My father scraped the electric hair clipper across my brother’s scalp. Billy sat frowning with each stroke, because it was not a gentle act. He was 12 years old. I was waiting my turn. My younger brother was third in line. My father did not abide hippies generally, but certainly not in his own house.

It was early June 1970 and his fellow New York City construction workers had just protested the Vietnam War, not against it, but for it. The nation was teetering towards chaos and he and 150,000 like-minded patriotic tradesmen took to the streets of Manhattan to voice their support of Richard M. Nixon. And he’d be goddamned if there would be any hippies walking around his house. I was 7 years old at the time.

Billy’s golden brown hair tumbled off his bare, white, narrow shoulders to the kitchen’s linoleum tile floor. My father, former Marine corporal, finished the buzz cut and said, Welcome to the corps, marine. Looking at me, Your turn, Jimmy. I sat down and got my buzz cut. My father seemed angry while he ran that stainless steel clipper across my head. Why he was so angry, I never understood.

30 years later and I’m in a hair salon. My father would have laughed at me, if he saw me going into a salon. Normal barber not good enough for ya, Jimmy, i could hear him saying. I sat down at the appointed time and the pretty young lady asked me what I’d like. I told her, she pulled out clippers, and with a few different attachments, a few scissor snips, and a brush off, I was out the door 15 minutes later, $60 lighter. I felt sheepish.

Another 15 years later, my lady love sits me in her kitchen and pulls out the the hair clippers. She spends so much time studying my head, I wonder if she’s thinking about taking it apart and memorizing how to put it back together. Finally, she gets started, so gently it feels soothing. My graying hair falls down my bare, broad shoulders to her tiled floor. She blows errant hairs off my ears and kisses my nose to say she’s finished. Shower up, James, she smiles. Let’s get this day started.

#1970 #haircuts #autobiography #vietnamwar #nixon #hippy #love #lastfirstkiss

The Digital Catcall

A reader commented on my catcall posts and reminded me this is supposed to be a blog about online dating. She went onto write that receiving an online greeting is much like being whistled at on the street. In short, I agree. We do these little drive-by catcalls and see if they stick.

On all of the dating sites I’ve seen, one can simply check off women (or men, of course) one finds attractive on your handy touchscreen. It literally couldn’t be any easier or more devoid of emotion, much like the street catcall. And while, it isn’t completely anonymous, unless a fake account is being used, one feels safely separated from the receiver of said instant attraction. You’re sending out a sounding ping, waiting to see if it comes back.

In the world of online dating, the ability to simply whistle one’s attraction is absolutely equal opportunity. Women get to be just as superficial and judgemental as us men. Congratulations, I guess.

I admit I have swiped right or hit the heart icon on women whose profiles I’ve never read, basing my attraction solely on looks. I had no idea if they were 3 miles away or 60. I just swiped right and, if they did the same, I’d look into them a little deeper. And I might reject them on the second, deeper look, based on maybe their location or political leanings or some other quibble. After all, I haven’t put any emotion into it yet. I’m just driving by, shouting, Nice legs or Hubba hubba.

I have been pinged too. On POF, there’s a “meet me” option where a woman can just check off my pic and I get notified a woman wants to meet me. I know she’s put zero effort in and really there’s little chance she even wants to meet. I rarely reply to these. I was walking down the street once with a friend. He was a small-time mobster, shylocking and gambling mostly. Some distance behind us, I could hear a guy whistling and saying, Yo, wait up. I told my friend I thought somebody wanted to talk to him and he said, I don’t turn around for whistles. Let the asshole run to catch up. I got fuckin’ dignity.

#onlinedating #middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #kissing #humor #catcalls

The Misery of Love

Maud Gonne

Why should I blame her that she filled my days with misery…                                                Why, what could she have done, being what she is?                                                                          Was there another Troy for her to burn?                                                                                             No Second Troy by William Butler Yeats

Love can be thrilling, can’t it? It can make your heart sing; bring a smile to your lips unbidden. When you’re truly in love, nothing else really matters. Except when your love is unrequited, then everything else matters. Yeats wrote No Second Troy about Maud Gonne, who was considered a great beauty and firebrand in revolutionary Ireland around 1916. She spurned his marriage proposals several times, before she finally married another suitor. She remained his muse though.

Certainly, I have felt that misery, the ruinous echo of love vibrating within my own cavernous heart with no answering call to soothe the aching. Back in my younger days, perhaps it was puppy love, but it felt real enough to me. I’d pass a note or leave a message to call me back and then anxiously await a reply. Sometimes waiting sheepishly for days because there never was an answer.

Over the years, I’ve learned love can wound and hurt as much as it can bind and make whole. I’ve been divorced now. I’m not so innocent as I once was, not innocent at all really. Once, I would have bared my heart in a note, now I’m guarded. A woman friend admitted she was afraid she couldn’t love again. She had been through too much and didn’t know if she could open herself up like that once more. She asked, Do you think you can love again, James? And I didn’t have an answer, but I did have a hope I could rebuild Troy.

#wby #yeats #williambutleryeats #maudgonne #nosecondtroy #lastfirstkiss #onlinedating #boomergeneration

A Woman Walks Down the Street (pt. duh)

A woman walking down the street encounters comments from men who are strangers to her. At various times in her life, she reacts differently to them. By the way, I did not imagine this woman. She is real. My question to you is, which woman is right, the one complimented by the whistles or the woman disgusted by the catcalls or even the last who misses the attention? I’d suggest they can all be right at the same time. Of course, it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway), a woman has the right to react to these street interactions however she wants. I think it gets tricky when people want to legislate them, particularly the more strident feminists.

