Teeing Off At Love

By Mark E. Smith

Yes, my swing is still off by a millimeter – but, of course, I’m working on it with more determination than ever, as we all should if we’re serious about getting it right. See, I learned that the only difference between the best golfers in the world and the worst golfers in the world is a one millimeter positioning of the head of the club at the point of impact on the ball. That one millimeter at the point of impact dictates whether the ball soars down the fairway, onto the green, or veers off by dozens of yards, into the rough. It all comes down to trajectory, where a slight nuance at the beginning dictates a vastly different outcome.

And, so, in my romantic life, there are days when I’m still one millimeter off, still trying to make right and do right. However, through all sorts of practice – from counseling, to reading, to just taking good ol’ accountability – I keep working on my swing, trying to get that last millimeter right, my love life soaring consistently down the fairway, being both a worthy partner and worthy of a partner. As is the case for a lot of people, loving is easy for me, but feeling fully worthy of love has been the hard part – the last millimeter.

Why is it that truly feeling worthy of love – like hitting a silly, white ball in a straight line – can be so challenging? I mean, for me, I’ve learned at least some of the answers. I know that I started the whole romance thing at four millimeters off, having my parents as the worst coaches – read that, examples – in the world. I actually started in my late teens hitting the ball in the entirely wrong direction, dating emotional vacuums. But, after a few relationships and just wanting to do right by others and just be happy myself, I got better at it all, healthier at it all. But, never perfect. You might say I could keep the ball straighter, but the trajectory always landed me in the rough at the end. Was it my dysfunctions creeping in at the last minute, or just bad luck, a gust of wind that I couldn’t recover from?

And, that’s the baffling part of romantic relationships, isn’t it? When we think we’ve finally hit our best shot – where we strive to love with sincerity and vulnerability, and find love in return – we too often ultimately watch it inexplicably veer off course, saying to ourselves and those around us, Wait! I swear I’ve been working on myself, and gave it my best shot! This isn’t the direction it’s supposed to go! We sometimes want to throw our club in the air, and scream, OK, Lord, I give up – I’m moving into my studio condo in Vegas, getting a cat, and look forward to being the best single grandparent ever!

Yet, we can’t do that. See, the only time we lose in any aspect of life, including love, is when we give up. No, we shouldn’t throw our club in despair, and stomp off of the course. Rather, if we’re patient, someone, somewhere, at the right time, who’s truly compatible, will fall in love with us, accepting us for who we are – with our fully reciprocating – and together with her or him we’ll celebrate the victory of finding the literal sweet spot of life.

But, indeed, it’s the waiting for love that so many of us have struggled with at times in our lives, the right one to enter our lives, wholly, completely. I was recently discussing the topic of love with a spiritual force in my life, a woman wiser and more angelic than anyone I’ve ever known, and she spoke profound words: When the time is right, the right person will come into your life. Life is a waiting game. If we try to rush things, we often short change ourselves.

Similarly, musician and sage soul, Bob Marley, delivered among the most profound takes on love, one that resonates with the emotional availability and valuation that we should all have when we meet the one for us:

