You Don’t Know What They’re Thinking

You don’t know what other people are thinking.

You don’t.

No one can get behind the eyes of another human being and truly know what they are thinking, feel what they are feeling, or experience sensations as they experience them.

Knowing this, reminding myself of this, has helped me find some relief from compulsive negative thinking.

Dig that!

Because there have been times when one of my bosses gave me a sour look. The kind of look that thrusts me into an obsession in which this boss is going to fire me, but is biding her time for some reason. Possibly, she’ll fire me after she finds a suitable replacement.

Or, if I text a woman of interest and she doesn’t get back to me right away, I assume she isn’t into me, or that she thinks I’m a boring, ugly dude with delusions that I’m somehow worthy of dating her.

In my head I hear Cher from Clueless shrieking, “AS IF!”

But the truth is, people are dealing with their own lives and their own stuff.

My boss might be having a rough spot in her personal life. Maybe she’s having financial trouble, maybe she had an argument with her husband before work, or maybe her kid is acting like a little jerk face and getting in trouble in school. The sour look could be from anything and have nothing to do with me.

The text woman may just been napping, or working, or rescuing otters. I just don’t know.

And that’s the point.

I don’t know.

I’m probably never going to be an optimist, but I can at least introduce the doubt into my pessimistic thinking.

I remind myself, “You don’t know what other people are thinking.”

This does help.

And sometimes, I remind myself of other times when I obsessed over negative thoughts only for everything turn out fine. Or, I remind myself of negative scenarios that I created in my head that turned out not to be true.

This helps too.

And before long, the boss will wreak havoc on whoever actually did ruin her day. And the groovy text woman will get back to me and I’ll find out what she was up to.

Man, I hope she’s rescuing otters.

Photo by Jerome Heuze on Unsplash

This essay was originally published on The Goodmen Project.

Nothing Lasts Forever

Nothing lasts forever.

It’s true.

And that truth can be depressing and sad to think about.

But, what if we flip it around?

And when we’re having a tough time in life, when we’re going through a breakup, or losing a job, or grieving the death of a loved one, we could realize that nothing lasts forever, not even suffering.

Not sadness. Not grief.

There’s really nothing we can do to speed up the really bummer times. We have to be with them. We have to lean in. Because any resistance just drags suffering out longer.

Seriously. I’ve got Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. The real diagnosis, not the funny memes, or stupid t-shirts.

I can hold onto suffering like no one else I know.

Remembering casual comments that I took as hurtful digs and ruminating over them for almost ever. Pining away over those that moved on from my life while tracing the outline of faces in my memories.

Grounding one’s self in the present can be helpful. And being open to experiencing suffering helps too. Because although what may be bothering us lives only in the past, the suffering is here now and it’s very real.

So, have a seat in your chair or on your cushion. You could even lay on the floor or in the grass.

Take a deep breath in and let it out.

Do that again.

Okay, one more time.

And then let your breathing return to normal.

Now, focus on what you’re feeling. How does suffering feel? Where do you feel it in your body?

Mine usually feels like a murky cocktail of anxiety and depression that’s been spilled on my chest.

Focus your attention on the sensations. And allow yourself to enter the suffering completely.

You’ll probably feel worse initially as the suffering grows like a crescendo of awfulness. But stay with as best you can.

And you may notice that the suffering changes. Maybe heart-pounding anxiety turns into a more manageable sadness. Maybe depression lessons.

Maybe whatever you’re feeling is still there but it’s smaller now, duller, easier to carry through your day.

Maybe you’re able to lose the suffering completely.

Or maybe it will gradually fade out.

Because nothing lasts forever.

*This essay originally appeared on The Goodmen Project.

Why Dating Apps Just Don’t Work And What We Can Do About It

James Gummer dating apps
Zero women are responding to me on Hinge or Bumble.

For those of you that don’t know, Hinge and Bumble are the allegedly less creepy dating apps. I’ve used the creepy ones too. The one thing they all have in common is that none of them work for me.

None of them.

But wouldn’t it be awesome if one of them did work? If the app on my phone delivered profiles of beautiful, funny women who like dogs and Star Wars and nachos? Women that enjoy late night philosophical conversations over a cocktail?

Hell yeah it would!

And I could swipe right to let them know I’m interested.

And out of the hundreds of women that I liked, some would respond. And a handful of them would meet me and give me the opportunity to ruin my chances with them in person.

Or maybe some of them would ruin things with tales of a previously undisclosed cat or by chewing with her mouth open.

I don’t know.

But I believe that there are two possible reasons why these apps suck so incredibly bad for me:

1) The profiles are created by women, who for whatever reason have abandoned them. Maybe they were bored, or joined on a dare, were just curious, or met someone and have since forgotten about the app and no longer check responses.

2) The profiles are fake.

Number 2 is very possible considering that a huge number of profiles were revealed to be fake during The Great Ashley Madison Hack of 2015. If there are lots fakes on that site, why not on other sites and apps too?

