Great Expectations

Some say a woman in her forties who is single is likely to have issues. Most of those people are men who aren't very bright. And not like a light bulb bright. There could be a billion reasons why a woman, or anyone, in their forties has never been married. Society's measure on what age marriage should take place is a farce. However, I respect that real things like the biological clock has to be considered. Unless the woman doesn't want children. Then hit me up. Joking. Hit me up. For real.

Last weekend I met a woman in her forties. We were talking about our lives, what we wanted, what we didn't. Then she asked an unanswerable question, "What do guys want in a woman?"

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I laughed. Partly because I'm one guy out of three and a half billion. But I gave her the obvious answer. "T and A."

"What's that?" She wasn't from this country, so she didn't know what that was.

"Tits and ass."

She smiled, but I could tell when looking at her eyes she wasn't satisfied with that answer or wanted a deeper answer. "Don't you think that a relationship can last longer and be happier if it's open? Or polyamorous?"

This was an interesting turn of questions because she went from asking what men want to what contributes to a happy relationship. In talking to her some more, I found out that she broke off a 17-year relationship where she saw her boyfriend about four times a year. It was a long distant relationship.

Scratching my head, I said, "I think some people are hardwired to be open. And some people are hardwired to be monogamous. Being in an open relationship doesn't guarantee anything." And neither does being monogamous.

She thought for a moment. "What do you think makes a relationship long lasting?"

My answer was short and concise. The explanation of it would be difficult. Understanding it proved harder for her.

"Having no expectations," I answered.

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I used Valentine's Day as an example of expectations. Traditionally on this day women expect to be given gifts, taken out to expensive dinners, all to celebrate their love and relationship. We know this happens because data backs this up. Try getting a last minute dinner reservation on February 14th. Outside of fast food chains that doesn't take reservations, you'll likely have to chance it by waiting in a long line of sorrow, and/or receive a whippin' from your lady the next day. And don't even think about just giving flowers and chocolates. That's so passé.

Side note: a group of us were talking about wedding rings. One of us recommended a white sapphire, which sounded classy. I guess diamonds are passé. Someone chimed in and warned us men not to get something small. Size does matter. Does the size of the rock represents how much a man loves his woman? If so, good luck with your marriage.

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Going back to Valentine's Day. Sometimes our expectations aren't met, bearing disappointment. A bit of resentment can root into the relationship, growing uncontrollably, and all of the sudden the couple can't remember what they were furiously arguing about. It could have been about who's turn it was to wash the dishes. Of course the issue with their relationship wasn't the dishes. It was the resentment of a failed expectation.

The woman I was talking to nodded. She tapped her lip trying to digest what I had just said. "But when I date someone, I'm seeing if we have a future with him. If I'm in a relationship, I want him to be my husband. I want to have a map of where we're going."

This is where I think I failed. To paraphrase my response: There's nothing wrong with having a map. But as you're traveling through life, you don't know what you'll see. Even if you want a life together, you still have to focus on what's happening in the moment.

What I should have said was, "To build a building, you do it one brick at a time. To build a life together, you do it one moment at a time."

Since I couldn't answer what men want in women succinctly, I turned the question to her. "What do you want in a man?"

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Instantly she said, "I want a man who is loyal, honest and faithful. I want him to be my lover, to support my passions, and to be my best friend." Basically, everything. I write this not to disparage her or anyone, man or woman, who wants this. But to expect everything from a single human being is romanticism (I'm substituting romanticism for the word crazy, but I don't want to offend anyone). I mean, not even the iPhone can provide everything.

Relationship and intimacy expert, Esther Perel, said that a village used to provide all the things that we now expect in a lover. So she advised that we get what we need from others. Expand your support system beyond your spouse or lover. Look to friends for conversation. Spend time with family to get grounded. Go to lectures or seminars to expand your mind. Then go back to your lover to expand your loins.

Part Two of Great Expectations coming soon... 

Men's Intuition

Men’s Intuition. Is that an oxymoron like government intelligence? Trumpcare?

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Once upon a time, I had been a life coach to kids. There were two basic tenets that I followed. One: Listen to them. Whatever they told me, no matter how ridiculous, I would hear them out. The reason was simple. I don't have the ability to read minds. To help them deal with whatever they had been going through, I depended on them to tell me. And because I didn't judge them for what they had told me, they felt free to tell me anything without fear of repercussions.

