There are certain products we should regularly replace or upgrade. Our phones, smoke detectors, toothbrushes, anti-virus production software, and underwear come to mind. Those are obvious and most people don’t need to be reminded of that. There are some products, however, that not everyone upgrades regularly.
It varies from person to person. For me, I certainly prioritize upgrading my phone, my clothes, my passwords, and other essentials. One thing I tend to negate, though, is my mattress. I freely admit that I slept on the same mattress for nearly 15 years before I replaced it. After that, I didn’t even think about replacing it.
That changed recently when I noticed my mattress sagging in the middle. In the past, I would’ve shrugged that off. Then, I started waking up with a stiff neck and in odd positions. The longer I put it off, the worse it got. Since you can’t really work around getting regular sleep, I decided to finally upgrade. I even managed to save some money so that I don’t have to buy something cheap.
That is likely the reason why my old mattress started sagging, by the way. I bought it because it was cheap and not because it was the most comfortable. The old adage of you get what you pay for really applies here. When you start waking up with a stiff neck every other morning, you feel it even more.
This time, I dared to splurge. I had a budget, but it was larger than last time. That meant I could try some of the fancier mattresses, like those that use memory foam. I’ve seen them advertised before. I tend not to believe those fancy adds that claim they’re that revolutionary. I’ll just say that, after lying on a few, I found one that was comfortable and bought it.
I won’t say how much I paid for it. I’ll just say that it was at least double the price of the last mattress I bought. Again, you get what you pay for and after the first few nights on it, I came to appreciate adage even more.
I wasn’t expecting much when I slept on it the first night. I’d have been just happy to wake up without a stiff neck. I might have set the bar low, but that didn’t stop me from appreciating the results.
I love this mattress.
I love how comfortable it is.
I love not waking up feeling stiff or sore.
I don’t want to come off as a shill for a particular brand, so I won’t mention which kind of memory foam mattress it is. I’ll just say that I’m legitimately impressed. I didn’t know sleeping on a decent, non-cheap mattress could feel so good. I might have learned that lesson the hard way to some extent, but I’m glad I learned it. I know the world is a crazy place right now and the economy sucks for a lot of people, but everything about it is only made worse when you don’t get quality sleep. A good mattress won’t fix everything that’s keeping you up at night, but it’ll definitely help. Keep that in mind the next time you’re thinking about which product in your home you’d like to upgrade.
It’s that time of year again, at least if you’re in these countries. Daylight Savings day is upon us. It’s not a holiday, nor a means for major celebration. It just means that this weekend, we can all look forward to an extra hour of sleep.
Honestly, after the year we’ve all endured, an extra hour of sleep is literally the least we can hope for. I’ll gladly take it.
Now, I don’t have an opinion on daylight savings, why it’s observed, or whether we should continue observing it. That sort of contention is just not worth my time or anyone else’s. Instead, I’d like to take a moment in these last few days before we fall back to share another personal story.
It involves high school, but I promise it’s not nearly as awkward or angst-ridden as some of the others I’ve shared. This story is more an observation than a personal account and one I think is more relevant. Say what you will about teenagers and young people in this current environment. They do have issues and they’re worth highlighting.
To appreciate this story, I need to offer a little context. While I was in high school, the last week of October was uniquely difficult. It wasn’t just because the weather was getting colder, mid-terms had just wrapped up, and the holidays were still too far off to warrant excitement. Much of the difficulty, in this case, had to do with sleep.
It wasn’t so much about getting enough of it, which is a challenge in its own right, as it was about waking up. I lived in a school district where high school classes started at 7:20 a.m. If you weren’t in your first period class by that time, you were late and you could get in trouble. That might not have been an issue if you lived nearby. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that lucky.
My family lived on the boundaries of the school district. That meant I had to take the bus to school, which wasn’t too big a deal. However, in order to get to school on time, the bus had to pick me and my classmates at 6:30 a.m. to make it on time.
Now, I know some people are already rolling their eyes. We had to be at the bus stop by 6:30 in the morning. Why is that such a big deal? There are people with jobs that require they wake up even earlier.
