The Test Drive

A few weeks ago, my wife was having a discussion about relationships at work. As a man, I have to admit that I have no idea how one even gets onto such a topic. Seriously, my typical conversation with other men sounds an awful lot like this:

Him: “Hey, man. Good to see you, how’s it going?” (proffering hand for a shake or fist bump)

Me: “Good – keeping busy.”

Him: “Nice.”

Me: “How about you?”

Him: “Same old life.”

Me:Nice.

How to segue from that to discussing relationships is mystifying to me. Perhaps there’s a Conversation for Dummies self-help book I need to read.

Anyway, at some point in my wife’s discussion, her coworker made this statement:

“I don’t understand how people can get married without kicking the tires first.”

Maybe you’ve heard the more popular expression of that stance:

“You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it for a test drive first.”

kicking-tires

“Is this what it’s supposed to feel like?”

Upon hearing that, I couldn’t wait to hear how my wife responded. Because, well, we happen to be one of those crazy couples that got married before ever, as my wife’s coworker so eloquently put it, kicking the tires. Well, my wife, as sweet as she is, said nothing. I’m not accusing my wife of anything here; I would have done the exact same thing in that situation — for a different reason. Not because I’m sweet, but because conversationally speaking, I sound about as eloquent and smooth as a first grader playing the recorder. Instead, I’d rather take the time to sort through my thoughts and put pen to paper, or whatever the equivalent of that is on a keyboard and screen (zeros and ones to flash storage doesn’t sound very good, does it?)

For starters, do I need to point out that comparing your potential future spouse to a rapidly depreciating asset is probably not endearing you to them? There are also a couple of other philosophical issues that may be problematic with the car comparison.

A major inherent problem in comparing your future spouse to a car — and sex to driving that car — is that the reality of car shopping runs counter to the point you’re trying to make. Every car shopper knows that one of the biggest factors in determining the value of a car is mileage. Whether its a Kia, a Mercedes, or a Ferrari, the lower the mileage, the higher the value. Every time.

photo 1-1

What’s the Kelley Blue Book on that?

A new car is worth more than the same car used, and a used car with low miles is worth more than a used car with high miles. So if you insist on treating sex like a commodity, like a good in the marketplace, you have to accept all that comes with that. That means every time you go for a test drive, you lower the value of the car. And, like it or not, you are someone else’s test drive, so your value is dropping as your mileage goes up too.

Another issue that contradicts the point test drivers are trying to make is this: emotional connection. Many people would argue that sex is just sex, a purely physical act performed for pleasure. Those people are either dishonest or just plain sociopathic. I can claim that about them with confidence because I know full well that not even driving a car is a purely physical act. What happens when you ask someone about their first car? They tend to look up and to the left, as a slight smile sneaks to the corners of their mouths, and a little sparkle enters their eyes as they wistfully summon the memories of their first ride. They can immediately tell you the color, year, make, and model (Silver 1985 Honda Accord). And they can remember everything about that car. The feeling of the seats. The sound of the stereo. The sensitivity of the brakes. The turning radius. The vibration of the idle. The smell of the interior. The funny sound it made when the heat was switched on. Passengers. Places. Events. Memories. Feelings. There is an undeniable emotional connection to that car.

Even if it was a complete piece of junk.

photo 2-1

The 1985 Honda Accord. She’ll always be a sweet piece of tailpipe in my mind…

And maybe not quite to the same extent as the first, but I cannot deny that the same holds true for all of my cars. Each car of mine holds a unique place in my heart – not just for the car itself, but for the experiences and memories with it. I’m just glad that my current cars don’t have feelings, because I’m pretty sure they’d feel at least a little insecure and hurt knowing that my old cars are still a part of me, and that there are things about them that I miss to this day. Don’t worry, I’m sure your spouse doesn’t care about the memories and comparisons with old lovers that swirl around in your head once in a while.

photo 5

Yep, that’s me!

There’s also an unattractive underlying arrogance to the test drive mentality that says “I am an awesome driver.” Why else would one presume himself capable of judging the quality of a car? I am an expert, and therefore qualified to rate how these vehicles drive. Have you ever been behind a Lexus with it’s left blinker on for ten miles? Does a clueless driver have any idea how good his car is? What if that’s you? What if that car didn’t seem to perform well not because it’s a bad car, but because you’re a lousy driver? Call me crazy, but I believe a truly great driver should be able to bring the best out of any car, and make it shine. It’s important to consider that perhaps that last unsatisfying roll in the hay was as much your fault as the other person’s.

The other concern with the test drive mentality is this: when do you stop looking for the sweetest ride? At what point are you satisfied that you’ve experienced the Ultimate Driving Machine? Because I can promise you, there are better rides out there than your current car. If you’ve lived with that mindset, wouldn’t you wonder how good of a drive every hot new car you come across is? I highly doubt changing that mindset is as simple as flipping a switch when the ring goes on your finger. And I’m pretty sure maintaining that mindset in a marriage is playing with fire.

photo 3-1

Oooh, a McLaren — I wanna take it for a spin!

