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The Wheaton Test Or What I Need to Know About You Before the Second Date: With an Amendment Three Years Later Regarding how Completely Wrong I Was

Amendment
12/26/2016

There is a picture on my bedside table that was not there yesterday morning. It is a picture of a gloriously beautiful woman, sky and sea behind her, smiling. It is in a frame of gilt and funk and sparkle and it makes me smile nearly as much as the beauty in the photograph. It was a present from Arlene for Chanukah. And it is perfect.

Beside me, as I write this, is another picture, a drawing, actually, by Brian Andreas. We were in a gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. She was looking at Christmas ornaments, hand-blown globes, from Glass Eye Studios in Seattle. Each globe, multicolored, swirling, translucent, reflective, unique, blown with ash from Mount St. Helens. And she was going to buy one. The problem was that I had already gotten it for her, months earlier, in Tacoma at the Museum of Glass.

There they were, something I knew she’d want, right next to something I didn’t think I’d see anywhere but online or in a book. She recognized Andreas and how much I liked his work, how much it made sense to me, and asked me to walk away while she looked through them. I did, and visited with the gallery owner.

“I hate to ask this, but, she is looking at something I already got her as a surprise. So, please don’t let her buy an ornament.”To not sell something is not the best thing to ask a shop-owner. He listened kindly, I explained, he smiled.

That ornament, made with ash from deep within the heart to the Earth, from the heart that is the birth of all hearts, the hearth that is the mother of all hearths, is hanging from her tree. And I am looking at the print now.the-edge

They came to sit & dangle their feet off the edge of the world & after awhile they forgot everything but the good & true things they would do someday.

She had picked one of my favorites. Just like that. I picked what she would have gotten, she picked what i would have. We knew.

It has been three years and a few months since I wrote The Wheaton Test. And here is what I’m telling you – I was wrong. Wrong wrong. Not just a little wrong. Utterly wrong. Not fun-sized snack wrong. Elephant wrong. Blue whale wrong. The Earth is flat wrong. The kind of wrong that can leave one wondering if brains actually have any use if, after all, they can be that dreadfully wrong.

Here is what I wrote to Wil.

Good evening and happy Thanksgiving to you! I’m writing because I wanted to say that three and a half years after The Wheaton Test was published it is: 1) One of my most hit posts, 2) my most shared post, 3) is used on dating sites, if seems, as a litmus test and, most important of all 4) terribly and completely wrong and I am engaged (a few months now) to that very same young lady. What I’d have missed out on if I had taken my own advice! So, thank you. The ride would not have been quite as interesting otherwise. Blessing Always.

The reply was short and simple. “:-)”

Three years and then some. I have memories of my granddaughter, Sadie, at a year and a half old, sitting on the hearth (notice how close hearth is to heart?) of Arlene’s fireplace Christmas morning after a sleepover night so my kids could go out and have fun. Videos of her opening presents from her. Pictures of Sadie with Arlene’s kids, G!G! And Jules. Memories of wonderful moments on the beach, shared rainbows, amazing concerts. Memories of helping her eldest set off for college. And Arlene’s smile. Always that smile. And memories of kindnesses – kindness unsurpassed in any person I have ever met. I never thought I’d have new memories, domestic memories, memories with other than my own children, that would be important to me again. And here they are.

So, while she does now know who Wil Wheaton is, I know it also doesn’t really matter. I know, now, that, if we know something, we are often surprised others don’t. The knowledge we carry we feel is common. If we know something about quantum physics, we somehow feel it is not abstract, not uncommon. The same is true for literature, or popular music, or TV shows. Anything. Knowledge. Skill.  We can’t imagine others don’t know, can’t do, what we know and do.

So I was wrong. Or, rather, she was right. I draw that distinction because she is, to my recollection, nearly always so. When she tells me something, I may not get it right away (I am slow, I think), but given a bit to sink in, there is that moment of realization that she is correct. Now, even if I don’t get it, even if I immediately disagree, I won’t discount anything she says. Instead, I sit with it, let it sink in, roll around, because I know, given an hour, or a day, it will dawn on me not only that is is correct, but how as well. All I need to do is wait.

And wait with her I’ll gladly do. I will sit with her at the edge of the world and dangle my feet over, over into the nothingness, until all is forgotten but that which is good and that which is true.

All. Even Wil.

