Body Hair Purgatory

Once upon a time, I posted a before-and-after photo of my body on Instagram.  It wasn’t to show off my physique transformation of going from a twig to a tree branch (I never reached tree trunk status like I had originally set out for when I started working out).  Rather, it was in regard to my body hair.

Although I don’t have an overwhelming amount of fur, it had just reached a point where I got uncomfortable with it and decided to go in for some maintenance.  Despite the fact that I don't trim off all that much, I was super curious as to what the insta-people would have to say.

Body hair has always been confusing to me.  It doesn’t help that mine is really weird.  It may not look weird in my photos, but that’s because I feel like I have to trim it to not look weird.  It’s all very meta.  

Below my waist, I’ve got enough fur that if I ran into Sasquatch in the locker room, he’d give me a head nod and say “Sup, bro?”  Above my waist is a different story.  My furry lower regions do lead up to a nice treasure trail...that seems to disappointingly lead to very little.  

Photo by  Michael McFadden

Yes, I have some chest hair.  But if left untamed, it becomes a scraggly mess.  Currently, due to the aging process, I am getting hair on my shoulders and I am surprisingly excited about this.

If it sounds like I am all over the board about this, then the answer is yes, I am a nutcase.  Do I want hair?  Do I not want hair?  I don’t know.  Part of the confusion comes from the fact that I’ve never really cared if other guys were smooth or hairy.  Why can’t both be hot?  Then I receive these mixed messages from gay culture that makes me feel like I should be one or the other, while I land awkwardly in the middle.

I legitimately remember the day I got my first pubic hair.  The moment I saw it, I wanted to look for some confetti so I could throw it into the air (like all boys do when they hit puberty).  Having developed a bit later than the other guys, going into middle school with a high voice certainly didn’t help the bullying.  

This first sprout of hair meant all of that was about to change. And even though deep voices apparently didn’t stop bullying, I still appreciated any follicle I could get.  

I continued to like my body hair until I received my first complaint in my early twenties.  It came from a sexual counterpart who had gotten a hair or two (or five) in his mouth.  I had encountered this same thing on my oral end, but I thought it was just a normal part of having hair and being sexually active.  

I wasn’t entirely familiar with manscaping.  So, my resolution for this was to use a hair brush.  Growing up in a house of women, I often saw how brushing their hair (on their heads) lead to lots of strays hitting the ground.  Ergo, the same must be true for any loose crotch hairs that might casually fall into any unsuspecting mouths.

Photo by  Michael McFadden

Insights on my chest hair shortly followed.  One night, after a pool party, a friend whipped out some clippers and we decided to spontaneously buzz our heads (we were in our early twenties).  As a joke, he jammed the clippers against my chest trimming off the chunk of hair that collected around my nipples.  Being the good friend I was, I took the joke in good fun and resisted the temptation to take the clippers and beat him with it.  

Fortunately, another friend, a hairdresser, was there and I relied on his hair-keened eyes to trim it all down evenly (thanks, Preston!).  Once he finished, everyone unanimously agreed that my chest hair looked WAY better.  

One guy even said that my nipples no longer looked gigantic.  My nipples looked gigantic?  I didn’t even know I had this problem.  Although I can’t speak for women, I have certainly never heard a man say he likes to be told he has huge nipples.

Once again, I took these opinions and got into the habit of trying to fix the problem.  I began trimming my chest hair regularly and, after a few more fellatio complaints, I realized that I might have to do the same with my junk.  Taking the hairbrush to the pubes evidently didn’t cut it.  

But taking clippers to my junk made me nervous.  There’s lots of weird crevices and shape-shifty skin down there.  I didn’t want to cut myself.  I also didn’t know exactly what kind of trim job that would make it look good. 

Thus I did what any logical person would do: I put an ad out on Craigslist so that I could find some random stranger to come help teach me how to trim my bush.  I loved doing this kind of thing on Craigslist - posting the most random request out there (in the platonic section) to see what kind of human would reply.  The guy I linked up with on the pubic post genuinely took it seriously.  

I didn’t know what I wanted to get out of it.  The one thing I did know was that I didn’t want any kind of “polite shapes” - no landing strips or triangles or any other object a child might draw.  This always just looked silly to me.  And when it came to my penis, the last thing I wanted to do was make anyone laugh.

The craigslist stranger lowered himself face level with my groin and got to work.  To pretty much anyone’s surprise, he remained a total gentleman about it.  There were no attempts at ‘groinal creepery’.  

He had me be the one to hold my goods to the sides so that he could do his job.  Somehow, his not being inappropriate made him seem more like a weirdo.  Who doesn’t try to attempt SOMETHING when there is a wiener in their face?  Or was it a matter of my not being good enough to take advantage of?  This thought made me self-conscious.  Have I mentioned I’m a bit of a nutcase?

Photo by  Michael McFadden

When he wrapped up, I looked down to see his handy work.  My pubic hair ended up way shorter than I imagined.  I acted like I loved it to not hurt his feelings, but it caught me by surprise.  I felt weary of these results.  It didn’t seem natural.  It didn’t seem like me.  Though I did appreciate the fact that my dick looked bigger.

In the end, the trim job was indeed effective.  I no longer received complaints from my sexual counterparts about loose hairs.  They seemed to appreciate this more manicured side.  And the same message continually got reinforced when it came to my body hair: less was more. So, that’s what I did.  I followed the fad.

In time, I’d go from trimming my chest hair to completely shaving it smooth with a razor.  I had gotten into working out and having a smooth chest really does make you look more muscular.  

Then a year or so later, everything switched.  A new trend emerged.  Furry was the new smooth.  My trimmed groin and shaved chest wouldn’t cut it anymore.  For the most part, guys now wanted guys to be riddled with man hair.  I didn’t understand.  Did guys now suddenly WANT stray pubs in their mouths again?

I didn’t mind this at first because, frankly, I was too lazy to be manscaping all the time.  But this fur trend put me at a new disadvantage.  Beforehand, I could trim things down.  But now, I couldn’t really hair-things-up.  There was only so much I could grow and I didn’t particularly like the way it grew. 

