On Screwing it Up

When I’m single, I hit on every woman I think is attractive.  It’s good for them, and fun for me.  Most of the time.  No matter how tired/drunk/covered in blood I am, I do it.  Why keep the women  of the world from my presence?  Doesn’t seem fair.

When I work too many shifts in a row (I’m a paramedic) I start looking at everyone as a potential patient.  The balance of work, fatigue, and women should be carefully considered.

——————–

I was standing in line behind a nice young lady at a grocery store, dead on my feet after a zillion hours on the ambulance.

“You’ve got really nice veins…” I mumbled.

“Wh…What!1??eleven!?” she replied.

“No..uh..I mean…Your median cubital vein is perfect! If I had to, I could get a 14 gauge IV in there, no problem! Even if your heart stopped and your venous tone was crap.  No, seriously – I could do it.”

“Oh my God!” she said. She’d started out bright red, but progressed to a most pale skin tone.  Pale and diaphoretic as we say in the Meat Wagon business.

“Sorry. I’m really tired,” I sighed. “I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”

I still feel bad about that whole exchange. I creeped out that poor girl something fierce. I’d been working my ass off for 24 hours. I am tall and like to lift weights. I’m not a beautiful man, even in the best light. At the time, my eyes were so bloodshot they looked like cherry tomatoes in my face, my hair was wild, sweaty, and greasy, and I had unidentifiable stains on my pants and boots.

If her dad/SO/the cops had showed up, I’d have saved them the trouble and kicked my own ass. I was half expecting to be called in to my supervisor’s office for a month after that, since my agency’s logo was clearly visible on my shirt.

Sorry, Grocery Girl. I really didn’t mean it like that. I was just really, really tired.

But….Nothing happened.  I got a funny story, and she got a funny story (eventually it’ll be funny).  One of the worst attempts at flirting in the universe resulted in no material consequences.

And I looked like walking Death at the time.

Why are you not flirting with women again?

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On Powering Through

I set my pack down and took a deep breath.  This is gonna suck, I thought.

I inched closer to the wall, trying blend in to my surroundings.  In this type of operation, remaining unobserved is critical.  The target is not an issue – you know what’s going down, and they’ll find out soon enough.  Sometimes the target wants this type of confrontation, anyway.  It’s the people close to the target that are variables you can’t control.  Some doctrines suggest allowing the target to escape if the situation is unfavorable for engagement, and I was operating that way due to local conditions.

I ran the plan through my mind again.  This operation had been in the works for a month, and I was terrified of fucking it up.  I was visualizing the primary and secondary egress routes with my eyes shut when I recognized the target’s distinct voice around the corner.  No mistaking that voice – not after all the direct and indirect intel I’d gathered.  I took a turkey-look around the corner for a quick visual confirmation.  I half-hoped I’d see something that warranted an abort, but conditions were favorable.  This, as they say, was motherfucking it.

My mouth tasted like copper.

My abdominal muscles clenched.

My right knee quivered like it always does when I’m scared.

I stepped around the corner.

The target locked eyes with me.

Blood pounded in my ears.

I unstuck my tongue from the roof of my mouth.

“Hi Melanie!” I croaked.  “Will you go to Homecoming with me?”

__________________________________________________________

That’s a true story, by the way.  All the tactical high-speed bullshit words got crammed in to my head several years later, but the rest of it is 100% truth.  It can really be that fucking scary to ask a girl out – believe me, I know.

It doesn’t have to be, though.

What you need is practice.

Start small. The next time you get coffee from a cute barista, ask her the time. Just a simple,”Hey – do you know what time it is? Okay, thanks!”  Ask her one question not normally associated with buying a cup of joe.

Go to the mall, find a cute sales-girl, and ask her to help you pick something out.  If I was doing this exercise I’d look for a nice dress shirt, because I’m fashion-challenged. That’s fine, because I will Gamejitsu my hypofashionemia into a demonstration of higher value.

Watch:

“Hi there.” eye contact and smile “You look like a person that knows about shirts.  Listen –  I’m an expert in advanced cardiac life support.  I know all about car crashes and broken bones and gunshot wounds.  That stuff comes easy to me.  But shirts….they’ve always been a mystery.  Help me out here.  How many sleeves do you usually recommend?”

