently hateable Chris Brown. I’ve thinking about hate lately, mostly because I’ve been hearing a lot of it  for some reason.  Montgomery Burns once said “I know you all hate me.  Well, I hate you more.”  That’s how most of us approach the subject.

Rod Smart was a football player in the ill-fated XFL. His nickname was “He Hate Me,” as in “He Hate Me. She Hate Me.  Everybody hate me.”  He wore the name proudly on the back of his jersey. No one remembers much about the XFL (“NO FAIR CATCHES!”), but a lot of football fans remember He Hate Me.

Rod Smart. His jersey said it all.

I doubt that a lot of people really hated Rod Smart, but maybe they did. He lived in America, and we are very good at hating people, things, institutions, events–you name it.  He also played sports, and sports draw a lot of hate.  Even if we’re okay with Rod Smart, we hate a lot of other things.

I hate Jim Carrey movies. And kale greens. And hangnails. And the sound a fork makes scraping a plate. And lots of other things. I try not to hate people, but sometimes I do. It usually passes. Right now, I’m pretty sure I hate Jerry Sandusky.  If you’ve seen the video of those assbags harassing that school bus monitor, you probably hate those kids.  I know I do or at least I did while I watched the video.

I hated a girl I dated.  Well, I didn’t hate her while we were dating.  I liked her then.   She hated me while we were dating; thus, we broke up.  After that, I hated her. Then we got back together, and I didn’t hate her as much.  Then we broke up again.  Hate. I’ve still got some work to do on that one, I guess.

When I was kid, people would say: “I don’t hate him. I hate his ways.”  Nowadays, I hear people say: “God loves the sinners, but hates the sin.” Really? Let’s cut to the chase. If you hate how someone acts, there’s almost no chance that you don’t hate the person. Here’s one I’ve heard 1,000 times:  “I don’t hate gay people. I hate their lifestyle.” Translation: “I don’t hate you. I just hate everything about you.” Wow.  I’m sure that makes gay people feel much better.

As Americans, we’re allowed to hate.  We do have hate crimes, but they’re pretty vague and rarely used.  Plus, they only cover small areas of hate–race, religion, sexual orientation and the like.  There are so many other things and reasons to hate.  In addition, hating itself really isn’t a crime anyway.  You have to commit some other foul act in conjunction with your hate. General hating is still perfectly legal.

We hate sports teams. I am a University of Kentucky fan. It’s socially acceptable for me to hate the University of Louisville. Okay, maybe not the entire University. Just its sports teams. If I hate the Dean of Students or some English professor, that would just be weird. Rick Pitino, however, is fair game.

When Pitino coached at UK, we loved him. U of L fans hated him. One day, he showed up as U of L’s coach. We hated him. They loved him. Hate is funny like that. It’s very arbitrary.

We hate food. I hate lots of food. Most people do. Pickles? Hate ’em. Raw tomatoes? Hate.  Mayonnaise, Diet Coke, malted milk balls:  hate, hate, hate.  My son hates hamburgers, for God’s sake. You hate some foods. You know you do. Think about them.  Feel the hate.

Do you hate any music?  Sure, you do.  I hate rap.  I hated disco back in the ’70’s but now I’m okay with it.  That means that one day rap might be okay with me.  For now, though, it’s hate all the way.

Do you hate your job?  Well, no one cares, because almost everyone else hates their job more than you hate yours.  Just ask them.

Some folks hate poor people. Others hate the rich. I don’t know anyone who hates both, but I’m sure someone does. Does anyone hate the middle class? Yeah, I’m sure someone does. Maybe you do. If you do, explain yourself.

We hate religion. Okay, not ALL religion, just other people’s. We’re right. They’re wrong. Of course, we all have a small nagging thought that maybe they’re right and we’re wrong. We hate that even more. If you’re a Christian, you have to think that all non-Christians are just flat wrong. That aggravates you. Sometimes, it makes you hate another religion, especially if that religion hates Christianity. Atheists hate all religions, except their own.  Of course, most people won’t openly say that they hate other religions.  That’s just not kosher, which is okay to say even if you hate Jewish people.

