How to Write 50 Essays in 9 Short Months

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Bergamot Ink logoSince April I’ve been working on a column—Bergamot Ink—with the The Good Men Project, which is why I let Nerdy Dad Shirt go untrimmed, and for good reason.

I started Nerdy Dad Shirt three years ago this week, and eventually when I was writing essays that I was proud of, I decided to challenge myself to write 100 essays (good or bad).

“100 essays” turned into “100 posts” (as any good writer and blogger will know the difference), and, as I started writing for other publications and got syndicated, I sort of lost count.

I’ll count them up and get back to you.

So here—parked—are my latest essays for your enjoyment. Please share if you’d like!

AND if you’re a writer, I’m also an editor would love to help you get published. Let’s talk.

Read on and Share!

What Men Hear Vs. What Women Hear—When Will Things Be Heard Equally?

God Isn’t a Bad Word (It’s Just One We Don’t Use)—Raising Children Without Religious Belief

7 Reasons Why I’m Done with Star Wars

9 Ways We Can Truly Save Christmas (Once and for All)

‘Meet Your Second Wife’ Cuts Deep and is Uncomfortably Hilarious

Han Solo, Captain Picard, or Mr. Spock? How to Decide What to Do in Life (When You Don’t Know What To Do)

The Science of Parenthood: Poop, Chemistry, and Duct Tape

5 Easy Steps to Staying Married Forever

Unbrand Yourself Today!

What Does Life After God Sound and Look Like?

13 Ways You Can Achieve Total Perspective

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See you next week!

 

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You May Already Be A Superhero!

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F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of the pre-Gatsby James Gatz, “So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would like to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end.” It’s this concept – that a seventeen year old would create a larger-than-life figure to grow into – that is the basis for every superhero tale from Gilgamesh to Harry Potter.

To celebrate Avengers: Age of Ultron (and ALL the new superhero movies, books, and graphic novels), it is prudent to look at the archetypes that make every meta-human, mutant, demigod, and Time Lord worth their weight in adamantium. You are probably living an origin story right now, and soon you’ll have more responsibility and power than you hoped for.

For starters:

You’re probably living in the city, an ambiguous 20-something, and single.

You’re probably an orphan of some sort, and with a sad or mysterious story about being so. If you live in the country, you’ll soon be somehow called into the city to meet some great fate, whether it be a dragon (or dragon archetype) or some interstellar artificial intelligence/alien. Either way, no superhero stays in the country (or country of origin). Almost every fight ends up on Earth, in America, and usually in New York City. So just move to New York City.

You’re an introverted and somewhat – or totally – nerdy teen with a propensity for all things S.T.E.M.

Is there a girl (or boy) who you just can’t get? And are you a misfit or reject of some sort? Just wait – you’ll be bit, zapped, or injected with gamma-rays or something radioactive, or your mutant powers will grow as your puberty finishes. Just wait for an owl to deliver a letter from a balding man, or a long-lost father to invite you to the dark side.

You happen to be a Goddess, God, Demigod, Planetary Traveler, Alien, Other-worldly royalty, or Inter-dimensional Being.

Do you have a legacy to uphold here on terra firma, while also fighting for your throne back home? You might just be on your way to join a superhero team or save Earth from the demons or villains who also happen to be from your home world. Or you might be orphaned on Earth. Or you might just hide out here because we have all the good movie and fast food franchises. Any way you slice it, you’ll probably get the same billing as the normal human with the bow and arrow.

Originally published on The Good Men Project – finish reading here!

Why I’m Letting My Girl Be A Girl

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I’ve decided to let my girl be a girl.

I’m also going to let my boy be a boy, and my other girl (who, at this time is still a baby girl) be a girl. If they want. I don’t know what else to do. “Let” isn’t the most accurate word – I have no control over these things in the long run, and letting my five year old daughter be herself (whoever that is) and be a girly girl at that is just part of her figuring out everything about being alive. And I should mention that it’s my wife and I raising these beautiful children, herself not an admitted girly girl, not ever. But as a man, a former boy, and a general over-thinker, I’ve come to the conclusion that no matter what I do to keep my daughter from wanting to play princess and wear pink and purple all the time, it’s not going to work. It’s not something we put on her or lead her toward — it’s just something she picked up on during her five years around other girls and boys and the variations of masculine and feminine in between.

