Valentine’s Day And Double Standards

Tomorrow (February 14) is a made up holiday. I know, I know–they all are, to some extent. But Valentine’s Day is different. Hallmark and other card and candy companies have created this day so people will buy their products. The only love they have on February 14 is for the Almighty Dollar. And that’s fine. Capitalism is based on profit motivation. Just like Red Lobster is in a perpetual “Lobster Fest,” and every mattress store is constantly going out of business, Hallmark can create a marketing plan that highlights their products.

But Valentine’s Day is not your average marketing gimmick holiday: it’s a test. Here is the only question on the Valentine’s Day test: Will the guy get the girl something “special” on Valentine’s Day? That’s what the whole day is about. Women are off the hook. They can get their boyfriend literally anything (or nothing) and nobody will care. She has no pressure or expectations. All of her friends will ask on February 15, “What did (insert boyfriend’s or husband’s name) get you yesterday?” and giggle. The guy is under the Romance Microscope. He has to perform. And if he doesn’t perform to her expectations–even if that means he wasn’t able to read her mind about what she wants–she is allowed to complain, roll her eyes, or basically object to the gift any way she wants. A girl might be reading this (I’m doubtful that anybody is reading this) and say, “Oh, I’m not like that. I love him. He can get me anything he wants. I’m not materialistic.” Uh, you’re lying. Plain and simple. You might be good at hiding your disgust. You might say all the right things. You might even wear the hideous sweater he got you or put on a fake smile when he gets you the wrong sized, wrong shaped, and wrong priced ring, but inside you are thinking, “This is not what I wanted. Why didn’t he get me what I wanted?” Then some day–maybe years from now–you will finally tell him about that Valentine’s Day when he got you that terrible gift and how it hurt your feelings. If you are a female human being in a relationship with a male human being on February 14, this is exactly how you feel about Valentine’s Day. This is indisputable.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not anti-gift-giving. I am not opposed to expressions of love. Love should be shown every day by people who love each other. What I am opposed to are double standards. Ladies, ask yourself these questions, and try–if at all possible–to answer them honestly:

  1. Do you expect to be treated a certain way by your husband or boyfriend?
  2. Have you told him how you expect to be treated?
  3. Do you get irritated if he does not treat you that way?

If you have answered “yes” to all three questions, good. It means you are a fully functioning American female. But let’s continue.

  1. Does your husband or boyfriend expect you to treat him a certain way?
  2. Has he given you a detailed list of expectations (verbally or otherwise)?
  3. When he told you, did you try to honor those requests, or did you think he was being selfish?

Here is where the separation occurs. Some women would answer, “I honored the requests to the best of my ability” to question three, but others–if they were truly being honest–would answer, “Who does he think he is telling me what to do?” to question three. Therein lies the double standard. Women, for whatever reason, are allowed to expect and/or demand certain treatment, while men are told to go along to get along. That’s why we have phrases like, “If momma ain’t happy, nobody is happy.” That’s why you never hear about a wife having to sleep on the couch. That’s why women are never “in the dog house.” That’s why it’s okay for women to have a “headache” and refuse sex, and the husband is supposed to nod his head, say something sweet, and roll over…or face the wrath. I come to these conclusions honestly. I have counseled dozens of couples over the years, and these themes are repeated time and again. The husband is constantly irritated that he is always trying to hit a moving target on how he can please his wife. She, in turn, is frustrated that he is not smarter, more compassionate, more thoughtful, more…everything. If he’s quiet, he should talk more. If he talks too much, he should be quiet. And so on. But if the roles were reversed, he would be seen as an inconsiderate, demanding jerk, and in some cases–considering the culture we live in today–emotionally abusive.

So, Valentine’s Day feeds the beast of female double standards. Watch the commercials. Notice how many are focused on what the guy will get the girl on Valentine’s Day. Some are about what the couple will do on Valentine’s Day. Very few will focus on what the girl will get the guy, which is strange considering that this holiday is supposed to be about love and not about the servicing of women.

Valentine’s Day is a lot of things. But first and foremost, it’s about a hollow, artificial, materialistic, double standard version of love. And sadly, we’ve all bought into it.

Mom

My mom, Dianne Downey Hoover Hayes, died on August 31, 2003 at about 2:00 a.m. She was 57.

