Friday, August 29, 2014

Having Trouble Understanding Me? You're Not Alone!

All the way back in 2002, we had a new addition to our household.  Was it a younger sibling? was a dog; a collie/husky mix named Sparky.  Though intended for the whole family, my mom put his crate next to my bed, because she wanted him to be my dog.  My sister and brother-in-law even came over and brought some snacks for both me and our new canine companion as a gift.  Sounds like a joyous occasion, right? For them, maybe...but not for me.  Instead of being eager to play with and train the new family pet, I was infuriated by the fact that he was there and wanted him gone...pronto! Throughout the four years we had him--and even well after he was gone--I picked on him every chance I got, even doing so when the topic of discussion had nothing to do with pets.  One such incident was when my mom was talking about renovating our house, and I said, "Sell Sparky and put the money you get towards the renovation." I didn't care about funding the renovation; I just wanted the dog gone! My mom also constantly asked me, "Why don't you love him?", and told several people--mostly extended family members--about it, saying, "He doesn't love his dog! Have you ever heard of a boy not loving his dog?" I actually had; a few years prior, a coeval former fellow church member complained about how "annoying" his family's dog was because of his constant barking.  I knew that dog, and I defended him...but, my unfortunate experience with Sparky made me want to eat my words.  Eventually, after four years, my mom took Sparky back to the SPCA, which is what I'd said she needed to do from day one.  She thought it was tragic; I considered it a personal victory.  She never seemed to understand why I didn't appreciate him, even though I had made it clear well before we got Sparky that I loathed the canine kind.

That right there should tell you something: If my own mother can't understand why I feel the way I feel about can I expect anyone else to? I'd imagine most of you reading this would be overjoyed at the prospect of a new pet, and most of your friends would be as well...but, it only enraged me.  It's more than just pets, though; it's nearly everything.  In recent years, some people have been bothered enough by it to unfriend me on Facebook; that's their choice, but, I would hope that people would have the decency to try and understand why I feel the way I do about whoever or whatever instead of just considering me an idiot or a jerk and essentially abandoning me.

One of the many definitions of the word "freak" is "an ardent enthusiast".  What does that mean? Well, "ardent" is defined as "characterized by warmth of feeling typically expressed in eager zealous support or activity," and, I'm pretty sure we all know what an enthusiast is.  Though I wouldn't go around calling myself a freak--that word also has many negative connotations--I consider myself an ardent enthusiast of many things: the Disney Channel, Christian music, family-friendly entertainment, Apple products, the Bible, garage sales, bargain hunting, libraries, etc.  I've always been that way; when I was about six or seven, I told my sister I didn't like a daycare program I had to attend during spring break, and my reason was, "They don't have computers there." My sister quickly replied, "It can't be bad just because they don't have computers there; what's the real reason?" The "real reason" was what I had just told her; seriously, if it didn't have to do with computers, television, or reading, it just wasn't fun.  Though my tastes have broadened since then--just look at the above list!--I'm still just as ardently enthused about what I like as I always have been.  About a year ago, when I made Demi Lovato my number one celebrity crush, I practically shouted it from the rooftops; I told my friends first chance I got.  No matter how long you've known me, my topic(s) of interest were likely one of the first things you found out about me...and, when it/they changed, you found out about it rather quickly.  That may sound like a Facebook thing, but, it was happening well before the dawn of social networking.

