February 02, 2005

Dusting Off the Mailbag

Today's Musical Selection: "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen

Hello, everybody! Today I'll finally get around to posting and responding to some of the comments I've garnered during my lengthy period of hiatus or semi-hiatus. Though my posts have been few and far between the last few weeks, you've more than made up with it by making such intriguing and thoughtful comments.

Without further delay, then, let's get down to business.

Loyal reader Tripp sympathizes with my tale of discovering my barber's disturbingly ignorant racial views while sitting in the chair:

I have faced a very similar situation involving a hair stylist.

Our family has all gone to the same 'stylist' who has cut all our hair out of her home for years. She is a little younger than us, her three kids play with our youngest, we exchange Christmas cards.

After 9/11 we became aware that her politics are best described as Rush-Limboesque. Yuck!

We have chosen to avoid the topic as best we can. Definitely the hardest time was when she had Fox News on the entire time of our appointment, and with six of us that was a couple hours! I definitely had to clench my teeth that time.

So we avoid the subject and try to live as an example of what we believe. Is that the right thing to do? Do we lack courage? I dunno. Sometimes you have to pick your battles.

I'm glad I'm not the only one who's faced this situation. (And are barber's college and stylist programs breeding ground for right-wing thought, or what?) And I'm glad I'm not the only one who feels ambivalent on how to respond.

Here's what troubles me. If I saw Senator Blutarsky spouting views like this on television, I'd race to my blog to condemn and/or ridicule them. If a friend of mine made comments to this effect, I'd like to think that I'd try to set him or her straight, or at least register my dissent somewhat forcefully. But something about that whole situation... being in the chair while he was clipping my hair, being a "guest" in his place, knowing that the general tenor of the place was very conservative... I found that I'd lost my voice.

Now, on the one hand, my barber's politics matter not a whit to me as long as he can cut hair. I try very hard not to be one of those people who snobbishly insists on associating only with people who share my political views. I think it's very broadening to spend time with those with whom you disagree.

On the other hand, Martin Luther King wouldn't have stood for that kind of talk. I've no doubt that he would have walked right out of the shop and encouraged everyone not to go there. But on the other hand, Curtis wouldn't have said those things if Martin Luther King had been sitting there. Since I'm an average-looking white man, he assumed he had a sympathetic ear. And I know that the most insidious kind of prejudice is the kind that happens when good people tacitly accept inappropriate remarks like that. Maybe if I'd have raised objections, he'd have thought twice before he unloaded that garbage on the next white guy who sat in his chair.

I still don't know how I feel about it. I think you're right, Tripp, that we have to pick our battles. I'm still not sure whether this one was worth picking or not.

More from Tripp, in response to my riff on the Randy Moss affair (talk about old news):

I don't mind Moss. What you don't hear is all the local good things he does, and also, like you said, the other side of the story regarding GB fans mooning.

My point is that the media really wants a professional wrestling style good-guy/bad-guy thing, and since the start they've cast Moss as the bad guy. Granted he had a past, and has done some stuff, but the media consistently pumps way up the bad (like tut-tutting the mooning while showing it over and over) and ignores the good.

We want our villians.

Regarding the hair - there were 3 or 4 Vikings that had corn-rows and decided, after the shameful loss to the Redskins, they would let their hair 'down' to try to change their luck. So it wasn't just Moss, and they *did* beat the Packers, so maybe it worked?

Granted it looked crazy. It was MADE for TV, being so visual, and TV was happy to oblige Moss with plenty of exposure.

As usual, the full story is never quite as interesting as the simple story TV loves to show.

I agree with you, Tripp, that the media are always looking for heroes and villains. I disagree, however, that the full story is less interesting than the media spin. In this case (referring specifically to the mooning incident), I think the real story is more interesting. The full story is often more interesting, and more revealing of human nature, than the sound-bite version. But the full story can't be packaged and sold. So the media have little use for it. They'd much rather cast that little town of football fanatics way-the-hell-and-gone up in Wisconsin as the saintly good guys, and the brash and mercurial Moss as the bad guy. It's an easier story to tell, and sell, even if it's neither true nor especially interesting.

(By the way, how much did it matter that Moss was a black man mooning a stadium full of lily-white Midwesterners? I think the racial angle gets overplayed a lot. But I'm not naive enough to say it didn't matter at all.)

Tripp also enjoyed my post on mini-crushes. He had a lot of interesting things to say on the matter:

I think you are talking about what I call the zing-zing, or at least the zing. With the clerk it is definitely a zing-zing.

