Tag Archives: personal story

What My Mother Taught Me About Being A Better Man (With Roller Coasters)

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Whenever I get a little personal on this site, I often focus on two topics. One is how awful high school was for me. The other is how awesome my parents are. I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m bragging, but I’m just being honest and truthful. They really are that awesome and I intend to belabor that every chance I get.

As it just so happens, Mother’s Day is tomorrow and since I have such a wonderful mother, I’d like to share a personal story that I hope conveys a larger message about masculinity, in general. I promise this isn’t going to be another complex exploration about bogus topics like “toxic” masculinity or double standards. It’s just a simple story about my amazing mom and how she helped me grow into a better man.

There are a long list of stories I could share. Some of those stories I’m sure my mother would prefer I kept private. There are plenty others I’m sure my mom would love for me to share, if only to document some of the more memorable moments our family has shared over the years. Since I know she occasionally reads this site, I think she’ll agree that this is definitely one worth sharing.

That’s because it involves roller coasters. That’s not some elaborate metaphor. I’m dead serious. This is a story about me, my mother, and roller coasters. It’s kind of what it sounds like, but I promise it has other, more meaningful connotations that I think are wholly appropriate on the eve of Mother’s Day.

First, I need to provide a little context. This particular moment occurred when I was around ten-years-old. That’s relevant because that was the age when I was finally tall enough to ride most of the rides at amusement parks like Six Flags and Kings Dominion. As it just so happens, both are within a two hour drive of where we lived.

My mom, being the wonderful person she is, used that as opportunity to plan a day-long trip to Kings Dominion. I went with my younger brother, my aunt, and a cousin of mine. It was blazing hot, but being an energetic kid, I was too excited to care. I don’t even remember complaining with my mom urged me to put on extra sunscreen.

After spending about an hour just exploring the park, doing some small rides and playing some games, we came across a roller coaster that, to my 10-year-old mind, might as well have been Mount Everest. I’m not saying I was an overly fearful kid, but this was uncharted territory for me. My first instinct was not to go on such a ride.

To some extent, that was my default instinct to that point in my life. I know kids at that age can be both frustratingly reckless or annoyingly helpless with very little in between. It’s an age where kids still cling to the safety of their parents, but are just starting to feel that inclination to explore the world.

I was probably more reluctant than most kids my age. Both my parents and siblings would probably admit that I was a very self-disciplined kid, often to a fault. I did not like going out of my comfort zone and taking chances. I even complained when I had to, as kids are prone to do.

On that day at Kings Dominion, though, my mom gave me an extra push. She never shoved me or pressured me. She got encouraged me, getting excited about the ride so that I got excited too. Before long, that excitement overrode any fear or reservations I had. Thanks to that encouragement, I went on the ride with her and to this date, I feel like that was a pivotal moment in my young life.

At the time, though, it was just an incredible thrill. I loved it. I loved it even more than my mom promised. I remember getting off that ride, feeling dizzy and unable to stand. I probably looked like I was drunk, but I didn’t care. I had so much fun and so did my mom. We went on that ride again.

It was the first of many. From that day forward, my mother and I became the roller coaster aficionados of the family. Whenever we went to an amusement park, be it Kings Dominion, Six Flags, or Disney World, my mom and I would jump at the chance to ride the biggest, scariest ride. Sometimes friends, siblings, and cousins would join us. Other times, they would chicken out. My mom and I never did.

Those were wonderful times. They’re among some of the fondest memories I have with my mother as a kid. Beyond the thrills and adrenaline, though, I find those experiences had another effect on me. This effect was more personal, though. It also played a major part in the critical, yet often treacherous process of a kid growing into an adult.

By taking a chance on those roller coasters, doing something risky for once, my mom taught me a valuable lesson about being an adult and a man. She showed me that sometimes, we need to embrace a little danger. We need to leave the safety of the familiar and explore new, potentially hazardous experiences.

That kind of mentality takes both bravery and even a little foolishness. It’s a combination of traits often associated with masculinity, being willing and able to take those risks for new and exciting experiences. I’m not saying that men are the only ones who have such risk-seeking behavior. Women can be every bit as adventurous, as my mother so aptly demonstrated.