The same is true when it comes to what I don't like; seriously, how many of you reading this don't already know how I feel about sports, theme parks, pets, "R" films, and anything to do with large bodies of water? For some people, that's unthinkable: What guy doesn't like sports? Who wouldn't want to attend a theme park? Unless someone is allergic or has had a traumatic experience with one, why would he or she not want to own a member of the canine kind? Who can honestly say they've never willingly watched a film that was branded with the "Restricted" label? What kind of person doesn't enjoy beaches, pools, or water parks? Despite the drubbing I've gotten over the years, I've stuck to my guns and outright refused to participate in such activities...and, at times, it's been hard.  In 2004, the high school group at my church was taking a trip to a nearby beach, and all of my fellow members as well as all of the adult leaders/sponsors really wanted me to attend.  I tried to decline politely, but, they became rather insistent; some of them, rudely so.  They asked me why, and I tried to explain my reasons to them, but all they did was refute everything I said.  What they didn't seem to understand was that my dislike for anything involving large bodies of water--including beaches!--was so strong that I did everything possible to avoid such outings.  That actually had to do with why I left Boy Scouting; when my brother-in-law insisted that I earn the swimming merit badge, even though the official handbook said I didn't have to, it became one of the many factors behind my departure after a mere thirteen months.  Even in recent years, the downtown bus route I used to take to work passed by the YMCA where I was forced to take swimming lessons nearly two decades ago, and the mere sight of it made me cringe.  I was thankful when I was so immersed in the pages of a book or a movie or TV show on my iPad that I didn't see it.  When it comes to my dislikes, you could say that I'm ardently non-enthused; I avoid them like the plague.

Regardless of who you are--friend, enemy, random Internet user, or anyone else--I don't expect you to feel the same way I do about anything.  If you don't like the Disney Channel...fine! If you love the beach...that's okay! You are entitled to your own opinion just as much as I am entitled to mine, and I'm not going to debate the issue with you.  In 2 Timothy 2, Paul warned, "Refuse to get involved in inane discussions; they always end up in fights." (MSG) Debating the good and bad aspects of garage sales or owning a dog won't get us anywhere, so, it's best that we avoid it.  It would only turn into a debate if you tried to make me give up what I like, or attempted to get me to join in an activity that isn't my thing; if I say I like or don't like something, that's my final answer, and nothing you can say can convince me otherwise.  If I do decide to give whatever a chance--or give whatever up, as the case may be--it has to be my choice, not anyone else's.  Instead of branding me as a loser or a doofus, try asking why I feel the way I do about it; you might find that my reasoning actually makes perfect sense!

Any comments?

Saturday, August 23, 2014

My Final Answer to the Relationship Issue

Most of you probably remember when Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? made, "Is that your final answer?", a national catchphrase.  I had an older friend once tell me that, when her kids would ask permission to do something she didn't approve of, she told them, "No...and that's my final answer."  She even joked, "I said that before Regis!"; I have a feeling she wasn't the only parent who could make such a claim.  Still, it's good to stand your ground; as the old saying goes, "If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything." Over the past several years, I've gone back and forth on the relationship issue; I've done everything from bemoan my lack of a significant other to proudly proclaim not having one to ask what I'm doing wrong on the relationship front to assert that one (probably) isn't in my future.  You've probably seen more posts from me about that than anything else save for entertainment.  Well, unless my life takes a surprising turn, this is going to be my last post--of any kind--on the matter.  I may reply to your comments or messages on this post, but, I'm not going to make such a declaration again.  This isn't really something I need to focus on; there are situations in my life and all over the world that deserve more attention than whether or not I'm married.  Before I start this, I want to warn you: This is going to deal with some adult topics, so, if you're not mature enough to handle them, don't read any further.  Still with me? Then, here we go.

During my elementary school years, it was all about "all the other kids."  Any time I wanted something that my mother wouldn't let me have, I'd say, "All the other kids have this!"; if I had to do something I didn't want to do, I'd tell my mom, "Other kids don't have to do this!" I didn't mean that every coeval individual on the planet had what I wanted; what I meant was, the kids that I knew--my classmates, those in my Sunday school class, my fellow Cub Scouts, the kids in my neighborhood, etc.--had whatever.  The reality was that, while some of my friends did have whatever, not all of them did, and more of them didn't have it than did.  One kid might say he had what I wanted, and was likely telling the truth, but just because Classmate X had it didn't mean that everyone else did.

