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Archive for the ‘Men’ Category

One of the worst parts about being single again at my age is the serious shortage in available, decent men. I guess I got too comfortable as a married woman and didn’t notice that all the really good guys were being snatched up off the market. But in the time since my husband left, I have found pretty much every possible representative of odd men that are still left on the singles scene. My married and relationshiped friends laugh when I make jokes about creating patches to represent these various different categories of men and wear the badges like a Girl Scout uniform. So, as a representative for single girls everywhere, I’m willing to proudly wear the Red Badges of Shame:

The Rebound Guy – this is the one who comes swooping in and says he knows exactly what you’re going through, he’ll be there for you, wants to rebuild your damaged ego, etc. I am a big enough girl to admit having fallen for that huge mistake – my rebound guy was over 20 years older than me and seriously resembles the cartoon character Shrek – without the sense of humor or lovable charm! Yeah, I’m real proud of this one.

The “You Were Better in My Head” Guy – this was the guy that ended up being so not worth the hype. My particular version of this guy had been the subject of some serious x-rated fantasies for me in the last year of my marriage as things were falling apart. It could have been terribly awkward if the husband had ever found out, since this fantasy-maker was a mutual friend of ours and in the fire service with us. Too bad he ended up being a MAJOR disappointment compared to all the fantasies I had built up in my head….

The Momma’s Boy – this guy couldn’t decide what to wear without consulting his mother. I was actually surprised, the few times we went out to dinner, that he didn’t either ask her to join us or have to call her for guidance on what to eat. And the worst part was that I was actually disappointed when this one dumped me. We won’t even ponder why I waited around long enough to get dumped.

The Pimp – yep, that’s right, he was a real, honest-to-God pimp – in his past, or so he promised me. And he considered it a compliment to me when he said I could have been his house mother. Gee, thanks, I don’t even get to be a ‘service provider’, I just get to babysit and cook for them. Really??

The ‘I Can’t Believe You Dumped Me for HER’ Guy – this is the guy that you see out with the next girl and you literally think to yourself ‘really, THAT girl’s better than me?’!  I went out with a guy once who is in law enforcement and who blew me off for someone he met through work – and NOT on the free side of the bars if you get my general drift. That’ll take a chunk out of a girl’s ego – of course, my husband left me for a woman who is going bald and has a mustache so there wasn’t much ego left but still….

The Control Freak – this is the guy that can’t be bothered to squeeze you into his schedule if it’s inconvenient but he damn well wants to know where you are and who you’re with. And, if you mention that you have guy friends and that you’re spending time with them, be prepared for the Control Freak to go batcrap crazy. You’ve been warned.

The “Are You SURE You’re Not Gay?” Guy – this guy was classy, educated, well-spoken and always dressed well. All in all, way too perfect to have been interested in me. I still haven’t figured out yet if he really is a gay man or just out of my league…

The Merry Widower – this one actually called me for emotional support on the night of his wife’s funeral. His need to ‘talk’ to someone lasted only as long as it took me to fall hard for his wounded, emotionally vulnerable self – and then he was moving on, getting engaged and pregnant within a year. Wow, shame on me, that’s all I can say….

The Baby Daddy – we all know them and love them, the men who just seem destined to be dads. Normally, I am a sucker for a guy with kids, who spends time with them, loves them, and supports them. This particular individual, though, has *4* children – with *4* different women. There is something charming about a loving dad – there is something not so charming about a serial sperm donor.

The Hillbilly – miles beyond the normal redneck man (who we all know I happen to love), the Hillbilly is in a class all by his double-wide-trailered self. This is the guy that thinks “hey, wanna see the deer hide still stuck in the front bumper of my station wagon ’cause I ran him down last month?” is an actual pickup line.

The Loser – this guy lives with his parents (in the basement, the attic, whatever) and doesn’t really seem to be bothered by it. Normally, when an adult child has to move home for some reason, there is a sense of discomfort and unease on the part of the adult child – they don’t really WANT to be there. But with this guy, he’s quite content to let Mom & Dad foot the bills, do the laundry, cook the meals and keep the house.

The Second Date Guy – this particularly charming individual got pissed off at me when I wouldn’t sleep with him on the second date. I will politely refrain from using the phrase Trailer Trash …but suffice it to say, I don’t give this one high marks for class or chivalry.

