Another difference between men and women?

I’ve mentioned Tony Woodlief’s site, Sand in the Gears, on occasion. Tony doesn’t write very often, but when he writes it’s almost always great. I read his most recent post earlier today and laughed out loud. I don’t often laugh out loud, but this was really funny. I told Mrs. Happy about the post, and she gasped and said, “That’s AWFUL!!” And again ten minutes later: “That’s so horrible.”

I’m still laughing.

She’s still cringing.

I think we both agree with Tony’s sentiment, though, that “even when we think we are something special, the odds are against it.”

A new me

I can’t find the quote now, but I remember reading an essay by C.S. Lewis in which he explained how different people bring out different things in each other. No one behaves exactly the same way with everyone they encounter. In simple terms, applied to my own life, Mrs. Happy’s Curt is quite different from Jeff‘s Curt. I can see the phenomenon pretty clearly in groups of friends. For instance, my geek friend Rey reacts to me (funny, thoughtful, relishing debate) quite differently from how he reacts to MCF (joking, prodding, argumentative) and from how he reacts to Jerry (bantering, sarcastic, antagonistic). I react differently to each of them. When the four of us get together, we all get to see levels of personality in each other we would never encounter except in the group.

There have been people in my life who bring out the worst in me, and I in them. I don’t hang out with those people. Others tend to highlight the best parts of my personality. The most extreme example of this is my four-month-old son. Before I met him, I never knew I had such a seemingly infinite capacity for love. I would lay down my life for Mrs. Happy, but I would likely not have made such a sacrifice before I met her or when I first was getting to know her. On the other hand, I would have died protecting Tater even before he was born. He has also inspired an all-consuming love in his mother that has made me fall more deeply in love with her than ever before. Even strangers meet him and—I may be reading too much into their reactions, but maybe not—rediscover their sense of wonder and awe at the miracle of life. My son also sends me into fits of frustration the likes of which I have never experienced, not to mention fatigue, anxiety, compassion, and transcendent joy.

So far, my Tater is pretty much the same as a stranger’s Tater in that he behaves in exactly the same way no matter who’s around. He’s beginning to understand that individuals are different, though. As he learns, he’ll glean things from me and his mother and others, and grow into a progressively more complex personality of his own. I can’t wait to see it.

Infatuation

I started first at the age of six and with the highest of expectations. My fondest desire in life at the time was to read the Bible and the Sunday comics or, as I called them back then, the funny papers. Unlike Mrs. Happy, I had not figured out how to read by then. I could recite both the alphabet and a number of children’s books—and even turn the pages at the right time—but I had not figured out that written letters could translate to spoken sounds, which could translate to verbal communication. It didn’t take long. Once my teacher explained things, I was all over it. I sounded out every grouping of letters I could find anywhere I could find them. I felt a rush of pride and accomplishment every time I figured out a word I hadn’t seen before.

After I learned to read, I experienced other periods of excitement. I learned about exceptions to the phonetic rules (to this day, I believe they should be spelled thay). I learned about grammar. I expanded my vocabulary. I discovered storytelling techniques and literary devices. I read poetry. I’ve learned so much.

Do I still love to read? Absolutely. It’s one of my greatest joys. The mechanics of it have become second nature. I still sometimes get excited when I encounter a new word, but that doesn’t happen very often. Watch me read at the age of six, then watch me at 33 and you might think I’ve lost the excitement I once had. The fact is, I care more about a well-constructed sentence than I do word pronunciation. A cohesive paragraph that explains a rich character who contributes to an intricate storyline that expresses more than it actually says gives me even more satisfaction. Is my love of reading gone? No. It’s deeper than ever.

This is why I frown when people say “no one stays in love forever” or “love doesn’t last” or, more subtly, “being in love doesn’t last.” It’s true that a romantic relationship has an initial excitement that doesn’t last. The rewards don’t end with that initial excitement. In fact, to stop there is like learning to sound out words but never learning to understand what they communicate. So much joy is possible.

Friends, bloggers

In continuation of my series on sidebar links, here’s why I link to the people in the Friends category:

When I lived in New York, I worked with three guys who I refer to as my geek friends. When I first started calling them that, they adopted it as a group name for all four of us, though my geek qualifications don’t hold a candle to theirs. It seems that no matter where I go, I end up being friends with the weirdest people around. I like to think it’s because I choose to hang around with the most interesting people (and the weirdoes are always the most interesting folks in any room), but the truth is probably just that they’re the only ones who care to talk to me. Anyway, TheWriteJerry is a fellow writer, and the first of the gfs to insinuate himself into my life. He has actually written stories that were published in Superman and The Incredible Hulk comic books, among others, and served as writer for the graphic novel Samson: Judge of Israel. He even wrote a few Hardy Boys novels in his younger days. Jerry is the one who suggested to me that I try writing a regular newspaper column about marriage. I liked the idea, but it sounded like a whole lot of trouble, so I started a blog instead.

