This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things Ep 2: Sexual Assault and The Story I Never Wanted to Tell

The incidents surrounding Harvey Weinstein are sad and disgusting. My heart breaks for the women who are speaking out, and even more for the many I know are still not. Sexual assault and intimidation, sadly, are nothing new to women; within Hollywood and all the way to the suburbs.

But what has come out, as almost a sub topic, is the fact that this is happening to men as well. While speaking about the women coming forward about Weinstein, actor Terry Crews (Brooklyn 99) and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek and Varsity Blues) both came forward and revealed while the abusive treatment of women is disgusting and rampant, the abuse was not only directed towards female actors. Both actors revealed they too had been groped by older men with influence and power in the entertainment field. Continue reading

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(Men)tal Health Awareness

Could you imagine telling your father, or me, telling my father, “I’m struggling. I have postpartum depression.” They would be like, “Suck it up buttercup!” ~ Kirk and Callahan Show (5/22/17, WEEI Boston)

These were just some of the ridiculously moronic words spewed on the May 22, 2017 Kirk and Callahan morning show on WEEI (Boston). I could probably write an entire novel on the absurd, not to mention machismo fueled ignorant behavior the Kirk and Callahan show has been known for over the years. Instead, I’ll sum it up with a quote from ESPN host Paul Finebaum when he said that Kirk and Callahan, “were toxic pieces of waste, who have never accomplished anything in their life.”

Where was I? Ahhh, yes…

Today is the last day of May 2017. The last day of Mental Health Awareness Month. So, I feel it’s only fitting that we talk about the last thing it feels like anyone wants to talk about when it comes to mental health – men. Continue reading

You Broke Me

“Daddy, you broke me!”

Through heavy sobs, the words came spilling out of his mouth. Eyes, red and bloodshot from crying so intensely; even causing him to do that heavy, shortened breath stutter, making his head shake with every gasp for his next breath.

I knew this day would come…and admittedly, selfishly, avoiding this day is one of the reasons I used to say I never wanted to have kids.
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Women I Admire Day 21: Misty Browne, Faith, Conviction and Love #WomensHistoryMonth

I don’t actually how to start this story. How do I tell the story of someone I admire, but also a person I know little to nothing about them? Will I be able to write that story? Will people even believe me, or with they think I’m just making it up or trying to fill space? Will anyone even read that story?

Sure, those are all things I could, and maybe still do, worry about, but the real question I have is, will I be able to do this story justice with what little I factually know? Will I be able to tell this person’s story to the level that they deserve? Will they even read it? I guess there’s only one way to find out.
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Dear Timmy;

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Friendship is an interesting thing. The older I get, the more I think about the concept of friendship, and what it really means to be someone’s friend. It feels as though the more I look around, society continues to bastardize the word friend, almost rendering it meaningless. Through the advent of social media, everyone is your friend now, even people you’ve never, and probably will never meet in real life.

I’m sure some will brush this off and say that there’s clearly a difference between OLF (On-Line Friends) and IRLF (In Real Life Friends), and we should all know the difference. But do we know the difference? And furthermore; do we tell those that we hold so close in our hearts as to call them friend, exactly how much they really mean to us? To me, the word friend is power, and should be treated as such..

I’ve been thinking a lot about my life-long friends lately. Friends I met when I was a kid. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older and finding it harder to make friends as an adult. Maybe it’s because I live across the country now, over 3000 miles from those that mean the world to me. Or maybe it’s because I’ve come to realize how little I’ve told my friends how much they mean to me, and have simply taken it for granted in a way. I mean, they’re always going to be there, right…right???

I couldn’t really think of a clever way to segway into the rest of this story, so being the clumsy ass I am, I’m just going to push on through.

I want to tell you a story about a dear friend of mine; Tim, or as I’ve always called him, Timmy.

Timmy and I met in 2nd grade. While Timmy and I never really ran in the same circles, life always brought us back to each other from time to time, and we were always very close. I consider Timmy one of the best friends I ever had.