The Possessor – this guy is the one who wants to know where you are, what you’re doing, and who you’re with at every moment. He needs constant reassurance that you’re interested and wants to know when you will be calling him, seeing him, or texting him. It’s a sad day when I date a man who is a bigger girl than I am!

The One Who Is Just Waiting For Something Better – this charmer is the one who basically tells you he’s just passing the time with you. He checks his texts constantly while out with you, hoping that a better offer has come along. While he gets points for being honest and upfront, he will someday realize that telling a girl straight out that she will be only a booty call is somewhat insulting.

The Emotionally Unavailable One – this is the one that, no matter how hard you try to establish an emotional connection, you just can’t rip through the walls he’s built up. I couldn’t even get a straight answer from this guy on WHY he had built up these walls – it was like trying to ram my head into the proverbial brick wall.

The Egotist – this is the guy that never once asks you a single question about yourself or listens to anything you have to say. He’s too busy telling you about his history, his life, his hobbies, his job, his taste in food, etc. You could stand naked in the corner and whistle Dixie and it wouldn’t interrupt the soliloquy about HIM.

The Friend – this is perhaps the biggest mistake we as newly-single women can make! If he was a friend either from your previous single life or worse yet from your married days do NOT try to have a relationship with him! It will be awkward when things don’t work out and then you’ve potentially ruined a friendship that has survived the test of time. Or, even if you can salvage the friendship, you will always feel a certain resentment when you see him with the next girl.

The Wounded Soul – this guy is the easiest to fall for, especially if you’re like me – a sucker with a big heart. It’s like adopting a homeless puppy – they’re so vulnerable and needy and you can help them and make their lives better. The downfall is that you can either end up with the dog that will one day turn on you inexplicably and bite you in the ass OR you end up with the one who just acts like he’s waiting for you to kick him in the teeth because some woman in the past has done just that. Either way, you can’t win and it won’t be a healthy relationship.

And all of these charmers are the ones I actually went out with – this doesn’t include the variety of men that are still out there, just waiting for me. Oh, come on girls, you know we’ve ALL been out with these guys – I cannot possibly be the only one to have discovered some of these ‘treasures’! In a rare flash of uncharacteristic optimism, I am going to HOPE that I might one day start a relationship with Mr. Perfect. This is the guy that is, in so many ways, the anthithesis of the men that are normally attracted to me – he’s intelligent, kind, educated, well-spoken, with a good job and a sense of decency – and he actually reads books and uses his brain for matters other than sex or fire trucks. He will be able to tolerate me and my quirky ways, he will treat me well, and he will be normal…and then maybe I can throw away the collection of badges? Oh, Mr. Perfect, here I am, ready and waiting….

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Bonnie Baker circa 1945

The long-forgotten contributors to the American pastime are the women in this country. Not just the wives and mothers who have supported and encouraged some of the best players to join the Yankees, the Sox, the Indians and the Giants; not just the few trailblazing women featured in A League of Their Own; but the vast sea of females who have fought for decades to be able to swing a bat at a hard ball, to stand on the diamond and feel the thrill of The Show.  Women have stood in the stands and cheered on their favorite teams, stood on the field as professional and amateur players, stood behind the plate as umpires, stood in the front offices as executives, even stood in the press box as sportswriters. We have, since the game began, struggled to have an equal place at Home Plate – and I wonder if we will ever be able to finally gain full equity?

The argument can be made that baseball itself is a microcosm of American society at large – from the capitalist system of outrageous salaries, free agencies, and merchandising to the socioeconomic disparities between “haves” and “have nots”; from the ethnic opening of the game from its all-white origins to its geographic expansion across this great land of ours. Baseball, too, parallels the struggles that minorities (including women) have had to make to be included in the American pastime. Just as in society at large, women have struggled to break gender, race, and age barriers to participate in a game that they loved. Facing hardship, bias, intolerance and physical difficulties, women have been able to transform their places on the diamond and have forced their way into a game that has been predominantly male.