For me, the ten-year-old boy who still saw himself as such, those experiences marked the early steps of a more profound maturation process. It wasn’t just that I was now old enough and tall enough to ride all the roller coasters at most theme parks. I realized that my experiences didn’t just have to be kid-friendly experiences.

I could take chances, venture into once-forbidden areas, and explore life in ways I hadn’t dared. Doing that can be scary and sometimes requires a little encouragement, not unlike the kind my mother gave me that day at Kings Dominion. It can also be very rewarding, as the rush from an awesome thrill ride so wonderfully proves.

I was still a shy, reserved person, even as I entered adulthood. I still took longer than most to emerge from my shell. However, thanks to my wonderful mother and her loving encouragement to try out a few thrill rides, I understood what it meant to be an adult and a strong man.

To my mother, and all those wonderful mothers who encourage their children with the same love and care, I thank you. You helped teach me how to be brave, how to embrace the adult world, and how awesome roller coasters are. For that, I will be forever grateful. To her and to all the other mother’s out there, Happy Mother’s Day!

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The Time I Tried On A Banana Hammock (And Loved It)

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Brace yourself because I’m about to get personal. That’s right. I’m taking a break from talking about disturbing trends in sexual attitudes, major upheavals from technological advances, and sex robots to share a little something about myself that should offer some revealing insight into my sexy way of thinking.

Ideally, I’d like this personal anecdote to convey a larger meaning, of sorts. I’d like it to help reinforce some of the points I often make about double standards, sexual norms, and our overall sexual mentality. If it just ends up as me sharing another quirky story from my life, I’ll be okay with that too. Be forewarned, though. This is one of those stories that might be both funny and unflattering.

It’s not a very elaborate story, nor would I consider it a major turning point in my life. It’s not even the most personal story I’ve shared on this blog, especially compared to ones that involve awkward boners. In fact, the entirety of the story can be summed up in one simple sentence.

I tried on a banana hammock and loved it.

In case you don’t know what a banana hammock is, it’s basically the male version of a thong. I’m not talking about a speedo swimsuit that you might see at a beach in Rio. I’m talking about the kind of underwear that is basically a fancy napkin held in place by dental floss. If you need a more visual reference, this is what one looks like.

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Granted, most men don’t look that fit, but that’s not the point of the story or why I’m sharing it. I know banana hammocks are basically a novelty, one usually reserved for male strippers, underwear models, and body builders. They don’t have the same reverence that female thongs have and there’s a reason for that. However, it’s the extent of that reason that makes me want to share this story.

For context, here’s how it all played out. It takes place during my last few years in college, a time when I was finally recovering from the social anxieties I’d developed in high school and began emerging from my shell. During those years, I was lucky enough to have a couple of really great roommates with whom I didn’t mind sharing personal stuff.

One of those roommates, as it just so happens, loved banana hammocks. To him, they were just something he wore to fool around, but he still loved them. Me being the kind of guy who had worn boxers since middle school, I didn’t see the appeal. Then, one day, for reasons I can only attribute to boredom and curiosity, my roommate dared me to try one on.

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I’m not usually one to take people up on foolish dares that don’t involve pizza toppings, but I found myself seriously considering it. My roommate even sweetened the deal by letting me wear one that he hadn’t opened yet. It was still sealed in a plastic package, having never touched another man’s package, so to speak. It was one of those opportunities for which I couldn’t make many excuses.

Me being just as bored and/or curious, I decided to take my roommate up on his dare. I wouldn’t just keep my shirt on either. I would go into the bathroom, take everything off, and come out wearing only that banana hammock. Short of walking around naked, it was the most exposed I could’ve been. This being before I started sleeping naked regularly, it would be a unique experience.

With all that in mind, I went into the bathroom, got undressed, and put the banana hammock on. I admit, it was somewhat uncomfortable at first, but not in the way you might think. I just wasn’t used to my underwear cradling my man parts the way this thing did. After a moment, though, something amazing happened.