It all started in the spring of 1999. I was in the last month of my last semester of college. Mom and Dad were in the last year of tuition payments. Since my oldest brother, Mark, started first grade in 1974, they had been paying for private school for three sons–twelve years of private elementary, middle, and high school, plus private college for all of us. The end was near. Their youngest was three weeks away from graduation. Retirement was less than ten years away for both of them.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. Mom went for a routine mammogram and got bad news. There was a small lump. She couldn’t feel it. She felt fine. But it was cancer. She came home after receiving the final diagnosis to tell everybody. I was reading the newspaper on the couch. She said, “I went to the doctor today. I have breast cancer.” I lowered the newspaper, made some dismissive comment, then went back to reading. On the outside, I looked tough. On the inside, I was in shock. I was scared. Breast cancer is treatable these days, but I had no idea how things would turn out for her. So, I put on a good face and went about my business.

They scheduled surgery to have the lump removed and start chemotherapy. A simple blood test before chemo revealed elevated liver enzymes, so they did some more testing and found another tumor on her kidney. The doctors decided to remove the kidney then do chemo for the breast cancer. That surgery went as planned. She underwent a series of chemo treatments (I think 7-8) and radiation treatments while still maintaining a work schedule at Madison church of Christ where she was the Senior Saints Coordinator. Her hair fell out (but she got a wig from a lady who had made some wigs for Dolly Parton).  It took about a year to do all the surgeries and chemo and recover from all of it. Then…she was in remission. She felt good. She looked good. I remember her bouncing around the house one Saturday, cleaning and joking. She stopped and said, “I haven’t felt this good in a long time.” She was happy. We all were. She was in full remission for about a year.

But there are valleys around every mountain, and her valley came soon enough. It was the summer of 2003. Another scan revealed that a tumor had formed in the duct between her pancreas and liver. It was inoperable. The best they could do is treat her with harsh chemo. She got jaundiced because her liver could not function properly. She was hospitalized. One day at the hospital, Dad and I were talking about multivitamins. Mom and Dad always took them. I never did. Mom said, “You don’t eat healthy. You need the vitamins to be sure you get what you need.” I said, “Mom, you’re in a hospital bed. You’re in no condition to be giving speeches about health.” She laughed really hard. I always felt good when I could make her laugh.

Our primary doctor came by one day to see her. He asked Dad and I to come out into the hallway. He got out a note pad and drew a rough sketch of the digestive system. He drew a circle around the duct where the tumor was. He said, “If chemo doesn’t work, her body will shut down. It will be her demise.” He was saying out loud what we already knew: Mom’s chances of survival were slim.

She was released from the hospital. Her color improved some, but her movements were slow. She couldn’t work. She was basically shut in. She would feel good enough some days to want to go out to eat, but when she and Dad got to the restaurant, she couldn’t eat. One day as she was walking to the bathroom, she fell. She didn’t break anything, but we knew something was wrong. We took her to her oncologist in a wheelchair. As I sat beside her in the waiting room, I noticed that she wasn’t looking directly at things. I said, “Mom, can you see me?” She turned in my direction, but she didn’t look me in the eyes. “Sure,” she said. But I knew she couldn’t. I was convinced she was blind. She had had a mini stroke. She wasn’t in the doctor’s office long. When Dad brought her back to the waiting room, he just looked at me and shook his head. I knew what He meant.

That was on Monday. Hospice came to the house on Tuesday and said she had two weeks to live, tops. She was still alert, though. She knew she was dying. Family and friends streamed into the house all week. Dad’s best man and his wife drove from Chattanooga to see her. People brought food. Stories were told. My niece, who was only four years old, fed mom ice chips. Then the end came. Mom fell asleep for the last time, at home, surrounded by her husband, three sons, her brother and sister.

She never got to experience the retired life. She never got to spend money on herself. She didn’t get to travel to the places she always wanted to go when she retired. That always bothered me. But she got to retire from this world of sin and death and receive her eternal reward. And that’s the best retirement. And for that, I am thankful.