Only once in your life, I truly believe, you find someone who can completely turn your world around. You tell them things that you’ve never shared with another soul and they absorb everything you say and actually want to hear more. You share hopes for the future, dreams that will never come true, goals that were never achieved and the many disappointments life has thrown at you. When something wonderful happens, you can’t wait to tell them about it, knowing they will share in your excitement. They are not embarrassed to cry with you when you are hurting or laugh with you when you make a fool of yourself. Never do they hurt your feelings or make you feel like you are not good enough, but rather they build you up and show you the things about yourself that make you special and even beautiful. There is never any pressure, jealousy or competition but only a quiet calmness when they are around. You can be yourself and not worry about what they will think of you because they love you for who you are. The things that seem insignificant to most people such as a note, song or walk become invaluable treasures kept safe in your heart to cherish forever. Memories of your childhood come back and are so clear and vivid it’s like being young again. Colours seem brighter and more brilliant. Laughter seems part of daily life where before it was infrequent or didn’t exist at all. A phone call or two during the day helps to get you through a long day’s work and always brings a smile to your face. In their presence, there’s no need for continuous conversation, but you find you’re quite content in just having them nearby. Things that never interested you before become fascinating because you know they are important to this person who is so special to you. You think of this person on every occasion and in everything you do. Simple things bring them to mind like a pale blue sky, gentle wind or even a storm cloud on the horizon. You open your heart knowing that there’s a chance it may be broken one day and in opening your heart, you experience a love and joy that you never dreamed possible. You find that being vulnerable is the only way to allow your heart to feel true pleasure that’s so real it scares you. You find strength in knowing you have a true friend and possibly a soul mate who will remain loyal to the end. Life seems completely different, exciting and worthwhile. Your only hope and security is in knowing that they are a part of your life.”
― Bob Marley

And, so we should each just keep practicing at it all – learning and growing and loving, in a relationship or single or somewhere in-between – knowing that one day, at the right tee time, we’ll finally shave off that one millimeter blocking our well-formed swings, and all will soar in the direction we and our partners desire – a hole-in-one in life, love, and fulfillment.

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What The Real Question Is

By Mark E. Smith

My friend was recently interviewed on a television show. And, based on my friend being a triple amputee, the subject of sex came up, and the interviewer was bold enough to ask, “Can you?”

My friend answered, “Yes, I do well,” and both he and the interviewer chuckled.

However, I sat on the edge of my seat waiting for the real question to be asked relating to the subject: “What about true trust and emotional intimacy – are you capable of having that?”

But, the question was never asked, keeping on par with how skewed both our personal and cultural perspectives on sexuality are.

I mean, many question whether those with disabilities can have sex, and it’s an assumed that those who are able-bodied can have sex. Yet, few ever ask anyone or ourselves, Are you truly capable of exceptional trust and emotional intimacy? – which is a far bigger part of sexuality than the physicality of jumping in bed (which is absurdly easy). In fact, the physicality of sex is often a mask or mechanism to avoid true intimacy. For many, physically engaging in sex is far easier than engaging in emotional intimacy – there’s less vulnerability involved. Physically acting is easy; opening ourselves up to be emotionally vulnerable is a much tougher, scary process. I read a wonderful quote that said, “Truly making love means allowing ourselves to be emotionally vulnerable and finding security and pleasure in it.”

I see many of my peers – regardless of disability – who use sex as a way to avoid real feelings, or confuse it for feelings. If we have esteem issues, body image issues, vulnerability issues, having sex is a quick, validating fix. I must be a real man because she’s having sex with me – see I am worthy! But, such superficial validation is never lasting (and often merely has negative results on our emotional issues in the long run – the validation leaves with the sex). Sure, feeling desired in the moment can chase away all kinds of insecurities. But, once the moment passes, all of our emotional struggles are still there, only magnified for the worse. Put simply, physical sex for the wrong motives can often drive us farther apart from real intimacy with others, and emotionally isolate us further.

In this way, we often have the process backward: Sex doesn’t lead to true trust and intimacy; rather, true trust and intimacy leads to great, healthy relationships – and all of that leads to truly healthy sexual experiences that then encompass the mind, body, and soul (it’s the difference between staring at the ceiling versus making the Earth stop in its rotation, time standing still).

Therefore, forget the question of, Can you have sex? It’s an absurd, moot point. And, start asking the question of, Are you capable of true trust and emotional intimacy? It’s only then that we’re on our way to deep, loving, lasting relationships.

The Wild Thing

Author’s Note: If your mind leads you down the path of twisting tasteful innuendos and a dose of cleaver sophomoric humor – all with a relevant message! – into your own biased views of “inappropriateness,” skip this piece, as it requires maturity (and a semblance of empathetic humor), to read.

