Awkward Man Hugs

When did shaking hands as a greeting go out of fashion with men?

It seems that everywhere you go—guys are now hugging. Restaurants, gyms, sporting events, car shows—wherever men gather—they’re engaging in these awkward man hugs. Not quite touching—and yet—touching a little too much. No longer content in a fist bump, they’re now deep into each other’s shoulder space, bent forward as they stand two-feet apart.

Ubiquitous hugging

If you watch sports, it’s everywhere. Touchdown! Give me a hug. Three pointer. Body slam. Home-run. Grab a dude and lift him in the air. For decades men have been eager to touch as long as they’ve scored on the field. Celebrations only really start when men are leaping, grabbing and hugging. So when did it all morph from special events to everyday behavior? No one really knows. But man hugging is definitely here to stay.

Gay Hugs

Now gay men—they know how to hug. They pull you tightly into their personal space. Sometimes, you don’t know whether they’re being friendly or just feeling you up. It can actually be both. But when you get a hug from a gay man, it’s warm and welcoming. It feels completely like what it is. An embrace of supportive “great to see you” man admiration.

Shut up and give me a hug 

Today, we hug anyone we causally meet at a party. Friends of friends. Relatives you don’t even like. And if touching strangers is not your thing—well—something’s clearly wrong with you.

Years ago I had a friend who greeted everyone with an arm held stiffly out to signal that you were supposed to stand back. He refused to hug. And that never changed. Over the years, friends came and went through his revolving door. He never seemed to really connect. In hindsight, it’s not surprising. The signs were always there. Beginning with his unwillingness to embrace.Continue reading . . .    

Who is that Coughing?

I hate getting sick. I guess that’s normal. But I hate it even more when Jeff gets sick. And not because he’s uncomfortable—or I need to take care of him—but because I’m usually the next one up. It seems when you live with someone, it’s impossible not to catch their cooties. Especially if you’re together working out of the same house.

The secret

I’ve been told to avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Yeah right. Like I could ever do that for a solid week. And washing your hands obsessively doesn’t really help either. Trust me. I’ve tried that too.

Clorox wipes with bleach are great for killing germs on counter-tops—but probably not a great idea for wiping down the person lying in bed next to you. Besides, whatever nastiness is happening, isn’t on the surface. The gross crud is breeding in the recesses of your beloved’s nasal cavity, throat or chest. And sometimes, God forbid, their tummies.

Flying

There is nothing worse than being on a plane and hearing someone sneeze. It’s like vigorously shaking a can of soda and then opening it. You’re trapped in a metal cylinder as germs float throughout the cabin. It’s simply impossible to avoid getting caught up in the wet spray. And if you must use the restroom, I recommend always using a tissue to open the door once you’ve done your business and after you’ve washed your hands. God only knows who was in there before you—though there’s little doubt what they were doing.

I’ve read somewhere that the aisle seat is the worst on a plane. Upon boarding, everyone passes by, breathing down on you. Hmm. And here I thought the extra leg room was the added bonus.

Theaters

And then there’s always someone coughing during a play. At the symphony, people seem to be constantly clearing their throats. But in a movie theater, the film volume is so loud it drowns out any background noise. It’s impossible to know if anyone nearby is sick. My advice. Slink down into your seat and keep your popcorn close.

Compassion

And so, I think it’s truly best that when your spouse is ill to move into the guest room. Close enough to check on them, but not so very close as to get infected.  But of course the time you spend away will depend on how attracted you are to someone who is ill. Personally, I’m a sucker for neediness. But that’s a topic for another blog.

Not Another Supermarket

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about why I seem to always be in the supermarket. I must have better things to do with my time than wander through Safeway, Fry’s and Trader Joe’s. And yet, now, I even go to Whole Foods to take out lunch.

Has grocery shopping become my new hobby? Seriously. How else can I explain pushing a cart up and down the aisles every other day and thinking it’s fun?

Feed me

I’ve decided that as you age, eating must be an obsession. As if time is running out, I seem to be eager to try everything.

