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April 28, 2011

If you’ve stumbled upon this WordPress.com blog by accident, please know that I’m still blogging every day at jameystegmaier.com. It’s essentially the same blog, just prettier.

Notes to My Future Girlfriend

February 9, 2010
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I will refer to things that happened to me in ‘Nam and ’73 with a wistful tone even though I wasn’t born until 1981.

I will pretend to know everything about wine (I barely drink wine).

I will misuse and mispronounce many words.

I will get more and more calm as you get more and more angry.

I will punctuate arguments with sudden nudity.

I will interrupt sexy or deep conversations with inappropriate humor–I am always playful.

I will compare fancy dinners to meals that I had decades ago in exotic cities I’ve never been to.

I will dote on my cat just as much, if not more, than I dote on you.

I will eat an entire bag of popcorn after a night of drinking.

I will want you to turn off the lights and put your palm on my forehead when I get a migraine.

I will not allow Cheetos in the house.

I will pee and poop with the bathroom door open.

I will be unnaturally curious about what you’re doing in the bathroom when you close the door.

I will pluck rogue hairs from your body when you’re not looking.

I will put my hand on your knee when I’m driving, and I’d like the same from you.

I will do lunges when I’m naked.

I will dance to songs at home in ways that may appear fruity to the untrained eye.

I will communicate only by grunts and chirps in the middle of the night.

I will always be happy when you give me back scratchies.

I will ask that you not put your things on my desk.

I will kiss you until your skin goes numb. I love to kiss.

I will protect you from any harm that comes your way, but I will not be possessive of you.

I will laugh at both your good jokes and your bad jokes.

I will give you my honest opinion about that dress (unless you only want encouragement).

I will recognize the little things you do.

I will believe everything you tell me.

I will go all in with you.

I will dance with you.

I will commit to you.

I will include you.

I will love you.

Your Boyfriend Is Making You Look Bad

February 9, 2010
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I’ve watched my fair share of romantic comedies and teen flicks. Today I want to extract a common cliche from those movies and turn  it on its head as I compare it to real-life dating.

Some examples:

  1. Can’t Hardly Wait*: Hot girl dating a huge jerk is courted by a boy.
  2. Fired Up: Hot girl dating a huge jerk is courted by a boy.
  3. Wedding Crashers: Hot woman engaged to a huge jerk is courted by a man.

We’re supposed to root for the male protagonist to “save” the girl from the huge jerk. You root against the jerk. He’s the bad guy, and it’s the dorky kid’s job to save the girl from him.

What really bugs me about this is: What’s so attractive about a woman who is willing to date a huge jerk? It’s not like she was forced to date this guy. That’s the guy she chose to date! This choice reflects extremely poorly on her. Why does the protagonist ignore that?

I think this is one of my least favorite movie cliches because of the way it portrays women as hapless victims of circumstance. Which isn’t true at all. We choose who we date, and the people we date reflect upon who we are. You date a good person–that says something good about you. You date a huge jerk–that says something bad about you.

My favorite teen movie of all time is Superbad. One of the major reasons I love that movie is that it avoids this cliche altogether. The movie isn’t about winning these girls away from their idiot boyfriends (because why would you want a girl who has an idiot boyfriend)–it’s about impressing women (and, ultimately, respecting them). I love that.

What do you think? Do the people we date reflect on who we are, or are we just hapless victims of circumstance? What are some of your favorite teen movies–and realistic, likable women in teen movies? What are your least favorite teen and romantic comedy cliches?

*In all fairness to Can’t Hardly Wait, which packs an incredible number of cliches and one-dimensional characters into its running time, it does include one of the coolest moments in any movie: When the dorky kid is singing “Paradise City” in front of the crowd, he falls down and the music stops. Then you see the him rise into the air like a phoenix from the ashes, the mic is tossed in the air, and he rocks out while the crowd goes wild. It’s awesome.

Confession #12: The Gusto

February 8, 2010

I’m a sprinter. I start things with gusto, with excitement, with passion. I thrive in those first 100 yards.

But then the lactic acid begins to build up, and I have to glide for the next 100 yards or so before it begins to feel like a long distance run. I lose steam. I lose focus. I feel like I don’t have the endurance for such runs.

The sprint analogy is perfect for my history with women. This is different than the prototypical relationship curve where you start off super passionate and then that lust dies down and a greater love emerges. I’m specifically talking about who I am in those relationships.

I kind of feel like I’m all talk. Because I start off relationships with such gusto. I say all the right things, I write all the right things–these aren’t things I’m forcing or faking; I genuinely feel those things and express them.

But after a while, the gusto is gone. I got so hyped up that this woman is the one, and then I realize that things aren’t quite as perfect as they seemed, that our connection isn’t as strong as I thought, and I simply stop trying. Or when I do try, it’s forced. I start to get a wandering eye.

