The pithy, opinionated, and sometimes brutally frank Heinz-Ulrich von Boffke challenges average guys to live a life less ordinary and embrace classic style in the broadest sense. it's time to rise above the trite, the boring, the predictable, the mundane, the banal, and the commonplace. It's time to stop behaving like barnyard animals at the trough and leave behind the perpetually sloppy man-child aesthetic of the last two decades or so. It's time to learn once again how to present and conduct yourself like an adult with some grooming, finesse, and sophistication. And here is where you can learn how.

Friday, August 31, 2018

100 Pushups a Day for 123 Days Straight. . .

The humble pair of pushup bars.  Cheap, easy to use, they give good results when used consistently over time, and could even be disassembled and tossed into a suitcase to travel with you should Monday through Friday business, or a family vacation take you on the road.

It's a well-know fact that many guys go a little batty in middle-age.  Some choose the Just for Men route and dye their remaining hair, eyebrows, and beards/mustaches just a liiiiiiiittle too dark if you know what I mean.  Some, if they don't go whole hog and spring for hair transplants, start doing a comb-over that is glaringly obvious to everyone else (and their dogs) from two miles away. 

Other guys buy the red sports car and begin wearing pinky rings with fur coats during the colder months.  Some go so far as to jettison their wives and acquire the younger trophy girlfriend/wife in fairly short order.  

Then, there are some guys who inexplicably purchase a MASSIVE motor home/caravan that gets used twice a summer but otherwise sits beneath an equally huge cover the other 50 weeks of the year.  These men, too, tend to acquire a second wife in fairly short order, though the gals involved are usually not quite as 'trophy' as those women who seem to accompany the pinky rings, fur coats, and red sports cars.  

We live across the street from one such couple.  Wife #1 checked out about the same time that the motor home arrived two summers ago.  Poof!  She was gone.  I suspect the new motor home was simply the straw that broke the camel's back.  I can almost hear the exchange.  

"Now Bob, you just drive that thing right back to the dealerhip now, or I'm taking the kids and going to mother's!"  

"Aw, Myrtle!  The Badlands of South Dakota!  You're gonna love it!  Honey?"  

The Girlfriend has appeared this summer.  While not exactly a prize, she at least seems to approve of the motor home as far as we can tell, though it still spends most of the summer camping season beneath a cover parked in the driveway.  I wonder how long it might be before either one, or the other is no longer on the scene?

Returning to the point at hand, some men of a certain age start a midlife crisis rock band and splurge on the guitars/drums/amplifiers that they wanted desperately but could not afford as teenagers, treating the neighbors to the opening bars of Deep Purple's Smoke on the Water ad nauseam.  Or, if you're lucky, the same 10 or 12 songs, rehearsed two or three evenings every week in lieu of a bowling league.  

Still other guys find a beaten up old muscle car -- think a '71 Nova SS or an old Chevelle -- through publications like The Pennysaver "to restore."  However, that little project somehow never quite makes it off the blocks in the garage, or the body putty filler is never quite finished, sanded, and repainted. . . much less the engine rebuilt so that it actually runs. 

Then, there are those of us who do pushups. 

Today marks the end of my fourth straight month of 100 pushups everyday (without any missed days mind you) using these bars, for 4" of extended range.  That's 123 straight days, or 12,300 pushups since May 1st if my math is correct.  

I'll spare you any photos -- Who actually wants to see a 50+ guy with his shirt off no matter what kind of shape he is in? -- but bigger shoulders, upper arms, and vastly more toned forearms, chest, upper back, and midsection have resulted, plus improved posture, all of which were the goal rather than to pack on crazy muscle mass.  I've always been a fairly trim sort anyway, so no reason to change that now.  

But, if you're after an exercise that you can do anywhere with little to no equipment and that has a number of health benefits, the plain ol' pushup has a lot going for it.  A nice side benefit is that a toned body helps make whatever attire you might hang on it look even better.

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Thursday, August 30, 2018

You Heard It Right from the Horse's Mouth. . .

The late, great Humphrey Bogart.

For those who believe, in general, that manners and etiquette are outmoded and no longer necessary, here is what The Emily Post Institute has to say on the subject of hats in 2018.  Click here to read the entire piece, but in a nutshell, hat etiquette looks like this:

Men – Hats can be left on…
  • Outdoors
  • At athletic events
  • On public transportation
  • At religious services, as required
  • In public buildings (post office, airport, hotel/office lobbies)
  • On elevators
Men – Take hats off, including baseball caps…
  • In a home
  • Indoors at work, especially in an office
  • At mealtimes
  • In restaurants and coffee shops
  • At a movie or indoor performance
  • When the national anthem is played
  • When the flag of the United States passes by, as in a parade

-- Heinz-Ulrich

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Before You Get Serious. . .