From base ball’s very beginnings in the 19thcentury, women had to fight the social conventions in order to simply play in gender-segregated leagues. Teams formed at women’s colleges almost simultaneously with the development of professional men’s baseball – but of course women

Vassar College "Resolutes" Base Ball Club (June 1876)

would be discouraged from ever considering a career in baseball. These teams were formed for exercise only and were expected to only play other female teams. The first known women’s professional team was a team of nine African-American women called the Dolly Vardens, formed in Philadelphia in 1867, just one year after Philadelphia’s first black men’s teams organized and two years before the  first white men’s professional baseball club formed, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. These teams could not, of course, interact with their male counterparts or even dress as practically. Most uniforms were long-sleeved, frilled shirts with high necklines, wide, floor-length skirts, and heeled, high-button shoes. In 1870s America, an American woman could not vote or own property in her own name after she married; she could play baseball, though, as long as she could play it in an outfit that weighed almost 30 pounds!

The first women’s professional game (i.e. players received paychecks) was in 1875 in which the Blondes played the Brunettes in Springfield, Illinois and by 1879 the Philadelphia Blue Stockings and the New York Red Stockings (both female ‘nines’) were battling it out in Philadelphia for the female championship. This was just the start of female teams barnstorming the country and by the 1890s, these “Bloomer Girl” clubs were actually allowed to play against men’s town clubs, semi-pro clubs, and minor league teams – they rarely played against other girls’ teams. Interestingly, the average girls’ club of this era usually included at

Star Bloomer Girls Team (Indianapolis, IN) circa 1900

least 3 men playing (often in drag); Rogers Hornsby and Smokey Joe Wood got their starts on these teams.

Around the turn of the 20thcentury, women began to make inroads into the male teams and leagues. In 1898, Lizzie Arlington (real name Elizabeth Stroud) became the first woman to sign a contract to pitch for the Reading Coal Heavers of the Atlantic League. Alta Weiss joined a men’s semiprofessional team in 1907 and was known for her refusal to wear a skirt on the field – and for leaving her baseball career to become a medical doctor. In 1904, Amanda Clement was the first woman to be paid to umpire and umpired professionally for 6 years after that. In 1908, Maude Nelson was the starting pitcher for the men’s Cherokee Indian Baseball Club. And from 1911 to 1916, the St. Louis Cardinals were owned by Helene Britton. Women were taking places all over the game!

Just as women nationwide were pushing for equal rights in the voting booths, the homes, and in businesses, they also found more opportunities in baseball. The 1920s saw the formation of women’s factory teams, the most famous of which was the Philadelphia Bobbies, founded in 1922 by Mary O’Gara, Edith Houghton and Loretta “Stick” Lipski, who made headlines by travelling all over the East Coast and even abroad to play in Japan. But women were under enormous pressure to stay away from the male milieu of baseball – they were ‘supposed’ to be playing softball. Softball, first played in 1887, was really where women were being encouraged to participate. Because of its different rules – including shorter base paths ergo a smaller field, a larger ball, underhand pitching, and no steals – many assumed it was an easier game and more suited to the ‘feminine temperament.’ But it truly is a different game (and, by no means easier or more womanly, just ask any of the millions of men who play it today) and was not what the female baseball aficionado of the time wanted to play!

Edith Houghton, circa 1925

Women were falling in love with America’s game – the traditional seventh-inning stretch ditty, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” was written in 1908 about a young woman’s insistence that her beau can only date her if he takes her out to a game. For the first time in history, women could see themselves in the face of the game, in the face of Lizzie Murphy who in 1928 became the first person, of either gender, to play for both the American League and National League in All-Star games. And in the face of Edith Houghton, who played for the Bobbies and left to play for New York’s Bloomer Girls and the Hollywood Girls, eventually ending up making $35 a week playing men’s minor league teams. (As a side note, after playing for the Navy WAVES in World War II, Edith wrote to Bob Carpenter, owner of the Philadelphia Phillies, asking for a job as a scout, making her the first female scout in

Jackie Mitchell of the Chattanooga Lookouts (1931)

the major leagues). Or in the face of Jackie Mitchell, who was signed at age 17 to the Chattanooga Lookouts in 1931 and, during an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, struck out both Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, causing baseball commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis to void her contract and declare women unfit to play baseball as the game was “too strenuous”. Babe Ruth was quoted in a Chattanooga newspaper as having said:

“I don’t know what’s going to happen if they begin to let women in baseball. Of course, they will never make good. Why? Because they are too delicate. It would kill them to play ball every day.”

Mitchell continued to play professionally, even at one point travelling with the House of David, a men’s team famous for their long hair and beards – she would occasionally wear a fake beard just for the publicity. These were the women that were inspiring a whole new generation of baseball fans, a diverse and plucky bunch of ‘girls.’ Women of all classes could aspire to the highest level of baseball!