Read the rest of the article here on The Good Men Project’s Bergamot Ink

How To Name Your Stupid Blog

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 11.05.45 AMCONGRATULATIONS ON JOINING THE MASSES OF FORMER ENGLISH MAJORS, HOME CHEFS, AND STAY AT HOME PARENTS WHO THINK  THEIR OPINIONS ARE EITHER RELEVANT, INSIGHTFUL, OR FUNNY! You are (or will be soon enough) a blogger, the lowest common type of writer out there. There’s a dog on the Disney Channel who is a billionaire off of this already, and somehow you are stressing about finding kitschy pictures to annotate your paragraphs with. We welcome and love you – the blogosphere can be a safe place.

Screen Shot 2015-03-14 at 10.51.26 AMThe kind folks at Nerdy Dad Shirt Corporation and Speedy Bread Sludge HQ (a subsidiary of Brand-Mart Corporation) want to help you name your newest blog that will either go nuclear-ly viral or fold within six months. The name, however, can be something you’ll spend forever thinking about until you realize that literally a million people have already done this and done it better than you could have thought to do. Or not. Do not lose heart! Do not despair! Back in grad school you were going to be Isabelle Allende or John Updike, but you’re currently searching your brain for the perfect quiche metaphor or fart joke. And soon you’ll be writing thousands of words about trending topics and wondering where your integrity went. Just think of a blog as a start in the right direction of the career you’ve always wanted, without the risk of painful failure. Right now anyone with enough money for a coffee can Free-WiFi-it into the internet hall of fame for a day with the right snark or hashtag.

But first you need a name.

Side note – “blog” is an awful word. It was originally coined as an ironic joke, and then somehow became a overused, daily, easily-reportable word. “I write essays” or “I write for the newsletter” sounds distinguished. “I write blogs” sounds like you stencil names on silly putty.

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So let’s name that blog – er – distinguished website featuring your ingenious prose : Disclaimer: ALL the cool mom, dad, media review/reporting, and foodie blog titles are taken, so it’s up to you to be original and clever with whatever words or phrases are left.

– You want something catchy or at least forgivable when it’s been read and said two thousand times. Remember, you can always say “I always hated that name” if you tire of it, or you can embrace it if it brings you success. FartyDadBlog as a title you might regret when Rolling Stone publishes your top ten reasons babies are like senile orangutans.

– Pick something your grandma and best friend would think is clever but doesn’t take too much to explain, although sometimes people like a difficult name because it sounds interesting, albeit foreign or confusing. You’ll have to say this name over and over to web designers, friends, strangers, and then see it every day online when you’re checking your abysmal stats, so be careful. Like a long-lasting professional-type email, be obvious but not too obvious. SassyGurlxyz781@hotmail.com never looks good on a resume.

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– Unless your blog name just presents itself to you, you might have to work on it a bit. Pick an adjective, noun, and -or- vice/niche word combination and go to work. The words don’t have to match, and sometimes juxtapositioning an odd combination just feels right, even if it doesn’t make total sense. CrumbBumMum, a mom blog about all things Holden Caulfield, just might work.

– Use a phrase, song title, band name, or word all-too-familiar and make it yours (FrackSabbath would be an awesome blog about fracking – take it, it’s all yours). If this blogging thing feels like it might be more than a hobby, just use your name or a really clever pseudonym. Like a band naming their LP the same name as the band, it’ll take a few rounds or albums before becoming the iconic, one-of-a-kind you site.

Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 7.53.01 PM– In the end, it’s your talent, content, and voice that matters, and although the sea of blogs is wide and deep, your vessel matters. Still, Oedipal’s Edibles would be a great name for a foodie blog written by a former Classics Major.