Some people have told me they have never had a zing-zing, which is sad. You are right, it is precious. One could argue that human contact is what makes our life meaningful.

What makes a zing-zing? I think it is physiological responses that we may not be aware of. Clearly the smile is a big, obvious response, but I bet you in return stand a little straighter and your pupils dilate. Some research suggests there may be smells involved, which would be sad, because you can't do too much about your natural smell, besides staying clean, of course.

I like the term "zing-zing" and intend to steal it; it describes the experience to a tee. I'd say that my interactions with the clerk are a "zing-zing" for me. I do notice myself standing a little taller when I go in there. Makes me feel more alive. I'm glad to see that others appreciate the power of the zing-zing.

Tripp expounds further on the situation:

Sometimes mini-crushes are best kept as crushes, because they get popped when you know more about the chrushie. Maybe that is why crushes on movie-stars are the best. You never get to know them and they are always displayed in their most attractive.

I'd be remiss if I didn't ask about this waitress vis a vis a possible relationship? It sure sounds like there could be something there, and it would be a shame to miss out on the opportunity.

I wholeheartedly agree about actress crushes. Myself, I've long had a massive crush on Sela Ward, dating back to those Sprint commercials she used to star in. (Before her, Sprint had Candice Bergen as a pitchwoman, and come to think of it, I had a crush on her too. And yet I've never had Sprint as my phone provider. So much for the power of advertising.) It's a harmless source of enjoyment, provided you don't go in for the stalker route, and provided you understand that the actor or actress you adore is an idealized version of reality.

As for the question of a relationship with the waitress... it's hard to say. As I said in the original column, we don't even know each other's names. But I am keeping the possibility in mind.

Tripp then proceeds to upbraid me for my wry remark about only being able to attract women under 5 or over 60:

And what the heck is this deal about 'under 5 over 60' women?? My God, man, you obviously have the tools! You could be just as charming with the group in between 5 and 60. Do you know what is stopping you?

You know, Tripp, I'd always thought that the skill set should be transferrable, but it doesn't seem to work that way in practice. Certainly, the "making funny faces" aspect doesn't seem to work on women in my own age bracket as well as it does with the little ones.

As for what's stopping me... my own explanations ("The buzzards have me") don't translate particularly well into an action plan, so if you have thoughts on this, I'd love to hear them. Seriously. If I could be as charming to women my own age as to little girls and old ladies, I'd be rolling in clover.

I seemed to have gained a new loyal reader named Brett, who's said some very nice things about me that I will shamelessly reprint, because who's going to stop me?

In the midst of doing some homework, I somehow stumbled apon your site.

I had a read of the most recent posts, and I'm very glad I managed to find this.

You write very well.


I've found myself thinking about your last post [on mini-crushes] alot, and it's helped me appreciate alot of things I usualy take for granted.

I hope to become a regular reader.

Brett, I'm blushing. Really. Thank you so much for those nice thoughts. I hope you'll continue to read me, and I hope I'll be able to write more regularly in the weeks to come. I'm glad you took something useful away from something I wrote; I think you'll find that this was a stunning exception from the norm, but I appreciate it nonetheless. The old cliche is true: If you can make even one person see things differently as a result of something you've written, it's a successful piece. Notes like yours make my day, Brett. Keep reading!

Brett also wished me a happy birthday, and did Ensie (hugs and kisses!) and Frinklin, who added the following:

And can I let you know how crushed I was when I found out I'm older than you?

I get that a lot. It's really startling... those who know me online tend to assume I'm several years older than I am, and people who see me in person ask what college I'm going to. (Or worse... when I went back to my high school to see our football team play for the district title, a well-meaning parent asked if I was a senior.) I am the real life Dorian Gray. I definitely do not feel 26.

My plaintive lament that Mercedes had stooped to advertising "four-door coupes," a category that does not, technically, exist, was met with a universal reader reaction. Namely, that I'm shockingly naive in the ways of business.

Ensie put it the most simply:

What you have realize, Fred, is that no company is above doing anything to make money. Ever.

Brett expanded a little:

Eh, that's just how everything goes now-a-days.

Everything / everybody is out to make money. Not by having the better product at a better price, but by advertising. "If you can a better looking model of an existing product, or if you can make the same product and call it something else, you can sell it."

And Tripp capped it off with a longer thought:

I agree with the cynical outlook on businesses, but I still think some products are perceived as "better than the pack" and they can charge a premium for that.

I think the line "Introducing the first four door coupe" referred to this being the first sedan from Mercedes, but they are too cool to call it that, and anybody else sedans don't matter.

