Walking Through Life with the Confidence of a Honey Badger

Several years ago, I watched ‘The Crazy Nastyass Honey Badger” video.  As entertaining as that video was, it was also the first time I had really seen a Honey Badger in action.  King Cobras, bees, jackals.. The Honey Badger did not give a shit.

Last week, I found out that the skin of a Honey Badger was so durable, that it could withstand a machete, arrows, and spears.  I suppose there can be some real value in having thick skin.  And off my mind went…

I read a book a couple years ago which discussed the concept of not taking anything personally.  The idea is that whatever someone was saying about you or to you, was a reflection of how they were experiencing their reality, more than it was a reflection of you.  If a random stranger yelled a racial slur at you, there’s a good chance that outburst had more to do with them than it did with you.  Even if that random stranger said something flattering, the premise is the same.  The goal is to understand why something is being said, rather than to take what is being said at face value.

I think there’s a lot of wisdom in this approach.  There are times where someone paid me a compliment that I really enjoyed hearing, and instead of understanding why they had paid me a compliment, I accepted it as a true statement.  Later, I would discover that I had been misled, not because the other person was malicious in their intentions, but because I misunderstood their perspective or what they were trying to communicate.  If your priority is to have an accurate understanding of the world, you need to be mindful of the prejudice and bias of how others see the world – even when it’s in your favor.

While I appreciate how this approach has helped keep my ego in check, it’s arguably most effective as a defensive measure.  While I’m not perfect, I do my best to walk through life without fear, anger, or hate.  And I’m getting pretty darn good at it.  How?  I walk through life with the confidence of a Honey Badger.

I wasn’t born with thick skin.  These callouses were earned.  A lot of it was scar tissue.

I entered into adulthood understanding that sensitivity was not always a strength.  Being sensitive worked against me more often that it worked in my favor because a high degree of sensitivity would bypass my ability to think about things rationally – and I would just react.  More often than not, these reactions were extremely counter-productive.  I had to learn to handle things differently.

In my 20s, I learned the value of rational thought.  Emotions and sensitivity became something to control, not something which I would let control me.  Someone could call me the meanest thing they could come up with, and I’d be more likely to end up at a point of compassion than of anger.  I would also have more confidence in my ability to turn that person into a friend than an enemy.  And even if I couldn’t make any progress with that individual, I could move on from the situation knowing that I handled the situation the best I could and that I may have created an opening for someone else down the road.  There was something enlightened about this approach, and yet it left me feeling invincible.

I now walk through life with the confidence of a Honey Badger, knowing that there’s very little that others can do to hurt me.  And it’s changed the way I see the world.  Without fear, there is no hate.  Without hate, there is no anger.  Without fear, hate, or anger, Love is a much more natural state of mind.  Walking through life, ready to love… I can’t help but think this is a far more productive approach than walking through life ready to fear.

Now in my 30s, I’m trying to incorporate a more balanced approach, inclusive of sensitivity and emotions.  These days, I understand sensitivity to be like a dial on an instrument which collects data. If you turn the dial to zero, then you’ll collect no new information and you might as well not have the instrument at all.  If you turn the dial on the instrument to 100, you better have the ability to process all that information accurately.  I suspect that most people have a hard time adjusting that dial themselves.  I’ve seen a lot of men out there who have set that dial as low as possible and go through life too insensitive to notice the emotional nuances of those around them.  I’ve also seen a lot of women out there who have their dial set rather high, and go through life overly sensitive to the actions and words of those around them.  I doubt either is healthy.

A thick skin doesn’t make you insensitive to the world around you.  A thick skin is the difference between someone wanting to hurt you and someone being able to hurt you.  And when you realize that this dynamic exists entirely in your head, as an understanding of how the world works, it really does stand out to me as something special.  Imagine a world, full of people who are never offended, never angry, never fearful.  That world often exists inside my head… but then I venture out into the real world and I’m reminded of how much fear, hate, and despair exists in the world.

I’m not entirely sure how to navigate what comes next…  But I do know how I’ll carry myself in the process.


Back from the Depths

Back in December, I decided that enough was enough.  I had spent so much time in a holding pattern with the important parts of my life… waiting for key events to launch me back into the state of mind I enjoyed most.  I knew it wasn’t the best approach I could take, but I was smoking so much weed that I lacked the motivation to break that routine.  Until I started thinking more about Max.

Max was an ex-girlfriend from a few years ago.  We broke up because she was consumed with the idea of leaving a city she had never left and having a chance to explore a world she had never seen.  I’m glad I didn’t try to hold her back from that.

Last year, my whole world came crashing down and I was fortunate enough to have the time and space to reflect on all that had led up to that moment.  For me to understand all that had happened, I needed to be able to see through the noise.  The noise of the outside world, the noise of those who knew me, and even the noise of what I would tell myself.  To truly understand all that had happened, I had to prioritize the truth above all else.  What I found, opened my eyes in a way they had never been opened.

It was through that experience, that I learned to see Max in a much different light.  I thought I had always respected and appreciated her… but I’m not so sure anymore.  At least not in the way it mattered.  Back then, it was about what she meant to me.  Now it has much less to do with me, and much more to do with having a deeper understanding of who she was, and just being in awe of it.

One of the most important things I had learned about myself last year was that I needed to stop trying to force things into reality.  In many ways, it feels like I’ve spent most of my life swimming against the current.  When things got easy, I’d find ways to make them hard.  Many of my life’s accomplishments have been defined by fighting for every inch.  I think there’s a time and a place to fight for what you love, but I have no interest in living a life defined by conflict.  Nor do I have any interest in living a life defined by milestones, or accomplishments, or any other tangible metric.  I realized I wanted to live my life honestly, fearlessly, and with an open mind… and let the universe handle the rest.  And that’s when I couldn’t get Max out of my mind.  She lived by those virtues more so than anyone I’ve ever known.  In some sense, she had become my north star.

I couldn’t help but ask myself, what if we had another shot?  The first thing that came to mind was that I didn’t deserve it.  It was nice that I had gained a deeper appreciation for who she was, but I’d be embarrassed to reintroduce her to the rest of me.  Enough was enough.

I decided that even if it didn’t end up being her, she had set the bar.  For me to be with someone like her, I needed to be… better.  So I stopped smoking weed.  Started training twice a day, 6 days a week.  Started reading a lot more.  Started writing a lot more.  I was still in a holding pattern with my career, but I was determined to break that holding pattern for everything else.  It felt awesome.  So I decided to send her a note.  It was a YouTube video, on Christmas day, apologizing for my mid-steps and thanking her for all that she had inspired.

I didn’t send it expecting a response, but I knew it was likely.  It arrived about a month later and it left me with mixed emotions.  She was surprised, but happy to hear from me.   She said some kind things and then asked if I was up for a call, hoping we could have a real conversation.  I responded later that day saying I would be happy to make the time.  Then radio silence.