You wouldn’t buy a car without going for a test drive is just a different way of saying, “I wouldn’t marry someone unless I’m sexually satisfied.” The underlying red flag to that type of thinking is it adds conditions to that which by its nature is supposed to be unconditional — that’s what for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness, and in health means. Committing to somebody else conditionally (as long as you’re satisfied, or pleased, or happy) is not a commitment to anyone but yourself. In other words, it’s not a commitment at all.

The Test Drive philosophy is a commitment to a specific circumstance that will, without any doubt, change, evolve, and wax and wane over the years. It is a commitment to a circumstance, or more accurately, a commitment to oneself; marriage is a commitment to the person, no matter the circumstance, so help me God. What happens several years after a successful test drive and her libido plummets? Or his libido plummets? Or she gets cancer? Or he puts on 75 pounds? Or her mother dies? Or he loses his job? What if his income was her test drive? What then? Do you treat your spouse like a car at that point? Trade ‘em in when they stop performing?

How many people do you know that drive the same car their entire lives? None, right? It’s one thing to focus on a good test drive if you’re signing a two-year lease, or if you like to trade your car in every five years. But for a lifetime? Dependability, reliability, durability, adaptability, and quality all trump any test drive.

If there is a truth in life it may be this: Nothing remains unchanged. No circumstance is constant. So if marriage is supposed to be for life, it seems fantastically foolish to marry based on sexual gratification now. Pleasure now. Happiness now. Through age, changing attitudes, children, health issues, the circumstances of now will change. Guaranteed. But if both of you are committed to the person, and not to circumstances, there’s at least the possibility that together you can make some of those circumstances change for the better.

The Bestest Thing I Love

I love to read. Lots. And when I got married and became the instant father of a 2nd grader, I got to start reading to an audience. Every night. With voices, even.

If you’re a parent that reads to your children, you know firsthand that there are some terrible children’s books in print. Too many, in fact.

If you’re a parent that doesn’t read to your children, according to current research, you are an awful person. You’re right up there with those people who wait for like 3 minutes at the front of the line at a red turn arrow, only to not be paying attention when it finally turns green, so they delay like 10 seconds before moving, so they and just one other car make it through the light, while the drivers of the other ten cars behind them are screaming “Go! Gogogogogooooooo!”

Pardon the digression.

Anyway, if you are a parent that reads to your children, you know the pain of reading a lousy book. I’m sure you are also familiar with the ache you feel deep in your soul when your child loves the worst book ever published. After suffering through said book enough times in a row, you might even come to believe that there could actually be a bright side to your child dying the next day. Continue reading

An Unfair To Remember

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at the kitchen table enjoying a lunch of leftover home-made grilled chicken sandwiches and ice water with two of my kids (numbers 2 and 3). The kids weren’t thrilled about the meal selection, but it was easy, pretty tasty, and best of all, already paid for. They were satisfied. All was good.

Until…

My wife and kids 4 and 5 had been out at an appointment followed by an errand. They came home just as we were finishing our lunch, and as they entered the kitchen, child 4 put her cup from Smashburger on the counter. As the loudest of the family, kid 3 erupted first.

“They went to Smashburger?! We had leftovers!”

Every single one of you that is a parent knows precisely which words came out of his mouth next. Every single one of you. To clarify, I knew it was coming the second I saw the Smashburger cup, and I mentally began the silent countdown until he said it:

“That’s not FAIR!” Continue reading

Neither Do I Condemn You

There’s a topic I’ve been intending to write about, but I wanted to wait until I finished an illustration relating to it. It’s been camped out in my head for several years, along with a few other artistic images I’d love to get out; I’m still holding out hope that I’ll put it to paper some day. But writing about it – I just can’t put if off any longer. The topic in question is the story of The Adulterous Woman, from Chapter 8 in the Gospel of John. Not about the controversy regarding the textual history of the story itself, but rather the actual content of the story.

For reference, here is the story (John 8:2-11 English Standard Version):

Any excuse to display the art of Gustave Doré.

Any excuse to display the art of Gustave Doré.

Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?”  This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” Continue reading

Becoming Paul (and The Good Samaritan)

Most everyone is familiar with the New Testament story of Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, and his conversion to Paul, who would become the greatest evangelist of Christianity in the ancient world. Thousands of treatises and studies and sermons have been written over the years about the Apostle Paul, his life, his ministry, and his impact on Christianity. This is not one of them.

Perhaps the best known of all of the parables of Jesus from the Gospels is the story of the Good Samaritan. In it, Jesus tells the story of a man, robbed and beaten and left for dead on the side of the road. The story challenges those who believed they followed the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” by putting the definition of “your neighbor” into question. Thousands of treatises and studies and sermons have been written over the years about the Good Samaritan and the meaning of Jesus’s message through his parable. This is not one of them.

