Tuesday, June 29, 2004

...Playing While Hurt

At a time when I couldn’t have possibly been any more concerned or insecure about my appearance, I started off my junior year of high school with a huge, nasty, ugly, bulbous, bloody-looking gash on my forehead. Of course, school pictures were scheduled early that year, so this most hideous version of me remains forever memorialized for the Classes of `90-‘93 (or at least those who’ve held onto their yearbooks).

You may be wondering how this injury occurred.

Was I on the receiving end of a hard tackle during football practice?

Did a death-defying skateboard trick I was performing go awry?

Had it been a side-effect of my disarming a knife-wielding home intruder?

In truth, my unsightly blemish was the result of accidentally bashing my head into the corner of a wall as I rocked out to the stereo.

I thought of this today as I sat in Urgent Care, waiting for the doctor to determine the extent of my calf injury that has made it virtually impossible for me to put any weight on my right leg for the past 24 hours. Again, my timing is impeccable; I’m supposed to be leaving Thursday for a brief, but activity-filled trip to the Bay Area.

I’d like to tell you that this latest injury was the result of me pushing my body to its absolute limit at the gym. Or a particularly grueling Ultimate Fighting Championship match. A game of Bedroom Olympics gone haywire.

Anything but, “Stepped on tile too hard while walking into my kitchen”.

Monday, June 28, 2004

...The Great Motivator

You know that joke that goes “90% of all men masturbate - the other 10% lie about it”? I have another one, not quite as catchy. I believe everything a single man does in his life - every decision he makes, every path he chooses - can somehow be traced back to how this may increase or decrease the possibility of him having sex. Some men will claim to disagree with me on this. They are lying. They want to come across as nice guys, not leches. They think it'll help them get laid.

Ideally, I like to think of myself as thoughtful. Sensitive. Deep. Complicated. Truth is, I’ve mostly just been trying to hit it too.

In college, I grew my hair out. This wasn’t an act of youthful rebellion, non-conformity or some kind of political statement. It was a strategic decision. I simply had a very realistic view of my looks. I knew that I was good-looking enough never to have to worry about going the blow-up doll or women who are into Star Trek route, but I wasn’t always going to come home from the bars with 7 numbers either.

My theory: Let my friends compete amongst themselves for the girls who were into the clean-cut look. When a girl who was into long-haired guys came along - it was Gooch or nothing.

My libido has led my career path, too. My college sweetheart had been fairly easy prey when I was “Cool Fraternity Guy” Gooch, but after graduation I questioned how sexy I was coming across as “Lives With His Parents, Entry-Level, Low-Paying Job-Having” Gooch. Despite often crippling shyness, I pursued a career in sales where I have been ever since.

I’d like to say that my decision to start a 6-day a week gym habit and maintain a strict diet was based on a commitment to healthy living and avoiding the diseases often associated with a sedentary lifestyle. Truthfully, it had more to do with the realization that the 5-months pregnant look wasn’t making me much of a chick magnet.

I stayed at the same company long after various buy-outs, mergers and general mismanagement had sucked any joy out of the job. But the pay was still good and my “Staying Fuckable” routine didn’t come cheap. There were the frequent visits to the tanning bed to keep my body freshly bronzed. The trips to the mall to ensure I was keeping in step with the latest fashions. Hundreds of dollars a month on various protein supplements and creatine transport products to maximize muscle development.

I did put that job on the line once. During the height of the dot-com boom the company grew so rapidly that, to maximize space, they literally tore down the walls that enclosed my office to fit in more desks. It wasn’t so much a need for privacy that caused me to protest against this idea so stridently. I was just worried about how women who take such things into consideration would feel about “Cubicle Drone” Gooch vs. “Plush Office With a Window” Gooch.

