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Men want Function. Women just want Cute.

Men and women are completely different when it comes to making a decision. I’m not talking about the hunters (men) that walk into a store, buy what they came for and leave compared to women (gatherers) that go from store to store browsing and gathering information before deciding on a purchase. I’m talking about the features of an item that are important to a man versus what might be important features to a woman. Men typically will pick something that has the most utility whereas a woman will go for the item that looks ‘cute’ (Their word. Not mine.). Men want to know what it does, and women want to know what it looks like.

Let’s start with shoes. The men’s shoe department is a fraction of the size of the women’s shoe department in almost any store. Why is this? Well, women like shoes, and it goes straight to my point that fashion is MUCH more important to women. To a man, comfort is usually number 1 while fashion is farther down the list. What I typically do is go to the group of shoes that fit the job (men’s shoes are divided into groups by function – dress, casual, hiking…etc.) and pick the most comfortable pair that also has the most features – waterproof, slip resistant, steel toe, snake-bite proof… etc. Women go into their shoe department with some vague idea of what they might like and begin to shop. Heels or flats? What kind of heel – pump, stiletto, platform…etc.? Color – metallic, bright, natural? What kind of strap? Closed or open toe? Sandal or sling-back? Women ask questions like, “Can I wear these with jeans? Is the heel style going to change next year? What will this look like with a plaid skirt? Which handbag do I carry with it?” Men typically have two color choices – brown or black. So the conversation quickly moves on to, “Can I get these re-soled? Do they come in a slip on or just a lace-up? How well does it hold polish? What’s the arch support like?” Function versus Fashion.

Furniture may be the classic example of form versus function. Just go to an unmarried man’s place and compare it to an unmarried woman’s place and you know exactly what I’m talking about. Let’s start with the TV. Although men and women both make a television purchase based primarily on size, the size matters for very different reasons. For men, size ALWAYS matters, and the bigger the better. A man wants to feel like he is on the football field or in the movie, so the best way to achieve this is through the largest screen possible with the biggest speakers possible. And if a guy can fit a larger screen in the room, he will because he will always want his TV to be bigger than his friends’. Why? Just because. Then, it is on to decisions like plasma screen or LCD? (FYI – it depends on the glare) How many speakers for the surround sound? Cable or DISH? Which universal remote, how big is it (there’s that size thing again), is it compatible with my DVD player, and does it have a touch screen?

Women buy a TV based on how well it “flows” (again, not my word) with the rest of the room, and they don’t want anything that will detract from the pillows, pictures or furniture. Men won’t spend money on the other things because it means less money for the television. For a man, the television IS the furniture, and the only thing else needed is a comfortable place to sit and watch the television – the more functional the better (i.e. dual recliners with built-in console). Men prefer recliners to chairs because you can sit OR sleep. They are simply more functional. And like most things, for a recliner (or anything for that matter) to encompass the most features possible, you often lose some of the aesthetic appeal. Women generally hate recliners unless they are camouflaged to look like a real chair with a hidden footrest and no stick on the side. This is why one can often pick up a dual recliner off of Craig’s list from some guy that got married last summer. This is also why furnishing a house can be one of the greatest sources of conflict in a marriage. Men marry a woman expecting her to stay the same (i.e. continue to like his stuff after they get married – as if she EVER liked it), and they don’t. Women marry men expecting them to change (get rid of that goofy, bachelor guy stuff – you’re married now), and they don’t. Guys – if you think you’ll get to keep that 72” Plasma TV, don’t count on it. In fact, your new wife will probably tell you how you need a new place to live so you can start all over. Together. As a couple. …And, you will.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Husbands Are Constantly Calculating the Odds

Let me explain something you probably already knew… basically, married guys begin calculating the probability, or odds, of how night is going to end from the moment they walk in the door from work… and sometimes, the calculations begin as early as the mid-day ‘check-in’ call with your wife.

