By Chris Slater

I went out on a date with a local woman recently. We met online and seemed to hit it off. Since moving to Charleston last year, it’s been difficult to meet people my own age with similar interests, so I thought this was going to be a good one. We met at The Red Carpet, a local watering hole, and are having a great time.

I’m in good form; wittier than normal and my charm factor had been turned up to 11. I was having a good hair day and she said she liked my beard. Things were going splendidly.

Then I ran into a friend. He’s not a bad guy, he’s just the other guy in this story. I invited him to hang out with us, and we started conversing. I went to buy the three of us a round of cinnamon-flavored whiskey, and I came back to see everything had changed.

Her body language had shifted. She was now facing him and laughing at all of his comments and asking him follow up questions to his points. And, I was just sitting there awkwardly.

She and I went back to my place, but by that point I knew there was nothing. After regaling her with the funny story about the time I hydroplaned and flipped my car over (it really is funny), I went in for a kiss. She turned her head and I basically rammed my lips into her cheek. I quipped, “It’s cool, I only brought you back here to kiss your cheek.” We both awkwardly laughed.

I dropped her off, and we said goodbye. It was awkward, but we both pretended like it wasn’t. Minutes later, I sent her a long text message about how much it hurt me that she basically stopped our date to hang out with another guy in front of me. I told her that if she wanted to keep talking to him, then she and I shouldn’t talk anymore. Breathing a nervous sigh of relief, I hit send. Her response was almost immediate:

“Okay. Thanks for understanding!”

I don’t know what I was expecting. An apology? Remorse? Something aside from elation? I mean, I certainly wasn’t expecting anything when she came back to my place. I’m not one of those guys.

I was just left with an odd feeling of wondering when did the dating world turn into that? We both swiped right on an app, so we decided to meet at a bar. And, I didn’t even get the courtesy of waiting until the date was over before she could tell me she wasn’t interested.

It seems like the trend is to treat people like they’re not humans with feelings and hearts. They’re just a picture on your phone. And, maybe you like this one. Maybe you like the other one. I’ll talk to this girl. I won’t talk to that guy.

When did the world get, for lack of a better word, so fake?

Usually, when people complain about my generation being on their phones all the time, I roll my eyes and ignore it. But, I feel like it’s turning some of us into numb, emotionless droids. Dating — creating a physical and mental bond with another person — isn’t something to do on a whim. I mean, I’m not a traditionalist by any means. One of my most fulfilling relationships is the polyamorous girl whose boyfriend knows that she sees me. I’m in no way a prude.

We need to distance ourselves from technology sometimes and remember that when we’re in the real world, we’re dealing with real people who have real emotions. I think it would make the world a better place.

• • •

Any suggestions on how to better navigate the online dating world? Have a story of your own to share? Think I need to get over myself and not worry about what happened? Let me know in the comments, send me a tweet or message me on Facebook.

By Chris Slater

I read the print, and then sat quietly at my desk wondering if anybody else was going to say anything. One of my jobs at the Gazette-Mail is to read articles and look for errors; poor grammar, chopping a 50-word sentence into two 25-worders, correcting factual errors, and so forth. Several of us were reading tomorrow’s front page, with its piece commemorating those lives lost during the Holocaust. One word caught my attention, and I was fixated on it:

Jew.

When I noticed that nobody else was bringing it up, I started consulting the AP Stylebook and searching Google for whether or not “Jew” is acceptable terminology (and it is). In today’s culture, you always want to make sure you’re being politically correct. In the course of my online searching, I came across a standup comedy routine from Louis C.K. where he talks about “Jew” being one of the few words that can both describe a group of people and then be used as a slur against them.

And, then I felt weird, because are we supposed to be listening to Louis C.K. anymore?

I guess the issue at debate these days is how politically correct is too politically correct? Was it wrong of me to worry over a word that in the newspaper context had only the best of intentions?

One of my favorite comic minds of all time is Norm Macdonald, and he hosted a YouTube video podcast that is now being converted into a Netflix production. On one of his shows, he had comedian Todd Glass as his guest. Glass had recently made news by coming out as a homosexual around the time he was 50. Norm and Todd had a discussion about terms that used to be socially acceptable, but with changing mindsets have now become simply wrong and offensive. Having a schizophrenic brother, Norm brought up how he doesn’t like the term “crazy” being used to define people who are difficult to work with.

Both being comedians, they talked about the Eddie Murphy comedy routines from the early 1980s, and how groundbreaking and on top of the world he was at the time. Now, nearly 40 years later, Murphy would be booed off stage if he started his bit about how it creeps him out when homosexuals smile at him (and Murphy uses the f-word slur to describe them).

The governor of West Virginia, Jim Justice, had his own word snafu recently. I crinkled my nose the first time I saw in print Justice using the words “Chinaman,” and apparently I wasn’t the only one who took umbrage. Justice issued a swift apology and basically gave a “Who woulda thunk it was bad?” response and a shrug of his shoulders.

People with common sense thought it was bad, Jim. If there is any racial implication, no matter how harmless you believe it to be, it shouldn’t be part of your vernacular. If your choice of word can deeply offend somebody who is suffering through some sort of pain or disorder, then you should not use it.

With that, here is a list of words that I see used blindly and with no regard for being politically incorrect. Let’s take these words out of the collective vocabulary.