Two: I used my intuition to try and read in between the lines. Be it through their word choice, body language, and what their parents had communicated to me.

Women have always been the ones credited with having intuition. Studies have shown that to be true. But I think the reasons as to why women can read people better than men is because they were allowed to feel and express their emotions, where men were taught/scolded to hide them.

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Hence, our communication problems between the sexes.

In saying that, all humans have the ability to read each other. Some are better than others, but still.

I went to a party and met this beautiful woman. I was my charming self, of course, which usually meant that people run for the hills because I'm pretty direct. Self-censoring has been an issue. Not for me. For other people. Because I don't censor much. She and I traded numbers. We went out to dinner. Once. Afterward I knew I didn't want to date her. Friends asked me how my interest had fallen so quickly. I didn't know why. Initially, I thought it was because I was afraid to start something up, having just broken off a relationship. I did try to come up with reasons, but they all sounded false to me. She and I hung out. Became friends. And it was through our time together that I figured out why I hadn't pursued anything further than just a friendship.

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Listing out those reasons aren't important here. What's important was that my intuition, this silent voice within me, had pretty much killed my hard on for this woman. I could have taken the blue pill to liven my serpent, but that was not the issue. There had been no issue. And my fear that I didn't want to start anything up so soon after a breakup sounded reasonable, but that wasn't the truth either.

Often times when I'm at the gym, I want to talk to a girl. Sometimes I hesitate, which pisses me off. Women want men to approach them. So when I don't, I feel like a wimp. So I thank my intuition when I see their boyfriend come up and give them a hug or a kiss. Now, I'm not saying that every time I hesitate, the girl has a boyfriend or would be bad for me. But we as humans, especially in a world where intuition isn't relied upon as much, need to trust and cultivate it.

We probably act against this innate wisdom more often than not. The question is how do we know the difference between that truth versus our irrational fear that stops us from living life?

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First, we need to stop beating ourselves up when we don't do what we wanna do, or forget something, or fail. Beating yourself down is one sure way of numbing your intuition. When a parent yells at their child enough times, the child will stop talking/communicating to them. So when we beat ourselves, we'll either stop listening to our intuition, or you'll quiet its silent voice. Sometimes, if not all the time, our hesitations, forgetfulness and failures happen for a reason. Learn from them. See if you can get past them. Failure is the greatest teacher. It tells us that the thing we tried doesn't work. Now we know.

Second, when (irrational) fear doesn't involve death, maybe we let go of the break and stomp on the gas pedal and don't run over anyone. If you're dating someone, and it doesn't work out, then take the time to learn from the experience. If you want to start your own business, and it doesn't work out, try and figure out why. What you'll find is the experience that you've accumulated while trying something out will help guide you in your next adventure, be it love or business. And that's the great thing about life. The experiences. People get on rollercoasters because of the ups and downs and the twists and turns. Not to reach the end of the ride. People watch scary movies because they want to be frightened. Not to reach the rolling credits. What makes life memorable is the craziness. But if we let our irrational fear stop us from doing anything worth while, then is life worth living?

Appearances

One of my biggest fans, code named Hates Myguts, rejected my FaceBook request. Here's a simple truth: no one is obligated to like you or me or anyone. A friend of mine had confirmed her sunny disposition toward me, if sunny disposition meant disgust.

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Some months had passed when Hates sent me an invite to her birthday dinner. At this point, solving the mysteries of the universe would be easier than trying to figure out why Ms. Myguts invited me to celebrate the result of her parents' sexual conduct. "Here's my birthday gift for you," I reponded to her invite. "I won't be coming. Happy birthday."

She messaged me and told me that someone attending the dinner might be interested in me. Let's review the logic here: Hates Myguts has a sunny disposition toward me. Despite that, she had wanted to set me up with her friend. And, oh yeah, birds of a feather flock together. In other words, bitches run in packs, yo.

If Hates don't like me, then her friend ain't gonna be much different. I'm assuming, of course. When you assume, you make an ass out of u and me. In truth I didn't want to spend time with someone who hadn't liked me. I'd rather be manscaping.

