Tuesday, December 27, 2016

If It Makes You Happy...

Since joining Facebook just over a decade ago, I have been bombarded with relationship news.  I've heard about the dates, engagements, marriages, breakups, divorces, etc., of various people, both longtime friends and people--usually from high school--who I knew of, but didn't really know.  For a while, there was a lot of gushing, because many of my coeval friends were in the dating phase; now that most of them are married, and right many of them have kids, their focus has shifted.  Still, back then, the gushing got to me, and it wasn't because of jealousy; in fact, it still kind of does, and for two reasons: First off, it's because it tended to be repetitive, which would make it annoying; if I'm annoying because I always talk about the Disney Channel, or my computer game is annoying because it keeps making the same sound over and over again...isn't someone constantly posting essentially the same thing time and time again just as annoying? Second off, because it's spam.  Before Facebook, I was an active member on a forum for fans of the Christian band dc Talk, and the moderators were tough on spam, which was pretty much defined as posting without saying anything interesting; essentially, a waste of bandwidth.  Well, imagine my surprise when Facebook is rife with such posts, and there's no moderator to report them to.

One thing that I was accused of back then was trying to take away people's happiness...which was definitely not my intent.  If you're in a relationship, I hope it continues to make you happy; though I'm a lifelong single myself, I've seen the pain that breakups, divorces, and widowhood have brought to friends and family...and I wouldn't wish that on anyone.  However, you have to realize something: Throughout my life--well before Facebook!--entertainment was my favorite topic of conversation.  It took different forms--celebrity crushes, television shows, jokes, video games, movies, calendars, etc.--but, many times, it was all I could talk about.  That's held true in the past decade, both on Facebook and off; everyone who knows me knows about my penchant for the Disney Channel and old-school television, even if they know nothing else about me.  However, people have unfriended me for gushing about my favorite stars, shows, or whatever else.  They've called it "disturbing," and refused to explain why after being asked; they've lamented about how a star got "more respect than" them; and, in most cases, they've just disappeared without any rhyme or reason, leaving me to speculate what happened.  I talk about my entertainment for the same reason you talk about your significant others and your kids: It makes me happy.  I don't want to take away your happiness, and I would hope you wouldn't want to take away mine.

That said, not everything I've ever talked about has made me happy.  You probably know that I've had problems with numerous people--way too many to list--over the years.  The problems became even worse when I tried to lament about them, because the individuals I had issues with were often well-liked by those that knew them, sometimes almost unanimously so.  Whatever good they did to others, that doesn't excuse the way they treated me; seriously, we're talking about people who did the unthinkable: seeing fit to punish me for saying, "Na nu, na nu," to someone else; videotaping me being harassed, and lying about it; publicly mortifying me on Facebook in a comment on a note that wasn't even intended for that individual; or causing a fiasco that lasted weeks because an entire group of people refused to take no for an answer to an "invitation" to an activity they all knew I wasn't interested in.  Worse yet, those individuals refused to apologize for what they did; instead of seeking forgiveness, all I got was excuses, as if they were proud of what they did.  Such injustices make me sick, especially when other people talk of the individuals responsible as if they're the greatest thing since sliced bread, giving them adulations such as, "They're the best friends you've ever had!", "They are your biggest advocates!", or, "You have no idea how accepted you were by them!" That's bullfunky if I've ever heard it...but, nobody else seems to realize that.

When I lament about problems with others, that's exactly what it is: a lament.  It's not a bashing session; I'm not making fun of them; I'm simply wondering why it has to be that way, especially since, in many cases, I never did anything to them to make them act that way.  One such incident that sticks in my mine to this day, even though it happened many years ago, was when some people I knew thought I couldn't hear them, and started complaining about me, saying that I talked about a certain individual "like she's...the devil".  Another person who was part of that conversation said that she "got so mad" when I started doing that.  Well, you know what? Those things I said didn't make me happy either.  Instead of getting mad because I was lamenting about someone they admired, they should have asked themselves: Why is he saying these things? Are these things true? Is this person I admire really "all that and a bag of chips" like everyone seems to think? It's actually kind of funny to me now: Before that conversation that I wasn't supposed to hear, the person who was so infuriated talked about someone--okay, a reality show contestant, but a divinely created individual nonetheless!--in a very ugly way, calling her "Jersey Trash" because she was from New Jersey, as well as "Giggle Ender" because she had a tendency to end everything she said with a giggle.  So, you're going to bash someone you've never even met because of where she is from, which she can't help, and because of a nervous habit, which she presumably can't help...yet, you're going to get all out of joint because I say from personal experience that someone isn't who everyone says she is.  Even worse, another person who was part of the discussion was also from New Jersey! Unfortunately, that's the kind of double standard I've been facing my whole life...which is why it has always been tough to make and keep friends.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

"And Good Night to the Pail!"

Before I start, let me say this: If you do not consider yourself a Christian, please do not read any further.  Thank you.

When I was a senior in high school, I attended a vocational class on computer networking.  Though I had been looking forward to it for quite a while, it was rough at first because of a jerk classmate.  This guy was a devout agnostic, and was an even sorrier individual than the professor Kevin Sorbo played in God's Not Dead.  Years later, I made friends with another agnostic--ironically, through a random meeting at church--who was nothing like that classmate; when I told her of his actions, she said, "Well, that's immature." What made it even worse was that said classmate was one of only two people I ever knew to be engaged while in high school; even my friends and former friends who dated in high school didn't get engaged until well after graduating, sometimes dating other people before reuniting.  The guy in question moved early in the year, and I was not sad to see him go.  I don't know what happened with him and his significant other; my hope is that he learned the error of his ways, but, I'll probably never know.

That unfortunate encounter is all the more alarming eleven years later.  Why the biggest jerk I've ever known can be engaged while still a teenager, while I'm twenty-eight and have been on exactly zero dates, completely boggles my mind.  Upon thinking of that incident while being bombarded with other engagement news--including that of a significantly younger former fellow church member--this holiday season, it almost makes me feel like a video game player who is stuck on one level, or a computer user who can't get his/her Mac to do what he/she wants it to do: I'm asking myself, "What am I not doing? What do I need to do?" I've already done everything everyone suggested: I improved my hygiene; I got a job; I gave up the celebrity crushes; I stopped lamenting about the failed attempts at starting a relationship...and, for what? The only times my relationship status has changed has been on April Fool's Day!

Lately, I've been thinking about it a lot, and I think I've come up with two very big reasons that prevent me from getting a date...and they aren't likely to ever change.  First off: I have too many friends of the fairer sex to focus on just one.  For some reason, women love me.  Okay, not all women do--I currently know some who despise me, though, in some cases, the reasons are unclear--but, for a long time, I've been adored by many a female friend.  My high school Spanish teacher was one of them; she reportedly talked about me constantly to her other classes, even gushing about my love for the Disney Channel.  She wasn't the only one, though; other female friends--of all ages, I should add--have taken a liking to me, and many of them still feel that way.  The problem? Having that many opposite gender friends makes it impossible to "tie myself down".  Okay, I hate that term, but, I don't know how else to say it; seriously, having a girlfriend would be a threat to most of my friendships, because I can just imagine my significant other getting jealous when I start talking to all of my friends at church.  Maybe, after a while, there might be some trust there...but, that takes time.

Second off, and this one is even bigger: My "loves" are too important to me for me to focus on a relationship.  Some time ago, a divorced Facebook friend lamented about her broken marriage via a meme, saying that her ex pushed her aside in favor of other things, such as the military.  That goes to show that it doesn't necessarily have to be an affair that ends a marriage; it could be anyone or anything.  I'm reminded of the Christmas episode of Home Improvement where Ilene is all upset because Al--her significant other--is putting his mother ahead of her.  When Al asks Tim about it, Tim gives him some very blunt advice: "You want to get married, have kids one day, right? [...] I don't see that happening with your mother!" In typical sitcom fashion, Al learns the error of his ways by the time the credits roll.  Even if it's not another person, having something be a bigger priority than your relationship is a one-way ticket to splitsville.

Years ago, I gained an aunt when a lady married my uncle; my mom's only brother.  The two of them passed away a long time ago...but, they almost didn't get married! My uncle--who was that odd uncle everyone has--was too enamored with his canine companions to think about saying, "I do"; even when they did get married, they didn't live in the same house (no joke), and she was constantly complaining about him.  She once joked about "growing an extra set of legs and a tail" in order for him to love her.  I've never been one to go to the dogs, but, sometimes, that's what I think my female friends are thinking when it comes to my entertainment: "The only way he would ever go out with me is if I got my own show on the Disney Channel, or took down a bad guy with super strength and heat vision like Supergirl, or suddenly transformed into Mindy McConnell, Lizzie McGuire, or one of those Australian mermaids." Since none of those are likely to happen to any of my friends--especially the latter ones!--it seems that they'll never be able to get my attention; at least, not the way they want.