Depressed … We all have days when we’re feeling a little down, but that doesn’t mean that there is a chemical imbalance in your head that causes you to live your life in a state of permanent sadness.

Bipolar … In 2008, there was a high-ranking student at Concord University’s Student Government Association. He was always well-mannered, polite, and a nice guy. One night he flipped out at a campus event and began yelling at another student official. When writing about it in that week’s issue of The Concordian, I called him out and said, “I don’t know if he’s bipolar, or what.” That wasn’t appropriate, for two reasons: 1) If he did have an actual disorder, then it’s not cool for me to make fun of him for it and 2) If he didn’t, then I shouldn’t have belittled those who do by stereotyping them as people who blow their stack in public.

OCD … Being meticulous when you clean is different than having obsessive compulsive disorder. There are people who cannot function properly due to the threat of germs or certain stimuli interfering with their routines. Making sure everybody uses a coaster does not make you OCD.

Alcoholic … Yeah, you drink every weekend, wake up hungover a few mornings, and your friend has several funny Snapchat stories featuring you. You just like to have some fun and unwind. Alcoholics ruin their lives and the lives of their family and loved ones through their actions.

Retarded … Messing up and doing something dumb is different than having a developmental disorder. The words are not interchangeable.

Gay … The was a big one that I took strides to break from in my early 20s. If something was lame, then it was gay. The only thing lame about being gay is knowing that people hate homosexuals just because of the way they live their lives.

• • •

What are some other words that you hear thrown around that are actually insensitive and wrong? Let us know and maybe we can change the way some people talk around here. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter, message me on Facebook, or send chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com an email.

By Chris Slater

It was a slow shift at work one late summer day in 2010. I was a manager at Pizza Hut, and several of us working were bored and doing nothing productive. I sent a tweet announcing that I had eaten nine slices of pizza — a proud accomplishment for about 10 minutes — and how it was now the worst moment of my life. I was also talking with a girl on Twitter who lived in Hawaii. I don’t remember the specifics, but she and I made some sort of joke, a play on words about “brah,” meaning brother and “bra,” as in a breast-holding garment. It was dumb, but silly at the moment.

I walk to my car at the end of the shift and see a text from my girlfriend. I had met her a couple months prior and had been dating her for less than a month. The message was one word.

“Really?”

I stared at my BlackBerry in confusion. My reply didn’t help matters: “Yeah, I really did eat nine slices of pizza.”

We quickly established that she was a little jealous, and it was not always justified. “Why did you tell that girl she was pretty?” She’s my friend and she looked nice. “Who’s that girl you’re talking to?” She lives in Germany and we message each other about professional wrestling because we’re nerds. “Why is that girl posting on Facebook that she misses you?” That’s my half-sister. I haven’t seen her in a couple years.

And so on and so forth. By the time she asked me why I was flirting with that one girl on Twitter, I rolled my eyes and explained that it was just my friend from college. She lives an hour away, this is our main form of communication, and we’re not flirting.

Fast forward a couple years and I have a new girlfriend. She is much more laid back and cool with me having female friends. Except, she brought up one issue that she noticed: why was I flirting with that one girl on Twitter?

At that point, I realized that if two different girlfriends were bringing her up, then it might be an issue. So, I did dial back communications for a while. Eventually the second girlfriend and I ended our relationship. This coincided with the time that my Twitter friend and I moved our flirtations to Snapchat.

When something is on your timeline for everybody to see, you are a little discreet and not as open. When your message disappears after 10 seconds and only one other person sees it, then things can get a little more extreme. We quickly both came to the conclusion that we had a physical attraction to each other, as well as an interest in exploring it.

The distance was a small factor, but more important than that was the fact that she had a boyfriend. So when she told me that she would randomly be passing through town and wanted to hang out, I wasn’t expecting much to happen. I figured we would get together, maybe eat some dinner, talk a bit, and basically act like those explicit messages didn’t really happen.

We went to my place. I had no bad intentions; I had just gotten off work and wanted to change clothes. We sat on my couch talking and figuring out plans. She very casually dropped a bomb: that she had cheated on her boyfriend. “I thought I would feel guilty about it, but I didn’t” she said. My reply: “Oh. Okay.” Internally, it was more like: “Did she just give me the go-ahead? Am I doing this?”

And, yes, I did do that. She and I continued meeting up for the better part of the next year; a couple times a month or once every other month, it just depended on our schedules.

She was cheating on her boyfriend. With me. I was “the other man,” so to speak.

• • •

There seems to be two main kinds of cheating: physical and emotional. Say you go out to the bar one night, you knock back a few, then wake up in a stranger’s bed. You regret it, but it happened. You cheated on your partner for purely physical reasons. On the other hand, people who create bonds and lives with other people behind a partner’s back, that’s an example of cheating emotionally.

Why does it happen? That’s the important question. I had been mulling it over and felt like I needed some additional viewpoints. So, I went to the Facebook and asked that simple question. I got a wide variety of responses from an even wider variety of people in my life; everybody from high school and college friends, former and current co-workers, a few Tinder matches, and more.

Below is a sampling of their answers, some of which have been edited for clarity:

Insecurities in both themselves and their relationships as well as an inability to communicate with their partner/partners.

I think we live in a throw away society. If something newer or better comes along people have to have it. When it gets hard… people don’t wanna work for it. You are a swipe away from something easier and newer.