The sad thing is, like most friends in my life, I don’t think I ever told Timmy how I felt about him. Well, I think it’s high time I change that. So, here is my letter to Timmy:

Dear Timmy;

You know, it’s funny man, for as long as we’ve known each other, we’ve spent very little time actually around each other. But I really wanted to tell you how much the time we have spent together has meant to me, and I also wanted to say thank you.

We don’t really think about it much, but the words thank you can accomplish so much, and can  convey more than one could possibly imagine.

Thank you for being one of the first people to be nice to me in elementary school. I think you saw the fear in my eyes when I showed up at a new school where most of you had kind of grown up around each other. You hung out with me on the playground and would always invite me to play games with you at recess.

Thank you for always being the same back then, no matter what. I sadly hit my popular peak in 5th grade, and even though we were in the same class, we didn’t talk so much – that was my fault and I’m sorry.

While I was feeling the joy of being popular you were being labeled as trouble maker, and worse, a lost cause, by the very adults that were supposed to be guiding us, teaching us, nurturing us. No child should be made to feel that way. You would act out in class and had anger issues, but what those adults never understood was all that anger was actually a cry for help. A cry to let others know about the abuse you were seeing at home. The drugs, the alcohol, and worst of all the violence. I knew, because you told me about it when you noticed the telltale signs I tried hard to hide from my own abusive mother.

I think you told me as a way to help me not feel alone, and maybe (hopefully) it helped you too to know you weren’t alone either. You were the only one that knew about my home situation for so many years. You saw me cry. You hugged me when no one was looking, and most of all you helped a weak kid discover some sense of bravery when he desperately needed it the most.

Even at the young age we were then you were so smart. At times it felt like you were a grown up with the way you talked about life. But I guess that happens when you’re forced to grow up the way you did. It’s like you knew life wasn’t going to get any easier for you, and you also knew there was no way I would hack it the way you had to, so you made sure I kept smiling. At least one of us would be able to maintain some sense of youthful joy during our childhood.

Our teen years could not have been more different. My popularity from elementary school gave way to chubby teenage nerdum. I enjoyed acting and performing in drama classes, pretending to be someone else, while you probably wished to be someone else every day. Sure, I had sadness and angst like any other teenager, but nothing compared to what you were going through.

I think the memories of 1995-1997 stand out the most when I think of you. That’s because we saw each other a lot during that time. A friend of yours lived in the same apartment complex as I did, so you were there a lot to hang out or when you and your younger brother needed a place to crash for a while.

We would hang out in the complex courtyard and just talk, sometimes well into the night. You always asked me about me. How I was doing, what my new interests were, who I was hanging out with, making sure I was surrounding myself with the right people. But I was always more fascinated with you. I would sit  in awe when listening about all your experiences of living on the streets. But any time I would express any sort of admiration or envy you quickly shut it down, telling me not to envy your life. In reality, I think it was you who envied my boring life.

I remember one of the last late night conversations we had, I shared with you about my depression. You were the first person I ever told. You listened to me talk about my feelings, asked me questions, and gave supportive counsel. But when I shared with you that I been having thoughts about committing suicide you became very stern, almost like an older brother, or father, and said, “Don’t ever talk like that. That’s not you. You have to keep going. Don’t let the bad shit win.” I responded with, “Thanks Timmy.” You always told me you hated it when I called you Timmy, you were Tim. But I think you secretly like it, because it reminded you of where we started our journey, as two little kids. Nevertheless you told me if I called you Timmy again you would beat the shit out of me, almost daring me to do it. I knew you could too. Your hulking muscular frame could have easily destroyed me in seconds, but I said, “Ok….Timmy.”

You just smiled and said, “Good…don’t ever back down.” Then you proceeded to punch me in the arm over and over, all the while laughing while you made my arm feel like hamburger meat. That’s one of the last times I saw you. I left San Diego and joined the Army shortly after. It wouldn’t be until the winter of 1999 that we would connect again; just not the way I would have thought.