I found myself really liking how it looked on me. I found myself posing a bit in front of the mirror. Keep in mind, though, that this is a time in my life before I started exercising regularly. I wasn’t necessarily unhealthy since I walked everywhere in college, but I wasn’t as fit as I am now. Even so, wearing that banana hammock made me feel downright sexy.

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I can honestly say I had never felt that sexy before in my life and that includes the moments I’d spent with women. I felt like I could walk up to a woman with confidence and proudly declare that I am a sexy man who enjoys the company of sexy women. Sure, that might have gotten me some odd looks, but I wouldn’t have cared. I felt that good.

Needless to say, I walked out of that bathroom feeling a lot less self-conscious than I’d anticipated. Even my roommate seemed a little surprised. His reaction, however, was kind of predictable. He wasn’t shocked or anything. He just laughed, clapped, and said it looked good on me. I remember laughing too and cracking some dirty jokes. I still don’t think it conveyed the impact of the moment.

At the time, it felt like one of those things immature college guys do when they’re in between classes. Over time, though, that experience has stuck with me and for the right reasons. That was one of the first times I really knew what it was like to feel confident as a man. It wouldn’t be the last, though.

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As I got older, I had more of those moments that helped strengthen me into the man I am now. However, that one fateful day when I tried on a banana hammock for the first time and loved it stands out more than most. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to keep it. My roommate still took it back. I think he even wore it the next day, although I’m not sure.

Whatever the case, the impact was indelible and I’ve found myself contemplating it more lately. As I said before, a beautiful woman wearing a thong isn’t that much of a spectacle anymore. If anything, it’s celebrated. It’s a symbol of sexiness. It creates spectacles at the beach and inspires sexy songs.

For men, though, the reaction is different. I won’t go so far as to say it’s a double standard. Granted, there are some men that can’t look that sexy in a banana hammock, just as there are some women who can’t pull it off either. Even for the men who do, though, it’s not seen with the same sexual aura.

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A man walking around in a banana hammock is sure to generate plenty of looks, but they don’t evoke the same intrigue and interest as a female thong. Some women may find it attractive, as the success of the “Magic Mike” movies has shown. Others may find it funny. However, there’s still a notable gap between the sex appeal of a banana hammock and that of a thong.

Perhaps the success of movies like “Magic Mike” can narrow that gap. Personally, I hope it does. I think I look better in a banana hammock now than I did back in college. If I find myself in a relationship with someone, I’d like to think my lover would find it just as sexy as I would with them if they wore a thong.

In a sense, albeit a limited one, the disparity between banana hammocks and thongs reflect the different attitudes we have towards sex appeal. It’s far from the widest disparity between genders and, unlike others, isn’t that detrimental. That said, I do hope it narrows so men can enjoy that extra sexy feeling along with women. That, I believe, is a feeling that should be gender neutral.

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The Funniest April Fools Day Prank I Ever Witnessed

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I admit that I am not a fan of April Fools Day. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy a good laugh. My weekly Sexy Sunday Thoughts should be proof enough of that. I just don’t really care for a holiday that makes me a lot more cautious whenever I open a fresh beer.

I’m also not big on pranks. I leave that sort of thing to the YouTube stars of the world. For me, pranks are just too elaborate a way to get a laugh. I think the world is funny enough without jumping through too many hoops. Just reading the headlines from Florida is sufficient sometimes.

As a result, I never developed a fondness for April Fools Day. I had friends who took it seriously, pulling pranks that had varying degrees of humor. Most failed, in my opinion. They often involved things like replacing water with vodka or slipping a used condom into their laundry. Some laughed. Some rolled their eyes. I usually shrugged it off.

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However, in the spirit of April Fools Day, I’d like to share a story about the greatest prank I ever saw anyone pull off. To date, it’s the only prank that ever had me on the floor, laughing hysterically. It’s also one of the few pranks where both the prankster and the victim can laugh equally. I doubt such a prank will ever be topped, at least for me.

Before I tell the story, though, I should probably make a quick disclaimer. The context and time of this prank is what helped it work. Trying to replicate it today might still get plenty of laughs, but I don’t think it would be as effective so I strongly discourage anyone from trying. That said, here’s how it played out.