Most guys want the evening to end in a certain way every day of their lives. And after years of marriage, guys become very adept at interpreting and processing each mannerism and phrase their wife utters with the precision and speed of a Cray supercomputer. Each word, story and facial expression a wife conveys is a new data point that is then entered into the probability equation to generate an updated probability forecast. These calculations happen instantly, and the calculator constantly runs in the background. Once kids are part of the equation, then each of their words and actions become part of the calculation as well because we all know that the evening can go from >90% probability to 0% if one of the kids starts barfing.

Since women are difficult to read and impossible for the human male to fully understand, it is important to note that these are just forecasts and there is always a ‘chance’ factor to consider. Additionally, each word, phrase, incident or gesture must be re-calibrated as their predictive value can erode with time. As a result, men really have no idea what the real odds are, but we must soothe our curiosity by trying to quantify our chances anyway. And as a mathematics friend pointed out, “even though the odds on the night appear infinitely low, it is always a non-zero number because we can all remember times when we got a late night tap on the shoulder in the face of long odds. In fact, it probably would have paid off to play the lottery instead.”

To give a sense for how this plays out in a typical evening, assume husband A walks in the house feeling he has even odds on the night, or a 50% probability of a happy ending to the evening given that the midday call went well. He says, “Hello” and his wife says, “hey.” Odds have now dropped to 43% because her voice inflection was low and it wasn’t they typically chipper version of the evening welcome. Husband A then asks, “How was your day?” Wife A then responds, “terrible.” Again, not good, and the odds get another haircut to 30%. Husband A then says, “Can you tell me about it?” Wife A then goes into emotional download that involves a variety of issues pushing the odds ever closer to zero. But then she ends with, “…but I feel pretty good about everything.” Odds have just improved to maybe 15%. She then says, “And I did get to sit down for a few minutes before the kids got home from school, and the kids got most of their homework done before they got home so that wasn’t too bad, and dinner didn’t take very long…” Odds just improved to like 33%. Not great, but a big move from almost zero at the low. This example also gives you some sense for the emotional highs and lows we husbands feel on a daily basis.

A note to the young men: there are two periods of time when your probability calculator will give mis-readings. The first is when your wife wants to get pregnant and the second is when you have a baby in the house. If your wife wants a baby, then nothing will stop her. So don’t think you have things figured out, and don’t incorporate queues from this time period into your later statistical framework. The other time when your model will not produce good numbers is when you have a new baby in the house and your wife is going through a hormone overhaul. During this period, I don’t need to know a thing about your wife to know your odds are better playing the lottery.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

Being a Middle-Aged Dad Isn’t What I Expected

I thought middle-age was going to be different than this. Not sure exactly what I expected. I’m more fit and have a little more hair than I thought I would. I guess it’s not the physical ailments, but my perspective of all the little things around me each day that are different.

When I was young I thought I would be fatter and balder than I turned out. My hobbies keep me in decent shape, and my thinning hair issue is more an exercise in damage control aided by my religious and generous use of Rogaine. I really didn’t think my eye-sight would start to go at 43, but it has. I can read just fine, but I can’t see far away anymore which means I wave to people I don’t know and ignore the ones I do know. It also means I don’t notice attractive women from afar anymore because I really can’t see them. My wife is fine with this, and I don’t need to be ‘noticing’ other women anyway. In my youth when I would notice a woman walking in front of me with thin hips and a fit physique I would think to myself, “she looks pretty good.” Now the only two things that comes to mind is 1. I hope her dad doesn’t see her in that. 2. She’s gonna have c-section babies. Middle-age perspective.

I didn’t expect to be this tired. I feel like I walk around exhausted and kept awake by a steady caffeine drip. This might be alright if I could catch up on sleep over the weekend. When I was younger I thought I would be about 80-years-old when I stopped sleeping until 10:00 am on the weekends. The reality is that “sleeping in” means waking up by 7:00 or 8:00 in the morning regardless of how tired I am. Some guys my age start having to get up 3 or 4 times a night, but I don’t have that problem. In fact, I am usually so tired that some nights I don’t move at all. So, instead of worrying how many times I may have to get up each night, I’m more concerned about not waking up and wetting the bed.

