Monday, June 07, 2010

There's no hugging in baseball

At twenty-six, I’ve had a good share of men in my life. Some good, some bad, and some.. well.. let’s just say I don’t exactly send them Christmas cards. There have been some extraordinary ones though, that even with their short stays, left lasting impacts on my life and the way I am the way I am today. But no man has left quite the lasting mark... as a boy named Thomas.

During my first two years of college, I spent my off days from school as a nanny to a six year old kid. Some argued that Thomas had a form of a learning disability, but no one really defined what it was. In my non-expert opinion it was probably just a little ADD and an excessive amount of energy from ingesting way too much sugar. Honestly though, Thomas was bright kid with an extreme passion for sports, which I was one of the first to help him to indulge. He could tell me all the names of the Rays starting line-up, and even recite their batting averages. He regularly schooled my ass in Madden, but what kid these days couldn’t? (If you’re saying you’ve never had your ass kicked by a kid with a headset & a hand controller at a video game, well, you sir are a damn liar. Today’s kids come out with ever y cheat code to Modern Warfare Gazillion ingrained in them, like its genetic coding.) Of course, it wasn’t long until Thomas got the itch to play organized sports of his own, which prompted his mother to sign him up for every sport imaginable except for maybe Cheerleading. After all, when a kid had as much energy as Thomas, you certainly didn’t want it to go to waste driving you insane and destroying your house now, do you?

So every day after school, I'd take him Thomas to his little league practice or his games. I was always there to cheer him from the bench, even if it meant getting ogled by the Dad’s and death glares from the Mom’s. But like any new skill set or activity, Thomas still had to learn the rules of the game. And that’s where I came in. I was there to remind him not to hug the kid who tagged him out at second.


When soccer rolled around, I was the one on the sideline screaming for him to not sit down in the middle of the field til the ball came back his way, or that he was in fact, about to score a goal on his own team. Or to tell him to stop running in slow motion like they do in replay mode on the NCAA football Playstation game. It was a challenge at first, teaching a kid logistics that some grown ass umpires still don’t even understand. ::cough.. Jim Joyce..cough:: But, once he learned them, Thomas was the greatest stickler for rules.

By the time he was eight, Thomas knew what the rules for every game were. But even more so, he knew the consequences if he broke those rules. He never once tried to cheat at Candyland, or Chutes and Ladders, or anything else for that matter. And that's more than I can say for some of his playmates who were not only older than him, but also some of the biggest shysters the game of Monopoly has ever seen. But don’t think this babysitter let those little bastages get away with it though. If there’s one thing I won’t stand for, its kids that think they can get away with cheating and cutting the rules. Sure, I could teach Thomas to cheat and beat the little snots at their own game. Even I knew how to rig the deck of Chance cards in his favor. But what good would that do?.. I would just be setting the example that it was OK to stoop to their snot-faced little level. So instead, I sent them home to be their parents’ problem. It was “Do not pass Go, Do Not Collect $200.” I’d be damned if I wanted to watch a room full of Dennis Mitchells. Especially if I wasn’t getting paid for it.

At twenty six, I’m still not sure I want kids. I mean, they seem cool and all. And I love all my friends’ kids. But that is because I view them like I do my Netflix subscription. I can keep the ones I like as long as I want, and the ones that suck, well, you just stick them back in the mail and send them back from the movie hell they came from. But when I’m around kids, I certainly try to set a good example and be a good role model. I can have fun, and be the “Cool Aunt” while still showing them I’m a bigger boss than Tony Danza. And the kids generally respect me for it. My friend’s daughter even wrote a paper about me. Did I mention that her teacher “Googling” me also resulted in a parent teacher conference? Oops.

I try to instill in the younger generation what my parents did in me. My parents have always taught me the importance of playing fair even as far back as my Green Acres Preschool days. I remember the boys in the sand box that would constantly throw sand in my eyes and tease me about my curly hair. Or the boys that would cheat at Duck Duck Goose because they knew I was faster than them. That didn't stop them of course from tussling my hair as they went past just to show they liked me. Hell, I admit that I may have tapped one boy’s head harder than the rest.

Though I may have grown since then, I certainly haven’t grown up. And why should I? The games really have never changed. There are still those boys I refer to as the sandbox lovers. The boy that throws "sand," quirky little barbs, and acts way cooler than you just to keep your attention focused solely on them. And the funny thing is.. Nine times out of ten, their methods are absolutely effective. Isn't it ironic how certain guys have the ability to turn even the most confident of girls into bumbling idiots? It’s because even in their adulthood, they still remember how to get under even the toughest of girl’s skin.

