Category Archives: Social Rules

Sunday Christmas For Janice

Sunday evenings often provide me with encounters that other days don’t. I’m not sure why that is.

I was out and about, buying mismatched birthday/get-well/occasion balloons, a flutophone, spatula (all of which are of course traditional birthday surprises), and various ridiculous things for a belated work birthday shenanigan. A woman was at the register. She had only two dollars. “I’ll pay for the rest with my credit card.” She sweated a bit, waiting to see if it would be authorized. The clerk wasn’t the most sympathetic. He radiated irritation. The woman hid her embarrassment well but I watched her body language as she cringed at the treatment. It took her two tries to get it to go through.

Although I had entered with a light heart and a bit of joy due to being creative in trying to let someone know we hadn’t forgotten them, I have to admit a bitter flare of anger lit me up. I could feel it behind my eyes. I flicked my wrist and saw that my heartbeat had elevated considerably on my Fitbit. I wanted to shout at the clerk but then I reminded myself that I have a superpower that all of us have if I could just stop judging. Even the few one-on-one rapid self-defense sessions I had reinforced the idea that we owe it to each other to disengage before we act.

“Hey Janice,” I said loudly to the woman as she got her bag, a little red-faced. “Wait a second. I have that money I owe you.” Her name wasn’t Janice, but she stopped and turned. I held up a finger to ask her to give me a minute to check out. She was just confused enough to wait.

“Merry Christmas, sir,” I told the young male clerk.

“Yeah, ok.” He seemed unhappy. He looked at his watch.

“Are you having a rough day?” I asked him, smiling.

“You have no idea,” he said.

“What can I do to make it even a little better?” I asked.

“Let me go home. My girlfriend texted me and told me she was putting my stuff outside if I didn’t come home soon.”

That stopped me cold for a second. I was surprised by his honesty.

“I don’t know what you’re going through but I can see you’re stressed. I would be too. Take a minute and call her, don’t text, even if your manager doesn’t want you to. Tell your girlfriend you love her and you will talk to her when you get home. Trust me.”

“Just like that?” He asked.

“Yes, just like that. Assuming you do love her, she will give you a couple of hours to come home and work it out. And if she doesn’t, it wasn’t going to matter what you did now or not. If that happens, I am so sorry.”

He looked at me like I had burst into flames.

“Okay, thanks. I’ll try anything.”

“Would you do me a favor as a kindness?”

“Yes,” he said.

I softened my voice and leaned in: “Tell my friend Janice there that you are sorry for snapping at her and wish her a Merry Christmas.”

He did. Janice listened, stunned, as the clerk said, “I’m so sorry. I’m stressed. Please have a Merry Christmas, Janice.”

Janice smiled, still a bit confused by it all, but happy the clerk had acknowledged his rudeness. “Merry Christmas to you too,” she replied, her voice cracking a little.

I nodded at the clerk and smiled. “I wish you the best. Now go call your girlfriend and let her know how much you need her. Everyone needs to hear it.”

I grabbed my handful of bags and bundle of helium balloons.

I turned to Janice and pulled the ten-dollar bill out of my pocket and handed it to her. I’d been given the ten dollars to help buy a few goofy items for the birthday shenanigan. The person who gave it to me would have wanted it to go to Janice instead. Of that, I am certain.

“I know you’re not Janice. I just wanted the clerk to think we know each other. This is for whatever you need. It’s not a lot because I don’t have a lot.”

Janice took the bill from my hands as I balanced all the things I’d purchased.

“It’s okay. Don’t say anything. Just remember that sometimes the universe is listening, okay?” She nodded. I think she was a little choked up. I know I was.

I smiled and walked out of the store, my anger gone, and my thoughts filled with hope that the anonymous girlfriend was going to get a call to let her know she was loved. And that Janice forgot the embarrassment at the register and remembered only that someone wanted her to have a Merry Christmas.

Love, X

P.S. I’m going to go wrap a flutophone and spatula. As we all agree, they are ideal birthday presents for someone who has everything.

Sample Advice Column

(Note: recently, I was asked to write some sample advice columns. Here’s an off-the-cuff one for you to read…)

Question: “My girlfriend doesn’t reply to my texts for a long time but answers other people constantly. What should I do?”

