Category Archives: Marriage and Relationships

Things Mothers Yell While Giving Birth: A (Hilarious) Way To Get Into The Mother’s Day Spirit

Mother’s Day is almost here. I know where in the midst of a global pandemic. I know most people aren’t in a very celebratory mood. If ever there was a reason or person for which we should make an exception, it’s our mothers. Even if you’re on lock-down, stir crazy, and badly in need of a haircut, we should still celebrate Mother’s Day.

They birthed us.

They raised us.

They changed our diapers, guided us through puberty, and have seen us at our absolute worst.

They’ve earned this. As someone who is lucky enough to have such an awesome mom, I have every intention of celebrating Mother’s Day in whatever way we can. It won’t be too fancy or elaborate, but I will find a way to make my mother feel special this Sunday. I encourage everyone else to do the same.

If you need inspiration, perhaps this will help. Like it or not, our mothers did give birth to us. We don’t like to picture it, but it did happen. There’s even a very real chance they said or did something during that magical moment that was disturbing, hilarious, or a potent combination of the two. This video, courtesy of Updoot Reddit, reveal some of the crazy and wonderful things that women said while giving birth. Enjoy!

Even if this video didn’t inspire you, I still encourage everyone to find a way to celebrate Mother’s Day. This year may suck. The world may be in chaos. We may never go back to the normal we knew, but we can still let our mothers know how much we love them.

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How The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” Became Less Romantic Over Time

Some love songs are just assumed to be romantic, regardless of what the lyrics say or how the song was inspired. You hear it on the radio. You see the music video. Like a reflex, you think love. It might be the cheesiest kind of romance there is, but it’s still romance none-the-less.

It has its place in pop music. I certainly appreciate music like that to some degree, but it only works if you don’t think too hard about it. To really enjoy it, you just have to turn off your brain and let it feel like it’s in a bad romantic comedy. This was, to a large degree, a part of what made boy bands so popular in the late 90s and early 2000s.

I remember that era. I was still young at the time. I heard all those cheesy love songs and the fanatical girls who squealed with incoherent joy whenever they heard them. I wasn’t a big fan, but I didn’t hate boy bands. I see their music like overly processed cheese. It’s good, but you can taste how bland and superficial it is.

To me, the absolute apex of the boy band era came with the Backstreet Boys and their sappy super-hit, “I want it that way.” It’s hard to overstate how big this song was in 1999. You could turn on any radio, find a random station, and hear it at some point. It was played on a loop at proms and middle school dances. I imagine more than one teenager lost their virginity because of this song.

It is, by far, the quintessential boy band song. It’s cute hot guys singing about love. You can’t get much more basic than that. Just listen to the music video that MTV played at least once an hour from that era. Even if you weren’t alive during that era, the romantic undertones are overt.

All that said, I doubt anyone who was alive in the late 90s or ever really scrutinized the lyrics. Even though the pace of the song is slow and every word is understandable, I don’t think anyone takes the time to read them in their entirety. The tune and the backdrop is just so romantic that the ambiance overshadows the actual words, but when taken as a whole, those words undermine that romantic intent.

I started noticing this years after the boy band crazed die down. Being a romance lover, I have a tendency to scrutinize all things romantic more than most. I’ve already shared some of my favorite love songs and at one point, this song was on that list. However, over the years, as I’ve listened closer to the lyrics, the song just got less and less romantic.

For reference, here are the lyrics without the backdrop of an attractive boy band and a soothing overtone. Read it closely. Really think about what they’re saying.

Yeah
You are my fire
The one desire
Believe when I say
I want it that way
But we are two worlds apart
Can’t reach to your heart
When you say
That I want it that way
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why
I never want to hear you say
I want it that way
Am I, your fire?
Your one, desire
Yes I know, it’s too late
But I want it that way
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a heartache
Tell me why
Ain’t nothin’ but a mistake
Tell me why,
I never want to hear you say
I want it that way
Now I can see that we’ve fallen apart
From the way that it used to be, yeah
No matter the distance
I want you to know
That deep down inside of me
You are my fire
The one desire
You are (you are, you are, you are)
Don’t want to hear you say
Ain’t nothin’…

Parts of it are romantic. I don’t doubt that. When taken in their totality, though, it walks a fine line between love and obsession. I won’t say that it echoes with the sentiments of a stalker or someone with a creepy obsession, but it does walk the line. I would argue it’s way too close to the line.

Those first few lines about someone being their one singular desire are sweet, but more than a little obsessive. Making someone your deep, loving desire is one thing. Making them your only desire is a little unhealthy.