That’s it – you’re off and running.  It doesn’t matter what you’re an expert in – accounting, 13th Century Welsh nobility, prolactinomas – whatever.  Pick something you’re good at and mention it.  It’ll pump you up subconsciously.  Then admit a stultifying ignorance – ignorance so exaggerated she knows you’re pulling her leg a bit.  Keep your tone friendly, maintain reasonable eye contact and open body language, and smile.  She’ll laugh.

Then, just let her do her thing.  Ask a few questions about the merchandise. Go with her recommendation, thank her for her help (eye contact and smile), and buy it.

Now, stay all-business with these girls – they’re there to do a job, not to be creeped on. If she shoves a number into your hand while the boss isn’t looking, you take it with my blessing – and skip the rest of this article.  You don’t need my help.  For the rest of you – Rome wasn’t built in a day.  Don’t make some working stiff’s day any harder – and yes, she’s a working stiff no matter what she looks like.  We’ll get to BJs in backrooms later.

Even though these girls aren’t going to blow you in the stockroom, you can get something out of the interaction.  Pay attention, and they will help you realize something:

To a certain extent, we all act out roles for strangers and people we don’t know well.  The girl who’s going to sell you a shirt is playing the part of Apparel Technician #2, and your part is Fashion Challenged Dood #4.

As such, there are accepted scripts to follow, and certain guidelines that keep you “in character”. If you deviate too far off script, you’re thought of as creepy/awkward. Think about what an actor playing a part would do in your shoes, and do that.  Embrace it.  Take courage in the role – to her, you really are Fashion Challenged Dood #4.  She doesn’t know you used to eat paste in 3rd grade, or that you’re a virgin, or insecure about your dick size.  Fashion Challenged Dood #4 doesn’t have those problems, so when you’re in his shoes, you don’t have those problems.  Wipe that paste off your face before you go in the store, please.

Do this until the “Holy Jumping Jesus! I’m talking to a hot girl! And she is motherfucking talking back to me!  Guys!  Guys! Do you see this shit, guys!” feeling in your gut goes away.

This will help you internalize the fact that women (even girls you like) are just people. Even the coolest, smartest, funniest, sexiest woman in the universe is just another person. Hell, when it comes down to biology, she’s basically identical to me.  No shit.  All you guys with tight Game reading along can think about that this weekend while you’re banging some dimepiece.  No thanks is necessary, gents.  I live to serve.

Anyway, there’s no good goddamned reason you can’t relate to me or her.  There’s absolutely nothing special about either one of us. You’ve just got to find the common ground with each and go from there – and every single person on Earth has some kind of common ground with you.  Think hard enough and you’ll find it.  It’s there.

The “acting trick” is a mental crutch to make that easier. You can (and should) drop it as you become more practiced at reading subtle social cues, and get more comfortable in your own skin.

Good luck, gents.  Try it.  And don’t buy any three sleeved shirts.  It’s after Labor Day and you’ll look unfashionable.

On Deconflicting

Sometimes being a man makes it difficult to defuse potentially violent situations with other men.

When I was a bouncer, we had a bunch of minor league UFC guys come into my bar. They started getting rowdy, and some of them were starting crap with the other patrons. I’m a reasonably tough guy, but I am not in the same league as a professional fighter – let alone six of them.  Normally, jokes, flattery, subdued body language, and obsequious speech is enough in these situations, but this group was beyond such measures.

What I did was instruct a particular cocktail waitress to tell them to calm down. Since it was a woman asking, there wasn’t the subtext of confrontation (do what I say or I’m gonna make you) that’s inherent in many man-to-man interactions.

It worked like a charm. The UFC guys were like puppies trying to please the waitress, and a good time was had by all.  Your Humble Scribe won without fighting at all.  He struck an Heroic Pose before riding his Noble Steed off into the sunset.

That technique is appropriate in many situations. Nobody gets hurt, there is rarely a fight, and security is maintained in the most light-handed manner. In those situations, a smart, savvy woman is worth three meat-head bouncerdudes.

A woman needs a tremendous amount of trust in you before she’ll do something like this.  She believes in you.  She’s trusting that if the situation gets Interesting, you’ll keep her safe.  You need to live up to that – it is weak sauce indeed to let somebody else get hurt doing your job.