It would be nice if married life, or similar long-term commitment with someone else were always like this, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.

Let's say you decide to get really serious about someone hypothetically speaking.  Sounds great, right?  You meet someone you like, you fall in lust (typo intentional), you get married, and live happily ever after.  Awwwww. . .  It's just like Harry and Sally.   Or Harry and. . .   Meghan.  Puh-leeze.

Let's be a bit more circumspect here and take a little time to think things through before you move in together.  It makes good sense to consider very carefully the six points below, which WILL have an influence on your daily life -- weather you realize and admit that to yourself, or not -- should the two of you decide to embark on a long-term relationship and eventual commitment that leads to the literal or figurative alter in some way, shape, or form.

1) What is he, or she like to sit across the table from during meals?
An adult who manages to enjoy mealtimes with some polish and finesse, or a toddler in the highchair?  You will have many, many, many meals together in the coming years.  Slurping, burping, eating with and licking fingers, plates, or utensils as well as chewing with his or her mouth open is going to get old really fast however mindbogglingly good the sex might be (or seem) right now.  

Sadly, these kinds of icky behaviors are rather more common -- 'Common' being the operative word. -- than you might think.  Have a meal at just about any type so called family chain of restaurants these days, or (shudder) someone's house, and look around if you dare.  The same is true of those even less savory personal habits and behaviors if you take my meaning.

Living with someone day in, day out who acts like he or she was raised in a barn ain't pleasant boys and girls.    Is the object of your desire's lack of polish at the table something that's going to make you uncomfortable, gross you or others out, and embarrass you when you have been invited out for dinner at a place where table linens and real place settings are the expectation?  Are poor table manners in a partner what you want for yourself?  Is this an environment in which you want to raise any children that might come along later?

2) What is his, or her mouth like?
The same is true when it comes to frequent and habitual use of so called blue language.  However exquisite he or she might be in the buff, do you really want to be with someone who is unable to utter a thought that isn't laced with foul language?  Don't you deserve better?

3) Is he, or she prone to calm?
Or more given to loud thumping through life, excitability, or even drama like the sort portrayed in so much reality TV?  Is this REALLY how you want your life to be once things settle down, you have a mortgage, two cars, a large screen TV mounted to the wall somewhere, and a couple of children thrown into the mix?   Do you really want to be embarrassed at work or another public place by some kind of unexpected, ugly scene?  Do you want to be faced with this sort of thing at home at the end of the day or during weekends?  Think about it.

4) What makes your current beloved laugh?
Does he or she prefer more witty, wry, and urbane observations about life?  Or is bathroom humor where it's at?  If you're into the latter yourself, great.  The two of you can knock yourselves out making hilarious hand-in-underarm Bronx cheers at the dinner table like a couple of seven year old boys in the dining hall at summer camp.  

On the other hand, if this isn't your style, imagine what many of your conversations-yet-to-come will be colored by.  Assuming you are both mentally at the same age (thinking adult), is this what you want for yourself now or down the road?  Think about it.  Do you really want to talk about intestinal issues and how hilariously funny all of that is (if you are in grade school)?  Or would you rather discuss the events of the day, current affairs, or the latest novel you are working through?

5) What are your respective backgrounds like?
It makes for a lovely Hollywood ideal to buy into the myth that two people from widely divergent socioeconomic backgrounds can somehow make it all work and live happily ever after.  You know?  The kind of idealized, warm, fuzzy bunnies and kittens, riding off into the sunset, Disney or RomCom type of stories by and through which we are socialized.  And magically, everything works out by 11:59pm on Christmas Eve when it begins to snow.  We see this cliche all of the time.  

If, on the other hand, we are brutally honest about it, and apply more mature perspective, there is much else at play when it comes to two people getting along and productively forging a life together long term.  Some readers will disagree vehemently, but it's hard enough to keep things on an even keel day to day and year to year with another person without vast differences in upbringing, education, aspiration, and outlook complicating things even further.

6) How about his, or her parents and family?

I've saved the best for last.  And there is a lot to think through here since you'll be seeing these people from time to time, like it or not, unless you are lucky enough to enjoy a considerable geographic buffer zone between you.  As much as everything might seem friendly, pleasant, and even chummy at the outset, (over-) familiarity breeds contempt, so it pays to be careful here too and look hard at the bigger picture.  

What are Mom and Dad like when it comes to their personalities?  What is their own background and level of education?  What is their conversation like?  What is their personal behavior like?  If they are retired, do they have active hobbies and interests to fill their days besides clinging to their grown children?  Do Mom and/or Dad thrive on drama?  Does one, or the other exhibit control issues?  Are they aware of and do they respect the concept of boundaries when it comes to those children and associated love interests/spouses/partners?  Is there anything here that could potentially be embarrassing to you later?  

