Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Hiking Maryland Heights

Went hiking today in Harper's Ferry, WV on the Maryland Heights trail, and it was an awe-inspiring experience. I've hiked the trail twice before, but this was the first time I hiked the full 4 mile trail (there is a shorter 2 mile trail you can take).

The weather was perfect, and until I was on the final portion of the descent, not a soul in sight. It's been a bit of a twisted week for me, and my head hasn't quite been on right. Today's hike was just what the doctor ordered.

It was only about a year and a half ago that I discovered the joys of hiking. For me it became a very spiritual experience from the beginning, and something that feels like it has always been a part of me despite taking 37 years to discover it.

A big part of what made my hike today amazing was the sheer difficulty of it. The MH trail is not for the faint of heart. You've got massive inclines that seem to go on forever, difficult footing with rocks that range from gravel to small boulders, suspect trail markings at times that make it easy to get lost, and some downhills that would love nothing better than to claim you ankle as their bitch.

But for a guy like me, who gets wrapped up in my head way too much, being faced with a task that requires so much physical effort and focus is an amazing tonic. It is the pain of the path that opens up an opportunity to learn and grow. To remember what I feel like when I am my best self. Calm, joyful, centered.

One of my favorite parts of the trail today was under a canopy of green amongst stone walls left over from civil war encampments. While I find no particular pride in the heritage of the civil war, just as I'd find no pride in any family at war with itself, it was striking to be amongst the hard physical labor of young men from so long ago. I felt a strong connection to them, and respect for what they endured.

It was in that spot that I closed my eyes and felt the wind swirl gently around me. Delicate rays of sunlight just barely illuminated the ground, and it is in these moments that I feel fully connected to the world and all the potential we as humans possess. Wind in particular has always been the physical sensation that most connects me with a feeling of divinity. The flow of it around me today provided for me a feeling of universal connectedness that was half dirty hippie, half buddah-y. And I'm fine with that. The struggle is maintaining my awareness of that when faced with day to day stuff.

And that was only the half way point. I got to look out over lush trees to the Shenandoah river miles below, stand in golden grass filled with rocks like clouds, scramble over terrain that felt like recess to the kid still inside me.

And as I started to see a few other souls on my way down the mountain, I saw smiles and heard cheerful greetings from strangers, who by mere virtue of treading the same path, felt a sense of kinship.

Though I know better, I often allow myself to drift outward in my search for peace and happiness, love and satisfaction. But days like these, and hikes like this, remind me that it is an inward journey that must be taken to find my center.

I hope all of you who read this have something in your life that gives you a sense of reconnection, too.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why Men Cheat

Every couple of news cycles, much like celebrities dying in threes, we get a perfect storm of high profile divorces and infidelity tales that make the average married dude's life much harder. Because when Schwarzenegger fathers a bastard child with his housekeeper, suddenly men around the world hear insane things like, "If you ever have a child with another woman I will kill you," from their usually stable significant other. As though we are at risk of impregnating a maid we don't have.

Or when John Edwards faces criminal charges for misappropriation of public funds to cover up an affair, so that his wife who was dying of cancer wouldn't find out we're greeted with peppy responses such as, "Ugh, men are such pigs!"

Of course, when Rep. Weiner is both stupid enough to distribute pictures of his man parts to every decent looking FaceBook slag he can wrangle, and then compounds the error by being unaware of the difference between a public and private post, you can be sure that just about every dudes cellphone and Social Media accounts are attacked by their "trusted" partners with the intensity of an ANONYMOUS hack looking for evidence of wrong doing or shady dealings.

So these events always bring up the question, WHY DO MEN CHEAT!!

Which is missing the point a bit, because really the issue is,

"Why do people cheat?"

As you'll see at the link above, over 1/2 of all people, men and women admit to cheating, and around 3/4's would have an affair if they thought they could get away with it.

So why is it mostly men that we see in the news cycle. Mostly because a woman having an affair is going to be significantly more discreet about it on balance than a man. So really men are the ones with the greatest reason to be paranoid about their partner. A woman may cheat on you and you'll have no particular way of knowing. If a man is doing it, there are probably going to be signs, often obvious signs, that something hinky is afoot.

But for today we are focusing on what's up with the menfolk and their apparent inability to keep their pants zipped. Now there are many reasons for these shenanigans. And most of them you ladies can't do anything about I'm afraid. There's the asshole factor, where a guy like Weiner, fresh off a new marriage simply continues illicit relationships that he probably never had any intention of ending once he got married. Instead of respecting the institution and his future wife enough to not enter into a contract with false intentions, he wanted his cake and blah, blah, blah. That makes him an asshole. Actually a lying asshole.