The truth--as much as it pains me to admit it--is this: Entertainment is where my heart has always lied.  I was never one to really get that into things, unless they had to do with entertainment.  That's why I work at a library: I shelve, arrange, and organize books, CDs, audiobooks, DVDs, magazines, etc.,...aka entertainment.  When I was younger, my family members tried to get me into other things--swimming lessons, Boy Scouting, AVID, a local program called Chrome, etc.--and I just wasn't interested...because they had nothing to do with entertainment.  During my last two years of high school, my classmates--and others--were practically begging me to go to ring dance--aka junior prom--and senior prom, and I didn't go...because I just wasn't interested; I would much rather have stayed home and watched television.  You probably think, "That's crazy! How could you miss both of your proms? You're going to regret that one day!" Well, it's been over a decade, and I still don't; that wasn't a priority back then, and still isn't today.  Seeing references to school dances does not bother me one bit; I know the ones at my schools would have been much bawdier than the one in Good Luck Charlie.

At times, entertainment being my priority has caused problems.  You may remember the oft-quoted lament from a former friend after our "falling out": "That's just great! Some actress you're never going to meet gets more respect than a real-life friend! Yes, I'm being sarcastic!" If she had realized my true intent with what I said--that my statement was intended to make her laugh, and I never wanted her or anyone else to actually do what I said--she would have realized that I meant no disrespect.  Still, I think others have unfriended me because of my shameless devotion to entertainment; they know what's going on with Siobhan Magnus, but they have no idea what's going on with me.  I can't stop people from unfriending me, and I have to be true to myself...and that means being an entertainment lover.  Practically all of my previous obsessions and even all of my interests in general fall into that category: computer games, video games, book series, comic strips, celebrities, and, especially, television shows! Seriously: Who else do you know who learned his/her letters from Wheel of Fortune?

Now, for my conclusion: For this coming year, my resolution--well, one of them, anyway--is to not worry about my relationship status anymore.  I'll use the Italian adage: E buona notte al secchio! Literally translated, it means, "And good night to the pail!" Figuratively, it means, "That's that; there's nothing more I can do!" Seriously, I've done everything in my power to change my relationship status, and nothing has worked; I'm simply going to let go and let God.  If it happens, great; who knows? It may happen in 2017! It may never happen, though, but I have plenty to love in my life--my family, my friends, and my hobbies--without a significant other.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Is My Entertainment Diet Preventing Me From Getting A Date?

Unless you've known me all my life--and few of you have--you probably identified me with some sort of entertainment when you first met me...and you probably still do.  What it was depends on when and where we met: it could have been anything from Nintendo GameCube to the Disney Channel (of course) to Scooby-Doo and Pokémon (two very different franchises...at the same time) to even Garfield.  Whatever it was, you probably heard more about it than you cared to; thankfully, I'm past the days of talking about my favorite things for half an hour...because nobody wants to hear that, unless they're trying to fall asleep! As a kid, it took me longer to differentiate between fantasy and the real world; I still thought my favorite cartoons were real as late as fourth grade...but that eventually subsided.  Plus, as I got more into live-action television, they had a real aspect to them; Lizzie McGuire may not have been a real person, but Hilary Duff, who played her, was.

Still, I often have trouble differentiating between fantasy and reality...just in a different way.  Other than superhero cartoons, most of the shows I watch have a realistic aspect to them...but, it can be hard to tell what can really happen and what can't.  Can a problem really be worked out this easily? Would one of my female friends be as understanding as the young woman in this Disney Channel Original Movie? Is what they're doing in this book as fun as it sounds? Lately, it seems that the line between fantasy and reality continues to be blurred; we have fictional bands such as the Monkees and Lemonade Mouth who sell records like hotcakes, and books that are "written" by people who don't even exist.  Seriously, I came across a Lost tie-in book where the usual "This is a work of fiction" disclaimer was accompanied by words I'd never seen previously: "Even the author himself is a fictional character." That just makes it all the more confusing for people like me.

As usual, I'll do my three points.  First off: Entertainment has set unrealistic expectations for relationships for me.  Most romantic comedies--at least, the kind I watch--feature a man and woman who, at first, don't care for each other...then, they fall in love...and, then, they get married.  Sometimes, people go from first meeting to saying, "I do," rather quickly; I have a friend who did just that, is still married, and must have been for a while, because she has a college-aged daughter.  Not knowing each other for very long isn't a sign that you're headed for divorce rather quickly any more than knowing each other all your lives means you'll stay together until you die.  Still, in most cases--especially in the Christian realm, where marriage is held as a divine institution--people want to know someone well before they marry them.  To a degree, I agree with that; I'm the kind of person who likes to know what I'm getting before I get it.  If something unexpected happens, and it throws a wrench in our plans, it throws me for a loop...and it did even worse to me when I was younger.  Still, when it comes to meeting single girls around my age, I've started planning what "our song" would be or my niece calling them "aunt" before I've even asked them out.  When a certain high school classmate--guess which one--told me she wasn't interested in dating after I told her how I felt about her, I was shocked, because I wasn't really interested in dating either.  What was I interested in? Hanging out together, and eventually getting married...but not dating; who needed that mess? Apparently, I do, or else I'm not going to get anywhere relationship-wise.

Second off: Entertainment has set unrealistic expectations when it comes to resolving conflicts.  My mom has a DVD by author/motivational speaker Andy Andrews where he says that "anger management" is a crock; what it really should be about is anger resolution.  I say the same thing about conflicts; instead of holding on to them, just work them out! That's a product of growing up on sitcoms and movies where problems were resolved by the time the credits rolled.  Tim Taylor listened to Wilson and made up for what he did to his wife; the troubled kid nearly prevented his mother's marriage, until someone found the one person he would listen to; Dr. Sloan found the one piece of evidence that convicted the murderer; and...well, you get it.  Unfortunately, it seems that far too many people are not like those characters; no matter what you say or do, they're not going to apologize or make up for what they've done.  You can get other people, including authority figures, involved; you can quote the Bible; you could explain it to them in terms so simple that a first grader could understand them...and it gets you nowhere; they're too obstinate to care.  I'm reminded of what I once heard about a celebrity couple--who will remain nameless--who got divorced when the wife became emotionally involved with another man.  While she cited "irreconcilable differences," her ex was quoted as saying, "There was only one irreconcilable difference: I wanted her to stay, and she wanted to leave."  That's the way it is way too many times, and not just in marital situations.  I often look back and realize how wrong I was about things...so, is it wrong to expect other people to see the errors of their ways? It sure seems like it.

Third off: Entertainment has set unrealistic expectations for what the women in my life should do.  Here's a quotation from a Facebook status of mine from September:
Disney Channel has a knack for having female protagonists who are at once smart, spunky, strong, sweet, and lovely. That may be just television, but, I believe that such women exist in real life...because I've known lots of them. True, some of them have been older--much older, in some cases--but, regardless of age, I admire them for who they are and what they do.
 You could say the same thing about other female leads from other favorite shows and movies of mine, such as Mindy McConnell, Supergirl, or Princess Leia.  Strong women have been the "in" thing for quite a while, and are present in practically every popular entertainment franchise these days; years ago, I read an article in one of my mom's magazines that said of the Disney Channel shows of the day, "It's like a Gloria Steinem field day!" So, when I've thought about a relationship, I've always expected the woman to take charge: to ask me out, to drive me in her car, to propose marriage to me, etc.  While that may be true in some relationships--and what isn't these days?--in most cases--especially with Christians, who hold fast to old-school values--it's solely up to the guy to take charge.  Honestly, I'm not used to leading; I'm the only guy I know who has never been in a leadership position.  I'm not married; I have no kids; I'm the low man on the totem pole at work; I have no younger siblings or even any younger first cousins; I've never been able to train our dogs to do anything more than "sit"; and, I have never been a Bible class teacher or leader of any sort, other than one brief impromptu attempt at leading singing.  In everything I've done, I've always been led by women somehow, even in male-focused organizations such as Cub/Boy Scouting...so, why wouldn't I expect a woman to take the lead in a relationship? It's what I see them do on television and in books all the time!  You may say that that's fiction, and it is...but it seems so real!

Now, for my two concluding points.  First off: I recently read a book that told of a lonely young woman whose "only companions at home were on the other side of the television screen."  I've felt that way, too; when my mom worked a lot, and I was left alone--or with my oldest sister, which was essentially like being alone--cable television and my Nintendo GameCube were my best friends.  I think that was why I did the whole celebrity crush thing: Lizzie McGuire and Maddie Fitzpatrick were the closest things I had to constant companions or dates for the evening.  I'm not alone as much now, but, I still wish I had a companion around my age who did things with me, who understood me, who I could talk with about anything.  I haven't had that in years; most of the friends who used to do things with me have moved, passed away, disappeared, or won't talk to me anymore.  If I could just find a friend like Lizzie, I'd be simply overjoyed.