The Sexual Devolution

The genesis of the sexual revolution is hard to date. The earliest overt demonstration of sex in the public realm was the creation of Playboy magazine by Hugh Hefner in 1953. Playboy featured pictures of fully naked women (as if you didn’t know that). Then there was Woodstock and the hippie movement of the late 1960s, when women burned their bras and considered “free love” to be a human right that should be celebrated. Soon afterwards, “peep shows” and adult movie theaters popped up around metropolitan areas. But nothing “sexualized” American culture more than online pornography. I have heard that 40 percent of the Internet is pornography. Forty. Percent.

So what has the sexual revolution accomplished for women? How has it improved their lives? Radical feminists will say that the sexual revolution has given women the right to do what men have always done–express their sexuality in public (or in any way they see fit). Whether that is a good thing can be debated ad nauseam.

But here are the negative things that the sexual revolution either directly or indirectly caused or exacerbated:

Unwanted pregnancies

Sexual harassment

Sex trafficking

Failed marriages/relationships due to the use of online pornography

Objectification of women

Warped self-images among young women

I have neither the time nor the inclination to debate if these things would have happened if the sexual revolution had never happened. No one knows. But I also live in the real world. Nearly every day for the past several months there has been a report of sexual harassment against someone in Hollywood–ground zero for the advancement of the sexual revolution. Coincidence? I think not.

Now the liberals are trying to re-draw the boundaries for sexual expression. Their solutions sound like things your conservative grandparents would’ve recommended: Don’t treat women as sexual objects. Respect their intellect. Honor their value.

More men would be doing that today if the so-called “progressives” didn’t think that the world would be better if we could see more naked women.

An Unexpected Phone Call

I was paddled in the fourth grade. When it came to punishment, my elementary school firmly believed the beatings would continue until morale improved (well, maybe that’s too harsh, but paddlings happened frequently).  I considered my crime a misdemeanor, but my teacher thought it was a first degree felony.  While the room was deathly silent, I started whistling. I didn’t do it to be funny or rebellious; I was just whistling. The teacher, Mrs. Stamps, told me to stop, so I did. A few minutes later, I started whistling again. I honestly don’t remember if I did it just to get a laugh or not, but it got some laughs, nonetheless. Mrs. Stamps was writing on the chalkboard (for all you millennials out there, teachers used to write with chalk on slate boards), and she whipped around and yelled, “Get out!” I was terrified. I slowly got up and walked into the hallway. A minute or so went by and three of my buddies joined me in the hallway. What was their crime? They were laughing at my whistling. So, they were sort of accessories after the fact. We were a little gang–whistling and laughing our way to certain doom.

We didn’t say a word to each other. We all knew our fate. We were getting paddled, and there was nothing anybody could do to stop it. Mrs. Stamps came out into the hallway, walked straight past us and got Mrs. Senn out of her room. Mrs. Senn would have to serve as the witness. So, one by one we each grabbed our ankles and took three whacks on the backside from Mrs. Stamps’s wooden paddle. Reminder: I was paddled for whistling at Goodpasture Christian School, AKA, North Korea.

Fast forward almost 30 years. I was minding my own business one night when my house phone rang. (For all you millennials out there, people used to have a phone at their house that didn’t have Minecraft on it.) Here’s how the conversation went:

Me: “Hello.”

Unfamiliar woman’s voice: “James, this is Mrs. Stamps. Do you remember me?”

Me, after I passed out: “Yes, ma’am. Of course. How are you?”

Mrs. Stamps: “Well, I am not doing so well. I was thinking about my former students, and your name came up. Do you remember when I paddled you?”

Me, still hearing the echo of each swat in the recesses of my memory: “Yes, ma’am.”

Mrs. Stamps, now crying: “Did you deserve that? I think you didn’t deserve that. I am so sorry.”

Me, feeling both vindication for me and sorrow for her: “Mrs. Stamps, you did what you thought was right. I was a child. It was your call to make. I have no hard feelings toward you.”

Mrs. Stamps, still crying: “I’m just so sorry. You were a good boy. I don’t think you deserved that.”

Me, not knowing what to say next: “You shouldn’t feel bad.”

We said a few more pleasantries and ended the call. It was the first time I had talked to her since my last day in her class.