Instead this is a story of a good neighbor named Paul, a story which easily could have been titled No Good Deed Goes Unpunished. Continue reading

For My Son

This whole winter, I’ve been tanning. I know the possible health risks, and the way tanning could prematurely age my skin. My skin does take to UV amazingly well, though, with it’s slight olive tone. After all, my name is Jacinto Hernandez, so should all else fail, making a living picking onions out in the fields should at least be an option for me. Normally, I don’t care about keeping my skin bronzed when it’s cold, but this year was different. No, I did not make a resolution to be more vain. In fact, I didn’t do it for me at all. Why did I do it?

For my son.

Sing it, girl!

Sing it, girl!

If that sounds weird to you, it should. How can one tan for a child, exactly? Well, there’s a boy I know. Sorry, every time I think those words, I hear Whitney Houston from the crazy hair extension days in the mid-80′s sing in my head.

There’s a boy I know. He’s the one I dream of. Uh-huh.

Okay, back to my story. There’s a boy. And for almost nine months, we’ve been trying to adopt him. And now, it’s finally happened. Let’s just say he’s somewhat darker that we are. Like cinnamon. Don’t get me wrong, we’re not like a horde of pale Norsemen, or pasty freckled redheads. We all come from 50% Latin stock. But we’re not… like cinnamon. However, I can be, or very close to it with just a little consistent UV. So, in the hopes that he might feel a tiny bit less like an outsider when he joined our family, I’ve been standing in a tanning booth once a week. Continue reading

Ban Bossy(ness)

Recently, you may have heard something about a new movement called Ban Bossy. The goal of Ban Bossy and its organizers – Rachel Simmons (author and cofounder of the Girls Leadership Institute), Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s LeanIn.org, and the Girl Scouts – is to empower girls to lead by eliminating the stigma of the bossy girl label. Evidently girls are twice as likely as boys to worry that leadership roles will make them seem “bossy,” and girls see their self-esteem fall 3.5 times more than boys do as they grow up (measured in Universal Self-Esteem Units, or something). Ban Bossy feels that the language and labels we encounter in our schools, society, and culture greatly contribute to the very real dearth of women in leadership roles – from CEOs to Senators. From the materials on their banbossy.com website:

banbossy“When a little boy asserts himself, he’s called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’”

and

“For example, calling a girl ‘bossy’ – a word we rarely use for boys – sends a message that girls should not speak up.”

As a man, and as a father of two daughters (and sons), I find this program particularly inspiring. In particular, it inspires me to say:

Huh? Continue reading

Their Adoption Tried

If you’re thinking to yourself, “Hey, that’s two titles for your posts in the last six months that have been inspired by Polonius’ advice to Laertes in Hamlet (Act I, Scene III),” then I have something to say to you: You are a huge nerd. And that means a lot coming from me.

I would say more about your dorky knowledge of Shakespeare, but I can’t muster the energy.

I’m tired.

We’re tired.

Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically.

Drained.

Spent.

Exhausted. Continue reading

The L-Word

Yup, it’s that time of year again. The middle of February is approaching quickly, and we all know what that means.

Presidents’ Day.

Sorry, President Fillmore, no mattress sales in your honor.

Sorry, President Fillmore, no mattress sales in your honor.

I don’t know about you, but I am sick and tired of these Hallmark Holidays, with these lame social expectations that I have to go out and buy Presidents’ Day cards, write some reverent poetry about George Washington, buy some red, white, and blue flowers (have you seen how the prices skyrocket just before Presidents’ Day?), and go out to dinner with what seems like 200 million other Americans in honor of their first Commander-In-Chief. And yes, it’s just for him. Look it up. The name of the federal holiday is actually just “Washington’s Birthday.” Seriously. So if you just ponied up $30 for a box full of chocolates shaped like the visage of Millard Fillmore, you may as well just throw them in the trash. Continue reading

Gym Dandy

It’s a new year now, a time to look ahead with hope and excitement and optimism and determination. Time to set goals, make resolutions, and dream big. Perhaps it’s only fitting that before we can mentally psyche ourselves up for the new year’s rebirth of passion, we have to go through one of the most depressing activities in existence: Undecorating from Christmas.

More depressing than Bill Bixby hitchhiking – undecorating the Christmas Tree.

More depressing than Bill Bixby hitchhiking – undecorating the Christmas Tree.

Outside of a death in the family, or receiving devastating health news, I can’t think of a bigger downer. Is there an appropriate musical playlist for undecorating the Christmas Tree? Maybe Against All Odds by Phil Collins and the sad theme from The Incredible Hulk television show playing on a continuous loop? For most, Christmas represents mirth and joy, hope and love. I think on some deep, subconscious level, we are symbolically packing our hope and joy into plastic tubs and piling them in the far corner of the storage room. See you in eleven months, Joy. See you after Thanksgiving, Hope. Continue reading