Second off: One of the things about the entertainment franchises I've always liked is that they usually have an earnest goodness.  You may remember some years ago before Man of Steel came out, where the makers said that they were going to go "as dark as the character [of Superman] will allow," saying that such "earnest goodness" is a hard sell.  For me, it's not a tough sell; I've always liked Supe because of his good nature.  Then again, you have to remember that I was raised on other cutesy franchises, such as Garfield, Pokémon, and Disney.  Most of my favorite characters--regardless of gender or anything else--have such a trait...but, that's not usually the case in real life.  Everyone has their demons, so to speak, and you probably won't know about them unless you're really, really close to them...which I would be to a woman I was married to.  I've admired many Christian women I've known over the years, but...how do I know what they're like behind closed doors? If I were to do a Freaky Friday-style body switch with their husbands or kids--that is, nobody else knew about it--would I see a side of them I never knew existed? It's hard to say...but, I kind of don't want to find out; I could end up married to a jerk, and not know it until it was too late.  If that happened, I'd feel like shooting myself; I couldn't bear coming home to emotional abuse and harassment every day, because I've already suffered enough of that for a lifetime.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why I Still Don't Feel Like an Adult...And Probably Never Will

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time hanging out with adults.  I usually preferred the company of people older than me because I couldn't stand the immaturity of people my age...and, to a degree, I still feel that way, as "young adults" can act like they're still in the seventh grade at times.  Still, I did have friends as a kid, though many of them I've hardly seen in years, as they moved away and/or we eventually lost contact.  While Facebook has helped on that front, it's hard when you don't have very much information to go on besides a very common first and last name combination.  When dealing with kids versus adults back then, there were some very big differences...and not just about maturity; in fact, while I knew plenty of immature kids, the ones who were my friends tended to act in a more mature way than many adults I knew.  Even less than two years away from the big three-oh, those traits are still true of most adults I know from anywhere--church, school, work, the neighborhood, my family, etc.--which is why I still feel like a kid among a bunch of adults.

What are the traits? First off: Adults can drive; kids can't. Yes, I know most people get their driver's license and first vehicle in high school, but I'm talking about "back in the day," like elementary or middle school.  If I knew an adult, chances were he or she could drive me from one place to another.  True, there were exceptions to that, but some of those people I had no idea lacked a driver's license until I was nearly an adult.  It wasn't even just me; some years ago, when I mentioned to some church friends that a fellow church member--remember, I don't name names on this blog!--didn't drive, people were shocked.  They had no idea because he/she didn't broadcast it like I always have; I've talked about it so much, people who don't even like me probably know I've never had my license.  Currently, most of the adults I know who don't drive are handicapped somehow...and I don't mean like I am with my "condition," which I've said before is not truly a disability.  However, despite the constant urging of others, I can't fight the feeling that driving is just not for me, for reasons that you may not know about.  The more I think about it, the more I think it's just not a good idea...but, because I don't drive, I feel like I'm still in elementary or middle school, relying on my family members and occasionally others to drive me to church, the used bookstore, garage sales, the doctor's office, etc.  Most of my friends my own age don't have to worry about that at all; they go and come as they please, and don't need someone else to take them where they need or want to go...which makes me feel like an outsider.

Second off: Adults are married or have been at one point; kids never have been. Again, there are exceptions to this rule, but...when I was a kid, I seldom knew any grown-ups who had never had a spouse.  Even if I never met their husband or wife, I knew that had said "I do" at one time in their lives.  My family members tended to get married young; in fact, the three women that raised me--my mom, my middle sister, and my grandmother--all got married when they were teenagers.  Even if I knew an adult who wasn't married when I first met him or her, they soon wed.  My fourth grade teacher wasn't married the year I had him, but he became that way the next year.  In seventh grade, my homeroom teacher had no husband, but a boyfriend who looked like Shaggy of Scooby-Doo fame...yet, I had her again eighth grade year, when she married him during Christmas break.  It was actually kind of funny: She went from a last name that everybody seemed to mispronounce or misspell to the surname Jones...which is something she said she had always hoped for.  Even the two teachers I had who were fresh out of college--my eighth grade Spanish teacher and my junior English teacher--were already married before the first day of class.

In recent times, while I do know some people around my age who aren't married and never have been, the list is getting shorter and shorter.  Just recently, a young lady on my friends list announced that she had been married for three months to a guy she had said to be simply dating, and just hadn't revealed it on Facebook yet.  Other friends of mine, including ones I practically grew up with, have been wed for quite a while now...yet, I haven't even been on a first date.  You know the stories of how I've tried to start a relationship and failed; that may have been divine protection, but, whatever the reason is, my lack of a wife still makes me feel like a kid...and as an outsider when hanging out with other adults, especially my coevals.

Third off: Adults have kids or are planning on having them; kids don't because they're still kids themselves.  Like with the other rules, there were a few exceptions, but, whether young or old, you could pretty much bet that the adults I knew had at least one child of some sort...or wanted to.  My aforementioned eighth grade homeroom teacher who got married during Christmas break announced before the year was up that she was expecting, though, she must have been due well after the year was over, because, even on the last day, she wasn't showing yet.  Even if my older friends didn't have biological children, they had stepchildren, adopted children, or some younger person who thought of them as a parental figure.  In all honesty, I have never wanted kids; I don't see myself as a father, partly because, growing up, I had no earthly father to speak of.  I remember a conversation I had with someone where I said that I didn't want to get married because I didn't want kids, and she said, "You don't have to have kids if you're married; we're married, and we don't have kids." That argument would have worked...if it hadn't been for the fact that I'd often heard her and her spouse talk about being parents one day...which they are now, and have been for a while.

When I was in middle school, I remember a friend telling me that he knew a girl who had gotten pregnant when she was only twelve, and bragged about it, saying, "I'm more woman than all y'all." I told my mom what my friend said, and she was disturbed by that, saying, "That's just a baby having a baby." Regardless of your beliefs about sex, I'm sure we can all agree that someone shouldn't become a parent if they're not mature to take care of a kid...and, at the age of twenty-eight, I'm still not, because I'm largely a kid myself, and not just because I watch the Disney Channel. A now-former friend once told me, "Jerry, I truly believe you have the potential to hold down a job, live on your own, and have a happy, full life with friends and, God willing, a wife/family."  While I've "held down a job" for nearly half a decade now, and I do have friends, it just doesn't seem like a wife and a family are in my future...at any point.

Now, for my two concluding points. First off: How can I know that these things aren't in my future? Simple: Logic! Years ago, I posted a Facebook note that upset some of my friends because it said that a relationship simply wasn't in my future, which I knew because I had correctly predicted other events before they happened, and they accused me of claiming to be omniscient.  I know what omniscient means--all-knowing--and just because I know a select few things will happen before they actually do doesn't mean I'm claiming anything of the sort.  Meteorologists tell you how the weather will be in the future...but can they tell you what your life will be like five years down the road? Of course not! Like someone who predicts the weather, I simply use the signs around me to come up with the likely outcome.  I may be wrong, but I wouldn't say something like that if I weren't relatively sure.

I've used logic like this before, and people were upset by it, but I knew I was right the whole time.  You may remember some years ago when I went to a place called Woodrow Wilson Rehab Center, which was for people with disabilities.  I'd heard good things about it, but that place did me no good; I left with nothing to show for it, and even the friends I made there have all since unfriended me.  That place didn't even do what they said they were going to do, and in more ways than one.  However, the biggest problem was something I always knew: I wasn't really disabled.  If I were, I wouldn't have been able to graduate with honors from my community college, or do most of the things I do on a regular basis.  If you look at the people I went there with, you'd see that they were worse off than I was, even if they had the same condition.  The problem was: Practically everyone I knew was begging and pleading with me to go, and I only went because I felt like I had no choice...even though I knew it was a mistake.  The same was true of Boy Scouting: I didn't want to join, but ended up doing it against my will...and found it to be terrible for reasons that I previously knew, and plenty more that I didn't.  Even when my mom brought home the infamous dog named Sparky in 2002, I knew it was a mistake, because he was a bigger dog, and we hadn't had a good track record with canines that size; some months prior, a friend gave us a purebred boxer to replace the dog we'd just lost, and we ended up giving it back; that big dog got out of our fenced-in backyard by merely jumping over, not to mention that it nearly knocked over my grandmother, who could have been seriously hurt, to try to get out of the house.  So, after that experience...why would we need another dog the same size? I told my mom to get rid of him, and that, by not doing so, she was "just prolonging the inevitable," but she disagreed...even after I was proven right when she ended up taking him back to the animal shelter, just like I said would happen from day one.  If she had listened, she could have avoided the heartbreak, or, at least, got it over with sooner...but nobody was willing to do that.

Second off: Many adults I know have made me want to stick to my childlike ways, even though they don't even know they've done it.  I recently saw a rather disturbing video online of a grown married woman who often acts like a baby or toddler, even though she is perfectly capable of adult conversation.  It isn't a sexual thing; it's just a fun thing that she and her husband like to do.  She is the kid; he is the father.  I don't regress in age that far back, but I can tell you that acting like a kid isn't just an act; it's who I am, whether you like it or not.  When I hear about the things adults have to deal with--divorces, becoming widows/widowers, disobedient children, accidental pregnancies both inside and outside of marriage, immature behavior that can't be stopped, etc.--I want no part of that; it makes me want to stick to being a kid.  When I sit around and watch Liv & Maddie or read Nancy Drew, it takes me from where I am to where I want to be: a world where people work together to easily resolve conflicts and solve problems, and one sans all the crudity and profanity that I've been bombarded with since I started middle school.  I may be tuning out the real world, but it seems like I need to; this planet has seriously gone past the point of no return.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Why I Do..., No. 5: Why I Love Entertainment

If there's one thing I've talked about more than anything else, it's entertainment.  Back in the day, my favorite television shows, video games, music, books, computer games, movies, celebrities, etc., were constantly the topic of conversation.  Most of my previous obsessions--or whatever you want to call them--fall into the category of entertainment, particularly the audiovisual variety.  Even though my tastes are currently broader than they've ever been, some of the media I adored when I was a kid is still among my favorites.

