Snip, Snidin’ Away

I had a vasectomy. There. Now you can never not know that about me.

Yep. I just upped the friendship level here by about a thousand. Hello, Besties.

Anyways, yes I had a vasectomy. My baby making days are behind me. That was almost three years ago now. And honestly, it was totally not a BFD. That’s Big Fucking Deal for those unfamiliar with the term.

It was supposed to be. TV says it is a big deal. I was supposed to be very anxious about it. I was supposed to be worried about losing my manhood, my machismo, my dudeness. However how much I had to begin with has often been up for debate. I drive a white prius with a Wonder Woman sticker in the window. My wife picks out my clothes for me, I do the bulk of both the grocery shopping and cooking in our house, and my days off generally revolve around doing the neverending pile of laundry in my basement. So whether there was much manhood to cut off is open to interpretation.

But I had a vasectomy, and here’s the tale of it peppered with observations and humor(again, up for interpretation).

I have four sons, two my wife had with her ex and two we had together. This is a bit of an achievement. When Shay and I first were getting to know each other, she was sure she was done having babies. She’d done that and was ready to move on to new adventures. I on the other hand had not. And while I didn’t know much about what I wanted to do with my life, I knew I wanted kids. Not that I had any issues being a stepfather. The Bigs, as we call them, are wonderful. At the time I met them they were still little, 6 & 4. And I loved them immediately. So it wasn’t that I didn’t see them as my own because they came from another dude’s willy. I don’t see it as that. But there was the birth and baby part that I knew I wanted to have a part in. When Shay said she didn’t want any more kids… well it looked like that was the end of the story. And that would have been okay. I personally have broken up with women for way less reasonable conflicts and disagreements. One time I broke up with a girl because I couldn’t decide what kind of chips I wanted at a gas station.

Of course this didn’t prove to be the end of our story. As we continued to get to know each other, and our relationship grew, we decided that we did eventually want to have at least a kid together. And eventually we did.

Our third son changed everything for me. Made me different, made me grow up. Everything you read or hear about becoming a dad is true. You’re not the same at all, and your brain starts to work different. And it’s totally fucking awesome. It’s what I needed and wanted for myself and our little family. And we thought it was just enough and just right. We were okay with our three boys and calling it good.

But of course, you don’t always get a say in these things. Shay got pregnant again. I was stoked from the get go. She took a minute or two to warm to the idea, but eventually she came around to it. Once we got on the same page, we were super stoked for our fourth little guy to come along.

But we were also sure of one indisputable fact: this was going to be the last one. No debate. Four was enough. Ain’t no more fucking babies for us after four. No way, no how.

We weighed our options. Now, I don’t know how much ya’ll know about a lady getting her tubes tied, but apparently it’s pretty rough. I’m pretty sure there’s more to it than just loop, swoop, and pulling the baby-making apparatus shut forever. There’s recovery time and other potential issues. On the other hand, a vasectomy is super quick with minimal impact and potential dangers. So considering how much harder having a baby is, it only seemed reasonable for me to take this one for the team. We came to an accord that I would get myself fixed(or broken as I have heard another dude in my situation calls it). But since my wife was already pregnant, I didn’t feel like there was anything to rush.

She had other thoughts. She wanted it done and over with. Here’s the thing I’ve learned from being around a pregnant woman: pregnancy, while a miracle, is kind of unpleasant. There are apparently a lot of cons to the experience. And while the end result is a super pro, the cons are difficult to ignore as well. Seeing as this was her fourth go around with this unpleasantness,  Shay was in a bit of a rush to take steps to ensure that this would indeed be the final go around with the babies. Steps needed to be taken.

I said I wasn’t in a rush, and that really is the most accurate way to describe it. It wasn’t that I was afraid, I wasn’t. And I didn’t have any issues wondering if I would lose anything in the process. I didn’t make kids for the first 29 years of my life and that was fine. If going forward I didn’t make them anymore either, it really didn’t bother me. I also knew several dudes who had already had the procedure and they had told me nothing changed afterwards. To me, it wasn’t a big deal and I’d get around to it sooner or later.