Once again, I tried going with the trend.  I stopped trimming altogether.  My bush went back to being full and my chest hair turned into a bunch of scraggly wires.  Guys did like it, but then there were those who didn’t like it.  And I became more self-conscious than ever.  My body hair, which I celebrated getting as a teenager, was now a confusing mess.

As someone who wasn’t necessarily smooth and wasn’t necessarily hairy, I felt stuck into trying to follow the popular consensuses.  I didn’t know which direction to go in with body fur - less or more.  I didn’t know who to please.

And that was the actual problem at hand.  It wasn’t my body hair itself.  It was my desire to please everyone else.  I have always been a bit of a people pleaser.  I’ve mentioned before how I don’t believe in the “no fucks given” fad (*cough* defense mechanism *cough*). So, in my sense of transparency, I fully admit I have a tendency to give a lot of fucks.

When it came to being stuck in the middle, my solution was to do what I thought everyone else wanted me to.  But I’ve learned that, oftentimes, when you try to please everyone, you end up pleasing no one.  The fur that had given me joy as a teenager had now somehow landed me in body hair purgatory (aka “Fur-gatory”).  

I realized that none of this helped me in my journey to liking myself better.  If I wanted to get comfortable in my own skin, I had to stop the madness.  So, I busted out the clippers once again and began experimenting with all the different ways I could trim - no craigslist help needed.  

If I trimmed it in a way that I didn’t like, the good news was that it would grow out and I could try again.  I liked my natural fur.  But I didn’t like it to be overwhelming.  And finally, I discovered my own happy medium - a seven guard on my crotch and a four guard on my chest.  

Photo by  Michael McFadden

This resulted in a very light trimming - nowhere near as short as my early twenties, but not quite as bushy as my early thirties.  When I looked in the mirror, I felt sexy.  I could still honor the love my hair without it feeling overwhelming.  

Instead of worrying about what pleased others, I now could legitimately say that I did what pleased me.  And indirectly, this pleased others because neither of us had to give two shakes about it when we stripped down and gave each other some major shakes.  When you feel more confident about yourself, people feel more confident about you.

When I posted that Instagram photo of my “before and after” trim job, it seemed as though ninety-percent of them preferred me au naturel. This baffled me as, nowadays, there seemed to be hardly any difference.  The different lighting might have skewed it a little.  But the commenters continuously told me how they preferred it.

However, instead of just going back to the popular consensus like I always did before, I decided not change my current approach to my own body hair.  As much as I like it when people like me, I am now old enough to realize that I like it even better when I simply feel comfortable in my own skin.  That way, I stay out of fur-gatory.

The Instagram post.

The Instagram post.

Please check out more of Michael McFadden’s photography at his website and his Instagram.

 

Edited by George Paraskeva

Copyright © 2019 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Photography Copyright © 2018 Michael McFadden, All rights reserved.

Lyft Me Higher

The following essay is NOT an endorsement for Lyft.

With the internet being so damn good at knowing what we want, I typically get ads for three things: motivational speakers who can help you start your business and sell books, devices to help your poor posture, and ways to make extra money.

For the last one, I usually get targeted by Uber and Lyft ads the most - promising the likes of an $800 bonus if I drove a certain number of rides.  It always piqued my curiosity to do this sort of thing.  I own a Prius (and no, I don’t act smug about it) so I certainly get good gas mileage.

In all honesty, I needed the money.  Being an independent writer means being a broke ass artist for a while.  And, previously, I wrote an essay on how my rental property got hit with a $3k bill.  I had to take this money out of my book publishing funds.  

I wrote about the possibility of doing a kickstarter for the book, but I’ve since changed my mind.  While I support the idea of doing Kickstarters, I think the concept of crowdfunding has gotten a bit soiled with people starting GoFundMe accounts so they can take that fancy trip to Europe.

Anyway, in mid-August, Lyft ran a new kind of promotion - one where they would guarantee you $2,000 in your first month of driving.  That guarantee had me drooling slightly out of the corner of my mouth.  Once I got my saliva in order, I clicked the link to get more info.

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In order to get your $2k guarantee, you’d have to have the driver app turned on for a minimum of 25 hours a week and give a minimum 45 rides for the week.  If you did this, they would pay the difference of what you made to equal $500 for that week (for the first four weeks).

Our basement renter, Eric, who is so phenomenally awesome that I might occasionally guilt him into living with us forever (Hi, Eric!), has driven for Lyft for a couple years.  I decided to ask him if he thought it would be worth it.

“Forty-five rides is a lot,” he said.  “Lyft is banking on the idea that you’ll get close to $500 anyway.”

“Yeah, but I’m sure I won’t be driving ALL of those 25 hours that I’m logged into the app,” I tried justifying my interest.  “I can write in between drives.”

Eric was still skeptical saying that writing in between rides would probably be more disruptive than anything.  He made a good point.  It was hard enough staying up on my writing as it is.  

But I couldn’t think of any other way to get that much money in a month’s time.  It might be an additional distraction to my writing, but it will get me focused on rebuilding my finances.  Plus, it would get me out of the house.  So, I went ahead and signed up.

Before I could even get to making that sweet, sweet road dough, Lyft inspected my car and said that my tire tread was under the legal limit for car share services.  If I wanted to do this, I’d have to get new tires.  Next thing I know, I’m dropping $350 on new tires at Costco.  So, financially, this already blew chunks.

On that first day of driving, I packed up my car, put my shoes on, locked up the house, and began writing - ready to bolt out the door any minute.  It took an hour for my first ride to ping me, and I didn’t get all that much writing done.  I frantically bolted out the door as to not take too long.

When I pulled up to the location, I wasn’t quite sure if I got it right on the GPS.  I went into mini-panic mode.  I don’t know what the rider looks like.  I don’t see anyone looking for a car.  Am I the right place?  Maybe I should call him.  How do I do that on this app again? 

Before I could figure it out, an African-American gentleman with an afro-man-bun suddenly opened the back door.  He seemed very uninterested in me.  But, per Lyft’s suggestion, I told him he was my very ride.  This was a good move.  He perked up and got a lot more patient with me.

His request was quite the distance - over half an hour all the way to the south suburbs of Denver.  The drive was very awkward.  He had no desire to talk and stayed glued to his cellphone - something I have done to most of my drivers as well.