I received a letter from my mom one day. In the envelope it contained a newspaper clipping along with a handwritten note that read, “I’m sorry.” The newspaper clipping was a short, throw-away story about a young man who, during the very early morning hours before the daily work commute would start, stepped onto the trolley tracks in Lemon Grove, where he was struck by oncoming trolley, and died instantly. They ruled it a suicide. That young man was you.

I collapsed to the floor after reading the article. I couldn’t believe you were gone. It just didn’t seem real. I didn’t want to believe it. How could you do that after telling me so harshly not to ever give up? How could you stop moving forward? It took me a while, but I eventually realized, just like when we were small, you were telling me the things you wished someone would tell you. I just wish I had known.

I was talking with our friend Sara the other day. I told her I was going to write this. We both talked about how much we loved you, and how special you are to us, and most of all how much we miss you. We both shared our regrets of not focusing on you more, asking you how you felt, what you needed. My biggest regret though is that I never told you any of this. I never told you what you mean to me, or what a good friend you were. I’m not naive to think it would have changed what happened, but I just wish I would have let you know. And for that I am forever sorry my friend.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you,and I will always miss you.

Love,

Mike

To all my friends, I love you so very much. You are some of the most valuable parts of my life. I promise I will do a better job at telling you…because you deserve to know how valued you are.

September is National Suicide Awareness and Prevention Month. If you or someone you know is possibly in danger of committing suicide, PLEASE, reach out for help. The national hotline number is: 1 (800) 273-8255 and website is:www.SuicidePreventionLifeline.org

For Timmy

It’s Been a Year, And I Still Miss You

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Have you ever received news, or heard a story that affected you so quickly, so deeply, that you almost felt numb? That’s how I felt one year ago today; when I read that Robin Williams had committed suicide.

I’m sure some will brush this blog off as someone looking for a quick and easy topic to talk about; a cheap grab for clicks by using the headline of the day. And if you feel that way, that’s fine; that’s your prerogative. But let me assure you, this topic means so much more to me than just generating traffic to my little blog. In fact, it means so much that it’s taken a year for me to be able to sit down and type these words without breaking down into some sort of emotional wreck.

Robin Williams was so much more than just an actor to me; he was my idol growing up; my literal inspiration to become the person I am today.

Growing up I spent a great deal of time on my own. This was mostly because as a single parent my mother worked a ton of hours to make sure the bills were paid, and we had food on the table. With no one to talk to or hang out with it was really on me to entertain myself, so TV became my best friend at a very young age. And one thing that I love most was watching stand-up comedy.

I grew up during a time that, in my opinion, was the golden age of comedy – the 80’s. All the best to ever do it were on stage during the 80’s; Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, George Carlin, Roseanne Barr, and of course Robin Williams. I can remember the first time I saw Robin’s act, it was an HBO special, and my mom let me watch. From the second I laid my eyes on him, I couldn’t look away.

Williams was so full of energy and life. People described his delivery and jokes as manic and spastic, even hard to follow at times, but to me, it was like watching poetry in motion. It was like seeing my thought process play out in front of me. I knew I had discovered someone who clicked the exact same way I did. I had found someone who completely understood me, even though he didn’t know me, and for the first time I knew what hope felt like. Hope that I’d be ok.

I could tell early on that Robin and I shared other traits in common too. I could tell Robin was, like me, living with depression. Even though at such a young age I didn’t know the word depression, I certainly knew I was different from other kids. Just behind the glint of my youthful eyes was a darkness, a sadness I tried every day to mask the best I could. I saw that same sadness in the eyes of the funniest clown I had ever seen. So, I knew if he could mask the pain through comedy, then so could I.

I spent the majority of my teenage years cultivating that mask. Immersing myself in the arts in school, acting on stage, being the funny guy in my group of friends. Like Robin did with the rest of the world, I kept those closest to me laughing and entertained so they would never see what was really going on; a magician of sadness if you will. But like all tricks, eventually the curtain gets pulled back and the world sees what’s really going on.

My house of cards came tumbling down New Year’s Day 2006. As I have talked about briefly in my writing career, I came very close to taking my own life that day. For whatever reason I didn’t follow through with it, and I’m glad I didn’t.