Getting married threw off my entire system of incentives. When I realized that the average number of times we do it per month wasn't likely to go up or down regardless of the increase in my bench press, I stopped working out so hard. I still go to the gym, it’s just that the almost religious intensity that once characterized my workouts now have more of a going-through-the-motions-no-need-to-get-yourself-all-worn-out-so-you’re-too-tired-to-watch-American-Idol-when-you-get-home level of effort. My chances of getting lucky no longer hinge upon whether I go ahead and just get the fries or substitute a green salad with low-calorie Italian instead.

Since I no longer have to consider the possibility that a routine visit to the grocery store or post office will result in sudden romance, I feel little shame about failing on the promise I once made to myself not to become one of those married guys who goes out in public appearing as if his clothes were picked utilizing Eenie-Meenie-Minie-Mo.

When some former coworkers and I made the decision to start our own company, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was a choice I would have made when I was single. To help get our business off the ground, my partners and I agreed that for our first year we would live on salaries small enough that only our most basic living expenses would be covered (the majority of our earnings going back into the company). Married, this was an easy choice. It wasn’t hard convincing my wife that the long-term benefits far outweighed the short-term pain.

But knowing where destitution ranks as a turn-on, I question how long of a dry spell I would have been willing to live with had I been single.

Friday, June 25, 2004

...How I Rid My House of Pests

I used to work with this woman Susie. Anyone who has ever worked in an office has likely run across a “Susie” before. Here’s the scenario:

You start a new job. You have the same worries anyone starting at a new office does: Will anyone like me? Will anyone talk to me? Will anyone invite me to lunch? Will they remember they hired me?

Your first day, all of your worst fears come to fruition. Your desk isn’t ready yet (nope, they didn’t remember they hired you). Your new coworkers barely look up as you’re given the “meet everyone in the office” tour (nobody likes you and nobody is going to talk to you) You wait and wait to take your lunch break, hoping desperately that someone will come by and ask you to join them, but noone does.

Just as you are sinking to the lowest depths of depression, a bright and shining light appears out of the darkness. You put away your razor blades temporarily. Out of the light walks a kind and friendly face. This is “Susie”. Unlike anyone else at the office, “Susie” knows you exist. She talks to you. She asks if you’d like to go to lunch sometime. She asks if you'd like to stop for drinks after work. She asks what you’re doing over the weekend-maybe you can get together. You’ve made a new friend and all is good with the world.

Soon you come upon a perplexing conundrum: "Susie" has worked for the company for quite awhile and has an extremely outgoing personality. Why is it you appear to be her only friend?

One day, when you are deemed ready, the answer makes itself available to you.

“Susie” is fucking annoying.

Such was the case for me when I started at Company X several years ago.

I had been transferred from the Bay Area, my home of 22 years, to Orange County, where I knew all of about 1 person. In my fantasies, I had imagined that my first day on the job I would be given a king’s welcome, with all normal office activities put on hold as they celebrated my arrival. Instead, I came to an office where I had no desk, no phone, no computer and where nobody seemed all that excited that I had traveled halfway down the state of California to start a new life.

Nobody except for Susie. She talked to me. She invited me to lunch. She took me to all the local watering holes. She planned out entire weekends of activity for me. Then she started to bug the shit out of me.

The very thing I had feared the most when I moved down, that I would be spending every night and weekend in my apartment alone, instead became an unattainable fantasy that I could only dream about. I had a terrible time explaining to my girlfriend, visiting me briefly from college, why this strange woman was calling me at all hours of the night.

One evening, in celebration of something or other, my department had a barbeque at a coworkers house, less than a mile from my apartment. Susie asked if she could spend the night at my place, as she lived a good hour away and had been drinking. She was aggravating, but I would have felt bad if she died. I reluctantly obliged.

The next morning, knowing from experience that Susie had a deserved reputation for being a Houseguest from Hell (the kind who never leaves) I immediately began sorting laundry, hoping that seeing me occupied by this mundane activity would hasten her exit. As I was doing this, Susie headed to the bathroom.

A brief description of my apartment at the time is probably in order. The glossy ad in the apartment-finder magazine boasted “WASHER/DRYER HOOKUPS”. What that translated to was, “Tiny, little space for a stackable unit in the bathroom”.