This is the pattern. Everybody has patterns in their relationships, and this is mine.

It seems to me that there are one or two things going on here:

  1. It’s me. I come out of the gates too fast, I exhaust myself, and then when things aren’t as clean and easy as they originally appeared, I stop trying. I simply lose interest.
  2. It’s you. You are not the woman you told me you were, or you have imperfections that I scowl at instead of embrace, or you’re simply not the one for me and I should have realized it sooner.

In all likelihood, it’s probably a combination of the two. And I must say, being intentionally single has helped me immensely with number 2. Because I actually have time to realize if a woman is better for me as a friend than a lover. I have a deadline to keep, after all. Without that deadline, I’d be rushing into things like the sprinter I am.

I need to give the fine wine that is a woman the space and time to breathe a bit. I’m fortunate to have that time now.

But I also can’t ignore number 1. It’s not that I want to slow down or stop being vulnerable. Those are good things for getting to know someone on a deeper level. But there’s something missing. There’s something I have to do to be able to carry this gusto throughout a relationship–some of it, at least. The analogy would suggest that I need to pace myself, but does that work here? When you’re falling for someone, why would you want to pace yourself?

I’ve experienced all types of love, all shapes and sizes. But the one that has felt the best to me is the love you feel when you’re falling for someone. It’s exciting, it’s uncertain, it’s tender. It sweeps you off your feet. But the other loves return you to solid ground. Sure, they have many good characteristics about them too, but in my experience, none of them are better than falling.

I think the key question, as bad as it sounds, is this: After you fall for someone, how do you stay interested in them? Or is there a a way to fall in love with the same person for years and years? How?

Pet Peeve #8: Glasses in the Sink

February 5, 2010

Over the years, I’ve noticed a phenomenon related to how people deal with dirty glasses when they are visiting someone else’s house. Some people–myself included–put glasses in the dishwasher (if it’s clearly dirty) or on the counter. Others put their glass in the sink.

Those people are crazy. Here’s why:

  1. You can stack dirty plates on top of one another in a sink. But once you have a single glass in there, no plates can soak in your sink.
  2. Once you put a glass in the sink, you can no longer put it on the counter because it leaves a ring of nasty sink water on your marble countertop.
  3. Sinks are slightly sloped so that the water will drain, making it easier for glasses to fall over. Show of hands: How many of you have broken a wine glass in the sink? It’s happened to all of us. I once had a person put a shot glass in my sink. Somehow it made it’s way into the drain; guess what happened when I turned on the garbage disposal? Yep, that was a lot of fun to clean out.
  4. There’s a dishwasher right there! Just put it in there!

I really don’t understand this phenomenon. Do people think they’re helping you hide dirty dishes from view by putting them in the sink? Do these people not have dishwashers at home?

When you go to that wine and cheese party this weekend, do your host a favor: Either put your glass in the dishwasher, or leave it on the counter. They’ll thank you for the gesture.

An Ode to Buzz

February 4, 2010
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Last year on February 3, the only grandfather I ever knew as an adult, passed away. I knew him as Buzz. In memorial, here’s what I said at his funeral.

I’ve never called Buzz my grandfather. He’s always been Buzz to me. I’d address envelopes “Grandma and Buzz Dunn,” or sometimes “Grandma Lessard and Buzz Dunn,” because I never could remember if Grandma took his last name (which she did).

The reasons for me not calling him “Grandpa” are not clear to me. After all, Buzz was around for way more of my life than either of my familial grandfathers. My mother’s father passed away before I was born, and my father’s father passed soon after. I never knew either of them. Despite that, I always thought of Buzz as Buzz, not Grandpa. That’s how I introduced him to people: “This is Buzz. This is my grandmother’s husband.”

Perhaps the reason was that I was never sure if Buzz considered me his grandson. He came into this family 17 years ago already having grandchildren of his own—did he want more? I wasn’t sure. I thought it possible that he wanted to relinquish those duties and just be Grandma’s husband, a sentiment I completely understand. Now, in retrospect, I think Buzz considered everyone his family.

One of the remarkable things about Buzz is that he never talked to me like a grandchild. He never patted me on the head or gave me life lessons or sneaked me candy. He never made absurd claims or boasts or exclamations like grandfathers do in the movies.

Because of this, I had the sense that Buzz was 100% himself around anyone, no matter their age or status or relation. He didn’t talk down to children or refrain from telling stories to strangers. He was so comfortable in his own skin.

He seemed most at ease when telling stories about his childhood. He told his stories with such precision that it was as if he had already written his entire life in his mind and was just waiting for the time to put it on paper. I loved watching his face when he told his stories, because his complexion would change as he worked toward the punchline. His cheeks would redden and his eyes would glisten with delight. And then, at the finale, he would laugh. Yes, he would laugh at his own jokes, his own stories. He took such delight in his life—he just seemed so happy that he had the privilege to stand in his own shoes over all those years.