Unfortunately, when the Depression hit, all Americans of all genders and races were forced to concentrate on more pressing problems. Opportunities for paychecks were limited and sure weren’t going to be wasted on a girl in the game! Despite the “Bloomer Girls” that had been playing professionally for almost 40 years (the last of which disbanded in 1934), the public opinion in the 1930s was that women had “inferior abilities” in sports. There were but a few bold women who managed to keep their feet in the doors – among them Effa Manley who co-owned the Newark Eagles with her husband and took care of most of the day-to-day operations. An ardent civil rights activists, she would later coauthor a history of black baseball and would lobby for Hall of Fame inclusion of Negro League Players. She herself would become the first woman elected and inducted to the Cooperstown hall in 2006.

In the 1940s, America went off to war – and her men went too. Women’s opportunities in baseball mirrored those in the world at large. As men headed off to war in the 1940s, women moved into the workplace and again took their place on the baseball diamond. Many minor league teams had disbanded due to male personnel shortages and many feared that the major leagues would soon follow. In 1943, Philip K. Wrigley, the chewing-gum mogul who had inherited the major league Chicago Cubs franchise from his father, frantically began searching for ideas to keep his team out of ruin. His committee proposed a female league to attract the crowds to the ballparks and keep the revenue coming in while the men were off to war and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) was born. Originally intended as a softball league, the trustees soon changed the rules of play to match the existing rules of Major League Baseball – although the retention of shorter infield distances and underhand pitching caused some controversy in the media (which would eventually resolve itself as the league adopted overhand pitching and smaller base sizes). Using some of Major League Baseball’s scouts, talented women players were recruited from all over America and Canada. Sixty women were chosen to play on four teams, which included 15 players, a manager/coach, a business manager and a female chaperone. Sadly, it was believed that each team needed to have a notable male sports figure to coach the teams in order to increase interest in the league so 4 men were chosen to ‘lead’ these new teams.

The women selected for Wrigley’s league were paid between $45 and $85 a week, for which they were expected to be skilled on the field and adhere to strict moral and personal standards off the field. Stiff codes of conduct were imposed and femininity was a high priority – the scenes in A League of Their Own showing deportment lessons and table manner classes are not fictionalized. After their daily ball practices, the teams were requested to attend evening charm school classes. Etiquette, personal hygiene, manners, and dress codes were as much a part of this experience as stolen bases, runs batted in, and pitching styles. With the assistance of Mrs. Wrigley, a new uniform was designed to highlight the delicate

AAPGBL player at work

females of these teams – no longer could they wear the trousers that had become custom for women in baseball. Fashioned after figure-skating, field hockey and women’s tennis costumes, these short-skirted tunics showed off the assets of each player. Thankfully, a pair of satin shorts and knee-high baseball socks were allowed to preserve the modesty of the players and a practical sun-blocking baseball cap completed the ensemble.

These new teams were well-received in their sponsoring cities and by the time the Racine Belles won their first World Championship in 1943, enthusiasm was high. The drastic changes in the roles of women in and out of the home (caused by the war) made for an environment much more suited to accepting women on the baseball diamond. Additionally, a trip to the ball park was an easy, inexpensive luxury in the age of food stamps, gas rationing, and long work weeks. Patriotism abounded at these games, including the opening ceremonies in which the teams formed a giant V (for victory) down the baselines followed by the Star-Spangled Banner. The players also spent time off the field visiting hospitals and veterans homes and playing exhibition games to raise funds for the Red Cross. How could a normal, red-blooded American resist the appeal of this new league?

Things began to decline when the league expanded to larger markets for the 1944 season. The media and the fandom in these larger cities were not as inclined to accept and celebrate the female league – often, they were considered only a brief side note to the daily sports reports. The larger