It happened at one of the first jobs I had out of college. It was at a software company, which I’ve mentioned before. This company was full of young, fresh-out-of-college people like me who primarily provided technical and administrative support. It was a great environment, one where it wasn’t uncommon to see someone bring toys into the office.

The victim of the prank, in this case, was a co-worker who sat next to me in a small office. We both worked technical support, answering emails and phone calls. He had a great sense of humor and always seemed full of energy. In short, he was the perfect target for another co-worker who worked the sales department.

That co-worker, who most would agree was one of the smartest minds at the company, had a reputation for being inventive. The man once programmed his email to make a loud fart noise every time it got a message from a particularly troublesome client. We all thought that was funny, but he really outdid himself this time.

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On the morning of April 1st of that year, he placed an ad on Craiglist pretending to be an animation studio in search of a voice actor. Specifically, the ad said that it needed a really good pirate voice for a cartoon character in a short animated clip. It then requested that aspiring voice actors call a number and leave a voicemail of them doing their best pirate impression. Guess who’s number he listed?

I’ll give everyone a moment to appreciate the creativity employed in this prank. It wasn’t overly elaborate. It wasn’t overly destructive either. Nobody had to clean up a huge mess. Nobody had to pay someone’s laundry bill. The most it did was clog my co-worker’s voicemail with dozens of messages from aspiring voice actors.

Over the course of the next eight hours, my co-worker received a flood of calls, most of which went to voicemail. Those calls contained a wide array of aspiring voice actors talking like pirates in ways that ranged from impressive to deranged. I don’t remember just how many calls he got. I just remember the steady stream of laughter that followed over the course of the day.

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By late afternoon, word had spread about the prank. Everyone from the interns to the supervisors crowded into this tiny, confined office that was only supposed to hold four people at the most. Despite those constraints, they all crowded around the desk and listened to voicemail after voicemail of pirate voice auditions. I was in the front row. It was too hilarious for words.

I distinctly remember one message where a guy really got into it, telling this elaborate two-minute tale of his life as a pirate in a voice that Johnny Depp himself would’ve appreciated. Within 30 seconds, I was on the floor clutching my sides, laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe.

It was, by far, the most memorable April Fools Day I had ever experienced. I think the entire office gave my co-worker and his friend a round of applause for this prank. They both laughed too. In fact, even when they called some of the people to let them know it was a prank, they laughed as well. It was just that hilarious.

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Regardless of how you feel about April Fools Day or pranks, it’s hard to deny that what my co-worker’s friend did was objectively funny. Moreover, it was funny in a way that everyone could appreciate. That, in many respects, is the true measure of a great prank. I’m not saying it’ll ever be topped. I’m just saying that it set the bar pretty damn high.

So that, my friends, is the story of the greatest April Fools Day prank I ever witnessed. I wanted to share it a few days before April Fools Day this year, if only to reassure some that there’s still a place for that kind of humor in the era of political correctness, fake news, alternative facts, and viral videos featuring dancing gorillas.

We all need to laugh every now and then. April Fools Day gives us an excuse to make the extra effort. Some, like my old co-workers, took full advantage of it and the lives of those effected are better because of it. With that in mind, I hope everyone finds a way to laugh as hard as I did that fateful day on April Fools Day this year.

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Ode To Tomboys And How One Made Me A Better Person

I try not to get personal on this site too often. When I do, though, I try to make an important point that others can learn from. That’s not easy, since everyone’s personal experiences are different. When one of those stories resonates, though, it’s a beautiful thing.

With that beauty in mind, I’d like to take a moment to appreciate a certain female persona that tends to evoke mixed emotions in people. For me, though, that persona has a special place in my heart because certain women have influenced me in a major way. That persona, in this case, is that of the female tomboy.

I know the stereotypical tomboy isn’t known for her sex appeal. She doesn’t come off like the kind of person who would inspire an aspiring erotica/romance writer. However, I think the appeal of a tomboy goes far beyond how little she has in common with the cast of “Mean Girls.”