Then, there are the parts about heartache, being apart, and drifting away. Those are concepts inherent in many great love songs, but it doesn’t quite work here. Again, look at that first line. It’s telling someone they don’t want to hear them say they want something a certain way. It sends the message that what someone else wants is wrong. That’s not really romantic. That’s an accusation of a thought crime.

Wanting someone to love you is one thing.

Wanting them to not want something is very different. It also has some disturbing implications.

The lyrics alone tell a story of two people drifting apart and separated by distance. One person wants it that way. The other person doesn’t. On top of that, the other person has a singular focus on the other and doesn’t want them to feel that way. Is that sentiment love? Is it even romantic?

You can twist the meaning through music and context. You can make the song about longing for someone over a distance, but it requires a hell of a stretch with the words. Anything that requires that much of a stretch shows just how lacking the romance is.

I’m not saying this song isn’t a great song. I think it is. It’s popularity and staying power is proof of that. As a love song, though, it’s one of those songs that gets less and less romantic the more you scrutinize it. For any song that’s supposed to convey a romantic sentiment, why would you ever want it that way?

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, political correctness, romance, sexuality

Developing Quality Romance According To “Chuck”

The Coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic has required everyone to get creative in alleviating boredom. At some point, there’s only so much binge-watching you can do with new shows. That’s because, along the way, you find out just how many of them turn out to be utter crap. As such, you find yourself returning to older shows that you haven’t forgotten, but haven’t seen in a long time.

I found myself in that exact position recently. Over the weekend, I was in search of a new show and came across one that I once followed closely. That show is “Chuck,” a quirky, yet endearing spy thriller/comedy/drama from the late 2000s. It’s one of those rare shows that sounds good on paper, but is even better in execution.

The premise of the show is simple. A once-promising young man named Chuck Bartowski is stuck in a dead-end job at a Best Buy-like electronics store, his future having been derailed by getting expelled from Stanford after being wrongfully excused of cheating.

Then, one day he gets a mysterious email from his old roommate, Bryce Larkin, who just happens to be the one responsible for him getting expelled. That email turns out to be a top secret program called the Intersect, a compilation of every NSA and CIA secret ever assembled. It gets downloaded into his brain, making him the most valuable intelligence asset in the world.

It puts Chuck in a strange position that requires him to become a spy under the protection of Major John Casey and Agent Sarah Walker. Action, drama, romance, and various hijinks ensue. The show often has a comedic undertone, but it gets serious in just the right amount to still be entertaining.

I started by just watching the first episode.

Then, I watched the second.

Then, I watched five more.

The next thing I know, I’m already in season two and the show is every bit as fun as I remember. It’s even aged remarkably well. I believe that if this show came out today and was completely unaltered, except for some of the technology, then it would still be a hit. It might even do better than it did when it came out because of just how well every character is handled.

This brings me to the part about Chuck” that stood out most for me while re-watching it. Once again, it has to do with romance. There’s a lot I could say about how this show handles its romantic sub-plots, but I’ll sum it up in a simple statement.

This develops TV romance in a believable, balanced, and endearing way that everyone can appreciate.

A lot of shows have major romantic sub-plots that play out over the entire run of the show. Shows like “Castle” and “X-Files” are famous for drawing those plots out over years. The problem that often plagues these plots is that, by drawing them out, they often become stale. Some even become downright toxic. A show that successfully develops a balanced, sincere, believable romance is exceedingly rare.

I would gladly cite “Chuck” as one of those rare success stories. From the first episode to the emotional series finale, the primary romance that drives the plot of this show is between Chuck and Sarah. It’s set up in the first episode as a ploy for Sarah to get close to the man who possess the intersect, but it evolves into so much more over the course of five seasons.

There are many things that make this romance great, but a big part of what makes it work is how it gets the basics right. It’s a romance that never feels lopsided, forced, or insincere. It’s also not a romance that robs either character of their agency or their personality. It doesn’t move too fast or too slow, either. It evolves in a way that feels real and heartfelt.

Chuck and Sarah isn’t a run-of-the-mill, love-at-first-sight type romance. It’s also not one of those pretty-girl-falls-for-dorky-guy romance either, although that is how it seems initially. It starts off basic. One day, Sarah walks into the store. Chuck sees her and is attracted to her beauty. Call it shallow, but that’s how many romances start in the real world and this one certainly doesn’t remain shallow.

As their relationship and their partnership evolve, each character develops in their own way. Through their romance, we learn where they came from and who they are. Chuck was once a promising student at Stanford who had big dreams that got crushed by forces beyond his control. Sarah is the daughter of a con-man who was recruited to put those skills to use for the CIA.

Both characters have traits and histories that function outside the romance. They each develop along their own path. Chuck goes from being a bumbling, anxious, often-unwilling spy to a determined, capable, and dedicated agent. A big part of that evolution is due to the influence and support of Sarah.

