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etc. - a little of this, a little of that - by Oliver Del Signore

Archive for the ‘Relationships’ Category


A truth about daddies

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

A couple of decades ago, one of my Christmas presents from my then-very-young children was a framed picture of a man holding the hand of a young child as they walked toward a sunset.  The text said, “Anyone can be a Father but it takes someone special to be a Daddy.”

I’m sure most of you have encountered the quote at one time or another. Certainly, it’s all over the net. But it was the first time I ever saw it and it meant a lot to me. I still have it.

The cartoon, below, got me thinking about that picture and quote and my children.

When they were young, I loved goofing with my kids, making up stories that just happened to feature heroes and heroines with their names, playing GI Joe or He-Man with Michael and Care Bears and Winnie the Pooh with Cathy, and anything else that was fun. And I sometimes managed to sneak a little learning to the fun, just as I snuck a little nutrition and fiber into their green and red and purple pancakes.

Looking back, I can see how, as they grew and matured, daddy time gave way to father time. It had to, of course, as they became teens and approached adulthood, but while the transition from daddy to father was nearly a complete one when it came to my son, it was much less so with my daughter. As I write this, I feel like Michael’s father. I think of him as a man. But, despite her approaching thirty, and intellectually knowing she is a grown woman, in my heart, Cathy is still my little girl.

I expect the same is true about many men with daughters, at least the ones who could have been called daddies when their kids were small, including Garry Trudeau, who penned this:


I had a similar experience a couple of years ago as I stood with my daughter outside the doorway, waiting for the musical cue to begin walking her down the aisle.

As I was recovering from my bypass operation nearly a decade earlier, I realized the two things I wanted most to live long enough for were to walk Cathy down the aisle and to dance with her at her wedding. And there I was. And for a few moments, as she stood there next to me looking so beautiful, and a little nervous, through the magic of memory, she was, once again a tomboy in pigtails and jeans.

My little girl.

I guess she probably always will be.

So, guys, were you more father or daddy?

Ladies, were you, and are you still, daddy’s little girl?


Would YOU Hire This Nanny? Michael says no. I say yes and why.

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

I’ve mentioned before that my favorite talk-show host is a local guy named Michael Graham. He deals in The Natural Truth, as he calls it, and it’s rare occurrence that I disagree with his take on issues. But today is one of those rare days.

I’ve reproduced one of his blog posts below. My comments follow.

From The Maestro’s Mailbag: “Would YOU Hire This Nanny?”

From my email:

Dear Michael, my wife has had four interviews with our prospective nanny named Sheri and we want to hire her even though she is a little young (21). 

She is also very attractive.


But here is the problem.  She is from Florida and so I googled her and found a picture of her looking exactly like THIS.  EXACTLY.  In fact she has a few series of pics like this.

Needless to say, we are very concerned even though I think she is the best interview (out of about 20) and she is extremely qualified CPR, working on early childhood degree etc)

Is there any way I, as a married man, can hire this girl?

Thanks, Eric

My reply,

Dear Eric,

No.  Huh-uh. There is no way you can hire this woman as your kids’ nanny…assuming, that is, you want to stay married.

First, if you tell your wife “let’s hire her!”, you’re screwed. Your wife will, I assume, immediately begin divorce proceedings/hit you with a claw hammer/both.

Option two is for your wife to hire her.  But if you’re married to a woman so clueless that she’d but that [see pic above] in your house with you, five days a week, you’re probably doomed, anyway.  What sane married woman would let that happen?

Then there’s option three: Somehow this woman does end up being your kids’ nanny: hanging around all day, babysitting at night, maybe coming on a family trip…

If you’re going to hire her, Eric, let me save you some time: Just go ahead and hire the divorce lawyer now.

Sorry, but that’s the Natural Truth.


Michael Graham

I think Michael’s analysis is only party correct and pretty sexist. He assumes that if a young, attractive woman is around, the guy will not be able to stop himself from doings something stupid and/or that his wife will inevitably fall prey to uncontrollable jealousy or suspicion.

Now, I will grant you that in many cases, that is exactly what would happen. But is it really inevitable?

Are we really going to tell attractive young women they cannot use their intelligence and hard work to get ahead in life; that jobs in their field will not be open to them because other people can’t behave like adults? Or maybe we’ll tell them, “Sure, you can be a nanny, but only for single moms with no boyfriends.”

Sorry, Michael. I hope you were just trying to be funny with this post, because as a guy, I’m insulted you assume I can’t keep my hands to myself and that my wife can’t control her imagination.

Many people look with disdain on young women who rely on looks and their bodies to make their way through life. Are we now going to condemn them simply for having good looks and bodies?