I’m guessing that most people knew someone growing up who fit the mold of a tomboy. She was a girl, but she didn’t have “girly” interest. She liked sports. She liked cars. She liked to hang out with boys, didn’t care for makeup, and didn’t mind getting her nails dirty. Whether she was a friend, relative, or classmate, she probably stood out more than most.

There’s all sorts of social and psychological insights into what makes a girl a tomboy. I don’t want to get too much into that. For this, I want to keep things personal. I want to tell a short story about how a very special tomboy influenced me in a positive way, one that I still feel to this day.

Out of respect for her privacy, as well as the fact that I haven’t kept in touch with her, I won’t use her real name. From here on out, I’m just going to call her Carly. If, by some remote chance she ever reads this, she’ll probably recognize the importance of that name. She may even recognize me. I hope that happens because I don’t think she knows what a profound impact she had on me.

I knew Carly from grade school. We met when we were in the third grade and we shared the same classes until grade six. That’s a pretty critical time because we were both still kids, but were on the edge of puberty. While I don’t think it played too great a role at the time, I think it influenced the context of our friendship and our connection.

What made Carly stand out, even for a kid like me, was the fact that she didn’t look like the kind of hardcore tomboy you’d imagine after seeing “Little Giants.” If you randomly met her in public, you wouldn’t know she was a tomboy, but you would probably expect it. While she did look feminine, she never wore dresses, skirts, or makeup.

If you spent any amount of time with her, you learned quickly that Carly wasn’t a typical girl. She didn’t conduct herself like the other girls I knew. Whenever we did group projects, she worked with boys. Whenever we had lunch at the cafeteria, she sat with the boys. It wasn’t that she hated other girls. She just preferred being around boys, myself included.

I didn’t think too much of that until I saw her doing more than just being around boys. What made Carly special was how she went out of her way to match other boys in terms of skill, grit, and strength. While the other girls hung out on the playground, Carly was playing basketball and football. While those same girls talked about boy bands, she talked about who won on Monday Night Football.

I remember multiple instances where the boys got together to play touch football and she would be the only girl who wanted to play. We let her too. None of the other boys joked about it. There was this unspoken rule that Carly was one of the guys. She proved that she belonged. Anyone who gave her crap about it was not welcome.

Keep in mind, these are pre-teen boys who still think cooties are a thing. These are boys whose maturity level is limited by the amount of cartoons they watched that same morning. The fact that none of them gave Carly a second look, nor did they question her ability, says as much about them as it does about her.

More than any other girl, at that time, Carly fascinated me. I watched as she ran alongside other boys during gym class, playing sports like football and baseball better than some of the other boys I knew. Being so young, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. I just knew I had to go out of my way to hang out with her and be friends with her.

While I won’t say we were close friends, we did know each other. We recognized each other outside of class. That eventually culminated in a moment that would both solidify Carly’s place in my memory and inspire me in ways I didn’t appreciate until later in life. That moment occurred when I was in little league one year.

From the time I was in first grade until the time I went to middle school, I played little league baseball. I loved baseball as a kid and it was the only sport I ever felt passionate enough about to play seriously. In all those years of playing little league, I played with a lot of other boys, some more memorable than others. However, through those same years, only one girl ever dared to play little league with boys and that was Carly.

I still remember the day when I saw her run out onto the field, a dirty old hat and a new baseball glove in hand. I had no idea she would be on my team, but when I saw her, I remember smiling. I even watched as she fielded pop flies and practiced batting with the coach. While I wouldn’t say she was our best player, she held her own. She could throw, run, hit, and catch. She wasn’t just a tomboy. She was an athlete.

In later years, that memory has taken on far greater meaning. Remember, I was a kid at the time. I was still at an age where girls might as well have been another species. Since pre-school, boys hung out with boys. Girls hung out with girls. We didn’t question it. We just separated ourselves, as though it had been ordained.

Carly showed that those unwritten rules weren’t really rules. She showed that girls didn’t have to be that different. Girls could still like boyish things. They could also be tough, play sports, and relate to boys just as well as they did with girls. Carly embodied that spirit better than anyone I’d known before or since. She was like a kid version of Rhonda Rousey.