*****

Original Post
August 3rd, 2013

Sitting with a young lady, I was, at a Japanese restaurant. The kind where they cook the food at a table in front of you and you sit with people you don’t know and the chef makes noise banging salt shakers and scrapers and juggling shrimp and squirts saki in great arcs into the mouths of gulping diners. The kind that leaves one waiting an hour. But this time, we waited nearly two and a half. It gave us plenty of time to talk. Or try to. It didn’t go so well.

I tried physics.  No good. She tried current movies. No dice. I tried Eastern philosophy. No way. She tried popular music. No go. I mentioned Facebook. AHA!  Yes, we both knew Facebook, of course.

“Did you see the video today of a mother asking Wil Wheaton to give her infant daughter a pep talk? It was brilliant.”

“Who?”

Uh oh!  “Wil Wheaton?  You don’t know who Wil Wheaton is? You know, sort of like Nerd King.”

“Oh, nerd is a label. I don’t like labels.”

“Well, labels make it a bit easier to talk. You know, like saying mayonnaise instead of that stuff made with eggs, and going on to list all the ingredients. Agreed upon meanings.  As long as a label isn’t used as a pejorative.”

“What’s a pejorative?”

Uh oh! “Wil Wheaton. You know, Star Trek The Next Generation.”

“I never saw it.”

“But most people know who Wil Wheaton is.”

“I bet most people don’t. Go ahead. Ask.” She looked around us. Plenty of people to ask, for sure.

I did. Ten out of ten asked didn’t know.  I shook my head.  “Well, most likely, they wouldn’t be my friends.  She looked at me. It must have been the sight of my foot so tightly lodged in my mouth that did it.

I texted my friends. They did. They knew. Every one of them. She did the same. They didn’t. Every one of them.

We tried talking some more, once I dragged my foot from my gullet. But anything I wanted to talk about, I had to build background, step by step, first. That would have been fine, except she made it clear she didn’t care about any of it by saying, “I don’t care about that.”

Dinner was interesting. Nice young lady. We sat in her car and didn’t talk.

The next day, walking home from my office, I wrote these rules.

Over hot dogs at Mustard’s Last Stand, we edited them.

Craig put them on a poster.

Someone tweeted them.

Wil Wheaton got a hold of it. He posted it on his blog. “This is wonderful and I’m honoured to be included.”

It was shared and reblogged over a thousand times in less than two hours.

“Using this for all future relationships.” And “This. This and a thousand times this.” And “This is SACRED. Never Mind The Bible.”

“I’m well-beyond my second date, but I’m adopting this anyway. If not for my partner, just to make sure *I’m* following it.”

“I’m not sure if I would say all of these things about myself because I know myself. I know my insecurities. But I would like to be like this and I would like to think I’m at least a little like this. Maybe someday I’ll find someone to work through the little things and we can both appreciate the crazy, stupid, and amazingness of the world together.”

“The Wheaton Test is now one of my favorite things.” “Fabulous.” “This is perfect. Absolutely perfect.”

“These are like all the things I wish I could have conveyed but didn’t know how.” “This is beautiful!” “YES. All of this. All of it.”

And on.

Enjoy.

Use it in good health.

PS. What else did I write, other than this poster?  So glad you asked. Look on my blog (above) under books or look here.

The Wheaton Test. Or,  What I Need to Know About You Before the Second Date.

What else did I write, other than this poster?  So glad you asked. Look on my blog (above) under books or look here.

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Posted by on August 3, 2013 in Culture, philosophy, Poster, Social

 

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Hair

I had pulled the car out of the garage and set up a chair.  Months earlier I had purchased a Norelco family hair cutting kit, and electric razor and attachments, for next to nothing at a garage sale. I had no idea why, but I brought it home, and now, now, it was plugged in and ready to be used.

The chemotherapy had left your hair in clumps.  It fell into the shower drain, left bits on the pillow, left itself on the couch. Each bit that fell, you cried. I watched as you turned once, as I held you up in the shower to see your hair on the drain.  Out of the shower, you stood, facing the mirror, clutching at your hair, pulling it out in clumps, tears falling, falling into the sink with the strands from between your fingers.

Hats you didn’t like. The scarves you used have been all given away.

You said you wanted your head shaved. I offered. You said no. You didn’t want me doing it. You didn’t want that to be the memory of my hand.  You wanted Unena to do it. Only she would do.

We were sitting on the couches in the living room. We wanted to go out, the three of us. It would be one of the last nights we would go out, you and I. Maybe second to last. But first, your hair.

How did it come to this? Who once was the patient, now helping care for you. Who once you treated, now holding you up, walking with you, one of the few people you trust.