Well Mrs. B was on a mission. And she was not messing around. She had a 2 step plan to get ‘er done. First she appealed to a side of me that she knew I would listen to: my cheapness. Yes, I love a deal. I have a deep-seeded phobia of money. This phobia more often than not leads to a process of researching an item, finding what I want, getting to the point where it is in either my physical or virtual cart, and then at the last minute chickening out and putting it back and eventually justifying that I don’t actually need it. This habit… pisses my wife off to no end. Now, in my defense I have gotten better at it. With the exception of large purchases. Ya know, things over $50 dollars. General rule of the house is if we want to buy something over $50 bucks, Shay buys it while I close my eyes in terror. As you can imagine, planning our trip to Florida was a REAL GOOD TIME for my wife.

Anyways, Shay knew that my frugalness would probably play a factor in getting me to get the vasectomy. Smart lady that she is, she did her research. This was October, which meant most of the deductible year had passed. And since kids have this amazing ability to very quickly meet your family deductible in a year, my wife discovered that through our insurance my procedure(this term will come to importance shortly) would run us about $150 dollars. While this is over my $50 threshold, it was a fucking bargain to me! In my mind any trip to a clinic, doctor’s office, or ER costs $5000 dollars. When you use the word surgery that amount triples in my brain. But $150 dollars??? DUDE! That’s a steal! It’ll practically pay for itself by avoiding another baby. Here’s the thing about babies: they’re expensive. You have to clothe and feed them daily. And you have to purchase things for them to defecate in. Adds up QUICK. You can’t even take them anywhere without having to spend money on accessories. Ya know, car seats and strollers and what-nots. From a fiscal standpoint you’d be a real moron to have a kid.

Step one successfully completed, Shay moved to step two: practicality. I had recently been promoted to manager of the store. I was waiting on my new assistant manager from another store, but it was becoming a real pain in the ass. The manager of that store kept pushing the transfer off weeks at a time. Meanwhile, I was pulling double-duty at mine and working nearly everyday. It was getting old. That’s when my wife pointed something out: when you are having a medical procedure, people take notice. And when they hear you need to have a medical procedure, they care about you and want to help. By simply calling my vasectomy a procedure, I was able to change the conversation to getting my assistant to my advantage. It was not lying. That’s what I was having. A medical procedure. Was it elective? Yes. But I didn’t say what the procedure was. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I intentionally left the situation vague. This was a bit manipulative on my part. Let’s be honest, if someone says they’re having a medical procedure but won’t say what it is, we assume it’s bad. I mean, if it wasn’t a big deal like a mole removal, you’d say what you were having. But when you won’t say what it is… people assume the worst. People assume cancer. Okay, I’m a little ashamed of that part. But it is what it is. After sending out an email saying I needed my assistant so I could be off several days for my procedure, I suddenly had a definite date for their transfer. The other manager was bending over backwards to make it happen. That reminds me, I owe her an apology at some point.  

With her two steps in place, my wife had convinced me to make an appointment and set a date. Now, we’re pretty open with our kids about things. We talk about things openly. My procedure was no exception. The good news is that our oldest already had some understanding of what a vasectomy was. “They’re gonna chop off your balls” said my then 11 year-old son. He and the nine year-old found this hilarious. Apparently their father’s dog had been fixed some time ago, and this was how it had been explained to them. My wife tried to explain the significant differences between what would happen to me, and what the boys envisioned… but it was no use. And that’s fine. At least they understood why I was doing it.

I made an appointment with my Doctor. My Doctor is a cool guy. He and I have a similar sense of humor. So during the appointment when I told him about the 11 year-old’s understanding of the procedure, he of course said “Well, if your son has a better way to do it we could give it a shot. I mean, I’m no expert. Maybe I’ve been doing it wrong all this time.” I like my doctor.