Now, if this had been Mercedes' first sedan, I'd understand that. But it isn't. They've been making sedans for decades.

And I know very well that business is all about making money. You can't major in economics and fail to understand that. But it just felt kind of... chintzy. It's not so much that I thought Mercedes couldn't stoop to that level. I just thought they'd never have to.

(I feel the same way about Cadillac. Cadillac is, without question, the best name in the automotive industry. It sounds exactly like what it used to be: the ultimate in luxury, the top of the line, the cream of the crop. The fact that said said nameplate is bolted onto a bunch of Acura-wannabe pieces of crap and advertised with Led Zeppelin [a band I love, but not in that context] depresses and saddens me to no end. Red-blooded American boy that I am, I want to aspire to owning a Cadillac. But I can't, not those godawful things they're putting out now. This has kept me up some nights.)

Finally, Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice's triumphant drew this response from their #1 fan, Tripp:

Hmmm, one has to wonder if "Kenny" is spelled F-r-e-d?

Regardless, I went through a very similar situation. True story. It took a good six months to recover to where I was willing to see other women. I had to recover before dating again, so it is definitely possible to recover without dating. About 16 months after the breakup, I was married to the love of my life, and we are going on twenty two years now.

A small part of me would like to see my ex someday, and she'd be a fat hag, but really, what would be the point?

As a matter of policy, I decline to comment on any similarities between my own romantic experiences and those of the people who write to Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice. Any confirmation or denial on my part would set off a rampant guessing game that I want no part of. I'm sure a lot of people can see themselves in the letter-writers. Some experiences are universal, or at least widely spread. Would I trust my romantic queries to the advice of Uncle Millie and Aunt Beatrice? Absolutely. We'll leave it at that.

About the desire to see your ex as a fat hag: I sympathize with the sentiment, but you're right: There's no point. Living well really is the best revenge.

At any rate, that's all for today. I promise to write at least one more post this week, and in it, I'll explain just what the heck it is that's been keeping me so busy. See you then!

Posted by Fred at February 2, 2005 11:53 PM


Glad to have you back. I was kinda taking somewhat of a sabbatical myself, but hopefully I'm now back in the saddle.

Abou this question:

Seriously. If I could be as charming to women my own age as to little girls and old ladies, I'd be rolling in clover.

You can.

I recall years ago talking to a shrink friend of mine (theatre sure does bring strange acquantances). I told him married women must be different from single women, because I could talk easily with married women, and not with single women. Being the good shrink he was, he said "Maybe the difference is in how you behave."

I also recall dealing with my late elderly grandmother. She had Alzheimers and no longer knew me. I wanted to be nice to her. I found if I put a smile on my face she'd usually respond nicely. It was as simple as that!

Among other things, I'm an actor. An outside-in actor. That means fake it to make it. Do it even if you don't feel it.

First step to being charming - smile. Simple as that. Not some big goofy grin, just a small pleasant expression.

You know how you behave with your waitress? Do that more. Stand tall. Try it during the day and see what you get.

Regarding funny faces - did you ever read "Ball Four" by Jim Bouton? It's a great book, but probably before your time. He was a pro ballplayer, and one of the tips he learned in the pro's was this: If you see an attractive girl in the stands, catch her eye and stick your tongue out at her. If she laughs, you have a chance.

At the right time and place sticking your tongue out can be an excellent form of flirting. It is silly and quick, childish, harmless.

So, my man, you've got your homework.

Walk tall, smile, and find some time in the next week where you can stick your tongue out at some lass.

Since I am totally living vicariously through you, I expect big things Grasshopper!

Posted by: Tripp at February 3, 2005 11:13 AM

I have been busy for the past few days, and managed to sneak some time today to see if you've updated. To my surprise, I had not one, but two new posts to read.

The first, featuring "Uncle Millie" and "Aunt Beatrice", was very nice. Quite funny, and some good advice at the same time, I hope to hear more from these two.

The second was my favorite, however. Not only the fact that you acknowledged me (as nice as that was), more that you take the time out of your obviously busy day to respond to those that read you. And also to learn that you're much younger than I thought was nice. I have the same problem of getting mistaken for being older. I'm still only sixteen, and I hope to be able to write like you by time I'm your age.

On the topic of the 'mini-crushes', I still think of that post quite often. I've never really taken the time to appreciate them, as I have recently, and it's a great way to brighten up your day and put a smile on your face.

Posted by: Brett at February 5, 2005 07:53 PM
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