A week later, I separated my shoulder playing basketball.  The pain was pretty bad for the first week, enough to keep me from sleeping.  So back to cannabis I went.  Still nothing from Max.

A week after that, Facebook reminded me that it was an old fling’s birthday.  We’ll call her Mia.  I sent her a cake emoji, she sent me a cheers emoji, and we started texting for a bit.  We were both big into superhero movies so I asked if she wanted to go see Black Panther.  She was all for it.  Neither of us had been on a date in a year so we figured maybe this was what we both needed.  There was certainly a part of me that thought if I was going on a real date with a real girl, it would be easier to understand that Max probably wasn’t a real option.  Or maybe I was just hedging my bets on what was looking more and more like a disinterested Max.

Then Mia flaked out and went radio silent.  It’s why we stopped dating the first time, so I was tempted to write her off again.  Instead, I told her no hard feelings, that I hoped she was ok, and that if she ever wanted to let me in, I was curious to know why she was like this from time to time.   She apologized, said she wasn’t trying to be flaky but it was a combination of being really busy and a little awkward around me.  I asked her what she thought I should do.  She asked why I wanted to reconnect, so I told her.  She was into it, said we should probably catch up, and conceded with a smile that this was the original plan.

At this point I still hadn’t heard from Max, and I think my first reaction was being annoyed.  But I’m better than that.  Even if it had been a month, I knew she was likely busy, and I needed to be ok with not being a priority.  But I couldn’t help but reach out, so I asked what was on her mind.

She responded shortly after, saying that she was dealing with a few things and then offered up a rather disheartening email.  Knowing that she still cared about me and always being honest, she told me what she really thought about the video I had sent her.  In the video, I told her that I was on a new path, and that she was the only one who I knew who had the courage and ability to walk that path beside me and not behind me.  I was alluding to a path defined by the journey, not the destination.  A path defined by a compass of honesty, fearlessness, and open-mindedness, not milestones like income or assets.  It was a path I thought she was already on.  She took it as me thinking of her as an accessory to a path which I was taking.  It was frustrating to be misunderstood like that.  But I had to appreciate that her idea of who I was, was largely influenced by the person I was when we dated.  And maybe I was a bigger ass than I realized.

Truth is, as frustrating as that email was, it let me know that she was still exactly who I hoped she was.  She was brutally honest.  Talked about how what she wanted in a partner was a true equal.  Said that she could still see growth in me and was really happy for how far I had come.  She also apologized for taking so long to reply, but said it was a tough email to write because of how much she cared for me.  She wrapped up by saying that she was about to spend the next 10 days in Sri Lanka with some free time if I wanted to chat.

A couple more emails went back and forth and things were positive.  I could tell that she was trying to balance a few different thoughts and emotions, on top of all that she was dealing with in her in life.  If I were to guess what those thoughts and emotions were, I’d guess a lingering sense of disappointment from letting her down in our relationship, a healthy skepticism of where this was all coming from, and a genuine interest in my well-being.  She gave me her new number and suggested we chat on whatsapp.  So I did and we did.

Within the first few messages, I told her that I still wanted to respond to her last email.  She was still making assumptions based on who I was, and I was so eager to show her who I had become.  She welcomed the email, but didn’t respond to it.  What is it with people and radio silence?  Is it a girl thing?  A dating thing?  A me thing?  Am I still unreasonable today?  These are the kinds of things that drive me a little nutty, but I choose to react sensibly.  I took a night off cannabis earlier this week and went into full insomnia mode.  I couldn’t help but think of the situation.  I thought that perhaps it was unfair of me to put this on her at a time in her life where she had other things which were more important to focus on.  All I wanted was for her to understand what had happened to me and appreciate what it meant to the hypothetical ‘us’.  Beyond that, I had no expectations.  But just because that was important to me, doesn’t mean it had to be important to her.  So I grabbed my phone and decided to send her a message that would basically say no hard feelings, I know you have a lot going on, and if you ever feel compelled, here’s a link to my blog.  The hope was that when she was ready, she’d see the journey I took, and see the steps that I’ve taken to arrive at who I am today.  She’s also see my ENTJ Love Story which is one of my life’s most honest moments, and all about her.  Instead I accidentally hit the call button.

I hit the hang-up button like I was button mashing a Mario Party game but to no avail. The call never went through, but she noticed and asked what’s up?  I was a little tongue-tied.  It was difficult to express myself in short text messages, when she was still making so many assumptions about who I am, based on who I was.  We texted until about 4am, but most of that was me deleting and rewriting messages, desperate not to be misunderstood.

She told me that her stance on us was that she wasn’t in the right mindset to be thinking about it since she didn’t have a clue which city she’d be living in once she graduated.  I told her it might be an interesting conversation to have, but not one that I was ready for either.  Truth is, I still have more ground that I need to cover before I would consider myself ready to be in that caliber of a relationship.  What I did want to know is that if the path that I was on was aligned with hers.

When we broke up, we each recognized that we had things that we needed to work on.  And if we did, we could come back to each other and our relationship would be that much stronger.  At the time, I didn’t realize how much of that work was mine to be had, nor did I realize that it would end up being me that would be more compatible to who she was, and not her who would become more compatible to who I was.  But I didn’t know for sure, because all I had to work with was my memory of who she was.

She said it was tough to talk about because she would think about how we were before and it was like she was talking to a whole new person.  I breathed a sigh of relief… she was finally seeing what I was trying to show her.  Then she told me that one of our biggest issues was how dominant I was.  No one had ever described me as dominant in a relationship before, but it was easy to understand why.  I’m happy she said it.  She went on to say that I would push my point of view rather aggressively, and wasn’t the best at taking the time to reflect on my stance.  She was right.  But then she said that it seemed like I was doing that now… and my heart sank.

I conceded that I had issues.  Give me a woman who follows my lead and I get bored.  Give me a woman who challenges me and I compete to win.  Her emails reminded me of these issues, but they also reminded me of how far I had come.  I told her I hoped she’d have a chance to get to know this person, because she played a very real role in where I am now.  She said that she was happy, but was concerned that it didn’t happen until years later.  I responded by saying that I wasn’t in the right state of mind to learn these things when we dated.  I was consumed with becoming what I thought the world expected of me, not taking the time to figure out who I really was and what I had to offer to the world.  She said she was proud, and it sounded like I was on the right track.

And that was it.  We have no future plans to talk.  I have no interest in taking up any more of her time.  I don’t think she’s all that interested in putting thought into this either… but I know I’ve planted a seed.  What I wanted most was to know if any of what I thought or felt was real.  But once I did, I cared too much to do nothing, and knew better than to chase after her.  So I planted a seed.  I haven’t a clue what happens next.  I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me thinking about booking a ticket to her grad ceremony but I’m not sure if it’ll be a sign of stalking, support, or a grand gesture of romance.  Especially since my intentions are probably a combination of all three.  But then the pragmatic side of me says there’s at least a 50/50 chance that it goes horribly wrong.  But then the romantic says 50/50 are great odds when you’re talking about something this meaningful.