Sarah goes from a simple role-player into someone with her own hopes, dreams, and ambitions. She has plenty of changes to become cold and callous like her partner, John Casey. She chooses to avoid that path and Chuck is a big inspiration for that choice. He makes her better, just as she makes him better. That’s exactly what a healthy romance should do.

As for the evolution of their romance, it’s hardly worthy of a fairy tale. Throughout the course of the show, Sarah and Chuck find themselves caught up in other romantic entanglements. Sarah has a romantic history with Chucks rival, Bryce. Chuck has more than a couple flings that range from a girl working at a sandwich shop to his lying ex-girlfriend, Jill.

Remarkably, none of these side-romances come off as basic obstacles. There are reasons and motivations behind these romantic pursuits. Even if Chuck and Sarah have feelings for one another, circumstances and uncertainties keep them from developing a functioning relationship, at least at first. Eventually, they are allowed to get together, be together, and even get married.

In many shows, that level of maturity is an endpoint. For “Chuck,” it’s another key component of their romantic evolution. That’s a big part of what makes both the series and the romance work. It doesn’t just end when the guy gets the girl. Being in a relationship and consummating that relationship is just part of what makes it function. The show finds a way to work that into the plot and it works beautifully.

There’s so much more I could say about the relationship between Chuck and Sarah, but there’s no way I could capture the full scope of their love story without recounting nearly every episode. That’s why I highly recommend bingeing the show on whatever platform it’s on. Last I checked, the show is on Amazon Prime.

In just watching the first two seasons, it’s easy to see how much time, effort, and thought was put into the Chuck/Sarah romance. It also helps that the acting skills of Zach Levi as chuck and Yvonne Strahovski as Sarah are maximized through plenty of dramatic moments.

It’s a romance that helps develop and benefit both characters over the course of the show. It’s easy to root for them and you really feel it when they’re hit with some devastating moments, especially in the penultimate episode of Season 5. It also shows that balanced romance can be told over the course of a show without it getting stale, hallow, or toxic.

In real life, quality romance occurs when two people bring out the best in one another. Chuck and Sarah prove that over five memorable seasons of “Chuck.” Their love may get messy, complicated, and convoluted at times, but it still feels real and genuine. If you’re a romance fan in any capacity, I encourage you to revisit this gem of a show.

Even if the romance doesn’t do it for you, the show is worth watching for Jeffster alone.

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Filed under Marriage and Relationships, romance, sex in society, television

Wonder Woman, Relationships, And Misguided Standards For Female Heroes

I love superhero comics. I love romance. Naturally, I love it when they’re combined into a perfect package of super-romantic sentiment. I’ve singled out a few favorites of mine in the past, as well as a few not-so-favorites that act as cautionary tales. Chances are I’ll find plenty more excuses to write about superhero romance in the future.

That said, I’d like to take a step back from the specifics of superhero romance and assess the forest from the trees, so to speak. Instead, I thought I’d highlight something that I’ve been noticing within the pages of some of my favorite comics. It’s not necessarily an egregious flaw, but it is a distressing trend for lovers of romance like myself.

It has to do with how superheroes are portrayed when they’re in romantic relationships. Almost every popular superhero is caught up in a romantic sub-plot. Superman has his ever-iconic love story with Lois Lane. Cyclops and Jean Grey have decades of romance and drama. Spider-Man gets around so much that he has multiple iconic romances.

Not every superhero is defined by their romantic sub-plot, although some are more effected by it than others. It’s hard to tell the story of Sue “Invisible Woman” Richards without involving her husband and children. However, certain characters are held to different standards when it comes to romance.

That’s to be expected, given the diverse circumstances of each hero. Not every hero is going to be affected by their romantic sub-plot in the same way. That effect also changes through different eras. Even the iconic relationship between Superman and Lois Lane has changed a great deal over the years, although not necessarily for the better.

However, this particular era has really twisted the standards for female superheroes in romantic relationships and not in a good way. I won’t go so far as to call it a double standard like the others I’ve cited, but the differences are stark. It goes like this.

A male superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses, he enters a relationship with his romantic interest, and continues being the same hero he’s always been. The relationship supplements his story.

A female superhero gets caught up in a romantic sub-plot. The plot progresses and she enters a relationship with her romantic interest, but the relationship conflicts with her ability to be a superhero. It gets to a point where the act of her being a hero is detrimental to the relationship. She can have one or the other, but not both.

These scenarios are somewhat generic, but they convey a similar message. Male superheroes can be in romantic relationships without it undermining their heroic persona, but female superheroes can’t have those relationships without it becoming an obstacle.