I once wrote that “The Mysterious Cloaked Figure and I went to a local cinema to see the movie Elektra.” I spoke to my friend the next day, and he told me he prefers to go by MCF because when it’s spelled out it “sounds kinda dorky.” I said, “I have an overweight friend who complains when he thinks that a particular pair of pants makes his butt look kinda big, but I just tell him, ‘Dude, you’re 5’6″ and you weigh 230 pounds. You’re butt’s gonna look kinda big.’” MCF responded either with a blank stare or a vulgar epithet—I can’t remember—but that’s why I love him. He channels his dorkiness into creativity, poignancy, and hilarious storytelling on MCF’s Nexus of Improbability. It’s one of my few daily reads.

Rey is sort of an exception to the rule that geeks are lonely outcasts who can’t make friends. Even though he can debate for hours about whether Green Lantern or Quasar would win in a fight—and how the various Green Lanterns would fare in that battle—he still manages to carry on normal conversations with normal people. On The Bible Archive, he plunges into Biblical texts and comes out with sound interpretations that regularly draw accusations of heresy from people who disagree with him. Funny thing is, even those people can’t help but like him because of his easygoing manner and winning personality. Or it could be that in real life he looks pretty menacing and unstable, so people may actually be afraid to cross him. Either way.

I met Messy Christian and Adrian Warnock in Manhattan a couple of years ago while they were both in the States on business. MC was still on Blogspot at the time. She had been blogging only a couple of months, but had gained notoriety quickly due to her unabashed honesty in journaling her spiritual struggles. Adrian, on the other hand, is sort of the godfather of the Evangelical Christian blogosphere (his links have boosted traffic to THH quite a bit), and his blog is a clearinghouse for hot topics among Christians. He’s a calm, evenhanded blogger who still somehow ends up in the middle of every controversy that arises among blogging Christians.

As a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin, it seems unnatural to include a link on my blog to anyone coming out of Texas A&M University. Aggies are not known for writing ability or coherent thought. Amy, Mrs. Happy’s friend for something like a million years, is an exception. Her World of Random Thoughts lives up to its name with musings on politics, entertainment, personal stuff, and…well…random thoughts.

There’s a long, pointless story about how my college roommate came to register a domain for the town of Peachwater, Texas. Suffice it to say, it’s legendary among my circle of Austin friends. The web site has evolved into a journal and pretty cool photoblog. Lately, he’s been abusing his power as Peachwater’s webmaster by posting personal stuff rather than town stuff. If he doesn’t watch out, he may get fired.

IreneQ is another Malaysian blogger, and the attention she’s given me on her site goes a long way toward explaining the number of Malaysian readers who visit The Happy Husband. I can’t say enough about Irene. She’s the only person on this list I haven’t met in person, but this blog owes more to her than the rest of them combined. I started reading her blog before I began my own, and she offered more advice and linkagery than anyone else, which is why I think of her as my bigblogsister. I think it was back in 2004 that she decided to think up a better word for blog, and I vowed to help her. The best thing I could come up with was porkpie. It never really caught on.

Wives, mothers, bloggers

Last week I explained why I link to the Husbands/Fathers in my sidebar. Here’s why I link to the various Wives/Mothers:

I found Amy’s Humble Musings in my referrer logs about a year-and-a-half after I started this blog. I visited her site to find her writing about me as her stiffest competition in the category of Best New Blog in the first year of the Evangelical Underground Evangelical Blog Awards. She also took pains to point out that since I had been blogging for 18 months, I ought to be disqualified. About a day later, my name was taken off the list. She felt horrible and apologized as profusely as she could. I didn’t hold it against her, because The Happy Husband was not new by any definition. It just happened that one of my bonehead friends wanted to nominate me for something, and THH didn’t fit in any other category. Anyway, Amy’s writing was great. She has a husband and something like six kids, including a newborn son, so she never lacks for interesting stories and new insights.