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My friend had attended and told me that Hates brought me up in conversation during dinner. Apparently Ms. Myguts was upset that I didn't grace her with my presence. Issues much? I have to say that made me smile. My friend asked the girl who Hates was trying to set me up with if she wanted to meet me, and said, "He's rich."

I'm not. She was referring to me owning property.

"He doesn't act rich," Hates said.

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When I heard this, I couldn't stop laughing. I eventually did cuz it's kinda hard peeing while laughing. It shakes all over the place. And that's not very sanitary. Imagine the amount of paper towels I'd waste if I truly couldn't stop laughing.

It's obvious Hates doesn't know a lot of rich people. Rich people are like...people. They come in all different sizes. They're big and small, thick and thin, smart and stupid. Some want to show off their wealth. Others are unassuming.

The reason I had laughed was because I was a bit relieved. When my friend told me that Hates didn't want to be my friend, for a moment I felt like a loser. That was all in my mind. This is important: Hates didn't cause this feeling within me. Me thinking of being a loser caused it. Eventually this thought left my mind, and I felt fine again. Now, I don't discourage my friend from hanging out with Hates Myguts. When we have dinner together, I don't hate on Hates because I don't want to delve into hateful thoughts. I make that mistake sometimes, but I eventually find my way out of that black hole.

Thoughts can be powerful when we hold onto them. Sometimes I linger around the loser thought. So when Hates had brought me up at her birthday dinner and stated I don't act rich, I knew her judgement of me had nothing to do with me. And that's true of all people who judge. The issue(s) lies within them.

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Whatever sour thoughts that invade Hates' mind, sours her view of the world. So to make her world right, she has to surround herself with people she thinks will represent who she is. But this doesn't work.

It's sorta like buying a fast sports car, having cool clothes, and carrying around an iPhone X to impress people. He wants people to see these things, that he's well to do or cool, but he's still him whether he has this stuff or not.

So in Hates' mind, if she has the right kind of people around her, then she must also be all right. If she truly wants to be all right, then she needs to release the thoughts that she's not. Or at least not think about them so much. As I've said, sometimes I linger around the loser thought. Sometimes longer than I’d like. But once I realize what I'm doing, then I'm able to let go and move on. There are things you can do to help facilitate moving on. Take a walk. Pet your pet. Even that pet. Get together with friends. Laugh. If you don't hold onto those thoughts by actively thinking about them, then they'll go away naturally. 

An Exploration into Mayhem

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When an action/horror flick comes out called Mayhem, starring a male Asian lead from an incredibly popular zombie series, I have no choice but to watch it. Steven Yeun stars in Joe Lynch's movie about a virus gone wild in a law firm's towering skyscraper. The entire building gets quarantined until the virus runs its course, 24 hours. Although the virus, unlike on the Walking Dead, doesn't change their human hosts permanently, it does remove inhibition, leading to unhinged acts of violence, lust, and more violence. Yeun's character, Derek, is trapped in this building, an exec in said firm. And to make it interesting Derek is involuntarily chosen to be the fall guy for a costly mistake the law firm made. He decides he needs a face-to-face with the sadistic CEO, no virus required, to resolve this issue. So he has to reach the top floor, negotiating–fighting really–the corporate lackeys who are overworked, under appreciated, and fucking pissed off. Good times.

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I enjoyed the movie. I can relate. Not because Yeun is Asian, but because the character has to reconcile his choice of living the corporate life instead of delving into his life's passion in the arts.

I work a day job in the cold, ugly corporate world, which is soul-sucking. I'm a bit fortunate because I get to work from home. But I still have to act within the confines of political correctness, which I absolutely despise. At night I ride my mechanical steed to a Starbucks, sit down in my spot, and dive into my world of fantasy. Freedom!

The film Mayhem seems to pit corporate life and passion in a fight to either drain Derek's soul or save it. So what does one do? Work a black hole of a day job to pay the bills? Or be a starving artist and try to live life to the fullest? Derek's trek up the building seems to symbolize this internal conflict. Kind of an homage to Bruce Lee's Game of Death, the actual version, not the one that was released by Columbia Pictures. So what would you choose? Soul-sucking job? Or starving artist?