Let’s take the vile, reptilian God Hates Fags troglodytes from Kansas. When I see them or even think about them, I hate them. Oh, it will pass, but I hate them for a few minutes. I’m betting most Christians hate them, too, if only for a minute or two.  Atheists, I’m sure, hate them.  They’re very hateable. If God hates anything, it’s those turds.  Of course, it’s unlikely that God hates anyone, except maybe Job.  Then again, there were also all those smitings, too.  Hmmm.  I may have to think about that one.

Politics and religion are often compared.  We all know that those are two topics that you just don’t bring up in polite conversation.  They both engender a bunch of hate or, at the very least, hatefulness.  Why? Because it allows us to hate entire groups of people based on little more than their associations or views.  Politics is the ultimate hatefest. It’s the last bastion of irrational prejudice. You can hate an entire political party, yet be a welcome member of society. Try that with an entire race or religion, and you’ll find yourself spending a lot of time alone.

Politicians are the most hated folks on the planet. Do you hate President Obama? If you answered “no,” there’s a good chance you hate Mitt Romney. If you hate both of them, then you might love Ron Paul. If you hate Ron Paul, then you probably love Ralph Nader.  Obama and Romney both might be right fine fellows, but they’re hated because they are in the wrong political party.

There is an important difference between hating something or someone and actually expressing that hate.  No one cares if you openly hate a sports team. Irrationally loathing someone because of their uniform is no big deal.  Same goes for politics, obviously.  But, we have to be careful about expressing hate for the wrong reasons.  You go from being a rational hater to a dangerous misanthrope.

We can easily hate someone who is in the wrong group, whether it’s a political party, church, or sports team. It’s different when we personalize it to, say, our next door neighbor. Tell people that you hate Obama, and a lot of folks will high-five you. Tell them you hate the kid who mows your yard, and they’ll be creeped out.

Now, you shouldn’t hate Obama because he’s black, although surely some do. That’s just wrong. If so, you better keep that to yourself. Here’s the good news: you can hate liberals, regardless of their race. Hate all you want. By extension, you can hate anyone who is a liberal, regardless of race, creed or national origin.  One caveat:  Be careful about how vociferously you express your hate of the President.  Don’t write him letters about it.  The FBI will visit you.  They hate that shit.

Let’s take Romney as another example. He’s a Mormon. My grandparents were Mormons. So were my Mom’s sisters and their children and grandchildren. I’m not a Mormon, but I think Mormons are fine folks. Some people disagree. They think it’s a cult of heretics where everyone has 10 wives. Mormons have been hated. Probably still are in some circles. You can’t say: “Man, I hate Romney because he’s a Mormon.” But you can say: “I hate that Romney. Damn Republican!” Odd, isn’t?

So, you can hate a religion, but you should keep it to yourself.  Same with race.  Politics, though, is different.  Hate all you want and do it in public.  No one cares, except the people who will hate you as a result.

You really can’t hate some things.  Animals, for instance.  I don’t know that I’ve ever met someone who says he hates animals.  Okay, cats are an exception.  People will say they hate cats, but cats are smug, and some hate that in a pet. Otherwise, if you hate animals, you’re going to fit a serial killer profile.  Some people love animals but hate humans.  As a result, animal hate is dangerous territory, indeed.

Here’s a little experiment:

  • Create a group on Facebook called “I Hate the President.”  Make the profile picture the worst thing you can find of the President.  Maybe this one:

  • Then, create a new group called “I Hate Romney.”  Use this ridiculous image:

  • I assure you that some people will like these pages.  In fact, some people will become enthusiastic members of your group with their own outrageous postings.
  • Now, create a page called:  “I Hate Rescue Dogs.”  Not only will no one like it, everyone will hate you.  You’ll probably be subjected to all manner of investigations and be banned from Facebook.  You will be unfriended. Your student loans will be declared in default, your mortgage foreclosed and the IRS will audit you.  Even the ACLU will turn on you by representing the rescue dogs in a class action against you.  The Southern Poverty Law Center will declare you to be a hate group.

The lesson?  Hate people if you want.  Leave the animals alone.