All I know is that having a chance to reconnect with her and put this out there has left me with a sense of peace.  The rest of my life still feels like the eye of the storm, but at least here, I’ve made progress.

Power Vs. Strength

When dealing in abstract concepts like these, it can be difficult to have a real conversation without first agreeing on how to define the terms.  I think that a lot of people use power and strength interchangeably, yet I can’t help but think that they differ in very important ways.

Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.  I was taught that quote by a very influential history teacher in high school and it has continued to echo through my mind since.  I can’t help but be reminded of it when I see people in positions of power put the needs of the few before the needs of the many.  It’s as if there’s something inherently inefficient about power.

When I think of strength, it’s similar to power.  But not quite.  Strength is almost like the potential of power.  Unused power.  A visual of strength does not require a display of aggression.  Perhaps there’s a duality here.  Is power to offense as strength is to defense?

It’s interesting, you could say that someone is both powerful and weak at the same time.  A frail old king is both re(g)ally powerful and physically weak.  Politicians are known for having political power but weak integrity.  Movies are constantly filled with villains who wield vast power, but lack a strength of character.  I’m not sure if I know of any villains who have a great strength of character, but wield little power.  In many cases, is that not the hero?  The unassuming, jacked, strong jaw line with a warm smile kinda hero?

Analyzing this in the abstract is usually a journey down the rabbit hole, but there are some examples that help me clarify what I’m thinking.

Name calling has gotten out of control.  For most of my life, I was taught not to feed into it.  To walk away.  To appreciate that the person doing the name calling is probably doing so because they’re battling their own demons.  It was tough when I was younger but it’s second nature now.  Now, when someone’s hostile towards me, I’m much more likely to view the situation with compassion than anger and I can’t help but think that makes me strong.  Moving through life, invulnerable to the malicious attitudes of others is really something else… I highly recommend it.

Yet I seem to be in the minority.  Rather than seeing it as an issue of personal strength, compassion, and helping someone move beyond their own issues, it’s about power.  The victim being name called is no longer interested in making themselves stronger, they’re interested in becoming more powerful.  This is the era of the victim shaming the bully.

If we could teach everyone the simple philosophy of not taking things personally, the effectiveness of name calling would disappear.  When something is no longer effective, we tend to stop using it.  We become stronger, we become wiser, and we move forward.  Instead, we’re more interested in giving the victims the power to hurt them back.  Laws are being changed for compelled speech.  What does being triggered in this context mean?  What happens when being triggered is an excuse to tap into that power?

I also can’t help but see this dynamic in women’s empowerment.  I remember finding out that I was a feminist back in university because I believed in equality.  It made sense to me that men and women were different but equal.  But I struggle to resonate with parts of modern feminism.  There seems to be this pursuit of equal outcome over equal opportunity.  A denial of inconvenient biology.  A tendency to deal in absolutes instead of nuances.  And what drives it all, seems to be a pursuit of power over the pursuit of equality.

I don’t think it’s that complicated either.  For decades, centuries, or millennia (however you want to look at it), men have been powerful.  They’ve ruled, they’ve warred, they’ve killed, they’ve raped, and they’ve pillaged.  Things are different now.  In an age of equality, women want to be powerful too.  They’re no longer looking for a seat at the table, now they want equal rights to be the asshole boss at the table.  I suppose that is equality, I suppose I’m just a little bummed out that there isn’t a motivation to be better.

I sometimes joke that I feel sorry for Hilary Clinton for having lost the 2016 election.  She could’ve been a role model for feminism.  She lost when she ran against Obama, but had the composure to pick her self up and run again.  Then she went up against one of feminism’s greatest foes, keeping her composure throughout.  Had it not been for Russian interference, she probably would’ve won that presidency.  She couldn’t have been a role-model for feminism, right?  One of the bigger reasons why Hilary lost, was because for many, she was indistinguishable from the Washington establishment.  She literally spent her entire career learning how to play within a corrupt, man’s world to the point where she probably played it better than anyone else – Just in time for the American public to be fed up with it.  I felt bad for women that they missed out on their first female president, but I had hope.

My hope is that the first woman to be elected president, be the jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring, locomotion of intelligence, strength, integrity and all the qualities of a great leader, but without the sacrifice of feminine qualities like compassion, intuition, and ability to nurture.  I want her to be able to set the bar.  Not just for future women, but for future men and politics in general.  I want her to inspire us to look up to women, not to reasons to avoid looking down on them.

In the pursuit of equality, women are looking at men, and trying to draw the line 50/50 through it all.  You don’t want it all.  A lot of it is garbage.  Please don’t take the garbage too.  We’d all be way better off if we could leave it behind, and this is an opportunity to do so.  This power isn’t something you want, it’s something that none of us should want.  We need to let it go.  But we need help.  We need a little leadership.

It’s not power that you want, it’s strength.  It can be tough to tell the difference when you look at the people holding you down and the most obvious difference between you is power.  But they’re not strong.  That’s why your strength makes their power irrelevant.

You can have a world where everyone is strong, but not a world where everyone is powerful.  For someone to be powerful, someone else must be powerless.  Strength however, resides within.  A world in which everyone pursues power is chaos.  A world in which everyone pursues inner-strength is peace.

Decentralized journalism

Had an idea the other day.  I think it could be a big one.

Decentralization is something I’ve paid a great deal of attention to over the years.  We’ve seen it tackle the taxi industry, hotels, and several forms of media.  Next, I’m keen to see how it tackles things like energy and currency.  In each case, the premise seems rather simple:  Make better use of the resources we already have, and let technology shoulder the workload of keeping things organized.

Every great business is a solution to a very real problem.  In this case, the solution is to the problem of modern journalism.  Currently, journalism places a greater emphasis on being first than it does on being right.  Sensationalism has replaced accuracy.  Journalism has become more about producing ammunition than telling a story.  And it needs to change.

There’s a curious link between humans, size, power, and corruption.  The bigger we get, the more power we’re inclined to have, and the more power we’re inclined to have, the more susceptible we are to corruption.  The news industry in America became tremendously powerful over the decades, and was far more centralized than most people realized.  Even today, organizations like Sinclair and Fox are making significant moves to expand their political reach.  Anytime an industry gets big and corrupt like this, it’s time for decentralization to save the day.

My idea is a news platform which would allow journalists to earn a living while maintaining their independence and their integrity.  While also holding them accountable.  I realized that while I knew the names of all these news anchors, I couldn’t name the author of a single article I had read in the last week.  The twisted thing is that I barely watch any cable news – and I real a lot of articles.  Why didn’t I know their names?  It was because they were promoted as secondary to the organization they were reporting on behalf of.  I wonder what journalism would look like if journalists were front and center for their work?

Similar to a Google news feed or Reddit, your feed would be a collection of news articles curated around your interests.  What would make it different though, is that the person behind the article would also be well profiled.  These individuals deserve to be recognized for the work that they’re doing.  By letting good journalists be closely associated with their work, they can be recognized for what they’re doing and build a reputation for it.  By letting poor journalists be closely associated for their work, they can be recognized for what they’re doing as well.