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One of my favorite stories is Michelangelo's day job. They had day jobs back in the fifteenth century? I know, right? Looking at his paintings and sculptures, it's almost impossible to see that his true passion laid in sculpting. To say he was a master at it is insulting. Many argue he was the GOAT. No, not a four-legged sheep with horns. Greatest of all time. So what was his day job? Barista at an Italian bakery? No. His regular day job was a painter. And not the kind that painted your house. Well...unless it was the ceiling and walls of the Sistine Chapel. And from what little I know, when the Pope commissioned him to do this, he had to finagle the deal to ensure that Michelangelo would finish painting the Chapel.

Now Lynch wasn't clear in his film that quitting your day job was a requirement to follow your passions. That would be a ridiculous notion. And parables such as this doesn't paint a clear map of how to negotiate life. That's our job as individuals. But the film does illustrate something that I've always prescribed to. And that is to follow your dreams. The opposition always states that the chances of making it is really, really, really low. Three really's indicate how low the chances are of being successful, according to pundits and pessimists. However...

"Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” –Alex Noble, author.

In other words, the journey is the reward.

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Hell naw. I want riches. Fame. Glory!

As a not-starving writer, I totally get wanting people to read and love and know my work. I crave it. It's probably why I love my writing group. They're the few people who've read my stuff, and I get to hear how awesome...or bad my work is. (Listen to a podcast where we talked about the writing process, our group dynamics, and how masturbation is very similar to writing–for me anyway.)

The fact of life is that not everybody gets to make it big. But most people don’t even try. And to make it big the work has to be done. So why not enjoy the work–the journey–as we stroll toward whatever life may present?

It's a lot like sex. The goal of sex is rarely to make a child. Hence condoms and birth control. Though, sex is the only way to make a child. That's the reason why it feels so good. It pulls the curtain to the Hell that will come when the parents have to raise the child. Sorta like having dessert before dinner. Joking. Eh. Kinda. But sex feels good because we're connecting with our partners, exploring in adult play, trying to get each other off. Again the reward is in the journey.

Think About It

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During mating season, the male mallard duck (drake) shows off their brightly colored feathers to attract females. Female feathers tend to be dull in color. There's no reason for female ducks to have colors since they choose who to mate with. Once the mating season is done, drakes shed their colored feathers, essentially removing their makeup. Side note, female ducks are called...ducks.

One of my friends sent me an article that discussed the reckoning: Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. The article was in response to the Weinstein fallout that had begun, that every powerful man who's ever done a woman wrong is getting called out. Part of the article compared what looking at a woman meant—objectiffication—versus what seeing a woman meant—valuing her as a human being.

Several of my friends and I were discussing the topic of looking versus seeing. And they all agreed that seeing a woman as a person is the right thing to do.

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From my point of view, my friends were overthinking, which I'd told them. The coming reckoning isn't about men's behavior like groping or masturbating in front of people. Because groping your lover is usually fine. The reckoning is about sexual harassment, or that consent needs to be given before sexual activity can happen, which we all agreed on. No debate there.

But they were overthinking by saying things like a guy shouldn't look because there's more to a woman than just her physical beauty. Or if a dude looks too much over a long period of time, then he may coerce himself to throw out consent and do something inappropriate. That's crap. If a man has to grope or rape a woman to get his rocks off, then he ain't a man. He's a shithead.

There’s nothing wrong with looking. So go forth and gawk. Gawk all you want. You'll look creepy, but, hey, it's your life.

There's a reason why women are considered the fairer sex. Science has proven that men are visual creatures. Probably because men did the hunting, fighting and defending. The processing of images has evolved to be very important to men, so our brains are hard wired for this trait. As a result, men looking at women becomes a very natural thing to do. I know I spend loads of my waking moment staring at women. We're programmed to be lured to a woman's hourglass shape, her red lips, her long eyelashes. It's no wonder why men love porn. It's a visual medium. The cosmetic industry, which caters almost solely to the ladies, raked in 56.2 billion dollars in 2015 in the US alone. Much like the drakes, human females do the attracting. 

Even our language has supported this dichotomy. The fact that the term trophy wife exists says something. However, we don't have the equivalent for men. What would he even be called? Consolation prize?