Truth be told, some of the entertainment I currently like I used to make fun of.  In the late '90's, I had friends who were watching some good-versus-evil cartoon, and I jokingly rooted for the bad guys.  One of my friends said, "You should root for the good guys; you know they're gonna win!", to which I replied, "Then, what's the point of watching?" Back then, I was so naive that I thought good always won in real life...but, as I grew up and faced one injustice after another, I learned that wasn't true.  In seventh grade, I was put in a different class than my friends from sixth grade...and I was none too happy about it.  I spent the whole year crusading to get my team switched, and it got me nowhere; the only one who could do anything about it was the jerk assistant principal, and she did nothing but balk.  Sure, they gave me supposed reasons why they did what they did, but it didn't seem to add up; like in many cases, the people who could have done something wouldn't, and the people who wanted to do something couldn't.  That point was driven home even further two years after I graduated from high school, when a longtime friend was kicked out of his dream college because of something he didn't do.  If it were an episode of Monk or Murder, She Wrote, his innocence would have been proven and the true culprit would have been charged...but, that never happened.

A common feeling among millenials--that is, people born between 1980 and 2000, which would include yours truly--is that the system has failed us.  Many of us went to college in hopes of finding a well-paying job, only for the economy to be so terrible we had to work well below our degree just to make ends meet.  We've also been put through the wringer by the public school system; I know I've had teachers lie to me, embarrass me and others, tear into me and/or my classmates over nothing, and, in one case, throw a temper tantrum in front of her whole class.  Unless you were homeschooled--and maybe even if you were--you people of my generation probably have similar stories.  It's kind of funny when I look back on an incident where I found out a teacher had lied to me; the people I told either said she was mistaken, or I was.  Why did they say that? Simple: They were adults.  Back when they were in school, it may have been unthinkable for a teacher to knowingly deceive a student...but, even up to that point, I'd seen that and worse.  While I had a scant few--I can only think of three--teachers who never did me wrong, most of the "good" ones I had actually did me wrong at some point; it was just that the good they did outweighed the bad, whereas some of the others did me so much wrong, they'd have had to take a bullet for me for me to give them anything higher than a "D," were I to grade all my instructors.  Too many of them I'd give an "incomplete" just because it's the absolute lowest grade; in my opinion, they don't deserve anything better.

Due to my "condition" and upbringing, I have a better idea than most about how terrible the "system" is.  You wouldn't believe the ridiculous things the insurance companies and even medical professionals such as nurse's aides said and did regarding my oldest sister, who, for those who don't know, had a severe case of cerebral palsy that made her unable to do pretty much anything, including walk, talk, or hear.  The situation got so bad at one point that my mom had to get real-life JAG officers involved.  Also, because of my "condition," I was put at the mercy of too many people who didn't know what they were doing...but sure thought they did! Add to that the fact that I grew up sans a father, and I can say without any doubt: The system has failed me!

The motivational speaker Andy Andrews tells a hilarious story of participating in little league baseball.  Long story short, a new coach tells the team to "take a rap" and "pray hard," and they can't figure out why...until they hear him speaking of "basebar" and "basebar prayers".  After they figured out that he couldn't say his "L's," they had a field day making fun of him...but the funniest moment came when a kid got taken off the team through no fault of his own.  When the coach announced it to the team, he tried to say, "It's not his fault; it's the system's fault," but, due to his speech impediment, the word "fault" came out sounding like a slang word for a bodily function; guess which one! All joking aside, like that departing "basebar prayer," I often feel like the problems I've faced aren't my fault; they aren't my parents' fault; they aren't my friends' fault; they're the system's fault!

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people condone others' sins.  Some of you may remember back in October of 2014, when I proudly announced on Facebook that I had given up the celebrity crushes.  All of my Facebook friends who saw it, even ones who barely knew me, were happy for me...except for one friend I'd known since 2000, who replied to me sharing the good news by blocking me.  I was shocked.  How could she do that? Didn't she realize what a big thing that was? Did she not know how mad her deceased mother--who adored me--would have been if she had lived to see her do that to me? When I made it public that I had unfriended someone I was romantically interested in because she had gotten engaged, I faced serious backlash; people were saying, "This is unacceptable!" and unfriending me.  I agree that was not only wrong, but unthinkable, and I regret it to this day...but, when someone did essentially the same thing to me, all I got was defense! Seriously? What happened to "Rejoice with those who rejoice"? It may not have been made public, but, that doesn't make it any less sinful.

It also seems that too many Christians don't take their faith seriously.  Of course we want to get to heaven--everyone should, considering the alternative!--but, too many times, people of the Way act like new Boy Scouts who want to get Eagle, but just expect the badge handed to them; they don't want to work for it.  You wouldn't believe the defenses people have given for others' wrongdoing or even their own.  I once argued with someone who admitted that what I was telling him to do was the right thing...but still refused to do it! Does the Bible not say, "If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn't do it, it is sin for them"? It also talks of "an unrepentant heart" being a cause of God's wrath.  I don't know about you, but, I, for one, don't want to face the wrath of God, so, I make sure my heart is as repentant as can be...but nobody else seems to; they're proud of what they've done, which bugs me to no end.

By now, you're probably wondering what all this has to do with entertainment.  Simply this: Even though the system has failed me and people often do the same, entertainment rarely does.  I'm a sucker for a good story, so, pretty much any movie or book with clean content can draw me in and keep me until the end.  I don't just watch anything that comes on television or arrives in cinemas or at the library; I handpick everything I watch, read, listen to, play, etc., to make sure it's worthwhile.  True, some family-friendly shows are not that great for other reasons; a few months ago, I was disappointed with the Legend of Zelda cartoon series, despite making a special request for it at the library...but, that's still better than most of what comes down the pipeline these days! I can count on old-school shows, Disney Channel productions, Christian media, and similar entities to pretty much always be good...but, I can't count on that from much else.

One thing I will add: Oftentimes, shows--especially sitcoms--feature conflict resolution.  In the early episodes of Home Improvement, the plot would be generally the same: Tim would get into hot water with his wife, seek advice from Wilson, and realize the error of his ways.  It was actually smart of Tim to listen to Wilson; too many people these days wouldn't listen, but instead reply with, "Forget your stupid old proverbs and ancient sayings; I'm going to do what I want to do!"...but, Tim never did.  True, situation comedies are known for solving problems in half an hour...but, some real problems would be solved much sooner if the offending party would just admit they're wrong, apologize, and make amends. Unfortunately, that seems to seldom happen in real life, so, I choose to "hang out" where it does: in fictional universes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Last Word On..., No. 5: Boy Scouting

Most of you reading this already know I was in Scouting for a while...but most of you also wouldn't know that if I never told you, even if you knew me when I was in it, unless you were somehow involved with it yourself.  In my daily ponderings, I often think back on my time in Scouting, and what it means to me today.  Those weren't my glory days by any stretch of the imagination, so, it's not reminiscing about "the good old days"; it's actually the things I learned from my experience, most of which have nothing to do with camping, tying knots, hiking, and the things that you're actually supposed to learn in Scouting.  On this blog and elsewhere, I've often talked at length about my experiences, but, every so often, a new realization comes up, and it causes me to think about what happened back then in ways that I hadn't before.  As I had said before about this series of posts, this will be my final word on each topic, and I won't be replying to any comments, though you are free to respond if you wish.  Still with me? Then, here we go.

First off: Joining Boy Scouting went against my better judgment, but I did it anyway...and it ended up being worse than I ever could have imagined.  In January of 1998, I joined a Cub Scout troop that a friend from church was a member of, and I had fun...but, then, in 2000, I finished Cub Scouting, and it was time for me to cross over to Boy Scouting.  However, I almost didn't do it; it was only because my sister insisted, because she felt that I needed to be doing things with other guys.  However, there was a serious flaw in her logic: I didn't mind hanging out with people of the same gender--in fact, I often did that during lunchtime at school--but I did mind what everyone knows Boy Scouts do: camping, hiking, etc., all of which everyone who knows me knows is just not my thing.  Still, I reluctantly joined the Boy Scout troop my church sponsored...and things just continued to get worse the longer I stayed.  Between corrupt leadership, Scouts dropping out left and right (more on both of those later), and extraneous costs (seriously, forty bucks per year just to be a member?), it was just one problem after another.  After about thirteen months, my mom had enough and decided to pull the plug on it; she felt that the program was not a good fit for me, which is what I had said from the beginning.  Not only that, but, during my time in Scouting--both Cub Scouting and Boy Scouting, that is--they continually bent the rules for my sake, to the point where I had to be the only sixth grader in the country still in Cub Scouting.  When people--in Scouting or anywhere else--bent the rules for me in the past, I used to milk it for all it was worth...but, over time, I started to feel bad about it, and that happened in Scouting as well; I began to think that if they kept having to bend the rules for me, I shouldn't even be in it at all.

