Musings & Observations / Barry Halpin
Connection, I just can't make no connection. But all I want to do is get back to you. -- The Rolling Stones, Connection
Ah, summertime. The livin' is easy, the thermometer and humidity are climbing, there's a major spike in the "cranky" index and the insanity barometer in the world is skyrocketing.
On the homefront, I'm doing my best to keep the angst and drama at manageable levels. I know there's not much I can do about the heat and a turbulent world except rant and rave and hope for a major infusion of sanity in the world.
Since it's really too hot to rant and rave, what follows are musings about stuff that irritates me, observations about relationships in the modern world where love is only a keystroke away, and some recent moments in my absurd, Cirque De Soleil world, that made me smile.
I imagine one of the reasons the Danes are the happiest people in the world -- Americans aren't even in the top 10 -- is they have free health care. I doubt if free health care is coming to our shores anytime soon, but what I would really like is to show up for a 9 a.m. doctor's appointment and not feel like I just walked into Grand Central Station during rush hour. Upon arrival, the waiting game begins with patients searching through stacks of magazines for a magazine they won't find, patients surreptitiously checking out other patients, the requisite looks to kill when a late arrival gets to go see the doctor before you, and repeated looks at one's watch.
Waiting -- Act II follows. The nurse calls out your name like you're on a game show -- "Come on down Barry Halpin" -- escorts you to your own private waiting room and tells you, "Please put on the gown, the doctor will be right with you." Yeah right, like this is my first visit to a doctor's office. Then it's time to struggle with the johnny coat. I usually get the one with a missing string in back so I have to make like a circus side show contortionist to tie it, wishing all the while I was triple jointed.
I have had enough with all the medications advertised on television, where a voice speed reads off a mind numbing laundry list of side effects that requires taking other medications to combat the side effects from the original medication, creating a vicious loop of side effects insanity, and making pharmaceutical companies even richer.
A society that has a National Organization of Professional Organizers to help the rest of us malingerers and malcontents get organized, as well as life coaches to help us achieve Danish-like ultimate happiness, proves the point that there is only so much multitasking any one human being can do and what a nutty, neurotic world this is.
In most aspects of modern day life there are now more choices than ever before. Take meeting and greeting people. Years ago it was definitely a lot simpler. There was the basic handshake with various levels of firmness and the kiss, with a few variations on a theme.
Since then, our culture has added the hi-five, the lo-five, flashing the peace sign, the power handshake, bro clench, complex handshake dances with various levels of hipness, snapping and choreography and the ubiquitous hug with an array of styles ranging from the half hearted hug to the "I really care about you" hug. The kiss has added some new options as well, now including the faux air kiss, the European peck on each cheek, the simultaneous hug and kiss with smooch sound and the "Wow, what a kisser you are" kiss.
There are times when I'm not quite sure what greeting to go for, and it's always a little bit uncomfortable when I go for the handshake and they go for the hug/kiss or vice versa. It can quickly degenerate into a very ugly looking greeting cha-cha.
In these crazy, stressed out times there is an incredible amount of uncertainty and people don't know what to believe. It seems that people are trying to connect with others more than ever before, looking for companionship and/or love, a soulmate or a friend with benefits, often reaching out electronically to people they don't know and sharing intimacies they've never shared with anyone else. Commonly known as the spill-your-guts-to-a-stranger syndrome, it use to occur only on buses, planes and trains.
A friend of mine, after recounting a litany of dating horror stories, says it is finally time to throw in the dating towel. She swears she's had it with single bars, single weekends at Club Med, personal ads, tai-chi on the beach at sunrise and chat rooms where, coincidentally, everyone is attractive and successful, with at least three ultra cool tattoos.
She has also given up on speed dating, health clubs for the buff and beautiful, spiritual singles retreats and her friends valiant (but inevitably doomed) attempts to hook her up with Mr. Right, who quickly turns into Mr. Oh-So-Wrong. She's now embracing the Zen koan, "When you stop looking, you shall find what you're looking for," as well as the Internet axiom, "People on line often talk with forked tongue."
I tried to explain what she was up against. How women are an eternal mystery to men, how we have a considerably smaller area in our brain for processing emotion than they do, how we long for an instruction manual to provide some much needed help, and the inherent difficulty of the dating-mating ritual.
In addition, the fact that the romantic part of a man's brain is located right next to the prehistoric part of his brain can create difficulties during dating. When the man is feeling in a romantic mood, his neurons often fire like a July 4 celebration, leading to overload and massive confusion -- then the caveman part kicks in, usually scaring the woman away.
I've been out of the dating game for a long time, but when I think of the dating landscape then and now, I can't help but think of eharmony.com, whose ads are everywhere, and their grandiose claim that they will match you with someone on 29 inside dimensions of compatibility, as they take you on an exciting journey to your soulmate.
My take is that if you're really compatible with someone on 29 dimensions, your relationship will take you on a journey to the dimension known as the Twilight Zone, where you will end up driving each other nuts from over-compatibility. There's definitely something to be said for the good old we're-not-compatible-on-this-issue argument to keep a relationship vibrant.
It wasn't a Kodak moment but it certainly was a "sign of the times" snapshot. I walk into Mike's Pizza of Fairfield to order some pizzas to go and see a couple sitting opposite each other, making eye-contact solely with their smartphones -- responding to pings and beeps. In the 15 minutes I'm there, they didn't look or say one word to each other. Transfixed by the task at hand and connecting to people who were elsewhere, their conversation was in the pause mode; they were alone together. I smile thinking that maybe their relationship had evolved to the point where talking was totally unnecessary, that they had accomplished the classic "Star Trek" Vulcan "mind-meld."
I arrive home early one stormy evening. Everything seems usual, yet I sense something is not quite right. Suddenly, the family room door flies open and my wife and daughters step out, wearing Stepford Wife-like smiles and blank stares.
I try to fend it off but the realization pierces my brain. To my horror, my home has mysteriously been transformed into the Mood Swing Motel, which makes the Bates Motel from "Psycho" seem like Club Med in Ibiza.
My daughters do their best child from hell, Linda Blair impressions from the "Exorcist," heads spinning furiously, as my wife explains how they have concluded that I am an emotional Neanderthal and need to shape up.
"But hon, some of my women friends tell me that I am a reasonably well developed male, emotionally, and that in fact I am close to the highest level a man can reach. I realize that's not very high but it's all relative."
"They're just being nice, and remember, they don't have to live with you."
"C'mon, I'm a guy. I have built-in genetic deficits in this area. I know that I can never approach your levels of sensitivity and emotional maturity but I am trying my best."
I understood that I was dealing with three incredibly irrational, neurotic human beings who had spent way too much time watching Lifetime chick flicks, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), the Oxygen Channel, the brand-new Empowerment Network, plus the occasional Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp movie.
"Barry, there's this Lifetime movie on now that we think you should watch with us."
I'm desperate to escape and feel I have no choice but to bolt upstairs and seek sanctuary watching Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.
Erin's boyfriend's recent comment, "How does your dad manage to live with three women," echoes in my mind.
Later, as I'm dozing off, listening to John Coltrane's "The Way You Look Tonite," thinking back to how incredible my wife looked when I met her at that bus stop in Los Angeles and how a boy from the Bronx and a Dublin lass managed to make a go of it, Kelly startles me by announcing that she just ate some raspberry sorbet and now has major brain freeze.
There's a dramatic pause and she says, "Dad, how sweet would it be if a fairy godmother could whisk me off to Never Never Land when I need to get away from all the craziness."
"Yeah, Kels, but what would be even sweeter would be if world sanity was only a wave of the wand away."