To those people, I have a simple message.
First off, we don’t get paid to go to high school. We’re forced to, by law. Second, we were teenagers. We’re not exactly used to night shifts at the salt mines. We’re still going through puberty, trying to transition into adulthood, and dealing with plenty of awkward feelings along the way. Have some goddamn sympathy.
With that in mind, take a moment to appreciate what it’s like the week before we fall back with daylight savings. You wake up at 6:00 a.m. and it’s still nearly pitch black outside. You can still see stars in the sky. You can barely see any hint of the sun.
If you’re a functional adult who is used to early mornings, it’s no big deal. If you’re a teenager who’s several steps away from being that functional, the world is basically asking us why the hell we aren’t still sleeping. Our collective response is the same. We have no choice. This is what we have to do, by law, to get to school on time.
Make no mistake. Waking up this early and standing outside when it’s still dark out is jarring to a teenager’s mind and body. The last week of October was just the most pronounced. During the first weeks of school, you could at least depend on the sun coming up, which helped wake you up. By this time, however, you had no such benefit. It was still dark out and it stayed dark until you got to school.
This is where my story comes into play. It’s not just one particular incident on one particular day, either. For the entirety of my high school career, this sort of thing played out every year on the last week of October. If I were to catch up with my old classmates, they’d probably share the same sentiment.
It went like this.
We wake up at 5:30 a.m. to get ready for school. It’s pitch black out.
We take a shower, eat some breakfast, and gather our things. It’s still pitch black out.
We go out to the bus stop at about 6:25 a.m. It’s still pitch black out.
The bus arrives, we get on, and we settle in for the ride. It’s still pitch black out.
For the entire trip, we’re all only half-awake. Nobody talks. Nobody socializes. We just sit there, try to keep our eyes open, and get whatever sliver of rest we can before we arrive. Most of the time, the sun is just barely starting to rise when we get to school.
I know it’s not the most harrowing story about high school, but it does stand out and it wouldn’t be at all possible without daylight savings. It’s because of that time shift that it’s still so dark out in the morning on that final week leading up to it. An adult may see that as a trivial detail, but from the perspective of tired teenage minds, I assure you it isn’t.
I try to forget a lot of things from that time in my life. I’ll never forget those early morning bus rides on the last week of October. They always had this strange, ominous feel to them. Setting aside the ambience, the impact it had on me and the rest of my classmates was distinct.
Being out at that bus stop when it was still so dark and riding to school before the sun came up just put everyone in a drowsy, lethargic mood. Riding to school in that environment wasn’t just quiet. It was dead silent at time.
Nobody said a word.
Nobody talked, socialized, or screwed around.
It was just too dark and we were all too tired. You think packing a bunch of teenagers in a bus is bound to create something rowdy and decadent? Well, when it’s that dark out and that early in the morning, you don’t have to worry. When you’re still tired, you’re not going to have the energy.
Now, that did change to an extent the following week. Once we set the clocks back, there’s usually daylight outside when we go to the bus stop. That does make a difference. In fact, it makes a big difference. There’s even some science behind it.
I was still a miserable high school student, but at least it easier to stay awake when the sun was out. I also noticed that once we had some sunlight, people talked and socialized more on the bus. It was just less depressing overall. Being less tired will have that effect.
In hindsight, I’m amazed that we all functioned as well as we did in those conditions. The science is also catching up to the sentiment. More and more people are uncovering the negative effects of having high school start so early. Teenagers may be immature and dumb at times, but they’re still human. If they don’t get enough sleep, they’re not going to function well.
A lack of sleep has all sorts of negative impacts. Add the rigors of adolescence to the mix and you’re just going to make both much worse. It’s something I find myself contemplating every year in the days leading up to daylight savings.
We have a lot of problems in this world and teenagers have a lot to deal with. Nobody can do much of anything if they’re too tired or sleep deprived.
We all waste our money on incredibly stupid things. I don’t care how frugal you are. At some point in you’re life, you’re going to buy something that will ultimately be a waste of time, money, effort, and patience.