He went over how the procedure would work, but I didn’t care about the steps. I mean, honestly I don’t need to know how the donuts get made. My wife on the other hand, had lots of questions. Shay is a nurse. As such, she found the whole thing fascinating. After they had a long discussion about the steps, we set the date to chop me open.

It’s hard to describe how not a big deal this all was. I mean, I dunno. TV says I should have been going through stuff. But I wasn’t. It was such a non-issue. I took my prescription for lorazepam to my pharmacy and then it was just a matter of waiting.

And I didn’t even need to wait long. A week and flew right by. The day came, I woke up, took my lorazepam and just chilled out. My wife drove me to the clinic and it began.

Now, I’m gonna try and not make this too graphic. You don’t want to read that and I’m really not comfortable writing it. But for the sake of the story, there are some bits that may turn some of you off. First, you gotta get shaved for this. More than that, you gotta let a nurse you don’t know do the shaving. It’s a good thing I was high as a kite, cause I have some issues with intimacy and my own nudity. I come from a family that doesn’t hug. So stuff like this is outside of my comfort zone. But in my sedated state, it was totally NBD. Shave away, person I’ve never met!

Now, they keep you awake during the procedure. Did you know that? Yep. Though you’re high, you do know what’s going on. They of course numb ya up, but you’re awake during all the going-ons. I had been told that but it hadn’t registered. Again, good thing that I was high.

As I laid down on the operating table, my Doctor asked me what I wanted to listen to. To my great pleasure, he had Paul Simon’s greatest hits. I… FUCKING LOVE PAUL SIMON!!! I especially love Paul Simon when I am under the influence. So there was no question what I wanted to listen to. As the opening chords of “Graceland” kicked off, we began.

Being that she was a nurse, my wife wanted to watch the entire thing. Me, I don’t want to see anyone’s stuff cut up and open. But that’s why I’m not a medical professional, just some asshole that runs a store where people buy stuff. Shay had a total professional interest in watching and asking questions. While normally I might have some issues with my stuff shaved, cut open, and being changed around by my Doctor, a stranger nurse, and my wife watching, the drugs did a great job of making me comfortable.

There really wasn’t much of interest that happened during the procedure. I just laid there and listened to P Simon play some of my favorites as the Doctor did his thing. But there was one weird thing that happened that I want to share. It happened during “Slip Slidin’ Away”. For those unfamiliar, it’s a beautiful slower jam where Simon writes about characters reflecting on their lives and the choices they’ve made. I love this song. It’s always particularly touched me. And there’s one verse that speaks to me:

And I know a father

Who had a son

He longed to tell him all the reasons

For the things he’d done

He came a long way

Just to explain

He kissed his boy as he lay sleeping

Then he turned around and headed home again

I don’t have a relationship with my father. It has been years since I have seen him or spoken to him. Most of my life he made what I see as really selfish decisions that alienated him from my siblings and I. I think what speaks to me about this verse is the idea that some day my father might want to explain why he did the things he did. That he would search me out and try to explain it all away. But the last two lines show the truth. It doesn’t matter. Trying to justify selfish actions to your child is just more selfishness. When it comes to your kids, your reasons aren’t as important as your actions. And if you’re not proud of your actions, you’re only hurting them more by trying to make them understand. It’s beautiful, really. Sad, but beautiful. I don’t know if I cried on the table. But I know that I felt every word of that verse. And I think it helped me find some closure between my feelings about my father and my feelings about myself as a father. That short little moment has stuck with me.

Then it was over. Just like that. My wife helped me hobble home, I rested for two days and then was back to business as usual. I was the same. It was a total NBD. TV had severely over-exaggerated the experience.

Except it wasn’t. That moment with Paul Simon and my dad still pops up in my head from time to time. It still has an impact on me. While I am okay that he and I have no relationship, I have worries about myself as a dad. I have these four boys and I want to do my best for them in their lives. Sometimes I worry that choices I make for them they’d never understand. Like choosing to work extra hours with both work and going to school at night. Or anytime I have to go out of town for work. These are moments being missed with them. I can justify them to myself, but can I get them to understand? I don’t know. That’s what that verse is about. Accepting that maybe you can’t, and just be happy loving your child and leave them in peace.