It’s still unacceptable to hate your family. I find this odd since some people’s families are dangerous criminals or worse. Folks will say “Don’t forget to call dad on Fathers Day!” What if your dad is Charles Manson? Or just a total bastard? I know people who hate their families, but they keep it quiet. If you do, you should probably just keep it to yourself.  Think about this:  With all the hateable people in the world, how can some people not hate their families?

I’ve heard it said that hating someone is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. That’s true for me. So, I try not to do it. I’m not always successful. Sometimes, I will hate the entire UK basketball team for a fleeting moment or two.  Then, I love them again.  I think my children hate me on occasion, and it’s tempting to hate them back.  So far, I’ve resisted, but it’s a struggle. I used to be an angry young man, who hated a lot of stuff.  Then, I realized that all that stuff didn’t hate me back–or really even know I existed.  This realization freed me up to spend more time thinking about me.  One good thing about being egocentric is that there isn’t much room in my head for dwelling on others, what with all the things going on with me.

Sadly, there are few things that I’ll confess to hating, and I don’t think those will change:  Jenny from Forest Gump; gum on my shoe; migraines; Winter; poke sallet; toothaches; door to door salespeople; port-a-potties; being hit in the face; Aunt Bee; the two warts on the back of my right hand; Christian Rock music; and people who hate too many things.

So, that’s my screed on hate.  I’ve professed myself an expert. Don’t you hate it when people do that?

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012

Turtles Shells and the Art of Small Talk

“Ethiopians worship turtles shells.”  That was the ice breaker one evening long ago when I dined with a young lady and her mother and step-father.  The step-father’s simple statement about the religious practices of Ethiopians illustrates one of my life-long struggles:  How to successfully chit-chat.

Being a young man at that time and rather unworldly, I had no response.  I stared at my plate, briefly glancing at my date and trying to avoid both eye contact and sudden laughter.  I must admit, though, that I pondered the possibilities: Do Ethiopians, in fact worship shells?  If so, why?  How did he come across this information?  Had he been to Ethiopia?  My poor social skills prevented me from pursuing the topic further.  My prospective relationship was no doubt ruined by my inability to engage in stimulating small talk.

In the years since, I have been forced to attend various dinners, gatherings, cocktail parties, receptions, lunches and chance encounters where I have, fortunately, honed my chit-chatting skills to a fine edge.  We have all had those painful moments when someone ham-handedly tries to “shoot the breeze” and instead offends or bores those around him.   As a service, I offer my pointers on how to approach these most awkward of moments.

WHEN IN DOUBT, LIE

As a general rule, I oppose lying.  It’s just not good.  Plus, I usually get caught.  Chit-chat is an exception.  Sometimes, we must—in the name of polite conversation—lie in order to keep the ball rolling.  An example:  You’re at a cocktail party and a chit-chatter is prattling on about a drunken bender that he was on several years ago:

Chit-chatter:  “[blah, blah, blah]… and the next morning who but Peter O’Toole himself had a case of champagne delivered to my room with a note reading: ‘I told you we could have a good time for $50.’”

You haven’t been listening, and the speaker has concluded his story with some outrageous anecdote about noted actor Peter O’Toole (a lie, no doubt).  What shall you do in response?  You can’t just awkwardly blurt out:  “That is a damned lie!” and reveal yourself as a clod. Try this:

You:  “I’ve always loved Peter O’Toole’s work.  My uncle was his understudy on Broadway several years ago.  Fabulous chap.”

You have now commandeered the conversation to your fictional uncle’s acting career.  (Note:  Don’t say that YOU had an acting career.  That’s too easy to expose as a lie).  Now, you can regale the listener with your own second-hand stories of Peter O’Toole and any other actor you decide to include in your fantasy world.  You are almost as fascinating at the Chit-Chatter, plus you now have common ground on which to bond.

