My Dog Would Make a Great Boyfriend

The other night it was cold and rainy and I just wanted to get into my sweatpants and watch Hulu. So I did. I was settled in bed, when along came Quagmire, my faithful dachshund. He immediately crawled under the blankets and curled up beside me. Family night.

I really can’t think of a better feeling in the world. He’s my best friend. He never judges. And he’s soft and puts out a delightful amount of body heat.

He has other amazing qualities as well. If I could find a man like Quagmire, life would be perfect. Here are some of Quagmire’s many pluses:

  • He doesn’t fight over the remote control.

  • If I want to go somewhere, he’s more than happy to tag along.

  • He’s also cool with giving me my space.

  • He makes me laugh.

  • He listens. (Although his level of understanding is questionable.)

  • He is very protective of me.

  • He’s more than happy to clean up if I spill food.

  • He doesn’t laugh at me in the morning when I’ve fallen asleep with wet hair.

  • He’s an amazing snuggler.

  • He rarely snores.

  • He’s always happy to see me.

  • He thinks I’m the best.

  • He doesn’t care what I wear or weigh or look like.

  • He loves a good nap as much as I do.

  • He doesn’t complain.

  • He can be quite charming.

  • He sometimes brings me presents. Just because.

  • He’s cute.

  • He doesn’t take up much space.

  • He enjoys kissing me. (Perhaps a bit too much.)

  • He has his issues, so he’s cool with mine.

  • As long as he’s fed and treated fairly, his love is unconditional.

What a guy! Now, if he’d only get a job and do half the housework.

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A Different Breed of Ladies’ Man

The other night I had dinner with a friend who was just passing through. His work takes him all over the country. He fascinates me because we couldn’t be more different. But in a good way.

I have to admit that normally extroverts get on my nerves. But his is a pure, clean, distilled form of extroversion. He’s not attention seeking. He’s not aggressive or loud. He’s not in your face. He just genuinely and truly likes people. He likes meeting them, talking to them, interacting with them. Especially women. He has this affinity for women.

I’m not quite sure how he manages it, but he’s drawn to women without any perverted intent whatsoever. He genuinely seems to respect them and isn’t trying to get anything from them. He’s not on the hunt. He doesn’t have an agenda. It’s refreshing.

At dinner he made it a point to learn the name of the waitress, and whenever she stopped by to check on us, he included her in our conversation and asked her opinion. As the restaurant was crowded, we sat at the bar. Throughout the night he’d also turn and chat to the much older lady sitting next to us. He helped her get ketchup out of the bottle. He recommended the smoked sea salt. The cherries with our salmon were so delicious that he said to her, “You’ve got to try this,” and put a cherry on her plate. I was charmed. By the end of the night he knew where she was from and what she was doing here.

Don’t get me wrong. I doubt he lacks for female intimacy. I even contemplated making a move myself once or twice as we enjoyed our salmon. (Well, not at that exact place and time, but… you get the picture.) And even if he had rejected it, I’m quite confident that he’d have done so with aplomb and would have allowed me to maintain my pride and dignity.

But (and this is unusual in a man), I strongly suspect that he prefers a certain level of connection before he goes to that place, or else it would be as hollow and unsatisfying for him as it would be for the other person. I thought to myself, “This is a rare creature, indeed.” I think I’ll just appreciate the fact that he’s on the planet, roaming free, and look forward to future opportunities to interact with him in his natural habitat. Because it’s a delightful, friendly place indeed.

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[Image credit: choosetodanceintherain.com]

The Man Who Has Everything

I know a millionaire. He’s a good businessman; in fact, he’s hyper-successful. He came from humble beginnings and has had to hustle to get to the top, but hustle he did. No one can say he hasn’t worked very hard to get where he is.

He knows how to read people. A charming fellow, he’s the kind of guy you’d expect to be a motivational speaker. His catch phrase is “Change your story.” He will be the first to tell you that it’s your attitude and your way of looking at things that will make you either a success or a failure in life. In other words, your life is what you make it. After a few minutes in his presence you are sort of hypnotized by his force of personality, and you start to believe that anyone can be like him. Anyone can have the nice car and the gorgeous house and the boat and the vacations in the Caribbean, if only they think positively.

I think of this man every day, even though I’m sure he thinks of me rarely, if at all. The reason he’s in the forefront of my mind is that for one brief shining moment, I had money from the sale of my house and I didn’t want it to just sit and gather dust. I wanted it to work for me. Who better to ask for financial advice than a millionaire? I’ll regret that decision for the rest of my life.

I told him I’d need this money back in a year, but in the meantime I’d like to invest it, and he told me about a privately held stock that would most likely make me a fortune, and either way I could get my money out of it in a year. They usually didn’t entertain small investors like me, but he had an in with these guys. He’d make it happen for me.

That was a couple years ago, and the company is doing so badly now that no one wants the stock, and it hasn’t made me any money. In fact, I’d be shocked if I ever see my money again. Because of this, I teeter on the brink of homelessness.