Rockford Peaches (1944)

stadiums put a distance between the players and the fans and removed the ability for most of the female players to be able to hit the ball over the fences for those exciting home runs. Larger cities, too, offered a more diverse set of opportunities for entertainment and people didn’t need to go to the ballpark. But, with some restructuring of the league and its ownership, the league rallied to keep afloat. And, despite the myth, when the war ended in 1945, the AAGPBL was still swinging. Junior Leagues for girls hoping to move up in the ranks were formed; spring training seasons were organized in Mississippi, Florida, and Cuba; two more teams were added and a 4-team minor league system was set up. The league peaked in attendance in the 1948 season and several notable players attracted fans across the country, including Sophie Kurys who set the stolen base record for the AAGPBL with 201 stolen bases in 203 attempts, a record that remains unequalled in baseball history (note: Ricky Henderson is second in stolen bases with only 130). When the league voted to decentralize management, publicity/promotion, and player recruitment, it was the beginning of the end. Other forms of entertainment and increasing personal wealth lured fans from the poorly organized and advertised games; additionally, the advent of televised Major League Baseball games in the early 1950s made it more comfortable to sit at home and watch the game. Revenues began to fall and several teams folded due to simple lack of money. But, during its run the AAGPBL gave over 600 women athletes the opportunity to play professional baseball on a scale never seen before or since!

With the collapse of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League in the 1950s and the accompanying return to a more restrictive view of a woman’s proper sphere, women’s opportunities in baseball again declined in the postwar years. In 1952, Eleanor Engle signed a contract with the minor league Harrisburg Senators but before she could take the field, MLB commissioner Ford Frick banned women from playing on any major or minor league team, stating that women (and the accompanying attention and publicity) would distract from the game – and Engle’s contract was then quickly voided by team officials. Frick’s ban stands in effect to this day.

As an interesting side note to the AAGPBL story, black women were barred from playing and subsequently found room for their talents on men’s

Connie Morgan getting batting advice from Jackie Robinson (1953)

teams in the Negro Leagues. Three women played for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 1950s, including Connie Morgan of Philadelphia, who played second base for two years. Hilda Bolden Shorter, who grew up in Darby, Pennsylvania, inherited ownership of the Negro league Philadelphia Stars from her father Ed Bolden in 1950 and remained at the helm of the club until 1952. Several of these women, like Toni Stone, Connie Morgan, and Mamie “Peanuts” Johnson, would end their careers with statistics that shamed their male counterparts.

Women’s opportunities in baseball did not increase significantly until after passage of Title IX in 1972, which required schools that received federal funding to provide equal opportunities, including athletic opportunities, to both sexes. The women’s rights movement of the 1970s also influenced younger girls who wanted to play baseball, and in 1974, following numerous suits, Little League opened its fields to girls under court order.

Slowly, women also found positions in the media, management, and umpiring of the game. In 1967 Bernice Gera, who was born in Ernest, Pennsylvania, and grew up participating in sports of all kinds, decided to attend the Florida Baseball Umpire School, and she became the first

Bernice Gera, circa 1972

woman to complete the course. Gera tried for a number of years to break into organized baseball, but it was clear that her gender stood in the way. After taking her case to court, she umpired one game before calling it quits—it was too hard to fight for every game. Major League Baseball opened its clubhouses to female reporters in 1970 but the harassment was endless, including one female reporter who received a dead rat in the mail. In 1977, Mary Shane became the first woman employed on a daily basis to do play-by-play for the Milwaukee Brewers, hired by the famous Bill Veeck. In 1979 Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, continuing his controversial rulings, threw the women out of the clubhouses, thereby removing their ability to compete with their male counterparts. But they haven’t kept us out for long – in 2005 Suzyn Waldman with the New York Yankees became the first full-time female television commentator.

Although organized baseball officially banned women players from major and minor league teams, the women of the 1960s and 70s didn’t let this stand in their way. In 1974, with the passage of Title IX, girls could finally play baseball in their schools, in Little League, and on college teams. Umpire positions, opened up by trailblazers like Bernice Gera, Christine Wren, and Pam Postema, keep women behind home plate as well. Women in the owner’s chairs, like Effa Manley (Neward Eagles), Hilda Bolden Shorter (Philadelphia Stars), Jean Yawkey (Boston Red Sox), Jackie Autry (Anaheim Angels) and Joan Kroc (San Diego Padres) and Marge Schott (Cincinnati Reds) have allowed women to call the shots in management and financing of their teams as well. Joan Payson, as 10% owner of the New York Giants, was the only stockholder to vote against the move to San Francisco. She became majority owner of the expansion Mets in 1962 and in 1969 she became the first female owner to win the world championship and, upon her passing, left the team to her daughter and granddaughters to continue the legacy.

Opportunities for women to play professionally, however, remained scarce. Finally, in 1994 (exactly 40 years after the AAGBL folded), the Colorado Silver Bullets formed and lasted four seasons as a professional team. Women came from all over to join the club, which played men’s

Colorado Silver Bullets circa 1995

college, amateur, and semi-pro teams. But, since there was no league for these women to play in, their competition base was limited only to the men’s teams that were willing to play against them.