That may not sound like much on the surface, but I can’t overstate the importance of that influence. The fact that I knew a girl who could so comfortably embrace boyish things made me question whether the divide between genders really mattered that much. The older I got, the more I realized how arbitrary that divide truly was. Carly was living proof of that.

It was because of Carly that I began interacting more with girls. This did make me a bit weird in the eyes of other boys. I started seeking out female company before it was considered cool for a kid. I like to think that gave me a head start on puberty in that it prepared me to appreciate female company better than most.

It’s also through my interactions with Carly that I stopped trying to talk to girls as though they were so radically different. In doing so, I realized that girls can talk about things like sports, cartoons, and even comics. While these girls might not have been tomboys like Carly, we were capable of sharing the same interests.

Conversely, it showed me that boys can share girls’ interests as well. To me, that was a big deal because it’s through dealing with girls that I developed a fondness for romance. Whereas boys may look at movie, comic, or TV show and appreciate the action, I often found myself appreciating the romantic sub-plots. I don’t think I would’ve had the mind to appreciate those things without Carly.

For that, I’ll always be grateful to her. At the same time, I regret not being a closer friend with her or keeping in touch with her. In my defense, we ended up going to different middle schools so we never got a chance. I would still love to know what came of her. She struck me as the kind of girl who would go far in life.

I don’t know if she outgrew her tomboy persona, as many girls do. Even if she did, Carly’s influence on me was a turning point. I may have been a kid when I knew her, but she inspired in me the kinds of ideas that shaped me into the man I am today. I like to think I’m a better overall person because of it.

Dealing with Carly helped me interact better with girls and people who were different from me, in general. Carly also proved to me that girls and boys weren’t so different after all. We could relate to one another, work together, and grow together. As a kid, that’s a radical concept. As an adult, that’s an important life lesson that helps men and women alike appreciate each other.

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Why EVERYONE Should Work A Lousy Service Job At Some Point In Their Lives

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Talk to any marginally successful adult, be they high-paid executive or a full-blown celebrity, and chances are they’ve worked at least one lousy job in their life. It’s also likely that said lousy job was a service job. Some may look at those days with a fond sense of humor. Some might still have nightmares about them to this day.

We all had to start somewhere in our professional lives. Some people who are my age may still be behind the curve, struggling to get ahead. To those people, I offer my sympathy and support. To those who worked their way up from the bottom, I have a feeling that what I’m about to say will resonate with you.

That’s because I have worked what most would classify as a menial, low-skill service job. In fact, that menial, low-skill service job happened to be my first job . It was not a fun or enjoyable job, to say the least. There were more bad days than good. However, it was the first time I earned my own money. It was the first time I felt like an adult, to some extent.

It used to be I would look back on that job and shudder. When the memories were still fresh in my mind, I could only focus on how miserable I felt working there. As I’ve gotten older, though, I look back on that job with a sense of pride because I feel it made me a better person in the long run.

It made me appreciate what it felt like to work at the very bottom of the totem pole. It also made me appreciate the people who worked those kinds of jobs for years on end, scraping away at roles that most of us take for granted. It also made me appreciate the people who had to work weekends, night shifts, or holidays. To this day, I go out of my way to thank those people because I’ve been in their position.

It’s because of that experience and the lessons I learned that I believe everyone should work a lousy service job at some point in their lives. Regardless of whether you were born into a rich family or grew up in a one-room shack with no functioning toilet, working a job like that doesn’t just establish someone in the real world where you work for your money. It really builds character, albeit not in everyone.

I know I sound less like an aspiring erotica/romance writer and more like everyone’s dad in saying that, but that doesn’t make it any less true. I certainly heard that from my family, but mine was one that practiced what they preached. Talk to any one of my relatives and you’ll find that all of them have worked a menial job like I did at one point.

I have siblings, parents, and relatives that have worked as low-paid waitresses, bartenders, cashiers, dish washers, and fry cooks. Think of any low-level job you’d see at a restaurant or a fast food place. Chances are, someone in my family has worked a job like that and it shows in the kind of people they become as adults.

