Do you know what you’re made of?
I don’t mean physically – like your composition. No, what I’m talking about are those experiences from your life that made you the way you are today. You know, like when someone says a certain thing to you – be that “get out of my hair”, or “what lovely eyes you have”.
What shapes the ways we respond to what others say to us?
Is it our original programming; that version of software that came pre-installed in our between-the-ears hard drive? Or is it the way we were conditioned by parents, teachers and life’s hard knocks?
A combination of both?
Here’s why I ask: There are things I’d like to change about myself. I can hear what you’re thinking now: “But John, you’re super great, at writing and probably many other things, so why change?” And trust me, I get your point – but there are still things about me I might want to modify a smidge.
Like how I argue.
Loretta: This ought to be interesting… Continue reading →
So the funniest thing happened to Loretta and me the other day – and by funny I mean mysterious.
Loretta and I have been married for the better part of a year – and we were together for over a year before that. So you’d think we’d have the bigger topics sorted out by now. Sure, we know which side of the bed each sleeps on. And who gets the bathroom first (and I’m OK with second, really I am). But there are still some topics we have trouble with.
Like how much time do I get to myself?
Hi, this is Loretta, and I’ve been proofreading John’s columns for over two years now. Sometimes he listens to my advice, sometimes not, so I think it’s time I added my two cents to what he says about us. First of all, part of the predicament is, after years of being single and on our own, we tend to think in terms of “I” instead of “we”. It’s “how much time do WE get to ourselves?” Not ‘how much time to I get to myself?” Continue reading →
DO YOU KNOW WHAT LEAP DAY IS?
It’s that extra day we get at the end of February about every four years. Because it’s such a rare occurrence, it has some traditions attached to it — one of which is the old Irish custom that says a woman can ask a man to marry her on such a day.
And, being Irish, you’d think I’d have known that. But I didn’t — well, not until it was brought to my attention via text a little over a year ago. That’s when the woman I was seeing at the time messaged me with a very important question.
She wanted to know if I would marry her.
I thought that was both cute and sweet, and I told her as much. And while I didn’t agree to her proposal made in jest, I didn’t say “no,” either.
But I’m getting ahead of myself here — this story doesn’t start in February 2012, it begins in June 2011. That’s when I started writing a column about dating and relationships here in The Herald. And the month after that is when I met the woman who’d one day ask me to marry her.
How are those two events related? I ended up writing my first book about both of them.
Here’s how it happened: After beginning the column in June 2011, I met Loretta in July and we started a fascinating relationship in which we’d discuss the dynamics between men and women — especially as they related to, and played out on, dating sites.
Though not actually dating at the time — well kind-of-sort-of, but not really — we definitely enjoyed each other’s company. We were also sweet on the deep philosophical conversations we had. I probably have been remiss in saying so, but many of the columns I wrote as the Online Dating Coach sprung from those very talks.
And around November of that year — with maybe 25 or so columns written — the idea began to occur to me that they might form the basis for a book.
I don’t know that I’d really given that thought much consideration before the day Loretta asked me what direction I saw myself going with my writing. Suddenly, the word “book” popped out of my mouth.
When she asked me what the book would be like, I said a collection of my columns. I think what I envisioned at first was a year’s worth of columns in chronological order. And when I had a year’s worth, Loretta and I sat down and started to assemble them — but it didn’t go so well.
Wait, I thought, I can’t include the early ones — they’re unpolished. So I left those out. Then Loretta said, “Let’s group them by category!” — thinking, I guess, that we could divide them into chapters themed “Advice to women” and “Advice to men” and so forth — but the categories seemed forced.
What we ended up with after our first few brainstorming sessions was not so much a book as a first attempt by a couple of amateurs trying to approximate a book.
As we continued to work on what the book should truly be, I was campaigning for a straightforward compendium of the columns I’d written, but Loretta had another idea. She suggested I weave our story, of meeting via the dating sites and falling in love, in among the columns. It was an interesting idea — but one I wasn’t fully comfortable with.
Loretta couldn’t understand why I was hesitant to write the story of her and me — but now as I think about it, I may have been leery at the time because I did not yet know where that story was going. She and I were doing great by that point, but we had our times — like any couple I guess — of not doing so great. And I’ve been known to have this weird little fear that to begin a relationship is to also begin its end.