GIVE THE PEOPLE WHAT THEY WANT

Most Chit-Chatters enjoy hearing themselves talk.  That’s why they are talking.  One tried and true method of competing is to simply repeat back to the speaker what he or she has just said with your own spin on it.  This is especially helpful when, like me, you’re often in the company of people far more intelligent and well-read than yourself.  Example:

Chit Chatter:  “I tell you, if we don’t get the Greek government to take a hard-line on its austerity measures, the entire Euro Zone will collapse.  The result will be catastrophic.  It will make the Icelandic Bank Crisis look like nothing.  We’ve already seen the effects in some of the Eastern Bloc countries. Newt Gingrich nailed it in last night’s debate: How do we get these people to the table?”

You are now in deep trouble.  You don’t know anything about the Greek government. You didn’t watch the debate.  You were watching your backlog of “Hillbilly Handfishing” episodes last night.  You thought Newt Gingrich was on Hee Haw.  Here’s your response:

You:  “Lloyd, no sensible person could argue with you–or Newt–on that point.  The Greeks, for all the good they may have done, have not stepped up when it comes to austerity measures.  I can’t understand why, when it is so important to the very life of the Euro Zone, that they don’t take a hard-line.  You’re right about Iceland.  We can’t afford a repeat of that fiasco.”

See what you’ve done?  Without a single original thought, you’ve engaged in lively political banter.  By merely restating the Chit-Chatter’s banal declaration, you appear to be “with it” and engaged.

Top This

Often, the whole point of chit-chat is to impress the listener.  This is especially true in business settings.  If, like me, you are not very impressive and have a modest list of accomplishments, embellishment or outright fabrication is necessary.  While this is closely related to the first point above, the purpose is quite different.  Rather than being a response, you can use this to your advantage as your own ice breaker.  For example, you are at a dinner seated with several people who are, by their very appearance, superior to you in every way.  Try something like this:

“I must share this story.  While on vacation, I was strolling the Champs-Élysées when I saw an old friend, Uqba ibn Nafi, whom I met in Morocco several years before.  When I asked what he was doing in Paris, he paused, stared me straight in the eye and said: “Rambwa yekh chalyem!”  Oh, we both had a good laugh at that.”

This one inane story, made up from whole cloth, makes you appear worldly.  The listener, by contrast, is likely to think his own education and, indeed life, are meaningless.  Little do they know that you’ve recounted gibberish which roughly translated means “the traffic circle has a hideous beard.”  One consideration:  Your listeners may have been to Paris.  It may be a good idea to read about Paris on Wikipedia or change the location of  your story to Qatar or Ethiopia.

TABOO

Regardless of your nerves, there are three subjects to avoid at all costs.  They are summarized below:

Children:  If the listener has children, he or she will care nothing about yours.  If he or she has no children, it is likely that they hate children or are bitter over their sterility.  Think about when a colleague shows you a “drawing” by his 3 year old.  “It’s a horse!”  you’re told.  You say:  “Cute.”  What you think is:  “That ain’t no freakin’ horse.  What’s wrong with that kid?”  That’s how the listener reacts to small talk about your kids.

Health:  There is no way to make your gout or recent colonoscopy interesting unless you embellish them into gun shot wounds.  It is best to avoid the topic altogether as you may be in the company of someone with a truly loathsome condition, the details of which will horrify you.  The one exception to this is if your audience is all over 70 years old.  In that case, it will be the only topic of conversation.

Controversy:  Whether it’s as benign as the  Designated Hitter or as incendiary as legalizing child pornography, steer clear of controversial topics.  If such a topic is introduced, try to direct the conversation elsewhere.  This would be the perfect time to refer to item 2 above and dazzle the listeners with your erudition with a “top this” tale.

CONCLUSION

Had I known these simple rules, imagine how I would have handled the turtle story:

ME:  “That is very interesting.  My uncle worked in the mission fields of Ethiopia years ago.  Turtle shells were known as “ukajobu” or “shell of the Gods.”  They would grind them into a fine powder.  It was reputed to be an aphrodisiac of sorts.”

There you have it.  I have conquered the conversation with my own interesting retort.  Perhaps the young lady would have been impressed and changed the course of my life. Then again, my life is pretty fine as it is.  Maybe all this small talk is just a load of crap.

©thetrivialtroll.wordpress.com 2012