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Being a writer, I'm constantly reminded that the biggest population of readers are women. The romance category, which includes fine literature such as Fifty Shades of Grey, make up around 50% of the fiction being bought. Trashy romance novels are porn for women. The reason is simple. The biggest most powerful sex organ for a woman is her mind. It's the reason why they need to connect in order to have amazing sex. The reason conversation is so important to them. Connecting to their mate, seeing if you will, turns them on. That's why ladies always want a guy with confidence and a sense of humor. They're looking for inner qualities that will stimulate their minds. Because women are way more forgiving of a man's looks.

Guys, not so much when it comes to women. In fact, show a guy a gorgeous woman, and he's ready to spend the rest of his life with her. At least I am. I know. I'm an idiot. Men don't need to know who she is, what she likes, what her passions are. Men are all about the features. Nice rack. Plenty of room in the trunk. Nice long stems. Great paint job. Any dents or dings? Nope. Great. I'm good to go!

I'm not saying this is right or wrong. When my friends and I were debating, I said that placing judgement on whether a guy looks or sees a woman is puritanical because all of this neural activity is just that. Thoughts.

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Whether I objectify a woman or wonder who she is as a human being has no bearing on whether I'm a good or bad person, whether she's worth my time or not. There are going to be moments where I wanna fuck a woman for no reason except to get off. And then there are moments where I want to delve into what she's about. Neither is good or bad because I've not harmed anyone.

They just be thoughts, yo.

The lesson here is that our thoughts are nothing until we make it into something. There's an ocean's divide between thinking that I wanna kill someone versus actually killing someone. That's why I said my friends were overthinking. Unless I act on my thoughts to grope a woman without her permission, then it doesn't matter whether I look at her or see her.

We are not our feelings. We are not our moods. We are not even our thoughts. -Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Query Letters

Query letters are the bane of novelists' existence. I've taken classes, hired writing coaches, and read blogs on how to write a good one. I had one nailed down. I worked on it for like years it seemed. I puffed up my chest and sent about six or seven submission packages. And then...

Nuthin'.

Form rejections.

Silence.

One of the classes I had taken was run by a literary agency. An agent suggested a really cool strategy: send three to five queries out at a time. If no requests for pages are made, then revisit the query letter.

Despite all the help I had sought out, I knew my submission package was failing. What to do?

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I had stumbled upon a blog called QueryShark. It's written by literary agent Janet Reid with the purpose of helping those like myself on dealing with the bane of our existence. She takes actual letters submitted by unrepresented authors and critiques them without sugarcoating anything. And they can resubmit their queries until they get it right. This is priceless for any author. But there are several caveats to have the honor of getting your letter shredded apart by the shark and displayed for all to see. One is to read the whole blog. Currently, there are thirteen years worth of shredded letters one has to swim through. Some of it gets pretty bloody. And I can tell that a number of authors that had their queries posted hadn't read through the blog because some of the basics such as how to end a query weren't adhered to. That's good for me as those basics are then hammered into my head.

I had read through several years' worth before I came to the realization of how to approach writing the letter. First off, start over. Scrap the old. Begin anew. Using what I had learned so far, I rewrote the whole thing using the basic formula:

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Then I went back to the blog. As I read each critique, I would refine my letter. Sometimes her critique would only change one word in my query. In a space of around 250 words describing your book, one word can change the feel of the whole letter. Other times, a good query gave me insight on how I should show my world, since it's different than Earth. And then there were critiques that didn't help at all. Which was fine. There are a ton of letters to peruse over, and each one can guide an author through the deep waters of query writing. The purpose of this process is to make sure that my letter gets the attention of an agent. Enough so she'll request pages. Because if she does, then I’ll know I'm headed in the right direction.

I think this is the best approach, for me anyways, unless you're highly talented in writing query letters. I admit, this process is tedious, time consuming. And did I mention banal? Isn't that a synonym of tedious? Mmm...maybe. But if I get representation, then it was worth the time and effort. 

Truth be told, reading Janet's blog has deepened my understanding of story. I have applied this knowledge when I critique the pages from my writing group. And the whole purpose of any endeavor is to learn, move forward toward the dream, and hopefully someday realize it.

Why Do You Want To Lose Weight?

 "I refuse to go back up to that weight again," a friend of mine stated on Facebook. He'd lost around 30 pounds or so through exercise, diet and the help of a personal trainer. He asked the FB community to give him suggestions on furthering his weight loss. He must have gotten 80 different answers.