You will notice that I have left out the possibility that I am uninteresting or ugly. I may be both, but just go to the mall, a bar, or restaurant on any day of the week and you will see women dating ugly, boring dudes.

So, I’m not sitting here at my desk wearing my flannel pajama pants at 6pm on a Thursday (yes I am) bitching about women.

No.

Really, I’m not.

I’m going to call on all men to put down the stupid, ineffective dating apps that only seek to exploit us for revenue, and stand for something.

Stand for courage. Stand for confidence. And reclaim the lost art of the the cold approach walk-up.

Use the 3 second rule, and if you see a woman out and about that you fancy, do something!

Anything.

Buy her a flower.

Ask her a question.

Tell her a story.

Hand her a puppy.

Something!

And you have 3 seconds to do it in. If you wait longer than that, you’ll talk yourself out of it and lose your nerve. And be a F*cking gentleman. That way if she’s just not into you, you won’t be ruining things for the rest of us.

And I’ll be out there with you.

That’s right!

And NOT swiping right, sending my intentions out into a cold, vast, indifferent cyber universe.

Because no one is out there to notice.

*** Note: Sarah Fader made me write this. 😬

The Sweetest Boy She Never Knew


A guest post by Meredith Simonds.
 
His name was Jeff. I don’t remember how we knew each other. We didn’t have any classes together. In fact, I don’t know that we’d ever exchanged a word. It was like we didn’t need to. We were both shy and there was this sweet warmth between us that came through in our eyes and our smiles just fine.

But just in case there was any question about our feelings for one another, our best friends cleared it up. Ashley and Tommy conferred on the matter, then reported back to us.

Indeed, I liked Jeff and he liked me.

Soon thereafter, it happened.

Jeff asked Tommy to ask Ashley to ask me if I would go with him.

(In case that means something different to you than it does to me, to go with a boy meant to be their girlfriend, even though there was never much going anywhere together at all.)

It was a dream come true.

The boy I liked wanted to be with me just as much as I wanted to be with him. So you can imagine my response, though you’ll probably get it wrong. I said no.

Maybe I was afraid of my feelings, too young to feel the intensity of love I sensed could develop between us.

Maybe I was afraid my family would be moving again soon, which we did about once a year, and it would only end up breaking Jeff’s heart and mine.

Or maybe I was afraid of what people would think. Jeff wasn’t popular. I wasn’t either, but I was new in this school and thought maybe I still had a chance.

Whatever the reason I said no, I don’t remember any such reservations occurring to me before he asked. Like when I had been entertaining the thought of being with him in my head. Or flirting with him in the halls. Or telling my best friend to tell his best friend I liked him.

All I know is that as soon as I said no, I felt like a terrible person and I deeply regretted it.

Maybe we would have been one of those couples who falls in love when they’re kids. He would have been the only man I was ever with, and me the only woman for him. We would have been married 25 years now, with five kids and grandkids on the way.

We would still make love every night, hold hands every day, and be the best of friends.

Or not.

Maybe I wasn’t a terrible person back then; maybe I was listening to my gut.

Maybe Jeff was really the first in a long line of jerks I subsequently dated. And maybe I said yes to them – ignoring my gut that knew better – because I felt so bad about rejecting him.

I don’t mind the mystery.

Meredith Simonds is a writer living in Los Angeles and founder of Plenty Woman, a website for women ready to believe we are everything anxiety says we’re not: Beautiful. Lovable. Powerful. Important. Smart.

Why Spam Might Be The Key To Happiness

I think most of us have become so conditioned to spam email that we just simply delete it and move on with our day, accepting it like those little gnats that fly up our noses in the summertime.

Like, if you’re going to be outside, gnats are going to fly up your nose sometimes. If you’re going to be online, there’s going to be pop-ups and spam in your email.

What do those gnats want anyway? What is up my nose that is so damn enticing?

I’ve examined my cavernous nose closely, and I just don’t get it.

In any case, spam texts are getting to be a thing. And I have to admit that I find them even more annoying and intrusive than spam email.

So, I’ve decided to have fun with them, to experience them with a sense of joy, instead of wishing I could find the person sending them and burn their house to the ground while all of their neighbors watch and I yell, “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?!?!”

Because I’d probably get in trouble.

And who has time for all that?

But yeah, so the key is to handling spam texts is the key to so many things in life.

And that’s to reframe the experience.

Instead of getting pissed off, let’s have some fun!

Why Men Are Scared Of Children

This is a guest post by Sarah Fader, who called me out to write a post for The Goodmen Project. So, I called her out here.

Once upon a time, I was on Twitter lamenting about not finding love. I was saying how I attract emotionally unavailable men. Out of nowhere, this dude that I have never interacted with comes along and replies:

“Children scare men.”