And she fell in love with you.  And you with she.  And I with her. What a strange circumstance. You, with barely a female friend all your life—you, straight as an arrow—seemingly, obviously, so in love. And it bothered me not one bit. That a blessing of love would come to you, with so little time left, made me smile. How much bigger our hearts were now that our hearts were breaking.

A folding chair in the garage. Craig’s chair. The one he left here for himself to use, unfolded, set by the open garage door. You, helped to the chair, sitting. A towel around your shoulders, on your lap. The razor plugged in. Hesitation. And she starts.

I can barely look at the razor as it glides over your scalp, and look down instead. Hair falling. Falling to your lap. Falling at your feet. Falling to the floor in soft puffs, blowing as the breeze would catch it, swirling around the garage and, then, out the door.

What did not swirl out of the garage, I swept out. Out, over the drive way. Out, into the grass. Let the birds have it, you said. Let them. What good to hold on?

Others might have saved your hair. But we discussed it. Decided no. Let it blow. Let it sail. Let it be carried by the wind, by birdwings and raindrops. Let it become the stuff of nests, work into the soil, seeds will grow, eggs will hatch and new life will come into the world nestled in your hair, and your hair will be all around us, around me, surrounding your home, in the ground and the trees, in the water, always there, always there, like you. Always there. Some of you, always there.

And the razor stopped. And all I could do was kiss your head. But I think Unena got there first. And that was OK. It was her hand that had done the deed, performed the mitzva, loosened further your already tenuous connection to this world.

I have a picture of the two of you. A month later. The last time you were out. The night you made her promise to take care of me. The night you made me promise to take care of her.  Your heads are pressed together. Your smile. You smiled like that when you held your granddaughter. You smiled like that when you saw me. You smiled like that when your children came to see you after long absence. In less than a month you would leave us, and I don’t think I ever saw you smile quite that big.

Lee and Unena August 2011

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2013 in Culture, Family, Social

 

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Love Means Never having to Apologise for Saying “Sorry, You don’t get to treat Me like that.”

Loving someone, even deeply and completely, does not automatically confer a sprinkling of pixie dust that creates compatibility.  It takes work. And even then, work will not make two people fit who do not. Like sanding, it may take off rough edges, but will not make something into a new shape. That would be to make a new person in a shape that fits. Such love is not for the person, but an image or ideal, an imagining. Work will not make a miss-sized or miss-shaped shoe fit. You may get it on, but it won’t get you anywhere.

There have been a spate of “Love me as I am” graphics on the Internet lately. The latest says “The person who really loves you sees what a mess you can be, how moody you can get, and how hard you are to handle. But still wants you in their life.” Bad punctuation aside, this is a load of trite, treacly tripe not worth the pixels it takes to render it. The “hard to handle” part of the poster is the part I find most, well… hard to handle. Sure, no one is perfect. As one friend said, we are “Perfectly imperfect works in progress.” But the poster isn’t saying that. Basically, the poster is saying this : “Hey, even if I’m a complete and utter basket-case that makes you crazy, so inconsistent that you cannot even build trust in me,  if you love me, you’ll put up with whatever the hell I do to you.”

There is a quote that has been going around that is attributed to Marilyn Monroe. “I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”  Let’s look at this. That’s a bit like saying “You love me, so I’m going to feed you fishsticks. If you don’t like eating fishsticks, you sure as hell don’t deserve to eat fresh salmon.”   What we should be saying, both men and women, to our lovers, is this. “You love me and you deserve my best all the time. I love you and want you to have my best. But sometimes, like all people, I’m at my worse. And thank you for dealing as best as you can with that as well.”

Love doesn’t mean putting up with abuse. And love should mean doing our best to modify the inconsistencies, the moods, so there is stability.  Without stability, nothing can be built.

Look at is this way -these posters usually come with graphics that have beaches, and hearts, and flowers, denoting femininity in some way, so we know it is aimed at men and regarding women. What if we changed the graphics to denote something that is culturally understood as masculine.  For the sake of argument, perhaps a garage. Or a beer can. Telling women that, as a guy, I can be unstable, inconsistent, moody, snappish, and hard to handle but, if you love me, you’ll put up with my lack of desire to control myself, lack of interest in seeing how my behavior affects you, and whatever nonsense I dish out.  How far would that get?

And a guy who puts up with that, no matter how much he loves a woman? And, to be fair, any woman who puts up with that from a man? We’d say they have a lack in self-respect. Maybe they don’t love themselves or respect themselves enough. Or perhaps they feel they can’t do better or don’t deserve to be treated better.