I think people like to still know they have options since things go wrong all the time in life. I also think people cheating can be a symptom of them being unhappy in their relationship but they’re so afraid of being alone or not finding someone else if they leave the relationship they stay in it and end up tempting fate. There’s so much pressure, society treats being single like it used to treat having leprosy and people as a whole don’t like to break norms by stepping away. Think every problem has to be worked through when sometimes you need to just give up for your own good

Because we’re trained to need constant attention.

Insecurities, selfishness, deep, underlying issues such as their upbringing or mental stability, a need isn’t being filled… but ultimately a lack of respect. They feel as if their partner is not worthy of mutual respect, and so why should they bother at any level? I also believe it’s a cop out. If someone doesn’t have the guts to end a relationship then they will cheat instead.

Our entire society tells people to be monogamous and stay together, and when someone isn’t feeling it anymore there isn’t a great support there for ending it in a healthy manner. People become afraid and don’t end it, and eventually the temptation is too great.

At the first time a problem happens, instead of working it out, they just give up.

I also think there can be a level of manipulation, and power/abuse at play. Cheating or threatening to cheat can be a powerful weapon/tool in getting your partner to do what you want, even if it’s not what they want. I don’t think this is always the case but it can’t be ignored.

You are so used to the person you’re with that someone new is exciting.

Going to concur with what was said about society pushing monogamy on folks. I think it is a lot of pressure to assume that a person can get EVERYTHING they need out of a partner from one other person. What relationship can live up to that? But we feel ownership over our partners and they over us, so not enough people are willing to say “Hey, I really enjoy this about you but I also need this other thing and that’s okay.” Whatever other problems are underlying — that they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings by ending things, that they DO want to cause their partner pain (which like ew, but it’s a thing), that they like the novelty of something new — it all comes down to feeling like monogamy is the only option in terms of relationships.

• • •

Is there any conclusive answer? It seems like that dreaded “C-word” keeps coming up: communication. Talking things through does tend to fix most issues in life. Why do you think people cheat? Share some stories or offer a theory in the comments section, check me out on Twitter, message me on Facebook, or shoot an email to chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com if you’re so inclined.

By Chris Slater

A friend of mine had been nervous about her interview for a hospital internship. I kept assuring her that it was going to be fine, but she had worked herself into a tizzy worrying about it. When the time finally came, I asked how it went. It had been fine, except for one small detail the interviewer brought up: “She told me I was going to have to take out my nose ring.”

I was shocked: “You wore your nose ring to the interview?!” As soon as I said it, I realized just how dumb that statement was. Having a piece of metal through your nose doesn’t affect your ability to perform a job, but employers often judge employees based on appearances such as that.

It got me thinking. As often happens, it spawned an idea in my head, which in turn led to the creation of a list. Employers worry too much about things that don’t make sense in the long run. At the same time, there are a lot of areas that “the higher ups” need to be focusing their efforts on instead. In this edition of “30-Something,” we’re going to address those, and hopefully change the world. Or, at the very least, crank out an entertaining blog post.

Outdated workplace issue: Tattoos and piercings. I like to think I’m pretty good at my job. I have eight tattoos, and you can see seven of them when I’m wearing short sleeves. They have never once affected my ability to be a journalist, or Pizza Hut manager, or any other odd job I’ve performed in my life. (It did lead to one awkward encounter when I interviewed a 74-year-old small-town mayor: My sleeve came up as I extended my arm to put the voice recorder beside us. “Oh, I see you’ve got a couple tattoos. Were you in the service?” Tattoos aren’t just for sailors anymore.)

What they should worry about: Going paperless. Ironic, I know, for a newspaper reporter to push for less paper. It is insane how much paper a workplace wastes every day. Copies. Faxes. Memos. Printouts. So much can be sent via email. With the advent of tablets and wireless internet access, everything is so portable and the need for paper is shrinking less and less. Today’s modern workplace needs to try and keep up.

Outdated workplace issue: Hair color. When I was waiting tables, a co-worker told me I needed a haircut. I thought about it and decided that he was right. However, I wanted to have some fun with it at first and dye my hair pink. My boss told me I could have pink hair until a customer complained. It took a couple weeks, but we finally received a customer satisfaction survey from the back of a receipt that said my hair was unprofessional. In the corporate world, a customer survey is about as close to the word of #TheLord as one can get, so that meant it had to go. But, why? How is pink or blue hair any different than brown or gray?

What they should worry about: Eliminating pointless meetings. At my last newspaper, we met every Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. to plan out the next week’s issue. It was never a big deal for me, since I lived down the street and often walked to work. It was a different case for the sports reporter, who lived 45 minutes away. He would come in for the 60-90 minute meeting, and 10-15 of those minutes would be relevant to him. How easy would it have been to set up a tablet and Skype? Perhaps an email or old fashioned phone call would also suffice.

Outdated workplace issue: Dress codes. Ties are uncomfortable. Shoes that aren’t practical for men and ladies are uncomfortable. There’s a rigidness and fakeness that comes from wearing an outfit just because society has deemed it so.