I might be the first student in the history of modern civilization to get an unsolicited apology from an elementary teacher for a spanking I may or may not have deserved. It was surreal. As unnecessary as that call was, I have to think that it took an incredible amount of guts for her to make it. Most people would consider the paddling water under the bridge. But something made her call me. Our consciences are funny like that. Some things eat us up. We have to do something or say something just to regain sanity.

I didn’t need that phone call, but she did. Good for her.

Why I Love Ohio State Sports

My Dad grew up in Lawrence County, Ohio, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky and West Virginia. As a homegrown Buckeye, Dad loved Ohio State. His uncle took him to an Ohio State game when he was a sophomore in high school, which would’ve been 1957. Dad doesn’t remember anything about the game, and it was the only Ohio State football game Dad ever attended.

Dad moved to Nashville in 1967 after teaching high school in Lawrence County for three years. He brought his Buckeye fandom with him and instilled it in his three sons.

I got a double dose.

Don’t tell anybody, but as a small child I remember cheering for the University of Tennessee at times. I remember being overjoyed that UT beat Miami in the 1986 Sugar Bowl. I was nine years old at the time, and, well, as a man grows up he puts away childish things. In the winter of 1986, I watched Ohio State beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on TV, and I was hooked. (My oldest brother, Mark, still has that game on a VHS tape.)

There wasn’t anything special about the late ’80s to early ’90s Buckeyes. They had good records, a few special players (ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit was a quarterback on one of those teams), and a couple of bowl wins. But things changed dramatically in the mid-’90s. The talent level sky-rocketed. Dan Wilkinson was the number one overall pick in the NFL draft in 1994, Eddie George won the Heisman Trophy in 1995, and Ohio State was consistently a top 10 program year after year. But there was one problem: They couldn’t beat their biggest rival, Michigan.

John Cooper, who would end up in the College Football Hall of Fame, ended his career as Ohio State’s coach (1988-2000) with a 2-10-1 record against Michigan. Unacceptable. And since that game is always the last game of the season, Michigan kept Ohio State from playing for–and possibly winning–at least two national championships in the ’90s. Otherwise, Cooper was a terrific recruiter and his teams consistently won 9-10 games a year.

Ohio State’s Michigan woes ended with the hiring of Jim Tressel (2001-2010) and his successor, Urban Meyer (2012-present). Since 2001, Ohio State has won 14 out of 16 Michigan games. What’s more, Tressel and Meyer each won national championships in the meantime.

So, here’s the thing: Ohio State football has given me many awesome weekends and only a few agonizing disappointments. Watching Ohio State sports is something I can do with my Dad and brothers. It gives me something to root for, and everybody needs something or somebody to root for. And it’s just a lot of fun.

Playing The Odds

Legendary Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes was known for his disdain of the forward pass. He said, “When you throw the ball, only three things can happen, and two of them are bad.” A pass can be complete (the one good thing), or it can be intercepted or incomplete (the two bad things). So, Hayes figured the safest thing to do was to run the ball far more often than throw it. His theory worked. Hayes won five national championships, and he coached the only player in college football history to win two Heisman trophies–Archie Griffin, a running back.

Decisions we make are often not based on right or wrong; they’re based on the odds. For instance, researchers determined that extended car warranties are only used about one-third of the time. Therefore, there is a 66% chance that the money you spend on the warranty will be wasted.

Consider the flu shot. The Centers for Disease Control states that on a given year the flu shot decreases your risk of contracting the flu by 50%. Can you still get the flu after getting a flu shot? Sure. The strain of flu that infects you might not be the one the shot prevented. But the fact remains that your risk of getting the flu greatly decreases by getting the shot.

When you consider the odds, the smart thing to do would be to pass on the extended warranty, then drive to your local Walgreens and get a flu shot.

By playing the odds, you’ll save yourself money, time, and a lot of frustration.

 

The Case Against Donald Trump

I have been a conservative Republican my entire life. I was born in 1977, a few months after Jimmy Carter took office, but the first president I was aware of was Ronald Wilson Reagan. Even as a small child, I was mesmerized by his Oval Office addresses, State of the Union speeches, and…him. He was The President. He was My President. He carried himself with dignity. He shrugged off criticism with a smile. He battled hardened politicians like Tip O’Neill, often won, and then called them to say, essentially, “That was a good fight. No hard feelings.” Being a former governor of the largest state in America (California), he understood the role of government and the rights of the states. He had two clearly defined objectives: make income taxes as low as possible and end the Soviet Union forever. Both were accomplished by the time he left office in 1989.

So, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the presidency, I was stunned. There was nothing about Donald Trump’s life that made me think he could be the leader of the free world. When the Republican debates started, my thoughts were confirmed over and over again. He never demonstrated that he understood the complexity of government. When trapped in his many contradictions and half-truths, he resorted to playground insults. His ultimate joy came from the adoration of the masses. Once he was (somehow) elected, his deficiencies came into full bloom. Almost a year into his presidency, here is what I have seen from Donald John Trump:

  1. A complete lack of humility. All great leaders (and presidents) are fully aware of the scope of their job. It’s overwhelming. While we don’t need or want a president who cowers in fear, we do need and want one who knows that each speech, sentence, and even word will echo in eternity. President Trump speaks as if he has no idea that historians are writing down what he says. His Twitter page is full of snide remarks, vague policy choices, and–more than anything else–a disdain for those who dare object to him. Which leads me to…
  2. A childish ego. On the playground, when one child insults another, the insulted child might say, “Oh yeah, well my Dad can beat up your Dad!” The relative strength of each child’s father is not in question, but in order to save face, the insulted child must change the subject just to get a dig on his opponent. Again, this is what children do. But–unfortunately–this is also the modus operandi of our current president. He acts like he is the first Republican (and I use that term loosely for Trump–I’ll get to that in a minute) president that the media despised. He can’t handle negative headlines. It is clear from his Twitter feed that he watches “Fox and Friends,” a conservative morning show, every morning. He needs a puff of smoke to shoot up his skirt so he can face a new day. It’s his espresso. If he reads or hears opposition, he resorts to name-calling and personal attacks. You don’t have to be an Ivy League trained psychologist to diagnose his problem: He has rarely ever heard the word “no” in his life, so his skin is tissue paper thin, which is not what you want from the leader of the free world.
  3. He has no idea what it means to be a conservative Republican. President Trump had never been elected to anything in his life prior to becoming president, so he had no history of policy-making and policy-implementing. All we knew about his ideology came from what he said during the campaign. What did we hear? Populism masquerading as conservatism. There is no set of beliefs with populism. If you think a certain crowd is bigger than the other crowd, you say what the bigger crowd wants to hear, and you’ll get elected. It’s that simple. Since President Trump’s ego longs to hear the roar of the crowd (after all, he put his name in large letters on anything he built as a businessman), he gave the people what they wanted. He talked about building a wall on the Mexican border that Mexico would pay for. (It’s not a bloated government program if another country pays for it, right?). He talked about doing religious tests for Middle Eastern immigrants. He talked about high tariffs on foreign goods (which is a policy that was partly responsible for the Great Depression, but when you don’t know history…). He wanted to tear up the Iranian deal Obama made. He wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare. Do you see a theme here? President Trump basically said, “Everybody is out to get you. The Iranians, the Mexicans, the insurance companies, everybody. Your life stinks because everybody else makes it stink. Make America Great Again!” That theme is not conservative. It’s liberal. Liberals are always blaming The System, The Man, The White Man, The Religious Person, etc. Conservatives preach personal responsibility. If the tide turns, make adjustments. Chart your own course. President Trump preached “Blame! Blame! Blame!…and believe everything I say!” This theme also brought the crazies out of the woodwork. “Make America Great Again” has been a mantra of the white supremacists for decades. They’ve always wanted to go back to better times…when whites were 90 percent of the population, when blacks and other minorities were subjugated, and so on. When President Trump spoke their language, they ran to his side. His message was not about the future (which is what Reagan focused on), but about the past. So since his election, we have seen violent demonstrations concerning racial issues.

It’s been one year since the election. There is no wall or any design for one. Republican legislators who won by large majorities in red states are deserting him. The latest Kim Jong in North Korea is as dangerous as ever. And the President’s disapproval rating is near 60 percent. Maybe one day we’ll elect an intelligent, articulate, conservative Republican who can talk about what makes America the freest nation on earth. But until then, we’ll have to tolerate the current occupier of the Oval Office–Agent Orange.