This strange, unbalanced dynamic played out recently in the pages of “Wonder Woman #754.” I’d even go so far as to argue that Wonder Woman suffers the most from this dynamic, despite being one of the most iconic female superheroes of all time. Given that she’s the ideal that other female superheroes are compared to, I think that’s telling.

The main plot of the issue isn’t important. The side-plot is where this dynamic showed up. There were frequent flashbacks that highlighted Diana’s recent “drama” with her long-time romantic interest, Steve Trevor. I put drama in quotes because it feels less like drama and more like forced excuses.

It’s been an issue for Wonder Woman for decades. Despite being her most iconic love interest, going back to the 1940s, Steve Trevor has never been that official with Diana. Even though they’ve professed their love for one another in many forms and in many timelines, they’re rarely ever shown as being in a functional, mature relationship.

It’s not just with Steve Trevor, either. Even in the classic “Justice League” cartoon in which she was romantically linked to Batman, nothing ever became official. There’s was never a point where Wonder Woman went from being single to being in a real, functioning relationship.

In fact, the only time Wonder Woman was ever in a functional romantic relationship was when she dated Superman during DC’s short-lived New 52 era in the comics. During that time, Wonder Woman and Superman had their own comics and their own stories. Sometimes, those stories became entwined. Sometimes, they didn’t. It never undermined their relationship or vice versa.

I know comic fans have strong opinions about the New 52 as a whole, but I find it telling that this was really the only time Wonder Woman was allowed to be in a relationship while still being Wonder Woman. For her to be someone’s girlfriend and still be the hero she’s always been, her significant other had to be Superman.

Take a moment to think about the scope of that standard. Wonder Woman, the standard-bearer for female superheroes for decades, can be in a functional relationship, but only with someone as capable as Superman. She and Steve Trevor can be in love, but they can’t have a relationship. He’s just an ordinary man. He’d just undermine Wonder Woman’s ability to be the ideal female hero we know and love.

Meanwhile, male heroes like Batman and Spider-Man can become romantically involved with far less capable individuals, many of which don’t have superpowers and can’t fly across the planet to be on time for date night. They’re still allowed to be in those relationships, but Wonder Woman can’t even make the effort with one of her most iconic romances with Steve Trevor.

As a fan of superhero comic, romance, and Wonder Woman, I find this both flawed and frustrating. While the “Wonder Woman” movie did an solid job establishing genuine romance between her and Steve Trevor, they still never got a chance to actually be in a relationship. It’s as though a female hero can’t be in a relationship without losing something. At the same time, a male hero can’t have a complete story without one.

It’s a strange disconnect and I think it’s getting worse. In recent years, superhero comics have made a concerted effort to develop female characters and I applaud that effort. It has led to some major successes. The problem is that, like Wonder Woman, these female characters aren’t really allowed to become anyone’s girlfriend. Being in a relationship is seen as an obstacle to being strong, independent, compelling characters.

Respectfully, I call bullshit.

Being in a relationship isn’t detrimental to any character, male or female, if the relationship is well-written. In addition, female characters don’t have to be completely, 100-percent independent to be great. In fact, making them that emotional single-minded is a good way to make them unlikable and unrelatable because, in the real world, people have relationships. They form bonds, rely on others, and are effected by those close ties.

Now, I don’t deny that writing great female characters is challenging, especially in recent years. It feels like you can’t write female characters without having an agenda anymore, even when it’s not printed on a shirt. Again, I call bullshit. Female characters, like all characters, are deeply affected by the loving bonds they form. They deserve the same development and exploration as their male counterparts.

Why can’t Wonder Woman be in an official relationship with Steve Trevor?

Does being Steve Trevor’s girlfriend make Wonder Woman any less a superhero?

Does any female superhero lose something when they become someone’s girlfriend?

These are relevant questions that are worth asking. If someone as iconic as Wonder Woman can’t be in a relationship with someone without undermining what makes her Wonder Woman, then that’s not a problem with her as a character. That’s a problem with the standards and assumptions we have about superhero romance.

I’m sorry if this rant feels dragged out, but this has been bothering me for a while. I’d be happy to discuss it more. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Filed under DC Comics, Marriage and Relationships, romance, superhero comics, Wonder Woman

Quarantines, Cabin Fever, And Baby Booms

As I write this, the state I live in has declared a State of Emergency. In my local jurisdiction, every school is closed for the next two to four weeks. Every non-essential worker is encouraged to work from home. On top of that, every major sports league has canceled every game, movie premiers have been pushed back, the stock market has tanked, and major gatherings have been banned.

This is bad. There’s no way around it. The Coronavirus/COVID-19 is officially a worldwide pandemic. There’s no way to spin it. There’s no way to twist the facts or interpret the data. This is a historically significant event that’s sure have long-lasting consequences for years to come.