What they should worry about: Taking better care of employees. To quote a standup routine from Chris Rock about minimum wage, “You know what your boss was trying to say? It’s like, ‘Hey, if I could pay you less, I would, but it’s against the law.” People who support the $15 minimum wage movement, that $15 is an arbitrary number. Basically, they support living wages and better treatment. Long before a CEO worries about whether or not an employee’s hair is a certain color or their belt matches their shoes, they need to be certain that a yearly salary allows their employee to not live in poverty.

Outdated workplace issue: Marijuana. I don’t smoke pot; it makes me paranoid. But, it does a lot of good for a whole lot of people. It helps with pain management, anxiety, depression, and any number of other chronic and non-chronic maladies. We have an opioid epidemic we need to be fighting; let people have a toke here and there and move on.

• • •

What are some issues that you think employers should be worrying about? Are there any issues that you feel your boss(es) harp on too much? Wanna let me know how you felt about my pink hair? Leave a comment, send me a tweet, hit up the Facebook inbox, or send an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

By Chris Slater

img_3099Hearing the news of Charles Manson’s death last fall brought a wave of emotions out of me. But not the ones you would think. A famous criminal mastermind who became a pop culture icon had died. And what was I thinking? My mind went to probably the last place you would expect: my kitchen table.

The queue of books on my list to read is long and diverse. Autobiographies are a favorite genre of mine, and there are several sitting around waiting for me, after I finish the one about Tom Petty I recently started: Jordan Belfort, Kurt Cobain, Mick Jagger, and 1970s professional wrestler “The Grappler” are my next reads. There’s one biography I’ve owned since last summer that I’m not sure if I’m ever going to get into. The Charles Manson biography has been sitting on a corner of my kitchen table for months, untouched.

Why? We’ll get to that.

• • •

Ghosting is a trend that has become more popular with the proliferation of social media. You add friends on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, and etc. So, obviously, the opposite of that is deleting these people. Doing that without their knowledge and making sure they can no longer find you again — usually through blocking — is known as ghosting.

It’s more than just falling out of touch. It’s different than not liking what somebody posts and unfollowing them on Twitter. It is a concerted effort to make sure that person no longer knows you exist. You essentially become a ghost in their lives.

There are reasons to ghost. Your safety, for one. If you feel your physical safety is being compromised by somebody on social media, there is nothing wrong with disappearing with no explanation. If the guy you match up with thinks an acceptable first message is an x-rated picture and pressures you to reciprocate, then don’t waste any time deleting and blocking.

One thing we have to remember, though, is that these are people. Sure, sometimes they’re rude and disrespectful and don’t deserve an explanation. But, ghosting should be deployed as a last resort. You don’t want to be friends anymore? Talk about it. Work through it. Be a decent, polite person.

When I lived in the middle of Virginia, I began talking to a girl who lived in Northern Virginia, or NOVA as they like to abbrev. She came over a few times to visit and we had a great time. Work schedules and life got in the way of us seeing each other as often as we would like. We went nearly a month without visiting, but still talked regularly. One morning, I sent her a Snapchat message and was confused when I saw the gray triangle that means we are no longer friends. I sent her a text. The iMessage was showing that it wasn’t delivered. I pulled up Facebook and searched her name. I couldn’t click on her profile, as I had been blocked. I could see the thumbnail of her profile picture, though. It was her and another guy, presumably her boyfriend.

It didn’t bother me that she was seeing another guy; I saw other ladies as well during that same time period. It did bother me that when faced with the option of explaining that she was going to become exclusive or deleting me from her life with zero warning, she chose the more drastic and permanent solution.

I ghosted a girl once. I feel like if you’re untrustworthy, you don’t deserve an explanation. I matched with her on Tinder; she was in Huntington and I in Charleston. She was on the heavy side, but it didn’t bother me; I’m not a shallow man. Plus, I appreciated that she had full body pictures in her profile, and not those camera-angle-trickery shots that girls do to appear thinner.

I invited her over. I don’t know who showed up, because she looked to be about 50 pounds heavier than the girl in those pictures. I wasn’t physically attracted to her, and once she opened her mouth and talked to me, I wasn’t mentally attracted either. There was nothing there, and I sat on the couch beside her downing glasses of wine while counting down how long it would take before it was no longer considered rude to ask her to leave (I figured since it took an hour to drive here and an hour back that I would wait at least two hours).

That next morning, I deleted her number from my phone and unmatched her on Tinder. It’s one thing to not have 100 percent up-to-date Tinder pictures; one of mine is from 2014, but I still pretty much look the same. If you have become an entirely different person and don’t have a picture to show that, you’re not being honest. If I immediately can’t trust you, then it’s over.

• • •

Sometimes, there are no explanations, and that’s the hardest to explain. I don’t agree with why the NOVA girl ghosted me, but I see why it happened. I’m sure some may not like how I handled my situation, but they can understand my reasoning.

Shortly after moving to Charleston, I matched up with a 24-year-old beauty who had long, flowing red hair. We met the first time for coffee and sat there for hours enjoying each others’ company.

We had similar interests, and enjoyed a fun month of taking it slow and getting to know each other. She was much less sexually experienced, and a little timid about that as a result. She and I talked about it; I told her if at any point she felt uncomfortable to let me know and we would slow things down.