When I dropped him off, I was shocked to see that I had only gotten $16.76 for such a long distance.  Before, I had always been so grateful that these rides could be more on the affordable side.  Now, being in the driver’s seat.  I was a little discouraged.  

As I drove home, a girl pinged me for a ride.  I began swerving on the road trying to get to the app in time to accept it.  You ONLY have 15 seconds to do this!  I can’t even put on my shirt in 15 seconds.  And my phone is so slow that I missed it.

The Lyft app sent me a message telling me what a naughty thing I had just done - that if I don’t accept rides I should just close the app, forget about the whole thing, and go home and shove my head under a pillow.  It’s not my fault, I thought.  Fifteen seconds isn’t enough time.

I decided I would give this another try after the gym.  I turned the app back on and it took twenty minutes before I got my next ride - a disheveled tourist who had me drive all the way across town to a marijuana dispensary (to where I waited 15 minutes for him to make his purchase) and then back to his AirBnB.

By hour five that day, I had only given four rides.  They just kept taking so long to do.  THIS SUCKED!!!  Getting 25 hours of app time wouldn’t be a problem.  Getting 45 rides for the week was going to be impossible!

When I got home, I let out my frustrations with Luke.  “At this rate, I’ll be driving like 40 hours a week,” I said.  “This is NEVER going to work!”

“You don’t know that yet,” he tried calming me down by saying reasonable things (how dare he).  “You still have the rest of the week.”

I continued to be overdramatic - talking about how I either have to quit writing for the month or skip out on the $2k.  In my defense, it really did look impossible.  Currently, each week, I:

  • Work on and manage the blog and newsletter

  • Write and edit the book

  • Maintain social media

  • Turnover our AirBnB room (almost daily)

  • Be my own accountant/business manager

  • Go to the gym

  • Try to get time in with Luke

  • Try to get time with even just one friend (which is already hard enough as it is)

And now,  I was going to add this Lyft thing into the mix.  There was just no way it could work.  I was completely convinced.  But I needed the money andI had to keep trying.

The next day, I decided to skip the gym and just do Lyft all day.  My goal was to get 16 rides to make it a nice even 20 for the two days.  It took 10 hours!  THIS IS NEVER GOING TO WORK!!!

On Thursday, I figured I’d do another five hour stint after the gym (finishing up around 10 p.m.).  It started off good - getting pinged for my third ride in that first hour.  Unfortunately, that third ride was a prostitute who needed to go all the way out past the airport.

I assumed she was a prostitute because she was pretty, but not too pretty.  And she was dressed kind of slutty, but not too slutty.  Also, I picked her up in the middle of a park downtown, and dropped her off at an obviously really wealthy home.  The ride took me almost an hour and a half and I resented her for it the whole time.

If I could just get a bunch of little rides, I’d be able to meet that 45 ride goal.  But it was these big rides that kept screwing me up.  Here’s the thing about these driving apps, it doesn’t tell you where the person is going when they ping you for a ride.  Therefore, you just have to blindly accept the request.

As I got back to the central part of the city, things started to pick up.  I began to get more rides that weren’t so huge.  Then it happened again.  A drunk couple who came downtown for a fancy dinner needed to go all the way to the northwest suburbs.   

This whole thing was giving me so much anxiety: not knowing which area you should be in to get rides, not knowing who is even gonna step in your car, not knowing where they want to go… all wrapped up in this pressure to get that minimum number of rides.  I hated this.

I decided to give up and drive home.  On my way, I got pinged by two people for a shared ride heading back to downtown.  As I dropped them off, I got pinged right away for another guy heading even further into downtown.  It happened again and again and again - all of these little rides.

At this hour, I noticed a lot of these new rides were women who were clearly out to get white-girl-wasted for the night.  

“What is going on tonight?” I asked one of them.

“It’s Thirsty Thursday,” she said.

“I don’t know what that is.”

She rolled her eyes, “It’s ladies night.”

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LADIES NIGHT!!!! I never even thought of this - probably because I’m gay and would never even go to a ladies night.  But by driving a couple more hours than planned, I ended up with a whopping 17 rides!  This meant I only needed eight more rides and three hours of app time.  THIS WAS TOTALLY GOING TO WORK!!!

Before I hit the road that Friday afternoon, I found Eric and Luke talking in the kitchen about a recent AirBnB guest we had.  She was an elderly Asian woman who had immigrated from Beijing and was now touring the country.  She had been absolutely hilarious and we loved having her.

“I know some of the guests are annoying,” Eric said.  “But it’s just so cool because we get to meet these other great people who we would have never met otherwise.”

I immediately thought back to the moment I posted about driving for Lyft on Instagram.  Three people wrote in saying they were doing the same and were having so much fun.  I thought they were nuts for thinking it as “fun.”

Now, I realized something.  I had been focusing so much on what made driving for Lyft stressful that I completely ignored what made it awesome.  I got to meet really great people and to have wonderful genuine human connection for this brief moment.

I also thought about another mistake I made.  When Luke said, “You don’t know yet that it won’t work”, he was right (again).  I judged what the entire experience would be like on that first lousy day.  Seriously, I should just rename this blog and call it “Luke Was Right.”

I have a habit of “predicting the future” - thinking I know what something will be like before it happens.  When I do this, I rarely predict that something will be good.  I always go to the negative - catastrophizing it all.  Doing this never serves me well.  It is, in fact, what contributes to the stress as we go into those experiences.  

If I hadn’t deemed the whole thing impossible, then I probably wouldn’t have had all that anxiety in those initial days of driving.  In order to avoid all that anxiety and stress, I need to do a better job of living in the present moment and remembering the future is a mystery - one potentially filled with great opportunities.

When I drove that evening, I met these adorable young parents getting out for “date night.”  After mentioning having a “partner” over a girlfriend or wife, they asked about our relationship and whether or not we wanted to adopt.  I told them “absolutely not” - no offense to children.

Then there was the young girl I picked up at the mall.  She had just started her first day at Nordstroms and we talked about first-day-on-the-job jitters.  By the end of the night, I picked up a drag queen who, like me, had lived in this city her entire life and somehow we hadn’t ever crossed paths.  