Some have said to me that I was never really going to do it, or that I was only looking for attention. I don’t feel the need to justify or talk about how close I was to those kind of people. Those are the same people who said Robin Williams was a coward for doing what he did, or selfish. I in no way agree with what Robin did, but I will never see him as a coward. I, like many others, know the daily struggle of masking depression, and the toll it takes on your body and mind.

Robin was tired, and like me in 2006, he was done fighting; done masking. But unlike Robin, I got back up and chose to move forward, and will always choose to move forward. But again, I do not judge or criticize my childhood, and adulthood hero, because I understand.

To be fair it should be recognized that Robin had found out some time before taking his own life that he was suffering from the early stages of Parkinson’s Disease. I cannot even imagine how someone who already is struggling absorbs that news.

I will always hold a special place in my heart for the sad clown that was Robin Williams. He inspired me more than I would ever have been able to tell him, if I had had the awesome fortune to meet him. I think if I ever did me him I would first apologize, mainly because I ripped off his “Gotta see about a girl” line from Good Will Hunting in my wedding speech. But something tells me he wouldn’t mind. But then I would let him know how he taught me that laughter was indeed the greatest medicine, even if that sickness eventually wins, and how making others laugh is one of the greatest gift someone can give.

I’m not particularly a spiritual person, and I don’t claim to have some divine belief, but there will always be a part of me that hopes there is something after this life; some great beyond. If for no other reason than to know, right now, Robin Williams is on stage somewhere telling every penis joke he ever told during his life, to all the souls that have passed on, and maybe I’ll finally get to meet him. I’ll hold onto that hope, and until then I say this to you O’ Capitan my Capitan….nanu nanu!

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You may have noticed my liberal use of the semicolon in this post, probably even in places that it doesn’t belong. That was done on purpose. There is an amazing organization called Project Semicolon who is trying to help those who suffer from depression and other metal health needs. Please check them out for stories about people who have thought of, or attempted suicide. A please know if you are think you are suffering alone, you’re not. There are many out there (like me) who are always whiling to talk and share, and most importantly listen. Lastly if you are thinking of harming yourself, and don’t feel like you have any other options, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK. There is always another way.

5 Reasons My Son is Like My Xbox

I am one of those quasi-adult parents – you know what I mean – the kind that grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, and now in our 30’s we are doing everything possible to hang onto some semblance of our childhood experiences at all costs. So, how do I do that? Well, at pushing almost 40, I’m still a gamer. For you non-gamer parents out there, that means I play video games…a lot.

I don’t just play video games; I invest quite a bit of time in my gaming hobby. I still visit GameStop and Best Buy to purchase new games, I still read reviews on the latest products coming out, and I still geek out with my friends and debate which console is better (Xbox or PlayStation).

My video game playing habit took a major hit in 2012 when our son was born. “Nothing’s going to change for me,” I foolishly told my friends, “I’ll just put the kid in my lap and play while he sleeps. Late night feedings will be cool; I’ll get in a lot of gaming time.” Yeah, think again.

Two and a half years later I continue the struggle to balance my nerdy gamer ways while in real life being a parent – that’s some pretty adult shit right there. In late 2013 I purchased a new video game console, and as we approach its half-birthday, I am noticing some eerie similarities to my toddler.

Only Responds to Yelling – One of the major attractions Microsoft tried to sell hard to the consumers was how their new console would be completely voice activated. Want to turn the Xbox on? Just say, “Xbox On” and it will recognize your voice and turn on. Want to do something other than game? Simply say the phrase, “Xbox go to…..” and fill in the blank and you will be binge watching Orange is the New Black on Netflix, Skyping with grandma, or even watching TV. Problem is, just like our toddler, the damn system doesn’t do what we ask of it, the first, second, sometimes even the third time around. Many times I will be in the kitchen and hear my Wife yell, “XBOX ON, YOU PIECE OF SHIT!!” Luckily, while just as difficult, our son receives a little bit more grace…..and I mean a little.