I’ve worked in construction my whole life and have witnessed thousands of these situations over the years. As for me, I’ve never been comfortable going beyond a smile and saying good morning to a pretty woman as she passed by me and this fairly rarely. Some women have responded in kind, many have continued on their way with no reaction at all. I’ve never been called out on it. Logically, I understand I’m putting a social obligation on the woman. I’ve said something to you, now it’s your turn. The woman has every right to ignore me. And once ignored I should cease all attempts at contact. On the other hand, I’ve seen my fellow workers do it constantly and in various ways. Some are polite with their hellos and compliments, some get rather suggestive and lewd. I’ve never seen a woman smile or react kindly to a lewd comment. I can only conjecture the man making them gets off on it for some odd reason.

As a job goes on and the same women walk by the same men, a routine can start to occur, where they seem to expect and enjoy the brief, polite interaction. Good morning, you look great today! Some men are quite good at it and can almost always get a smile or even a laugh in return. I’ve found a woman’s reaction is often dependent on what, how, and who is saying it. A complimentary, non-threatening remark in passing by a guy who looks like Jon Hamm is often looked upon better than anything said by the guy who looks like Paul Giamatti.

I have scolded several men over the years I’ve felt crossed the line into lewdness or harassment. My usual line of reprimand is, How would you feel if some filthy fuck said that to your wife or your daughter? I’ve seen the rare woman stop and put an offending man in his place. Those women scare me. Their I don’t give a fuck attitude is a force of nature.

I do not think catcalling should be outlawed. We have a little thing called the 1st amendment in this country, but we shouldn’t use the law to be creepy or harassing. As men, we should call out our fellows who cross the line between a compliment (whether wanted or not) and harassment. I do believe there is a line and like the definition of pornography, we know it when we see it. We must recognize a woman has the right to ignore us and curse us in return, if she wishes.

A Woman Walks Down the Street

A young woman walked down the street on the west side of Manhattan on a warm summer morning. She was a very pretty woman, dressed nicely, apparently going to her job in an office somewhere. She passed a construction site, where a few men in hardhats whistled and made catcalls. They said things like, Looking good, sweetheart. Or Wanna grab a cup a joe? Oh yeah, I’m Joe. She smiled briefly and walked on. She didn’t mind the attention, a little acknowledgement of her beauty. She found the men harmless.

The same woman, several years older, made her way from her apartment. She had music playing loudly in her headphones, the better to ignore the catcalls and whistles she endured each morning. She considered the “compliments” and somewhat lewd suggestions rude and disgusting. Even an unbidden Good morning could ruin her day. She had grown to loath the harassment, wondering how these men would react if they saw their wives or daughters getting the same sexist treatment.

Thirty years on, this very same woman, deep into her fifties now, leaves her building one morning, walks the same route. Her looks have faded with age. With each child, she gained a little more weight she could never shed. Where once she had flawless smooth skin, she now has wrinkles and worry lines. As she walks to the subway, none of the men turn their heads to admire her looks. No one spares a Good morning. For the briefest of moments, she misses the attention the men once gave her.

To be continued…

I haven’t finished this yet and you may wonder where I’m going. I know I’m trying to be provocative.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #kissing #sexism #streetharassment

On a Summer’s Day

On a Summer’s day so still, even the chipmunks stopped skittering, my love and I lazed about the lakeshore. Except for being named Long Pond on the local map, I would have had a hard time calling it a small lake or a large pond. I never knew the difference, just the same with creeks and brooks.* As with many things, it was the size that mattered. I just didn’t know when one became the other. Suffice to say, the day was so hot, I had nothing better to do but ponder such things aloud. And Angela listened and smiled wryly, because she had nothing better to do than listen to me and the cicadas drone.

We slathered ourselves slick with sunscreen and took two fat innertubes out of the dockside shed and placed them in the water. Angela tried gracefully to plant her bottom in the center, but failed miserably. I handed her two umbrellas after she had settled and then I just flopped backwards into mine. We opened our umbrellas and meandered about the pond slowly as there was barely any breeze at all.

We held hands or intertwined our legs, as if there really was a chance of drifting apart. Twice we laid our umbrellas upside down on the water surface so they could float while we took a dip in the cool, clear water. Later, we showered and supped. I built a little fire with twigs by the pond to keep the critters and skeeters away. We shared a bottle of wine sitting on cushioned Adirondack chairs, awaiting the stars to blink awake as they did in that divine darkness. And Angela listened to me tell talltales of make-believe constellations. What would you like to do tomorrow, I asked.

The same again, please, she replied, smiling sleepily.

*Ever the seeker of useless knowledge, I took the time to find out the difference between ponds and lakes and…there is no scientific demarcation, except to say a pond is smaller than a lake. I also read sunlight does not reach the bottom of a lake, but really the person who names it makes the call.

The difference between brooks and creeks: size again, but it gets a little more scientific in that you can step across a brook but have to jump across a creek.

There will be quiz later.

#middleaged #manspov

#middleageddating #lastfirstkiss #love #kissing #summer #shortstory #fiction