Just as much as I am in awe of the sharpness of Buzz’s mind, I am stunned by the rapid decline of the state of his body. His health was amazing for a man his age until just a few years ago. After all, this was a man who ran a 4-minute mile when he was in college. His heart was strong. I was sure he’d live past 100. And then for his health to deteriorate at the rate it did…it’s a terrifying example of the fragility of life.

Although I never played catch with Buzz or helped him with crossword puzzles (he never needed help), Buzz and I shared a love for the written word. When I brought a collection of my short stories to the beach in 2008, Buzz was the first to read them. I don’t think Buzz ever fully accepted technology—he wrote his memoirs longhand and typed Christmas letters on his typewriter—but he wanted to tell his story.

Whenever I’d see Buzz, I’d ask him about his autobiography. He’d always say that it was coming along pretty well. I sadly remember this past Christmas when I asked him the same question. He paused and replied, “I just don’t have the energy. I’ve put it aside.”

“For now?” I asked hopefully.

“No,” he said in that Louisiana drawl of his. “I’m just going to have to let it rest.”

His statement had a finality to it that moved me. He knew.

Perhaps most important of all was that Buzz took care of Grandma. He was there for her, day in and day out, when she went through years of surgeries and health issues of her own. He was her husband for what was possibly the happiest time of her life. The gratitude I have to this man for taking care of the grandmother I hold so dearly in my heart…words cannot contain it. Thank you, Buzz.

My favorite memory of Buzz happened at the last family reunion at the beach. His hearing and breathing had significantly deteriorated by that point. We celebrated Buzz’s birthday on the same night that we had our family sing along party. Before the singing started, Buzz was presented with a card that played its own tune—I can’t remember the song, but it was one of those timeless wonders like “Unforgettable.”

After sugar-free cake was served, people started singing and playing the guitar, and the room was filled with this wonderful cacophony of noise. In the middle of one of the songs, I looked over at Buzz.

He wasn’t paying attention to the party. Instead, he was holding the card up to his ear, listening to the tiny speakers embedded in the cardboard. When the loop ended, he closed the card and reopen it so the song would start again.

He had this faraway look in his eyes. Surrounded by family, oblivious to the noise, Buzz was in his own world, listening to the one song he wanted to hear at that moment. I watched him with a little bit of envy, envy that he had found such blissful serenity. Then I turned back to the music and realized that my blissful serenity was all around me. It was just a lot louder than his.

And that’s just Buzz. No matter who he was talking to or who he was with, he found his serenity. He listened to his song. He was completely, 100% himself. And he was just fine with the people around him being themselves as well.

It’s a few days too late, but I’m proud to call him my grandfather.

What Past Girlfriends Have Said About Me

February 3, 2010
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I’ve been single now for 3 consecutive months, the longest stretch in 5 years.

I dated two women during that time, both of whom were very supportive of my writing. So much so that they wrote some entries on this blog.

I recently went back and read some of these entries. I have to say, they are classic entries. They’re wonderfully written and hilarious. Those two women made fun of me in an insightful way that I think some of the newer readers of this blog would appreciate. I’ve posted some excerpts and links below for your viewing pleasure. I promise you’ll get a good laugh.

On a very girlie drink I once bought (Do yourself a favor and read this full entry. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious.): “Jamey proceeded to nurse his fluorescent, pretty drink for the next hour while trying to side-step and nonchalantly dance his way into an old-people party in the square that was unfortunate enough to be right by where we were sitting.”

On my lack of directional skills: “For example, if Jamey were trying to drive from the condo to a new restaurant in town, if the directions said, “Step 5: Abandon your car by the side of the road and continue on foot for the next 10 miles–you may have to army crawl under the barbed-wire for a stretch of mile 6″, he’d probably still do it and show up all wide-eyed to dinner wondering why no one else was covered in dirt.”

On my habit of diluting drinks: “Jamey has to dilute pretty much everything he drinks—alcohol, soda, and yes, even the drink of choice for toddlers, juice.”

On the old water bottles I use: “When Jamey and I were leaving the apartment to fly to Richmond for Thanksgiving, he packed up his carry-on, and with a flourish, added the most rickety, mutilated plastic water bottle I’ve ever seen to his bag, then triumphantly headed for the front door. Classy guy.”

On Cue Card Guy: “Jamey and I always joke that there’s a guy standing behind me holding up cue cards that contain the pre-written, reconciliatory lines so Jamey knows what to say to rectify the situation. Cue Card Guy.”

Also, here’s one entry that really is quite funny about how mean one of my girlfriends was when she was trying to sleep. If you’ve ever slept next to a grumpy person, this post is for you.