Then, there are those select items or services that are worth every penny you spent and then some. They’re a lot less common and understated, but that’s exactly what makes them so valuable.
It’s easy to waste money on something stupid. Browsing Amazon or EBay for any length of time will accomplish that. Buying something that feels completely worth it, even years after the fact, is much harder.
Sometimes, it’s an investment. People who bought stock in Amazon or Google in the early 2000s can attest to that.
Sometimes, it’s personal, like a ring or a piece of artwork. The dollar value, in that case, isn’t as great as the sentimental value.
Sometimes, you buy something that you don’t think is too valuable at the time, but it only grows over time, like your first comic book, video game, or romance novel.
I could list some of my most cherished purchases and tell the story behind them. However, I’d like to highlight just one that, by pretty much every measure, was the best money I ever spent. It wasn’t an investment. It wasn’t cheap, either.
It was elective Lasik Eye Surgery. To date, this is still the greatest thing I ever spent my hard-earned money on.
Now, the story behind this requires a little context. For the first 25 years of my life, I endured some seriously terrible eyesight issues. I found out early on that I had Astigmatism. It gave me blurred vision and terrible headaches. It was not pleasant in the slightest. As a result, I started wearing glasses when I was in third grade.
I never liked it. I didn’t like how my glasses made my look, but I needed them. I couldn’t see squat without them. It only got worse over time, so much so that I could barely see my alarm clock in the morning, even though it was just a few feet away from me. For a while, I wore contacts. However, they were expensive, uncomfortable, and a pain in the ass to maintain.
Naturally, I was open to alternatives. I’d been looking into Lasik Eye Surgery for a while, but I was told I wasn’t a candidate while I was a teenager. I was still growing and my eyes were still getting worse. In addition, the technology at the time was still emerging and still extremely expensive.
It was also not something that insurance covered. If I wanted to ever do this, I’d have to pay for it out of pocket. For someone who left college with plenty of student loan debt, it seemed like a distant dream.
I endured glasses and terrible vision for most of my 20s. Even after I paid down my student loan debt, I continued life with glasses and contacts. My eyesight continued to be an ever-present pain in the ass.
Then, as it just so happened, I had a roommate who had Lasik surgery done. She also had eyesight issues similar to mine. She was the one who referred me to the doctor who ultimately did the surgery.
At the time, I’d saved up approximately $7,500. Some of that was emergency money, but most of it was mine to spend. This surgery would cost me around $6,500 total. Again, insurance wasn’t going to pay for this. I had to foot the entire bill. While I was conflicted for a time, I ultimately decided to take the plunge.
To date, it’s one of the best decisions I ever made.
I won’t say the procedure was easy. In fact, it was downright uncomfortable and the drugs they gave me were a bit too strong. On top of that, I needed two procedures to fully fix my eyes. My vision was just that bad.
However, as soon as I got up from that operating table, it was like a miracle. To this day, I still remember that feeling. When I went into the operating room without my glasses, there was this large warning sign about wearing eye protection while the lasers were operating. I couldn’t see much of it. Most of the letters were blurry.
Then, as soon as I got up, those letters were clear. I could read them. I could see them, the doctor’s face, and the details of the wall. It was like magic. I can’t put into words how amazing it felt. At that moment, it sank in.
I didn’t need glasses anymore.
I could see clearly.
I felt more attractive and confident than I had at any point during my awkward teen years. It also did wonders for my confidence. I wasn’t nearly as self-conscious anymore. I could approach people without feeling like I looked goofy. I could also wear non-prescription sunglasses. That may not seem like much, but trust me. It meant a lot to me.
If I had to pay twice the price for the same result, I’d have paid it gladly. I like to think it ultimately saved money on all the new glasses, contact solution, and doctor checkups over the years. It was both liberating and empowering.
