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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

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

Adam Byrn Tritt

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.

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Posted by on December 26, 2016 in Culture, Family, philosophy, Social, Writing

 

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Listen

Listen.

A year ago, maybe less, maybe more, at dinner, a discussion.

It was an evening designed for people to get to know each other. I desperately wanted it to go well.  I don’t think it did.

One person talked while the other listened. One felt the other had no interest because she was not being asked questions.  She felt asking questioning was how someone showed interest in another. The other person felt the first wasn’t listening because she was asking questions but not hearing the narrative, looking for answers instead of stories. Both were exploring the other the way they felt the other person would feel valued and wanted, sure to feel the interest flowing.  We so often relate to others the way we wish them to relate to us, regardless of our different ways of being.

It didn’t work.

I am thinking of Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Played by Whoopi Goldberg, Guinan was long-lived and came from “a race of listeners.” She ran Ten Forward. Café, bar, meeting hall. She was a bartender, but, like the archetypal bartender, she was a counselor, psychologist, and, when her patrons needed it, when a crew member was confused, she listened. She listened long, and deeply, and, on rare occasion, cut through the morass of conflict and over-thinking with a single well-placed question one could only form after deep listening.

Guinan is the only action figure I own.

Some of us see our lives as points. Events. Memories.  Some of us as narratives, stories, chronologies with highlights. And we so often wish to learn about others in the way we see our own lives.

Maybe it runs in families. My son, he listens.  I can’t really remember Lee asking people many questions at all. She would know you or would not, and the facts rarely mattered. My daughter, Sef, too.

Arlene likes to ask questions, and be asked questions. It is how she feels one shows interest in another. It is also how she feels someone shows interest in her. Fair enough. They are good, solid questions. Questions of meat and bone. Helpful and direct. And she listens too, picks up on subtle things, notices nuance. Still, the questions have taken me a bit to get used to.

And I know she often finds my lack of questions befuddling.  Mine are few. I like to make them count.

Craig asks questions which are intense and probe deeply. It is quite a skill. He asks them with near surgical exactitude. He has noticed I take much delight in derailing his attempts at interrogation.

Trish asks rapid-fire questions and rarely waits for an answer before the next. I usually just stare at her until she stops.

Alicia rarely asks a question, but when she does, it is thoughtful, wide, and beautifully ambiguous, and I have to think to answer.

Susie. Other than “What are you doing Sunday?” “Can I put a load of laundry in?” or “Can I help?” has not, that I can recall, ever asked me a question.  But she knows me. She listens well. Yet, she, and others, know me. Each differently, for we are never exactly the same to each person we know, but, each in their own way, has come to know who I am.

We each have our own way, and sometimes those ways cross and we find we don’t quite know how to relate to the other person. It can take some adapting, some getting used to, some cutting of slack, as it were, and some understanding that we all relate to the world, and each other, in different ways.

As for me:

I want to discover you,
To listen to you,
Wander with you, ramble
The trails of your life
As your stories
Give away the who of you,
The how of you.

I want to press my ear to you
And sound the depths,
Hear the murmurings
Of desires and disappointments
And wander within the walls of you
Feeling for the edges,
The borders hard and soft.
See the flashes in the dark
stumble upon the permanent midnights,
Your heart, your soul.
The who of you, the how of you,
Even the why of you,
But the what of you,
If it should come clear
In the course of time, that is fine,
But I’ll not ask.
The data points and trivia of you
Will come as needed,
I’ll not ask,
You needn’t tell.
I know what I need to know.

Others will ask questions,
Probe, collect information.
It is their way to discover
What they feel
Is the measure of you.

But I say, come,
And let us walk a while.
I want to listen.

I love to listen to people ramble.  That is when I learn the most. As they go on, I learn their history, likes, dislikes, pet-peeves, I hear what makes them tick and what makes them sick, what makes the glow and what leaves hem cold. I hear where their heart is and where their soul resides. Rarely will I ask a question unless there is something I find confusing, or I see confusion and it occurs to me a question might bring clarity. But they are few. I want them to count.

Like Guinan, who stands on the sill over my computer, I want to listen.  Always listen.

 
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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Culture, Family, psychology, Social

 

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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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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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Just some thoughts I had today. For what they are worth.