The last time I saw my father, he tried to justify some things to me. He tried to talk about what he had experienced and why he did the things he did. Now, he chose to do this after a long day of the two of us drinking, and he did it in a bar. It didn’t go well. After angry/LOUD words, the bartender asked us to leave. He got in his truck and drove home to Minneapolis from Milwaukee. And that was it. Not great. A real fuck up. Makes you realize the father from Simon’s song knew what he was doing in the end by just walking away. On some level, I wish had never happened. But it did, and I’m okay with it. It told me what I needed to know about him, even if it took getting a vasectomy to process it all.  

For those that are considering a vasectomy, I hope this helps you realize that it’s totally not a big deal. It isn’t. You’re the same afterwards as you were before. And I was. I was still a guy committed to being a good father, that has conflicted feelings about his own dad. But that’s okay. As long as I am conscious of the situation and can keep my selfishness to a minimum, it’ll be okay. I have the boys I have. And they’re all I want or need.  

Bitch Boss, Boss Bitch

None of us admit that we want to be liked by everyone.

But…

We totally do. We want everyone to like us. Because after all, we are totally the shit. I mean who the fuck wouldn’t like us? And if they don’t like us, it’s clearly them and not us. So fuck them. Sorry they can’t handle this awesomeness.

That’s of course not actually the situation. We don’t want everyone to like us because we’re extremely confident in ourselves and our awesomeness. We want everyone to like us to give us confidence and validate our awesomeness. We need people to like us because that’s a part of us liking ourselves. For some us it might be a bigger part than for others. But on some level it’s out there and in us.

This doesn’t make it okay. We shouldn’t live and breath on the thoughts and opinions of others. And many wiser minds than me have gone on at length about the futility of trying to please all of the people and have everyone like you.

But…

We all still would like everyone we know or have ever met to like us. Or possibly in the absence of like, hate us because they ain’t us. That’s reasonable. Totally reasonable.

I know I shouldn’t feel this way. I am a grown adult. And as such I have lived and learned enough that I know in my brain that whether or not everyone likes me is not a BFD. If someone doesn’t like me I won’t fall apart. I won’t die, and it probably won’t matter after a while. This is fact. But even still… why the fuck don’t they like me??? I mean seriously I am trying here, I really am. At least I think so.

Here’s the thing: I haven’t had the best time making and keeping friends in my life. I think I have two honest to goodness textbook definition friends. And the rest would either be considered work friends(which I have learned aren’t actually your friends) or acquantances. I don’t mean to not have any, and I’m not looking for a poor me. I’m just stating a fact. And it really is what it is. I’m working through it and it’s fine. But the idea that I don’t have friends because people don’t like me… well that’s another blog for another time.

Today I want to talk about how this need to be liked is affecting me and my work. I’m trying to walk a delicate line about not revealing too much of what I do or where I do it. Inevitably those that know me, know where I work and what I do. This can’t be helped. Those that don’t know me won’t(and I would be AMAZED if someone reading this didn’t already know me), but could probably find out fairly easily. So no point hiding it. But I’m not going to shout my company’s name or location, and honestly it really doesn’t matter.

I am a manager at a store. I’m the boss or at least I have the responsibilities of the boss. I like what I do. I find it challenging and rewarding. Do I get annoyed and fed up with it? Yeah, but I know I’m not alone with it. When I look back I have more good days and weeks than I do bad. And that’s okay with me. As the manager, I of course have employees. And some of my employees have their own employees. This is still crazy to me. Someone put me in a situation where I am several rungs up the ladder. What the fuck. But anyways here I am. I think of myself as an okay manager, and I am cognizant of my need for improvement and where I come up short. I want to work on it. Whether I understand it or not, I have a competitive nature that wants me to be the best me that I can be. So I have a plan to try to improve myself. One of the issues I need to deal with is that I totally one hundred percent want all of my employees to like me. I do. I know it’s not okay, but I do.

