Rainbows Have Nothing to Hide

Rainbow!

It’s rare to open the garage first thing in the morning and walk right into a sign that says, “It’s okay to leave the house today.” And yet there I was, face to face with this surprise rainbow. Perfect timing. I needed a rainbow this week.

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Thoughts That Never Occurred to Me During My Lonely “Nice Guy” Years

Yearbook signature, Class of Long Ago.

Sample message from a classmate written in one of my old yearbooks. Somehow I read platonic well-wishing like this and did not convince myself they were subliminally asking me to ravish them.

I’ve never understood normal men, let alone the broken ones. Let’s get that out of the way up front.

Maybe it’s because I read the right books and lucked into the right role models. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have a sufficiently damaged home life. Maybe I’m lucky that my father wasn’t an active part of my life. Maybe it’s a good thing I never kept too many macho friends for long, or belonged to any particularly masculine cliques. Maybe it’s because I figured out a way for logic and empathy to share harmonic coexistence in my brain. I’m funny that way, maybe.

My first date wasn’t till age 19. My age at the time of you-know-what was years beyond that. In junior high and high school, I never bothered asking any girls out. I knew my odds were slim for a variety of reasons, some but not all of them related to appearance. I wasn’t happy with it. I had my bouts of depression and crushed self-esteem. Eighth grade in particular remains a mental and emotional nadir in my life. I couldn’t figure a way out of it on my own, other than to hope that “This, too, shall pass” would apply to my situation someday before I died.

And yet…for all my dissatisfaction with my lot in life back then, for all my innocuous interactions with the ladies in my young-stupid-male years, none of the following sentences ever popped into my head:

* “That girl was nice to me. I expect sex from her now.”
* “The world owes me a chick.”
* “I know I’m perfect, so it’s clearly not my fault.”
* “Top-40 songs about love and sex are most wise.”
* “Maybe if I insult all women a lot, one will step forward and claim me.”
* “The world owes me a hot chick.”
* “Without sex I’m nothing.”
* “Women love a guy who’s bitter and snarling.”
* “Killing will solve anything.”

…and I’m grateful to the Lord every day that I never adopted anything from this list as my personal catchphrase.

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A Deceptively Pedestrian Holiday Party Still-Life Parable

holiday party centerpiece
Pictured above: the centerpiece from our table at my employer’s 2013 holiday party. This year’s shindig was held at a different venue than last year’s and consequently had different decor. Longtime MCC readers may recall last year my wife and I passed the time while waiting for door prize drawings by taking still life photos using any and all objects within reach.

I spent a lot of time this year staring into that centerpiece while life and partying went on around me.

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Five Tracks That Got Me Through Young Stupid Adulthood

alternative rock audiocassettes

Yep. Those are cassettes. This is how old I am.

If I learned anything after the fact from Buffy‘s depressing sixth season, it’s that our early 20s is when we humans are prone to committing our worst mistakes, making our stupidest decisions, missing our best opportunities, undergoing our darkest times, and discovering all the best reasons to fear and loathe ourselves. For many people those were also hallmarks of their teenage years, but I was a late starter on the journey to self-flagellation.

A childhood in which I was raised to “find my own path” (read: wander blindly through life’s shadowy forests without a tour guide or even a working flashlight) left me with very few tools for suffering the worst trials and shouldering the heaviest burdens, too many of which I brought on myself. By age thirty a series of improbable coincidences and extensive rethinking sessions had led me at long last to an illuminated trail that’s taken me toward much more reliable means and sources of support and encouragement than I ever had during my extended, two-time college-dropout phase.

Before I walked that way, all I had was music.

Of all the hundreds of songs that have caught my attention throughout my life, five in particular stand out as rare instances in which I was moved by music, moments of lyrical lucidity and emotional truth that resonated deep down in that mushy core whose existence the common guy denies, moments I returned to again and again for comfort, advice, consolation, deep thoughts, and/or a boost of spirit. These were five solid shots struck at the foundation of the oddly designed structure that passes for my life.

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The Old Introvert’s Guide to a Fun Night on the Town All Alone

Taste of Havana, Broad Ripple, Indianapolis

The average loner feels as if they’re always on the outside looking in. This is a POV of me on the inside looking out, convincing myself that I’ve turned the tables on the rest of humanity. Your move, humanity.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Just got back from attending my first concert in years…I have multiple reasons for rarely indulging in live music, but in those extremely rare situations when bands I actually, truly like (or liked at one time) come to town, this old man has been known to grant exceptions.

For the record, as with many of my past concert experiences, I attended alone. My wife and I share many important qualities and beliefs, but we differ on some of the unimportant stuff, including but not limited to musical preferences. That’s hardly a recipe for disaster, but if I want to catch one of my favorite musicians live, it means I’m on my own. The only acquaintances who share my musical tastes all live in different states. When I was younger, it was a bit more soul-crushing to find myself alone in a crowd full of happy couples and cliques. The older I get, the less it damages me.

When I have the opportunity to check out something interesting beyond our four walls, it’s not an automatic assumption that someone must be there to hold my hand. My wife and I find plenty of opportunities for quality time, but sometimes I’ll heed the call of a potentially rewarding solo adventure. How do I keep my spirits up without whining about loneliness or making sad puppy-dog eyes at other people and wishing really hard that they were my BFFs? What follows is a partial list of some of the personal guidelines that served me well on this particular jaunt.

Advice by introverts for introverts:

“Gravity”: Connect or Perish

Sandra Bullock, Gravity

Zero-g leaves zero margin for error.

If movie theaters were allowed to set individual rules before watching certain films, the first rule of a Gravity showing would be no snacking during the first ten minutes. After the title and text intro (“Life in space is impossible”), the movie doesn’t begin so much as it emerges from the darkness and silence of space. As a distant pinpoint expands and metamorphoses into a Space Shuttle bearing Academy Award Winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the noiseless vacuum slowly parts for a trickle of radio chatter that steadily builds from volume 0 as its source nears our position.

While we eavesdropped on the cast’s interplay during their distant grand entrance, the ambiance of their stage-setting was slightly disrupted by the sounds of the peckish viewers seated around me, rustling plastic wrappers and scarfing whatever snacks they couldn’t be bothered to finish during the preceding 25-minute trailer marathon. This sort of aural dissonance isn’t an issue when you’re watching the average summer action blockbuster that kicks off with a twenty-minute 200-decibel set piece that eradicates all sound and vibration in its path.

More about this weekend’s #1 film, which presently sits at 98% on the Tomatometer…

Loner Dad’s Long, Proud, Awkward Day on Campus

college presentations

Consider, if you will, the following case of orientation disorientation.

This past Monday my son’s college held a special all-day program for incoming freshmen to undergo orientation, hear intros to their respective schools, meet their advisors, register for their first semester’s classes, experience an actual dorm food-court meal, and endure a self-guided campus walkabout to accomplish all the other activities at various buildings, only some of which are next door to each other. I tagged along to multitask the roles of chauffeur, navigator, sidekick, and personal ombudsman whenever he needed to question or vent about something. By and large, my parts were played with utmost competence.

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