I wake up from a sound sleep in a cold, clammy sweat on a regular basis, wondering how I’m going to keep my dogs if I have to live in my car. Every purchase I make has to be complete necessity. I add rice to the most unlikely things to stretch my groceries as far as I can. My life is in financial ruins, and I’ll probably have to work until I drop dead. The retirement cupboard is not only bare, it’s moldy and covered with cobwebs. That’s a terrifying position to be in when you’re 48.

Do I blame this guy? He didn’t hold a gun to my head. I made this stupid investment myself. I’m a grown woman who trusted someone I shouldn’t have. I actually assumed his motivations were pure. That’s on me.

Unfortunately, I’ve since learned that this guy has placed several other people in similar situations. And these were friends he went to high school with who are no longer speaking to him. That makes the situation a little more scary, and more than a little bit questionable. It was his shares of stock that he sold me. Did he genuinely think he was helping me out, or did he see the vultures circling and want to unload as much of it as he could before they started devouring the corpse of the corporation? I’ll never know his motivations for sure. All I know is the damage that has been done to my life.

The frustrating thing is that he could easily buy his stock back and change my life entirely. The amount in question is chump change to him. And he has said that he would do so, or find a buyer for it, but I’ve yet to see any actual action on his part.

Recently I e-mailed him, telling him exactly how devastated my life is now, practically begging him for help, and he responded that he feels my pain. But later that day I noticed several new Caribbean photos on his Facebook page. He must be feeling my pain from the deck of a luxury yacht.

I’ve learned a lot from this man. I’ve learned that it’s easy for people to hover along the fringes of acceptable behavior in their pursuit of cold, hard cash. I’ve learned that your ethics and morality can be compromised, subtly at first, when you are in the throes of the pursuit of success. I believe that once the devil starts to whisper in your ear you’re bound to make bad decisions regardless of how decent you may be when you start your life’s journey.

I believe that the man who has everything has everything to lose, and so it goes with him. I’ve watched his life unravel as his morality has become more questionable. Oh, he still looks like a shiny new apple on the surface. He still has the nice cars and houses and boats, he still flies here and there when I can’t even afford a greyhound bus. But the apple is rotting from the inside.

He is in the midst of a divorce. He’s becoming estranged from friends and family. He no longer responds to e-mails. He tries to behave as if he’s happy, but he isn’t. He binge drinks to a shocking degree and despite his charm and his bank account, he’s all alone. If he doesn’t do right by people, if he doesn’t “change his story” by getting his priorities straight, at the end of his life all that anyone will be able to say about him is that he’s the richest guy in the cemetery. And that makes me sad.

Things fall apart, the center does not hold.

If you look at my bank account and my gullibility, you might see me as a failure. But I am loved. And I may lose sleep from worry, but I never lose sleep from having a guilty conscience. When I look in the mirror, I may not have a 300 dollar haircut, but I can look myself in the eye. So which one of us is truly richer?

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I Love Kokopelli

Ah, Kokopelli, the trickster, the fertility God of the tribes of the American Southwest. I just love this guy! Not only is he a symbol of abundant crops and the production of game animals, but he is the purveyor of trinkets, and he chases away winter and ushers in spring.

He is known to bring babies on his back, so young girls tend to fear him, and heaven knows I can understand why. In addition he carries news from afar, is the ultimate story teller, and he has the gift of languages. And he also plays a pretty mean flute and has cool hair. What’s not to like?

What I admire about Kokopelli the most is that he’s accorded a complex character. He’ll play tricks on you, yes, but he’ll also bring you abundance. He’s the ultimate “I don’t care what you think” kind of dude, the quintessential bad boy, and he gets away with it! That is the epitome of freedom.

One of my favorite stories about Kokopelli is that he has been known to detach his phallus, float it down the river to a nearby village to impregnate all the women therein, and the men are actually grateful to him! Talk about charm. Talk about charisma. I mean, who gets away with stuff like that?

Kokopelli, if you’re reading this, call me, darlin’.

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My Friend the Psychopath

Recently I saw an interview with a psychologist. I wish I could remember her name so I could give her due credit, but after hearing what she had to say it was like someone had poured a bucket of ice water over me, so I hope I can be forgiven if her name escapes me.

She was discussing psychopathy. When most people imagine a psychopath, “serial killer” is what springs to mind. That’s not necessarily incorrect. The vast majority of serial killers are indeed psychopaths. But the concept that this psychologist put forth, the one that hit me like a very large brick, is that you can be a psychopath without being a killer. You don’t even have to be violent. She stated that 1 percent of the general population is psychopathic, and many of them are quite functional within society. In fact, in some ways having this disorder can set you up for a certain level of success. When a psychopath says “It’s not personal, it’s business,” he’s not kidding. Not even a little bit.

Please realize that I’m not a mental health professional, but from what I’m reading, psychopathy consists of several traits. The main indicators of this disorder are antisocial behavior, a lack of remorse, and poor self-control. If you want more details, I suggest you take the Levenson Self-Report Psychopathy Scale.

Psychopaths can be very charming, cunning and manipulative, and are often pathological liars. They demonstrate a shortage of empathy and fail to accept responsibility for their own actions. They are easily bored and often impulsive. They also have a hard time maintaining relationships, and can be sexually promiscuous. There’s a good chance you know a psychopath. I actually think I may know a couple of them.

