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The guide to being a young man, part deux, the sequel.

Since penning my original “guide to young men”, written several years ago, I’ve seen it reposted several times and had several people ask me to do a different version or expound upon it. So, here ’tis, the revised Guide Vers. 2.01, now with bold new graphics! In truth, I’ve changed or nuanced my opinion on some things, and there are things I didn’t get into on the first round that are important. This is sort of an addendum to the first list, and not really in any sort of order just as I think of them:

1. I have no interest in getting you laid, even if I had such a power. If your goal is just to meet a woman to get your noodle wet, consult Penthouse. If I could write a “how to emotionally manipulate a man into giving you all his shit, letting you walk all over him, then abandoning him like the chump he is” for women, I wouldn’t write it for the same reasons. The goal of all my advice where relationships are concerned is to help a person with good intentions meet a person they can be happy with, date, marry, etc. If your life’s mission is to rack up a bunch of hookups, first shut off that pesky humanity that keeps most of us from being serial cocksman, and second just go find women with some daddy issues and treat them like crap. It’s not rocket surgery, but it’s a sad way to live.

2. Something often said in complete error and cynicism time and again is that there are no decent women, or that women are evil, selfish beasts out to wreck your happiness. Even better, that there’s some magical foreign country where women are subservient goddesses and a much finer stock than our American ladies. Oh, you sad fucks. I regard any blanket assertion that casts exactly 50% of the nation’s population as a monolithic behaving entity like the retarded dreck that it is. There are hundreds of thousands of decent women, all potential dates and mates for you. Maybe not the poster-perfect ideal you’re thinking you deserve, but good women who you might be very happy with. They are out there, in spades. Just because your fucked up attractions and expectations put you in contact with the same 3 broken women over and over again does not give you the right or clarity to denounce the whole pasture. Women say worse about men as a whole, and they’re just as wrong. If you start your life with the idea that “all women are _______”, and fill that in with some pejorative, you are pretty much daring the gods to smite your attempts at finding a good mate. 99% of the battle is to be positive, confident, happy with yourself and making good choices so that one of those countless good women out there are in your path, and you run into her. If so far your exertion to find love and companionship is to play BF3 in your apartment with your two retarded roommates, you don’t get to say jack shit about all women. So when someone gives you the Debbie Downer view of the fairer sex, ask yourself how much life they’ve led…where have they lived, who they’ve been intimate with, and what each and everyone of those women would say about the dipshit standing in front of you. I’d bet it wasn’t glowing praise and probably well deserved.

3. There’s an analogy I want you to scorch into your little man-brain. It’s very important, and retardedly simple. Men’s instincts with women are much like the way we treat a pet dog. Dogs are like men, they’re simple and agreeable and if you smile and say “come here!” the dog will run to your side. You can manhandle him, throw him on the ground, rub his belly, grab his ears and he’ll wag his tail with delight. It’s how we are, so we tend to treat women the same way. Women, they’re like cats. If you yell at a strange cat to come here, it won’t. If you grab it and throw it down, attempt to rub its belly or its ears, it will attempt to claw your face off, or run terrified in the other direction. We know this is true, even of women, but often we’re just too fucking stupid to treat women in a way they respond to. How do you get a cat to come to you? You look interesting. You hold still. You offer a gentle hand if they show interest. You let them come and rub up against you. Then, you pet them gently and see if they respond favorably. This is how you need to be with women. Don’t pursue. Don’t yell. Don’t grab. Be interesting, be calm, be inviting. Be the thing they cannot resist coming to, instead of charging them with your boner out.

4. The cat analogy works with regards to sex, by and large. If you engage in the touching of girl parts (especially for the first time) like you’re painting a fence or trying to scrape the weather coating off of a roof, expect your performance to be judged in terms of how many showers it took her to wash the fail off. Treat a new girl like a cat; gentle, slow, methodical. Let her respond to you, and push against you when things feel good. At the very least, you’ll look like you’re taking an interest in her pleasure, and that means more than being a super stud. She might be a “harder/faster” girl, and if so you’ll figure it out quick, but don’t assume. Girls = cats. Got it?