Don’t be something you are not. Don’t do things just because you think it is what someone else will want, or so that person won’t be angry, or sad, or lonely.  Not for anyone. Don’t change anything for anyone just because you think it’ll make someone happy. It is ingenuine.  It is a form of dishonesty.  The other person will never know if it is really your desire or just you doing what you think someone else wants. It will end in distrust, even if your intentions were good.

How you are is not your fault. Your past, your habits, your reactions. None of it. Until that very moment when you find something you dislike or want to change.  Then it is your fault if it continues, your responsibility if it remains. The moment you find something you want to change, it is no longer blamable on the past.

Don’t go to sleep angry. You’ve heard that before.  But it is good advice. Don’t. Not at a spouse, or your kid, or your boss, or the government, or the world.  Breathe and let it go. You might not wake up. Don’t go to sleep angry.  And when you make up, wake up to see a smile, or the bright sun, or to falling rain, or to something that is sweet, because it may be the last time you wake, may be the last day you see. Fill your day with harmony and sweetness, because you may not see the next day. Why have anything on your last day that isn’t sweet? If anything gets in the way of harmony and sweetness, change how you feel about it or remove it.

Even pain can be sweet. But drama never is isn’t.

People love you and have helped you. Love and help them. Be there for them. Even if you have the short end of the bargain from time to time.  But don’t let gratitude, or love, or fear, yours or theirs, hold you hostage.  If you do, the relationship is built on something ingenuine.

Be you. The best you you can be. If you like something about you, or if it works for you, don’t change it. Not for anyone or anything. If there is something you don’t like, or if it doesn’t work for you, change it, no matter what others feel about it. You get this shot at this life only.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2013 in Family, philosophy, psychology, Social

 

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Wishbones

There are two wishbones on my kitchen sink, drying, crusty. I pick them up.

After three days or so, they are ready; crisp and lucky. These have been here since Passover. Thirteen days. A strange superstition to wait that amount of days, perhaps, but how strange, really, when applied to the act of placing a wish on a competition to see who gets the larger piece of a twisted chicken bone?

I brush them off. Small bits of meat fall as particulate into the sink. In a moment they are ready – ready to snap under shear. Ready to bring us luck, offer the fortune released from within with the snap. From within? From where? It matters not. I know it works and it is ready to grant my wish.

The wishbones on the kitchen sink are waiting

Cleaned, delivered

They are twice sacrificed

Brought from the holy feast

Where we were by them nourished

Now brought to the hands of my holy one

Where we will again be by them blessed.

If memory serves – and it matters not if it does; if it is fiction or fact, since, as a memory, it is as real as anything can remain – we broke a wishbone our first week together. Our first week.

For years we broke wishbones and our lives got better and better, more full, more joyous in each other’s company. With each wishbone came newness and surety our dreams would take hold, bear fruit, ripen, become sweet.

We never asked each other what our wishes were. Never. For years those wishes went silent and bright and we knew, no matter whose pull broke the bone, the wish was certain to come true.

Then one day she asked. What was my wish? How could I not say? My wish was for your wish to be granted. Whatever it was, that your wishes become real. That way, no matter who got the larger half, it was your wish that would come to be.

I saw a smile. And just slightly, I thought I saw a tear. “Please don’t do that,” she asked. I deserve dreams of my own, she told me. And, from that time on, we each made our own wishes but, in those, the other was never forgotten. We continued on as before, bone after bone. Wish after wish.

I have them in my hand, walk over to the couch where she is laying and sit at the edge near her knees, place one on the coffee table, hold up a wishbone by a single end, the thin one, hold it low.

She smiles and sits up, takes the other. A moment lapses and we pull. Pull. It snaps and for the first time I have ever seen such a thing it has broken cleanly, evenly, straight up the middle and we each are left with a full half, an equal half. We stare at them.

No wish granted? Both wishes granted? I ask her what she wished for. It must be safe; extraordinary questions are born of extraordinary events.

That your wish come true. My wish was that hers would be granted. After the many years, it seemed the night for that wish again. Equal wishes, equal halves.

No matter, I say. I have one more. There is always one more.

 
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Posted by on May 18, 2007 in Family

 

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