Ready, Willing, and Unable

Misanthropy is a wonderful thing.  When you stop caring about others, and by extension what they think about you, your morning routine steadily slims down to nothing.  I used to shave my face.  Now, I have a beard.  I used to comb my hair.  Now, I buzz it short.  I persist in bathing, but only because it dissuades the chiggers from taking up residence in the aforementioned facial mass. I am completely unable to fasten a necktie, and contrary to what I have been routinely told, this has yet to have any substantial negative impact on my life’s trajectory.  Then again, I majored in English, a field where the code of professional dress oscillates back and forth between this:

beat poet with beret

And this:

mcdonald's employee

(The moment of oscillation generally occurs upon realizing the beret isn’t edible.)

Be that as it may, all of the above I offer not to prove that I am lazy and/or unpleasant, which I undoubtedly am.  Rather, it is my feeble attempt to solicit pity on behalf of the individual who, in a staggering underestimation of my incompetence, invited me to stand up in his wedding – conditional on my willingness to wear a bowtie.

Or, as turned out to be the case, conditional on my ability to wear a bowtie.  Now, my neck is not abnormal in any way, shape, or form – it is soft, supple, and fits comfortably into the palms of most serial killers.  On its annual performance review, it receives generally high marks and consistently exceeds expectations in terms of keeping my head aloft.  My hands, however…  I swear to god, I do not know what is wrong with that department.  To date, they’ve proven to be useful for exactly two things – opening beer and inputting the thirty lives code for Contra.

the code

So when it came time to turn this:

untied bowtie

Into this:

bowtie tied

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when I ended up with something closer to this:

The Mummy

So, it was time for plan B – swearing and alcohol.  Neither fundamentally altered the state of the bowtie, but I felt a lot !@#$in’ better.

Plan C then – YouTube.

The first video I encountered was titled, and I quote, “If you watch only one video on how to tie a bowtie, watch this one,” which I foolishly selected.  In truth, I wanted to watch zero videos on how to tie a bowtie but was propelled onward by some perverse combination of obligation and inebriation.  Suffice it to say, the video did not take because, at the three-minute mark, they had not made it around to even starting to tie the bowtie, and I had lost interest.

Lost interest, in this context, is code for “passed out.”

When I came to, wiped the drool off my keyboard, and remembered what the hell this mass of paisley was half-assedly wrapped around my neck, I realized it was time to get serious.  So, returning to YouTube, I pulled this bad boy up and resolved to watch it.

However, I quickly determined that ten solid minutes of video instruction from a gentleman with an English accent was above my pay grade, which, as we established earlier in this piece, is approximately minimum wage.  Two minutes in, and it rapidly became apparent I might die of old age before we concoct some form of knot, let alone anything that resembled a properly fastened tie.  That and I was bothered because the entirety of the video appeared to be of his neck.  After a couple minutes, one starts to wonder whether you are watching his Adam’s apple or if his Adam’s apple is watching you.  That and Rule 34 of the internet dictates neck fetishism is a thing, and somewhere there are websites featuring content we won’t speculate about linking back to this video.  Returning to the point, the only thing the video managed to prove was that this old guy who pointed a camera at his neck could tie a bowtie, whereas I – still – could not.

This pretty much takes us to plan D – text groom until he marvels at what a loser he asked to stand up in his wedding and delivers the bowtie pre-tied.

It wasn’t exactly a glorious victory for misanthropy.  Then again, they seldom are.

Being a Man

“Have you wondered about what it means to be free in the face of your responsibilities as a man?  Have you chafed under the assumption that men are supposed to know everything?  Have you felt the pressures of meeting the expectations of females in your world?”  If so, the seventies called.  They want their hair back.

(Anyone else think he looks like he's giving her a great deal on a low mileage sedan?

Anyone else think he looks like he’s giving her a great deal on a low mileage sedan?

I am led to believe that the man of dubious grooming is one J. Kilgore.  Who, you might ask, is J. Kilgore?  Damned if I know, I reply, but I found two of his books on a table of free stuff.  The opening quote is from the back cover of Being a Man in a Woman’s World.

I’m waiting for the For Dummies version…or is that an oxymoron?

I’m waiting for the For Dummies version…or is that an oxymoron?

Given that I loathe most organized sports, am ambivalent towards automobiles, rely on my wife to kill spiders, and (most importantly) majored in English, it can be safely assumed that I need all the help “Being a Man” that I can get.