Lord knows there’s enough food in our house to last for weeks. If we really needed to unload the cupboards, we could easily manage, though we’d be light on dairy and produce. Hmm. Perhaps that’s what’s going on.

Is anyone hungry? 

Maybe it just reminds me of my childhood. In my family, food was love.

Feeling blue? Have some chocolate pudding. Sick. We have a great chicken soup. Tired? Coffee cake is on its way.

There was once a time when I went outside on a nice day and rode a bike. Now, I wander the supermarket aisles. Not exactly exercise, but it is walking.

Bigger is better

Of course, I’m writing this sitting outside of Costco waiting for the doors to open. It seems my desire to be entertained has morphed into the big box stores. Making a second meal on bits of cheese, guacamole dip, and hot appetizers that they cook up for eager shoppers. I might buy the paper towels, but let’s get real. I’m here for the freebies.

Worried

I try not to let it bother me—but I am getting concerned. I wonder how many other people are feeling trapped by their fascination to horde food. Perhaps it’s all just a big nothing. Or maybe, I’m onto something. Either way, I find myself totally enraptured. Cut it, slice it, serve it. Call me yours.

 

But Darling, I love Turner Classic Movies

I admit it. I’m addicted to old movies. Really old movies.

I love silent films. I’m fascinated by those stars who never made the transition to sound. John Gilbert. Theda Bara. The list goes on. And though I regularly support the San Francisco Silent Film Festival, I don’t always go. But I always want to.

I also love the early talkies. There’s something magical about the films of the 1930s and 1940s. The artistry is amazing. The camera work, the story lines, and the actors. But like everything in life, even movies made during the Golden Age of Hollywood can be stinkers. Bad directors, bad scripts, and bad casting. Just bad movies.

And then there’s the unusual enunciation of one key word.

Affected?

Some of the dialogue can be a bit much. Dated perhaps—or just overly dramatic. For instance, the word darling pops up an awful lot in love scenes. It’s kind of standard. My grandmother used to call me darling. But, there was never any romantic intent. At least, I don’t think so.

I have one friend who uses darling.  It’s a cue that a nasty zinger is about to be hurled your way. If you wear a bathing suit in his presence you might hear, “But darling, I thought you worked out.” Ouch. He’s truly a laugh riot, but you need to have a sense of humor. Fortunately, I do.
Continue reading . . .    

Smile

On a flight to Mexico, sitting in an aisle seat, a stranger once put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Cheer up, buddy. Things will get better.” Walking the dog in the morning, I’ve been told by neighbors that I’m rather stand-offish. And friends recently gave me a tee-shirt with the imprint: Grumpy Old Man.

Okay. I’ve come to accept it. I must appear naturally unhappy. Even though that couldn’t be further from the truth. Inside, I’m practically exuberant. Okay—maybe that’s a stretch. How about, calm.

Unfortunate resting face?

This must explain my childhood photos. Barely a smile anywhere. Because smiling doesn’t come naturally to me. I know. That’s just impossible. Then think Victorian England. Turn of the century America. The Amish. Any cover of Time Magazine. No smiles.

Kodak

Smiles are a Kodak invention. Not real life. We can’t always be having fun, running around with a ridiculous grin on our face. I doubt I’m the only one who has suffered through a family photo when the photographer has yelled, “Hey, you. The one on the end. How about a smile?”

My facial muscles just don’t work that way. Try as I might, I can’t achieve a smile on demand. I’ve tried practicing. It’s impossible.Continue reading . . .    

Now I Lay Me Down

I just received another invitation from the National Cremation Society. They seem to be reaching out monthly. They must know something I don’t. Perhaps it’s the actuarial table for men over sixty who were born and raised in New York City.

Diet is so Important

A few years back, I rubbed shoulders with an oncologist from MD Anderson. We talked about the benefits of eating organic. He made it clear that for someone my age, it was too late. I was already filled with harmful chemicals from a lifetime of processed foods. Thank you Hostess, Swanson and Sara Lee. At least now I don’t have to feel guilty about not shopping at Whole Foods.

