Monday, January 26, 2009

The Evil Within

Every superhero has a dark side. Superman had a dark Superman – essentially the same individual, possessing the same powers, same knowledge but with a different perspective. The dark Superman's intent was destruction and terror, while the real Superman's intent was to help and serve people.

Spiderman's evil self was called Venom and was the embodiment of Spiderman's evil. Like Superman, Spiderman gets into an epic battle with his embodied evil. These dark personas were created from the evil inside of the superheroes. Like the superheroes of comic book (oops, graphic novels) fame, each of us has an evil inside of us. The duality exhibited by the superheroes is really just a reflection of the conflict we all have within ourselves. What we do with it is what makes all the difference for each of us and I think, in a large measure, defines who we are.

I've recently had a great struggle with my own evil within and have conceded to its power on more than one occasion. I ask you, as my reader, to be considerate and sensitive in regards to what follows.

I blame a great portion of this darkness inside me on my upbringing. Part of what contributed to the growth is undoubtedly the time I grew up in. I am a child of the 1980's and as a result was exposed to many formative experiences of that time.

The 1980's ushered in an entirely new era – one that would change the world. I'm speaking of the era of the Hair Bands. This era brought us travesties such as Tina Turner, Paula Abdul, Belinda Carlisle, Prince (aka "The Artist Formerly Known As"), Madonna, Michael Jackson, and Genesis. But, it also brought us the glory of Whitesnake, Poison, Warrant, Cinderella, White Lion, Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, Europe, Guns 'N Roses, Iron Maiden, Quiet Riot, Skid Row, Twisted Sister and KISS; the herald angels of rock and roll - a clear battle between the evil and the good.

You see, my friends, not so deep inside me is a metal hair band rocker wannabe. I have been successful in the past in beating back the dark shadow of myself that wants to grow his hair out, wear leather pants, and rock on an amplified electric guitar, but this wannabe has come back with renewed force and vigor.

This rocker-wannabe that lies just beneath the surface makes his appearance every now and again. Fortunately, I have taken measures to prevent an ultimate showdown between the good Jason and the evil Jason (I don't have a name for him yet, any suggestions?). I have sold all my leather pants, destroyed my Monster Ballads CD's (yes, I had more than one) and shaved my head. Unfortunately, leather pants are in plentiful supply, and thus are easily obtainable and my iPod holds more songs than I could have imagined, so many more songs than those CD's used to, expanding my library of Hair Rock considerably.

Never fear, though – I have a secret weapon, a kryptonite if you will, one sure-fire way to ensure that the evil rocker Jason does not rear his ugly head. I have shaved my head. A hair band rocker needs hair, and lots of it. I have apparently passed my prime in which my scalp boasted a head full of thick, wavy hair. Sure, as the real rockers age, on occasion the band will reunite for a concert tour of sorts and inevitably one of the guitarists will have suffered the same fate I have – male pattern baldness. It's not the same watching a 50 year old bald man trying to headbang. It's sad really. I think the rocker within knows this and for this reason alone will not make an ill-timed appearance. It may be the very thing that saves not only me, but the entire planet. You're welcome.

However, there are moments when nobody is watching and a Whitesnake song (Here I Go Again) comes on my iPod (how in the world did it even get on there in the first place?) and the rocker comes to the surface. I allow him his freedom in these moments. A little headbang here, some air guitar there, screeching lyrics all over the place and if he's been good, I'll let him repeat the song…three or four times. Fortunately for me, he doesn't just have a penchant for Whitesnake, he will also play Poison by Alice Cooper (One look could kill, my pain, your thrill!). Every now and then he'll have a hankering for something softer, maybe some Heaven by Warrant (Heaven isn't too far away, closer to it every day-ay-ay) or perhaps the soulful Love Hurts by Nazareth (Love hurts, love scars, love wounds and marks…).

If you're around and the wannabe shows up, don't be scared. I'm pretty sure he knows his place and is content with only an appearance from time to time. Hopefully, if/when he does show up, he'll do his thing and quickly sink beneath the surface not to be seen again for a while.

If he decides to stick around, we could have problems – leather pants don't exactly scream, "I'm a man!" anymore, now it seems they scream, "I want a man!"