Advice - Don't marry a lying asshole.

Then of course comes the power argument. Men are typically more accomplished later in life, but often make marriage choices early in life. So as they become more accomplished, they become more attractive to the opposite sex and now a world of options that wasn't available when they were younger opens up to them. Since just about every accomplishment a male can achieve has the fantasy award of all women will want you, it's no surprise that as men achieve greater power they will also often decide that they deserve the rewards of power, even if it means breaking their marriage vows.

Advice - Be aware that a highly successful male probably thinks a multitude of sweaty young women is the ultimate confirmation of true achievement.

So if your dude's a player, an asshole, or a power reaching alpha male then you can pretty much just assume you are going to get cheated on. Sorry ladies. As yummy as those guys may be, there's a cost. Your choice if you want to pay it.

Now, we finally come to the category you can do something about. The average slightly frustrated married male. Why is the average married male slightly frustrated? Because sex is a maintenance function for men. Anything less than 3 - 4 times a week for most dudes and they are going to spend an exorbitant amount of time thinking about it, because the lack of it makes it a big deal.

Because early on men had to learn how to pursue women if they wanted to get laid. And believe me, we want to get laid. Most men also have studied, like graduate students, sex and how to make it better for the woman. How to get a woman excited, how to perform oral sex, how to last longer, what positions work best with different equipment and body types, the best way to introduce new ideas into lovemaking, and of course working out body and mind to be ready to impress the opposite sex with whatever their preferred focus is. Any decent male lover out there has literally put in PhD level hours to get that way, especially since much of the study is theoretical since you ladies aren't particularly freewheeling with your charms.

And all that work feels totally worth it at first just to have that opportunity to have sex with you. And we're happy to focus totally on you because it gives us a chance to show off all the skills we've acquired.

But as a relationship progresses, and the thrill of the hunt fades, an ugly truth often comes to the surface. Many women just aren't that good at sex. I know you think you are, because every guy you've ever met tried to bed you, and none of them ever complained when you gave it up, but the reality is that most women approach sex very passively and demand that their partner does all the heavy lifting.

Now this is not totally your fault. All you had to do to attract a mate, if you are even Top 50% on an attractiveness scale, was be a woman. You didn't have to dress nice, have a good personality, show financial aptitude, or even shower regularly in order to easily find a moderately attractive partner who wanted to be with you.

So you never really learned to value sex. You never really learned to think of your partner as someone deserving of your abject lust. You learned that your partner should have to last longer, rather than learning how to train your body to get excited faster. You learned that your pleasure is someone else's responsibility instead of your own.

You learned that it's ok to casually brush aside your partner's advances because hell, he'll still be interested later whenever you feel like it, and maybe he'll try to do extra nice things to get you in the mood anyway.

Problem is, since you never had to face the soul crushing terror of putting yourself out there, in someone else's hands, hoping that they deem you worthy, you have no idea the anger and irritation that your partner feels when even after establishing a long term relationship they still have to "work at it" to get in your pants. And that they must usually be the one instigating things, hoping to catch you at a good time.

This is not to say that sex shouldn't be special, and that we men don't want to treat the women we love as princesses. For the most part we do. But that doesn't mean we wouldn't love to have you come on to us like some crazed, lust-addled creature who seems to want our cock more than air. Do you have to think hard about when the last time you did that to your partner was? Then that's a big FAIL on your part.

'Cause here's what's gonna happen. Unless your partner is a hermit, at some point he's going to come across a woman who does feel that way, who decides to pursue him despite his relationship status because he turns her on, and she's not scared to show it. And when that happens, many menfolk are simply ill-equipped to fight that off. It's flattering to be wanted, and it ties in with what we are taught from childhood which is that sexual mastery is the greatest end. What greater sexual mastery is there for a man than to have a woman lustfully throwing herself at you. The answer is none.

Why do you think Hugh Hefner is such a hero? He's kind of a pathetic manchild pursuing sex with women up to 60 years younger than him. 60! But that is the male ideal as sold in our culture.

So if your guy isn't one of the "will definitely cheat on you" types mentioned in the first part of the article, then it is somewhat your responsibility to create an environment in your relationship where he wouldn't want to cheat. Let him know you want him. Learn a new trick here and there (just not from Cosmo). Do some research. Get good in bed. Surprise him.

Not only will this keep his attentions focused on you, but it will also likely lead to him doing a much better job of taking care of things you wish he would focus on because he'll want to do things for you. He will be grateful believe me.

And if after all that he still cheats on you, there was nothing you could do to stop it. He was a cheater straight down to the bone and you're just as well to be rid of him. But with all that you've learned, pick a better guy the next time and your openness and sexual creativity will hook him deep.