5. On the topic of being attractive to women, let’s make a little effort ok? Women are usually very keen observers of your dress and the way you take care of yourself. Right or wrong, they’ll zero in on certain things to decide what kind of guy you are (and you’ll do it to her too…what does a lower-back-tat tell you? Same process). Women notice how you groom, big time. They notice your general build, they notice your shoes (a great amount of focus is on your shoes, believe it or not which if you think about it tells someone a lot about you). They notice how your hands look, your nails, your hair cut, all of it. All of these things send a signal, so make sure that the signal is the right one. I’m never going to tell a guy who lives in Arkansas and loves his truck and hunting to dress like he’s a graphic designer living in Soho, rather make sure that the signals you send represent your BEST qualities. If you’re a blue-collar guy, A nice Carhart jacket and Redwings, a good fitting pair of jeans, a nice henley shirt sends your message, and if you’re well groomed and your duds aren’t filthy trust me you look very appealing to women who think about a working man. See what I’m saying? It’s not about dressing to impress, it’s about dressing so that your character isn’t obscured in shitty clothes. If you’re a bit tacky, or you don’t know what you’re trying to convey, ask someone to help you out. Got a hot cousin? Tell her to take you to the mall and figure out what makes you look good. Just trust me your 13 year old Phantom Menace shirt, black Levis and cheap tennis shoes sends the message that you’re a chronic masturbator and possibly retarded. Clean your act up, and that is all part of my always important message of being the best version of you…and not just because you want a woman. Oh, and avoid neck-tats…unless you hate having a job AND a sane woman in your life.

6. One of the things that gets asked or said over and over again is that a young man will want to know how to get comfortable around women, or say that they’re awkward and don’t know what to talk about or say. This is nothing new, certainly countless young men have felt this way but there is something you can do about it. For one, don’t attempt to be a different you in the presence of women (or anyone else). Better to fail on honesty than to be thought a recluse because of your fear of being exposed. You might just find that you have more to talk about or say than you thought, but you have to talk to women with the same non-nonchalance that you would speak to your best friend’s little sister, or your cousin. You’re not aiming to impress, so it feels natural. Same here, you have to be able to put the brakes on your attraction enough to let you get past that first little hurdle…and it’s just a small hurdle that you can get past. I don’t normally prescribe tricks, but here’s one you can use if you’re in the company of someone you like and are having a hard time relaxing and being yourself. If you find yourself stumbling or feeling a little off, excuse yourself and say something like “Man, I don’t know why but I feel nervous. Isn’t that weird?” Say it very straightforward, and say it as if you are surprising yourself. It’s not a lie, you’re nervous, but it does something good which is address your feeling awkward and does it in a way that a woman will likely see as flattering. She’s evoking a reaction from you that you did not expect, and that will feel good to her…might even evoke some healthy sympathy (the kind that makes her want to make you feel better). The conversation that follows can be liberating for both of you, sometimes we just need a little permission to be scared. Women understand that. Women aren’t monsters, seriously. Well, some are. Cher for instance.

7. Another common theme I see with young men, and hell of a few old ones for that matter, is not being able to let go when they’re being jerked around. You meet a nice girl, you go out on a few dates, have fun and think she’s hot. Maybe you even sleep together, and then she start playing cold or is erratic or puts you off for mundane life. Newsflash: You ain’t doing it for her. Move. The. Fuck. Along. Now. Seriously, without going into a long explanation of the obvious, just ask yourself this simple question every time you face a luke-warm lady. If I am really into someone and it’s good, does ANYTHING stop me from being there or showing enthusiasm? Would a class? Would a busy schedule? Would another girl? No, no, and no. So, if you find yourself being played or stuck on the emotional tampon string, cut loose and never look back. For one, you save some much needed male dignity and for two if there’s a way to make someone realize you might be worth having afterall, it’s letting them know you’re off the hook (not that I suggest this as a motivation, but it happens). You don’t have to be mean, just move on with your life and stop taking their texts, or their half-assed tries, and go find your happiness with someone who doesn’t require all the work. Men are fixers, and we figure if you’ve gone out with us or let us down the panties (and it’s good), we can pry our way back in. That’s foolish, and desperate. Real attraction doesn’t require that, and again…think of the women like cats. When they want to rub your leg, pet them, but when they feel like roaming fuck it just a cat. Another will be by if you put your milk bowl out. Even if it’s hard, even if you really feel something, even if it kills you, don’t hang there waiting for it.