Last Sunday, I noticed a man walking his 4-year-old twin daughters into church. After thinking about how cute they looked and admiring their smock dresses, all I could think about was how tired that guy must be, what a beating it must be to buy two of everything and wondering how much they spent on diapers. I also couldn’t help but notice his wife wasn’t with him. She was likely still in bed feeling like she had been shot with a tranquilizer gun. But I noticed the girls’ hair did look good, he didn’t do that so the mom had to have been awake at some point. Middle-age perspective…

And although my pop culture is a little rusty, and I sometimes make the girl at the grocery store card me, and the waiter didn’t get my Seinfeld joke/reference at dinner the other night, there are a few positives to getting older other than a Netflix account through my kids’ Wii. When I go to a restaurant with my girls I no longer have to get on my knees to clean up enough food to feed three refugee families they would drop on the floor during dinner. Middle-age perspective…

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

The Deal with My Wife was, “No Pet Rabbits”

When we got married, I had a few non-negotiable items: no cruise ships, no Chinese food buffets, no organ meats for dinner and no pet rabbits. None of these guidelines were an issue until about a year ago when we got our first pet rabbit.

We hadn’t planned on a rabbit, but my youngest daughter caught a cottontail bunny in a soccer field parking lot. I went to watch the game and came back to the car at half-time to find the rabbit with a new name and a bed in the back of our mini-van. I said no, and for the entire second half of the game my wife had enlisted the help of four other moms to pressure me into keeping it. I felt like the only guy going through fraternity rush with a ski boat. It was like some terrible combination of a vacation time-share pitch and a CIA interrogation. I couldn’t take the pressure, so we came home with the rabbit.

Life was fine for a couple of months until it got too hot for the rabbit to live in the yard and we had to move it to our shaded second story balcony. Then, one day when my younger daughter was taking it out of its cage to pet it, the bunny got loose and made a run for it – straight off the balcony. The rabbit fell to its near-death on the concrete driveway. Let me say that nothing will blow up your afternoon at work like your wife and a hysterical 9-year-old daughter explaining this traumatic event through tears and hyperventilation over the phone. In typical female fashion they wanted me to fix the problem over the phone, and they wanted it fixed now. My panicked wife asked where the guns were, and even suggested backing over it with her van to put it out of its misery. By the time I got them both calmed down, the little guy had passed. Every kid in the neighborhood knew what had happened within an hour and brought flowers for the funeral. There wasn’t a bush, flower or plant with a bud on it for a three-block radius. I couldn’t tell if the rabbit’s kid-made shrine looked more like Mother Theresa’s funeral procession or Jim Morrison’s grave.

I thought this was the end of the rabbit story, but that night in a moment of weakness with tears running down her face I told my 9-year-old I would get her a new bunny. After months of conversations with the rabbit guy (this is another story altogether), we finally got the call to come and pick out a bunny. We show up, and my youngest picks out a white bunny (without the red eyes – very important). Well, that’s not the one my wife and older daughter wanted her to pick. They wanted the grey and white one. Needless to say, after being hot boxed by my wife and two daughters (again) we came home with TWO rabbits. I call them the trophy wives because all they do is sit there, look cute and require attention. They really don’t DO anything.

This was fine until my wife unloaded a new rabbit hutch from her van that needed assembly. After I put it together it looked like the Ritz-Carlton in Beaver Creek sitting in my yard. It was definitely nice, and it made taking care of the rabbits much easier. Then, about a week later, my wife calls me at work (of course) to tell me the rabbits were gone. More tears. At first we thought they were stolen, then, a couple of days later, my neighbor found one of the rabbits in his yard and we figured they probably got loose while some kids were petting them – they do scratch. We thought the other was gone forever until my older daughter cornered it in our alley a few days later. It took off down our back alley with me, my wife and my 12-year-old chasing after it. We finally cornered at a neighbor’s house, so I climbed their 8-foot privacy fence and plopped into their yard hoping to get the bunny and get out before they called the police or I got peppered sprayed. After a LOT of instruction from my wife and daughter, I caught the rabbit and put her back in the hutch with her sister.