As Susie exited the bathroom, I entered so I could put a load into the washing machine. I was stopped dead in my tracks by the stench. Susie had taken a dump.

Logically, I knew this was natural. Everybody poops. And the steaks we had the night before were pretty big. But most women I knew tried to keep this activity under wraps.

I accused Susie of rotting out my bathroom. She denied it.

I questioned Susie how she could walk into my bathroom with it smelling like nothing and walk out of it with it smell like rotting sewage.

Slightly less denial. “I just had bad gas”.

I raised an eyebrow. To myself, I questioned the logic behind this lie, wondering how it would be any less humiliating to have flatulated so badly that one could mistake it for dump than to have actually gone ahead and dumped.

Red-faced, Susie scowled at me, “Just let it air out!”, and stormed out the door.

She pretty much stopped inviting me out all the time after that.


Tuesday, June 22, 2004

...Not Becoming Like That Guy Donna Dated For Awhile On 90210

Once, and only once, have I played the role of “psycho-jealous-crazy-nutjob boyfriend”.

Kat and I starting dating less than a month into our freshman year of college. From a strict appearance standpoint, if you were to take all of the attributes that the average heterosexual American male looks for in a woman, Kat typified just about all of them: Long blond hair, beautiful face, soft skin, perfect body, *NATURAL* D-cup, was a cheerleader in high school, all that stuff.

I often found myself questioning what drastic change had occurred in the alignment of the planets that caused Kat, easily the most attractive woman in the entire dorm, to choose to date me, who wasn’t exactly beating them off with a stick. It felt like I had won the lottery.

The problems began when Kat decided to join a sorority. I was loudly opposed to the idea; my fear being that Kat would be required to attend a number of parties and events without me where she would meet, talk to and have sex with other men. My fear, it turned out, was not unfounded.

Basic logic would dictate that when you are in a relationship with someone who is being chronically unfaithful, it is probably wise to simply end the relationship. But, you know the whole “to be young and stupid” thing.

I figured that Kat and I could still work out if only I could prevent her from ever being out of my sight and ever again having contact with members of the opposite sex. The average day would consist of me screaming at Kat for a couple of hours about what a skanky ho she was for wanting to go to whatever sorority event she was off to, followed by me cross-examining her when she got back about how many guys she had made out with, given head to...lots of charming stuff.

I had a couple epiphanies after Kat and I broke up. One was that insane jealousy and possessiveness are not necessarily things women find sexy in a man. The other was that I was fast on my way to becoming someone I didn’t like.

So I quit cold turkey.

My behavior changed so drastically, immediately becoming far more easy-going and trusting (dating women who didn’t seem to make it their life’s work to bang every dude in the county helped), that I doubt any of my post-Kat exes or my wife would even believe anything I’ve written here to be true. Yet, I find this unfortunate personality trait does occasionally creep back into my life in the oddest ways.

For example, there is a woman I see at the gym all the time who is an absolute dead-ringer for one of my ex-girlfriends (not Kat). Every once in a while this woman will come in with who I assume to be her boyfriend, and I find myself watching him; the sole purpose of which is to make sure he can’t lift as much as me.

I also get inexplicably upset when I see an attractive woman dating or married to someone I deem to be a not-so-great looking guy. Whereas I should be happy that someone has found the ability to look beyond skin deep for beauty, I instead get angered at what appears to me to be a lack of balance in the universe.

Strangest of all, I get legitimately angry when I am forced to witness actresses I’m attracted to do love scenes. I could only watch “Friends” during the periods when they would move away from the Ross & Rachel storyline, so upsetting was it for me to watch Jennifer Aniston kiss David Schwimmer or imply that they had “done it”. I can watch Reese Witherspoon in movies like “Election”, but protest watching any of her romantic comedies where I know I’m supposed to be rooting for her to tongue some guy who isn’t me.