8. When it all goes wrong. If you start meeting women, going on dates, getting girlfriends or you’re already in that stage of your life and you find that in spite of your best attempts you just keep failing at relationships, put the handbrake on the blame game. It’s not the ladies, chief. The only constant is you, so it’s you. Let’s just get that right out there. I ate 9 times at White Castle before I realized that the diarrhea wasn’t the hamburgers, but my stomach protesting. I can blame the sliders, but at the end of the day I’m going to have to go elsewhere or spend some time in the shitter. Don’t be that dumbass. I’ve covered this in the first guide, but you are your attractions, and if they keep sucking then you owe it to yourself to break those cycles. Go somewhere else to meet them, hang out with different friends, join a new club, whatever the fuck it takes. And, when you find one that seems nice but isn’t just quite the ideal you’re used to, guess what? She’s probably the best choice because your trigger is broken. Start voting with the big head, and choose based on real actual compatibilities instead of “ooooh, feels right”. Because if you’re failing then “right” is “wrong”.

9. If you enter the online dating world, some pro-tips for you. Do not stand in a bathroom shirtless and take a picture of yourself in the mirror. This is sad, and desperate, and looks slightly homo-erotic. It works to pick up guys, tho. Also, under no circumstances should you ever aim that camera phone at your oddly misshapen dick. No one wants to see that shit. Women don’t want to, trust me. Well, I should say women that are worth dating don’t want to see your dick. Ever. Probably not even if they like you. If you post an ad, find a picture of you hanging with friends (this suggests you’re liked), make sure you’re all smiling (this suggests you’re fun), and make sure there’s at least one female and a dog in the group (this suggests you’re not creepy so as to scare off all females and pets). Do not post a long diatribe that attempts to dictate the terms of your many picky demands on women. Leave it wide open, mention that you’re fun and easy going, you love a girl that laughs and smiles, and will wrestle to determine which Meg Ryan movie you watch on your third date. You like good food, good friends, and wish you had someone special in your life. Don’t mention porn, your abs, or your car. I will write your ad for a small fee…usually for a picture of your penis.

10. Again, in summary, have some good honest self-awareness about who you are, who you want to be, and what someone who enters your life will be worth to you. Dating, relationships, marriage, they’re all just tests of your nature and willingness to learn. If you’re a dumb shit, you’re going to flail around and be unhappy and have unhappy people near you. If you can be honest, and roll with the punches and change the things that don’t work then you stand a good chance of having something worthwhile. There’s a lot of luck and happenstance involved when two people meet and fall for each other, but like hunting if you walk around waiting to shoot an animal it will take extraordinary good fortune to achieve what a good hunter can do regularly. Understand the movement and habits of your prey, empathize with their life, and put yourself in the best possible place to find the game you’re after. That means stepping outside of yourself and seeing you from the prey’s eyes. Even ugly, weird, and odd men find happiness in relationships. It’s not impossible, just a test of you, and that’s why it’s worth it.

The Union Label, careful where you put it.

I’m going to go off script and be political and serious…I promise it won’t be a habit.

I’m a union member, working in the private sector in Ohio, in a skilled trade with 20 years experience that required education and apprenticeship. I just compared the average state employee’s wages to my own. It’s higher than mine. Average bus drivers? More. IT people? More. Teachers? Firefighters? More. Police? More. They get twice as many days off (not counting teachers), have superior healthcare that costs a fraction of what I pay, pensions that humble mine, they get dental and vision, life insurance…all of which I have to pay extra for. Their retirement age is typically much lower than mine, their pensions set at a rate they can improve with OT helped by seniority, another advantage few have (I don’t).