However, I don’t want to focus on all the negatives. Instead, I want to offer one seamy little tidbit that feels perfectly appropriate for an aspiring erotica/romance writer. I don’t want to make light of this situation. It’s still very bad. I just want to speculate on one not-so-minor effect that will likely go unreported.

This extended quarantine and societal shut-down may lead to a miniature baby boom.

Before you roll your eyes, just take a moment to consider the situation here. For the next couple weeks, people are going to be stuck at home for extended periods with nothing to do. No big movies are coming out. No major sporting events are on TV. No big events can happen. At some point, people are going to get bored. When people get bored, they do crazy things to alleviate it.

For couples who happen to be in close proximity of one another, that usually means they’re going to have sex. It might not be romantic. It might not even be that memorable. However, if they have enough spare time, sufficient food, and excess energy, they’re going to get horny at some point and they’re going to have sex. Unlike the world before this plague, there just aren’t enough distractions to stop it.

I suspect this could lead to a miniature baby boom, not unlike the kind documented in cities that have won major championships. We probably won’t see it until January 2021, but if it happens, it’ll be noticeable and we’ll be able to connect the dots.

I’m not saying it’s inevitable. I’m just saying that for the next two weeks, couples are going to have a lot of free time on their hands. People don’t need a lot of excuses to get frisky. Even when they’re afraid of the news, they’re still going to get horny. For some people, fear makes them horny. It’s going to happen. It’s just a matter of when, how, and to what extent.

Personally, I encourage. There are worse ways to cope with this situation. I just hope that before anyone gets frisky, they remember to stay safe. That includes washing their hands.

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Happy Valentine’s Day 2020!

To everyone out there, whether you’ve found the love of your life, are looking for them, or just want another reason to share affection with the world, Happy Valentine’s Day!

As a romance fan, I have a special affinity for a day that celebrates romance.

As a single man who has nobody to spend the day with, I’m also somewhat conflicted.

I don’t deny that it’s disheartening on some levels, seeing couples going the extra mile to celebrate their love today. At the same time, I’m encouraged. It reminds me that love is worth pursuing. Finding that special someone is worth the effort, no matter how daunting it may seem.

One day, I’ll find that someone. When that day comes, Valentine’s Day will become even more special. Until then, please use this day to enjoy and cherish the love you’ve found. If you need to get into the spirit, check out some of my sexy novels and my sexy short stories.

Love is a beautiful thing. Whether you celebrate it with chocolates or extended periods of lovemaking, do what you can to make Valentine’s Day special.

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The Simple “Don’ts” of Valentine’s Day

There’s just one week left until Valentine’s Day. For me and others who are single at the moment, it’s often a depressing time of year. It’s a harsh reminder that we’re still alone and haven’t found that special someone. I don’t deny that I tend to get depressed on Valentine’s Day. I’ve shared some personal experiences to that effect. Being a lover of romance, but being alone on a day that celebrates romance just doesn’t feel right.

That being said, I still appreciate the spirit of Valentine’s day, as a romantic. I freely support any couple using this day to enjoy one another’s love, whether it be sappy or sexy. It’s a beautiful thing. It should be celebrated. Whether you’re married, dating, or in some elaborate polyamorous arrangement, this day is yours to cherish. Embrace it! Don’t let the cynical, jaded segment of the population dissuade you.

Since every relationship is different, there’s no one right way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. If yours is the kind of relationship that benefits by a day of ravenous lovemaking, then that’s great. Do that to your heart’s content. If yours is the kind of relationship that’s best celebrated by a good meal, a movie, and back massage, then that’s great too. Do whatever stimulates your romantic spirit.

Love isn’t just beautiful. It’s flexible. There are so many ways to go about celebrating it. However, there are also many ways to screw it up and Valentine’s Day is often an opportunity to show the state of a particular romance. If it’s failing, toxic, or just losing its passion, this is the time of year when it tends to show.

The way it shows varies, but there tend to be patterns. Being a fan of romance who tends to scrutinize romantic dynamics more than most, I’ve seen them play out in plenty of couples, going back to high school. Sometimes, it’s subtle and a couple can work through it. Most of the time, though, it’s a clear sign that it’s just not meant to be.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a brief list of those patterns that both couples and single folk alike can appreciate. It gives those planning to Valentine’s Day something to keep in mind and those who hate Valentine’s Day some added perspective. Think of them as the primary “don’ts” of this Hallmark Holiday.

Keep in mind, these are just the ones I came up with as a romance lover. If you have others you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. There’s still a week left. For those lucky enough to be in relationships, it helps to know what to avoid.

Don’t use Valentine’s Day as an excuse to treat your lover as a maid.