Well, because it’s important, what kind of shoes do you wear? I hope you say Nike or Adidas because they’ll pay me the most for mentioning them. #payme

I hope running shoes is your answer. You need to buy a nice, comfortable pair. Put them on – and then run. Away.

I’m not going to ask you what you mean by “a long time.” I am assuming you’re not obsessive or crazy. I could be wrong. If you’re writing me for advice, you might need to reconsider your life choices.

Another assumption is that if you’re writing me for advice, that it’s a deal-breaker sort of problem if it isn’t addressed to your satisfaction.

Her failing to answer you (her person) isn’t a question of boundaries. It is of course her right to answer when and if she chooses. But if she chooses to ignore yours while texting other randos, she also is free to face the consequences of failing to appreciate that’s she in a relationship that requires open communication and time.

I am assuming you’ve already discussed expectations, reciprocity, and feelings about this? If you haven’t, you’re part of the problem. No matter how scary it is, you must be able to reveal what’s on your mind and in your heart – even if it might initially sound needy or negative. If you can’t risk doing so, you need to practice. You’ll never be happy with anyone if you can’t. Ms. No-Reply can find someone who will tolerate being treated as lesser.

There are a lot of fancy words for that kind of behavior. She’s clearly showing you she doesn’t prioritize you with her time. We all have a limited amount of time in our day. If she’s choosing to ignore the closest person in her life, there’s a reason. No matter how she explains it away, it’s just that she’s not that into you. This is especially true if she’s being funny, witty, or exchanging multiple long messages with other people. She’s investing her time and energy elsewhere. You should do the same.

Being honest with her again about your feelings isn’t going to help. She’s going to be defensive and gaslight you about your totally understandable reaction. And probably make a snarky TikTok to poke fun at you. If she does, laugh if you can. Someone else will appreciate your earnest desire to share your life and thoughts with them.

Adults answer their lovers with at least the same frequency and enthusiasm as they do others. The Enthusiasm Rule dictates that they should.

The no-texting is a clear starting gun.

You’ve already got your running shoes on. Use them.*

*And if you don’t have running shoes, remember: Nike or Adidas, please.#paymetwice .

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Personal Post, December Edition

The screenshot is of this week’s sleep for me. Months ago, part of my therapy was to learn to sleep again. My benchmark is 6 hours, which probably seems low to most of you. It’s not. I CAN sleep more, but my natural rhythm at this weight is six hours. At some point, I’m going to take a week and see if I can sleep for eight hours and see if it lowers my motivation again. It did before. I’m not sure I actually fell asleep as early as I did on some of those nights; the Fitbit interprets low heart rate and breaths as light sleep, even if I’m awake and listening to music or a podcast, or wrestling with my cat Güino.

In February, I wrote a post titled “Shirtless in February.” I never felt too weird about people seeing my body. We all know what people look like, more or less, whether they’re layered in two shirts, a tunic, and a bathrobe. It’s anatomy, not magic. (Although there is magic and chemistry in the process of seeing someone, that’s for another post.) 🙂 We fool ourselves by thinking we’re being clever. In my case, I wish someone had been creative enough to tell me to stop eating and lose weight twenty years ago, and in such a way that I would have HEARD the concern. We don’t have a way to lovingly talk to someone about this sort of thing without setting off a firestorm of defense or anger. That’s a problem.

As a side note, the world would also be much better off if you accept the compliment if someone thinks you are pretty, beautiful, handsome, or attractive. There is no universal standard for such things. Can we stop insisting there is? One of the most beautiful things is a quick smile and a sense of humor, even if the teeth behind it are crooked. I’m being serious. There’s no single formula for beauty or even attraction.

Yesterday, I had tons of energy. I ate an abnormally large lunch and then had a therapy session. We laughed a lot, which is always a good sign. As I often say, she can laugh easily because she’s billing me. I already knew I was feeling better due to the volume of pranks and creative things I’d been doing. After, around 4, I felt anxious. Having a Fitbit pays off in these circumstances. Because I have the premium option, I could see the metrics in real-time and progress. Seeing the physiological effects helps me deal with it.