Even though it took me four hours to get those eight rides in, I felt like I had a fun night.  I didn’t particularly love all the mileage I was putting on my car.  But the fun of meeting these people didn’t leave me feeling so stressed about it.

By the end of the week, I ended up making $378.42.  It looked like Lyft owed me another $121.58.  While this probably wasn’t the best promotion in the world, it was nothing to sneeze at either.  We shouldn’t be sneezing on money anyway.

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Mac Attack

Here’s a fun (and potentially sad) fact: Luke cooks dinner for me every single night (well, for “us” technically).  Once a week we might go out to a trendy restaurant via our “buy one get one free” passport book.  Otherwise, it’s up to him on what to eat and how to make it.  Though, I help by picking the time we eat (which might be less like helping and more like my being bossy).

Having a partner like him has been crucial for my road to becoming an independent writer.  He picks up on a ton of slack so that I can have the time to do all the intense things this journey requires.  Also, I am a really shitty cook.

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We discovered this early on in our relationship.  He’d make some delicious balsamic roasted tomato chicken thing while I struggled to even make quinoa taste good.  The first time I attempted quinoa, I just threw a small can of diced green chiles in there.  It basically tasted like green chile dirt.  Luke pretended to enjoy it.  

Since I work at home and eat six times a day (for workout reasons), I have a few staples  that I can cook up fairly decently.  I make pretty decent scrambled eggs.  But the decency is more about the texture.  I like to use this bitter cheese that’s low fat and high protein.  This kind of makes it taste like batteries.

Luke then goes and buys me my favorite brand of green chile to put on my eggs to make them more palatable.  Here’s a tip.  You know what goes good on green chile?  Rosemary.  Are your minds blown?  I read about it in a magazine.  It sounds weird, but it works - even on my battery eggs.

Then there’s pasta.  I am so excellent at boiling water and then throwing something in it for eight to ten minutes that I brought it to lunch at my social work job every day for eight years.  Except, I didn’t believe in microwaves and trust me, there’s nothing worse than cold pasta and dry chicken breast.  To this day, nothing hits my gag reflex harder than the idea of eating pasta (nothing).  

And then there’s vegetables.  I spout off my mouth about healthy living, but when it comes to veggies, I struggle to prepare much of any of it.  Years ago, I just started throwing power greens in a blender with water and ice and chugging them.  Despite the bitter taste, it’s actually pretty refreshing.  Luke drinks them now too.  

There are occasions where Luke goes to do his own thing for the evening and I am left to fend for myself.  This usually results in me eating a main course of tuna (right out of the can) and a side dish of chips and guacamole.  The guacamole is my way of “making it healthy.”

On such a night back in August, he offered to cook me something before he went out.  I didn’t want to be THAT helpless so I told him not to worry - that I could (and probably should) make something on my own.

I went to get started on my chips and guacamole only to see that our guacamole well had run dry.  One cannot live on tuna and tortilla chips alone - not even for a single meal.  I went to the pantry and saw a box of mac-and-cheese (that was probably getting close to expiration).  Even if I had given up on pasta, I had not given up on mac-and-cheese because, well, it’s cheese (kind of).

I have learned that cans of tuna pair well with mac-and-cheese and therefore this would be what I made for dinner.  That said, things got rough from the moment I opened the packet of cheese and/or cheese related substance.  The yellow fluff powder busted all over the counter.  I scooped up what I could to salvage it.

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Once, I got the mac all nice and bubbling in the boiling pot, I read the directions further and realized we didn’t have the milk that the recipe called for.  This wasn’t too much of a problem as we had plenty of non-fat greek yogurt in the fridge.  Dairy is dairy and you just need it to make the “cheese” creamy, right?  It would have to do.

Then, when I reached in the pantry to get the tuna I discovered that, like our guacamole, we didn’t have it.  I didn’t know what to do.  I couldn’t just eat carbohydrates for dinner.  What was I?  Human?

The good news was that we had some chicken breast in the fridge.  The bad news was that it was raw.  It had been so long since I grilled chicken breast that I forgot how to do it.  Never mind.  I didn’t have time to worry about it.  I already started boiling the noodles.  I needed to catch my meat up to speed.

I lit up the grill and threw the chicken breast on.  It occurred to me that incredibly flavorless chicken breast would only make my meal more blah.  I had to figure out a way to bring more flavor back into this.  

When scanning through our fridge, I saw some leftover artichokes from when Luke made something else amazing.  This was perfect!  I have eaten so many cheesy artichoke dips in my time.  Therefore artichokes in mac-and-cheese would obviously work here.  

The noodles finished boiling right as the chicken needed to be flipped.  I got the grill duties done and began adding the cheese essence to the mac.  The yoghurt blended right in and made it nice and creamy.  But I wasn’t going to eat the entire thing and needed to split it in half.

Here’s where I’m going to have to admit something weird again.  I can’t just eyeball the amount of food I eat.  I have a minor obsession with actually weighing it out on a digital food scale.  When Luke cooks our meals, he often just has me dish up my own plate so that I can weigh it first. (now that I am writing this out loud, I’m understanding just how strange this sounds).

So, while the chicken finished cooking, I busted out the scale and began dividing up the mac-and-cheese between bowls.  As I did this, I kept dropping mac-and-cheese all over my phone sitting on the counter.  This was becoming a mess.  

Once the chicken looked nice and done, I yanked it off the grill and got it on the plate to dice up.  However, when I sliced into it, it was still raw in the middle.  I had to throw it back on the grill and wait even longer.

Meanwhile, the “cheese” was starting to dry up which instantly turns mac-and-cheese gross.  I didn’t understand it.  Why was my meal attacking me?!  I threw in some more yoghurt to regain that creamy texture.  

By the time the chicken had cooked, this meal had taken 45 minutes to prepare.  When I sat down to take my first bite, it became clear that the artichokes did not belong here, nor did the yoghurt.  The best way I could describe it is that it tasted like someone’s awkward conversation.  

It wanted it to be good, but it just couldn’t get there.  But, of course, I didn’t want to give up on eating it.  I had worked so hard on the damn thing and I hate wasting food.  There are starving children in Africa who don’t have mangled mac-and-cheese.