Second off: It seemed like nobody in my troop actually wanted to be a Boy Scout.  Of the millions of boys who have been in Scouting in the past century or so, only about four or five percent have actually completed the program and earned Eagle.  Some people would say that the majority of boys who don't are just lazy, or want something for nothing.  Maybe, in some cases, that's true...but, in my troop, there were bigger problems going on.  I constantly heard Scouts saying that "it's not fun anymore," and some complaints I heard were even worse than that.  Probably the worst complaint came from a fellow church member who was also in my troop; when we were all asked to share with the rest of the middle school group what the best and worst times in our lives were, he said, "The worst time in my life was the Klondike Derby." For those who don't know, the Klondike Derby is a camping trip that the Scouts go on every winter.  I actually went on that camping trip, too, and didn't enjoy it, either...but I definitely wouldn't call it the worst time in my life; what I said was the worst time in my life was when my neighborhood friends moved, which had nothing to do with Scouting.  Many of the Scouts who complained ended up dropping out or, at least, not earning Eagle...but some of them ended up completing the program.  Still, when they complained about it like they did, it kind of makes me think that they didn't really want to do it.

My last point before my conclusion: While Boy Scouting may be seen as a moral organization, my experience with it didn't give me that impression.  One time, a kid at a camping trip came out of a game of Capture the Flag crying because other Scouts were angrily refusing to play by the rules...and the leader he talked to did absolutely nothing.  Another time, on the same trip, some kids went to another part of the campsite, took longer than they were supposed to, and got punished as a result, despite trying to explain that it wasn't their fault...but another kid threw a temper tantrum in front of the whole troop and suffered no consequences at all.  The worst one to me, though, was the cereal incident: Long story short, the leaders didn't like the Scouts having cereal and milk for breakfast on camping trips because it was lazy...but the Scouts in my patrol did it anyway, and, because of supposed regulations, the leaders were powerless to stop them.  Allegedly, it was supposed to teach leadership skills...but, to me, all that taught was a "devil may care" attitude.  Plus, some of the kids in there were trouble; after I left Scouting, I found out that my sister felt that I shouldn't be hanging out with a guy in there who I quickly made friends with, even though she was the main reason I was in there in the first place! Looking back, I agree; he probably wasn't the best person for me to be hanging around, which is why it was probably divine providence that my mom decided to pull me out of Scouting when she did.

Now, for my conclusion: My time in Scouting came to an end nearly a decade and a half ago...so, why talk about it now? Does it really matter anymore? Well, it matters to me, and for more than one reason.  As I said, I learned things from that time in my life that have nothing to do with outdoor survival.  For one: If I have a bad feeling about something, I should avoid it unless absolutely necessary.  Over the years, I've had such feelings--akin to premonitions--about doing other things, and, whether I did them or not, I was proven right.  I had a bad feeling about going to church camp back in the summer of 1999; everybody and their mother--even my friends in my neighborhood, who weren't even part of my church--wanted me to go, but I didn't...and, the morning before I would have left, my brand-new computer went on the fritz.  If you know me, you know there's no way I could have enjoyed a week away with that looming over my head.  More to the point, I had similar feelings about getting a dog back in 2002, but, my mom got one anyway...and during the four years we had him, he was a continual thorn in our sides.  My mom got so frustrated with him that, one day, when he escaped from our fenced-in backyard and was running amok around the neighborhood, she said, "He can go and get hit by a car and killed; I don't care!" She eventually did go and get him...but only because she was afraid of getting sued in case he bit someone.  I knew from day one that kind of thing would happen...but nobody listened.  That may all be in the past, too, but what isn't is the potential of a relationship or the possibility of getting my driver's license.  You probably know I've had my doubts about those for quite a while; I used to say that circumstances in my life that stopped me from engaging in those things were a providential hindrance, and I still feel that way to a degree.  If what happened with Boy Scouting is any indication--and I feel that it is--then, it doesn't matter what whoever or whatever has to say about my future as a driver or a husband; it's not going to work out, and no amount of encouragement will change that.  Another thing that comes to mind: For some, a group like Boy Scouting would be a good place to make friends, because you meet like-minded individuals...but, even though I had some friends in there, most of them were not even remotely like me.  I've tried other groups--ones through my church or other churches in the area, and even one for people with the same "condition" as me--and they didn't work out; there was always some issue.  When it came to the latter group, the problem was that, despite us having the same "condition," their interests were nothing like mine; they couldn't have cared less about any of the topics that were important to me, and vice versa.  Assuming that all people with my "condition" would get along great is like assuming that all Hispanics or people from Arizona would be the best of friends; it smacks of generalization.  Even if they do have the same "condition" as me, they don't have my unique experiences.  Seriously, do you know anyone else around my age who essentially only had one parent until the time he/she was twenty, and grew up with a severely handicapped sibling, and gained a sibling-in-law (you know what I mean!) when he/she was only eight years old, and became an aunt/uncle when he/she was only a junior in high school?  Of course not! While some would say everyone is unique, I would say that some folks are more unique than others...and I know, because I'm one of those people.  If you know me, you can't help but agree...right?

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

It's Time for a Change...And One You Won't Believe

In the summer of 1997, I made some friends in the neighborhood.  They'd actually lived near me since late 1995, but, it took me a while to get to know them.  We played board games, computer games, video games, and even outdoor games (including sports) together, and also did other activities, like selling candy bars to raise money for their wrestling team.  However, two years after I met them, they ended up moving a great distance away, and I hardly saw them after that.  In the years that followed, I began to lose interest in activities that I used to be unable to quit talking about, including ones I did with them, such as playing outside, and ones we never did together, like attending theme parks.  Even almost two years later, during a object lesson for Bible class where we were asked to talk about the worst time in our lives, it was my friends' departure that took the cake.

People started to notice that my activities were limited, and began to become concerned.  One person--remember, I don't name names on this blog!--even said in an e-mail, "You need to do things that do NOT involve your computer or CD player!" True, not everything I did back then fell into that category--I also played video games and watched television fairly often--but, I don't think that was her point.  For a while, I thought it was about Boy Scouting, since a recent incident during a Scout meeting was part of the reason for that person's e-mail...but, now, I think it was more than just that.  She and others wanted me to be a part of the group; to do the things that my friends were doing--well, as long as they were the right things--instead of sitting off all by my lonesome, doing my own thing by my own choice.  People knew that, if I'd just things a chance instead of staunchly refusing to try everything anyone suggested, I'd be happier and more well-rounded...but, I still had one excuse after another for why I just couldn't do that.

You've probably heard me talk about how I "hate" certain things that are undoubtedly popular all over the country, if not the world: sports, dogs, theme parks, anything to do with large bodies of water, etc.  I used various excuses over the years--everything from negative past experiences to alleged phobias to supposed moral qualms to even my "condition"--as to why I didn't care for them...when, really, it was one thing and one thing only: I considered such activities or entities to be beneath me.  If you were a regular Busch Gardens attendee, a proud dog owner, an avid swimmer, or a big-time football fan, I looked down on you for it...and that's what caused me to face persecution and eventual unfriendings.  Most people don't have a problem with those who don't like the same things they do; what they have a problem with is those who think what they do makes them superior...and that's the problem I had.  It was much like the hypothetical Pharisee whom Jesus spoke of: I was thankful that I was not like those people...but, that attitude was not going to win people to Christ or even garner myself friends.

Over the years, people used to argue with me because they wanted me to join in activities that I outright refused to participate in, and it caused problems.  I've mentioned before about a teacher at my high school who was practically begging me to give Busch Gardens a chance...but, she never convinced me to, despite her insistence.  For a while, even after graduating, I felt that what she said was harassment, and thought that I should have reported her...but, now I know why she wouldn't give up: My reasoning didn't make sense; I couldn't come up with an actual legitimate reason for me to avoid it...but, I was still unwilling to budge.  Seriously, I wouldn't do something I used to talk about doing constantly because my friends moved? What kind of sense does that make? That's not even what my friends would have wanted!

Let me be honest here: Lately, I've felt like a loser.  I see my friends on Facebook doing fun things with their friends, and that rarely happens with me.  Even when it does, the friends I hang out with are much older than me; almost every time I go out to eat with other people, I'm by far the youngest one at the table.  When it comes to coeval people, I just strike out...and, I think that's my own fault.  If I hadn't spent years constantly refusing to do the things that most Christians my age consider fun and exciting, I could easily have had people to hang out with and maybe even a significant other.  Seriously, how many of you Christian ladies would want to date a guy whose idea of fun is a marathon of superhero cartoons? Didn't think so! Seriously, this way of living is doing me absolutely no good.

So, now, it's time for a change.  If I get an opportunity to do something worthwhile, I need to take it; my "entertainment" can wait.  That does apply to fun activities, such as theme parks or sporting events, but it also applies to activities that involve work, whether it be around the house or elsewhere.  I recently took a major step in the right direction by taking over mowing the lawn; now, I need to progress even further by not being afraid to work regardless of the situation.  That includes taking risks and learning new skills, such as getting my driver's license or pursuing a relationship.  Also, if I get invited to something--anything worthwhile, really--I need to at least try to take advantage of that opportunity.  I'm not going to make new friends and build relationships while sitting around watching Liv & Maddie.