Her birthday was coming up. I went to the mall and roamed around, trying to figure out what to get her. I thought about a shirt from her favorite show. I found one at FYE. But, I don’t know how sizing works with girls; the chest region was busty and I didn’t know if that necessitated a large, an extra large, a what? So, I decided on something that doesn’t require measurements: a book. I walked into Books-A-Million and headed to the serial killer section, since I knew she enjoyed stuff like that. I picked out what looked like an interesting Charles Manson biography. I sat it on my kitchen table when I got home.

The night of her birthday, she had plans with friends. She and I hadn’t discussed what we would do, but I was plotting some ideas. As I texted her that night, I told her to have fun, and that later she and I would have some fun as well. She responded in a frustrated manner, seemingly taking my innocent comment in a sexual manner; which she was not ready for. I told her that wasn’t the intent. She told me I had been talking about sex too much. I had been talking about it a little, but I didn’t think it was excessive. I told her I would cut back on it.

And that’s the last thing we ever said to each other. We would often go a day or two without texting; so I didn’t think much of it until the fourth day. By one week, I realized something was up. I don’t know why I didn’t check social media sooner. I finally did, and we are no longer Facebook friends.

We had one small “tiff” via text, something that could have easily been remedied with a little communication. She decided to instead throw away the nearly two months we had spent getting to know each other and vanish from my life.

There is a time to ghost, and there is a time to handle a situation like a mature, responsible adult. And I get that sometimes people don’t know the difference. That’s why “30-Something” has you covered. Below, you’ll find a handy flowchart on whether or not it is appropriate to ghost. Share it with your friends. You’re welcome in advance.

ghost-flow-chart

• • •

Thoughts? Comments? Care to share a story of how you ghosted or did the ghosting? Want to commend my sick graphic design skills? Leave something in the comments, PM me on Facebook, DM me on Twitter, or EM (email message) me over at chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com.

By Chris Slater

When my mom was helping me move into an apartment in Luray, Virginia back in 2015, she pulled out a small picture frame and gave me a puzzled look. She held it up, looking for an explanation. In the frame was a dirty-looking $1 bill. I shrugged and said, “Oh, it’s nothing. Just something I felt like keeping.” I didn’t feel like explaining one of my deepest personal motivators to make something of myself and my life. She sat it down without any follow up questions, and then began going on about how I needed curtains and that my walls needed painting.

dollar
We need to go back. [Insert Sophia voice] “Picture it: Princeton, West Virginia, 2012.”

I was 25 years old and in the midst of my “woe is me” phase. Things weren’t going great. I was getting the occasional freelance writing gig here and there, but nothing consistent or fulfilling. I had just ended my glamorous life of being a manager at Pizza Hut and was now entering the glamorous world of waiting tables at Outback Steakhouse.

pizzaI eventually got pretty good at it. I could have been a great server, but I hated the job. So, I became lazy. I realized that I could operate at like 60 percent and still be a competent server and make enough money to pay my bills. I worked smart, not hard, so I didn’t exert myself any harder than I ever needed to.

When I was still new to the job, and not quite as jaded, I had a table of four people and two babies. Six, as some would call it. Two couples, and they both each had a small child. In my chit-chat with them, I found out that the two men were coal miners. I wasn’t experienced enough for a red flag to go off in my head.

What I later learned, when looking at what we call “good customers” and “bad customers,” there are two kinds of people who stick out as particularly bad: religious people coming to eat Sunday lunch after church, and coal miners. A lot of it is based on their attitude and how much money they leave as a tip.

These two coal miners were running me around, not really being pleasant to me, and pressured me to break a rule for them: you could only order one alcoholic beverage at a time, but they kept on me about letting them each get two beers at a time. Appetizers, main courses, desserts, drinks: they got a lot of stuff. Their bill was more than $150. They paid, they left, and I breathed a sigh of relief since that stressful situation was now over. I had worked hard, earned my money, and hoped they understood that.

If we’re going by the traditional rules of tipping, I should have expected somewhere between $15 and $30 as a bare minimum. If they really liked me, then I should get more. I was never a greedy server; I would have been happy with $15 or $20.

As I was cleaning the table, I saw a blackened, crumpled up bill to the side of a plate. Excited, I sat down in the booth and picked up the bill. The elation was gone as I realized it was $1. For all of that work, I received a coal-stained, one dollar bill.

I went home that night and thought about my place in life. I stared at the dollar bill and wondered what I was doing with myself. That dollar made me angry. It made me hate myself for what I did; waiting tables is really whoring yourself out in a non-sexual way for money. I was putting on this fake persona and pretending to be happier than I was, just so people would throw some money my way. I did that, and these people didn’t even hold up their end of the bargain after the services were rendered.

I like to use my anger to motivate me. That’s what I decided to do here. That dollar bill was going to stay with me forever. I literally framed it. Every single time I looked at that frame, I got angry and motivated to do something with my life. It took longer than I wanted, but it eventually happened. One of my personal goals in life was to one day be able to look at a server and say “I know what you’re going through,” and not “I’m going through the same thing.”

A lot of people stick around in jobs like that, and life situations that they’re not happy with because they lack motivation. I could have easily gotten stuck in my pattern of “feel mopey, wait tables, self medicate with a bottle at night, repeat the process.” Instead, I put the bottle down, kind of, and began feeling less mopey. I formulated my end goal and what I wanted, and then I went out and made it happen.

In college, Dr. Parker introduced me to the P’s — proper prior planning prevents piss-poor performance. That’s a fancy way to say figure out what you want to do and make a plan so it will happen.