It’s always fucking watching me – While the last function was supposed to be cool, the next option is just downright creepy. Xbox has a built-in camera system that according to Microsoft, is always on, and is always watching; even when the system is off. So while it’s really annoying that my son follows me from room to room (even to the bathroom where he stares at me while I handle my business), at least when he’s asleep, I know there is no risk of him popping up and filming me while I walk around in my underwear and somehow posting that shit on the Internet. Trust me; no one wants to see that.

May Malfunction at Any Moment – Like any new generation of equipment or technology, there are usually some kinks or bugs to work out of the system. We consumers are usually more forgiving when it comes to techie items,like when my new Xbox crashes for no reason; it’s because we know a system update is right around the corner. But, where the hell is my system update for my toddler that is happy one second and then a ball of fury and flailing limbs screaming, “NO, I DON’T WANT IT!” the next?? You show me that product, Microsoft, and I will be yours for life.

The so-called experts are of little to no help – I’ve come to learn that when those times your techie gadgets inevitably fail you, much like your toddler will inevitably have a complete fucking meltdown in public, the people we are supposed to be able to reach out to, to help us fix our problem, are just as fucking clueless as we are. Sure, your big-box store nerd-smug-asshole behind the counter will eventually fix your hard drive. Just like whatever family member’s, doctor’s, or supposed child-raising guru’s advice might work when trying to calm your kid down, but at the end of the day they can’t ever tell you why the breakdown happened, or how to prevent it from ever happening again. It’s all a bunch of finger-crossing and hoping. So in my book, that makes you all full of shit.

Both are a serious drain on my bank account – Having a kid was a mutual choice between me and the Wife, but buying the Xbox One (aka the $500 paperweight in our family room) was all me. Both have the exact same effect on our bank account, however; they continue to take and take and take. Both require a continuous credit line for maintenance and upkeep. Examples include buying games or new products for the Xbox One, and clothing, feeding and paying for daycare for my son. I invest so much money into both, wondering what I’m really getting in return, which brings me to my last point…..

How my son is NOT like my Xbox – While I joke that my Xbox is a useless paperweight (and will continue to be seen as such given current release dates for new games and products), that depreciates in value daily; the same cannot be said for my son. I see my son grow and change every day. While the Xbox can easily go unused for days at a time, my Wife and I enjoy watching our son as he is becoming a little person; sometimes too quickly for his Dad’s comfort. I will most likely outgrow my video game addiction someday, but I will never outgrow being a Dad.

Happily raising the next generation of gamers

Happily raising the next generation of gamers

Searching For Dad

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As much as I try and deny it when my Wife laments about it, our son clearly has a preferable parent…Daddy. In a perfect toddler world, his preference would be to have us both within arm’s reach at all times, but that’s not always possible. If the Wife needs to leave the house, the boy will typically fuss a bit, he even might shed a tear or two, but if Daddy has to go? Like every morning when I leave for work? Well, if you ever heard the term Bat-Shit-Crazy, that comes from my son, JSYK. Screaming, heaving his body onto the floor, hitting, kicking, and more screaming. And more screaming.

And it doesn’t stop there. My son follows me from room to room when we’re home, saying things like, “Ko Daddy” (aka Come on Daddy) and “What’d you doing Daddy?” I think the Wife actually gave birth to my second shadow. If I somehow manage to leave the room by myself, he tends to get very whiny, and sometimes very nervous and scared; only be relieved and all smiles when he sees me and runs up and grabs me.

Sometimes I get frustrated by the whining, and at times wonder out loud to the Wife, “Why is he so upset? I’m right here.” My Wife always tells me how much he loves me (which I know), and how I’m his hero. She also tells me to put myself in his shoes; he feels lost without Daddy. It makes me really reflect back on my relationship with my father, or more appropriately, the lack thereof, and one very pivotal time in my childhood where I felt very alone.

Over the years people have inquired about my dad from time to time, as I have spent the majority of my time talking/writing about my mother and the abusive relationship we had.. I never really wanted to talk about my dad. I realize now, that’s because the emotions were far more painful because they were born from a lack of his desire to know me, or even see me.

