The story of a pair of shoes

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I’ve owned these monk-strap shoes for over 10 years. I photographed them this morning for the purposes of this post. These are one of the pairs of shoes I use around the house for all kinds of work: home office, going to the cellar to fetch firewood, going into the dusty attic to put or get various things, renovation work, etc.

I used them last night as we mounted this restored door frame back in place, as I used a miter saw in the cellar, carried the various parts up to the house, used a nail gun to secure them in place and assemble the frame.

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You can see these same shoes in this video.

I also used them when I built our garden shed in Florida.

In spite of all the wear and tear I’ve put them through over the years, a little elbow grease always gets them looking great, and that’s a testament to the craftmanship of the shoemaker. The brand (Mario Calugi) isn’t as important here as the lesson to be learned from the experience.

Lots of people make a big stink about how wearing leather contributes to animal cruelty but the truth of the matter is, using every little bit of an animal that’s going to get sacrificed for its meat anyway, is the right thing to do.

Furthermore, taking proper care of your belongings, especially the ones made from other beings (because animals are beings, not things) is crucial and it is part of showing respect for the sacrifice of that animal, for the protection its skin profers you and for the hard work that went into making the finished good you now have in your possession.

Good leather lasts a lifetime if you take care of it. Great shoes also last a lifetime if you take care of them. Yes, it means changing the soles when they wear out, it means treating the leather and polishing it, but it’s the right thing to do. It’s part of being a good, responsible human being to take care of your stuff. Please do it.

Are feelings of superiority okay?

Is it okay to feel superior to someone else? In this video, I answer this question with examples and toward the end, I explain why we have this need to feel superior and what we can do to make it go away.

Also watch a related video on Respect and Discrimination.

This post is part of “The Elegant Gentleman” series, a guide to clothing, manners and the finer things in life.

Respect and Discrimination

So often in life we meet with situations where the question of respect and discrimination comes up in our minds. We get to decide whether to extend respect or to discriminate and after the fact, probably question our decisions, wondering whether we did the right thing.

In this video from “The Elegant Gentleman” series, I wanted to talk to you about the meanings of these two words and to give you a few simple criteria (such as appearance, personal hygiene and behavior) for evaluating a person or a situation that should ease your decision-making process.  I should make it clear here that I refrained from talking about the more controversial meaning of the word “discrimination” in my video, simply because it’s not the word’s primary or even secondary meaning; it is something we’ve chosen to associate with the word in recent times, which perhaps says something about the state of our society.

Here’s this video posting on my Facebook page:

You can do better

A couple of weekends ago, I was walking on the quay near the Casino in the city of Constanta. There was this girl sitting on one of the benches with a guy, supposedly her boyfriend. Her curly hair reminded me of my wife, so I watched them for a bit, to see how they fit together as a couple. I was disappointed.

The girl seemed nice, but the guy, a classic douchebag if I’ve ever seen one, kept forcing her to kiss him, pulling her toward him, and fondling her. She tried to resist, to keep a little distance and admire the view (it was a beautiful spring day) but all this douchebag wanted to do was to feel her up. Finally she gave in and let him have his way. That’s when I turned away, disgusted.

There are so many girls who simply give in. They’re pressured into relationships they don’t really want to have, into sexual acts they don’t really want to perform, into marriages where they’re not happy, and the list goes on, ad nauseam. They think a douchebag is all they’re entitled to in their lives. They think they’ve got to put out in order to get the relationship started and keep it going. They think abuse is normal.

None of that is normal. You can do better! Have a little self- respect. You will get the right guy, and he’ll be nice to you. You just have to be pickier, and have a little patience.

Have a look at my wife. It goes without saying that I think she’s hot. She could have had plenty of guys. But when she dated, before we met, she demanded respect from all those guys, didn’t fool around, and kept herself for her husband. You know what? Instead of being scorned for not putting out, she was respected all the more for her decision.