Today, I woke up feeling like I was walking on air, which is becoming very common -and when I don’t feel that energy, I wonder what causes it. I realized that I expect that I will always wake up ready to ring the bell and step into the day. I wanted to go running all morning. Unfortunately, work intervened. Work “let” me walk 15-20K steps, though. It wasn’t until after work that I realized that not running yesterday affected my level of anxiety in the afternoon. It should have been evident to me. I’ve only missed a couple of days of running in the last couple of weeks. If I find myself incapable of constant running, I switch to running in intervals and burn through the miles or minutes that way. Anything incremental is better than not doing anything. I’m not sure I will continue running. I’d do it if someone agreed to chase me each day. Add a little danger and/or mystery to the equation.

I hit the streets this afternoon. I enjoyed the incredible 75-degree afternoon. Weirdly, I could sense this might be the last such incredibly temperate afternoon to enjoy – maybe for weeks. The Upper 70s in December? Yes, please! And so, I ran. After a few minutes, I took my shirt off. The slight breeze gave me wings. Even though I didn’t want to, I stopped. I felt like I could run ten miles, which would be a discomfort payment I wouldn’t want to make tomorrow. I did run up and down the apartment stairs a few dozen times when I got back, though.

An actual test of whether someone cares what they look like is if they can run without a shirt on. Forget swimming without one; the litmus test is running, where there’s no water to hide your body. For 54, I look normal. My scar left what looks like a second belly-button indentation a few inches above my real one. The surgery left a “pooch” between the two indentations. When I think back to how I looked and felt before, it is still hard to believe I fooled myself for so long. I’m not a fan of people being ashamed of their bodies, no matter what shape they are in. I understand it, but when you compare the vast variety of body types and shapes, everyone has something they hate about themselves. Except for me. I accept it all because it’s me. I did the work needed to remove the excuses I kept whispering in my head. Looking normal is something I hadn’t anticipated.

Don’t worry; I’m still not going to ACT normal, so you can cross that expectation off of your list.

I’m going to put a picture below. Not so that people could say something nice – or mean. Anyone who wants to snark is welcome to as long as it’s creative. I love creative snark, and I need to practice not caring that other people think I look like Danny DeVito grown up and thinner. I’m not sucking my gut in. I don’t have one. I have a weird pooch that can’t be fixed without surgery, which will not happen. I already lost a knife fight with a surgeon. He got the last laugh with the catheter.

People keep telling me to stop losing weight. I haven’t lost any weight since before my surgery. I’m just working to change my body mass. I ate a donut and seven Ghiradelli chocolate squares this morning.

I’m still experimenting with the ‘how’ of it. There are days when I’m glad I’ve done it all for no other reason than to know I did it. The future could hit me with any number of calamities or illnesses. It’s a question of when not if.

I’ve encouraged anyone interested in doing something to change themselves. No matter what else I’ve done, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I still weighed 230, 240, or 250+ lbs. The voice in my head answers: “Dead.” You don’t have to go to the gym, buy supplements, or do a lot of cardio to lose weight. You don’t even have to invest a lot of time. All it takes is a change of mind about how you want to look and feel. Small changes, constantly reinforced. Because I’ve learned to say so, I’ll include the caveat that there are exceptions. But I’m not writing about the exceptions. As the year winds down, the barrage of New Year’s Resolutions and commitments ramp up. And I reply, “Why wait? You can do one thing today to start. And you can do it right here and right now.”

If you’re happy with your body, stop struggling to worry about your weight. And don’t worry about how people perceive you. You can’t change that.

Take it from taller Danny DeVito.

Love, X
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Once More Unto The Brooch

“You’re only given a little spark of madness, you mustn’t lose it.” — Robin WIlliams

As for my smaller lighter brooch I made and wore today, it was wildly successful. Sure, I had a couple of eyerolls and a bit of derision. 98% was effusively humorous. One person asked me to make one for her husband, who struggles to avoid losing lighters. I imagined him on the construction site with a lighter-brooch on his shirt, while his coworkers chortled at him. The woman at the gas station thought it was both practical and creative. The booth clerk at the flea market said, “Art is in the eye of the beholder. That’s fairly creative, X.”

Though I make these things to be creative and for self-amusement, I also accidentally discover human behavior lessons by doing so.

You’ll hear me say with regularity, “Anything can be made into a brooch if you’re audacious enough.” The fact that I have one made out of a pregnancy test should be proof enough of that.

“Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about.” -Oscar Wilde

Rare is the person who directly expresses displeasure. Not so much about the specific idea or implementation; rather, the IDEA of such a thing. Those people are to be avoided. It belies a lack of enthusiasm for creativity and the autonomy of others to be ridiculous. People who can’t engage in random acts of ridiculousness aren’t part of my tribe, to put it mildly.

People who directly say, “It’s not that clever or not appealing” either do so because they are honest, which is truly a great thing, or they can’t help but to express negativity, which is its opposite. I’m carefree about people’s reactions but I do notice when someone isn’t engaging in a spirit of enthusiasm or encouragement. Life is bland enough without encouraging more of the same.

To everyone who thought it was clever, thank you. To those who didn’t, I can’t hit all home runs. But out of the hundreds of people I ran across today, my cigarette lighter brooch was the most singular thing I saw anyone wearing today. And that’s a home run each and every time – in part because it gives people the opportunity to be amused, annoyed, or to interact. I can’t be certain that NO ONE has ever made a working cigarette lighter brooch. But I am certain that the idea came to me from the mist of my own mind – and that no one I know has ever seen one. Until today. That makes me happy.

The best line I came up with today was a play on words: “Can I send you a Bic pic?”

“Creativity is contagious, pass it on.” – Albert Einstein

Love, X
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PS The next picture is added for varityletter…

I Asked

I moved my bedroom from the living room into a bedroom this morning. If that sounds byzantine, it was. I’ve lived in my living room for almost four months. I also exercised and then went running. Whether it was toward something or away, I’m not certain. But I ran. And it felt glorious. It was the fifth time this week and the first in a long time where I felt like I might become airborne as I did so. I bought a set of athletic pants that fit me properly. They are 28-30 small adult/child size. Someone nicknamed me “Babypants.” I don’t take offense. I earned the size. And if you see me running and think I’m doing it strangely, that’s more than okay, too. Doing the work and looking stupid is okay by me. I’m going to look (and sound) stupid quite often. I look forward to it. It puzzles me that people are afraid of looking stupid, saying the wrong thing, or believing that other people have the magic formula for style, method, or appearance. We owe it to ourselves to be as strange as we naturally are.

When I got back from running, the husband of a caretaker for one of the tenants here spent his time waiting by blowing the leaves off the walkway. He watched as I ran up and down the staircase a few dozen times. “Getting your cardio in again? I saw you run up from the road.” I laughed. “Well, I have 30 years worth to catch up on.”

Earlier this week, I did a reset and asked the universe for a couple of favors. Not because I’m deserving of them – but because I’m not. It’s the first time I’ve dared to do so in a long time. The biggest ask is that I avoid calamity or demise for at least another year. A year is long enough to transform anything.

In the same way, I’ve diligently said, “I don’t know” with much greater frequency this year, I’ve also started asking. It’s a tangent to my propensity to state my truth without trying to wrangle someone into a specific reaction. It’s been a wild ride! Those who respond with incredulity that I ask are forgetting the fundamental truth: it’s never wrong to ask; it’s only wrong to respond irrationally on either side of the asking. It’s the cousin to honesty, a thing everyone claims to desire yet few embrace without grimace or discontent.

As I write this, someone texted me in response to another ask. Life can be so precious and quixotic at times, can’t it?

Ask
Ask for what you want or desire.
If you don’t, it is a certainty you’ll never get it.
Ask of life and ask of people.
The answer, though bitter or not what you sought…
It’s at least the truth.
Everything starts from there
Ask

Love, X
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G.Y.F.S.T.


I laughed my butt off the first time I saw TikToker Darrin Robinson’s “GYFST” post.

His acronym accurately surmises the ridiculously easy way to improve your life.

It all starts with an implemented commitment to change and do things differently. To stop repeating what hasn’t worked.

I’ve added it to my “Choose Your Hard” and “Nothing tastes as good as this feels” list of mantras.

I find myself repeating it when I’m doing pushups or using dumbbells. It is the most profane and profound mantra to internalize.

Just do it. Differently. And you’ll get something different.

Adjust as needed. Just KEEP adjusting until you find a way.

Love, X
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P.S. I made the picture…

I Paid It Forward

Hey guys, I probably changed a couple of people’s lives tonight. Really.