How these journalists would be profiled is a very interesting question.  An overall 5 star review system would probably be part of it, but maybe not.  Maybe the 5 star rating system is a better predictor of popularity than competence.  I know that for me personally, the biggest concerns in journalism are honesty and accuracy.  So maybe the first thing that gets added to the profile is a bullshit meter.  If you used alternative facts in a story you wrote, the people reading should know that and be able to hold you accountable.  And that becomes part of your profile..

Most of our news today is delivered to us through a TV personality, quoting another news organization, using a piece of information gathered by one of their journalists, who used an anonymous source to report what they heard.  By the time you hear it, you’re not sure what to make of it.  Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.  Who knows by the time it makes it to you.  But what if the journalist who broke this news, had an immaculate track record with their news releases?  What if they used anonymous sources?  Would you care if they’ve always been accurate?  Personally, I don’t mind the use of anonymous sources if they’re being verified by someone who I trust.  Not all anonymous sources should be treated equally.

So we would want everyone to be held accountable to the same standards of honesty.  How that would be accomplished exactly, I’m not sure.  I think it would probably do well to partner with an existing fact checking organization, but the best solution would involve the community holding its own community members accountable.  Something I enjoy thoroughly about the comment section on Reddit (depending on the subreddit), is that the most upvoted comment is often one that adds more clarity to the article.  Sometimes it’s for calling out the article on inaccuracies, sometimes it’s by providing additional sources to elaborate on a point.  I think that a community like this would be imperative to this platform’s long-term success.

The next thing I’d like to see on journalist prifles are accuracy of speculative statements.  If you have someone who’s always telling you how things are going to turn out, it’s important to know how often they’re right.  Those who are able to predict the future with a high degree of accuracy should probably be listened to more.  Those found to be crying wolf too often, should probably be heard less.  Allowing for people to be held accountable to these speculative statements will hopefully drive more practical discussions and limit unreasonable fear mongering.

However this profile ends up looking, it’s purpose is to give the audience context about who they’re hearing the story from.  It’s to help create an informed reader, while encouraging journalistic integrity.  Especially in a climate like this, I’m confident in the value of honesty.  I’m confident in the peoples’ value of journalistic integrity and honesty, but I’m also sympathetic to their distrust of large media corporations controlling the dialogue.  This would be a big step in separating the two.

I think this would have to work in tandem with a user profile as well.  One of the biggest issues we run into in modern media are thought bubbles and echo chambers.  Perhaps a way around that is having an algorithm track your bias.  For example, if your political bias shows that you’re off center, the algorithm would include some of the most credible articles that might disagree with your views.  A balanced perspective is key, and there’s no evidence to suggest that everything in your news feed should be something that you agree with.

Another element of this platform is that it would welcome all sources of media.  Podcasts are the new radio.  YouTube is the new TV.  This is about inclusivity of talent, and allowing merit to drive the spotlight.

Now how would you go about attracting all these high quality reporters away from their existing jobs?  Promise them the flexibility and freedom to write about whatever they’d like, at whatever place they’d like to write at?  Too easy.  Tell them they get to work from where ever they’d like, as little or as often as they’d like?  Meh.  Promise them that they’ll be the one’s who are recognized for their articles and that they have the ability to build a personal brand around their craft?  Maybe.  Or maybe tell them that they’ll have a 50% revenue split with all ad revenue generated by their articles.  Bam.

People might say that democracy is dying when Trump is elected while half the American voting population stays home.  Yet we’re liking, and up-voting more than ever.  I think we enjoy voting, it’s just that there’s a bit of a cost reward calculation going on.  Putting some big up-votes behind some talented journalists who aren’t afraid to put their neck on the line to expose those big truths… we could bring them to the mainstream.  We could make heroes out of them and remind ourselves of the ideals we should be striving for.  We could give journalism the home it deserves.

So where to start?  School news papers of course.  I\ve learned that when looking to the future, look to the kids.  Go to the high schools, universities and colleges, and show them how easy it is to move their school publication on to this platform.  Instead of having to run everything through the bureaucracy of a normal news paper or site, have your journalists operate independently.  Teachers might not be into it. Some parent’s might be concerned.  But that’s the point.  And the fun.  Have the conversations that they don’t want you to have.  Talk about the things that you’ve been told not to talk about.  Dig into the real.  And imagine how real that gets at a university paper.  And imagine the power of a platform like this taking hold at an academic level, and producing the fierce, confident, intelligent, rational journalists that are capable of providing us with an honest and accurate view of the world.

Wouldn’t that be something.


I noticed a pattern in my dating behavior recently.  Actually, I think I noticed it a few years ago but suppressed it, afraid it might be indicative of something that I might have to deal with.

I think I’m good at being single.  I keep myself busy with work, friends, and sports.  I enjoy my alone time.  Sex outside a relationship doesn’t do much for me.  And for the most part, I don’t crave to be in a relationship.  Yet every year, I enter the fall a single man, and exit the holidays in some kind of relationship.  Maybe not every year, but close enough for me to see a pattern.

In 2016, I met a Harley Quinn at a Halloween party and we dated until the spring of last year.  Before that was Max, who I met in the fall of 2015.  We dated until the spring of 2016.  It’s been almost a year since I’ve been anywhere near a woman though, and I’m starting to bug out a bit.

As great as my last girlfriend was, I came out of that relationship thinking that I might be asexual.  She was all kinds of awesome, and I was all kinds of uninterested towards the end.  It wasn’t her fault as I had some things I needed to work through.  In that regard, I suppose I’m not very good at multitasking.

Harley and I broke up in the spring.  Women weren’t on my radar at all.  The summer came and went and I still had no interest in women.  I was open minded to the idea that I just wasn’t suitable for a relationship.  I was also open minded to the fact that I might be a touch asexual as I noticed myself getting bored of sex within the first few months in most of my relationships.  I loved exploring, I loved figuring out where her buttons were, and I loved introducing her to new things… but as soon as things became a bit repetitive, I would lose interest.

In the fall, an ex messaged me.  We chatted for a bit and I could see she was angling for something physical so I told her she was probably barking up the wrong tree.  She took it as a challenge and basically took it upon herself to turn me back into a red-blooded male.  I thought it would be an interesting experiment.  We were supposed to meet up one weekend after she wrapped up at some kind of fancy party.  I told her earlier in the day that I just wasn’t into it.  There’s an interesting test that I think most men (and perhaps women?) are aware of: If you still wanna hang out with them after you jerk off, then they’re worth hanging out with.  That was not the case with her, so I eventually told her that it wouldn’t be right to use her to work out my own issues.