Prescriptions

At last check, I take no medications. My Dad didn’t either and bragged about it for years. Then at 78, he developed a degenerative disease. So much for his good health. But I did have a male grandparent that lived independently into his 90s. He never held an emotion back. He yelled as easily as he cried. He exhausted us all.

To Be or Not to Be   

In our house, we’ve discussed whether to be buried or cremated. Jeff wants to be environmentally friendly. He got the idea from living in the Bay Area. I own a plot. And since I come from a dramatic family, the whole event has been planned out in my mind. Someone will sit in the front row, bawling hysterically, and at a key point in the eulogy will cry out, “it should have been me.”

Trust me. You won’t want to miss it.Continue reading . . .    

Aussie Survivor

Ever hike an Australian preserve in search of wild animals? Me neither. At least, not until the other day.

It was a side trip recommended by friends. I went along with it mostly because Jeff had always wanted to go on an African Safari. So, this was a kind of concession. Instead of days out in the wilderness living off the land, it would be just a couple of hours in a preserve riding around in a Mercedes van with a group of strangers and a very nice tour guide.

It turned out to be a day-long excursion that lasted from eleven in the morning until ten-thirty at night. A stretch of time that included two meals and what generally passes for my bedtime. Of course, my greatest concerns were: What would we eat and where would we find a restroom?

NYC Childhood

Growing up in New York City, I’m not much for wild animals. Oh—we had our native species of cockroach. Two-inch, brown water bugs with cellophane-like wings. And then, there was that occasional mouse. It generated a lot of excitement when it showed up. But I don’t remember anyone running for a camera.

Pigeons lined the terraces which we rarely used. And just like an episode from Marlin Perkins’ Wild Kingdom, some even attempted to nest before brooms were pulled out to sweep them away. The adults called the pigeons—rats with wings—and years later on a trip to Venice, I thought a lot about that reference as they swooped overhead in St. Mark’s Square.

No Pets Please

Dogs and cats were barred from our building. And now that I think of it, I didn’t have one friend back then who even owned a pet. Not a bird, turtle or hamster. Not even a fish. So as I marched through the forest, damp leaves, broken sticks and loose rocks underfoot, I barely looked up from the trail, hoping that I wouldn’t be the first to slip and disappear into the deep canyon below. All the while our guide kept talking. “There are twenty variety of snakes here. Poisonous spiders that are perfectly camouflaged to match the bark. Kangaroos that have been known to seriously injure dogs.”

And I was searching for all of that?

Uh Oh 

And then, up ahead, resting in a tree—a Koala bear. Gray and fuzzy with Mickey Mouse ears and enormous eyes. He stared down at us as we stared back up and marveled at him. I forgot about the dangers, the dampness, and all that dung underfoot. I was part of nature, enjoying the moment, and grateful to be on the trip.Continue reading . . .    

Let’s Eat

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about eating. Well, I’m on a cruise ship circling Australia—and frankly—eating is the major activity. And despite what you might have heard about Americans being overweight, I assure you, we’re not alone. There are plenty of people from Australia and the UK who easily match us in girth. Perhaps that’s because a cruise self-selects those who are obsessively interested in dining as they float along to the next destination.

Group think

Food seems to be on everyone’s mind. What you ate, what you’re eating, what you’re going to eat. And instead of being pleasurable, it becomes a little sickening. Especially when you wolf down two hot dogs and fries with a pizza chaser (guilty). Can the second ice cream sundae be too far behind? Are those chocolate chip or peanut butter cookies? I didn’t know Jell-O and cheesecake worked so well together.

I’ve tried my best not to give into the mass hysteria that the next meal might be our last. And yet, even as I sit here, content to spill my guts about the incredible excesses everywhere, I’m pondering the sugar donuts I saw at the buffet. I should have eaten one when I had the chance. Will there be any left if I go back?