Don’t treat every Valentine’s Day as a formality or obligation. It’s an opportunity.

Don’t be vague or ambiguous about what you want your lover to do for Valentine’s Day.

Don’t assume your lover knows what you want for Valentine’s Day and then get mad when they do something different.

Don’t judge the success of Valentine’s Day by how other couples do it. Focus on your relationship alone.

Don’t act like Valentine’s Day is no big deal if your lover takes it seriously.

Don’t devalue your lover’s efforts when they go above and beyond for Valentine’s Day.

Don’t make your lover randomly guess what you want to do for Valentine’s Day. Tell them if you know.

Don’t be afraid to explore new ways of exploring your relationship on Valentine’s Day. You may surprise yourself and your lover.

Don’t set unreasonable expectations on Valentine’s Day that produce more stress than romance. It should not feel like a chore.

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Lesson About Love I’ve Learned From Writing Romance

When writing, talking, or criticizing a certain topic, we often do so thinking we know enough about it to make it matter. It’s not until we actually make the effort that we realize just how inadequate our knowledge is. It can be distressing and disheartening on some levels, but it can also be revealing.

I’ve been writing romance stories since I was a teenager. I don’t deny that those first stories I wrote were awful. I’ve even gone back and deleted some of them, both from my memory and my computer. They were that bad. I made the effort because I believed I could tell a good, meaningful love story. It wasn’t until I started writing that I realized how much I had to learn.

I’ve learned quite a bit since then, but I don’t doubt for a second that I’ve a lot more to explore. The fact that I’m still single, unmarried, and not dating anyone at the moment is proof enough of that. However, after reading about and writing so many love stories, both as novels and as short stories, I’ve uncovered countless insights into love.

Writing about it, discussing it, and even observing it in people who have found it has taught me a lot. Much of those lessons have found their way into my writing over the years. In the interest of sharing those revelations, I’d like to offer a few of those insights for those still struggling to make sense of this emotion that drives so many people, both in real life and in the world of fiction.

Some may seem obvious. Others may seem corny. That’s to be expected. Love is one of those strange emotions that seems so simple on paper, yet so overwhelming in practice. That’s part of what makes it special. That’s also part of what makes it worth pursuing. Hopefully, these insights help with that.

Lesson #1: Love requires effort, but can become tedious if it turns into work.

Lesson #2: Love is often more opportunity than destiny. Fate may bring people together, but it’s through choice and effort that something comes of it.

Lesson #3: The line between lust and love is often blurred, but becomes more defined when those involved are honest with themselves and each other.

Lesson #4: It’s okay for love to be shallow on some levels, but greater depth is needed in order for it to blossom.

Lesson #5: Being in love means growing and evolving with a person. That means loving someone for who they are and who they’re trying to be.

Lesson #6: Being in love is only part of a functional relationship, but it’s a critical part that can make others work.

Lesson #7: Love isn’t always logical, but genuine love is coherent and consistent.

Lesson #8: You cannot control how, when, and where you fall in love, but you can control the situation around you.

Lesson #9: Being in love, like being in a relationship, is an ongoing feeling. Treating certain parts as endpoints only undermines both.

Lesson #10: In the same way love means different things to many people, the experience of love can be just as different. Even if others don’t understand it, that doesn’t mean the love is less sincere.

Lesson #11: Love is unpredictable, but there are often patterns that become noticeable when you’re honest with yourself and your partner.

Lesson #12: There’s no one right way to love someone, but there will always be many more wrong ways.

Lesson #13: Love build on lies is always unstable in the long run.

There are probably many more I could list or haven’t thought of. If you have some lessons in love that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments.

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A Brief Message To My Future Wife

Every now and then, I find myself wondering what I’ll say to the love of my life when I meet her. I also wonder what I’d say to my future self if I could. I think everyone contemplates what they’d tell themselves at a certain point in their lives, past and future. Most of the time, it’s just a daydream or a thought experiment. As you get older, though, every sentiment feels more urgent.

I still believe the love of my life is out there. I doubt I’ve met her yet. I hope I meet her soon and not just because I’m getting older. There are so many things I want to say to her. Chances are, if you love someone with all your heart, you can never convey the totality of your feelings. Sometimes, you need both foresight and hindsight to keep things in perspective.

With that in mind, I’d like to share this as a simple message to my future wife, whoever and wherever she may be. I may not be able to put this into words at any point in our lives, but as someone who is still searching for that special someone, know that this sentiment is honest and true.

There will be days when I’m a pain to be around.

There will be days when I am distant and cold.

There will be days when I just don’t want to talk to anyone.

There will be days when I’m not in a romantic mood.

There will be days when I’m stressed out, overwhelmed, and in a bad mood.