Anybody can do it. You can do it.

• • •

And that’s where we leave it for this installment. How did you motivate yourself to achieve a goal? Does using your anger seem like a good technique or borderline unhealthy? Do you have any other suggestions for those needing help? Leave a comment, throw me a tweet, get at me on Facebook, or send an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

By Chris Slater

I’m laying in bed one morning a couple summers ago as my phone rings. It’s my mom. I’d better answer, or I’ll never hear the end of it.

After we exchange pleasantries and get the basic information out of the way, there’s a pause. I fill it with information I learned a couple days earlier: “Did you hear Kelly is pregnant?”

kelly1My mom squeals with excitement. Kelly is my old high school and college girlfriend. The first girl I dated, first girl I held hands with, first girl I kissed, first… well, you get the idea. From the age of 15 until 23, we were together and inseparable. At that point, talking to my mom on the phone, Kelly and I were both 29 and friendly.

I knew what was coming from my mom, and luckily she can’t see me roll my eyes over the phone.
“Oooohhhh, that could have been your kid,” she blabbered on. “You know, this is probably the closest I’m going to get to be a grandmother. Why don’t you want kids?”

I would tell you the rest of the conversation, but it’s at that point I stopped listening.

• • •

I’ve been a bit of an anomaly with my friends and loved ones, in the sense that I’ve never wanted to get married or have children. I don’t know if that’s a selfish thing. I’m not one of those “career first” hyper-motivated types. I’m literally the laziest, least-driven person in the history of people. I’m honestly shocked every day that I get of of bed.

Maybe it is selfish? I don’t like living with other people, and I don’t like kids. Does that sound selfish? I guess if you look at the broad idea of marriage, it’s a good thing. Why wouldn’t I want to split all of my bills, get a tax break, have a warm body to cuddle with on a cold night, and so on? Then I actually look at what I’ve experienced in my life, and I don’t know if I’ve ever interacted with a married couple who was truly happy and enjoyed their lives together. I’m sure they exist somewhere, but I’ve only seen divorce, anger, and resentment.

With that said, I’m never one to assume. You know what they say about people who do that. In this space, we’ll look at the pros and cons of marriage and having kids. Maybe it’ll change my mind.

Marriage

Pro: Tax Break. Depending on how the arrangement works, you could wind up either paying less to the government, or getting more back each spring. I’m a fan of money.

Con: Somebody is always there. When you’re married, you live with another person and share a bedroom with them. Their stuff will be in the bathroom next to yours. Just seems like a lot of clutter to me.

Pro: Wedding presents. There’s going to be a ceremony with all eyes on you. There might even be an open bar. And, people will buy you stuff. Probably not stuff you need, but it’s still better than nothing.

Con: You probably can’t have sex with other people. Most people in a traditional marriage believe in monogamy. ‘Til death do you part (or until you get a divorce). That means you are beholden to that one person for the rest of your life (or until you get a divorce). That doesn’t seem very fun.

Pro: Split the bills. It would be nice to only pay half of my rent each month. Somebody else contributing funds to the overall bottom line is a great idea in theory.

Kids

Pro: Continue your lineage. Ancestry dot com is pretty cool to look at, and you wouldn’t want to be the reason your family tree ends.

Con: They’re so loud. Like, really, have you heard loud kids? They’re the worst. Crying, happy, excited, scared, it’s always so loud.

Pro: Somebody to do chores. I’m sure my mom was so excited when I was old enough to start vacuuming the carpets and scooping the cat litter. And, I wouldn’t mind laying back and relaxing while somebody else took out the trash.

Con: Germs. Kids will touch anything, and then touch anything some more. They eventually get old enough to wash their hands regularly, but even that isn’t a given.

Pro: No more prying. People telling you to have kids finally leave you alone.

Con: Responsibility. Kids are a lot of work. And time. And money. And energy.

• • •

kelly2In February 2017, I was living in Luray, Virginia and working at the newspaper there. I had applied at the newspaper here in Charleston. So, I came in for the interview – spoiler: I got the job – and then spent the weekend with my mom in Princeton.

She was asking about Kelly and if I’ve seen the baby. I hadn’t seen Kelly since one night in 2014 when we randomly walked past each other on Mercer Street and caught up for a few minutes. We text often enough to know what’s going on in each others lives. She had previously sent me a few pictures of her baby and told me to forward them to my mom.

I send Kelly a text letting her know I’m in town and if she wants to bring the baby over so my mom can see it.

Kelly comes over with months-old Elizabeth. She and I tell old inside jokes from college while my mom holds the baby and talks about how amazing and beautiful it is, even though it’s just sitting there being a baby.

My mom again talks about how she’ll never be a grandmother. Kelly agrees with her. And so do I. I’m going to be a content old man living a solitary, childless life. And I couldn’t be happier.

• • •

Do you have kids and think I made some good points? Married and think my views are insane? Or just an undecided person who thought I made some good points for and against both? Let everybody know. Leave a comment on the blog, find me on Facebook, slide into my DM’s on Twitter, or send me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

And, hey… thanks for reading.