That’s what gave me the chills. When this mental health professional was discussing the various traits of a psychopath, I immediately thought of someone whom I had considered to be my best friend for over 20 years. I still have fond memories of her, frankly, but there were always these strange little red flags that I ignored for as long as I could, until one day I was overwhelmed by the enormity of, well, her brand of reality, I suppose. None of these things, individually, scream certifiable nutcase, mind you, but when you add them all up, the picture painted is not a pretty one.

  • One time we were talking on the phone and I hit my head on something and began bleeding profusely. I mentioned that fact and she didn’t even pause in her conversation. She didn’t ask if I was all right. It was as if it hadn’t happened. I even remember asking if she cared, and she laughed it off.
  • As long as I knew her, she never had pets, and absolutely hated mine.
  • She would do impulsive things like buy plane tickets on a day’s notice even though she couldn’t afford them.
  • None of her relationships ever lasted, and THEY were always the crazy ones, according to her. It sort of became a running joke between us. I used to tell her she needed to figure out why she was attracted to lunatics.
  • Long after she broke up with people she would insert herself into their lives again, often creating a great deal of havoc and confusion. It kind of reminded me of a cat batting a mouse around until it finally died.
  • She treated waitresses and shop clerks like they were garbage.
  • She used to see a therapist, but she delighted in lying to her. That seemed counterproductive to me at the time, but now it makes sense.
  • At one point she worked in Washington DC, and said she liked it there because all people cared about was the pursuit of power.
  • When we were in college together there was one class that I was struggling with. She had taken the class already, so she helped me study for the mid term. Thanks to her help, I got an A on it. She promised me she’d help me study for the final, and I was counting on it. We discussed it often. At the last minute she said she didn’t feel like coming over. I did so poorly on the final that I got a C for the semester. I had a 4.0 grade point average up until that point. What struck me about that situation was that she didn’t even feel the need to make up an excuse. She didn’t feel like it, and that was that. And she felt no remorse about it, even when I told her how much it hurt me.
  • She once told me about a time when she and one of her boyfriends played Russian roulette. They took turns holding the gun to each other’s head and pulling the trigger, because, she said, they “wanted to see what it would feel like.” Seriously, who does that?
  • One time she came to visit me and we had a full day planned. About half way through I told her I wasn’t feeling well. (It turned out to be heat exhaustion.) But she insisted that we keep going, and I did until I turned purple and started vomiting. Again, she acted as if nothing at all had happened. In fact, she took a picture of me all bloated and in tears. It was weird.
  • Toward the end of our friendship, she admitted to me that when she was younger she used to beat her little sister with a metal hanger. Just because she could. That horrified me.
  • She would sometimes get “interested” in things to an extreme degree. Like religion. But it always seemed forced, like she was trying on various masks to see which one would make her more acceptable to society.

The final straw, though, was when I was planning a trip to her side of the country, and told her I’d like to stay with her for a day or two while I was there. I thought she’d be as excited as I always was when she came to visit me. But she said I couldn’t stay with her because she wouldn’t trust me in her house. After 23 years. Suddenly I had a rare moment of clarity. When we would see each other, it was always her coming to me. I thought it was simply because she always earned much more money than I did. But all along it was a trust issue and I had never realized it. That, combined with all of the above, was the death knell of our friendship. I was done.

It took me a long time to get over the fact that I had been an utter fool for so many years. Why was I ever friends with her in the first place? Good question. I must say there were just as many good times as there were bad. She has that psychopathic charm, for sure. And when you couple that with my amazing ability to overlook things that I would rather not see, and my intense desire to think the best of people whether they deserve it or not, you get rather a toxic cocktail.

I had finally gotten past the point where I was licking my wounds on a daily basis when suddenly one day I received a letter from her. In it was a ticket to hear her be the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony at our alma mater. I was, frankly, stunned. But then I realized that that was her pattern: she was attempting to insert herself back into my life after causing me so much pain. But this was one mouse that that cat was not going to play with anymore. I didn’t go, and I sent her an e-mail after the fact explaining exactly why not, and telling her that if she had even the slightest regard for me she would never make contact again.

It’s been 5 years and so far she has respected my wishes. But every once in a while I think about her out there, uncaring, unfeeling, and completely devoid of compassion and the hair on the back of my neck stands straight up.

And what’s even scarier is that I can think of a few other people in my life who show symptoms of this disorder, albeit to a lesser degree. I have a relative who delights in discovering a person’s weakness, saving that information until such time as that person is in a moment of conflict with her, and then when you least expect it, she uses that weakness to eviscerate you verbally. Many’s the time when I’ve looked down to see my emotional entrails scattered about her feet, and looked back up to see a look of triumph in her eyes.

And then there’s the coworker who just walked in the door as I was typing this who…oh lord, I can’t think about it. My goose bumps might arouse his killer instinct.

Once you start looking at people through the lens of potential psychopathy, you begin to feel as if you sometimes have to whistle your way past a junkyard dog.

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