You’ve got to pick the right woman, too.  She’s got to be savvy, calm, and quick-witted.  She’s got to be in control of her feminine power.  She needs to understand the situation and the possible consequences for failure.  You must explain these things quickly, calmly, and unobserved by your targets.  Pay close attention to the woman as you explain.  If she exhibits any signs of eager aggression, consider another plan of action.  A woman who thinks,”I’m just as tough as any man!  I’m like that chick on Hunger Games!  Grrrrl POWER!” has an immediate future involving bodily injury.  A woman prone to finger snapping, lateral head movement, and spontaneous verbal ejaculations of,”Oh no you di’int!” is going to get her ass kicked, and yours too.  Come up with Plan C instead.

If done properly, you will not look weak in the estimation of the woman.  Maintain your calm demeanor, outline your intent, and express confidence in her.  If the situation is resolved with minimal face-smashing, acknowledge her contribution with a wink and a,”Nice work.  I knew I could count on you.”

Or, go back to Plan A and fight.  In a bunch of crappy scenarios, getting your ass kicked is the best possible outcome.  It sucks, but sometimes life shakes out like that. Let me know if it happens to you.  I make a mean banana smoothie, and I’ll bring one to the hospital.  The nurses will give you a straw, so don’t worry about your jaw being wired shut.

Patriarchy

My mother set the clothes-iron down, yawned, and stretched.  She had to be up early the next day.  It was late and she was tired.  I’d finished the Sunday dinner dishes and promptly beached myself on the couch, perfecting the art of corpulent lolling before heading off to work.
Some people think that’s that weird – wake up, drive to your parents’ house, and gorge on kielbasa, pierogies, and haluski for morning chow, but I…

Hey!

Listen here, you insensitive bigot – thinking it’s “weird” is shaming language!  Attempting to marginalize a certain ruggedly handsome Night Shift Worker like that is hateful and wrong.  You ignorant daywalkers need your noses rubbed in your Circadian Privilege until I decide you’re tolerant enough.

And stop interrupting me.  It’s emotionally abusive.

As I was saying:

I stood, yawned myself, and patted down my pockets, feeling for all my gear.  Leaving one’s trauma shears or stethoscope under your mother’s couch cushions is considered poor form in emergency medicine.  Satisfied with the state of my pockets, I hugged my mom goodbye, and admonished her to get some sleep.

“I will, as soon as I’ve ironed your father’s clothes.”

“They look fine, mom,” I said.  “You’re tired.  Just go to bed.”

She became stock-still.  I started wondering about pettit-mal siezures or some bizarre new type of paralysis…and then her head rotated slowly toward me, like an old T-55 turret with bad hydraulics…inexorably…she elevated her nose 20 degrees and fired:

“I will not let Your Father go to work without well-pressed clothes!  I know he likes looking sharp.  It makes him feel good!”  The iron burblehissed smug accompaniment.

My dad hasn’t touched an iron in 40 years.  No shit.  A vicious, oppressive Pillar of Patriarchy, that dude.  Gangsta.

You know what that entitled oppressor of all Womyn was doing while me and my mom were having that conversation?  As soon as he saw his wife pull out the iron, he told me goodbye (that’s what “Don’t be late for work, boy,” means in our native language) – and went to put gas in her car.  He was trying to save her some time in the morning.

My dad doesn’t worry about a lot of stuff.  He’s always got clean laundry, neatly ironed or folded.  If he wants to bring a lunch to work, it’s made and waiting in the fridge for him when he leaves.  He only cooks when he wants to.  If he even whiffs of tense, the ol’ guy’s getting a neck massage.

My mom, on the other hand, probably can’t even sketch a recognizable lawnmower.  She mentions that she would like the family room painted a certain color, and within days I’m helping my dad move furniture and mask off windows.  An offhand comment like,”My computer is kinda slow…hmmm…” and her laptop is gone over with a fine-toothed comb by her computer-guy husband.  If she comments about beautiful scenery in a movie they’re watching, or an interesting place she’s read about, he hustles some side jobs. The extra money gets transmogrified into a vacation so she can see it in person.

When we get together, I am inevitably bullied into looking at their vacation photos.  In them, my mom often reminds me of a happy little girl, looking wide-eyed at interesting surroundings.  My dad is always beaming at her.  There are an inordinate amount of pictures with her resting her head on his shoulder.  Maybe her cervical spine is deformed, and she’s never told me or something.

They aren’t perfect, but they’re in love.  They bust their asses for each other.  Their lives are much better for it.  As a young child, I took that devotion to roles for granted.  As a teenager, I thought it creepy.  Today, I find it a thing of amazement and awe.

And terribly rare.