On Monday, I downloaded Tinder.  Or perhaps I should say that I re-downloaded Tinder.  I’m probably the minority but I’m a fan of the app and have used it to meet several quality women.  This time around, I’m feeling a bit lost.  My last profile was a head shot of me in a 3 piece suit, talking about working in finance and dabbling in venture capital.  As effective as that profile was, it seemed a bit douchey this time around.  It didn’t reflect who I had become over the last year.  I really didn’t know what kind of girl I was looking to attract, or even what I would even want from them.  I just knew it was different from before.  But Tinder isn’t the place for me to work this out.  I had the app for 2 days before deleting it again.

But I’m playing back into this pattern aren’t I?  Give or take a couple months.  Do I want to be in a relationship?  Probably not.  I wouldn’t even know where to begin.  Am I open to one?  I think so.  Maybe what I’m hoping for is to meet someone new who can teach me a few things about the world and myself.  Or maybe I’m feeling the void of someone who’s already taught me so much.

I probably went through more personal growth in the last 12 months than any other period of my life.  The last time I went through this much growth was when my dad died.  I learned to appreciate the true diversity of humanity.  I learned that embracing what made me different, and being true to myself wasn’t only going to be my greatest comparative advantage, it would also lead to my happiest self.  I learned the importance of not suppressing my emotions and the value of learning how to process and communicate them.  I learned why it was important for me to embrace the parts of who I am which I had neglected, thinking they weren’t necessary in my career.  I learned a greater appreciation for prejudice and the survivorship bias.  I learned to be far more grateful.  And perhaps most importantly, I learned a tremendous importance of keeping an open mind.

Keeping an open mind can be important for a variety of reasons, many of which I learned last year.  Of all those reasons though, one is very important to me.  I had the opportunity to learn all of this when I was dating Max.  She was a few years younger than me, but she had a handle on all of this stuff.  And the things she didn’t know, we should’ve been able to discover together.  Instead of keeping an open mind and seeing her as someone I could learn from, I saw her as a challenge to the path I was already committed to.  Where she embraced her diversity, I was telling her to mind her P’s and Qs.  Where she tried to encourage me to explore, I would tell her that I didn’t have the time.  Where she pushed me to have a better awareness of my emotions, I bought into the myth that I was all robot.  Where she encouraged me to be more grateful, I insisted that I had worked hard for everything that I had.  When she tried to assert herself as an equal who I could learn from, I basically told her that between our age difference and the life that I had lived, there was a good chance that I knew better.  I dismissed the wisdom in what she was trying to help me learn, for the sake of being right and being able to continue along the path I was on.  It’s one of the worst things I’ve ever done to anyone in a relationship and I still feel pretty rotten about it.

In a year where I’ve had more personal growth than at any other point in my life, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Max.  Over.  And over.  And over.  It wasn’t even about wanting to be back in a relationship with her.  It had everything to do with wanting her back in my life. But she wasn’t.

So I found myself thinking about her more and more.  I started playing some of the music she had turned me onto (Phantogram).  I made a half hearted attempt at stalking her social media (largely unsuccessful).  I started to wonder if we would still be compatible (maybe?).  Eventually, I even found myself tossing and turning in bed, wanting her to be within arm’s reach.

When we dated, we fell hard and fast.  Within the first few weeks, we were in love.  Within the first month, we were talking about moving in together.  A month later, we were joking around about having alpha-babies.  Infatuation aside, there was also a deep compatibility that I hadn’t experienced with anyone else.  But she only got half of me.  The other half was career oriented at all costs, and had picked a terrible career to be committed to.  I don’t see an alternate universe in which she could’ve convinced me of that.  I was subscribed to the philosophy that if failure was an option, then you had too many options.  A painful lesson, but perhaps invaluable to my future.

When I think about her now, the word that I can’t get out of my head is ‘equal’.  In the grand scheme of things, I think that we’re all equally valuable to the universe.  But Max was equal to me.  Or maybe I was equal to her.  Or maybe I’m just in awe of the situation and can’t help but hold her in such high regard.  I don’t think it’s that simple though.

I’ve spent most of my adult life hoping to find a partner.  I’ve also spent most of that time not knowing what that person would look like.  I think I have a much better idea now, though it seems incredibly hard to articulate beyond being with someone who’s my equal.  I want to be able to learn from them as often as they learn from me.  I want us to be able to keep an open mind when exploring the unknown together.  I want someone who can hold their own when debating something we disagree on.  I want someone who is valuable to me as I am to them.  And for each of us to be the most valuable person in each other’s lives because we’re committed to bringing out the best in one another.

Maybe that’s what’s going on here.  I have this fixation on becoming the best version of myself.  Seeing the influence Max had on me, I can’t help but think of her as an asset.  The key to my best self.  As romantic as that may sound to some, I don’t think it’s a very functional or realistic way to approach this.

With all the growing up I’ve done, I’m confident that I would make a far better partner for her than I did when we were dating.  Considering the potential we both saw in each other when we did date, I can’t help but be interested in knowing where that would take us today.  Maybe not much further than before.  Maybe much further than before.  I think that would have a lot to do with who she is now.  And therein lies the reality of the matter.

We were in touch over email last week for the first time in about 2 years.  She’s on the other side of the planet working on her MBA.  She’s out there doing her thing, as I always hoped that she would.  Which means I either gotta go get her, hope that she comes to me, or put it out there in the universe and see what happens.  And I’m going with option 3.

I’m sure there’s a romantic, fairy-tale way to approach this… and I wouldn’t put it past me to try something crazy like that.  But I’m still not sure how much of this really involves her.  Had it not been for our most recent communication, she wouldn’t have a clue any of this was going on in my head.  Not to mention there’s always a chance that she’s already dating someone.  Maybe she’s found her soulmate and I’m just being a needy ex.

How much of what I’m feeling relates to the fact that I haven’t been intimate with anyone in almost a year?  How much of this has to do with me usually being in a relationship at this time of year?  How much of this has to do with the loneliness I experience when I don’t have anyone to share my inner-thoughts with?  How much of this is the loneliness that comes from a modern society that’s so connected yet so divided?  How much of this is the loneliness that comes from a world where it costs money to hang out with your friends, but where everyone is struggling financially?  And how much of this stems from the fear that I may have found someone who I could truly build a future with, and may not find another?

The logic in me says that there are a finite amount of people in this world who would make for a suitable partner.  That Max may be one of them, but that she wouldn’t be the only one.  That given where she is, and the phase of life that she’s in, I would probably have better odds looking elsewhere.  Or maybe as the odds play out, I end up with none of them.  The logic in me says appreciate who she is, be grateful for what she’s helped you learn, and focus on the things in your life that are a little more tangible.

But then something else inside me says, what about Max?

I Used to be a Nice Guy.

As a kid, I think I was probably a handful.  But in general, a good kid.  It’s interesting because you might expect that a good kid would grow into a nice guy, and a nice guy would end up with a good girl and everything would work out. Somewhere along the way though, nice guys became not so nice.