I said above, I think Michael is partly correct. I would leave the decision up to my wife and hope that she is secure enough in our relationship not to be threatened by an attractive nanny.

Of course, we’d not be hiring a nanny at all, since we both believe one parent or the other should always be caring for children, even if that means working different shifts. But that’s something for another day’s blog post.

So…ladies and gentlemen, what would you do in the writer’s place? Hire the woman or not? Who decides?

Gents, if she’s hired, will she inevitably become a temptation you will not be able to resist?

And ladies, if she’s hired, will you always be comparing yourself to her…wondering if maybe hubby likes her better…etc.?


Waxing? Egads!

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Last Thursday, as they do every almost every Thursday, my daughter and her husband and my son and his wife came over for dinner and a movie. His wife somehow managed to miss an incredible number of classics, like Meatballs and Ghostbusters, but that’s a subject for another day.

For most of the day, Martha did what women do when company is expected – she cleaned the already clean house whilst I slaved away at the keyboard. Or maybe it wasn’t already clean. I can never tell. To me, if nothing impedes my progress from point A to point B, and there are no insects in residence, the house is clean. Thankfully, Martha has somewhat higher standards. But I digress.

As the hour of their arrival drew near, it was time for us to get ready. So, having just showered, I was standing at the sink shaving when a word I won’t repeat here slipped out. You should know that I hate shaving. For twenty years, I sported a full beard, not because I thought it was fashionable or I thought I looked especially good, but only so I would not have to shave. It came off as a temporary gift to my lovely bride, who always hated it, on the occasion of our 25th anniversary, and when everyone started remarking that I looked ten years younger, I figured she’d endured prickly kisses long enough. But I digress again.

So the word slips out and through the shower curtain she asks what’s wrong.



“I really hate shaving.”

“You should wax it. Then it would take a long time to grow back.”

“Yah, right. That little patch on my leg I did that time when Cathy used to do it hurt quite enough, thank you. No way I’m doing that to my face.”

“Oh, it doesn’t hurt that much and only for a few seconds. Women get bikini waxes all the time. If they can stand it down there you should be able to stand it on your face.”

“But you’re forgetting one thing.”


“Women are crazy. They’ll do almost anything if someone tells them it makes them look better.”

Let’s just say the conversation deteriorated from there until kids and spouses arrived. But my point was a valid one, despite Martha’s protestations to the contrary.

What women will do to impress other women goes beyond all reason. And it is mostly to impress other women.

Sure, we guys appreciate it when you slip into that silky black dress with the spaghetti straps. And we appreciate it even more when you slip out of it, if we get to be in the vicinity. But we’d have appreciated jeans and a t-shirt just as much. Which brings me to my point.

Ladies, guys really don’t care what you wear. We don’t care if the jeans make your butt look too big. Or too small. Or too flat. We don’t care if your shoes match your handbag. We don’t care if you even wear shoes. We don’t care what color stones or metal you stick through your ears or hang around your neck. We don’t care if you spend hours layering on makeup so it looks like you’re not wearing any. Save yourself the hours and don’t wear any! We won’t even notice.

As for bikini waxes, just thinking about it causes our analogous area to recoil in horror.

The truth is, all we really care about is that you’re willing to be seen with us in public and that you don’t run screaming from the bedroom when you wake up next to us in the morning. After that ladies, it’s all gravy for us.



It’s the little things that women really love

Monday, June 18th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner — Chip Johnson.


Ladies, today’s post is mostly for the guys, but feel free to take me to task if you think I got anything wrong.

Despite having been married to Martha for a bit more than 32 years as of this writing, I don’t consider myself any kind of authority on marriage. I have no degrees to proffer, no studies to cite. Just experience. And here is what I’ve learned from my experience and from observing the world around me — when it comes to relationships, it’s the little things that count.

Some of you married guys have already figured that out. For the others, and for those who are single, pay attention.

Women are complex creatures. And they never forget. Ever. And while they certainly appreciate the gift of a ruby ring or diamond bracelet, it is entirely possible for them to go through an entire lifetime without ever having received one and still be deliriously in love with you and happy they married you.

Really. And it’s all because of the little things. You see, guys, women live for the little things.

For you single guys, here is a good test for prospective mates – is she all about the size of the rock, the furs, the cars, the “address,” the right friends, the right clothes, and so on? What do you think will happen one day if you’re no longer able to provide all those things? Will she decide you’ve “grown apart” and find someone who can give her what she covets?

But if she doesn’t care about any of that, doesn’t care about “things” but about “little things,” then you probably have a winner.