In the last 20 years, the American Women’s Baseball Association (AWBA), American Women’s Baseball League (AWBL), and Women’s National Adult Baseball Association (WNABA) have been organized in an effort to create an organized united baseball system for women. A Women’s World Series was played in 2001 in Toronto with teams from the USA, Australia, Canada and Japan competing. In 2003, women’s baseball became an official sport in the Amateur Athletic union, the first time a national organization sanctioned and supported women’s baseball. In 2004, John Kovach, the director of the Great Lakes Women’s Baseball League, worked out a deal with Little League to develop girls’ Little League baseball programs around the country. And in 2009, Justine Siegal became the first female coach of a men’s professional team with the Cleveland Indians.

While many male baseball fans may think that the game enjoyed a period of testosterone tranquility or man-cave solitude in its ‘good old days,’ women have been involved in the game since its very beginnings. Individual women, women’s teams, and whole women’s leagues have contributed a tremendous amount to the creation, evolution, and expansion of America’s game. We, as fans of that game, cannot afford to forget that women deserve the right to be a part of America’s pastime. The history of baseball is rich with the stories of the brave females who have helped to build the game, who have proven that baseball is not and cannot be the exclusive playgrounds for the boys of summer. And while we have not yet been as successful in breaking down the barriers as some other groups of minorities, we women are ready and waiting for our chance to shine on the diamond!

 

To learn more about women in baseball, check out:

Sue Macy’s  A Whole New Ball Game

Merrie Fidler’s The Origin and History of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League

The All American Pro Girls Professional Baseball League

 More than a Man’s Game: Pennsylvania’s Women Play Ball

Society for American Baseball Research

Gai Berlage’s Women in Baseball 

Susan E. Johnson’s When Women Played Hardball

Deidre Silva’s It Takes More Than Balls: The Savvy Girls’ Guide to Understanding and Enjoying Baseball

Marilyn Cohen’s No Girls in the Clubhouse: The Exclusion of Women from Baseball

Jean Hastings Ardell’s Breaking Into Baseball: Women and the National Pastime

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A special tribute to the AssHat that I once loved! Thank you for convincing me to stop!

I haven’t been to church since I don’t remember when

Things were going great – til they fell apart again

So I listened to the preacher as he told me what to do

He said “You can’t go hating others who have done wrong to you.

Sometimes we get angry, but we must not condemn.

Let the good Lord do His job and you just pray for them.”
I pray your brakes go out running down a hill,

I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill

and knocks you in the head like I’d like to.

I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls,

 I pray you’re flying high when your engine stalls.

I pray all your dreams never come true.

Just know wherever you are honey, I pray for you.
I’m really glad I found my way to church

‘Cause I’m already feeling better and I thank God for his words.

Yeah I’m going take the high road, And do what the preacher told me to do.

You keep messing up and I’ll keep praying for you.
I pray your tire blows out at 110.

I pray you pass out drunk with your best friend

and wake up with his and her tattoos.

I pray your brakes go out running down a hill,

I pray a flowerpot falls from a window sill

and knocks you in the head like I’d like to.

I pray your birthday comes and nobody calls,

I pray you’re flying high when your engine stalls.

I pray all your dreams never come true.

Just know wherever you are, near or far, in your house or in your car,

wherever you are honey, I pray for you. I pray for you!

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(with apologies to Kenny Chesney)

The other day I was driving through the northern end of my county, largely farmland and saw all these great jacked-up farm trucks and hunters’ vehicles. That got me thinking about how much I miss home and the good, old-fashioned country stock that I come from. Yes, believe it or not, this highly-sophisticated girl (yeah, right) is a redneck at heart! I miss mucking stalls and feeding the animals in the brisk morning air. I miss the smell of newly mown hay fields or leaves burning in the fall. I miss the excitement of sales on Wranglers and cowboy boots at the Tractor Supply store.  I miss the days when a good saddle and a pair of good splint boots were the most valuable things I owned. What can I say, I’m just a good redneck girl at heart.