It took me a moment to figure out what the hell he was talking about. I presumed he meant that the concept of having children was not desirable to men. But then my brain started playing around with the idea and I imagined my two kids dressed up in monster costumes standing in a dark hallway deliberately trying to cock block me.

That was pretty funny.

Though I was relatively certain what he meant by the scared children comment, I wanted to confirm that he was making a mass generalization before I retaliated. I asked him what he meant and he said that when a man finds out that a woman has children, he becomes afraid. I prodded him and wanted to know what he meant by “afraid.” He went on to say that men do not want to raise another man’s children.

This was seriously one of the weirdest interactions I’d ever had on Twitter.

I felt like he was making a lot of assumptions. Every man is scared of children? Children are not scary. They are fun and weird and sometimes they lose their teeth and get money for it. They love chocolate and ice cream and they say weird, funny stuff. Why would men be scared of children?

But then I realized that he was kind of right.

One time I joined a dating website for 24 hours. I was chatting with a nice guy. We spoke about our random jobs that we had in our three decade adult lives, our pets, hobbies, and favorite movies. Then he found out that I had kids. He stopped replying to my texts and disappeared. I started to believe that weird Twitter guy was on to something.

I still don’t know why men are terrified of children, but I do know that it’s lame.

Single moms want to have romance and some semblance of a sex life too. Why should the fact that I have children make me any less attractive?

I think that is discrimination and it’s just plain ridiculous. I love my children and they also drive me crazy. But, they are a big part of my life. They come with this package that is Sarah Fader. So, if you love me, you love them.

You also love chocolate pudding pie. I’ve decided that you do.

Men, please stop judging women if they have children. Don’t write off a woman as undateable just because she has two little shorties she lives with. Those children are her universe and there is also room in it for you.

If she likes you.

Sarah Fader recently released a collection of her essays from around the Internet and you already love her because you read this article and you want to buy her book.

Learn more about Sarah and connect with her at sarahfader.com

Why The New Star Wars Movie Means So Much

School basically sucked.

Maybe it was the almost cinematic brutality of Catholic school, the perceived oppressive and sinister nature of the Catholic religion, or a pretty intense undiagnosed anxiety disorder, mixed with the awkwardness of growing up which I had absolutely no skills to handle.

There was a nun who dug sharp pointed fingernails into my scalp if I got math problems wrong. She could throw an elbow at a kid’s head nasty enough to impress a Thai boxer as she walked through the rows of fourth graders. This was discipline. This was managing a class with fear. There was the shouting and the shaming. And I remember sitting behind my best friend as he pissed his pants because you could only use the bathroom during lavatory time.

Add all that to the mean-spiritedness that children foist upon each other as they’re first developing their identities and learning how to navigate the world socially, and you get trauma.

In any case, the one thing I had to get me through this time in my life was Star Wars.

Yes, it’s true, even if that seems silly or trite.

Star Wars gave me a way to evade my life. As a student of Buddhism today, I realize that retreat from reality is rarely a healthy goal. Still, the benefits of escaping the madness at that time cannot be understated.

VHS players were starting to show up in most American homes, which meant you could tape your favorite movies on cable channels like Home Box Office.

Of course I taped Star Wars.

And escape I did, at every possible moment. In math class, I’d daydream and create galactic adventures in my head. I learned I could totally disconnect from my environment and travel to that Galaxy far, far away whenever I wanted.

That’s not always a great skill to have. I never did learn much math. But I was learning some important things via George Lucas’ space epic. Things one would think I should have been learning in a private school, a place where I was instead learning how not to anger my handlers.

Star Wars taught me about honor. It taught me about discipline, and introduced me to the idea of the peaceful warrior. I learned about kindness, empathy and not taking advantage of someone just because I might be stronger or more powerful than them. I learned that fear leads to anger and anger leads to the dark side.

I learned about justice, right and wrong, good versus evil, and how it’s important to seek out those wiser than myself to help me navigate the world. I learned about redemption and how a villain still may have a spark of goodness in them. I learned that sometimes you have to take chances and put everything on the line. And how, if everyone works together toward a common goal, anything is possible.

I learned that the battles we wage are sometimes within ourselves, that you should never leave a true friend behind, and that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.

There are those that point out that the themes and archetypes in the Star Wars films were not new or particularly visionary. But that doesn’t really matter. The original trilogy was a brilliant delivery system. It brought these ideas to me and so many others.

This is one of the reasons that I think the new movie, to be released on December 18th, 2015, is so important. And in my opinion, at this time in our culture, this time of extreme corporate greed, corrupt politicians, and a shocking disregard for the welfare of our fellow human beings, this may be the only place that some young ones learn about honor, compassion, and justice.

And I hope that J.J. Abrams’ film can live up to that. I know it’s a lot to ask.

But in any case, it’s really fun right now to join in the hype of the new picture, to clamor over trailers, and watch the interviews with the cast. It sort of feels like coming home.

Welcome back to the big screen, Star Wars.

I’ve missed you.