By now, you may be asking yourself, or shouting at the monitor, “Okay, so what the heck are these little things that can work such magic on women?”

They’re the things you do, or should do, every day that let her know you are thinking about her, that you love her, and that you appreciate her and what she does for you and the family.

“Specifics, man!” I hear you shouting, so here are just a very few of the innumerable “little things.”

Tell her you love her every day. And mean it!

Show her you love her with tender kisses or hug when she doesn’t expect it. (Note: DO NOT come up behind her when she’s cooking or washing dishes or exhausted after a long day with sick kids and grab her butt and expect her to melt in your arms. DO offer to help her cook or to help with the dishes or to take care of the kids so she can rest.)

When you notice your underwear drawer has, once again, magically refilled itself, thank her

Offer to rub her feet or back.

Now and then, leave a little love note for her to find. (NOTE: Words like “I love your smile” will usually get a better response than “You still got great hooters, babe.”)

Surprise her with little things she enjoys, like her favorite cookie or candy bar, or breakfast in bed.

Listen to her. And try to figure out what the words actually mean.

Change a diaper.

Play with the kids.

Send her a romantic card when it’s not her birthday or Valentine’s day.

Offer to vacuum the living room.

Hand her the car keys one Saturday and tell her she has the day off, to go have fun, and not come back until after dark.

Fill the bathroom with candles, draw a warm bubble bath, and invite her to relax in the tub while you read her favorite poetry. When she’s ready, wash her hair for her. Then her back. Then her front. (NOTE: DO NOT use washing her front as an excuse to “get her in the mood.” Just wash. If she’s in the mood, trust me, she’ll let you know.)

Next time she drinks too much, sit with her and hold her hair back as she heaves into the john.

Tell her how nice she looks, even when she doesn’t. (But don’t go overboard and exaggerate. They know when you’re doing that and they don’t like it. A simple, “You look really nice, tonight” is sufficient. If she protests, let her know she always looks good to you.)

Don’t groan when she tells you her mother is coming for a visit.

Once in a while, caress her hair as you walk by.

Grin like a fool and give her an enthusiastic “Woo hoo!” when you see her naked, or nearly so.

Keep yourself in good shape, inside and out.

Are you getting the idea yet, guys? I hope so. Give it a try. And mean it. I think you’ll be well pleased with the results.

And for you single girls who  have read this far, you, too, can use the “little things” test. Take note of whether your guy does the little things without prompting. If doing the “little things” fades along with the passion of the first six months or so, don’t expect it to come back without lots of constant nagging.

And really, who needs that?

So, ladies-who-kept-reading, am I wrong or am I right?

What “little things” are most important to you?

And what say you, guys?


Truth in Toons: Women and Men Edition

Sunday, June 17th, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?










Pet obsessions

Monday, June 11th, 2012

Congratulations to this week’s Comment Contest winner – Christine.


What is is about some people and their pets?

I heard about a guy who owns a dog that seems to think the guy belongs exclusively to it. Whenever the guy’s girlfriend gets close to him, it growls and barks and generally lets it be known she should stay away from its man.

I know some people use relationships with pets as surrogates for relationships with people. Pets, especially dogs, are dependent, unconditionally yours, and they rarely talk back or cheat on you. For a person who’s had enough of the opposite sex, or their own if inclined that way, pets can provide a measure of companionship and a place to focus one’s emotions.

But really, now. If you expect to have a relationship with a real human (for you guys, that means “get lucky regularly”), can you reasonably expect your partner to tolerate an angry dog every time the two of you get close? The very idea seems like insanity to me, but apparently it happens all the time.

Guys, girls, all you folks who have a mutual admiration society going with your pet, how freakin’ hard is it to take your animal to a trainer who can teach it to respect other people? Do you really want to chance the animal actually attacking your lover one day while you’re doing the wild thing on the sofa? Talk about a mood killer.

You folks who’ve been putting up with this behavior from an animal and its owner – stop! You folks who are considering a new relationship with someone who owns such an animal – stop!

Tell your partner there will be no more romance, no more in-house visits, no more nothing with the pet around until the pet has been properly trained. Then you’ll find out exactly where you stand in your partner’s pecking order.

My guess is, more often than not, you’ll find yourself standing on the porch or in the hall saying goodbye, but don’t feel badly about it. Anyone who ranks a pet higher than a human companion is hardly a good catch and may well end up treating you like a pet, or worse.

Relationships are hard enough. Who needs that crap, too?