I always had a close circle of guy friends, but back in early high school, I started hanging out with the ladies as well.  I genuinely respected and appreciated them as friends, but there would usually be at least one girl in the group I was crushing on.  As a kid, I really wasn’t sure how to approach the situation.  All I really knew is that if I spent time around them, I could probably make some progress.  I’d eat lunch with them.  Talk with them on the phone.   Help them with their homework. Help them with their guy problems…  And I literally got friend-zoned every time.

In grade 11, I met my first girlfriend.  We met at a driving school and I’m pretty sure she had both hands on the steering wheel.  I was lucky because she clearly knew what she was doing and didn’t mind that I was just along for the ride.  It only lasted a few months but at least I figured out how to kiss a girl.  My grade 12 girlfriend was about the same.

I could’ve very easily graduated high school a virgin.  Probably would’ve had I not been easy prey for a pair of girls who weren’t afraid to go after what they wanted.  Instead, I had a couple relationships under my belt and was ready for university.  I remember during orientation week, seeing a girl in my dorm who had the face of an angel, the body of a goddess, and the personality of a cartoon character.  We’ll call her Grace.  She was pretty awesome, and we started hanging out.  Just when I thought I may have been making some progress, she detoured towards an upperclassman.  Not only was the guy a legit womanizer, his personality was mostly cardboard.  It was extremely frustrating for me because I was athletic, I was academic, she and I got along really well, her friends liked me, her family liked me, and I was a nice guy.  Yet she ignored my interest to chase after a guy who literally treated her like an after thought unless he was trying to get laid.

Towards the end of my first year, I started dating our dorm’s resident busty blonde.  There was one point at which she came back to the dorm with another upperclassman, looking a little flustered.  I was a little suspicious.  He was the type to take advantage of a situation like that and she was probably the type to be into it.  We did a little long distance over the summer, where she cheated on me again with her ex back home.  As revenge, I strung her along until she thought things were good, then I broke up with her.  Effective revenge, but a complete dick move on my part.

Ironically, Grace started reaching out to me that summer, telling me about how I was the one she should’ve gone after.  To make matters more confusing, she had just gotten into a relationship with a childhood friend from back home, and the guy was actually treating her well.  She ended up sleeping with him, and then he ended up sleeping with her best friend, who happened to be a gay guy.  As entertaining as that was for me, I felt a little bad for her.

When we got back to school for our second year, everyone was back to being single.  I had been thinking about Grace a fair bit so I told her.  She didn’t have much of a response.  We went out to the big dance in the first week and within the first few dances, she was all up on another guy, so I decided to get all up on another girl.  We were mutually upset at each other’s behavior, and that seemed to undermine any possible momentum we may have had.  From there, she started pursuing a buddy of mine.  This guy was also a dick.  He was easy enough to get along with as a guy, but he also treated her like an after thought.  The more she wanted him, the more he didn’t want her.  I think they slept together a few times, but he had no interest in a relationship.  By the end of the second year, she was dating another buddy of mine who I shared a wall with.  He was much less of a dick, but also the kinda guy who partied way too hard to make it into his second year.

WTF was going on?  What did these guys have that I didn’t? In my head, I would go through the qualities that I had learned women respected:  Physically fit, good hygiene, doing well in school, good circle of friends, social status, respected women, polite, gentlemanly… what else was there?  Leaving university after my second year, I had concluded that women were more attracted and more responsive to men who treated them poorly than men who treated them well.  I knew that I didn’t completely understand the dynamic, but I was fully ready to give up on being the nice guy who was doomed to live out his days in the dreaded friend-zone.

When I got back home from university that summer, I really wasn’t focused on girls.  I was focused on being bad.  Money for school had run out and because of a few other issues between me and the university, they really didn’t want me back.  So I didn’t go.  Instead, I started doing the kinda things that bad boys do.  I spent the next 18 months with ‘the wrong crowd’, doing the kinds of things that people go to jail for.  My inner-circle knew what I was up to but for everyone else, I would just tell them, “don’t worry about it.”  And it worked surprisingly well.

I still wasn’t the type to chase after women, but I started noticing that girls were into me.  Girls who would’ve friend zoned me before were now interested.  My plan was working.

I didn’t even have a clearly defined plan.  All I knew is that when I was a ‘nice guy’, women weren’t interested in me.  When I wasn’t a ‘nice guy’, I was much more attractive.  I gave that a lot of thought.  Maybe the nice guy was too vanilla?  But then it occurred to me that for the most part, nice guys were harmless.  And harmless was unattractive.  There was a lot more to it than that, but maybe I was on to something.

When I got back to university to complete my degree, I proceeded to date 3 of what were probably the most eligible females on campus.  I thought the first was probably a fluke, right place at the right time.  By the third, I knew something was different from my first two years at the school.  I had manifested into the mysterious, hardened, conflicted, complicated guy who still managed to have a bright future, great friends, and a good heart.  Girls were totally into that guy.  I have to admit, it was a lot easier trying to figure things out as that guy than as the guy who could only watch from the sidelines.

When I graduated and came home, I started training in MMA 6 days a week.  I had watched a ton of it on TV and wanted to start competing ASAP.  Within months, I had added a new dimension to my personality.  I now knew that if I ended up in a physical confrontation with another person, there was a very good chance that I would come out on top.  I can’t stress how impactful that state of mind has been on every element of my life.  I spent the first half of my life avoiding violence, fearing that I wouldn’t know how to handle it.  I’ve spent the second half of my life avoiding violence, because I know how to handle it.  The confidence that comes from that state of mind was the final step in building myself into the ‘perfect guy’.

With all the information that I had collected in the first 25 years of my life, I had what I thought was a pretty good idea of what women wanted.  They wanted a guy who’s nice to them, but not to everyone.  They wanted a guy who’s good, but is capable of being bad.  They wanted a guy who can fight, but isn’t violent.  It was like they wanted someone who was a threat, but not a threat to them.  So I literally became the university educated, former bad boy, MMA fighter, investment advisor, who was complicated but with a good heart and a bright future guy.

It would be an exaggeration to say that at this point, I got every girl I pursued, but not by much.  I’ve never been the type for one night stands or picking up girls at a bar so that’s not what I’m talking about.  All I’m saying is that I haven’t been put in the friend zone since.

So how has that worked out for my dating life?  Am I happier?

For a while, it was nice.  Tinder worked like a charm.  Ironically though, the last time I used it was when I landed what many men would think was the holy grail of dating.  I ended up going on a date with a girl who had blonde hair and blue eyes, who looked like a porn-star, worked as a model, and on our second date, tried to bring another girl back to my place.  The second girl she brought back was way too drunk so I took her home, came back, and did the deed.   And felt so gross.  I literally had zero interest in who she was and I’m not the kind of person who looks to date or sleep with someone I’m not interested in.

It was like I had climbed this mountain of self-improvement, so that women would pay more attention to me, only to to realize that the person I had turned myself into was finally capable of landing the kind of woman I had no interest in.  Well then.

That was about 3 years ago.  I’ve had time to reflect.  With the rise of r/niceguys, I’ve thought a fair bit about the path I’ve taken.