It’s sort of like life — when you are born is when you begin dying, if you want to look at it that way. But you’ve got a lot of living to do before you kick off, and sometimes, relationship-wise, I can lose sight of that.
Does anyone want to take a wild guess as to who got their way about the book’s direction?
And I have to say, I’m so glad she did. By weaving our story in among the columns, the book has become, as they say, more “accessible” — and I’m pretty sure that’s code for not boring.
Those who’ve read it so far say that our story, mine and Loretta’s, gives them something to connect with. And, sometimes, something to become exasperated with — one of the reviewers said it best when he wrote that “I found myself rooting for your relationship the entire book, and every time you (me) screwed it up I wanted to shake my Kindle and yell at you.”
And isn’t that what we want — something to connect with?
I think it’s sort of like songs — you know how you listen to a song’s lyrics and apply them to your life and identify with them, no matter what the singer may actually have meant? Well it’s kind of like that: We want to find things we connect with, that help us understand, or better communicate, our own condition.
And that’s the book that Loretta helped me to see.
And here’s the part that really intrigues me now: Writing the book’s story helped us write our own. We were talking about our own story one day earlier this year when we came upon one of those not-doing-so-great times, where she and I were having trouble seeing our way forward together.
But having written down our story up to that point helped us to see where it needed to go.
And so she told me her fears, and I told her mine, and we came up with a way to let go of both sets — together.
So here’s something I didn’t share with Loretta for quite some time: I’ve told you that she once asked me to marry her, and I told you that I didn’t say “no.” Well, one day, not all that long ago, while sitting on the couch and having an unrelated conversation, I looked at her and I said “yes.”
That “yes” — uttered during a talk about something wholly unrelated — was my answer to the proposal she’d made on Leap Day.
And that’s where we are now — married, with a book that is not only our story, but the story of a year’s worth of advice columns I wrote for The Benicia Herald.
And to bring it full circle, that book is now available at Bookshop Benicia on First Street, just a few doors down from The Herald.
It’s at that book shop where I’ll soon be doing a book signing. And — spoiler alert — when you come I bet you’ll have a pretty good idea who that beautiful woman at my side is …
Monterey was beautiful last Monday.
I know because I was there with my new wife, Loretta, to throw a bouquet of flowers into the ocean. And while that seems a curious thing to do, it’s actually a tradition. Here’s what I mean: Continue reading →
What did you really like when you were a small child?
For me it was cars. From my earliest memory I recall being fascinated by cars and trucks. My Mom tells me some of my first recognizable words were “Big truck” – which I’d utter whenever I saw, well, a big truck.
Before school I used to sit at the kitchen table and draw cars over and over. If the school system back then had included a course of study in sketching cars I would probably now be a professor emeritus of car drawing.
Instead what I am is a guy who writes insights and advice – which sometimes needs to be amended. But I’m getting ahead of myself – first let me finish my story about a car… Continue reading →
My Mom and Dad were married for a very long time.
And it can happen – when a man has been married for a long time – that he becomes a bit low key in the ways he shows his wife how special she is to him. After enough years of marriage we guys can misplace our flare for the dramatic, and we can underwhelm when just the opposite is called for.
Upon the approach of my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary I think that might have been where Dad was headed. Not that that would have been an unforgivable thing, just the opposite really. Mom would have been happy with whatever he did – but then she’s like that. She was happy to be married to the man she loved – if he remembered an important date, well, that was icing on the cake. But left to his own devices, Dad’s celebration of their 40th anniversary probably would have included a trip to a restaurant they’d already been to, followed by the presentation of a gift that, while thoughtful, would likely not have been extravagant.
But my sister Colleen had other ideas… Continue reading →
When I was 10 my aunt came to live with us.
That may not seem like a big deal, but since my family is from Ireland it meant she had to travel about five thousand miles to do so.
The reason she came out was that Mom was having a baby. And since Mom already had three kids, and Dad was, well, Dad, she was going to need some assistance with my new sister. So Aunt Bridget came to live with us and help out for about a year or so. Continue reading →
Do kids cruise anymore?
You remember cruising – when you drove up and down the boulevard for hours on end achieving little more than burning half a tank of gas. It was this activity where we were all going somewhere and yet never really arriving there. Do kids still do that? If they do, I haven’t seen them lately. Of course to see them I suppose I’d need to be on the boulevard at 11:00 on a Saturday night – and that doesn’t happen too often any more.
But there was a time it did. Continue reading →