 

 

 

You May Already Be An Old Man

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IT HAPPENED WHEN YOU WEREN’T LOOKING. You woke up one day, fully grown, probably in your 30s and with kids, and something about Old English aftershave or toolboxes excited you to your core, and making time to putter around the woodshed, backyard, or basement just made sense. Your metabolism slowed down, and you started seeing the world through slower, more wizened eyes. What happened?

You got old.

You may actually be young, but chances are, you’re already an old man. 

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You may have an “old soul” but that doesn’t give us the right to call you grandpa, grandpa. What gives us the right is probably your suspenders, or old-as-hell work boots you still think of as “new” when you got them fifteen years ago. Or the fact that you think and act like an old man.

Here’s the list:

1. If you’re not excited about about the hardware store, give it time. Soon you will hear the pulse of Ace or True Value, or even better – a real, hometown hardware store with store credit – calling your name. “Stop by, old man, and buy something,” it whispers. “Buy everything here, there’s room in the basement for it, and your wife will understand,” it says gently, while ushering you to buy more hammers or shovels or a new knife. “Start a new project, you can probably teach yourself from a book,” it corrals you.

2. Are you wearing khakis? You’re wearing khakis right now, aren’t you, old man? Yes, you are. You will always wear khakis when you’re old. Jeans have lost their youthful touch. Khakis – embrace them, with their crease and endless endurance against all seasons. Hike them up, and belt them secure enough for a day raking leaves or reading a book quietly. And like jeans, they go with everything, especially work boots — your old, dependable work boots. And a plaid shirt. And a Carhartt jacket. You’ll be wearing this uniform until you’re dead.

3. It’s 4:30 a.m. and you’re awake. You’re just awake. Why isn’t everyone else awake? No, no – you need some alone time – all old men do. And you don’t have to be at work for a few hours. Maybe the hardware store is open.

4. Smell that? That’s the aroma of a twenty-minute bowel movement, coffee, and a burnt match. You made that happen, old man.

5. What time does the diner open? Oh, it’s open 24 hours? Well who goes to a diner at night? Ok, let’s go to the diner, it’s almost 6 a.m. Hey, let’s do this more often (…and this is how the phenomenon of old men at diners early in the morning starts). There are even young waitresses there who put up with your jokes. You’re theirs for life now, old man.

6. If you haven’t gone deaf yet, you’re starting to, old man. Friends and family will understand. Just say you’re sorry, or ignore them. Your ears have had a good run.

7. Tightening toilet seats gives you a sense of accomplishment not met with in the first half of your life. But now – call the papers! You’ve saved the house from the wiggly wobble of someone’s ass slipping off the seat! You’ve done it, old man! No one else but you could have figured out how to righty-tighty the bolts while your hand was upside down and your forearm was on the part of the seat where everyone puts the most posterior flesh of their butt cheeks. But you did it.

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 8.32.47 PM8. Your haircut is either short or buzzed. That’s just the way haircuts should be. Long hair is for college students and single men in their 20s. Beards are also acceptable, but somehow you don’t mind shaving your face every day of your life, because every day is precious now that you’re old.

9. No matter how old you are you are still and always horny as hell. This won’t change or let up until you’re dead, so there’s always that. Sorry, old man. Life is full of suffering.

10. The mention of Scotch or Whiskey – or Bourbon Whisky or even Gin – especially the expensive stuff – gets you a little excited. If there are adjectives or descriptions of said liquor, the more excited you get. Rye-whiskey, single-malt…mention of these things makes you glad you’re still alive at your old age. And watching Mad Men excites you to no end as well, just for the reason that they’re drinking the whole time. Men wearing suits drinking all the damn time means something to you for some reason.

11. No matter what the current hairstyle is, it looks stupid. It just looks stupid. The same goes for any new fashion that has arisen since you last bought fashionable clothes years ago, or whenever clothes just started showing up in your closet (…it’s because your relatives just started buying you what your old man uniform dictates, and you didn’t know it, but you started going along with it. You got old).