Nobody understands like a grandmother

Friday, April 27th, 2012

Yikes! It’s 11:00 and I’ve not even begun my blog post for the day. It’s turning out to be one of “those” days, so I’m going to have to offer a simple thought and a related ‘toon that appeared in this morning’s newspaper.

Comments and fond remembrances of your grandparents are welcome.

Nobody can understand a child like a grandmother.




Truth in Toons: Men and Women Edition

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

Comments welcome.
Which are your favorites?












It’s Leap-Day, ladies. Your once-in-every-four-years chance to propose.

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

It’s Leap Day, Ladies. And you know what that means. It’s your chance — a chance that comes but once in every four years — to get down on bended knee and propose marriage to your man.

Now, some of your suddenly nervous intendeds may express skepticism about this tradition so they can continue to avoid tying the noose…err, knot. They might even claim you’re making it all up. So I did a bit or research and found the following, which you are welcome to use.


According to an old Irish legend, or possibly history, St Bridget struck a deal with St Patrick to allow women to propose to men – and not just the other way around – every 4 years. This is believed to have been introduced to balance the traditional roles of men and women in a similar way to how Leap Day balances the calendar.

In some places, Leap Day has been known as “Bachelors’ Day” for the same reason. A man was expected to pay a penalty, such as a gown or money, if he refused a marriage proposal from a woman on Leap Day. In many European countries, especially in the upper classes of society, tradition dictates that any man who refuses a woman’s proposal on February 29 has to buy her 12 pairs of gloves. The intention is that the woman can wear the gloves to hide the embarrassment of not having an engagement ring. During the middle ages there were laws governing this tradition.

Wikipedia has a section about it as does Snopes.

And if you are wondering how Leap Day proposals turn out, here is one example from last Sunday’s Boston Globe Magazine.

Proposing on February 29

At a recent dinner party, the hosts introduced their twentysomething nephew and his fiancee, newly engaged before Christmas. Immediately, we married ladies grilled the fiancee: “How’d you meet?” “Let’s see the ring!” “How’d he propose?”

“Let’s tell all of our stories!” another friend suggested, pointing to each of us, married anywhere from 10 to 20 years. My husband rolled his eyes. He knew what was coming.

“So, Kathy, how’d you and Joe meet?”

“She can’t tell it in less time than it takes to sing ‘Alice’s Restaurant,’ ” my husband quipped. Everyone laughed. Succinctness isn’t my strong suit. But after almost 16 years married, I’ve fine-tuned a retort to beat Arlo Guthrie’s famously long song.

“Yes, I can. At  . . .  a  . . .  BBQ,” I said. People laughed. Then the next question. “How’d he propose?” We shot each other a look. “He didn’t propose. I did!” I blurted out our story. How we were both “old” – I was 34, he was 43, neither ever married – when we met. And how, after dating and waiting 2½ years, I popped the question to him on leap day 1996. Leap day, February 29, according to an Irish myth from the Middle Ages, is the one day every four years that women are “allowed” to propose to men.

My plan, I told them, was to propose as I’d hoped he would to me – quietly, over dinner, at the restaurant where we had our first date. But writer friends suggested I grab a byline, too. So I wrote my proposal, weaving in a story about the history of leap day, and mailed it to the op-ed editor at the Boston Herald, who agreed to publish it.

That was when my stomach tightened. Would Joe, a private man, be OK with my popping the question in such a public way?

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Had I known about this tradition thirty-three years ago, I might have decided to wait a decade or so to give Martha a couple of chances to propose to me. But I didn’t and so far, it’s worked out well, though I fully expect she’ll one day come to her senses and  dump my sorry butt at the curb.

How about you folks?

Are there any women out there who proposed on Leap Day or any other day? Any men who were proposed to? If so, how did it turn out?

And are there any men or women who intend to propose on this Leap Day?


Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot?

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot? Are you guilty of murder if your robotic prosthesis arm malfunctions and kills someone? Could you work for a robot boss?

There was a time when such questions were considered only by writers of science fiction. But such ethical and practical questions are already being considered and will have to be answered in the coming decades as robotic technology advances, as the book being reviewed in the following piece from yesterday’s newspaper makes clear.

 Introducing Robot Ethics

Thirty years ago, few people envisioned just how completely computers would be integrated into our everyday lives; today, they’re everywhere. In Robot Ethics: The Ethical and Social Implications of Robotics, Patrick Lin (a science ethicist), Keith Abney (a philosopher of science) and George Bekey (a computer scientist) argue that the same is true about robots. Today, they are technological oddities; tomorrow, they’ll be ubiquitous and indispensable. That’s why, they write, we need “the emerging field of robot ethics.”