Friday, January 23, 2009

Rules weren’t necessarily made to be broken

Long ago I created a rule for myself; a rule to protect myself from awkwardness, uncomfortable situations and, in retrospect and perhaps unknowingly, pain. For years I've held staunchly to this rule, withstanding peer pressure and parental pleading. Then, slowly I began breaking the rule and each time I would break it, I would remember why I established it to begin with. I tried to slow down the rule breaking, but once it starts it's very difficult to stop. Precedent has been set and must be followed. I'm talking about my rule of blind dating: I don't do it. Or, more accurately, I didn't do it.

You, my reader, may have been one of the unfortunate victims of a blind date with me, or perhaps you were the instigator of said blind date. Please know that regardless of which camp you fall into, this post is not a reflection of you as a date or a friend.

As a single LDS male in a predominantly LDS community, dating is something I'm expected to do; I'm supposed to get married. Since I'm not married and I'm getting older (according to whose standard?) it is apparently incumbent upon people around me to rectify the situation. And rectify they've tried. My status as a single man seems to be more concerning to other people than it is to me. (Un)fortunately, I'm still single. C'mon people, I survived BYU single, I have resilience.

In these attempts at rectification, I've been on a number of blind dates as of late. Once word got out that I went on a blind date, it seemed that everyone had someone to line me up with. It might seem like an ideal situation for a bachelor such as me; everyone being described was the prettiest girl in the world, had the best sense of humor, was very down to earth and was super cool. Sounds like a good deal, right? Wrong.

We've now come to the very reason I banned blind dates for myself in the first place: friends lie. Maybe "lie" is too strong of a word, but how do you go back to a friend and tell him/her that your date didn't measure up to what you were led to believe? Or that you don't like their friend? Or that you thought their friend was boring? It's not a fun conversation. That's why I hate blind dates. I've met some very cool people through blind dating, but not once has anything truly "worked out". That's fine, but I detest going back to the instigator and saying, "I didn't like your friend" or "Your friend didn't like me." (The latter conversation means the date is having the former conversation.) Hate it.

However, I've come to realize that perhaps having a rule banning blind dates isn't the most practical thing for me to do. With that in mind, I've come up with a set of blind date rules, guidelines or things to consider before setting up a blind date. Following these rules/guidelines will let me allow blind dates to happen and hopefully make the process less painful.

  1. Just because I'm single and she's single doesn't mean we make a good match. If this is the only reason you want to set us up, please don't do it.
  2. Ensure that we have some commonalities (being LDS isn't enough).
    1. Sometimes, even without common interests a blind date can be arranged. An acceptable example would be, "She isn't really interested in sports, but she enjoys being active."
    2. I appreciate it when I date a girl who is in a similar situation as I am. That doesn't mean she has to be a graduate student, college graduate, full-time career woman, etc. but having something to build on is nice – being a grad student with significant career experience, an 18 year-old high school graduate is probably not the best match up for me.
  3. Don't lie about the other person. Brutal honesty is preferred. Not everyone is the smartest, coolest, most beautiful person in the world. I'm not such a person, I don't expect a date to be such. I like real people.
  4. Talk with both daters before giving a phone number out. I've called a date before and she was unaware that I would be calling; in fact, she didn't even know I existed. That was awkward, the date wasn't much better.
  5. If possible, provide a picture. Sounds shallow. Guess what? It is; I don't care.
  6. Understand that the date may not work out and that's okay. Don't be offended if one, or both, parties come back to you and say as much.
  7. If things are progressing, don't play junior high school games. You know, the kind where one party asks a mutual friend, "Does (s)he like me? Can you find out?" Once initial contact has been made, leave the daters alone to make their own way.
  8. Cold calling is uncomfortable for both parties. It can be difficult to start a conversation with a complete stranger with the end goal of asking her out, even if you both know it is coming. Try and arrange for the daters to meet at a party or other social gathering so they can meet and get to know each other and then decide if they want to go on a date.
    1. This set-up is my preferred way. If the girl knows that I'm the guy you want to set her up with, but is unaware that I know that as well, she doesn't feel rejected if I don't ask her out.
  9. Understand and respect me if I say I don't want to be set up. Blind dates take a lot of energy for me; even if your friend is the smartest, coolest, prettiest girl in the world, I may not be up for it. Don't push the issue. A begrudged blind date is not apt to be successful.
  10. If at first you don't succeed, "try, try again" isn't necessarily the rule. Multiple blind dates from the same source are acceptable, what is not acceptable is a personal mission to get me married. That's my job; I'll do it at some point.