12. No bands or movies or books are as good as the ones from twenty years ago, or whenever it was you grew up, old man. You’re hearing your favorite band on the classic station, and you’re kind of deaf to – well, downright pridefully ignorant – new hits. And your favorite artists have become old men, too, only they’re somehow thinner and better looking than you.

13. You feel a kinship with anyone your age unlike any other time in your life. Life has taught you many a great thing, old man, and you’re ready for someone to listen to your advice. You’ve lived, damn it, and you’re ready to give someone a piece of your mind, as soon as you download a PDF for installing your own ceilings or building a set of stairs.

14. We know you really want to talk about your new truck or Buick or sensible automobile purchase, so go ahead, old man. You only live to old age once. We know you got a deal, and we’re proud of you. Nobody gets good deals like you.

15. For your birthday we always know what to get you. It’s whiskey and plaid shirts, right? And a gift card to Home Depot?

16. You’re a bit of a hoarder, but it’s all in good taste and measure because you only keep what you need, or has value somewhat. You never know when you’ll need three mismatched sets of wrenches or old boots or bungee cords or gloves. Or old khakis. Or shovels. You can never have enough shovels. The hardware store probably has shovels. You’re on your way to buy a new shovel now, aren’t you old man?

We thought so.

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How To Be Snowed In

Screen Shot 2015-02-09 at 9.11.50 AMTHE SNOW WILL END, AND YOU WILL SOON BE BACK AT WORK, remembering the shower-less, shovel-heavy days of whatever nor’easter or blizzard we all just lived through. If your pipes don’t freeze, you don’t lose power, and you have Wi-Fi, you are among the luckiest top ten-to-twenty percent of the world’s population.

So in the interest of planning ahead for your two-to-three days of Carpe Diems in your pajamas (or layered boot-heavy shoveling outfit), here’s the breakdown for those a little older than the shovel-your-driveway-for-fifty-bucks-mister crowd, and assuming we all have off work:

Single with roommates: Chances are the landlord will have to shovel, or has hired someone to do it in his stead, so you’re free from a day of shoveling. You know the path to the packie and have cleared out a nice little spot for you to quickly smoke a cigarette outside while finishing off your Irish coffee. Chances are that your roommates will have friends over, and your apartment will become a den of iniquity in no time. Enjoy it while you’re young.

Single without roommates: This seems impossible unless you’re living with your parents and just not considering them “roommates.” You are a rare breed, so live it up. Perhaps you’re living in a studio apartment, or a small trailer in the desert of a Tarantino film, or you’re couch-hopping indefinitely until you grow up and start paying actual rent somewhere. Either way, we have no advice for you because you can do anything you want with only nature as a deterrent (and you don’t even have to watch all those documentaries and “classics” you put on your Netflix queue).

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Married/Living Together: Thanks to the 21st amendment and streaming media, you can do whatever you want, including sleeping in, sexy time, quiet projects in the next room, and avoiding killing each other because, well, you’re snowed in for like three days. This applies to young as well as older couples. If you prepared enough, you can enjoy cocktails all day long while binge-watching your shows or catching up on the dreams you had that you forgot about until you had some time to catch up on life. Todays are those days. You’re snowed in. Just don’t watch news coverage all day of other towns snowed in.

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Married with kid(s): You can play zone or man defense, but you need a plan. This will involve a strict don’t-wake-us-up-until-7-morning decree (that will probably backfire), followed by yelling at the kids to go play in their rooms for a while until you’re ready to take them outside, then fun in the snow to tire them out (that will be short-lived), and then maybe a long afternoon of silent reading or movie watching; no matter what you do, it will go quickly and you won’t want to clean up, so get ready to let the paints and play-doh dry out until you give up the ghost and throw them out (you can only stare at them on the table for so long). By the end of the last snow day, it’s okay to just give up on cleaning and laundry – that’s what spring is for.