I posted, "Why do you have to weigh a certain amount?" He never answered. Though, I doubt he was open to learning the meaning behind the question.

Sometimes when we chase something, we bombard ourselves with failed expectations, and then pursue other solutions to meet the expectations, only to find disappointment yet again. Our minds can swirl in a never ending accumulation of thoughts that collapses in on itself like a dying star to a black hole. As we all know, even light can't escape black holes.

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But we can escape the black holes of our minds once we stop feeding it more mass, i.e. thoughts. That's why meditation is touted as a stress reliever. The basis of meditation is the silencing of our minds.

But forget that for now. What is the meaning behind my question? What's the real reason he wants to lose the weight?

To get a woman.

I had dinner with him last year when he started this process, and we talked at length, which is how I know. The way I see it, he'll always fail in regards to his weight. He'll never be satisfied because he thinks that achieving the ideal weight, whatever that is, will bring throngs of women to him. But that's not how women work.

Ask any woman what they want in a guy, and they’ll always say confidence and a sense of humor. I'm not saying women aren't superficial. But they're way more forgiving of men's looks than men are of theirs. Take my word for it. I've benefitted from that fact.

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I had told my dear friend to work on being honest with himself. Know thyself, the good and the bad. Say what he wants, feels. Don't take thyself so seriously. Have fun. Joke around.

I don't think he heeded my advice, since, from his perspective, he hasn't reached his ideal weight. And I totally get that. I still fall for that trap. When I see a woman checking me out at the gym, my mind immediately surmises that I'm getting more cut, defined. The truth is, she could be looking at me and thinking to herself, "Yeesh. Yuck," or "Did I turn off my curling iron?" or "Ugh. I can feel Aunt Flo coming." All of those thoughts are made up because I have no real proof what she's really thinking. And knowing this allows me to pay little to no attention to those made up thoughts. I don't want to be pulled into my own black hole.

If my friend does reach his ideal weight and finds that women are still not attracted to him, then he'll blame it on the one thing he thinks he has some control over. His situation. He'll think his body isn't good enough, so he'll workout harder. Or he'll find a way to earn more money, buy a flashier car, dress snappier, all in the pursuit of impressing women. Again, he'll continue to fail because good women want a confident man. And a man isn’t confident if he has to rely on superficial things to attract women.

That’s why my main pieces of clothing are t-shirt and jeans. Or maybe I'm just lazy.

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Then how should my friend approach weight loss? Or how should anyone for that matter?

I remember as a kid when I had to do my homework that time seemed to know. So it decided to slow the clock, where each tick felt like a lifetime. Then when I went outside to play with my friends, the day melted away like an ice cube sitting in the scorching hot desert. Time flies when you're having fun. That's the key. Fun.

There are two basic components to changing your body composition, which is way different than losing weight. Diet: the number of calories we take in. Calorie expenditure: what we do to use those calories. I want to focus on the expenditure portion.

A lot of people go to the gym. But that isn't necessarily fun or the best way to burn calories. I love hikes, especially urban hikes. I trek though San Francisco a lot. All over. Other people love dancing. Recreational sports such as basketball can be great fun with friends.

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Fun is an essential ingredient to becoming healthier because it'll make it easier for you to make the activity a habit. And time does fly, though I wouldn't put a schedule on changing your body composition. That'll often lead to failed expectations.

And changing our focus from weight loss to body composition is important. Body composition is the mix of fat, bone, muscle, and water in regards to physical fitness. People generally want less fat and more muscle. However, muscle weighs more than fat. So someone could weigh more by gaining muscle and losing the same amount of mass of fat, making the scale the worst measure of health.

Coming back to my friend...if he wants to date more, then his pure focus on looks is wrong. Take showers. Stinking like you haven't been is a huge turn off. He should wear clothes that fit him. Definitely have clean shoes. Now, he won't win any best in show contests. Neither would I. So he should be his real self. This is where he's lacking. When he talks to a woman he's attracted to, he's not himself. He needs to trust that being real is what confidence truly is. Unlike photography, filters like the Nice Guy, the Bad Boy, the Rico Suave, the Hipster Who's Too Cool to Care will hide who he is as a person, making him look fake. And if people are repelled that he has no filter, which some are, then they won't include him in their circle of trust. I'd tell him that real friends are really rare.