Though I've since done away with desiring the material things others have--only because I have a job, which means I can buy what I want!--part of me still wants something others have, but it's something money can't buy: a relationship.  Since I joined Facebook back in 2006, I have been bombarded with photos, statuses, and other posts detailing courtships, engagements, and weddings.  It would seem that everyone else has been married for quite a while now...but, when you really check out my friends list, you'll find that right many of my friends--of all ages, I should add--not only aren't married, but don't even have a significant other.  The only reason it's not as noticeable is because people in relationships talk about them, whereas single folks mostly talk about other subjects.  Plus, most romance-related statuses and photo albums get tons of comments and likes, especially when related to weddings.  I'm not knocking that; I completely understand why that's the case.  Still, one look at the statistics shows that I'm not alone in lacking a significant other.

If there's two things our culture is obsessed with, it's love and sex.  Seriously, think about how many movies, TV shows, books, and songs from the past several decades have dealt with one or both of those subjects!  Unfortunately, most people have the wrong idea about both of them; they believe in the latter minus the former, and they also believe that the latter is the best way to express the former.  My NIV Study Bible said it best in a note on 1 John 4:8:
John says, "God is love," not, "Love is God."  Our world, with its shallow and selfish view of love, has turned these words around and has contaminated our understanding of love.  The world thinks that love is what makes a person feel good, and that it is all right to sacrifice moral principles and others' rights in order to obtain such "love"...but that isn't real love; it is the exact opposite: selfishness, and God is not that kind of "love."  Real love is like God, who is holy, just, and perfect.  If we truly know God, we will love as He does.
It's more than just the wrong idea of what love is, though; people often think there's something wrong when someone well into his or her adult years lacks a relationship.  My high school health teacher shared with us that, when she started teaching there, her co-workers assumed she was a lesbian because of her lack of a significant other...but she never was one.  Another time, I was in a courtroom because my mom was called as a witness when someone sued one of our neighbors, and said neighbor was made fun of by the judge for being divorced.  I honestly think that's part of the reason many people I meet don't want to be friends with me on Facebook; they apparently think that, if I'm well into my twenties and completely single...something must be seriously wrong! If you ask me, making such a judgmental assumption makes them the wrong ones, but, they'll never realize that.

When I think about it, those are really the only two reasons I've desired a relationship: everybody else seems to have one, and people think something is wrong with me for not having one.  Of course, there's the old parenting adage: "So, if everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" Seriously, I don't need to let peer pressure or the decisions of my friends influence me; I have to do what's best for me, not what "everybody else" thinks I should do.  I'm pretty sure that my true friends want me to be happy; if that means no significant other, that's fine with them...and it should be fine with me.

So, from now on, I will not be pursuing any relationships.  I won't ask any girls out; I won't accept any offers to join any singles clubs or online dating sites, even ones for the Christian community; I won't follow some young lady around, like I've done at least twice in the past; and, I don't want any of you reading this to try to fix me up with a single female friend of yours.  Trust me: It's better this way.

As usual for my blog posts, I have a few points I'd like to make.  Some of them may be rehashes of old blogs, but, by now, many of you have probably forgotten my old writings, if you even saw them in the first place.  First off: You've probably heard someone say that relationships aren't all they're cracked up to be...and it's true, regardless of whether he/she meant it or not.  Statistics show that the divorce rate is at record highs, and it's even higher among Christians than non-Christians.  I know many of you reading this are married, and I sincerely hope that saying, "I do," to your spouse is God's will for your life.  However, more and more marriages are ending in shambles, leaving both halves of the couple, as well as their friends, heartbroken.  The Bible does give a Scriptural reason for divorce: "marital unfaithfulness," as the NIV says it.  Sure, it's a problem when divorces aren't Scriptural...but, it's still a problem when they are.  Think about it: Marital unfaithfulness--also known as adultery or an affair--is a violation of one of the Ten Commandments! So, even if marriages are ending for Scriptural reasons, that still means somebody messed up big time!