From the minute the dating puck is dropped with the exchanging of the numbers… it’s game time, bitches. Do you text her right away? Do you wait the standard three days? I guess there are still some no bullshit kinda people out there that will tell you up front that their motives are to either: 1) Start a relationship with you or 2) Have sex with you. Very rarely does a guy who only wants #2 ever discuss #1, but I almost applaud him for his brutal, albeit crude honesty. And as for the guy who states #1 up front, while planning our future together and naming our unborn children.. well, I usually pretend my phone number was mysteriously changed should we ever encounter one another again.

Most of the time, dating is just two people testing each other’s limits, pushing other people’s buttons.. seeing what they can get away with.. and how the other person will react. Reaction shows that you care… to care is to show weakness. And weakness lets the other player know they’re winning.

I remember back when playing games used to be fun. Sure someone would win, and someone would lose.. but at the end of the day it was just a game. It’s not like anyone went home crying about it. Oh, wait.. I forgot about the Little League World Series, my bad.

Back when we were little, and society hadn’t turned us all into completely jaded assholes, we still had a sense that life was fair. That if we played by the rules, all would be well. We also used the phrase.. "First is the worst, second is the best." Who came @#$! up with that crap? Because nowadays, if you ain’t first, you’re last! That’s just how real life is. But if I have learned one thing about myself, it’s that I refuse to treat someone like a priority that only sees me as an option.

What fun is a game when you're constantly watching your back and second guessing someone’s motives? Why do we have to pretend we don't like someone to get them to like us? Aren't we all just playing the same bullshit games we did in preschool, bopping kids on the head, throwing sand in their eyes? And we still expect them to LIKE us? More so, how are we expected to keep up this whole charade while we’re trying to drive our careers and maintain our own personal lives? Who really has time for all the nonsense??... More so, does anyone ever really win?

I want a guy that gets excited over the fact I want to see him, not act like it’s some chore or great favor to ask of him. I want a guy that has the perfect balance of friend time, family time, and significant other time and doesn't define himself by any of those things. I don’t want a person that NEEDS me. I want someone that WANTS me. And if you really want someone.. why chance it by playing games? Risk is only fun when it involves little plastic pieces and a game of chance, not in real life scenarios. Why do you have to wait three days to call someone? Or act too busy for them when they text you? If I like a guy, but he continues to “beat around the bush” in the gumdrop forest (and no that is not a euphemism for sex), then I got news for him. Successful individuals with their own lives going on won't stand for it, and we will simply cut our losses rather than go down with our battleship you just took out. The thing is, I’m just as guilty as most men are. I self-sabotage, I run people off, make excuses, or I simply cut bait with no explanation. I play the same stupid games men do, to keep from committing, to keep others from hurting me. And it’s cost me plenty of opportunity not to mention probably made me miss out on the real genuine men out there. I’ll be damned if I'm not the type to learn from my mistakes.

It’s hard enough finding someone you mesh well with and that “gets you” in this crazy world these days. It seems people will just try to “wife” someone up for the sake of not being alone, instead of really getting to just know the person with no bullshit façades. So when you find somebody that makes your life a little happier by just being in it, why waste each other’s time playing “it cool”… instead of just enjoying each other’s company? After all if you spend your entire life playing games and bending the rules, eventually the rest of the kids at the playground will get fed up with your shit, take their ball and go home.

During one of my trips home, I took Thomas to a Rays game. Nothing beat watching his face light up, as I walked him through the tunnel and out to the cushy seats right behind home plate, where he sat just mere feet from some of his favorite players. I got him some cracker jacks and peanuts, and all the things that make up the ball park experience. One of the Ray’s staff even brought him down a team signed ball. The kid was in heaven. Maybe that's why I loved Thomas so much. Kids in general, well… most of them anyway, are some of the most genuine, honest little people you will ever meet. There are no hidden agendas, there’s no rule breaking, and there’s not a single game played that does involve a ball. Thomas may not have won at every game he played, but he certainly played fair and by the rules. Maybe if adults took a page from their rule book, there would be a lot less miscommunication between the two sexes. And those are the kinda rules I could definitely live by.

BJ Upton hit a walk off home run that night, which set the Trop on fire. Thomas jumped up and down on his chair and cheered. If only all victories in life were that sweet. As I walked him up through the tunnels past the clubhouse to the exit, he spotted Carlos Pena down the way. Like a dog after the postman, he slipped out of my grasp and ran to meet the first baseman, who he hugged as if he had known him all his young life. Oddly enough, Carlos just laughed. And so did I.

:::Slaps forehead::::

Eh kids.. well, at least it wasn’t the kid that tagged him out at second this time.


Carl said...

Fantastic blog Jen. I too, feel the same when it comes to wanting someone who WANTS you, not NEEDS you.

oat://penguin_march said...

you're right we've been waiting for this, but it's well worth the wait... beautifully written.