I have had a LOT of jobs in my life. Like bunches and bunches. As such, I have worked for a lot of bosses. Most of them assholes, but some genuinely good people. I even had a cool boss once named Dave. Super nice guy. He was smart and reliable, and we all thought the world of him. None of us feared him. We got along with him and he cared about us. It was great. I was 20-22 when I worked for Dave, so pretty young and impressionable. He was the kind of dude I wouldn’t mind turning out to be. So I have this role model in my brain of what I want to be as a manager and how I want my team to see me. I’m trying to be like Dave.

In my company we do annual surveys of our employees and how they feel about the store and ultimately how they feel about me as a manager. As such, I have a rough understanding of how my people feel about me. My team likes me about 70%. That’s not terrible. It’s a high enough number to say most of them like me. But… it is NOT all. And what the fuck? Why the fuck don’t they all like me? I have literally tried to go out of my way for them to like me. I help them out, take an interest in their lives, and try to make their work environment better. Do you have any idea how many dollars I have spent on fucking ice cream? I don’t either, but it is most definitely more than 70% worth of like. God dammit, that’s like almost a 3rd of them don’t like me. Or at least a 3rd do not like me enough to say that they like me. That’s not fair. Dave would have had a 95% or more rating. But no. I have a 70%.

I promise you that I do not spend time obsessing over this. I mean, obviously I think about it. That’s why I am writing this blog. But it’s not really at the forefront of mind most days. But sometimes it is. Like today. Today I had some incidents with a couple of employees where they got upset with what I asked of them or how I corrected them. Had they been surveyed, they would not have liked me today. And none of the situations were a fight. Just simply me either correcting them, or me not being willing to give in to a demand or request because I didn’t think it was the right or fair thing to do. These particular individuals didn’t like this, and it made for some friction in my day. But hey, that’s how this works. Right? Not everybody likes what the boss tells them to do or what the boss says. Not everyone can like you. Here’s the really annoying thing: the individuals that I had this friction with would probably fall into the 70% that like me. I can say that with almost full confidence. And yet, these peeps that liked me still either wouldn’t do or wouldn’t listen to what I said without creating conflict. Shit. Then what is the point of them liking me? Dave wouldn’t have had this problem. So WWDD?

Here’s the thing I forget about Dave and that job: we totally took advantage of his kindness. We did. We got away with murder. It was call center work, so we all had computers and a lot of down time. And for whatever damn reason, the company wasn’t super restrictive about internet access. We would play online games. We read TONS of books and comics. If I remember right, there were guys that brought in their laptops to play Halo and watch movies. I bought a fucking Nintendo Game SP so I could play Final Fantasy games ALL DAY. I read sooooo many comic books. And I think I started and finished the Lord of the Rings once a quarter for 2 years. Somewhere in my desk I have 4-5 full screenplays that I wrote while on the clock. To give you some frame of reference, these are each about 120 pages. And I printed them out on the company’s printer and paper! How wasteful. I’m pretty sure there was a day where I printed out the entire screenplay for George Lucas’ original Star Wars film(yes, the Starkiller version) and read it while working. There may have been a table read on a particularly slow Sunday, but i forget. And let’s not forget when I discovered Wikipedia. Holy shit. I must have read half of what existed at that point. Mostly about movies and obscure TV facts. I distinctly remember once being in a meeting where they had recorded video of my screen for QA and during a call with a customer I had read an entire page of facts about the Delorean in Back to the Future while talking to a customer. Clearly, my conversation wasn’t the A number 1 priority. And yet… I never got in to any trouble. Dave was cool. Dave was supportive. Dave… sort of let us take advantage of the situation. As they say in Britain(according to TV) we were having a laugh. We were taking a piss. Sooooo… was Dave that great? He was liked and we all thought that we respected him. But our actions sure didn’t show it. So what the fuck?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. About how sometimes it’s super hard to get your employees to do what you want them to. To listen to what you say and want them to learn. For all my love of Dave, when I am honest with myself about him being likeable I can see how maybe that likeability stems from him sort of being a tool and letting us run wild. That isn’t who I want to be as a boss. Even if it means I have to settle with a 70% of liked in my store.