What I did give up on was wearing a shirt.  With it being summer and having just slaved over the stove and grill (and not having air-conditioning), the hot meal didn’t feel very refreshing.  I just hoped our AirBnB guests wouldn’t walk in to see me shirtless - sweating over a bowl of some yellow substance.   

By the time I finished it, I felt so full and gross, that I immediately went to our bathroom to get naked and floss my teeth.  Wait… let me clarify this.  I have rather large teeth that probably held 60% of the chicken I cooked.  I can’t stand it when I get food stuck in there.  And I had to get naked while flossing because I was still overheated.

This photo was not from the “Mac Massacre,” but of another night I attempted to cook. This mess was about half of my mac and cheese attempt.

This photo was not from the “Mac Massacre,” but of another night I attempted to cook. This mess was about half of my mac and cheese attempt.

When I cooled off enough to put my shorts back on, I went back into the kitchen to see crap all over the counters and a giant pile of dishes in the sink that I now had to clean.  Oh, and also I had still left the stove on.

In the end, I didn’t die of salmonella and I didn’t burn the house down.  But the whole disaster took up so much of my evening that I didn’t even get to write.  It made me appreciate what Luke does for me on a whole new level.

When Luke cooks for me every night, I thank him for doing so.  But the problem was that I had been thanking him for something I had gotten WAY too accustomed to.  When we say things like “thank you” and “I’m sorry” over and over again, the words can become a bit meaningless.

I realized in that moment that my thank you’s had become more of a courtesy rather than actual appreciation.  Luke deserves WAY more credit than that.  Now, when dinner is served, I try to find ways to be more intentional about my thank you’s.  

I thank him before I even take my first bite and take a second to remember how much I appreciate this meal I didn’t have to cook.  Once we finish eating, I thank him again - somehow trying to make it sound less redundant.  Instead of going right back to working, I find what little things I can do to help him clean up first.

Also, when you go too long without doing something for yourself, you will forget how to do it.  I am sure it’s like riding a bicycle.  But I don’t even have time to ride bicycles these days.  As a result, until this whole writing adventure finds a more stable place, I’ll have to continue to rely on him for his help.

When Luke got home, he asked how my evening was.  I told him that I had a bit of a kitchen nightmare.  A few days later, he’d look in the fridge and had seen the leftovers in the Tupperware.  Between the gross artichoke slop and my more deliberate gratitude, he knew that his help did in fact have a huge impact on my life.

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

Dealing With Douches

A few months ago, my friend Alan, who runs an event company, asked me if I’d like to work a major charity function for him.  We would load, deliver, and unload heavy furniture on Friday, then strike down the event late Saturday night, and finish returning the furniture on Sunday.  He would pay good money and we could see the international hip-hop-pop star, Flo Rida, perform at this event.

Pursuing your dreams can mean living quite broke until said dreams can come true.  I have to take up some odd jobs here and there to bring in income. When I do these odd jobs, I like them to be as mindless as possible.  My brain is worn out enough as it is and he will go on strike if I shove much else inside him (insert butt joke here). So, I accepted Alan’s offer.

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I admit that I had juuuust enough hipster in me to not know who Flo Rida was. Alan was floored and immediately played a few songs for me - knowing that somehow I would recognize them.

“He’s one of the top grossing artists right now,” he said.

“He’s sold over 80 million albums,” he said.

“It will be an amazing show.  People would kill to see it,” he said.

I DID recognize these songs maybe from the gym or a bar or a cruise ship or something, and I could see why people would find it fun (because I am not soooo hipster that I would act like I was above it).  On a separate note: people need to stop killing for Flo Rida tickets. Violence is not the answer. Anyway, this essay is not about Flo Rida.

I asked my partner, Luke, if he would like to come work the Saturday strike down with me and see the show too.  Luke had juuuust enough country in him to not know who Flo Rida was either. Actually, he’s filled to the brim with country.  I’m also just enough hipster to mock him for this.

Luke sacrifices a chunk of his income to help me survive while I pursue a dream as a writer, so he could’ve also used the money.  He also enjoys mindless busy work since his job requires a lot of his brain. Besides, it would build a fun new memory together. He agreed to come work too.

A few days before this gig started, I ended up coming down with a nasty cold.  I won’t claim it as the flu, but it was awful. I felt light headed and lethargic with some body aches.  The mucous coming out of my nose was like water coming out of a fire hydrant. But I needed the money, so I had to at least go try.  

When Friday came, I went to the job site where I met with Alan and a couple of other guys he had hired.  One was a short, nice florist who he had flown out from Texas. The other was a ginger guy who looked like he might have been kicked out of a trailer park.  

I had met the ginger guy at a previous job.  I didn’t interact with him much before, but I could tell I would struggle with him.  He was like this hyper-masculine mix of a know-it-all, a Captain Obvious, and a Bossy Betty.  

Four hours later, another guy showed up to work as well.  He had a ponytail along with the same obnoxious vibe as the other guy.  Once the two of them joined forces, they became incredibly bossy and condescending.  Before I could pick up or set down a piece of furniture, they told me how to do it as if I were too stupid to know.  

I told them both how I was genuinely sick with a cold.  That information didn’t seem to matter. If I sat down to rest from getting too dizzy or achey, they wouldn’t ask if I was okay.  They’d just bark on how I needed to keep up.

Instead of words of encouragement, I got words of shame.  Instead of offering guidance, they offered criticism. Instead of being a team, their demeanor created an atmosphere of “us vs them.”  I didn’t know how to handle it and the whole experience started to feel degrading.

That evening, when I got home, Luke had dinner waiting for me.  I hurt so bad I could hardly move. The moment I took my first bite, I started crying.

“Why are you crying?” Luke asked, concerned.

Part of it was tears of joy.  I felt so grateful to have Luke, who helps me so much.  But the other part was because I had this horrible Ginger Douche and Ponytailed Douche telling me what to do all day when they hardly looked like they could take showers.  What happened to me? I felt like such a loser.

“You’re not a loser,” Luke comforted me.  “We’re doing what we need to do so that you can succeed at your writing.  And tomorrow night we will have lots of fun seeing the show and working together.”