I have great vision now and don’t have to worry about losing my glasses. Not all my purchases can ever be that valuable, but this definitely was. Lasik Eye Surgery remains the greatest money I ever spent. Until I meet the love of my life, I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
This has been a bittersweet summer, to say the least. This might be the first summer since college where I haven’t been able to go on a real, actual vacation. It’s disappointing and distressing. I badly want to go to the beach, hit up a beach bar, or just visit some friends or relatives out of state. I haven’t been able to do any of that this year, due to the goddamn pandemic.
However, I don’t just want to lament at how this has been a lost summer. I like to think I’ve made the most of it, despite being stuck at home for the most part. There are ways to enjoy summer without going to the beach. They aren’t always as fun or fulfilling, but they still work.
In lieu of bemoaning my lack of vacation travels this summer, I thought I’d share a brief personal story. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it’s not overly awful either. It’s just one of those memories that stands out more than most and for reasons that are sure to become abundantly clear. It involves the beach, sunburn, and how a simple oversight can cause plenty of discomfort.
This particular memory takes place a number of years ago around the 4th of July. That year, I decided to head up to the beach to celebrate the holiday weekend. The weather was perfect. The food was as delicious as it was unhealthy. There were no masks, social distancing, or angry fights that broke out when someone sneezed. Good times, indeed.
Needless to say, I was looking forward to a relaxing trip. On my first full day there, I was set to spend most of the day out on the sand with my dad. Since it was sunny and over 90 degrees out, we both made it a point to go heavy on sunscreen. For me, that’s somewhat challenging. I burn very easily and I’ve had many vacations undermined by nasty sunburns. At this point, though, I’d gotten pretty good at protecting myself.
On this day, I thought I did everything right. I lathered up as much as I could. I even used extra for good measure. I did not want to get burned. I wanted this trip to be memorable for all the right reasons. I thought I succeeded. The fact I smelled like a coconut for hours should’ve been proof of that.
Sadly, I was wrong.
I didn’t know it at the time, but there was one part of my body that I neglected. Trust me, it’s not the part your thinking. It was the top parts of my feet.
This may sound like a trivial oversight. Trust me, it isn’t and I had to learn that the hard way. I didn’t know it at the time, though. I just went about my day of surf, sand, and relaxation. My dad and I had an awesome time. We just lofted about without a care in the world, enjoying the summer sun at the beach. It was pure nirvana.
I only started to realize my oversight shortly after we got back. I realized the top parts of my feet were stinging. I wasn’t sure why until I kicked off my flip-flops. That’s when I saw it. A distinct pattern of red sunburn had formed all over the top of my feet. At the time, I just thought it was a mild inconvenience. I didn’t get burned anywhere else, so I thought I had avoided the worst.
Again, I was wrong.
It turns out that getting sunburned on the top of your feet is one of the worst places to get it. It’s not just that it makes wearing socks and shoes a lot more painful. The simple act of taking a shower, stretching your legs, or sleeping under the covers at night became a test in pain tolerance. At least on your back and arms, you can apply ointment or creams to alleviate the pain. It’s not as easy on your feet.
I won’t say this ruined my trip. I still had fun. It just complicated it. I had to be a lot more careful when it came to putting on socks and wearing flip-flops. I had to take lukewarm showers for a while. I also couldn’t go in any hot tubs. It was a bummer, but I got through it.
Thankfully, the pain only lingered for a few days. However, once my skin started peeling, it made for some interesting challenges with laundry. I’m pretty sure I had to throw away at least three pairs of socks after that trip. It was not a pleasant experience, but it did teach me a valuable lesson.
When it comes to applying sunscreen, do not skip the tops of your feet. You do not want to get burned there.
For those lucky enough to still have access to a beach, I hope you heed this advice. For those stuck in place, like me, try to remember it when this crisis is finally over. Next summer, we’ll have a chance to make up for all the time we’ve lost this year. Just be careful. You don’t want to get burned in the wrong place.
Everybody makes a fool of themselves at some point in their lives. It’s inevitable. Like traffic, taxes, and boredom at a doctor’s office, it’s an ever-present prospect. You’re going to do something stupid at some point. No matter how much time passes, you’re going to look back and cringe. You’ll feel so stupid at that moment that you’ll wonder how you ever managed put your pants on that day.