The first thing that I had to face was that I spent most of my adolescent and adult life trying to become the kind of guy that girls would be interested in.  When I was young, I modeled so much of my behavior after prince charming.  The good guy, the hero, the gentleman, the nice guy.  That earned me as many female friends as I wanted, but no real relationships.  The girls I did date either got disinterested or cheated on me.  Once I realized being nice didn’t work, I modeled myself after the reformed gangster.  The bad boy, the outlaw, the guy who had seen some shit but didn’t wanna talk about it, and the guy who did bad but now chose to do good.  That earned me as many dates as I wanted, but again, no real relationships.  I was a fixer-upper that women were keen to get to work on, but I had no interest in being fixed.

There’s a dynamic here worth exploring.

There seems to be this cat and mouse game going on between men and women.  But who’s the cat and who’s the mouse?  As much as personal preference came into play, there would always be a few guys that almost all the girls were into.  There were also more than  a few guys who almost all the girls were never into.  To some degree, there was a male hierarchy, that was determined by female preferences in dating.  It was the alpha males and the beta males.


In an age where people are talking about women needing to be more powerful, I can’t help but think this is a dynamic we’ve yet to really appreciate.  Men, in their formative years, model so much of their behavior after what they think will give them the best chance of being with a woman.

As with most major issues in the world, I can’t help but think that this would be easily solved with the use of blatant honesty.  I think a good starting point would be for women to be completely honest about what they find attractive, and communicate how that changes over the course of their lives.  I suspect that most girls grow up thinking that they want a prince charming but as they start to grow into women, they start to realize that life’s a little more complicated than the fairy tales they grew up with.  Turns out that prince charming doesn’t actually exist, and even if he did… meh.  At this point, it becomes an exercise in women exploring what they do want.  It can be tough to be honest about this though.  Especially when you’re trying to maintain an image of innocence, sexual exclusivity, or any other quality that women tend to assume they should be projecting.  It’s not honest though, and it’s confusing the hell out of the guys.

Men aren’t off the hook.  Not even close.  Maybe, in a roundabout way, women facilitated the creation of the ‘nice guy’.  But seriously, how about we don’t play the victim here?  The modern ‘nice guy’ is no longer defined by being a good person.  He’s now defined by the pain and frustration that comes with years of rejection.  And perhaps a mistrust of women, betrayed by the nice guy philosophy which he was convinced would lead to that elusive girlfriend and social acceptance.  I understand where those emotions come from… I’ve experienced that same frustration… but get over it.

If you had focused on you, focused on becoming an interesting and accomplished individual with the patience to wait for the right woman to come along, you probably would’ve been fine.  Instead, you tried to become who you thought women wanted you to be.  You got it wrong.  You thought they just wanted someone who treats them well.  They want more.  A lot more.  They want someone they feel safe around, they want someone who can make them laugh, they want someone who can make them think, someone who can introduce them to new things, someone they can introduce to new things, someone who will truly understand and support who they are.  And etc., and etc.  Not to mention, they want to feel that physical chemistry.  If all you got is nice, it’s not enough.  If all you’ve got is nice, you haven’t earned shit.  Even when a girl says all she wants is a nice guy, they’re still not talking about you.  Until you’ve figured out who you are, found your reason for wanting to be a good human being, and are no longer projecting your issues onto others, you’re not ready for dating.

So what happens when you figure out that women aren’t really looking for just another nice guy?  Well I’m not sure if it’s the default, but a lot of nice guys are becoming assholes, thinking, “shit, well if I’m gonna get rejected, I might as well be an ass about it.”  And maybe there’s this sense of karma where you’re thinking, “You want to date a jerk?  I’ll show you a jerk!”  All that’s really happened though, is you went from the uninteresting nice guy, to the uninteresting asshole.  Or, maybe you were always an ass, but thought that being a nice was going to sweep her off her feet.  Stop it.  It’s not working.  It’s never worked.  It’s unlikely to ever work in your lifetime.  Focus on being a good person, through and through, and move on with your life.  That was my saving grace.  I was always more interested in being a good person than being a boyfriend.  While I was able to play the role of the disinterested bad boy, I think it’s unlikely that the girls I dated would’ve stuck around for as long as they did if there wasn’t more to it.

Thinking back on it all now, had I focused on being the best version of myself, it may have led to fewer relationships, but it probably would’ve led to more meaningful relationships.  Healthier relationships.  The kind of relationships which weren’t, in-part, defined by trying to be what I thought someone else wanted me to be, when in reality, nobody really understood any of  what was going on.

A Modern Marriage

I grew up wanting a high school sweetheart that I could marry and spend the rest of my life with.  Something about that seemed sensible and wholesome.  By the time I got to university, I was looking for brains and beauty.  I thought that if I set my standards super high, I’d be able to find a super awesome woman, and the rest would be easy enough to figure out.  As it turns out, compatibility and chemistry can be important, especially when I’m a bit of a basket case.

First girl I thought I’d marry laid out the ultimatum of 2 kids within 5 years, and working backwards meant that we were getting engaged in the coming year.  Considering that we had been together for less than a year, I couldn’t do it.  3 months after we broke up, she was engaged to another guy.  She’s still an awesome person and I hope that it all works out for her, but it was the first time I was really faced with the ridiculous concept of marriage.  Let me explain…

Marriage, as we know it, is a life-long commitment of a romantic relationship to another person.  Am I the only one who thinks that sounds absolutely crazy?

Maybe I need to back the truck up for a second.  With the exception of the last few years, I used to be a big romantic.  Flowers delivered at work, spontaneous cross-country surprises, breakfasts in bed, gifts from Tiffany’s… nothing made me happier than putting a huge smile on her face.  But just about all of my relationships lasted less than 6 months.  Once that initial stage of infatuation settled and the real dynamics of the relationship started to emerge, I would see issues.  Then I would try to solve these issues.  If I couldn’t solve them, I would try to put up with them.  Eventually, I would be disinterested or frustrated, and the relationship would end.  I can’t help but think that a big part of that is on me, but when I describe the situations to others, they usually agree that it just wasn’t the right fit.

Over the last few years, my time and my finances have been much tighter so I didn’t quite have the capacity to be the same happy-go-lucky romantic that I used to be.  Instead, I focused more on the inter-personal dynamics, trying to understand what it would take to build the foundation for something that would last forever.  What boxes would we need to tick over the next 2-4 years before we decided that this was what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives?  Physical chemistry was a must.  A deep friendship was a must.  An ability to work out our differences was a must.  Etc. Etc.  There was something that just wasn’t adding up though.