I do have to take this moment to draw a very clear distinction between ‘redneck’ and ‘hillbilly’. A redneck drives a relatively new Dodge Ram pickup truck on lifts with camo trim – a hillbilly drives a 1971 Ford truck with mismatched quarter panels and partially painted with leftover housepaint. A redneck marries a girl who grew up in the country and shares the same values of family, God, and country – a hillbilly marries his cousin. A redneck finished high school, if grudgingly, so that he could get a decent job – a hillbilly can’t even spell his own name. A redneck clings close to his ideals on politics, family values and religion – a hillbilly clings tight to his ignorance.

So we all know that I find a redneck man very attractive! This isn’t a secret, hell it isn’t even a new facet to my personality. I have always been drawn to those rough and tough types, the more rugged and ‘countryfied’ the better. That must explain why I was married to the only black redneck this side of the Mississippi. From his Dale Earnhardt baseball cap (with the fishing hook attached) to his camo sweatshirt to his Carhartt jacket, my ex-husband was ready for a life in the true country. Honestly, I think that was one of the things that most made me love him – he was a through-and-through country boy, skin color be damned.

I have a sincere love for men who are true country, from their John Deere caps to their work boots, farmers tans and all. There is just something uniquely charming to me about a man who grew up in a small town, with a love of the land, a respect for his mamma, and a connection to the human beings around him. They aren’t buried in complicated technology (unless its the newest Case tractor) and don’t let money rule their values systems. They say “good morning” to strangers, help people in need, and consider cutting their own Christmas trees part of the holiday traditions. They reminisce about the good old days when a man’s word was his bond and trade gossip at the farm bureau dinners or over breakfast at the local cafe.

So when I see a big truck or a tractor, I can’t help but look inside to see if there’s a handsome, teddy-bear of a redneck driving it. To me, those sexy trucks symbolize a truly decent man who is in touch with the country that runs in his veins. This isn’t a materialistic thing, don’t get me wrong – it doesn’t have to be a new or expensive vehicle. In fact, a few dings and a layer of mud are even sexier – shows a man who knows his way around the dirt roads. And heaven help that man if he’s towing a trailer – I might just follow him home! I can’t help it – I just think his truck is sexy…

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I have a very good guy friend who is, in almost all ways possible, the exact opposite of me. Besides the typical gender-related differences, he is so vastly different from me I sometimes wonder how we ever became friends at all. He is outgoing and can talk to anybody; I am rather shy and quiet around people unless I know them well. He is brash and bold; I am reserved. He is noble and brave; I am afraid of my own shadow half the time.

One of the most interesting differences, though, is how we have each responded to the extreme emotional hurt we’ve dealt with over the years. Like me, his spouse cheated on him and made a mockery of their marriage. Like me, Cupid has run over him with the proverbial truck and left him single in his 30s. And, like me, he is a decent, honest, hardworking human being with a heart of gold.

But, unlike me, he has responded to the hurts inflicted on him by becoming almost pathologically afraid of long-term commitments and decent relationships. My theory is that, in his life prior to when I met him, he wore his heart on his sleeve and gave his love easily. I suspect, from what he has told me about his past, that he fell in love regularly – he was engaged more times than Elizabeth Taylor, for God’s sake! I think he was too eager to love and to be married and to have that lifelong commitment. And, since those various past women screwed him over in a variety of ways, he is now over-compensating and refusing to let himself get attached to anybody! He gets involved with women who he KNOWS can’t stay in a decent relationship – they’re married or they’re drama queens or they’re super-high-maintenance or they’re emotionally unavailable or or or…. Subconsciously, he is attracted to and pursues women who are pretty screwed up (and in some cases, just total trash) because he knows they won’t stay around long. He prevents further hurt and damage to himself by keeping himself emotionally distant from these women.

This is the opposite of how I have dealt with my various broken hearts. I immediately begin looking for the next ‘victim’ and trying to create a new instant relationship. I hand my heart over again and again in an attempt to nab that elusive happy, loving, normal relationship – and ultimately end up with another crack in the broken heart. And yet I can’t seem to stop trying! Instead of becoming the commitment-phobe that my friend is, I am a commitment-addict. Relationships are my ‘heroin’ and I need a quick fix.

About the only thing that my friend and I seem to have in common is that we both seem to be pursuing the WRONG people! Someone once told me that if you lay down with dogs, you will get up with fleas – and both my friend and I seem to be hell-bent on finding those dogs. Neither one of us seem to be looking in the right places for decent, hardworking, non-criminal, non-loser people.