There will be days when I focus only on where I’ve gone wrong and where I’ve failed.

There will be days when I blame others for things I’m responsible for.

It’s on these days, however, when your love means the most to me. I may not say it at the time, but know that it’s true. Even when I’m at my worst, I still love you. Moreover, I still need your love.

With time, I get through these days. They quickly become distant memories and I make an effort to ensure the good days outnumber the bad. Know that it’s you who helps make those good says worth waking up for, but it’s easy to acknowledge that when all is well. It’s much harder to convey when things are going wrong.

It’s easy to cherish love when all is well, but you can only know the strength of that love when things are at their worst. I believe our love is that strong. Never doubt that for a second, no matter how many bad days we face.

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Nature Vs. Nurture: A Case Study In “The Big Bang Theory”

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What makes someone an uptight, narcissistic control freak who refuses to admit when they’re wrong and will never let anyone else sit in their spot on the couch?

What makes someone a needy, whiny, emotionally stunted man-child who is chronically insecure and in constant need of approval?

What makes someone an outgoing, overly social free spirit who is also habitually irresponsible, exercises poor judgement, and intellectually dense?

These are all personal questions that have a multitude of answers, none of which are definitive. There are entire fields of study devoted to answering such questions, none of which are perfect. It often comes down to a question of whether someone was born with certain traits or are simply a product of their environment.

It’s the classic nature versus nurture debate and, in almost every case, it’s neither one nor the other. Some people are born with certain traits or personality quirks that physically manifests in their brains. Others are heavily influenced by the people and environment they grow up around. In between all of this is a multitude of other factors that are difficult to quantify.

Figuring people out what makes them tick and how they got that way is challenging, even if you consider yourself a very insightful person. People, in general, tend to be complicated. Human beings might have basic drives to survive, reproduce, and find a tribe, but there are countless variations beyond those drives.

Many of those exaggerations are also pushed to hilarious extremes with fictional characters. Between the Hulk’s anger issues and Lex Luthor’s narcissism, fictional worlds can provide useful insights into the whole nature/nurture dynamic. Whereas someone like Lex Luthor was born with little empathy and way too much ego, the anger issues of the Hulk were a more complicated, as well as disturbing.

These characters, like real people, often have a combination of nature and nurture that helps influence who they, how they got that way, and what they eventually become. It’s often subtle and building a story around it is difficult. However, there’s one group of fictional characters that I believe embody the nature versus nurture dynamic better than most.

Those characters are the cast of “The Big Bang Theory,” a show that recently ended it’s remarkable 12-year run as one of the highest-rated sitcoms of all time. While the show has garnered plenty of criticism and outright hate, there’s no denying that the show struck a chord. No show involving the same group of characters lasts for 12 years without resonating with audiences on some personal level.

While there are certainly parts of the show that I don’t care for, I still consider myself a fan of it. I even admit that I got emotional when I saw the series finale. I thought it was incredibly well done and it marked a fitting end for the journey that Leonard, Howard, Raj, Sheldon, and Penny began 12 years ago. Many other fans of the show agreed with that sentiment.

Love it or hate it, and plenty did hate it, the show had a great deal of appeal outside its cheesy jokes and comical portrayal of geek culture. After seeing the finale and watching a few reruns, I think one of the most endearing appeals was how much the characters grew over the years. Given that it was a sitcom and character growth in sitcoms are notoriously slow, I think it’s one of the show’s biggest accomplishments.

From the beginning, the personalities of each character are established with distinct traits that were heavily exaggerated for comedic effect.

Leonard was needy, insecure, and weak-willed. He was basically the ultimate beta-male nerd from every 80s teen comedy.

Howard was obsessive, selfish, and immature. He also had some stalker-like creepiness baked into his approach towards getting women.

Raj was passive, effeminate, and quirky, but largely defined by his inability to talk to women.

Sheldon was self-centered, stubborn, and egotistical. He might have also been autistic.

Penny was a bubbly, upbeat, lovable free spirit. However, she was also irresponsible and exercised poor judgement, especially when it came to her personal life.

Like every sitcom, every major plot and iconic gag was built off these traits. From Leonard trying desperately to win Penny’s affection to Howard’s efforts to pick up women to Sheldon’s inability to keep a secret, “The Big Bang Theory” had plenty to work with in terms of eccentric personality quirks. I believe a large part of the show’s success is a direct result of how well it made use of those quirks.

As the show progressed and we learned more about these character, we also learn more about where they came from and what influences them. We find out that Leonard’s insecurities might stem from the relationship he had with his mother. He also learn how much living with his loud-mouthed mother has effected Howard. We learn where Penny came from and how that informed her personality.

We learn plenty about Sheldon too, but it would take a long time to go over his many issues. He was, by far, the most eccentric character on the show and one of the most controversial.