Even outside of the realm of adultery, people--including Christians--still do things they're not really supposed to do.  I'm reminded of the incident when The Legend of Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto showed some lo-fi video of an upcoming Zelda game, and asked the members of the gaming press not to show any photos or video of it.  Of course and Nintendo Power followed his instructions; as part of the Big "N," they had to.  Still, pretty much every other website and magazine disregarded his request and had screenshots for all their readers to see.  If the guy said not to do it...why would they? The same is true for Christians: Most of them know they shouldn't leave their spouse for any other reason besides marital unfaithfulness...but they do anyway.  It happens in all areas, especially entertainment.  I've sat through Bible classes where clips from trashy movies were used to illustrate points; if Jesus had been in there, he'd have overturned the TV cart!  If you know you're not supposed to do it, then you shouldn't...but, people give in to temptation and do such things anyway.  If I get married and never cheat on my wife...who's to say she won't walk out on me regardless? It's happened to plenty of others!

Second off: The relationships I've had in the past are not the kind a potential significant other would want.  Most of you probably have heard about--or, maybe, seen--the recent movie Her, about a guy who falls in love with a female-voiced computer operating system.  I don't want to see it--the "R" rating is enough to keep me away--but, I can kind of identify with the title character.  Even before I started giving my technological devices names such as Victoria or Bridgit, they were my best friends.  For most of my life--especially during my teenage years--I spent a lot of time alone or essentially alone, making my computer, Game Boy, DVD player, and/or TV set my sole companion(s).  I became kind of attached to them; in the past two years, I lost two different faithful devices--an eMac and an Epson printer--and couldn't help but feel saddened by their departure.  I didn't cry, but, I sure wasn't indifferent about it.  I also felt terrible when mishaps involving Danielle, my iPod touch--dropping her on the cement and cracking her screen, as well as inadvertently washing her--happened; after "she" came back from getting her screen repaired on February 14, I said, "Today is the best Valentine's Day ever."  It thrilled me that she mostly recovered from her washing machine encounter, too.  Most people know: My technology is important to me.

The problem there is: You can't treat another human being--including a significant other--like an iPad or Nintendo GameCube.  Technology only exists to serve its user; if it doesn't do what you tell it to do, something is wrong.  Human beings, however, have free will.  If I want someone to go to a movie with me, he or she has every right to decline, and the reasons aren't for me to refute; that would just lead to an argument that wouldn't get us anywhere.  That's something I know from experience, as I have been on both ends.  Other people don't exist just to serve me; they have their own needs and wants, too, and it's wrong for me to think that they have no purpose except to obey my beck and call.  I can sit there and say that...but, can I put it into practice? Doubtful.

Lastly: Celebrity crushes are rather pointless, and don't really serve as a substitute for a relationship.  Most of you know how far back I go with having a thing for various actresses; in many cases, I told anyone who would listen about my latest "woman".  Still, it's rather immature to do such a thing; it was fine back when I was in high school, but, at the age of twenty-six, I can see why some people find it to be off-putting.  It's one thing to admire someone's acting ability or vocal prowess, but, to bandy about some famous girl's name as if she is your best friend is just wrong.  Part of the reason I did it was because each actress--as far as I knew, anyway--was what I liked in celebrities: talented, clean-cut, beautiful, etc.  She also served as the "icon" for my tastes in entertainment.  However, I realized long ago that focusing only on one entity makes you miss out on nearly everything else, which is why I've broadened my tastes.  I still do "Woman Crush Wednesday" every week on Facebook, but, that's to admire various famous ladies, not just one; in the future, I'm planning on featuring some women that are known for something other than physical attractiveness.

Here's my conclusion, and it's going to be brief: This may likely be the last blog post I'll write for a while; don't hold your breath for an update.