Some people have more moments than others. The capable people learn and grow from them. The idiots and narcissists never learn, but make endless excuses. I don’t deny I’ve had a number of those moments in my life. Some are more foolish than others. A few are things I’m not comfortable sharing. I will, however, share one that still makes me cringe and laugh with distressing regularity.
It involves a health scare that I had a while back. Don’t worry. It’s quite possibly the dumbest health scare you’ll ever hear about that doesn’t involve a hang nail or something a kid learned in sex ed. If anyone has anything stupider, I’d love to hear it.
Before I get into detail, I need to note the context of this scare. I’m not making excuses. I’m just highlighting that it didn’t come out of nowhere. This happened shortly after a close relative began undergoing cancer treatments. On top of that, heart disease ran in my family. I had a valid reason for being overly cautious about my health.
That didn’t make what happened any less stupid.
It happened one day when I was trimming my beard. I noticed a strange bump on my lower-right chin. It didn’t feel like anything I’d felt before. I tried to look closer. I couldn’t tell what it was through my facial hair. It didn’t feel like a bruise or an ingrown hair. It just felt like a regular bump.
At first, I shrug it off. Then, I start picking at it, as people tend to do with things they don’t understand. Naturally, it starts growing. At some point, it gets a little sore. I can feel it when I chew. That’s when my mind starts racing.
What if it’s a tumor?
What if it’s some malignant cyst?
What if it’s some crazy condition I don’t even know about?
I’m not going to lie. I did start anxiously browsing WebMD for information, which you should definitely not do. Browsing WebMD in hopes of determining how sick you are is like watching old cop movies to learn how to defuse a bomb. You’re only going to make it worse.
It’s because of that I seriously considered going to my doctor. I even promised myself that, if it still hurt after a week, I would make an appointment. Thankfully, it never came to that because I soon found out what it was in the dumbest way possible.
It was a goddamn pimple.
That’s it. That’s all it was. It was just a pimple that had somehow formed in my beard and got irritated, probably because I kept picking at it. I only confirmed it was a pimple when it randomly popped. Again, I was picking at it. Having had serious acne problems since I was a teenager, I knew what pimples looked like when they popped. This just happened to be a particularly large one that my beard hid.
I wish I could say it was a relief, but I just felt so stupid at the moment that I would’ve preferred something worse. I vividly remember looking at myself in my bathroom mirror with this deadpanned expression, as though I’d just tried to cut a steak with a soup spoon. I would’ve laughed if it weren’t so pathetic.
There’s a time and a place to worry about your health. A global pandemic is bound to put everyone on edge and for wholly valid reasons. However, you don’t do yourself any favors by being stupid. If anything, you’ll only find creative ways to make it worse.
I’ve had plenty of other moments in my life when I’ve felt dumb. Given current events, I thought I’d share one about my health at a time when we’re all a little extra health conscious. No matter the situation, we’re all vulnerable to doing stupid things. We just need to be a lot more careful during a pandemic.
If anyone else has a story about moments when they felt dumb, please share them in the comments. As long as we’re all stuck at home, we might as well use it as an opportunity for extra introspection.
For men, awkward boners are kind of like pranks that go horribly wrong. They’re either funny in hindsight or so embarrassing that you’d do anything to forget them. Get any man talking about the awkward boners he’s had in his life and chances are there will be a little of both. Most will be reluctant to share the really embarrassing ones, but they’ll gladly share the ones they know will get a good laugh.
In that spirit, I’d like to share another personal story about an awkward boner I had in a public place that was embarrassing, but hilarious in the grand scheme of things. It won’t be the first story I’ve shared involving an awkward boner. If people enjoy hearing these kinds of awkward, yet revealing stories, it might not be the last.
However, the previous story I shared was very different. That incident was mostly embarrassing because I was a teenager at the time and it took place at school, a place where things get awkward enough. This one is different. This one occurred while I was a mature adult who had largely survived the chaos of puberty, high school, and acne. In some respects, that’s part of what makes it hilarious.