The next night, we made it just in time to see the Flo Rida show.  When the show ended, our strike down was to immediately begin. Up popped another one of Alan’s employees - a gap-toothed girl who I had also encountered before and didn’t find pleasant.  She immediately spouted off directions that weren’t very clear. If you asked her to clarify, she’d talk to you like you were an idiot.

We stripped down flowers, vases, and table clothes - bringing them to the side of the room where she and other employees could organize them and pack them away (except the gorgeous flowers which went in the trash).  When Luke found a unique item, he asked her where she wanted him to put it.

“Put it on that cart,” she snapped.

He started placing it on top of the cart.  Gap-Toothed Girl Douche ran over, huffing and puffing, yanking it out of his hands and placing it on the lower part of the cart.  Her body language screamed “UGH, DO I HAVE TO DO EVERYTHING MYSELF?”

I wanted to say, “Yes, you do have to do everything yourself when you can’t properly tell anyone how to do anything in the first place.”  Though, if I had said it, it would have looked incredibly strange seeing as how she didn’t actually say her part. She constantly acted as though we were an imposition rather than a help to her.  Nothing makes you feel worse than this when you’re enduring tough, physical labor.

Later, when Luke came back after helping all of them at the loading dock, he pulled me aside.  “You weren’t kidding,” he said. “They are ALL obnoxious!”

I joked.  “See? Now do you understand why I came home and cried last night?”

We laughed and I thanked God my partner was there to help me get through this.  

When we made our first trip to unload stuff, we (and the other minion-temp-workers) worked our asses off taking box after box from the truck to their store.  Gap-Toothed Girl Douche stood aside talking to Alan. Out of nowhere, she broke from their conversation and said loudly at us, “Keep working you guys!”

This stunned me.  Why did she feel the need to say that?  None of us had stopped working! What in the hell was her problem?  She’s not even hauling any boxes herself. What the fuck?!   

Alan had said nothing.  Did he not find that a little weird, or inappropriate, or uncalled for?  Maybe he was used to her and therefore didn’t notice. Either way, I was beyond irritated.  How could she deem it necessary to order us around when we were already working so hard and she was just standing there?

Once an appropriate distance away, I told Luke, “I am going to punch her in the face before the end of this night?”

Another one of us temp-workers, a cute black lesbian girl, overheard me and laughed at my joke.  “I can’t believe this either,” she said. “I’m getting pissed off.”

“Luke, I don’t know if I can come back and finish up tomorrow.  I am going to lose my mind if I have to work with these people anymore.”  He understood what I was talking about.

I stopped and asked the lesbian and another temp-worker guy if they’d be back the next day.  I figured it’d be helpful to at least have them to roll eyes with each other. Unfortunately, they both said they wouldn’t come back because of the douches.  Clearly, we weren’t the only ones affected by this. But none of us were saying anything.

Back at the hotel, we began taking down cabanas and moving furniture.  It was 3 a.m. and I stopped for a moment so I could eat a burrito. You might have read before how I tend to eat burritos at the most awkward moments.  

The Ponytailed Douche did not seem to take kindly to this.  “Scott, do you think you could start helping the rest of us,” he said loudly, in front of everyone.

“I’m just grabbing a quick snack.  I’ll be right there,” I said.

“We need you to do your work so we aren’t here all night.”

Was my taking five minutes to eat really going to derail us?  “I’ve been working for five hours. If I don’t eat I’ll pass out.”  I wasn’t lying. I get very light headed if I go too long without eating.

“Oh yeah?  Well, I have been working since 8 a.m.”

I failed to see the relevance and refused to give into him.  “Well, I still need to eat.” (Looking back on it, the better response would have been, “Well, you should stop and have a snack too.”)

After we loaded a bunch of furniture onto the freight elevator, I decided I needed a moment to myself to decompress.  I told Luke to tell them that I’d take the other elevator and meet them down there. Luke passed on this information. However, Ginger Douche didn’t absorb this information.

“SCOTT!” Ginger Douche screamed.  “SCOTT, WHERE ARE YOU?! WE NEED TO TAKE THIS STUFF DOWN!  SCOTT, WE ARE ALL WAITING ON YOU!”

That was it.  I lost it. “JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!” I screamed back.  “YOU DON’T NEED ME TO RIDE DOWN IN THE FUCKING ELEVATOR WITH YOU!  YOU CAN TAKE IT DOWN YOURSELVES AND I WILL MEET YOU DOWN THERE IN A FUCKING MINUTE!!”

This was not me.  I mean, yes, I have a dirty mouth, but I don’t curse people out.  And sure, I’m kind of a bipolar mess, but a mild mannered one at that.  What would Alan say? What would Flo Rida say?

An actual photo from the actual freight elevator from the actual night of the actual strike down.

An actual photo from the actual freight elevator from the actual night of the actual strike down.

Had Alan heard me, I probably would have looked like the asshole.  He would have been appalled. Come to think of it, if he reads this blog, he will probably be appalled now (sorry, Alan).  I guess that’s what happens when we write in transparency.

When I took the elevator and met them at the loading dock, Luke grabbed me.  “Yeah. I don’t want you coming back to work tomorrow.”

If Luke said this, you knew I had to stop dancing around with these douches.  I had to figure out a way to tell Alan that, unless I could do a job where I didn’t have to interact with these people, I couldn't come back.  I’d end up in a straight jacket. But how could I tell him this? How could I tell him that three of his people were so obnoxious, I was about ready to slap, stab, or kill?

When we finished loading up the giant 26’ truck, Luke and I road with Alan to deliver the next set of furniture to his warehouse.  We wanted to press him for details about the douches.

“So, are these guys employees of yours?” Luke asked.  Although Alan wouldn’t catch on to it, Luke was trying to create an opportunity for me to tell him how much I was struggling with these people.

Alan talked about them.  Gap-Toothed Girl was a florist and a single mom.  The other guys were movers that he regularly contracted with.  He described them as total workhorses, to which he was right. They didn’t slow down for a moment (the guys anyway).  He even talked about their lives - describing their personal struggles. By the end of the ride, I realized a few things.  