So do you even have go to the barber, or is that hair injection molded?

So do you even have go to the barber, or is that hair injection molded?

And, let me reiterate, the book was free.  I feel this is important to note.  That done, and so long as Kilgore’s tent revival hair isn’t contagious, I’m willing to give this a go.

Employing my usual “open the book at random and take things wildly out of context” strategy, I immediately turned to page twenty-seven where six bolded words asked, “What Kind of Man Are You?”  Intrigued, and a little intimidated, I read on: “If you find yourself uneasy, shy, and reserved, probably you will develop a ‘cowboy’ stance in life.  You may engage in heroic feats and enjoy your ‘silent strength.’  However, your loneliness in relationships will remain.  Very often your ‘bashfulness’ can be a manipulative way of getting attention from women.  You may have mastered, knowingly or unwittingly, the art of using your silent strength to turn on the admiration of women.  The maternal juices of many women flow strongly towards the shy and introverted man.”

Ignoring the obvious problems with that paragraph – namely, everything – I find Mr. Kilgore leaves me with one particularly burning question.  Specifically, what the hell is a “cowboy stance”?  I imagine it involves my feet extending out beyond my shoulders and my right hand hovering over my shooting iron, either because I’m getting ready to draw on Black Bart or because I’m saddle sore and in dire need of Preparation H.  As for the rest of it, I’m not certain I can recall the last time I’ve managed to manipulate someone with the raw power of my timidity – though I suppose it is possible that I simply didn’t understand the power of my silent strength at the time.  Ladies, let me take this opportunity to apologize…provided you promise not to hit me.  On a similar note, and from my fetal position here on the floor, I hope you won’t take offense when I ask that you kindly keep your maternal juices to yourself.  They don’t sound particularly hygienic, and this is my last clean shirt.

Did the Jedi Council break into focus groups or what?

Did the Jedi Council break into focus groups or what?

Not ten pages after the brilliant expose on what sort of man I am – i.e., highly defective – I encountered another bold subheading entitled “True Maturity.”  Since I’ve spent the last ten minutes, in adolescent fashion, questioning Kilgore’s gel/hair ratio, I figured the least I could do was give him an opportunity to give me a literary kick in the teeth.  Thus, I resumed reading.  “The greatest gift an adult woman has given to me as an adult man is the rediscovery of my ‘inner child.’ My wife is the ‘eternal child’ – ever fascinated with little accomplishments and always thrilled by the smallest of gifts.”  Uh…huh.  I’m not entirely certain what would happen were I to write the two previous sentences in regards to my own wife and publish them.  At the very least, I suspect it would preclude any need on my part to write a sequel.  Unless, of course, I didn’t object to it being published posthumously.

invisible kitteh

Deciding I shall always lack “True Maturity,” I continue leafing forward.  From page thirty-five, I make it to page thirty-one where I am presented with what promises to be the greatest chapter ever written.  Describing it with mere words will not suffice, as no one would ever believe me.  A picture must be employed.

BOY ARE THEY...oh…sorry, dear.

BOY ARE THEY…oh…sorry, dear.

I…I don’t even know where to begin.  Fate, working through J. Kilgore and his hair, has conspired to provide me with the ultimate comedic set-up.  But now that it’s here, I don’t know where to go with it.  Opportunity, far from merely knocking, has barged in, drunk all the wine, and passed out on my sofa, but the only thing I can think to do is wait for it to sober up and leave.

Enough.  Forty-one pages in is where we shall end our voyage of self-discovery.  This is purely for my own protection.  I’m starting to get this strange urge to watch NASCAR while crushing beer cans on my forehead.  If I don’t go read some Jane Austen stat, I’m going to end up in Lambeau Field when it’s forty below wearing nothing but green and yellow paint and a giant piece of Styrofoam cheese on my head.  In short, I’m not sure I’m ready to “Be A Man.”

Is...that the Fonz?

Is…that the Fonz?