After a nasty divorce when I was just a toddler, my dad who was in the Navy, went off and lived the Navy life as a single guy. This meant I rarely ever heard from him; never saw him; and many birthdays/holidays passed with little or no contact. He eventually remarried and had more children. I met him, and spent a small amount of time with him in my pre-teen years, but for the most part our relationship was non-existent at best.

In early June of 1992, the week of my 8th grade graduation, my father was in San Diego (where I lived) for some sort of naval training exercise. He reached out to my mom to let me know he was in town, but only for a few days; so meeting up wasn’t a lock to happen. In fact, as the words left his mouth, I could sense the instant hesitation and regret because he might actually have to meet up with me.

I wasn’t super book-smart growing up, but I knew how to read people really well at a young age, so I picked up on his hesitation immediately. Pushing that aside, I decided to go for broke and invited him to my graduation that week, stressing that I really would like him to come. More hesitation, but he eventually agreed and even mustered up a half-hearted response of excitement and sense of gratefulness for my invitation. I knew he was lying, but for all my growing up way too fast and being able to sniff out a bullshitter like whoa, I still was a boy without a father. A boy who had always silently yearned for male connection; something I had none of to that point in my life.

My mom tried to be supportive; her attempts however, could not hide her massive skepticism. If she were a betting person, she knew she would win all kinds of cash betting on my father being a no-show to my graduation. But I didn’t care; I knew he was coming.

The big day came. I still remember it like yesterday. It feels today, like it did then; like a scene out of a movie. My dad hadn’t shown by the time the pre-ceremony chit chat and socializing were over. So what? So I didn’t get to take a picture with him before the ceremony; there would be plenty of time afterwards to take pictures and go to dinner. The important thing is that he’ll see me walk and get my graduation certificate.

We all took our seats as the graduation ceremony began. Nervously shifting in my seat, I turned from side to side, looking back and forth hoping to catch a glimpse of him as he arrived. Scanning every face in the crowd, eyes squinted by the bright California sun, I saw parents’ faces full of pride and affection, but none of them belonged to me. Occasionally I would catch my mom’s face; a smile plastered on her face as if she has just swallowed cough medicine. She was trying to convey pride and joy, but just under the mask of faux-happiness was a tornado of sadness, worry, and angst, along with a dash of “I told you so,” as she watched me desperately search the crowd. But I didn’t care; I knew my dad was coming. I would not acknowledge her worry; I would not give her the satisfaction. This time she would be wrong.

The ceremony came and went like a flash; I stood and walked and returned to my seat. It went by so fast I could barely scan the crowd for my dad for what felt like the 500th time, but I knew he was out there and he saw me, so no sweat; that’s what was important.

As soon as all the pomp and circumstance concluded, we were released out into the world; but first back to our parents. My mom found me so quickly it was almost as if she materialized out of thin air. She was beaming with pride, tears in her eyes telling me how proud she was of me, and how much I have grown up, hugging me tightly; too tightly. That’s when I knew; my father never arrived. Even though I knew the truth the lonely, sad, boy inside would not be shoved aside this time. I blurted out, “Where’s dad? Did he see me?” My mother stared at me blankly for a moment, and just as I looked away I spotted the slightest of smiles form on her face. Not only was she not sad; she was happy this had happened. Victory was hers.

So yeah, my son hovers around me, and follows me from room to room. And yes, my son has to be involved in everything I’m doing, but you know what else he does; he bursts into the room on my mornings to sleep in and wakes me up by jumping on the bed, smotheringme with hugs. So my son whines when he can’t see me, or cries like a crazy person when I leave for work, that just means there is a super happy running hug with the scream of, “DADDY” when I get home.

I don’t begrudge him for getting upset anymore; well I try not to at least. And when he calls out, “Daddy, where are you?” I make sure to hug him a little tighter these days when I say, “I’m here buddy”…because I’ll always be here.

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A version of this story has been published in the book Dads Behaving Dadly 2 (clink the link to purchase this book).

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