For each character, we get a strong sense of their nature. More than most sitcoms, “The Big Bang Theory” belabors and reinforces the core personality of each character. If you watch just a few episodes, you can get a fairly decent feel for their behavior and how they would react in most situations.

At the same time, however, the show also demonstrates how new influences change these characters over time. In fact, the foundation for this change is established in the pilot episode when Penny first moves in to the apartment across from Sheldon and Leonard. She is a very different kind of influence on these two and vice versa. You could even argue that it’s the most important catalyst for the entire show.

It’s only after we learn about the nature of each characters that we appreciate what a critical moment that was in the context of each character’s journey. Before Penny’s arrival, Sheldon and Leonard didn’t have many disrupting influences. They were surrounded in familiar territory. They had nothing prompting them to change or grow in new directions.

The same goes for Penny. Before she arrived, she was just a simple girl from the mid-west who had never lived around hardcore geeks and accomplished scientists. She never even showed much interest in science, geek culture, or anything of the sort. While it didn’t seem to affect her at first, there were signs of their influence as the show progressed.

Both Howard and Raj went through similar transformations. In the early seasons, there were many sub-plots built around both of them trying to get the attention of women, despite Raj not being able to talk to them without being drunk. Most of them fail spectacularly. Some were downright pathetic at times and not in a funny way.

 

Then, new influences came into their lives. Howard met Bernadette, who underwent her own transformation as she became a bigger part of the group. While their relationship had its upheavals, it did more than anything to humanize Howard. It still didn’t fundamentally change him. He was still immature and obnoxious at times, but he also showed that he could be a respectable family man.

Raj’s growth wasn’t quite as dramatic, but he did eventually learn to talk to women without the aid of alcohol. He also went from just wanting to get the attention of women to seeking love, marriage, and family. He even gains more self-confidence and assertiveness as the show went on, some of which was a result of interacting with Penny and the rest of the group.

Then, there’s the growth of Sheldon Cooper. More than any other character, Sheldon demonstrated the value of having quality influences.

His nature is, by far, the most eccentric and extreme. It’s the nurturing forces, however, that I think had the greatest impact on both his character development and the overall progression of the of the show.

There’s no getting around it. In the first few seasons, Sheldon was a stubborn, selfish egotist. For a time, it was even a popular refrain to note that Sheldon was just one lab accident away from becoming a supervillain. Given that most supervillains tend to be petty, eccentric, and self-centered, I think that’s an accurate statement disguised as a joke.

Thankfully, that accident never happened. Instead, Sheldon was frequently nudged and, in a few cases, shoved into being less insufferable. Penny was usually the one to get him out of his comfort zone in the early seasons. Then, Amy Farrah Fowler came along and gave him a nurturing force that seemed almost impossible in the earlier seasons.

Amy brought issues of her own to the table, but like Bernadette did with Howard, she proved to be a stabilizing presence for Sheldon. She didn’t fundamentally change him, nor did she even demand it. She simply provided new influences. Granted, he stubbornly fought them, at first. He fought harder than anyone else in the group. In the end, though, he still embraced these changes and was better because of it.

It was that change that made his Nobel Prize acceptance speech at the end of the show so perfect. In that moment, he achieved something he’d been hoping to achieve since the earliest season. It was the ultimate affirmation of his genius and his abilities, which he’d bragged and boasted about to no end. It could’ve been the ultimate ego trip for him.

Instead, he thanked his friends. He demonstrated humility on a stage in front of a huge crowed of people. For someone who started the show seeming incapable of empathy and nuance, it was a powerful moment. It showed that this weird, colorful character that we loved and hated at times had really grown. He even acknowledged the source of that growth in a genuine, heartfelt gesture.

When you look at that moment in the context of the entire show, you can see just how powerful those influences can be. These chaLracters, all of which were set in their ways to some extent, showed just how much those influences can change. Even for characters with idiosyncrasies like Sheldon Cooper, people can change in positive ways.

Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, Raj, and Penny wouldn’t have undergone those changes without nurturing one another to some stent. At times, that nurturing took the form of annoyance and frustration. That only makes the change more fitting because most people resist that change. Even in the real world, our default reaction is to keep doing what we’re doing and make every excuse along the way.

While many sitcoms have their characters undergo plenty of upheavals, “The Big Bang Theory” goes the extra mile in showing how people can be changed by the people and influences around them. They’ll still stay true to their nature.

Sheldon will always have that distinct Sheldon-like persona, as will Penny, Leonard, Raj, and Howard. However, with the right kind of nurture, they can become endearing characters in their own right. Say what you will about the quality of the show, but its place in TV history has been secured.

Bazinga!

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