Julie Ann Fidler has been through more hard times in her marriage than nearly anyone I know. She wrote a book about it, and she also blogs about it at Fidler on the Roof. It’s inspiring to hear from someone in the middle of difficulties who is still determined to work through everything and live up to her marriage vows. On the other hand, it’s a little annoying when she abbreviates the name of her blog to FOTR, and I start wondering why she’s suddenly talking about Fellowship of the Ring. Then again, maybe I’m just more of a geek than I think.

Ben Wilson and Marla Swoffer were the first two bloggers I came across who focused on marriage issues. When I first encountered her online, the title of Marla’s blog was The Proverbial Wife. It has gone through several redesigns and name changes since then, and she focuses a little less on marriage now, but I still like to read pretty much everything she writes.

I’ve had Miss O’Hara in the Friends link category for a while simply because she was single. She’s engaged now, and on the verge of being married, so today I moved her to a more appropriate section. She blogs mainly (and engagingly) about politics, but she’s quite opinionated on the subject of marriage and related topics. She’s also one of the few people I feel like I’ve actually gotten to know a little solely through blogs, comments, and e-mails.

At this particular moment, I can’t remember how or why I started reading Scott and Lori‘s blog. I don’t even remember what they called it at the time, though it has gone through several changes since. I do know that I have enjoyed reading as their relationship has stayed strong even before they were married and separated by an ocean (she in Arkansas, he in Scotland). They’re married now, and living in Scotland.

In November of 2004, I read a post at Thinklings that was 100 reasons one of the bloggers there loved his wife. I stupidly didn’t link to it then, and I can’t find it now, but it inspired me to make my own list. I’ve seen other bloggers make similar lists, but only one that I’m aware of has devoted an entire site to it. Glorybeam is the blogger behind Why I Love My Husband, and I truly hope she doesn’t stop at 100 posts.

“Why yes, as a matter of fact I am just the cutest thing. Thank you for asking.”

I really, really hate it when grown-ups feel like they have to babble incoherently and say nonsensical things to babies simply because the babies are so young. But…when confronted with a face like this, voices perform an involuntary two-octave jump and give up any semblance of articulation.

I’m going to continue going through the links in my sidebar, but not tonight.

Fellow husbands, fathers, and bloggers

A long time ago, I thought it would be a good idea to list some blogs that I visit frequently and explain why I read them. Then I thought it would be an even better idea to explain my rationale for listing the blogs that are in my sidebar. I never did either of those things. I have been stuck for something to write lately, though, so here’s why the sidebar blogs in the category of Husbands/Fathers are there:

Marriages Restored is a blog by Ben Wilson. Back when I was a brand-new blogger, this was the first marriage-oriented blog I found. His marriage survived infidelity, and now he and his wife give seminars and counsel couples who are dealing with that difficult issue.

CoffeeSwirls by Doug McHone really has very little to do with marriage. Doug is a devoted husband and father, but he writes mainly about sports and theology. Sometimes he writes something that makes me glad to know there are people like him out there.

Ryan’s Head is another blog that has brief, shining moments of marriage-loving. For some reason I can’t remember, I’ve always felt a real kinship with Ryan, even though we’ve never met and have never lived within a thousand miles of each other. Maybe some day we’ll meet and I’ll figure it out.

Tony Woodlief writes Sand in the Gears. He is a wonderful if sporadic writer, and the posts he writes about his family are absolutely priceless.

Spare Change comes from the prolific mind of Bryan McAnally. He writes lots of short posts about whatever he’s thinking or reading, and marriage occupies his blogging mind fairly regularly. Now that I’m in Texas (he’s near Dallas, I’m in Austin), he’s probably the nearest sidebar Husband/Father to me geographically.

Bowden McElroy writes Counseling Notes, a blog filled with his thoughts as a marriage counselor. Since he is a professional counselor, his site is full of solid, practical advice for many different situations.

Several months ago, I was invited to take part in a new group blog called DadBloggers. I enthusiastically accepted, but never followed through. I could plead my case, citing specific points in which my life allowed me no time, but it would just be rationalization. The ones who do contribute, though, are invariably encouraging and inspiring.

Steve Lynch travels a great deal due to his job. He doesn’t want to be an absent father, so he gives his children Lessons From the Road. I’m sure that’s not all he gives them, but it’s the only thing he also shares with the blogosphere, and we’re the better for it.

I’m not sure how he does it, but King of Fools manages to make it clear how much he loves his family without ever actually saying so. He blogs mostly about politics, but when he writes about his family, he permeates every word with powerful affection.

Matt Nightingale is my oldest friend, my favorite singer, and a true kindred spirit. I read his blog for his writings about marriage, fatherhood, Christian life, and the arts.