Note: This blog was originally posted on 4060men.com on May 26, 2011. I've been remarried now for over three years.
At any one time, I’m on at least one dating website. These days, I’m on only one. Well, I get a message from one gal with whom I had just started communicating that ended with the question, ‘What are your faults?’
Well, midlife men, fellow sojourners in this underworld of online dating, this question seems kind of important. So, on my morning walk today, I pondered this question and came to the conclusion that it really is a crappy question. ‘Ok, Kermit, what’s all wrong with you?’
Jeez, she doesn’t even know my real name, er, I mean, my last name yet and already she’s banging away in search of what the hell’s wrong with me. The only answer to such a question is, ‘Baby, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with me that I’m sure you’re not gonna try to fix!’
Anyhow, let’s get back on track here. Assuming we’re not talking about ‘faults’ as referring to things like various addictions such as alcohol, drugs or porn, or actions like beating women, children, and animals with abandon, or kleptomania and such like that, then I think the underlying question still is a legitimate one.
In fact, in my response I proposed to her that the subject was better discussed as being about those attitudes and actions that flow from tendencies of personality and habit. In one setting, these ‘faults’ may be viewed as particular strengths, but in another setting they may be rightly seen as weaknesses.
For example, I am a task-oriented person, at least relative to a people-oriented person. It doesn’t mean I don’t like people (I can think of at least one that I liked…. Well, it was briefly, but I did feel something….), but I do tend to focus on the activity over the people engaged in the activity.
Now, all my task-oriented brethren and I would have sweet fellowship over goals and tasks and their achievement. But there are people-oriented personzas whose members see us as walking social train wrecks on schedule to happen in untimely places. While we ‘taskers’ are reveling in our productivity and all our achievements, the ‘peopotelers’ are pointing to all the wounded souls that we left along the way. All I can say is that I almost feel sorry for those whiney wimps! Oh, yeah, and I suppose that could be seen as exactly the problem.
Ok, I admit that my literary liberties may have gotten a bit out of hand here. However, my point remains intact, I think.
I would hope that as midlife men, we’ve reflected some on what kind of men we are and some notion as to what kind of men we’re trying to become. When I say ‘what kind of men we are’, I’m referring to the part of knowing that we have tendencies to become unbalanced in certain areas, and they are probably the same areas over and over again. It is also very possible that these same areas are the source of our greatest strengths.
If we don’t see that about ourselves, we’re likely to repeat the same blunders over and over again, thinking all the while that it is someone else who was the cause of these recurring phenomena. Or we think it is simply ‘the way we are’, so love us anyway! In some way we can become like Geraldine in the old Flip Wilson comedy routine where she summed up all her impulses with ‘the devil made me do it!’
The point in all this is that one man’s strengths is another man’s faults. Someone’s faults are somewhat dependent on the other person’s orientation. People sensitive to other people’s feelings find people like me as insensitive, even mean. I can’t tell you how many times where I’ve been told, ‘Kermit, you don’t realize that how you say things sometimes offends or hurts people.’
No, not true. I do realize it, and choose to do it anyway as I think the end result is better. Dumb-cluck Chuck should know that he’s acting like a douche and Dingie-diva Debbie needs to be told that she is simply a whiney wench that needs to get off of it. And Junior del Obnoxious should know that I have a quivering right leg with a number nine boot at the end itching to place itself… what… oh, I can stop there? Anyhow, the fact is I often do know what I’m doing. And yes, sometimes, I, uh, … well, over do it, or once or twice did in fact miss the boat entirely.
Who is right? Are these ‘faults’? ‘Yes, Kermit, one of your faults is that you see the root issue in something and then say it.” Huh?
Here’s another one: Some people see conflict as a bad thing and something to be avoided, but I tend to see it as a necessary thing. Well, which is it? Good or bad?
Of course, both sides are right, and wrong. The sensitive type can get just as unbalanced as the ‘insensitive’ type. Task-orientation can be just as overdone as people-orientation. An overly-disciplined person can be just as out of control as an undisciplined person can be useless.
Aristotle wrestled with this matter of extremes, arguing that even extreme virtue risked not be virtuous. He proposed that in life we should operate with moderation and that we should avoid the extremes of any character trait. He called this middle between extremes the ‘golden mean.’ That's golden average for those who are still stuck at the horror of my meanness!
In my younger years the world fit more comfortably into bi-polar terms, yes or no, right or wrong, good or bad, and just or unjust. And I was more than a little unbalanced in my response repertoire. Fortunately, or maybe not, through the years more and more things have become less and less certain as to the right or wrong answer. All of a sudden the world seems more complex.
To the degree there is such a thing as the wisdom of age, perhaps it is found in a greater level of humility toward life, in all its nuances, and really calls us to be a bit more understanding toward those who are trying to make their way in it.
After all, maybe the devil did make Geraldine do it - I wasn't there.
Note: This blog was originally posted on 4060men.com on May 26, 2011.