In their introduction to the book, which is a collection of essays in robot ethics from philosophers, lawyers, and scientists, Lin, Abney, and Bekey point out that people have been thinking about the ethics of robotics for millennia. Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics are only the most recent entry in a long tradition. “Homer,” the editors write, “described in his Iliad the intelligent robots or ‘golden servants’ created by Hephaestus, the ancient Greek god of technology… Leonardo da Vinci conceived of a mechanical knight that would be called a robot today.” But the need for a serious inquiry into robot ethics is now greater than ever before, because robots are now advanced enough to participate, on their own, in the ethical world:

[I]n August 2010, the U.S. military lost control of a helicopter drone during a test flight for more than thirty minutes and twenty-three miles, as it veered toward Washington, D.C., violating airspace restrictions meant to protect the White House…. In October 2007, a semiautonomous robotic cannon deployed by the South African Army malfunctioned, killing nine “friendly” soldiers and wounding fourteen others….

Already, robots are taking care of our elderly and children…. Some soldiers have emotionally bonded with the bomb-disposing PackBots that have saved their lives, sobbing when the robot meets its end.

Already, fascinating moral questions are emerging. If a robot malfunctions and harms someone, who is responsible — the robot’s owner, its manufacturer, or the robot itself? Under what circumstances can robots be put in positions of authority, with human beings required to obey them? Is it ethically wrong for robots to prey upon our emotional sensitivities — should they be required to remind us, explicitly or implicitly, that they are only machines? How safe do robots need to be before they’re deployed in society at large? Should cyborgs — human beings with robot parts — have a special legal status if their parts malfunction and hurt someone? If a police robot uses its sensors to perform a surveillance operation, does that constitute a search? (And can the robot decide if there is probable cause?)

Some of these questions are speculative; others are uncomfortably concrete. Take this example involving (what else?) robot sex, from an essay by David Levy:

Upmarket sex dolls were introduced to the Korean public at the Sexpo exposition in Seoul in August 2005, and were immediately seen as a possible antidote to Korea’s Special Law on Prostitution that had been placed on the statute books the previous year. Before long, hotels in Korea were hiring out “doll experience rooms” for around 25,000 won per hour ($25)…. This initiative quickly became so successful at plugging the gap created by the antiprostituion law that, before long, establishments were opening up that were dedicated solely to the use of sex dolls… These hotels assumed, quite reasonably, that there was no question of them running foul of the law, since their dolls were not human. But the Korean police were not so sure. The news website… reported, in October 2006, that the police in Gyeonggi Province were “looking into whether these businesses violate the law . . . Since the sex acts are occurring with a doll and not a human being, it is unclear whether the Special Law on Prostitution applies.”

It seems inevitable, Levy writes, that more advanced “sexbots” will push this issue even more to the fore, forcing lawmakers to figure out just which aspects of prostitution they want to outlaw.

Levy’s sexbot example is emblematic of a theme running through this collection of essays: The ethical problems posed by robots aren’t just about the robots. They’re also about old, familiar human behaviors which we must reconsider once robots are introduced. How will spouses feel, Levy asks, about the use of sexbots? Some will see it as adultery, others as a intrinsically meaningless. The answer, Levy argues, really has nothing to do with the robots themselves. “It will depend very much,” he writes, “on the sexual ethics of the relationship itself when robots do not enter the picture.”

There are some fascinating questions there, eh?

Let’s consider the questions I posed to open this post:

Have you committed adultery if you sleep with a robot?

To have sex with a doll seems to me to be little more than complicated masturbation. But what if one develops an emotional attachment to the robotic doll? That may sound weird, but folks have been known to become attached to their cars, trucks, clothes, photos — all manner of things, and none of them provide sexual gratification.

Are you guilty of murder if your robotic prosthesis arm malfunctions and kills someone?

I don’t see how it could rise to the level of murder, but what if the prosthesis required regular maintenance and one continuously neglected to perform it? In such a case, I could see a district attorney going for a charge of involuntary manslaughter.

Could you work for a robot boss?

I think some of us already do. Take certain delivery drivers. While they may have a human “boss,” their day’s work is dictated by a computer which determines which stops they will make and often, in which order.

I think the near future will bring some interesting and challenging developments in the field of robotics. We might well see robotic cops or soldiers. When you get sick, you might first have to be diagnosed by a robot doctor before you get to see a human one. And who knows, if the field advances far enough, we might one day even see the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court leading the way again by making it legal to marry your robotic lover.

What are your answers to the three questions?

Do you think this is all just foolish fantasy or can you foresee a time when these and the questions in the article will have to be faced?

 And can you think of others who are, directly or effectively, working for a robot boss?



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