However, I do have one lingering fear: that the damage has already been done.  I know that I placed myself in this situation, and I hope that I can get myself out...but I can't help but think that I may be stuck with this.  I also know that people care about me, and wouldn't want me to feel like an outcast...but, at this point, I may be one for the rest of my life.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Last Word On..., No. 4: Crushes

Over the years, especially from 2001 to 2014, I have been well-known for my crushes; in fact, some would say that I still am.  Some people have assumed that I had a crush on someone when I actually didn't, whereas sometimes even the real-life friend who was "the object of my affection" had no idea how I felt about her.  I was criticized for my crushes, both of the celebrity and real-life variety, as well, including ones about which most of you probably never knew I even had.  However, you may be surprised at how the whole crush thing got started...and parts of my crushing history you've never heard previously.

Okay, here come my usual three points.  First off: In my case, "crush" usually wasn't the right word. My "condition" has many traits, but, one of the most obvious ones is a tendency to obsess over things, people, places, etc.  You probably know that most of my previous obsessions were of the entertainment variety; what you may not know is that I was just as obsessed when there wasn't a lady involved.  When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with a edutainment franchise that started off as a book series; if you know me, you can probably guess which one it was.  People said that I had a crush on the lead character, but I didn't; I actually was afraid of her, because I had reality confused with fiction, and I believed she was going to try to take over the world.  I didn't have the capability to put images on my desktop back then, but, even if I did, I wouldn't have put her on there.  My obsession with that franchise was no different than my fixation on my friends' Nintendo 64; there was no physical attraction there.  People with my condition tend to talk about the same things ad nauseam, which others would say is the sign of a crush...but, I never intended it to be one.  The same is true of my real-life friends today: Just because I hug, sit with, or regularly talk to or about someone of the opposite gender doesn't mean I have a crush on her.  Besides which, if I did, that would be a serious issue, as most of my female friends are currently married or otherwise spoken for relationship-wise.

Second off: I only kept the whole celebrity crush thing going because it entertained people.  I don't need to give a whole laundry list of my prior Hollywood flames; if you've paid the least bit of attention to my online postings, you have a good idea who they were.  If you knew me when I was in high school, you probably remember the day in March 2005 when I proudly announced to friends, classmates, and even teachers who my new celebrity crush was.  While I was made fun of for it--and who wasn't harassed when they were in school?--my friends and others thought the whole thing was entertaining, and had fun with it.  It wasn't just kids; my high school Spanish teacher would bring up my celebrity crush even when I didn't, and even bought me a magazine featuring my favorite actress as an out-of-the-blue present, saying, "I saw this and just couldn't resist."  Even well after that, when I got my first Verizon phone, I quickly put a picture of my Hollywood love on the main screen, and proceeded to show it to all of my friends at church; while some were unsure of who that woman even was, one of my friends had the best remark: "What would you do if you met her? You probably wouldn't even be able to speak!" Still, some people thought the whole thing was a problem, and many didn't mask their feelings one bit; I just brushed them off back then...but, now, I realize they were right.  I should have been like the singer P!nk in her song "U + Ur Hand": "I'm not here for your entertainment!" Seriously, even if it did entertain others, who knows what they were saying about me behind my back? I eventually realized that...but, it sure took a long time.

Lastly: My "crushes" have always been different than most other guys' for one very big reason.  My best friend in eighth grade used to get teased about being gay by some other kids because of his style of dress and different interests, but he would always refute it by saying, "Dude, I like girls." While I also like those of the opposite gender, my attraction has mostly been towards women instead of girls.  I've liked older women from a young age, and still do.  To me, people who are coeval and even younger tend to disgust me because of their immature habits, such as shooting off at the mouth without any regard to how they made the recipient of their words feel, or being prone to fits of anger, i.e., a notorious incident I heard about where someone I knew threw a milkshake at someone else.  Of course, people of the same age are all different, but, consider this: Of the few people I'm currently in contact with who don't like me--as most of my prior enemies have had zero contact with me in ages--at least three of them are around my age, and one is a bit younger.  Other than one case with someone in her forties who seems to have never left the seventh grade, I don't have that problem with significantly older folks, including those of the female persuasion.  In fact, regardless of age or anything else, I tend to get along better with women than guys, which may explain my attraction to them.  I don't want to be a womanizer or "skirt-chaser"--that's just wrong!--but, I do enjoy the company of my favorite ladies.  Now that I'm grown, females my age and even sometimes younger tend to be more like women and less like girls...but, they aren't always, as I know all too well.

Friday, June 3, 2016

The Last Word On..., No. 3: Sports

I have a checkered history with more topics than I care to mention, but few if any of them seem to be as big of a deal as sports.  People everywhere, especially guys, love their ball games, and seem to live for their favorite sport's season...but I just don't, and never have.  I've said I hate sports...but that's not true, and I shouldn't say that anyway.  It seems that us non-sports fans are in the minority...but we're still out there.  I know I am not alone in my dislike for sports...but it sure seems like I am at times.

As usual for this series, I'll make three points, and then I'm done.  First off: Saying that I "hate sports" is wrong.  If you're a Christian, you're probably familiar with Romans 12:9b: "Hate what is evil; cling to what is good." (NIV) Now, I know we all have different definitions of what is evil; some people would even say that much of my favorite entertainment, whether it be contemporary Christian music, the Disney Channel, or even Star Wars, would fall into that category.  However, despite my lifelong dislike for sports, I wouldn't say they were evil or sinful.  True, I do believe some people's passion for their favorite teams or athletes could be seen as idolatry...but, that's a far cry from saying sports themselves are evil.  When it comes to mainstream entertainment, there's plenty of media that is much more sinful than "the big game" has ever been, and, these days, some of it can be seen on the major networks.  Some years ago, I wrote a Facebook note that mentioned Garfield alongside other favorite entertainment entities of mine, and a now-former friend commented, "I like everything you mentioned in your post...well, except Garfield.  I'd rather be stuck in a Turkish prison than be forced to watch Garfield." His comment shocked me; even if you don't like the cartoon fat cat, you have to admit there's much worse media out there--pornography, anyone?--than the infamous Tubby Tabby.  While I wouldn't watch sports by choice, I wouldn't make such a statement about them at all...because they're not sinful or evil.  Even when it comes to places or things, there's a big difference between "hate" and "dislike".  Besides which, I have enjoyed movies and books that are about sports; if I truly hated them, would that be the case? Of course not.

Second off: I don't think anyone likes anything shoved in their face...and that's especially true with me and sports.  Despite the fact that pretty much everyone who knows me knows how I feel about sports, I've still had them--or their equivalents, such as Boy Scouting--shoved in my face multiple times.  More than one person has tried to teach me how to throw a football, even though they had to know I just didn't care.  I know I used to say my "condition" prevented me from doing well in sports...but, that wasn't the real reason.  People used to tell me that, because my "condition" was high-functioning, I could do anything I wanted to, and I agree...but there's a key word in there: want.  I haven't researched it, but, I would imagine that there may be people with the same "condition" as me who have done well in the field of sports, whether on their high school team or professionally, and I say, more power to them; if that's their "thing," then, kudos to them for putting forth the effort.  However, it was never my dream to be an athlete or sportsman, whether the next Michael Jordan, a marathon runner, or even an Eagle Scout; that's simply not me.  People have tried to get me into sports, and it has never worked; I just never seem to "get" them.  When I was little, a doctor I saw suggested my mom put me into what he called "non-competitive sports," and she took him up on it; I was soon signed up for roller skating lessons at the local rink...which I really did not enjoy.  When that didn't work out, my mom signed me up for swimming lessons at the local YMCA...and I enjoyed those even less.  To this day, every time I see the "Y" where I had those lessons, I cringe inside, even though that was over two decades ago.  I don't blame my mom, though; how was she to know that such a thing would happen? Most kids, especially boys, would jump at the chance to hang out at the roller rink or in the pool...but, I wasn't most kids.  It's still the same today: To some of you, playing football with the guys or volleyball on the beach may sound like a blast...but, I'd much rather be at home watching the Disney Channel.  I know you may think I'm weird, but, if you don't like that...there's the door.

Lastly: It's wrong to look down at any group of people...including sports fans.  My Christian friends probably know the parable of the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank you that I am not like other people--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector." (NIV) Christians are supposed to be a peculiar people (1 Peter 2:9), but, my different upbringing and my "condition" make even many Christians think I'm rather strange, especially since I'm a guy who doesn't like sports.  They may look down on me for that, but, that's on them; I'm responsible for my own actions...but, that road goes both ways.  If it's wrong for them to look down on me for being a fan of Liv & Maddie, it's just as wrong for me to look down on them for being fans of the NFL.  I've found that people are going to judge others no matter what they do, so, I'll just stick with my true friends: those who respect what I do.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Last Word On..., No. 2: My Interests

If you know me, you know what my interests are, and that they're more than just hobbies; they're passions, and things I can't help but talk about quite often.  I've learned that my interests aren't typical, and I hardly expect anyone I meet to do even half of the same activities that I often do; if they do, though, more power to them.  Still, they are a big deal to me...as you probably know all too well.