First, I didn’t really know anything about these people.  I didn’t know what they had been through or the journey they had taken that had somehow made them so bossy and frustrating.  I had forgotten how important it is to be more tolerant and empathetic even when it’s not convenient for me.

Second, I realized that they were no longer fucking with me.  I had actually stood up for myself. When people are unkind to me, I disable like a robot and shut down.  This inadvertently causes me to take their shit, but I had proven that I wouldn’t tolerate them bossing me around or talking down to me, and that felt pretty incredible.

Third, I realized I had stood up for myself...in the worst way possible.  There could have been a dozen better ways to tell them them they needed to tone down their condescending rudeness.  I lost my temper, and with it, I lost my sense of professionalism. I had responded to their douchiness with my own douchiness.  Instead of taking the high road, I had become a bit of a douche myself (just a small bit).

The key thing when it comes to dealing with terrible people is that it’s up to me on how I let them and their ill-spirited words affect me.  People technically can’t “make us” feel things. I truly have a choice in how much other people like this impact me, as well as how I respond to it.  Several of my mentors had taught me this over the years, and in my exhaustion and frustration that night, I lost sight of it.

When we got out of the truck, I told Luke that I would come back and work the next day after all.  If I didn’t, then I would be giving them the power to stand in my way of an opportunity to make great money in a short amount of time.  Besides, I had made a commitment to Alan, and I didn’t want to let him down.

That night, our work ended at 5 a.m.  Luke and I didn’t get to bed until 6 a.m. and I only got about five hours of sleep before waking up to head back to the warehouse to unload the final furniture.

If it was up to me on how I respond when dancing with douches, then I needed to have a game plan.  So, I went to work like a total professional: drugged to the gills. Well, maybe not “the gills.” But I loaded myself up with coffee and Xanax - a combination that doctors perhaps wouldn’t recommend.

A better route in handling douchebags would be to meditate and read self help books on dealing with anger.  But sometimes it’s okay to just let ourselves be chemically calmed (and wired) every now and then in order to tolerate terrible people (and lift heavy things).  

When I arrived to the warehouse, I only had to work with Ginger Douche and a new guy - one who was very kind.  Ginger Douche and I didn’t say much to each other. Perhaps standing up for myself still stuck, or maybe he was on some Xanax of his own.  Regardless, the job only took two hours which made it well worth the money.

Afterwards I talked with Alan - not about anything deep or relevant, but it reminded me of why I appreciate him.  He is a good man and a dedicated entrepreneur. He probably doesn’t notice these people’s demeanors as I imagine they don’t talk down to him they way they did to us.  Or maybe he does notice and feels it’s worth their hard labor. It doesn’t matter.

Douches will always exist, but the fact of that matter is that we don’t know their backstory or how they came to have more abrasive personalities.  In the end, we have the power to accept or deflect that energy. If necessary, we can stand up for ourselves without necessarily being abrasive back - perhaps even offering a little compassion.    

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.

The World Naked Bike Ride

By the time I had discovered The World Naked Bike Ride (WNBR), Denver had cracked down on it’s nudity laws.  That year, a small group would still attempt to pull it off. Somehow I did get invited to participate, but I couldn’t risk getting arrested and turned down the offer.

Since I wouldn’t ride, I at least wanted to cheer them on.  So, Luke and I went to the route and played with slingshots (because we are adults) until they arrived.  Only about eight people participated which slightly broke my heart. I don’t think they got arrested though, which made my heart happy.  My heart is all over the board.

The World Naked Bike Ride is a mass, clothing-optional bike (and any “human powered transport”) ride that now takes place in over 74 cities across 17 countries.  The purpose is to raise awareness about the vulnerability of bikers (etc.) on the road, protest the excessive usage of oil, and promote body-positivity. Portland has one of the largest events ranging anywhere from 8k-10k participants in recent years.  

Let’s have a small recap of my last essay: Luke and I went to Portland during the WNBR.  We stayed with an awesome couple who had bikes for us. Luke is not a naked guy, nor does he like large crowds, but he decided to join anyway knowing that he could stay dressed.  And even though I have been doing nude recreation for years, I still didn’t know what to expect. Got it? Awesome.

Our hosts and bike ride guides  @pvergari  and  @papahoneybear

Our hosts and bike ride guides @pvergari and @papahoneybear

The ride kicks off with participants meeting up at an undisclosed-disclosed location where they pre-rally (with or without clothes) before the event begins.  Our hosts apparently couldn’t wait for the pre-rallying. Like dedicated nudists, they got naked before even leaving the driveway.

Biking our way to the location bare-assed made me slightly nervous.  It’s one thing to ride a bike naked with thousands of others surrounding you doing the same thing but It’s another to just ride randomly down streets filled with restaurants, bars, and even people’s houses, where their unsuspecting puppies would see us.  Seeing as how I try to do things that scare me, I went ahead and stripped down with them.

It had been a good while since I’ve ridden a bike.  I am not the most coordinated person and I have a tendency to trip over my own two feet (or anybody else’s feet for that matter).  Therefore, when I hopped on the bike, I immediately started flipping the wheel back and forth - trying not to fall down like a five year-old.  That would be embarrassing enough with my clothes on. Once I stabilized, I caught up with Luke and our nude comrades.

Riding a bike in the buff is an incredibly strange sensation.  You become incredibly aware of your own crotch and also that you are the center of attention.  Some onlookers seemed shocked and confused while others cheered us on. Even the puppies showed their excitement per their excessive barking.  

As you’d think, you really do feel that airy breeze right on your balls.  It made me wonder what this might feel like for a woman. I imagined how much more awesome this would be if vaginas made whistling sounds when hit with a gust of air.  That would make the WNBR a bit more of a musical experience.

Portland is not necessarily the warmest city.  This fact has made me realize why most cities that have allowed public nudity sit in cooler climates - they don’t think much of anyone is willing to take advantage of it.  As a consequence, by the time we arrived to the meet-up locations, my nether-regions had turned into never-regions (worst joke ever). I kept blowing hot air into my cold hands and cupping myself hoping to loosen things up.

Photo with  @aguynamedclair

Photo with @aguynamedclair

The pre-rally was already in full swing and about a third of the folks had already gone full-monty.  I no longer felt out-of-place as I did on the ride over. Rather, things started to feel communal - like I was now a part of something bigger than myself.  