So what’s the winning formula? Can you be respected and have your team do what you say, and listen to what you say, while also having them like you? I guess I don’t think so. I mean, I guess I know it. I’ve seen it in my own role as an employee with Dave, and I’ve seen it with my own employees. If Dave can’t be my role model as a manager and a leader, who can?

Enter: Leslie Friggin’ Knope.

Those unfamiliar, Leslie is the main character of one of the greatest TV shows of all time: Parks and Recreation. She’s an enthusiastic idealist wanting to lead her Parks team to glory, while having them all be a friendly family that loves one another. Leslie is really who we all wish we could be. Bright, effective, caring, and willing to take any challenge head-on. She also manages to tackle nearly any obstacle by inspiring her team of misfits to get the job done. She is the kind of role model I could use.

So how does she do it? Well since it is a TV Show, we don’t exactly get a real clear picture into her management style. And since it is fiction… whatever the show might show us, never really happens so it doesn’t really matter. But we do get the occasional glimpse into how Leslie manages her team. My favorite is in the Season 6 episode: Gin it up! In this episode, Leslie has to deal with a scandal caused by her employee, Donna. Over the course of the episode we discover that Donna has a Twitter name for Leslie as a her manager: Bitch Boss. Through Twitter, Donna voices her annoyance at Leslie’s dominating and demanding behavior. Leslie is of course horrified to find out that her employee thinks of her this way. Leslie has my issue: she wants her employee to like her. She is totally fucking bummed to discover her employee might possibly find her less than awesome. Bummer sauce.

But then…

Leslie discovers that Donna also refers to her by a second Twitter name: Boss Bitch. This pseudonym actually relates to Donna’s admiration and pride in Leslie as a boss. Donna is proud of Leslie and what she does, and she supports Leslie’s demand for respect. So really, Donna likes her. But wait… can that be right? Can an employee like you and find you annoying?

Yeah. That’s the thing I’m trying to accept as a leader. Since I am in charge, I have to make demands of my employees and correct their behaviors. Otherwise shit is either not gonna get done, or it’s gonna get done wrong. That’s just how it is. And sometimes that’s going to make me seem annoying, or it’s going to piss people off. But that is part of it. And that’s okay. I mean it has to be. Because while I want to be liked, I don’t want to end up like Dave where nothing happens. Cause the thing is my job pays money. As it happens, I sort of need money on a daily basis. So I need to keep my job which means I need to not suck at my job. Which means… people aren’t going to like me. And I am going to be Bitch Boss. Dammit. I just explained not being liked is a total bummer. Yet here I am, being Bitch Boss. By the way, I have absolutely no problem being called Bitch Boss. I am not one to be hung up on gender roles and what not. And since the male equivalent to bitch is dick, I don’t really want to be called Dick Boss. Bitch Boss it is!

That’s a bummer. But there’s a silver lining. If I’m smart and careful I don’t have to just be Bitch Boss. There is a chance that with some real effort and attention I can also be Boss Bitch. That’s right. I may not be able to have them love or even like me. But I can have them respect me. I could inspire them maybe. You know? Genuine, real leadership that could lead to admiration. That would be motha truckin’ sweet. Waaaaayyyy better than being liked. That would be something to work for.

It sucks we cannot be liked by everyone. It does. It goes against our inherent wants and needs. But it is what it is. And accepting that makes you an adult and allows you move past it. Once you do that you can get on with being someone that actually matters. At the base of wanting to be liked, that’s what we actually want: to be someone who matters. That’s what we really want deep down, and being liked seems like a means to validate that we matter. The two can conflict at times. You can’t always have both. But eventually you make your choice. There’s a danger to it. If you choose being someone that matters, you can end up Bitch Boss. But if you’re mindful of how you do it, it can go the other way too. It’s about choosing who you want to be.

For me… Boss Bitch it is. I’ll keep ya posted on how it goes.