By Mark E. Smith

In my 41 years, I don’t recall anyone asking me that question. I mean, people have asked me a lot of blunt questions, but I don’t recall anyone asking me that. Maybe someone did along the way, and I’ve long forgot. However, I think I’d recall such a blunt question, especially about that.

I’ve had friends with disabilities tell me that they’ve been asked that question, but in my experience, my relationships always unfolded naturally, where when a woman truly got to know me, any questions or apprehension that she may have had toward that was put to rest, unsaid. And, I suppose that, logically, the fact that I have a teenage, biological daughter these days says it all.

But, this time seemed a first. Right in the middle of a bustling restaurant, over appetizers, stone sober, she just blurted it out while dipping cocktail shrimp in sauce: “So, can you have…?”

Without missing a beat, I leaned over mischievously, and said, “You mean right now, here?”

Surely, anyone who knows me knows that in acknowledging the seriousness of her question, I’m going to playfully address it with some humor and charm – and a gigantic dash of complete inappropriateness. At 19, I would have been embarrassed or offended by the question – my insecurities at that age would have certainly warranted a serious reaction. However, at 41, after – let me do the math – 23 years of doing that, the question was among the most hilarious that I could be asked. As a gentlemen, I would never dismiss or mock the woman for asking it – ask away! – but if one asks me such a question, you can bet that I will push the subject as far as my wit allows, admittedly for the sophomoric entertainment value.

“Maybe we should at least sneak into the bathroom,” I had to add, purposely going way too far, 0 to 100 in an instant, just to see her reaction.

“No, really, can you have…?” she asked again, leaning into me with an intent look that was …well …more creepy than flirtatious.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked, taking a sip of Coke. ”Are you testing the waters?”

“It’s just something I’ve been thinking about,” she said, dipping a shrimp in sauce, and feeding it to me. “These are good, aren’t they?”

Damn, she had me – I hate ambiguity! Was she thinking about that out of creepy curiosity, or was she thinking about that with me, specifically? Was she a creepy chick, or was she just into me? Wait! There was a third possibility: Was she a creepy chick who was into me? I’ve had enough creepy chicks into me – I want possibility number two, a chick who’s just into me!

“Do you remember Tone Loc, the rapper from back in the day?” I asked.

“Of course,” she replied, taking a sip of her water.

“Well, Baby, if you’ll be my queen, I’ll show you what I mean, doing the wild thing,” I said, destroying the lyrics to the song as I tried to rap them.

“You’re ridiculous,” she said, laughing.

“OK, let’s seriously think about this,” I said. “I have a 15-year-old daughter. I think that pretty much answers the question.”

“Really I wasn’t sure about it all,” she said, wiping her hands on her napkin.

“Heck, I can even show you how it works some time – it’s really not complicated,” I said, and she laughed, hitting me with her napkin. “If you’ve ever done it, you know it’s not rocket science. I saw on MTV that even teenage drop-outs do it – and have babies. Those silly teen moms….”

“I was just wondering, Jerk,” she said with a smile, going back to her shrimp.

We finished dinner, went to a dance club, and danced till 2:00am, and had a fantastic time. And, what I later learned was that her blunt question was based in very practical experience. She’d known of a married couple, where the husband was paralyzed to an extent that he could no longer naturally father children, so my friend attributed that to ruling out all possibilities. And, in a way, I think that her asking me the question so directly spoke a lot to her character, where even at such an early stage of our friendship, her honesty – and trust in me not to get offended – were really positive traits. (…Or, she’s just creepy, and my poor judgment in women continues!)

We went back to my house, and knowing that my daughter was at my sister’s house, I had every guy’s dilemma as we pulled into my garage: Should I call it a night, or use the sleaziest line ever, So, do you want to come in?

Nope, not my gig – I, of course, opted to call it a night. One, despite poor humor, I’m always going to honor my integrity after such a night, and keep all above board. And, secondly, why ruin the mystery for her? After all, as far as I know, she’s probably still trying to figure out exactly how that works – the wild thing.