As usual for this series of posts, I will have three points.  First off: If you want to be my friend, you've got to respect my interests.  Like many kids of my generation, I used to collect Pokémon cards; I still did so after most of my classmates and friends thought it was "uncool".  One of the last times I got any was when I sent my mom--I couldn't go with her because of our family situation at the time--to get a booster pack of a newly released set of the trading cards.  It turned out they were first edition, which made them more valuable, and there was a card in there that was supposedly worth a whole bunch of money.  When I told my mom about that, she said something to the effect of, "That's an expensive card; you better take care of it." Some time later, I was talking to someone else--remember, I don't name names on here!--about the incident, and that person said that anyone could say the same thing; it didn't mean they cared.  Years later, I was playing a Pokémon game on my GameCube, and was trying to perform a difficult task--I'll spare you the details in case you're Pokémon-illiterate--but wasn't having much luck.  I turned it off and went back into the living room, when my mom noticed the frustrating look on my face and asked what was wrong.  I explained to her in general terms--like I did above--what was bothering me, and then added, "I know you don't care," thinking back on that previous conversation.  My mom said that she knew those games were important to me, and that she wanted me to do well in them...which means that other individual was wrong.  If you're my friend, I expect the same from you: You know what's important to me, so, respect it even if you don't like it yourself.  My Christian friends--who probably make up most if not all of the people reading this--are probably familiar with the verse that says, "Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn." In my nearly ten years, I've seen lots of rejoicing on Facebook: "I'm engaged!" "We're having a baby!" "I've got a new job!" "We're going to be grandparents!" "I just got this big award!" There's also been lots of sadness on Facebook: people have lost family members, suffered debilitating injuries, been through divorces, lost their homes, etc.  Those are big things, and an emotional response is normal...but, even if you don't jump for joy or bawl your eyes out, other events can affect you emotionally as well.  I was recently crushed when I found out that MovieStop, one of my longtime favorite stores, is going out of business soon.  I was a loyal customer, and trading in DVDs at FYE, if I even choose to do that, won't be the same.  On the same token, I was very happy to find out that Disney Channel will be showing all of the original movies they've ever made soon, and even releasing them all on iTunes as well.  When my friends heard about those events, they reacted appropriately...which is just what friends should do.

Second off: Anyone who fakes their support for my interests is not really my friend.  We all know the story of an unfortunate comment I made that led to the ending of a friendship; what you may not know is that the other party was once a big supporter of my interests...only to do a complete 180 on that front.  Previously, she had gone out of her way to support my "love"--I don't really know what else to call it--for Victoria Justice, both on Facebook and in person, which was a breath of fresh air compared to all the flak my interests had been getting pretty much my whole life.  After our falling out, though, she said something that shocked me to the core: "Are [your parents] not concerned that you are a 24 year old [sic] man crushing on teenaged [sic] actresses?" How could she have turned on me like that? She had previously been the poster girl for what a friend of mine should be...and she had a problem with the whole thing all along, even though she was one of its biggest supporters?  Honestly, I'd seen the same thing before; the associate minister/youth leader at my old church seemed to respect when I declined to join the rest of the high schoolers making a banner for Relay for Life, because I didn't want them to end up with a messed up one, only to tear into me for doing so some time later after a completely different incident.  He stood there and spoke in my defense in front of the whole class...but he didn't believe it himself.  Both incidents were heartbreaking, but I know I'll end up dealing with such behavior again.  I hate to be blunt, but I don't know how else to say this: If you're not serious about your support for me and what I do...then get off my friends list, NOW!

Lastly: I'm definitely not the only one who takes my entertainment seriously.  I often define entertainment as "books, movies, music, and television"...but, that's not everyone's definition.  Many people consider sports a big source of entertainment, and make a big deal of it...just like I do with my shows and such.  Even if you're not into ball games, maybe you're a big Broadway fan, or you're ardently enthused about history.  We all have our thing(s), and you know what mine are; now, my question is: What is/are yours?

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The Last Word On..., No. 1: Relationships

Before I start, an introduction to this series: These posts will be my last--yes, that means final--ones on topics that I've been going on and on about pretty much since I joined social networking, and, to a degree, before that; just not publicly online.  I also will limit myself to no more than four paragraphs, as I was recently challenged to do by a friend.  Since this is just an opening, it doesn't count; still, these will not be the long ramblings you're used to seeing.  My intent is to just say what I need to say and move on; unless something big changes on one of these fronts, I won't say anything more about them.  That may mean that, after I finish these, my blogging days are over...but, that's fine with me.  Still with me? Then, here we go.

Most of you reading this are likely in serious relationships, and probably have been for a while.  While that's great for you--that is, as long as your relationship is a happy one; we all know plenty are not!--I can't fight the feeling that one just isn't for me.  Yes, I've said that for quite a while; still, there are three very important reasons why I hold that belief, and they just can't be ignored.

First off: Do I even know what a relationship is? I'm not sure I do!  You probably remember these oft-quoted words from a former friend of mine: "I believe you have some unrealistic expectations of how relationships develop and function. They are not instantaneous, and ones that last are not easy. Whether romantic or platonic, relationships are a lot of work. They require mutual respect and consideration. [...] When you’ve talked about marriage, it’s always been about the ways you would benefit. What will you bring to a marriage? This is not about income. You’ll need to be her friend, her shoulder to cry on, and her sounding board. She’s not always going to agree with you. Will she just always be wrong (Because you know you’re not going to marry a woman who is always picking on you.)?" Seriously, a relationship isn't a hopeless crush on your fresh-out-of-college homeroom teacher; it isn't plastering pictures of a Disney Channel actress all over your walls and your binder; it isn't hunting online for every tidbit of information you can find about a high school classmate, down to an Amazon wishlist she made ages ago.  Despite what romance movies will tell you, things like that take time and work...and I seriously doubt I have what it takes to keep one going.  Just like when you welcome a new child into your house, when you get into a serious relationship, everything changes; it's not life as normal anymore.  However, I like my normal life; if I were to have to constantly worry about keeping my girlfriend or wife happy, I'd go crazy.  Our household pets--a chihuahua and elderly tabby cat--only have basic needs, and they still drive me insane with their constant reliance on me to feed them, water them, etc.  You know the old saying, "If it's not broke, don't fix it"? Well, my life is not broken...so, don't mess with it!

Second off: How could any woman expect to compete with my loves? No, I'm not talking about my celebrity crushes; we all know that's a thing of the past.  I'm not even talking about my friends, most of whom are female, though I do love them; after all, doesn't the Bible say, "A friend loves at all times"? What I'm talking about are my favorite activities.  You know what they are: Disney Channel, bargain hunting, Christian music, reading, etc.  For me, they're not just hobbies; they're passions.  You probably know from my Facebook posts how important they are to me; now, do you think any single woman would want to compete with that? Some weeks ago, I saw a Facebook post from a recently divorced friend who was using a viral image to lament about how her ex put his job and his hobbies before her, and she hated it.  Well, honestly, I can't say that I wouldn't do the same thing; to me, a life without my interests simply isn't worth living.  I take my dislikes just as seriously; you all know I was none too happy back in 2002 when my mom decided to bring a dog home.  To me, he wasn't a pet; he was an attack on all I held dear...and I still feel that way about our current dog; he just complicates everything further, and I can't help but think our lives would be easier sans any pets.  Maybe someday I'll get my wish and have a pet-free home; at this point, I can only hope.

Third off: One of my biggest fears is getting romantically involved with the wrong person...and it seems all too likely! You probably know I'm a child of divorce, so, I learned at a young age how relationships--including marriages--can go wrong.  Here's something you may not know: When it comes to people I personally know or am regularly in contact with, there are some I respect...and some I don't.  Whether or not I respect them depends solely on their actions towards me: If they're nice and kind to me, I can respect that...but, if they treat me like dirt, I can't respect them.  Unfortunately, too many people I've known--classmates, teachers, even fellow church members--have fallen into the latter category; they act like a jerk, and show no remorse for their unthinkable actions.  What makes it worse is that, when trying to get others--including authority figures--to intervene, they refuse to do anything, and instead pin the blame on me, as if the offending party is in no way responsible for their actions.  You wouldn't believe the laudatory terms people have used to describe thorns in my side: "They're the best friends you've ever had!" "He likes you and you don't even know it!" "She is your biggest advocate!" It's all nonsense to me; I'm the kind of person who will call a spade a spade...and a jerk a jerk.  My fear with marriage is that I'll end up wed to yet another thorn, who will do like the others did and treat me like dirt...and nobody will listen when I try to tell them what that woman is doing to me.  I'm not going to list names, but, you'd be surprised just who the thorns in my side have been.

Monday, April 25, 2016

On Overcoming Adversity

Before I start, I'll say this: I recently made a declaration on Facebook that I am not going to ramble anymore.  Therefore, this post will be shorter than usual for me, and I'll cut down on the unnecessary details.  Hopefully, this will make my posts and writings in general more accessible.

I know someone--remember, I don't name names on here!--who has said for a long time that she doesn't like certain songs because they remind her of bad experiences from her past.  However, I know this person well enough to know that those songs don't match her tastes in music anyway; she probably wouldn't like them even if it weren't for those past incidents.  That doesn't make those memories any more pleasant, though.