Mix Masta B said...

There is nothing like the innocence of a child. It's an honorable thing that you placed the groundwork for him to be successful in life. A lot of kids who grow up to be adults (as if they are worthy of the title of adult) still do not understand the meaning of fair play or right from wrong. Unfortunately, not everyone who plays by the rules always comes out victorious. At a young age children can easily become swayed because of an unfair victory by someone else who didn't play the game the right way. Having someone like you to keep them grounded and staying the right course will make sure they never have to feel cheated.

I was really saddened by the passing of Coach Wooden because he helped show children how to become adults at a time when they can easily become one of the cheaters because it is the easy way to win. One of my favorite quotes from him was, “Success is peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.” I am happy to know little Thomas will always know he is a success because he did everything the right way. If later in life he faces obstacles he will know to make the right choice because someone as great as you taught him at a young age that cheaters and game players may sometimes get the upper hand but never will feel true success.

Matt Volz said...

Love the blogs Jenn. Two things I take away from this: you sound like you would be a great mom so dont sell yourself short. 50% of the kid will have your traits so "all" you have to do is avoid being impregnated by a DB. Easy right??
Secondly, taking a page from John Mayer, I wish people would just say what they need to say. You like me? Great. If you don't, then fine too. At least I don't have to play the guessing game half-assing a "relationship" while you try to save face and spare feelings.

Valder said...

I agree......more people need to stay in touch with their inner innocene, that child within all of us. Everyone seems to think you have to act a certain way, and that's what being "adult" is all about. Personally, I've never had time for the games and the BS. I've always been the "What you see is what you get" kinda guy. Probably why I'm still single, honetly. Great blog, bud.

Aaron Wilberding said...

Well said Jenn.

Mark said...

Your right society, heartbreak and disappointment cause us to be Jaded assholes at times and over the years.. I think if you were brought up well that comes out when it should, but the challenge is making people see its genuine rather than not. Alot of "Too good to be true" floating around out there haha. If it dont work for the genuine attempt then Jaded walls can tend to go back up, it can be a vicious cycle.

Honestly I dont know that theres a difference between Want and Need they should go hand in hand with someone you care about..yes space is important but I think just understanding each other is the main point..Some of these points can easily be excuses for people that are afraid of getting too close due to past heartbreaks.

Regardless alot of people feel this way, were all alike more than we know and I hope in a good and fair way

Anonymous said...


You really nailed it with this one Jenn..The game of life as far as guys and girls are concerned, is just that a game..A game that is made up of mixed signals being sent by both sides..As a guy you go through life trying to be a good guy only to hear girls talk about how much they like the "bad boy".. You can continue to be the good guy, only to find yourself lost in the friend zone, the shoulder to cry upon every time the bad boy breaks her heart..

The game could be played more effectively if both sides just knew the rules up front.

Jonathan Randall said...

Beautifully written...first let me say that you found one man in your life who loves unconditionally..Thomas. You are lucky to have found each other because you are each allowed to be what you are. Second, if the time comes and you decide to start a family, you will be a fantastic mother. You have games people play figured out pretty well and it is amazing that we have figured out how to get out of our own ways to find what truly makes us happy.

I asked to be your friend on Facebook not because of your beauty but because of your incredible intelligence, your amazing sense of humor and your undying sense of adventure. I'm jealous of the special bond you have with Thomas. I hope you never lose it. I treasure your friendship...

AJ Buono said...

Intresting story Jenn great Blog. I laughed about how Thomas Hugged Carlos Pena lol!

jlist12 said...

Good blog, Jenn. I think that kids have the WANT not NEED philosophy instilled in them, which is what makes them so genuine and up-front with how they feel. Kids don't think about what they need, they just do what makes them happy. That's also why they follow rules, there is no need involved. Dating for both sexes nowadays requires some sort of need from the oppisite sex, which requires a lot of the hidden agendas, rule breaking, games, etc..If it's something that can't be fulfilled, they'll go elsewhere. No genuine nature involved in dating anymore, which makes it so tough...hope to see another blog soon!

youhana said...


Anonymous said...

Jenn, reading this blog once again affirmed why I think highly of you.Anyone who can enjoy kids and add to their happiness is a wonderful human being. As someone who had a rough go of it in school, I wish I had a friend like you back then. You may have been the first person to show this young boy that others believe in him, giving him something every human deserves, especially a child. Actually, you gave him two gifts, friendship and confidence. If more people were like you, the world would be much better.

Anonymous said...

Mark said",I don't know if there is a difference between want and need".
Of course there is.You get what you need,hopfully,but you don't always get what you want.cheers

PS:I like your posterior,buns of steel.Nice.Good luck little girl