We are back to relative normalcy in Rabbitville, but I’m waiting for the next call at work from my wife to tell me of our latest crisis.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

I Should be a Quadruple Platinum Member at the Grocery Store

My excitement over a $12 coupon I received from the checker at the grocery store turned to frustration after thinking about how much money I spend on groceries each month and the best they can do is give me $12??? If this was an airline, I’d be a quadruple platinum member.

Groceries are the second most expensive item in our budget after the mortgage each month, which is why I go nuts when food (especially milk) is tossed out daily. This was until I got my $12 coupon. I appreciated the gesture at first, but then I began to think about it and just became annoyed. If I spent thousands of dollars on airline tickets each year, then I would be riding in first class, be served free drinks and get free tickets to Hawaii. But at the grocery store I get $12, a nickel a gallon discount on my gas (sometimes) and a thank you. Now I understand the grocery stores would argue they don’t have the profit margins to buy their customers free airline tickets, but the last time I checked Wal-Mart and other grocers were profitable and the airlines were filing for bankruptcy. Maybe that’s the point, but what about a REAL rewards program at the grocery store.

If you walk up to the ticket counter and flash a Quadruple Platinum (QP) member card at the airport, then you get free luggage check, go through the non-existent line for security clearance, get preferred seating, early boarding, free upgrades and other goodies. Why can’t the grocery stores do that for me???? Here’s the idea. For starters, in the parking lot I flash my QP card and get a decent parking spot so I don’t have to push my two grocery carts full of stuff a half mile to my sun-baked car when I am finished. Or, maybe free valet parking for me and the lady who has her baby, toddler and 5-year-old at the store buying two different sizes of diapers, boxes of wipes, gallons of formula and another grocery cart full of food (they must live in a tent or out of their car because I’m not sure how they have any money left over for anything else each month, or they’re billionaires).

Then, once in the store, QP members have a special cart that is clean and the wheels run straight, free upgrades on certain items – orange roughy for the price of catfish and maybe some tickets for a free drink to take the edge off for the times when you are there with your kids. I think special lines for QP members would be nice as well, so instead of taking a number and waiting 20 minutes at the deli counter, meat counter…etc., there is a special line just for the QP members. Then, at checkout, you get another special line for QP members that’s separate from the regular line that is 19 people deep and the express lane that is filled with mostly single people that spend $20 a week on groceries and can carry everything they just bought on their bike.

If all of this is too much to ask, then 4 roundtrip tickets to Maui will work.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved

“Mom, Dad has PMS Again…”

It’s true, Dads get PMS also, which means we go through bouts of ‘moodiness.’ ‘Moodiness’ is just a nice way of saying that dad is tired, irritable, tense and easily annoyed. I’ve noticed there are different types of male PMS, and there are a variety of risk factors and homeopathic therapies used to treat this ailment.

I have not seen any of the medical literature (nor am I a doctor) that describes or even acknowledges the existence of male PMS, but ask any guy (or their wife) if they experience episodes of irritability, fatigue, short-temperedness, increased heart rate, a rise in blood pressure and/or find they are easily annoyed while managing the emotions and issues of a female household, and I will tell you that these are the symptoms of male PMS. I have found this ailment can be acute or chronic in form, and can extend well past child bearing years – my wings are clipped and I still get it all the time.

There are certain risk factors associated with male PMS such as age, high caffeine intake, number of children in the home and the onset of sudden or prolonged stress can precipitate the condition. There are no laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis. Just the existence of one or more of the emotional conditions I have noted. The symptoms are also predictable when various stresses are introduced, and the symptoms subside once the stress is removed. I have noticed that as the number of children in a household rises, so does the caffeine intake, so some risk factors certainly exacerbate on another.

The acute or sudden onset of male PMS can occur when something completely unexpected occurs – usually via a phone call. Let’s say you live in a climate with cold winters and you have small children. Your wife figures out it is better to load the kids in their car seats with the garage closed so the kids (and her) don’t get cold while getting them buckled safely in their seats. Then, she can get in the car, close the car door and use the remote garage door opener to then raise the garage door and drive away without ever feeling the wave of cold. This is a brilliant technique for avoiding the cold, but not one most husbands would likely embrace or even know about until the day his wife uses this method while running late for an appointment. In haste, and given the limited view, it is easy for any wife to back into the garage door before it has fully opened when employing this technique. The subsequent phone call can lead to an acute onset of male PMS.