I appreciate the jobs they do, the choice to serve the public for a living, but I’m having a hard time believing they speak for the middle class or workers everywhere, when they cry foul that the public (by way of its elected representatives) no longer wants the public unions to bargain against the taxpayer for pay and benefits the public doesn’t have access to. Many people, myself included, value state employees. I know your job isn’t always easy – but you work for me, and I’m getting tired of hearing what martyrs you are. You chose public employment, you sought it, and you should have known full well you work for that public not vice versa. In tough times where budgets are severely stretched, you’re being asked to live by the same standards of those you chose to serve, living with the same uncertainty and risk most of us do. You’re not being fired, you’re simply being asked to seek your own interests instead of having a big political body do it for you. Will you make less should collective bargaining be stricken from public employment? Maybe. Will you get less? Maybe. Maybe you were getting too much earning better than those you serve. If the voters are evil for asking this of you, and that’s who put Kasich in office btw, you can come walk in their shoes for a while. In fact, that’s the ultimate “collective bargaining”, isn’t it?

If the public was wrong for all of this, you’ll prove them right when services suffer at your loss…and they’ll demand your previous conditions. If one city pays better than another, the best employees will go there…their services will be better, their citizens happier. The other cities will follow or they’ll put up with less service. And, if you tire of public service and that pesky public that elected the folks who didn’t want your union, you can quit any time you like. In fact, again, that’s your ultimate action against whatever conditions you find unfavorable about your chosen profession. That’s how I have to do it, my union isn’t strong enough nor my employer pliable enough to ensure me limitless employment with all the benefits even when the coffers run dry.

I find it ironic that Wisconsin, now the hotseat in the battle over public sector unions, was the first state to allow them – when at the time even labor leaders thought the idea of collective bargaining against the state was absurd. George Meany, the former AFL-CIO leader said “It is impossible to bargain collectively with the government.” That changed when the dues money started rolling in, but at least early on people saw the inherent conflict even those deeply rooted in the labor movement.

FDR, darling of the unions, agreed with him: “… Meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the government. All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations … The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for … officials … to bind the employer … The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives …

“Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of government employees. Upon employees in the federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people … This obligation is paramount … A strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent … to prevent or obstruct … Government … Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government … is unthinkable and intolerable”.

These statements were not made in the stone-ages or by hardcore conservative Neocons, this was at the height of the union’s relevance when it was seriously shaping the landscape of the American worker, mind you and the men who disagreed with the idea were the pillars of the collectivist landscape. I don’t think anything’s changed, except the precedence that allows people who seek to serve the public now feel entitled to pay and benefits better than those they serve, hell they’re demanding it in protest. I think that’s what FDR was cautioning against, don’t you?

If you’re still in favor of the public sector union, just do some simple “what if’s” with me. What if there were collective bargaining for military personnel? Don’t laugh, it makes perfect sense if you allow that police and firemen are afforded the same. The military offers you pay, work, but in return you offer as much risk, sweat, toil, industry and even your life as any “necessary” job in the public sector. The motivations to serve are the same, the opportunities very similar. Yet, if soldiers were allowed to unionize and collectively bargain for better treatment, pay, benefits and working conditions they would (like the cop and firefighter) be given the chance for union representation to file grievances over orders, the choice of battle & deployment, even seniority in rank and promotion verses merit, I can’t imagine a more slick and efficient way to run a military, can you? What is really different about the inherent conflicts of public unions and the idea of a military union? If you’re reading this and disagree with me, probably the only difference is you have a vested interest in your own paycheck or pension – and don’t have one in the military. Other than that, they are rather identical in the scope of what each entity serves the general good, and what potential (and often real) destructive influence a union has over each.

Mr. swingset, are you broken?

I got an interesting letter from a fan. By fan I mean an inmate at a correctional facility who apparently found my blog and enjoys reading it to pass the time between workout sessions and forced sodomy. Anywho…here ’tis:

“Dear mr. swingset (nobody calls me mister, but thank you anyway), what gives with your damned blog? You were like on fire and lately nothing! You’re not spewing out all the gems of wisdom that you used to. Are you broken? Do you need encouragement? Laid? What’s up with you?”