By Chris Slater

I remember exactly where I was on Jan. 20, 2009. It was the first day of the spring semester at Concord University, during my fifth year of college. It was also the inauguration of the nation’s 44th President, Barack Obama. It was such a happy feeling that day; the mood was so upbeat. My girlfriend and I walked hand-in-hand around campus enjoying the moment. Televisions in every building were airing the festivities live as they happened. To paraphrase a fellow student’s MySpace status I saw that day: Things just felt… fresh.

Let’s fast forward to eight years later, and where I happened to be on Jan. 20, 2017. I’m sitting at a diner in Luray, Virginia with a friend. She and I are staring at our cheeseburgers so that we won’t have to look at the live inauguration on the two televisions in the room. I had just finished covering a protest rally, and quoted the police chief as saying he had been a little worried about all of the counter protesters carrying guns. What’s the opposite of fresh? That’s how the day felt.

donald-trump-picturesWhat did we learn from this last election? Did the right person win? I think that’s a rhetorical question. Did the most qualified person win? I think even the most ardent Trump supporter will admit that he was the least qualified. That was part of his charm. Or, whatever that quality he has is called.

Did the election tell us that the electoral college is bad? In what may shock some of my contemporaries, I will admit that I do see both some pros and cons of the electoral college system. Now, the big con — figuratively, and possibly literally — got elected as a result of the electoral college. But, imagine that we actually had two or three legit, qualified candidates who weren’t offensive train wrecks running. An electoral college system wouldn’t be horrible then.

While Trump is in office, we can try and gleam some insight and wisdom from him. The healthiest president in history couldn’t be a total idiot and get elected to the highest office in the country. Right?

There are actually a few life lessons that we can learn from Trump. If you ignore the comments about African countries and the allegations from several different women against him, he has a few admirable qualities that we should all try to emulate.

Be assertive

Trump didn’t become a billionaire, a reality show star, and president of these United States of America by being a pushover. If you want people to notice you, you need to have an alpha mentality. Find a nicer way of doing it than Trump did; don’t belittle people with nasty nicknames or mock the physically handicapped.

Take chances

In the course of acquiring those billions, Trump lost a lot of money. Airlines, race horses, an arena football team, and a university are just a number of failed entrepreneurial endeavors from Trump. He took a chance on those and failed. But, he took a chance on becoming president and look where we’re at now. Don’t look too hard, though, as it hurts to think about it.

Don’t dwell on mistakes

If you’re running for president as a Republican and mock one of the most-beloved Republicans for being a prisoner of war, that’s a pretty big mistake. If you’re caught on tape commenting that you’re allowed to sexually assault women because you’re famous, that’s a pretty big mistake. But, what did Trump do? He didn’t let it stop him. A verbal faux pas here and there shouldn’t be enough to make you quit following your dreams. Just, try not to refer to all Mexicans as rapists.

Stroke your ego

You need to know the importance of yourself. If you made a good deal, there’s no problem with letting people know. If you made the greatest deal in the history of America, that’s something to talk about as well. There is a difference between being positive and knowing your own self worth and being an obnoxious blowhard. Walk that line closely, but don’t cross it.

Create your own style

If you like the way you look, don’t worry about what others think. If you haven’t noticed, the president has a fairly ridiculous hairstyle. He has enough money to get a decent haircut, but he refuses. Why? Because it’s his look. He doesn’t care, and neither should you.

Million dollar loan

I can not stress enough how important it is to get a loan of $1 million from your family upon graduating college (and some say the loan was much higher). Donald Trump would not be the man he became today without that cash from his father. I’ve noticed that an easy $1 million you don’t have to work for really makes your dreams much easier to attain.

• • •

Do you have any other tips for success from our president? Leave them in the comments section. Any other thoughts? Let me know here, over at Facebook, send me a tweet, or hit up the email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

By Chris Slater

The first thing that hit me was the smell. It wasn’t horrible, but this guy’s apartment was definitely too small for the three large dogs that lived there with him. I could tell he cleaned, but it wasn’t enough to mask the smell of damp fur.

“Why am I even here?” I thought to myself. Oh yeah, I’m here for the reason I do most dumb things in my life: a woman.

He comes into the kitchen, where I’m awkwardly sitting at the table. “I’m ready for it,” he said. I hand him a $20 bill. “I’ll be back in a minute,” he tells me.

I sit there staring at my phone, trying to avoid looking at the three dogs eyeing me suspiciously. Finally, he comes back. The dogs seem relieved. He hands me a small plastic bag. I don’t even smoke pot, and I can tell this is garbage.

Again, I question myself as I drive home. Why? Oh yeah, trying to impress her.

• • •

lurayLuray, Virginia is a fun town to visit. It looks like it would be a fun town to retire in and settle down. There are the Luray Caverns, there’s a thriving triathlon and bike races, the scenery is wonderful, and the people are nice.

I don’t like to run or ride bikes, I don’t like to go hiking, and I have no desire to wander around a giant hole in the ground. The 15 months I spent there working at the newspaper were very challenging in terms of making friends and finding ways to spend my time.

With Tinder, everybody interesting was an hour away, either in Harrisonburg or Winchester. So, when I found a beautiful 24-year-old on Tinder who was 1 mile away – which meant right in town – I was excited. We matched up, and began talking. Turns out she had just moved to Luray for a job from Texas. So, she and I had that in common at least; we both had come to this small town from other places, although my 4-hour trip from West Virginia was much closer than her trek.

