By Chris Slater

I tried to kill myself on my 30th birthday. Well, not really: I ate a Whopperito — a combination Whopper and burrito — from Burger King. That’s pretty much the same thing, right? August 18, 2016 was a rather ho-hum, normal, fairly-boring day. Maybe I was expecting too much. It’s supposed to be a big deal, right?

I thought turning 30 would be a more pivotal moment in my life. Like, I would see some sort of big, bright light and all of the confusion and irresponsibility and bad decision-making skills of my 20’s would suddenly no longer exist. Nope. At 30 and now beyond, I’m the same guy that I was at 29. Another year older and deeper in debt, to quote some country singer I’ve never actually listened to.

[On my 30th birthday, the Page County, Virginia Chamber of Commerce had all of those present sing “Happy Birthday” to me during a “Business After Hours” networking event.]
How did I expect things to change by the time I turned 30? There are two main areas of my life that I figured would be a lot different — money and sex. I assumed I would be having a lot more of both by this point.

For starters, I expected to have a larger bank account by the time my third decade started. That old adage is very true — $1,000 is a lot of money to owe and not a lot of money to have. I’m doing a little better than I used to, at least. When online surveys ask me for my income, I now proudly check the bubble for the second-lowest bracket.

Nobody imagines a sensible future. Ask 8-year-old Chris where he wants to be at 30, and I doubt he would have said “Getting by with enough money to pay the bills and a little extra to save.” But, that’s where I’m at. And, I guess it’s a good spot to be at.

I remember the days of making minimum wage at Pizza Hut and later pretending to be a nice guy so people would give me tips when I waited tables at Outback Steakhouse. So, things could always be worse.

Biggie used to say, “Mo’ money, mo’ problems.” If that’s true, I will gladly take on a few additional problems. I have enough already; a couple extra won’t change anything.

Speaking of problems… where are the ladies at? People my age are getting married, having kids, in long-term relationships, settling down. I have none of that. Just a few consistent friends with assorted benefits. Do I want all that other stuff? I don’t know, and I don’t think so.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve decided to cut back on my debauchery and I don’t frequent bars as often as I used to. What I’ve learned is that I don’t know how to meet women at places that aren’t dark, dirty and serve spirits of an imbibing nature. So, maybe that’s a goal for my 30’s — learn how to actually talk to women. Or, maybe start drinking more. The jury is still out on that one.

Maybe I’ll join a gym or pick up a hobby. Women go to the gym and have hobbies, right? Somebody please help me. I’m not good at this.

With that said, let’s take a look at some areas of my life where the expectations of being in my 30’s did not match up to the reality.

Job

Expectation… I thought there would be a lot more responsibility and prestige in my life at this point. People would say, “Ooooooh, there goes Chris Slater!”

Reality… My job is a thing that I do. Nobody aside from my mother seems to be too impressed with anything about it.

Relationship

Expectation… Something stable, perhaps? Something consistent? Holding hands and walking down the street?

Reality… I once had a girl say to me, “Why are you like this? Why are you unable to commit? What went wrong in your life?” What can I say? I’m still trying to figure out the answers to those questions.

Money

Expectation… The phrase “make it rain” comes to mind.

Reality… I once accidentally paid both a doctor bill and dentist bill at the same time, and then I couldn’t eat for a week and a half.

Hobbies

Expectation… Traveling to fun places, hip clubs, exciting group activities that fosters a series of friendships and community.

Reality… I literally spend 85 percent of my free time sleeping. I’m like a raccoon; stays up all night, bags under my eyes, eats trash, hates people.

Kids

Expectation… Never wanted them. I think they’re gross and loud.

Reality… This is one area where I’m doing good. See, life isn’t all horrible.

• • •

Where are some areas of your life that changed when you turned 30? Either for the better, or worse. Was there anything you expected that ultimately didn’t happen? If you’re approaching 30, what are your thoughts on the subject? Let me know in the comments, or throw me a line on the Twitter or the Facebook. You can even hit up chris.slater@wvgazettemail.com if that’s your preferred method.

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

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.