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So really, it all comes down to how much self-respect you have for yourself, and what you choose to do with your life. If you’re not going to respect yourself, no one else will. Don’t put out. Don’t be like the girls in this other post. Wait for the right guy, or even more, look for the right guy. Don’t give up along the way. Don’t let every stranger that enters your life have dessert before they get through the main course. Put them through plenty of tests before they get to the goodies. Don’t cheapen yourself. Each and every one of us has a God-given capability to be more than we think we could be. I say reach for the sky, and see what happens.

Hot teachers and sex with students

Three more female teachers have been jailed after it was discovered that they had sex with students in Tampa, FL. MSN has a video report on this. Plus, if you do a search on MSN Live, you’ll get plenty of search results summarizing recent news stories about similar events.

What bothers me about these reports is that the boys in question are always categorized as “abused”. It’s a great example of societal hypocrisy. To those that say that, I say this: BS! Seriously, does any male in their right mind think these boys were abused? Young boys practically swoon and fawn over attractive female teachers. It’s been going on for ages. They fantasize, and they do “other things” as well to “cope” with those crushes. So when these boys — in spite of what they might say now to the authorities — had the chance to engage in those sexual encounters, do you think they had doubts for even a second? Not a chance. Seriously, have these adults trying the women’s cases forgotten their own childhoods?

Sure, those boys will deny it now, and agree that they were corrupted, and to some extent, I agree with that characterization, as you’ll see below, but they engaged in the encounters willingly, happily and repeatedly. Given the chance to do it again, they did it and still would do it again. They went back for more, time and time again. In the case of one of the teachers, she had an orgy in a hotel room where more than 10 teens were in “attendance”. That is not abuse. That’s really slutty behavior on both sides.

Look, don’t get me wrong. I agree that the teachers did something unethical. They abused their position of authority as teachers, and they corrupted the normal teacher-pupil bond by engaging and participating in those situations. Furthermore, it was morally wrong to start an adult-level relationship with a child, in spite of their physical maturity. From a religious point of view, what they committed was adultery, and that’s clearly wrong. But we need to look at this objectively, from a civic point of view.

We should look at how much damage was caused to what we call the “victims”. It’s possible that the teachers corrupted the boys, in the sense that they introduced them to sexual situations that boys don’t normally encounter. One’s perspective in life changes once one has had those sorts of experiences. They will look at sex differently. They will look at relationships differently.

Then again, it depends greatly on how those teachers approached the situations, and how the boys viewed the encounters. In the context of “love”, not sex — and suspend for a moment the disbelief that love can exist when the age disparity is so great — it’s quite possible to have a healthier outcome, whatever that means. There are varying degrees of perception, and they depend on each individual. One must ask how ready the boys were, physically and mentally, for such an experience, and how much mutual respect there was in each “relationship”, etc… It’s a gray area, and it needs to be looked at as such. Clearly in the case of the hotel room orgy, there was no respect or “love”, simply animal sex, and that should be looked at as corruption of a minor (or rather, multiple minors).

If one is to look at this as a black and white situation, was there sex with a minor? Yes. Should it have taken place? No. Should the standard punishment apply? NO. This is not typical sexual abuse. The boys weren’t coerced. They enjoyed it, every minute of it. They went back for more. They probably bragged to their friends, etc… These are all attenuating circumstances.

In the grand picture, are these situations going to create more long-term sequelae for the boys than any of the following situations:

  • A young girl who has consensual sex with her boyfriend, but then finds out he is calling her a slut to all his friends, and is bragging about having “bagged” her, etc.
  • A young boy who has consensual sex with his girlfriend, but then finds out she is making fun of his naked body, or the size of his… manhood, or about the sounds or face he made during sex, etc.
  • A young boy or girl who are convinced by their “friends” to experiment with same-sex encounters when they’re not really interested, just questioning themselves.
  • A young girl who is forced into sex by her boyfriend, but is too ashamed to admit it afterwards.
  • A girl who is slipped a mickey or gotten drunk at a party, then gang-raped by classmates or friends while she’s unaware of what’s going on.