To set the stage for this awkward exchange between me and my genitals, I need to establish a little context. This incident took place about five years ago. Around that time, I was trying to get into shape for the first time in my life. I’d just started running regularly. I’d also started going to the gym on a routine basis. I was past the point where I was figuring out what to do. At this point, I had developed a regular routine.
A big part of that routine involved spending at least a half-hour on a treadmill, burning off whatever excess calories I’d consumed. I even came to enjoy that part of my workout because it was a chance for me to put on my headphones, listen to music, and lose myself for a while. Sometimes, I would also listen to audiobooks. It helped get me thinking and sweating at the same time.
That part of my routine is how this incident took shape. Most of the audiobooks I’d listened to ranged in genre from mystery novels to political topics to romance. On one particular day, I decided to listen to a new romance audiobook. It was billed as a sexier, seamier love story. I’d listened to those stories before, but not while exercising. I didn’t think it would be a big deal.
In hindsight, I probably should’ve known better. On this day, which happened to be a chilly Saturday morning in the middle of winter, I arrived at the gym in my gym clothes. I had my audiobook loaded up. It was fairly crowded, so I found an unused treadmill and started my routine. I also began playing the audiobook.
The first 10 minutes went by without incident. I had already worked up a good sweat. Things were going well. Then, the plot of the audiobook took a very sensual turn. I knew when I bought the book that there would be graphic parts. I didn’t expect for them to happen that soon, but it happened.
I’m listening to these very graphic, very sexy depictions being read by an alluring female voice. Naturally, my body reacts. It doesn’t matter that I’m jogging. If anything, that accelerates the process. My heart is pumping and my blood is flowing. This just got it flowing in a specific direction. On top of that, I wore loose gym shorts that day. That meant my body had plenty of room to work with.
What unfolded next was an exercise in tact. I know almost immediately that this isn’t going to be one of those incidents that I can shake off by thinking about football. The dam has already burst. There’s going to be some spillover. All I can do is wait it out.
Keep in mind, this is a crowded gym on a Saturday morning. It’s full of people, young and old. Some of them brought their kids to use the indoor pool. If I were to walk around with a fully-pitched tent in my pants, it’s going to get noticed. Granted, some might just stare for a moment and look away. It’s still not a glance I wanted to attract.
I have to wait this out, hoping that it passes before anyone notices. That’s not easy because, as most men will tell you, jogging with a boner is more than a little awkward. It’s like trying to tap dance while juggling flaming torches. It sends all sorts of mixed messages to your body.
At this point, the best I can do is stop the audiobook and switch to music. I also slow the treadmill down so that’s just a brisk walk. I also tactically adjust my shorts to ensure the tent in my pants isn’t too noticeable. From there, it’s just a matter of my body catching up to my thoughts.
I’m still mortified, but I’m also laughing to myself. I’m still new to this gym and regular workouts. I imagine I’d make quite an impression if people noticed me getting erections while working out. They might find it funny. They might even be curious as to what the hell I was listening to.
Eventually, it passes. My heart is still pumping, but the blood flow finally shifts. I don’t even stop my workout. I continue my routine and go about the rest of my workout, as though it didn’t happen. To my knowledge, nobody noticed that I’d spent a good five minutes on a treadmill with a raging erection. I was relieved, but I remembered leaving the gym laughing hysterically at myself.
As awkward as it was, I don’t see that incident in a negative light. This wasn’t at a time in my life when my hormones were raging and my body was betraying me at every turn. I was a healthy adult who had since developed healthier attitudes. If anything, getting an erection in the middle of a gym showed just how healthy I was at that point.
I still go to the gym regularly. I’ve grown fond of it in the years since that incident. I just know what not to listen to when I’m working out. There’s a time and a place for listening to sexy audiobooks. A crowded gym on a Saturday morning isn’t one of them. It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way, but in hindsight, it’s a hilarious lesson that I doubt I’ll ever forget.