The chronic form of male PMS is typically the result of a combination of small factors that build on one another, and these episodes can persist for days or weeks at a time. For example, let’s say you take a new job in a city that is a 16-17 hour drive away while you have a 16-month old baby at home and your wife is 4 months pregnant. And for the next three months you are working to get settled into your new position while commuting back and forth to your pregnant wife and baby on the weekends. All of this while trying to buy a house in your new city, work out the logistics of a cross-country move, close on your new home, find contractors in a strange city so that your newly purchased home is ready for the movers to unload your 18-wheeler full of your stuff two weeks before Christmas. Let’s just say I am familiar with this situation, and it resulted in a case of chronic male PMS.

The first form of treatment is a quiet room with a TV remote. I think the ‘man cave’ was created as a homeopathic remedy for male PMS. If you find a guy in a catatonic state in front of the television, then I suggest you not ask a lot of questions. Guys are like nuclear reactors, once we get hot we just need some time cool off. Certain topics of conversation are like removing the cooling systems from the reactor in that it can just makes things worse. Know that male PMS eventually passes. Sometimes guys need to stay up late and watch TV (it’s the only time we get to enjoy our homes alone), sometimes we need to go to bed early (we often feel better after some good sleep), sometimes we need to do our hobby for a while (fish, bike, run, golf, hunt… etc.) and other times we just need our wives to talk us off the ledge. What is perhaps most frustrating about the male form of PMS is that we can’t establish a pattern and put it on our calendar each month.

© Johnny Hea – 2011 All Rights Reserved

Dad Wants a Thunder Jacket for Father’s Day. Not for the Dog, for Me.

After reading about how a Thunder Jacket is a drug-free solution to relieve my dog’s stress and anxiety, I’ve decided I need one more than my mutt.

The Thunder Jacket claims that, “It can be used to reduce and, in many cases, completely eliminate anxiety in your dog. It helps to provide relief from a number of situations your dog might find to be stressful, such as Loud Noise (fireworks, etc.), Storms/Thunder, Separation From Owner, Car Travel, Crating and Visitors.”

Mornings – When I think about my life raising and living with children, I find myself in “a number of situations I find to be stressful.” Let’s start with the beginning of the day. It would be very helpful for me to slide into one of these jackets on those Saturday mornings when I am awoken by my girls arguing downstairs while burning pancakes and destroying the kitchen. I think the calming effect of the coat would be useful before walking into a kitchen that looks like a car bomb went off in my pantry.

Car Travel – Like many dogs, I find car travel with kids to be one of the more stressful times in my life, and I would really like to put on one these coats before pulling out of the driveway for the open road. When I am locked in a tin can with the noise of girls arguing over spilled drinks, where we stop for lunch, movie choices, smelly feet….etc. the calming effect of this coat would be a welcome break and likely relieve the panting and uncontrollable shakes I get while driving.

Work – I find work a welcome respite from the mornings, evenings and weekends with my noisy kids. I would guess many air traffic controllers, Bering Sea crab fisherman and law enforcement officers feel the same way.

Getting home from work – I would definitely don my Thunder Jacket prior to walking into the house after work, and I would likely leave it on until the kids went to bed. Between the fights, homework, daily drama recap, kids not wanting to eat their dinner, kids not getting ready for bed, house repairs that cropped up during the day, bills and my stressed out wife, I think a drug-free solution for my evening strain and anxiety would be invaluable.

I’m really not too worried about the sizing or the fashion statement this garment would make. The Velcro straps appear to make sizing versatile. If it comes in a ‘fitted’ cut, I figure I could wear it under my clothes all weekend like a sort of soothing flack jacket. I prefer a size bigger than I need. At my age, most of my clothes are too big (for comfort), and I have a preference for anything that comes with an elastic waistband. I noticed these jackets are sized by weight instead of numbered sizes, which allows me to stay in denial as to my actual waist size.

So, if you are looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift, drive past the liquor store this year and head for the pet shop.

© Johnny Hea – 2012 All Rights Reserved