These posters perpetuate an idea that any feminist, female or male, should rail against. The idea that a woman isn’t responsible for her behavior and, if a man loves her, he’ll just deal with it. That men are, by duty, stable and consistent – the emotional anchor in a relationship – and that women are creatures of emotion only and may be absolved of responsibility for upheavals in a relationship. Upheavals that men must simply weather. It’s time for these posters to go and for women to stop posting them. They owe it to their daughters. They owe it to their sons. They owe it to their lovers. They owe it to those who fought for women to stand on equal footing.  They owe it to themselves.

 
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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Culture, psychology, Social

 

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The Feather and the Weight

Someone asked me if I remembered the good times. Why I could remember the details of the bad times, but not recall the specifics of all the good ones. I answered.

Because the good times are so much more ephemeral. Evanescent. Even among the grandness of life, the good, the joyous, is found in the seemingly insignificant, made up of moments, small kindnesses, sincere unbidden smiles, the touch of the hand, a glance. Whispers. They possess an ineffability that affects us deeply but leaves its mark on our inner world. Like religious experience, they are hard to grasp, but exist no less. Over time, they add up to goodness. Each not so different than another, but with a feeling of being filled with goodness though one may cast about for specific examples.

And the bad times. They come like startling punches to the gut amid the good moments. So surprising, the shock embeds the details in memory.

Some days we get up, look outside at the gorgeousness of the day. And we feel filled with joy and delight. But what particular sunny day do you recall? How many? But the storms amid them? The horrific storms we remember, blow by blow.

The good becomes ubiquitous. The bad embeds in space and time.

The good does not diminish but persists even though we cannot point to it.

And the bad can fade, unless it is refreshed. Unless the storms come again, and again. Punched too often, one becomes sore and shy.

It doesn’t minimize the goodness at all. But our memory treats them differently. Joy and trauma do not process the same way. Pleasure and pain are not remembered alike.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2013 in philosophy, psychology

 

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When I held You

The moment I held you,
nested with your body,
wed thigh to thigh,
belly to back,
breath to your neck.
The moment I held you
The sigh, the sleep
my hand rising and falling
with each of your breaths,
you, my inspiration.
The moment I held you
when your body let go,
when your soul, let loose,
held to mine, soul to soul,
and I could no longer tell
whose soul belonged to who.
The moment I held you
when the distance disappeared,
when separation ceased,
when all became you and me
became we and naught else existed
but us and still you are all with which
I am filled.

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2013 in philosophy, Poetry, Uncategorized

 

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I want You to fill Me

I want you to fill me.

It is not that I am empty,
but I want you to fill me
so that our essence
is of the same truth
and our eyes
of the same vision
and our hearts
feel of the same blood.

I want to have my eyes filled
with your soul
and my ears filled
by your music
and my hands filled
with all the stars have lent
to be your body
and my mouth filled
with your sweetness,
able to speak only
your name.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2012 in Poetry, Writing

 

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Craig

I’m looking at the half-full
glass of black IPA. The waitress
asked me what I wanted
and I pointed to my friend’s beer
saying, “I’ll have that,”
and reached over, moving it
in front of me, taking a sip and
my friend laughed, as he does
each time I do that and
I do that most weeks
but still, He laughs
deeply, fully, and I don’t know why.

Wings are on the way,
smoky and flavorful,
delicious, the best either of us
has had, but no matter,
as we have shared awful meals
and laughed as we wrote
reviews, and blogs, and notes
back and forth, children at school
misbehaving,
sharing a secret joke.

Waitresses giggle
at the easy show,
back and forth,
sit and listen to the
repartee honed over
time and needing no practice,
we should
take it on the road,
we are told.

Finishing each other’s sentences,
like, (how did this happen?)
an old married couple,
speaking in code,
few words,
everything said.

And all things
he knows, as
I can tell him anything,
tell him everything,
and I do,
without reservation,

But still,
our brains are different
even when drumming,
or singing songs
few people seem to know,
while I know his heart,
it is hard to say how.

Though he has saved me
many times,
some unknown
I am sure,
I cannot always say,
or in a way that is clear
for the deeper feelings
are those which must travel
farthest, through the most
sediment of years, lives,
walls erected, fortifications
which can be breached only with
love, and I search for the words
to breach the battlement
but I haven’t
the ammunition.

I can write verse of the moon,
and love, desire and connection,
romance and flesh
for the fairer sex,
but all I can write
for you is this poem.

It will have to suffice.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Culture, Family, Social

 

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