Recently, someone surprised me with a kindness. It gave me a little breathing room. I can’t think about it without feeling like I owe the universe a big hug.

Because I had already worn myself out exercising, I left the apartment to visit my local inconvenience store. Today was a light day: I had 20,000 steps without taking a “walk.” I don’t get bored, but I do miss the interaction with people sometimes. This evening was one of those times. As I stood near the case of odd corndogs and snacks, a pretty young lady stood at the counter, vainly attempting to get her visa card to work. The clerk was showing her a video of his puppy. It was apparent that both of them were doing the dance of interest, even as the young lady became frustrated. “Try the card again,” the clerk told her. She tried twice more to prepay $10 in gas.

I interrupted them both and said, “Ma’am, I’ll pay for your $10 in gas. In fact, let’s make it $20 if your car holds it. We’ve all been there.” She looked at me in wide-eyed surprise. I pointed at the clerk, “He would want me to.” The clerk smiled a huge smile, realizing that I had shifted my surprise act of generosity to him.

The young lady almost started crying. “That is so nice of you!” I thought she was going to hug me. “Yes, my car will hold $20 of gas. It’s basically on empty.”

I thought of all the times I was poor or needed help. Her wide-eyed features and noticeable relief and gratitude rendered me a bit floorless.

“Then have a great night and pay it forward. It’s really okay.” I smiled at her. She smiled at me, then smiled at the clerk, who watched it unfold. It’s hard to describe how beautiful that smile was, as she reacted to a total stranger giving her such a gesture.

When she exited, the clerk shook my hand and introduced himself. “Ryan,” he said. “That was really cool of you.”

I introduced myself too and then showed him my ID. People often don’t believe my name is X. “Whoa, that’s cool!”

I told him, “You ought to ask her out. She already thinks I paid for her gas because you’re a nice guy. You’re halfway there.”

He smiled, “Yeah, I’ve been wanting to ask her out for quite a while.”

Y’all know me, so you know I couldn’t leave it there.

“Then ask her out,” I said. “It’s obvious she likes you. I’m 54. I’m telling you that you should take 100% of the shots you want when you’re young. The worst that could happen is she’ll say no. The best is that you will have a great story to tell about how you got the nerve to ask her out. Me.”

The clerk said, “That’s some wisdom right there. Thank you.”

We both laughed as I grabbed my bag of Cheetos Puffs and left.

As I started the car, I decided to forget the rules of life and social etiquette. I rolled down my window (yes, my car has actual rollers) and drove over near the white car at the gas pumps. The young lady looked over at me.

“I know this is awkward, but the clerk likes you and has wanted to ask you out for quite a while. He’s a great guy. Have a great night, young lady.”

She smiled so big that I thought her face might shatter. “Thanks! And thank you.”

I drove away, glad that I’d decided to leave the apartment for a dumb snack. And ignored the ridiculous social expectations of perhaps going too far. I can thank Lexapro for making me more “me.” Where life and love are concerned, there is no step too far.

I was glad I’d been able to help someone randomly.

I was glad that someone had helped me to be able to.

And that it was likely that the clerk and the young lady with the defunct visa card might be able to overcome the ridiculous shyness and distance that so often separates people who are interested in one another. There is no reason for such attraction not to find purchase in people’s lives.

Somehow, I think they will.

And I love that I might be at the nexus of their story, however it unfolds.

More than that, though, I would love for them both to take a risk and find out how their mutual interest might blossom.

What a life.

Thank you, universe, and thank you, kind souls who made it possible.

I’ll say a little prayer for love, for kindness, and for humanity.

And for Ryan and the nameless pretty young lady who needed a little bit of help tonight.

Love, X

Cat Mitten Life

I don’t want to live in a world where someone doesn’t invent cat mittens or broccoli-flavored chocolate. Enough with the conventional, as if we all enjoy the same level of normalcy. Without the zany, my life would be miserable. And stop arguing about the ‘best’ foods. There’s no such thing. We are all individuals and taste is wildly subjective, as is taste in hair, purses, clothing, cars, furniture, music, and lovers.

Can we instead talk about the things and people each of us loves, in our own way, and the people that light us up?

And while we’re at it, buy each other some cat mittens.

Living seriously is something that we can all agree is for the birds, the kind that swoops down and releases upon our heads.

Love, X
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