I see that within my family and beyond. I see it not just in how they value their work. I see it in how they value the others who do work. When my family goes to a restaurant, we go out of our way to treat the waiter or chef nice if they do a good job. Chances are, if you do your job well with us, we’ll tip you nicely. That was a big deal in my family.

Now, as some of my family members have retired from their careers and settled into a less hectic lifestyle, I still see in them the values that working those jobs gave them. It taught them the value of work and the value of treating people with decency and respect. Look at the stories of how rich, entitled assholes with trust funds have treated people they consider beneath them. These values do matter.

For me, personally, there’s one particular memory that stands out among all others that helped solidify the importance of those values. To recount that memory, though, I have to warn some readers here that this is not a very pleasant memory. If you just ate or have a weak stomach, I would recommend not going any further.

If you’re still with me, then I commend you because this story may hit a little too close to home for some. It happened on one particularly dreary night at my job. This job, fittingly enough, happened to be at a fast food restaurant. Out of concern for legal ramifications, I won’t say which one it was. I’ll just say it’s a very popular chain.

On this dreary night, I was already in a bad mood. I was exhausted, restless, and still in high school. It was not a good set of circumstances. Then, around the early evening, this family came into the restaurant with a baby that couldn’t have been more than nine months old. He was a cute baby, but he was about to make my life feel even uglier.

After the family ordered their food, I was put on sweeping duty. That meant I had to be out there cleaning the tables and emptying the trash. For a job that was already pretty menial, this was as low as you could get. I didn’t think it could get any lower. That baby I mentioned proved me wrong.

Shortly after the family began eating, the baby threw up. No, I don’t mean a cute little spit-up that could be wiped away with a napkin. I’m saying this baby threw up his entire weight in baby vomit. I swear this kid broke the laws of physics with how much bile he spewed. I don’t want to get into too much detail, but I kind of have to in order to get the point across.

Having just cleaned that part of the floor, I was right there to see a big pile of chunky white globs that resembled partially-digested marshmallows. I wish I could tell you how it smelled. Just imagine what it would smell like if roadkill was dipped in expired milk. That should give you a faint idea.

With that disgusting imagery in mind, imagine how I must have felt being the one who had to clean that up. I had to get down on the floor, the baby and his family still sitting at their table, and mop up those chunks of baby vomit. I don’t care that I wore gloves. Touching it nearly made me throw up to.

In terms of low points in my life, that might have been the absolute lowest. I was a teenage kid on the floor of a fast food restaurant, making minimum wage and cleaning up baby vomit. When you’ve been that low in life, it leaves an impact. To this day, I see that moment as the one that motivated me to work to a point where cleaning baby vomit was not in my job description.

I imagine there are plenty of people out there who have similar horror stories about the kinds of jobs they worked. Some of them probably involve something as bad or worse than cleaning up baby vomit on the floor of a fast food restaurant. I would hope that such an experience was just as impactful on them as it was for me.

It’s only when you’re on the floor, cleaning up someone’s vomit for minimum wage that you really know what it’s like to be on the lowest rung of society’s hierarchy. From that state, looking up and seeing how far you have to climb may seem overwhelming. However, you now know just how low you can get and you know that’s not where you want to end up.

I wish I could say I quit after that night, but I didn’t. I ended up working that job until the end of my senior year of high school. I still remember the last day as one of the happiest days of my life to that point. From that point forward, I made it a point to gain experiences and skills that ensured I wouldn’t have to work a menial job like that again.

I’m happy to say I haven’t worked a job like that since, but I still go out of my way to appreciate those who do. Every time I go to a fast food restaurant or see someone working a long shift at a retail store, I feel compelled to thank them. They may not believe it now, but that kind of job will make them a better person in the long run.

That’s not to say you aren’t a good person if you’ve never worked a job like that before. If you haven’t known the feeling and stench of baby vomit, consider yourself lucky. My point is that working lousy jobs and enduring lousy shifts can help make you stronger in ways that you come to appreciate as you get older.

As much as I shudder at the memory/stench of that baby vomit, I’m glad I had that experience. It helped shape me into the kind of man I am today and I believe it reveals in others just how strong and/or resilient they can be. Given how much we rely on menial service jobs, I think we should all appreciate them and the people who work them.

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