A few months ago, at a wedding, I saw the guy that Kat dated right after me (according to one of her old sorority sisters, she cheated on him a lot too). I don’t have anything against the guy, and regret the whole threatening to beat him up embarrassment. But in the interest of honesty, I confess to being a little excited when I saw that he had gotten really fat.


Sunday, June 20, 2004

...Father's Day

My Life As A Hallmark Ad

The bedroom door flew open this morning a little after 8, where I found my stepkids armed with a cup of coffee and a plate full of eggs, screaming “HAPPY FATHER’S DAY” loud enough that I otherwise would have had to scold them for not using inside voices. The rest of the morning was spent watching their gift to me, a DVD copy of my favorite “guilty pleasure”-film, Adam Sandler’s The Waterboy

A Subtle Hint

I stopped going to the gym about a month and a half ago. This was initially due to the fact the company I own (along with 3 partners) had finally grown to the point where we needed an office larger and more professional than the spare bedroom in Bob’s house.

For about a week the regular 8-5 workday was spent on business as usual, while after hours was spent preparing the new office for our arrival.

Our first week in, I think all of us tried to assuage our nervousness about adding an office to our monthly expenses by working longer hours than usual; each one of us waiting for someone else to make the first move out the door.

Since then, I have only sloth to blame. A few times I went through the motions of packing up my gym bag and once or twice went so far as to drive in the general direction of the gym, only to have that little devil whispering “Fuck it” appear on my shoulder.

I justified this behavior by rationalizing that my wife would appreciate my getting home earlier every night, proving to her that I make familial responsibility a higher priority than personal vanity.

My Father’s Day gift from my wife: A bunch of new gym clothes.

It Only Took 30 Years

Like most kids who actually like their parents, I have often fantasized about getting the fat contract to pitch for the Yankees or the $25,000,000 per movie deal that would allow me to repay my mom and dad for the immeasurable kindness and generosity they have shown me throughout my life (even long after it was legally required).

While I wait for that day to come, I can at least feel good about getting my dad a Father’s Day gift I know he liked, which means it won’t be found still in its original packaging when I come up for Thanksgiving. This present was so perfect my sister and I had to go in on it together (along with some other stuff) so we could both take the credit.



...A Bizarre Form of Social Retardation

My best friend growing up was Manoje. We had one of those extremely close/did everything together/always requested to be on the same Little League and youth basketball teams/slept over at each others houses every weekend/virtually had his own chair at my family's dinner table-type of friendships.

At the end of our 8th grade year Manoje's father received a huge promotion that required him to move his family to Pasadena.

A decade later, as fate would have it, I received a job transfer that brought me down to Southern California myself. In addition to better pay and a snazzier title, an added bonus was that I was going to once again be living in close proximity to my old buddy, Manoje

Though excited to renew our friendship , a conversation I had with Manoje led me to suspect that perhaps some of my friend's social skills had deteriorated in our years apart. When catching up on each other's dating lives, Manoje spent an inordinate amount of time in fond remembrance of Nicole Anderson, who, to his credit, was an absolutely stunning blond. What struck me as odd was that I knew, and Manoje knew I knew, that his entire relationship with Nicole consisted of, with me in tow, attending one movie together. This occurred when we were 13.

But nothing could have prepared me for the strange behavior Manoje would later exhibit when I recruited him to join me as we navigated the Southern California bar and club scene:

#1: Close-Standing

Upon entering a bar or club, Manoje would immediately feel the need to stand as close to me as possibly allowed by physics. By that I mean at all times some part of Manoje's body had to be touching some part of my body. I've paid for lap dances that didn't involve this much touching.

I once had a dog, my beloved Bart, who had a tendency to get overstimulated when let inside the house. The only surefire method of calming him down was to touch him in some way. What was interesting was that you didn't have to pet Bart or rub his stomach to soothe him; literally just some part of you had to be in contact with some part of him. This could be as simple as watching TV with your pinkie toe touching his back.

I found this behavior to be very odd in a dog. I found it even stranger in Manoje.