Signed, Larry in Lockdown unit 4.

Well Larry, thank you for your concern and for your letter. What with soap carving and shiv-making occupying much of your day, I can’t imagine that a little blogger in the free world would rate enough interest to reorganize your schedule…but I appreciate it.

Anyway, let’s tackle the big question. What happened that my posts just dried up like your conjugal visits once your beleaguered squeeze found out you got hep-C from a shower trist?

Well…there are three answers, all equally correct:

1. Nothing has happened (up until your refreshing state-sponsored correspondence) to warrant talking about.

2. I’ve been hard at work on my manifesto and making lists of people who will pay.

3. I’m lazy and my sex life is good enough that free time is rightly spent doing things you have to look up on the internet.

Now, that’s not to say that I have felt good about my neglect of the blog. It’s my baby, and like all good parents I do feel somewhat bad when I forget to feed it and I can see it squirming around all emaciated and sickly. And, sometimes I’d love it if the baby would just feed itself. I mean, it’s fucking selfish and I’d half-expected the thing to at least develop a pulse and tool-making skills by now.

Wait, what were we talking about again?

Oh yeah…anyway…I haven’t really been inspired. Not in the way that matters. I need things to mystify me, to anger me, to get under my skin. It’s fucked up, but I’m just happy and content and that’s no good for the soul. Sure, it’s pleasant I wouldn’t trade it for anything but Picasso didn’t paint naked ladies because he was content.

So, here’s what I propose. You need entertaining that Geoff your hulking convict cellmate can’t provide, and I need the spark of inspiration. We need each other, in a way. Perhaps what we can do is feed off of each other’s needs a bit.

I’ll keep spooling out the genius and shit, and you stop writing me emails because frankly it’s creeping me out. Deal? Now, don’t get your hopes too high cause my rants might seem mellow when I’m happy and all is right in the world…I might just bitch about the slow refills at the buffet and when you’re having to blow guys in trade for smokes, it may not light your fire but I know that some things are more important than me, and if it keeps you on the path of redemption then I must persevere.

I gots to know, Mr. Curly fries, I gots to know.

There exists a deep, dark mystery in the universe. It’s a slippery, unknowable secret in the fabric of the reality we face from day to day. Is it the existence of life on other planets? Phffff. Kid’s stuff. Is it perhaps the conspiracy to kill JFK? Get out. Could it even be the meaning of existence itself? Nah, Bobby McFerrin had that figured out.

No kids, this is what we need to devote some neurons to. Why the hell do Arby’s sammiches cost so damned much? I spent $8 for a fucking value meal. That’s serious coin for a gooey bun with some shavings of not-warm-enough beef and some curly fries. Fuck.

As I type this, I’m watching a documentary on Netflix about Auschwitz, and perhaps my suffering pales in comparison. Who’s to say? But I can tell you this, not even the free-refills of Diet Pepsi made me feel like a satisfied customer, and I left the fast-food establishment feeling like my wallet had been violated worse than a female reporter in an Egyptian mob. Yeah, it was that bad.

Now, I know you’re thinking “Wow, swingset, your white guy problems really suck”, but I’m stung by this injustice and I want answers. Seriously, why is all that shit so expensive? Applebees charges $8.99 for a big restaurant style and fries. Chipotle runs ya $8 for a burrito and some Coke, and it weighs approximately 700 times as much as the Arby’s meal. I saw a salt truck weighing down his axles for traction with a Chipotle burrito bowl once. Swear to God.

Well, I don’t know if you have answers. Unless you’re on the corporate board for those beef-slicing terrorists, you are probably not privy to the evil machinations of their price structure, but I’m here to tell you it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Well, as Howard Beale said, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” You heard me, this sucks and I won’t be taken advantage of again, I don’t care how many free souffles of ketchup that hellhole offers in compensation. From here on out, I’m eating at the Chinese buffet. $8, all the salt & pepper frog’s legs you can eat and the cute little diplomats from the People’s Republic bring me a fortune cookie when I’m so full I have to be rolled out to my car.