So now that I have psychoanalyzed the situation (and my poor friend who has no idea he is the subject of these deep musings) I know that I need to get off my ‘heroin’ and get rid of the addiction – but NOT become the commitment-phobe that my dear friend is. And we both need to stay away from the relationship dogs and find some decent people!

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From the very moment we, as little girls, dream of our wedding, we hope that we will find a giving, kind man that will treat us like queens, love puppies, and give kisses regularly. We can’t help it, we dream of the wonderful men that will wait for us at the altar, who will walk hand-in-hand with us through the paths of life. We all long for the once-in-a-lifetime love – and we all sort through a huge stack of possibilities trying to find Mr. Right.

As any female over the age of 25 can tell you, there was a whole string of maybes and like-a-lots. These are the men who walk into our lives and teach us the good and bad about ourselves, our world, and our expectations. They are the men that show us what qualities we desire in a mate. Some of these men are good, some are awful – and they are ALL educational! These men are the trial-and-error elements of finding love in this mixed-up world. They are the gods we drool over from afar, the bad boys who will treat us horribly, the overly-kind mammas boys, the geeks, the cheating bastards, the sex fiends, the players, and the big talkers. We have to suffer through these mistakes in order to find out who we are as women and what we want in life.

I have truly loved two men in my life. They didn’t turn out to be the “right” ones for me but, in fairness, they were wonderful men. They each had qualities that made me love them uncontrollably and unconditionally. These two men were noble and kind, brave and strong, and as loving and giving as their natures allowed them to be. They weren’t good fits for me – who knows, maybe no one is – but I cannot deny that they are good, decent people. I would like to think that I wouldn’t have loved them if they were total losers! In hindsight, I know that they each had qualities that are endearing and charming and captivating. I loved them, flaws and all, because they are good men. I hope that the women now in their lives realize how special these two men are!

So how do we, as women, swim through the wide, crowded pool of humanity to find someone who is a good fit? It was hard enough when I had my youth and idealism, energy and naivete. Now I am older, wiser, more jaded, and yet still not cautious enough to guard my heart. How on earth do I avoid any more painful chapters in my fairy tale? How do I find someone that I can love as much as the previous two but who will treat me better? How do I find the one man who will realize how much more there is to me than just love handles and a stubborn nature?

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Why is it that we as women are afraid to ask for what we want? Why can’t we state plainly and clearly what we want in this life? Why aren’t we allowed to make demands on how we want to be treated? Oh no, instead we have to dance around the subjects and use pretty words and flowery symbolism to SUGGEST what we want. This is especially frustrating when we are dealing with men because, as we well know, they do not do well with hints and innuendos. They want things spelled out clearly, with no room for error or misinterpretation.

Example: You are due to go out to eat with a group of guys. You are afraid that they are going to take you to Hooters or a titty bar. You politely mention a couple of really nice sports bars and/or barbecue joints that you’ve read about. Rather than flat out stating “No, I won’t go to Hooters and I do NOT believe that you go there only for the wings,” you hedge around the issue and stress over whether you’ll have to eat while watching some poor half-naked woman prance around. It would save you quite a few points on the blood pressure cuff if you could just say how you feel.

Another example: You’re ‘seeing’ a guy and he wants to take a break, gives you the “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel that cavemen perfected and has been in use ever since. Rather than coming right out and saying “you’re so full of shit, tell me what is REALLY going on,” you nod and smile and agree that maybe just being friends for now will work. And then you eat a gallon of ice cream and wonder (obsessively) what you did wrong.

Yet another example: You really want this cute guy in the bar to notice you. You’ve done all the standard girl motions like flipping your hair, sticking your boobs out, laughing adorably, and batting your eyelashes – and he’s still not getting it. Instead of just saying “hey, I saw you across the bar and thought I’d like to get to know you better,” you stay with your girlfriends, pray desperately that he’ll notice you, and leave at the end of the night frustrated because you think you can’t find a decent man anywhere.

Do you see where I’m going with this, ladies? In all of those cases, the men probably have NO IDEA what we are really thinking. They are not psychic and cannot read our minds. And, yes, in most cases you would think that it would be fairly self-evident – but we cannot assume! So we need to get better about vocalizing what we want and what we demand. And this lesson will need to extend beyond our interactions with men – in our careers, our home lives, and our friendships, we have to get better at saying what we want! It’s time to start telling the world what we want, girls!

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