Like her and pretty much anyone else, I have bad memories from throughout my past, too; however, mine often involve activities that I enjoy or, at least, used to; since I've always been a talker, I tended to be rather outspoken about my favorite shows, celebrities, comic strips, video/computer games, etc.  I honestly can't think of anything that I've ever enjoyed doing that I wasn't persecuted for somehow; the only things I did that I wasn't persecuted for were ones I hated, like Boy Scouting or AVID.  If I avoided absolutely anything that could bring back a bad memory, I'd do nothing but eat, sleep, and stare off into space; seriously, you never know when a Disney Channel episode or a Christian novel could trigger something like that.

Despite being persecuted for what I liked to do, I kept doing it until I felt it was time to move on to something else.  In recent years, I've rediscovered some of my childhood favorites, ranging from Lizzie McGuire to Power Rangers; yes, I was made fun of for being a fan of those as well.  However, I'm not about to let my naysayers dictate what I can and can't do in my spare time; really, it's none of their business.  If anything, those people's attacks made me all the more determined to spend time involved in my favorite activities.

You may think that it was just punk kids who were bullying me that were at fault, but that's not always the case.  Sometimes, adults were just as guilty if not more so...and, sometimes, the fault was entirely mine; I wouldn't have gotten such a reaction if I had just kept my mouth shut.  Not only that, but...when I think back on how my favorite show was all I could talk, write, or think about...well, that's just disturbing.  Frankly, I can see why people got annoyed with me back then.

Even though it's been years since all that took place, the memories are still there, and they pop up pretty much every day.  Sure, I may not be watching one of those shows or looking up something online about one of those games...but, there are references to them pretty much everywhere I look, ranging from the places I shop at--garage sales, MovieStop, thrift stores, etc.--to Facebook to even at church; you never know what my friends may be talking about at a potluck or other social function!

Okay, so some "advocate" threw a hissy fit when I made a reference to Mork & Mindy; so some punk kid bullied me for being a Scooby-Doo fan; so I thought The Magic School Bus was real.  So what? That doesn't really matter; if I want to do it, as long as it's morally right, why shouldn't I? As we all know, people are going to judge me and criticize me no matter what I do!

I have two concluding points. First off, that road goes other ways as well.  If nobody--well, other than my parents and God--has the right to take away what I enjoy, they also have no right to shove their idea of "fun" down my throat.  Last year, I briefly considered trying my hand at running a marathon per some people's suggestions...and it went absolutely nowhere.  You may think that I used my "condition" as my excuse, but, I stopped doing that years ago; I'm sure there are people who have the same "condition" I do, or maybe even a worse case of autism, who have successfully run a marathon...and, I say, more power to them.  My problem was that the drive just wasn't there; someone or even a group of people saying, "Well, I think this is a good idea," is not enough motivation for something that's never been on my bucket list.  Not only that, but...I also don't have the right to make other people do what I want them to; in fact, I've lost friends because people got tired of repeated requests to read my blog or chat with me on Facebook's instant messenger.

Second off: When it comes to the past incidents I was speaking of, I think I could classify most of them as emotional abuse...but, the parties responsible probably didn't think of what they were doing that way; they may have thought it was just a joke or, believe it or not, that they were doing me a favor.  Human logic is a very flawed thing; just look at how those who have done the unthinkable--ranging from the shooters at Columbine to Osama bin Laden--felt justified in their actions! That's actually why I don't want to get married: I'm afraid of opening myself up to emotional abuse.  You may say that a Christian woman would never do that, but, it happens in marriages--even ones where both members follow the Way--all the time.  The problem with emotional abuse is that people--not just women; men can do it, too--don't even realize what it is they're doing; they say, "I'm just speaking my mind!", "Somebody's got to tell you this!", "Can't you take a joke?", or something to that effect.  My fear when it comes to marriage is either that the emotional abuse will start right after the honeymoon, or that our life together will start out sweet and innocent...only for something in her to snap, and our relationship will never be the same after that.  I've already suffered through enough emotional abuse for a lifetime; I don't need any more.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

I Can't Be With You If You Don't Respect Me

We all know that I'm a complicated individual.  While everyone has their quirks, it seems that I have more than most people.  You can blame my "condition," my unique upbringing, or whatever you want, but that's just the way it is.  Trying to get me to be "normal" just isn't going to work.  First off, a truly normal person doesn't exist; as John Ortberg said in the title of one of his books, "Everybody's normal until you get to know them." Second off, when it comes to one person's or some group's definition of "normal," I'm just not going to fit it.  I've tried in the past, and it just hasn't worked.

As such, some people have had serious trouble dealing with me.  While I've been adored by countless individuals, many folks I've known just couldn't handle me; I just drove them crazy.  You may think that was just punk kids at school, but it was not only fellow church members--of all ages--it was also teachers, and other people who really should have been on my side, but just weren't.

Sometimes, their annoyances with me led them to doing the unthinkable to me; what they probably didn't realize was that they'd scarred me for life.  I regularly am haunted by the horrible things people said or did to me over the years; sometimes as far back as elementary school.  While I haven't had to worry about that much lately--while there are some people I currently know who don't like me, they just don't pay me any mind, which I much prefer to what I endured back in the day--the bad memories are still there, and probably always will be.  I've heard people say they don't care for certain things because of bad memories from years past...but, if I avoided anything that reminded me of such times in my life, I wouldn't do anything at all, including watch television and movies or read books.

While I haven't heard much of anything in years from the majority of the people who did such things way back when--which is actually the way I prefer it--some of them I'm still in contact with.  Why? Well, while they may have done the unthinkable and refused to apologize for it, they also did some really good things, such as going out of their way to help me out.  The question I still ask myself is: If they could be that good some of the time...how could they have been as terrible as they were those other times?

While that concept applies within social interaction in general, it's also true in relationships as well; in fact, it's the main reason why I feel that one just isn't for me.  If I'm going to be close with someone--whether in a romantic relationship or even a close friendship--I need someone who understands me.  Sometimes, there are obvious signs that someone doesn't know you very well.  Back in the '90's, I attended the birthday party of a neighborhood friend, who got countless gifts; someone who obviously didn't know him very well got him some books, which I doubt he ever read.  If they'd known him like I did, they would have known that reading was difficult for him because English was not his first language; even when trying to read dialogue in video games, he struggled.  Truth be told, when I first met him, I didn't know about his language difficulty either; if I hadn't been close friends with him, I probably never would have.

While everybody's situation is different, mine seems to be more so than others', and it's also complicated.  That makes it tough to find someone to be in a relationship with or even close friends with; people tend to be afraid of what they don't understand, which would mean respect wouldn't come naturally.  One thing I've always said is: I'm not going to let anyone--even a potential significant other--take away what's important to me.  That includes my faith, but it also includes all the other things I'm passionate about: my shows, Disney Channel or otherwise; my music; bargain hunting; my technology; my books; pretty much anything I'm known for.  If I feel that God is taking those things away, that's a different story; however, if some "friend" tells me I'll be unfriended if I ever watch Supergirl again...well, I'd unfriend him/her right then and there.

However, it seems that such beliefs are going to lead to me staying single forever.  When I meet people around my age--regardless of gender or marital status--they just aren't doing what I am.  Maybe they might like one or two of the same things I do--such as superheroes and/or reading--but, that's about it; they couldn't care less about last week's episode of Liv & Maddie or when the next neighborhood garage sale is in my area.  I'm not about to fake being interested in something that I'm really not--i.e., sports or theme parks--just to impress some girl; eventually, the truth would come out, and she would be steamed when it did.

There's another problem when it comes to relationships as well: I don't want to marry a jerk.  You may have seen the video that went viral on Facebook where a married woman told the sordid tale of the guy she married who eventually did the unthinkable to her teenage daughter.  I recently saw a similar story of a young woman who married a guy who turned out to be a pedophile; he had just finished a prison sentence for his horrible crimes before they met...but he neglected to tell her that, and she didn't find out until it was too late.  So, if people can hide their criminal acts before they get married...why can't they hide the fact that they're a jerk, which there is no law against?

I've always been attracted to sweet, kind women; some years ago, I had a crush on an older friend because of how nice she was.  I used to say back then that, while she was already married, the reason for my attraction to her was because she was the kind of woman I hoped to wed one day.  Unfortunately, people can easily put on a sweet exterior and hide their true self underneath, as was the case with some of the teachers I had; they may have conned my parents and others into thinking they were God's gift to the education system, but they ended up being a thorn in my side the whole time I had them.  It was bad enough being stuck in a classroom every day with such a person for an entire school year; if I had to come home to someone like that every night for the rest of my life, I'd probably shoot myself.  I simply can't deal with people being jerks; if someone can't be nice to me, I'd rather they not talk to me at all.

This is my concluding point: Unfortunately, with the whole feminism thing going on, it seems like many women think it's their duty to demean the men in their lives.  While I agree with the base belief of feminism--women are divinely created individuals, and should be treated as such--I don't think any entire group of people should be looked down upon, whether it's all men, all Hispanics, or anyone from the state of Texas.  Such behavior is nothing short of prejudice...but, it's all too common, and people engage in it without realizing it.  God made women as a helper for men, not as a thorn in the flesh or a middle school bully.  If I ever do get married one day, I hope the woman I wed realizes that and sticks to that belief; otherwise, I'm going to regret the day I ever said "I do".