Am I showing?

Each morning I awake and stare at my gut in the mirror. As I stroke my belly, I wonder if it’s getting bigger. I’m reminded of that guy Morgan Spurlock who did the Super Size Me documentary. You remember him. He ate McDonald’s every day for a month to determine the impact on his overall health. As I recall, he got pretty sick. Even vomited. The thought has crossed my mind. Instead, I keep popping antacid after antacid.

I wish I had more self-control. But I don’t. Day three and food is everywhere. Except at the gym. And yes, I’ve actually been there. But any plan to stay slim is 80% diet—20% exercise. That’s what I’ve heard. So really, there’s little point going to the gym while on-board. Unless you plan to lie flat on your back, mouth closed, to ease digestion.

No more

I’ve told Jeff that this is the last time we go on a cruise. Next vacation will be an active one. He agreed with me as we sat in the dining room admiring the sweet rolls placed table side by the waiter. And as I bit into a fresh croissant with a chocolate center, I realized that this moment won’t last forever. Soon, I’ll be back at my house where carbs are banned. Where the evenings are spent foraging through cupboards that hold nothing more than spices and dried beans. My stomach will once again be flat. My persistent indigestion gone.

I guess sometimes in life we just need to let go. Practicing self-control on a cruise ship is a fool’s journey. Better to fully immerse oneself and get it out of your system. And so, once again I prepare for breakfast. Did you know that pancakes taste best when covered yea high in stewed prunes?

What Did You Say?

I’ve been deaf in my left ear since I was two-years old. Pneumonia. Dead nerve. Nothing they could do. At least until cochlear implants came along. But honestly, I’m not interested in the procedure.

Change Adverse

While everyone wants the latest and greatest — I’m bemoaning the loss of the familiar. Now there are some things I don’t miss. Black and white television. The flip phone. TV dinners (okay — I might actually miss those — but have you checked the salt content?). And, I don’t miss the hearing I never really had.

Growing Up

The New York City school system required me to have my hearing tested each year. I’d sit in a sound proof booth as the audiologist turned up the volume to a roar. I couldn’t hear a thing but I did feel the pressure on my ear drum. That’s when I’d raise my hand and they’d stop.

And because I had years of lip reading classes and no discernible speech challenges, people didn’t remember that I had a handicap. Teachers walked about the room during spelling tests. It was impossible for me to hear them. So, I learned the week’s words … memorized the list … and filled in at the end of the test … those words I missed hearing.

You Overcompensate

Throughout my business career, I suffered through round conference tables. I learned early on that it was always best to be upfront. I’d turn to the person to my left and quickly explain that I couldn’t hear on that side. Invariably, that person would engage me in a long discussion. Very awkward. Or they would ask for the salt. A lot of people on my left always seemed to want the salt.

And then there were the people who thought I was unfriendly. That happened a lot. Hey, we all have our moments, but in a large room with lots of background noise, I was never going to hear you. Close friends know that. Now, so do you.Continue reading . . .    

White Tube Socks

I’ve been told that wearing white tube socks is passé. And if the crowd at the gym is any indication, that’s certainly true. Black is the new white. So I bought some black no-show socks. The ones you can’t see when you put on your sneakers. And I gathered up all my old white tube socks with the intent of sending them off to a friend who said he uses them when he dusts. Sock puppets, I get. Dusting? Not so much.

Slippage

No sooner was I on the elliptical at the gym then one of my new socks started to slip. Half-way through the workout—it had crept down to the bottom of my foot, eventually balling up under my heel.

Don’t reach down?

There have been moments when I’ve nearly lost my balance on the elliptical due to a minor distraction. Straining to make out a CNN headline on the flat screen television mounted high above the gym. Spotting an attractive passerby and allowing my eye to linger too long. Listening to Eydie Gorme on my iPod. She may be dead and buried but she can sure belt out a tune. Swinging your arms to and fro as she hits a high note can be dangerous. It’s best to listen from a seated position.Continue reading . . .