Back in my early 20s, I was watching this amateur comedian at a local bar… I think he was an English teacher.  He said that he had been with his girlfriend for about 20 years, but he still thought that marriage was a dubious proposition.  As he put it, he loved his girlfriend, enjoyed being with her, and wanted to keep being with her… and yet marriage still sounded like the most ridiculous proposition.  He went on to explain how marriage was first introduced when humans would barely live past 30.  That made sense.  Get married in your teens, have a few kids, and call it a night.  ‘Til death do us part is easy when you’re only going to last another 15-20 years.  When we’re expected to live into our 100s though…

Putting aside the idea that marriage was brought about in a manner that treated women like property, let’s just focus on what marriage today looks like.  I had this conversation with a friend’s girlfriend the other day.  I made the case that if our success rate for marriage was 50%, and that just about every couple enters into a marriage beaming with love, confidence, and hope, wouldn’t that suggest that we don’t have the capacity to pick life partners with accuracy or consistency?  She conceded.  But she protested, “What about the romance?”  There it is.

As with many things in life, I can’t help but think that a more logical approach would make for an emotionally healthier situation.  Her perspective on marriage was a little more traditional.  She thought that the grand gesture of marriage was romantic, and that committing yourself to someone for life was what helped you get through the rough patches.  There was something about taking that plunge into the unknown, together, that made it special.  I admire that.  But I also disagree with it.

My parents split when I was in my early teens.  Most of the families I grew up around were single parent households.  As an adult, personally and professionally, I’ve seen marriages breakdown.  There’s a yin and a yang to this dynamic.  All the optimism, hope, love and trust that usually exists during a wedding, is usually replaced by pessimism, hatred, and mistrust during a divorce.  When it comes to splitting the kids and the finances, things get downright ugly.

What about a prenup?  But that’s not very romantic.  The idea of getting married to someone is forever, and as soon as you introduce a prenup, you’re already planning for it not to be forever.  Well… if 50% of the time, it doesn’t last forever… what exactly is going on here?  If we took a more pragmatic approach to things, wouldn’t a prenup be standard protocol?  As I’ve often suggested to others, it’s best to make decisions about how to walk away when you still really love and want the best for each other.  It certainly beats figuring it out when all you care about is making the other person hurt as just much as you are.

So what’s the solution?  Glad you asked.

By no means will this be for everyone, but I can’t help but think I’m on to something with this.  First, you abandon the idea that marriage is forever.  If you’re 30 and plan on living to 100, appreciate the ridiculousness of being legally bound to someone else for the next 70 years.   If you want to make a commitment to that person, along with a grand gesture and a big party, you should go for it.  But maybe go for a 10 year commitment.  Say that for the next 10 years of my life, through thick and through thin, I want to be by your side.  If after 10 years, things are going great, extend that agreement.

If you’re planning on kids, and this is key, it should be a 20 year contract.  Parents really should do everything they can to keep their personal differences from disrupting the formative years of their children.  With a 20 year contract, it helps to emphasize that.  Not only are you making a commitment to that other person, you’re making a commitment to the kids.  You’re signing up for a team effort in raising the best damn offspring you can manage.  If you’re ready for a new phase of your life after your kids have moved out or are off to college, that’s cool.

The purpose of the contracts, agreements, or whatever euphemism you’d like to use, isn’t about putting a time limit on the relationship, but rather a minimum commitment.  It’s about understanding and accepting the knowns and unknowns that come with a decisin like this.   You can do your best to map out what the coming years look like personally and professionally.  You can set out who will contribute what.  You can make decisions about what happens with the finances if the marriage dissolves early, or if you reach the end of your agreement and want to go your separate ways.  It like a built-in prenup and I can’t emphasize enough the power of addressing this stuf when you still like each other.  The other things that you can tackle in here are things like infidelity or other deal breakers.  No landmines.  It’s really about building a long-term relationship on a stable foundation instead of unstable emotions and hoping for the best.

The next piece, and I’m a big fan of this, is screw taking anyone’s last name.  For the longest time, I was big on carrying my family name forward.  I can only see what I see today because I stand on the shoulders of giants.  What my dad did for me and my family will always be appreciated and will never be forgotten.  What his mom did for him, and so on and so forth.  I thought that carrying my family name forward would be the best way to honor them.  It’s bullshit.  The best way I can honor them is by taking everything that they’ve given me, and doing my best to make the world a better place.  The idea of a woman having to take a man’s last name, while a noble gesture, is rather silly.  The guy taking the girl’s last name is just as silly.  Hyphenating the name works for one generation, but what happens when that person wants to get married to another person with a hyphenated name?  Silly.  So what do you do?  Come up with your own last name!  Seriously.  I can’t be the only one excited about the idea of brainstorming with my significant other about our new last name.  You can come up with something that’s meaningful to both of you, sounds good with both of your names, and something that your kid can identify with.  You might as well come up with a new family crest while your at it.  Seriously, the more I think about this, the more it makes sense.  I think this would do a lot of good, on many levels.

Part 3, ditch the traditional wedding.  The idea of making everyone sit through a ceremony that we’ve all seen before, on uncomfortable church pews, in our best clothes, while we judge the parents who brought the crying baby… just doesn’t make much sense.  What makes even less sense is spending tens of thousands of dollars on hundreds of guests, at an overly fancy venue, with overly fancy food, all at a fat wedding mark-up.  Not cool.  You found someone that you wanna be with so bad that it’s worth throwing a party?  It’s a celebration bitches!  Treat it as such.  Throw the kinda party that you and your friends would love to go to.  Stop putting on this masquerade in the name of tradition.

Finally, and perhaps this speaks to some of my other motivations here… fuck the ring (pardon all this foul language).  Coming from a guy who’s spent thousands at Tiffany’s, I couldn’t be more confident in this statement.  For anyone who hasn’t looked up the history of the diamond wedding ring, it has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with marketing.  As someone with a business background, I can’t help but appreciate how effectively they were able to build an industry around the idea that the bigger the diamond, the more he loves you.  As a human being, I can’t help but be frustrated and annoyed that we’ve been this ignorant for this long.  What I do appreciate about the ring though is that it’s a marker that one wears proudly as if to say “I’m taken, and it’s awesome”.  I can get on board with that.  Does it have to be a ring?  Probably not, but that’s what we’re used to looking for so… maybe it does.  Either way, it definitely doesn’t have to be a diamond and that’s where things start to get fun again.  I used to be big on man made diamonds.  The girl could get a giant diamond, I wouldn’t have to spend much, and I would get the satisfaction of knowing I outsmarted the jewelry industry.  But why not explore a bit?  If you decide on a diamond for personal reasons, then go for it.  If you choose a different type of precious stone, or no stone at all, go for it.  Personally speaking, I’d love to have something cool like titanium carbide or maybe something made from tungsten.  Whatever it was, it would be designed specifically with us in mind.  Because when I look at the ring, it should be us that I have in mind.

We’re in an age where tradition is disappearing to make way for better ideas.  I reject the idea that being romantic means making poor life choices.  I reject the idea that a wedding is about anything other than celebrating their love.  And I reject the idea that marriage is anything more than a commitment where two people who love each other enough to consider a distant future where they’re still together.  I embrace the idea that this is 2018 and that it’s about time that marriage caught up to who we really are.