We begin texting and are hitting it off well. I’m instantly attracted to everything about her. “Smitten” to use a word that nobody says anymore. We meet for the first time at her house. She gives a very fake-sounding and hollow “Hugs!” as she wraps her arms around me. I later found out that was her greeting for people she wasn’t close to, just kind of a way for her to appear bubbly.

She smoked pot, and I didn’t. But, she said she felt weird if she did it by herself, so I agreed to partake with her. It hit me harder than I expected, but I tried to maintain my cool, as we sat on her couch to watch Rick Moranis in “Little Shop of Horrors.”

After a while, I excuse myself to the bathroom. I start washing my hands and think about how the night is going. The water feels good on my hands. I’m trying to calm myself down from my altered state, but also thinking about how fun the night is going. Then, a moment of terror: “How long have I been washing my hands?!” Now I’m panicking, worried that I’ve been standing at the bathroom sink for 20 minutes.

I decide that I’m going to just walk out and play it cool. She doesn’t notice anything. Once we become closer, I ask her about that night and if I was in there for a long time. She tells me it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary; just a little paranoia on my part. She also agrees with me when I say I shouldn’t smoke with her anymore. She’s running out of her “Texas supply,” and asks if I know anybody. I do, and I tell her I’ll get on that later.

• • •

50300789613__e1c8f947-a07e-4e40-88dd-02927a055d53We had been hanging out for about three weeks; we mostly just sat in her apartment and watched “Rick and Morty,” or “Black Mirror.” She cooked pasta for me one night, and I made tacos for her once. I used my only real “move” that I know: I casually made conversation about candy, and then brought her favorite candy with me the next time (Sour Patch Kids).img_0215

She is upset that Christmas is coming up and she is so far from her family. Christmas is her favorite holiday. She has a tiny, fake Christmas tree up in her apartment; it’s like three feet tall. I quickly hatch a plan. One of these nights when she is asleep, I’m going to sneak in some presents and put them under her tree.

img_0217I go to Walmart and pick up a bunch of cheap stuff; I’m mostly going for things that are rectangle shaped and would look good in wrapping paper. I also got her some candles, gloves (she didn’t need any when she was in Texas) and some wine glasses (since she had lost hers in the move). I spent like $30; it was nothing crazy.

I took her out on our first official date. We went to the fancy restaurant in town, and I spent way too much money. The police chief from the next town over was there, and he knew me from town council meetings. I think he was excited to see me outside of “work.”

We go back to her place, and she follows her normal procedure of toking up and turning out. She fell asleep on the couch, and I quietly brought in a bunch of Christmas presents. And then I went home. I woke up to a text message from her telling me I didn’t have to do that. I played dumb, and implied that it was Santa.

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We agreed to meet up later that night. I really have no clue what happened next. I didn’t hear from her for a couple days after that. I accepted her excuse of getting called into work out of town and forgetting her phone. I accepted it until things stopped adding up. I felt like I was being lied to, and I needed to know the truth.

I had left my coat in her car after our date. So, I needed it back. She told me she was busy and asked if she could drop it off at the newspaper office. I told her to drop it off at my apartment; I would come down and grab it, and she could continue with her plans. When she texts me that she’s arrived, I grab that $20 bag of subpar pot and walk out to meet her. I trade the bag for my coat. She didn’t have any money, but I told her it was cool. She opens her arms and I hear a fake-sounding “Hugs!” I’m back down to that level, apparently. As she walks away and tells me we need to do something together soon, I know that I’m never going to see her again.

• • •

I spent the next few days being very sad, as one is prone to do. I hadn’t texted her for a few days. The plan had been to spend Christmas with her. She didn’t have anybody to be with, and my family was four hours away. Christmas Day, I’m moping around my apartment alone. I decided to text her. I have to be on her mind, right? It’s Christmas and she has a bunch of presents under her tree. I’ve sent much-riskier texts without any hesitation. But, as I stared at the words “Merry Christmas” on my phone, I felt such a nervousness about hitting send.

I hit send. Then I waited. And waited. Of course she never responded. She was done with me.

I’m sure we’ve all been in those situations. What do you do when the other person doesn’t like you back anymore? Can you do anything? How do you heal the hurt? I’ve found three options that help.

Time

There’s no way you’ll immediately feel better after a breakup. You need more than days, and likely more than weeks. It might take months, but hopefully not years. There is no set system for when one feels better. But, the pain eventually gets lessened with time.

Keep busy

My mistake was to sit around the apartment and mope. Keep your mind occupied and you won’t have time to think back on the previous relationship. Exercise, consume yourself with work, video games; anything that stimulates your mind and keeps you busy is necessary directly afterward.

Positive relationships

Yeah, it may not have worked out with this person, but you’ve got somebody else in your life. A friend, parent, co-worker, there are people with a positive attitude who can be there to take you out of your negative doldrums. Smiling is contagious; if there’s somebody is around who can have a wine and movie night, or just a fun dinner, or casual conversation; any little bit of positive thinking helps.

• • •

There’s no set way to get over somebody. We all work at our own pace and need our own ways to cope with heartache and sadness. What are some of your ways? Let me know in the comments, or hit me up on Facebook, Twitter, or shoot me an email (chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com).

Holiday hiatus

30-Something is taking a little break for the holiday season. We’ll let you know what the future holds in the new year.