There you have it folks. I'm considering making these into an application that will need to be filled out in triplicate to ensure that the setter-upper has given the date due consideration and is not just trying to play match-maker.

You know what, forget it - maybe I'll just try E-Harmony.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Costco for one, please.

The other day a lady came to my place of work. That, in and of itself, is not unusual. Ladies come to my work all the time, but this time was different. This lady brought cookies and muffins. It's not every day someone comes in with cookies and muffins. I had to figure out what she wanted.

Turns out, she was selling Costco memberships to us. Previously I had been impervious to the wiles of the Costco lady, snacking on her cookies and muffins and laughing gleefully as I walked away with the extra cookie I stashed in my pocket. But, this time was different. The Costco lady came prepared.

I don't have many weaknesses, but somehow she found mine and ruthlessly exploited it. She brought free pizza coupons. NOOO!! My kryptonite is pizza. Free pizza is even more dangerous. I pretended I was paying attention to her schpeel as I munched on a cookie (macadamia nut), and acted like I was scrutinizing the coupon pack she was trying to bribe me with. Every now and then I would wipe a crumb from my face, pretending to be slightly incompetent so maybe she would stop trying to peddle her wares. No dice.

I didn't think too much of the situation as it stood. I had my cookie and wasn't interested in purchasing a Costco membership. Then, a co-worker showed up and asked the lady about renewing a membership. This was it, my opportunity to slip away, cookie in hand. I was preparing to make my exit when the Costco lady made her dastardly move. She said to my co-worker, "If you refer him (pointing to me), he'll get a free pizza and you will too."


Now, my co-worker had incentive to get me to sign up and I could feel my knees starting to weaken. It was only a matter of time before I succumbed to the temptation of pizza. It wasn't fair. Suddenly, the coupon pack had much more interest to me than it did previously. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the pizza coupon sitting there on the table, inviting, enticing, and drawing me closer. I tried to resist, telling Costco lady, "I don't have my checkbook and I'm not carrying cash." I knew she didn't have a card reader with her; hopefully this ruse would buy me time and allow me to escape.

"Not to worry," she said, "you can take the application and I'll come back in two days and you can give me the check then." Curses, foiled again. I had no more defenses; I was done for. I took the application and slowly walked back to my office.

Two days later, Costco Lady showed up with my card and pizza coupon. A sudden surge of empowerment and excitement came over me. I could now buy cheap gas, bulk food, not to mention the free pizza! Could it get any better? Yes, yes it could. My co-worker decided she didn't want her free pizza, so an additional coupon came my way. Merry Christmas in January! Two pizzas for free?! It almost made up for my forgetting to snag an extra cookie a couple days before.

That very night, I decided to try out my new membership and I headed to Costco for gas. Imagine my surprise when I saw that gas wasn't any cheaper than the 7-11 down the street. And, there are no Slurpees at Costco. Rip-off. I figured it was an anomaly and that I would get some killer deals on the food. So, I went grocery shopping a couple days later. I've decided that Costco isn't the place for a single guy like myself. I now have my year's supply of oatmeal, body-wash, protein powder (more like a life supply of that stuff – blech!), instant breakfast and possibly ground beef. I needed some seasonings and a new toothbrush and toothpaste, but decided that I didn't need a metric ton of Italian Seasoning and I didn't really have anywhere to store 17 toothbrushes and 14 tubes of toothpaste. I also decided that if I had a thumb drive it would be helpful to store my school work on, so if something tragic happened to my computer (replaceable at Costco), I would at least have my work safe. Unfortunately, I couldn't buy just one thumb drive. Instead, I would have to buy anywhere from two to four thumb drives, the collective memory of which would seriously dwarf my laptop's memory.

Even though I came to the conclusion that I will probably not do my weekly grocery shopping at Costco (how in the world am I supposed to eat 16 muffins in a week?!), I still have one more pizza coupon left and it needs to be used by the end of the month. Between that and the food I already bought there, I shouldn't have to do any grocery shopping for the next little while anyway. Besides, the grocery store is typically where I like to find dates and there are just not many single girls in Costco. After all, what would they do with a gallon of mustard?