#2: Disappearance of normal conversation skills

I suppose it was a way of dealing with his nervousness, but the moment we entered a bar or club, Manoje stopped speaking in his regular, normal, everyday voice, and instead chose to do an extended Beavis and Butthead impersonation for the rest of the night.

I can only imagine how cool we must have looked to the rest of the club patrons: Two men, who appeared literally attached at the hip, one of whom was apparantly having a bad attack of Turrets, chanting, "UUUUUH,THIS SUCKS, BEAVIS...BARE ASS ON TV!!!...I AM CORNHOLIO, I NEED TP FOR MY BUNGHOLE...FIRE! FIRE!...HEY BUTTHEAD..."

I used to theorize that the blame for Manoje's lack of social skills could be laid at the feet of his parents, who pushed him to unheard of lengths academically. I figured he had been so focused on his studies for much of his life that he never had the opportunity to develop his social skills. But that wouldn't explain his younger sister and brother, pushed just as hard (one now a doctor, the other a tennis star at Yale), but who seem to be able to interact with other human beings in a far more normal manner.

Last I heard from Manoje, he had moved back up to Walnut Creek, our old stomping grounds, after a near 13 year absence. I didn't have the heart to tell him Nicole had moved away.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


I am afraid of roller coasters, airplanes, motorcycles, jet skis, ski lifts and [insert any other activity that involves heights, traveling at high rates of speed or the slightest risk of death].

Much of my life has been spent attempting, unsuccessfully, to avoid social situations where this information will become known.

Like the time I was in Hawaii for Spring Break, and my friends thought it would be fun to rent mopeds for a day. I can’t say that any of them bought my “I think there’s something wrong with mine” excuse to explain why I spent the majority of the day a good mile or two behind the pack.

All of them, in unison: “Yeah, the rider!”. I didn’t argue.

I knew that my nearly four year relationship with Kari was doomed after our trip to Raging Waters, which boasted at the time (and may still for all I know, I’m too ashamed to go back) the world’s tallest waterslide. I made it about a quarter of the way up the staircase before remembering something vital: I am a complete and total wuss. I can’t help but believe that about 94% of Kari’s decision to end our relationship, which she did shortly thereafter, occurred during the “Walk of Shame” down the up staircase.

I had been dating my wife for less than six months when we joined another couple for a weekend trip to Laughlin, NV. I was not looking forward to the trip, knowing that the probability of making it through a weekend in Laughlin without someone bringing up the idea of renting jet skis was not good. I was proud of myself for actually having the guts to take a ski out on the water. I was ashamed when my wife, tired of being passed up by just about everyone else on the entire Colorado River, asked if she could take the reigns for awhile. She never gave them back.

I had actually become a lot more comfortable with flying on airplanes prior to September 11th, but as if the fear of engine failure, someone forgetting to put gas in the plane or a mid-air collision wasn’t bad enough, now I have to worry about shoe bombs or hijackers flying the damn thing into a building? Forget it. The longest post-9/11 flight I’ve taken to date was from LA to Cancun, where I learned first-hand that my fear is actually stronger than Xanax, two of which did not stop me from having my usual mid-air panic attack.

To my credit, except for the tall waterslide, I actually DID all of these things, I was just scared during the process. Roller coasters on the other hand...? Won’t touch `em. Does it go upside down? No way. Does it bring you to a height where you would likely die if you somehow slipped out of your seat and fell to the ground? Uh-uh. Does it travel at speeds faster than Space Mountain (which I’ve only found the courage to enjoy in the past few years)? Count me out.

Any shame I feel about my irrational fear of coasters is generally balanced by the humor I find in the people who seem to hold the belief that the ONE thing that has stood in the way of me and the enjoyment of thrill rides is that I haven’t been to an amusement park with THEM yet. As if he or she is going to be the ONE person in 30 years of intense coaster-phobia who is going to cure me.

I do, on the other hand, make an excellent amusement part date. I’m great at holding purses.

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