I think as world events have shown us, a few motivated people can really fuck up a country armed with Twitter and the willingness to admit they have no plan. People need to speak up, they need to get organized, and demand answers to the problems of their society. If you sit there and take it, it’ll hurt our children, and their children. Yeah, it’s that important. It starts in small ways, like at Arby’s over the price of those fucking sammiches.

So, here I am asking you to do something too….fight the good fight. Resist. Don’t conform, comrades! Don’t you eat that Arby’s shit. It’s not worth it, trust me it’s just not.

The Love Boat, soon will be making another run…

Dear Dr. swingset,

I have a debate going with my wife, hoping you can settle this between us. We have a friend in common, a guy we both went to school with. He’s married, and we know and like his wife. She’s not our close friend, but we both think she’s a nice person. Our friend has told us both, separately on different occasions that he’s in love with his partner at work and is thinking about leaving his wife. This was several months ago, and at first we were just kind of “well, good luck with that” not knowing what to think. The problem is, my wife and I were talking in his company the other day and mentioned we were going on a cruise with another couple. He expressed a big interest in going, and asked if “we could tag along?” We stalled saying we weren’t solid about our plans yet but would let him know, but it’s incredibly awkward. We’re not even sure what “we” he was talking about, the partner or his wife, and no matter what he meant it’s weird.

I’m of the opinion that we should tell him we’d rather not since his marriage is in trouble and we like his wife and don’t want in the center of that. I don’t value his friendship so much that I want this kind of shit to deal with. The wife doesn’t want to alienate them as friends, or confront him like that and thinks we should let him and whoever come along or move our cruise date. What say you? Signed, Mike.

Well, Mike, I’d bet you know where I’ll side in this, especially if you’ve read much of my advice so let me surprise you by saying “Yes, I think anal sex is perfectly healthy and you should consider experimenting.” Oh wait, I’m confused I thought you were someone else.

You’re in the right here, as far as your own marriage, vacation and integrity goes. I don’t think there’s much of a debate, really. Your friend is on the rocks and probably cheating on his wife, has put that little burning egg in your hands to hold, and now wants to put that weird situation in your lap on a vacation where you’re trapped on a boat, in the ocean, far from reality and where you went to relax and forget about shit like this. Not only no, but hell no.

And, this assumes the best case which is the wife comes along. Even then, the potential for weirdness and distraction is great, and in the worst case you’re being used as a front for him to bring his side squeeze…hopefully he’s not that bold, but I don’t put it past anyone.

There is I believe a defining characteristic of all real friends, and it doesn’t come from how long you’ve known him or how many tools he’s let you borrow, or if he’s helped you in a fist fight. Those things don’t really matter. A true friend does not ask you to carry the burden of his self-made chaos.

This friend has done just that, and he’s done it to you and your wife. He’s already placed you in a tough situation just by his announcement of intentions to leave his wife, now he’s wanting to make it even more awkward. That’s nothing you need in your life, and if he’s prone to laying it on you it won’t be the last dump of chaos you’ll be expected to carry.

Your plan to tell him no is not only the most prudent, but the most honest, and ultimately shows you’re the better friend by forcing him to confront his own choices. He needs to hear that laying his marriage trouble on you has consequences, and your wife’s plan either rewards them or sidesteps them. I understand her not wanting to do so, that’s a normal reaction, but I believe yours is the prudent one.

A good marriage sets boundaries and guards them from all encroachment. Even if this seems like a little thing, and even if your friend’s actions won’t necessarily ruin your trip, it’s still important to put your guard up and say “Hey, we’re not really happy to be in the middle of your mess at the moment”.

How you deliver this to your friend is probably dependent on whether you want to keep him as friend, but I’d suggest telling him that you’re not sure what’s going on with his love triangle, and ultimately you’re not there to judge him, but you think he should sort that out before going on a vacation with you. If he’s any kind of friend, he’ll understand. If he can’t take it? What have you really lost?