What happened to these boys is peanuts, literally. Yet all these “offenders” described in the bullet list above would not be prosecuted under law. Seriously, I think any one of us has either heard of “gray-area” situations like these, or experienced them in person. I can practically guarantee you that the boys and girls who have gone through the situations I described above will have more sequelae and will experience more long-term trauma than the boys who’ve had sex with their teachers in recent news. It’s pretty much a given. Yet which situations are getting more attention? These ones? Why? Because it makes it easy for prosecutors to look good. And it makes for good news. That’s why. And it’s hypocritical.

I could go on and on and talk about situations that are much worse than that, like serious rape cases, or sexual torture, or sexual mutilation. These are much more serious, yet in terms of news coverage and severity of punishment, they’re simply not getting the attention they need. In some cultures, like Africa, female circumcision, a form of sexual mutilation, is condoned and accepted by society.

Right here in the States, I’ve heard of a case where a girl was repeatedly raped by her father from an early age, with her mother’s permission. To this day, the girl cannot bring legal charges against her parents. I’ve also heard of a girl who was loaned out (prostituted) to perverts by her mother from the age of 3, in exchange for drug money. That sort of stuff is is really screwed up. That should be the stuff that gets obsessively prosecuted. Instead, we have rapists that can get away with only a few years’ punishment, then get out and rape again and again, while these teachers in the news right now are put through the works for doing something that was pretty much consensual.

Everyone is now rushing to pronounce the verdict and crowd around the “victims” when there are countless other real victims all around us that are getting no positive attention at all. I say look at each teacher-boy encounter individually, mete punishment in accordance with the gravity of the crime, keeping in mind the attenuating circumstances, and if some of those situations only deserve a slap on the hand for the teacher, let’s be honest enough to admit it, as a society. And let’s also be honest enough to admit when a crime is heinous enough to deserve the death punishment (don’t get me started on that).

People's obsession with new things

There I was, at a stop sign, when a truck carrying new cars passed by me, and it hit me (an idea, that is)! Not only did those cars have plastic foil on the body of the cars, but they had it on the wheels as well! You know, you’ve seen the white plastic wrap that new cars have on them – it’s there to protect them from scratches during transport. Now, they’ve got plastic wrap on the alloy wheels as well. I guess nitpicky people complained that wheels on new cars had scratches, and didn’t want to buy them anymore…

The point is, people everywhere are obsessed with things being brand new when they get them. They won’t even buy a toaster if the box has been opened. Forget buying a cereal box if it’s open. Jars of jam and bottles of milk even have warnings on them, that say we shouldn’t get them or consume them if the seal’s been broken.

Overall, our incessant desire for new, fresh, unopened products is good. It’s led to cleaner, more hygienic development standards in the food industry and as applicable, in all other industries. But I wonder, why don’t we all share that same desire for something new, fresh and unopened when it comes to the most important thing in our lives – our spouses? We blissfully accept used goods there, don’t we? Do we even question our spouses or sexual partners about their past history? Most people don’t. While they wouldn’t think twice about drinking an opened bottle of milk, they’ll gladly swap bodily fluids and subject themselves to diseases of all kinds, all for the sake a few frenzied, passing seconds.

Shouldn’t we have better standards than this? Shouldn’t we demand, of ourselves and of others (all of us), that we present ourselves at our (first) marriages as “fresh and unopened” as possible? Isn’t that the perfect gift we could give our spouses? After all, we’re not talking about a toaster or a VCR, that we’ll use for a few years then throw away, we’re talking about a lifetime of precious togetherness. Shouldn’t we come to the table with all our assets intact, not with some of them labeled “used goods” or “biological hazard”?

We’re so concerned about a scratch on a car, but we tend to forget about psychological scars and traumatic experiences that leave lasting marks on the minds of those who bear them. A shiny wheel is nowadays more important than a shiny, beautiful life, and being able to peel off the plastic wrap from a new car carries more bragging rights than being able to say you kept yourself whole for your marriage.