Pocket Rocket

My pockets weigh something in the neighborhood of six metric tons.  This is neither a result of gold plating, nor is it a by-product of knocking over an arcade and/or a particularly successful laundromat.  In fact, before someone concludes that my dead body in some dark alley might yield a healthy R.O.I., I feel compelled to point out that the amount of weight on my person allocated to currency, coin, and gold bullion is somewhere in the neighborhood of three ounces, which equals approximately one dollar and forty-three cents.  I’m an English major, remember.  Regardless, the vast majority of the mass in my pants, and I tip my hat to those of you who made it through the clause without snickering, is dedicated to the large array of portable multi-tools I carry with me at all times.  For those who might be wondering about the remaining three percent, it is a fairly even distribution between guitar picks, pocket lint, and items that I found on the floor and fully intend to eat at some point in the indefinite future.  But, as is my want, I digress.

Fruits, vegetable, dairy, grains, and stuff found in the couch – the five basic food groups.

Fruits, vegetable, dairy, grains, and stuff found in the couch – the five basic food groups.

It is my assumption that the ability of the average man to turn his trousers into a scaled down version of an Ace Hardware is a somewhat recent phenomenon.  In times long ago, a more primitive man’s toolbox was both clunky and stationary, consisting primarily of sticks of varying sizes and a large rock.  Advances in manufacturing and ISO certification, however, have brought to us newer, lighter, smaller multi-purpose tools that seem to boast enough potential functionality to delay a modern man nearly sixty seconds before he retreats to the garage in order to forage for sticks of varying sizes and a hammer.  Yes, look how far we’ve come.  Indeed, thanks to the modern, pocket-sized multi-tools, men no longer have to wait until they get home to act on the often felt yet rarely spoken urge to disassemble unoffending and completely functional devices that they know nothing about.  Courtesy of alcohol and cheap foreign labor, your husband now has the ability to disassemble your best friend’s VCR using only the contents of his pockets, and let me be the first to assure you that said device will never eat another tape again.  Granted, it will never play another tape again, but at least the time-keeping function still works… sometimes… if you hit it.

Because portable tools are by necessity somewhat bulky, even if considerably less so than their larger and more useful toolbox brethren, it goes without saying that one can have too much of a good thing.  This becomes very apparent when one examines what I used to run with as a standard operational payload.  I had, at one point, all of the following at my disposal and on my person: four knife blades, three can openers, one bottle opener, one corkscrew, pliers, a 2-½” ruler, two Phillips screwdrivers, three flathead screwdrivers, a tiny (and useless) hacksaw, a pocket-watch, and a flashlight.  In retrospect, that was a little much – I really only needed three knives.

No masonry bit? Sheesh, what a joke.

There are other arguments for restraint in preparing for situations that, for most normal individuals, should not happen on a daily basis.  For example, the more tools one has, the more one is exposed to certain hazards.  Finding one’s car keys, particularly when they share a pocket with a Swiss Army knife and forty-three cents in change, would be a challenge for a team of Army Rangers.  Furthermore, as a consequence of your average convenience store employee expecting to take a bullet or a shiv in the line of duty, producing half a dozen knives of varying sizes before you are able to produce a wallet tends to have a negative effect on the level of customer service you can expect.  Couple all this with the nefarious corkscrew attachment – which will inevitably (and unbeknownst to you) snag your pocket material, swing out, and nearly perform some awkward exploratory surgery – and a good argument can be made for taking only what one needs to survive through the day.

This is, of course, a sentiment echoed by my wife, who really has no reason to talk.  According to her, pockets exist solely for the purpose of fashion; therefore, due to the possibility for unsightly bulges, said pockets are not to be used for anything that can be said to have mass and take up space.  Of course, she carries a purse of such diameter that I am seriously considering having myself buried in it, but to do that, it would have to be emptied.  This would be no simple feat, as it is presently serving as a sort of Noah’s ark for hygiene products.  Within her purse, by my approximation, there is at least two of every cleaning, scenting, and moisturizing product ever created.  Given some of the miscellany we occasionally find within, I have a strong reason to suspect there is a tiny, indigenous people that live in her handbag and make occasional offerings to their kiwi-scented goddess – usually Tic Tacs.

We offer this mint to the Goddess Halitosis.

Ultimately, I suppose, one complements the other.  Friends are often appreciative when one can clean his own blood off the DVD player before sheepishly returning to his seat.  And suffice it to say, I am not equipped to do that on my own.  Simultaneously, were my wife left to her own devices in the opening of clam-shell packaging, I’m fairly certain her only recourse would be filing her teeth to cannibal-esque points and attempting to gnaw her way through.  Either way, I’m eagerly awaiting power versions of the pocket-sized hand tool – provided they refrain from automating the corkscrew attachment.  Nothing good could come of that.