If the kids let you sleep in (and they won’t), this gives you roughly thirteen hours to entertain children who need constant stimulation. Do NOT feel bad about screen time. The Puritans wished they had DVR and video games. They also wished they had enough materials for blanket forts. Hopefully you prepared by purchasing exactly the right snacks for them and exactly the right drinks for you and mom. There is no take out for a few days, so you have to prepare for this. There will also be no trip to Target, Starbucks, Ace Hardware, local shops, or the Mall for days, so be ready to suffer at home with the people you love more than life itself. We are also sorry you and the wife will get no sexy time unless you really plan ahead, and if you’re lucky you’ll both at least shower and brush your teeth at some point before we all return back to work and school.

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Looking Back

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I DON’T WANT TO MULCH THIS SATURDAY. I know it’s our big to-do for when the weather’s right, but I don’t want to. I want to do things young people with kids do, like a soccer game or dance recital or gymnastics. Like the old days. Like the good old days. Remember when the kids were young – too young to be saying things like “I kind of miss the old, good days” – but they would always say that, exactly like that, unaware of how short their lives had been at that moment?

But we’re old. I’d kill to be twenty-five again, or thirty-five, or even fifty-five. Definitely not fifteen. I don’t have the energy for that. Everything went so fast. Our last kid is already twenty-five and out of the house and now we finally have all the rooms to ourselves. Sonny is the age we were when he was born – Junior is right behind, and the Baby is on her own, now, still the baby. The railing in the old house is finally steady, the mornings couldn’t be quieter, the cars are paid off. We finally have our twenties back, before kids, more or less – more here, much less there.

Not that we’re sad old sacks. We’re not. We’re the children of the children of the Greatest Generation. But none of that matters.  I just want more time when the kids were young, even the last of their teenage years, when they didn’t want us as much. Even the college years when we rarely saw them. How ever did we go days without talking? How did they become their own people? I guess they were born that way, really. But they grew, and grew.

They were so young just a minute ago, and then-

I want to pick them up from pre-school, and high school, and college, for that first time – or last time. I want to comfort one of them after an adolescent break-up or hold them after a serious fall; I want to cuddle on the couch – remember when they wanted to cuddle all the time? I want to watch them struggle with their homework and those first jobs and then the real first jobs.  I want snow days and birthdays and those first few days of summer – hell, any day of any summer at the beach.

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I want to re-live the moments after that first serious E.R. visit, when we realized it would be all right, and the times when we didn’t know which way it would go. And the fights – between the kids and between the kids and us, even those I want to live through, one more time.  I would settle just to be on the same floor with them, listening to them play in the next room, one last time. I wouldn’t have to interact with them. I just love listening to them.

Any moment where they held my hand or looked me in the eye without any pretense or fear or question – or any time I knew they had to count on me to wake them up or dress them or get them somewhere on time. They still give me those young looks sometimes, and hopefully I still have those eyes they first stared at when they couldn’t walk and we would just hold them all the time. They used to use my eyes and face to learn how to react to the world.

Our life was – it still is – like a really good t.v. show that I more than love, and I just want it back, you know, to watch again, all the episodes, especially the children’s episodes – there were so many of them. I couldn’t get enough of them when they were happening. And we took so many pictures.

And the grandchildren. Oh, the new joys – but they’re no Sonny or Junior or the Baby. At least not like it was. All those firsts – they’re not ours to have. Not like the old, good days.

But mulching is good. Mulching is necessary. It’s one of those things we do. We’re not getting any younger, we never were. It felt like we were when the kids were young, and then at one point we were older, and then older still, and then we weren’t the young parents in the pictures anymore.

But that’s okay. We have our life – our long, incredible life – together, with kids. We have more than we planned for, and more to come. We built this world, somehow, and filled it with everything we could, and then it just kept going. And to think we were young and in love just a few pictures and memories and decades ago.

And if I’m quiet, I can hear the past, outside a door somewhere, or up the stairs – I’m listening in for a moment that belongs only to me, preserved in a place some time ago, somewhere circling my veins in cells I still feel like I did when we were young.

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