Naturally, there was a small subsection where the gays would pre-rally on their own.  Even though it seems like I’m a pro at this naked thing, I always feel a little anxious about adventures like this.  Being exposed in front of new peers feels vulnerable. Initially, you worry whether or not you’ll be good enough.

Our hosts introduced us to a few of their friends and I even ran into some folks I knew on my own.  Everyone’s kindness quickly reminded me that no one is there to judge. Naked people just want to be free and have a good time.  Like all nude events I have attended, the energy is collaborative rather than competitive. Luke even felt inspired to take his shirt off (that’s HUGE)!

But our pre-rallying time got cut short as our hosts wanted to get towards the front of the starting line sooner rather than later.  Eventually, I would understand the need for this. Even being on the front lines, the ride, at times, would get congested. Hence, I could see how extremely stop-n-go it would get for the middle and back end.

As I mentioned in the previous essay, while waiting for the ride to begin, Luke tapped me on the shoulder and handed me his shorts to put in my bike’s basket.  I was so busy taking it all in that it took me a good moment to notice my partner, who won’t even get naked to sleep, had now bared it all for the bike ride.

Seeing Luke get THAT much out of his comfort zone made me aware of something else: we had entered a “love-bubble.”  This is when people are so happy, excited, supportive, enthusiastic, and all the other wonderful things that make up rainbows and unicorns.  The positivity is just spews from one person to the next (which sounds dirty but it’s not).

We had been in a bike love-bubble before when we did the AIDS/Lifecycle back in 2012. Concerts, or sportsball games, or even peace rallies can’t possess this energy.  All tension is gone and the air is so thick with glee, you could cut it with a knife (though you wouldn’t want to). Love-bubbles happen so rarely that some people don’t ever get to experience them.

As the ride began, things started off wobbly.  Naked bikers tried getting their bearings as several came close to running into each other (myself included).  But nobody argued or yelled about it. No one tried shoving each other or told folks to hurry up. Instead, riders offered up quick apologies, most often accompanied by laughter.

This bubble was turning out to be the bubbliest bubble of any bubble I had ever bubbled in.  I was certain this had to do with the fact that 85% of the participants had no clothes on. It sounds like a weird connection, but think about it... have you ever seen an enraged nudist?  

This is why I encourage so many people to experiment with social nudity.  Though no scientific study has ever been done, I can say firsthand that something chemically changes a person’s mood when they strip down.  Whether it’s serotonin, adrenaline, or whatever it may be, people just feel better. And when we feel better, we tend to act kinder.

Getting all of these good naked vibes while riding down public streets made the experience feel purely electric.  Not a single bystanders or onlooker had a horrified look on their face. Rather, they cheered us on - pumping more camaraderie into the air.

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Though, I was correct in that vaginas did not whistle in the wind, the experience was still fairly musical.  Every-so-often, a rider would have booming speakers attached to their bike. Even if they blasted music that I hated, I still loved the way it delighted those around me.

The people who chose to remain clothed didn’t drag down the energy.  More often than not, they helped to enhance it by sporting fun outfits - making the experience quite colorful too.  At one point, a guy pulled up next to me wearing a pineapple costume.

Think about this for second.  I got to ride on a bike… completely naked… in public… next to a pineapple!  How fucking awesome is that? How many people can even say something like that?  This is the benefit of getting to do things that scare you: bragging rights.

Then we witnessed the one thing that should legitimately scare us when undertaking such an adventure: a woman crashed her bike.  I am not sure exactly what happened, but as her bike went down, she flew over the handlebars. I thought how awful it must have felt for her big boobs to smash against the pavement.  I’m guessing lady boobs are pretty sensitive.

When I looked back to see if I should help, I began swaying into other riders and cars.  In order to not crash myself, I had to pay to attention to what was ahead of me rather than what was behind me (kind of like life).  I did at least catch a glimpse of a horde of riders stopping to help her.

Next, the riders slowed down and pulled into a public park - finding spots to set their bikes down and mosey around.

“Are we taking a small break?” I asked our hosts.

They informed me that the WNBR had reached the end of its route.  BUT THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!  WE HAVE ONLY BEEN RIDING FOR LIKE 30 MINUTES!  We had, in fact, been riding for over three hours.  The time didn’t just fly, it completely disappeared.

Fortunately, the bubble didn’t entirely burst.  In the park, a DJ booth had been set up where a DJ pumped out some loud electronic dance music (EDM).  Flames would burst out of a pipe attached to the the booth and people would cheer as they danced around naked - many with lights attached to themselves.  I imagine this to be like a little mini-version of burning man (which is what I desperately need to do next).

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That being said, the four of us were hungry and cold and even the occasional fire-burst from the DJ booth could not keep us warm.  We needed to exit and find shelter in some trendy Portland restaurant. Sadly, this also meant I had to put on my clothes.

We found a chic safe-haven along the route of the WNBR which was jam-packed with other riders who wrapped up their night.  As we stood in line to order our food, naked people would dart in to use the joint’s bathrooms.

This helped me realize that my night wasn’t entirely over.  The restaurant had clearly become nude friendly for that evening.  Thus, when we sat down to eat, I immediately took my clothes off again.  Now, I could check another “first” off my list: eating dinner completely naked in a public restaurant.

It’s funny.  As I am writing this essay, I am on an airplane and completely wiped out after having to wake up at 5 a.m. and drive four hours to get to the airport.  This combo had made me fairly cranky (just like those screamy airplane babies). But getting to sit here and describe the WNBR has brought a sense of calm and joy back to my heart.  

When it came to the WNBR, there was no disjuncture to occur or lesson to be had.  I went in there knowing it’d be great and it exceeded my expectations. It just further solidified my theory that life is better when we bare it all.  Sure, it may feel awkward and weird at first, but in the end, we wind up relating to one another and encouraging each other.

What I did learn was that as sad as I am about my home city of Denver not allowing this, I was also grateful.  The more we have access to something, the less we tend to appreciate it. And a love-bubble like this is certainly not worth bursting.  

 

Edited by Glen Trupp

Copyright © 2018 The Bare InkSlinger, All rights reserved.