This type of nonsense WILL have an effect on your life together unless your S.O. is really perceptive, honest with him-, or herself, and has your back if and when "the outlaws" make trouble.  Once again, think long and hard about this point.  There's a very good reason we have in-law jokes.

Laugh if you will, but all of this is nevertheless food for serious, deep thought before you ever say, "I do!" to someone. . .  and his or her family.  Some polish, sophistication, grooming, and finesse in a person on whom you have romantic designs will help make daily life much nicer together in the years to come.  Or you could take to approach of so many so called "celebrities" and simply divorce someone who turns out to be a grotesque lout once the real, as well as figurative, honeymoon is over.

Of course, there are many things to look at in the cold light of day with a rational, clear thinking mind, and  there is always compromise in long-term commitments, but to my mind, these half-dozen considerations are biggies that could, potentially, be deal-breakers.  

In an age when few, it seems, wait for things to progress more naturally, and physical intimacy is fast-tracked, an awful lot of people make uninformed, blind, even stupid choices when it comes to the people with whom they set up house.  That leads to later frustration, disappointment, heartache, and potential economic hardship should separation/divorce arise.  Inexplicably, many refuse to admit this to themselves.  

While I hardly advocate non-committal "hooking up," or old-world conventions like matchmakers, and/or arranged marriages, calmer heads should prevail more than they do in the 21st century when it comes to selecting a mate for the long haul, whether that includes actual marriage, or something else.  Guys, don't let The Little General think for you.  

On the contrary, it's in your best interest, to think things through very, very carefully, objectively, and with a clear head before you decide to make things more or less permanent.  It might even be wise to seek outside advice from someone, perhaps a parent or parent figure, who knows you well enough to be clear-eyed and straightforward with you about the romantic situation.  

And no.  None of this is asking for trouble, being mean, or rocking the boat.  It's just good ol' common sense.  Once the two of you get up out of bed and real life kicks in, long term commitment to another person in any form is difficult enough under the best of circumstances.  Why hobble yourself needlessly by ignoring potentially huge red flags flapping in the breeze around and behind your latest sweetheart?

-- Heinz-Ulrich

September P.S.

Another thing to look at in the clear light of day is this.  How loud is the object of your affection?   Is he, or she capable of moderating the voice in a public or private setting and talking quietly?  Or is every statement, every observation, every question delivered at the top or his or her lungs in a way similar to movie hound Bugle Ann?  While I certainly don't suggest  talking at the whisper all of the time, one needn't project as though at a loud bar with pounding background music, or in the midst of 50,000 screaming fans at a professional or college sporting event.  A little bit of refinement, polish, and, well, quiet in a person is a nice (and sadly underrated) thing.  If you want to live your domestic life together at the volume of TV personality (debatable) Rachel Ray, or the old Saturday Night Live sketch The Louds, be my guest.  But, wouldn't things be a little calmer and nicer day to day if it weren't carried out  at the volume of a high school football coach admonishing his team of recalcitrant state championship hopefuls through a series of drills in full equipment on a hot September afternoon?

Monday, August 13, 2018

Knowledge of a Second Language Is Stylish!

Not only does former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speak French fluently, he can make his way in several other languages besides English.

So often, when we discuss men's personal style, or the lack thereof, we have tangible things in mind like sports jackets, suits, neckties, and quality leather shoes versus ratty t-shirts, wife-beaters, cargo shorts, and the ubiquitous backwards baseball cap.  Further afield, but no less important, we might talk about things like table etiquette, decent manners in general, or making and maintaining a solid first impression at work and in one's personal life through appearance and habit.  But there is yet another way we can work to kick up our personal style several notches.

What, pray tell, is that?  Acquire working knowledge of a second language besides English!

Indeed, in the 21st century, monolingualism, and the attitudes that sometimes go with it, just won't cut it any longer.  A recent bipartisan Congressional report here in the United States has called for the country, “to value language education as a persistent national need similar to education in math or English, and to ensure that a useful level of proficiency is within every student’s reach.”

You can read more by clicking here.  Yes, it is a blog advertorial, of sorts, but the idea behind it is what's important to keep in mind.  While the economic, political, and cultural benefits of knowing a second language reasonably well are the most obvious, I would also argue that the level of personal satisfaction and enrichment that comes from being able to converse with "the locals," whoever that might be, is beyond measure.  Imagine being able to chat about current events, the weather, popular culture, or even more serious subject matter in another language.  

Of course, you might make a few mistakes depending on the language and how difficult the grammar and vocabulary are, but the smiles and eager help you'll get those to whom you are speaking are the things of which memories are made. Those exchanges and interactions will stay with you long after the more typical vacation knickknacks have been relegated to a box in the attic.

Now, you might say, "Well, I'm too old to learn another language.  it's too hard"  Au contraire mon ami!  

Thanks to things like the internet, access is easy to foreign newspapers, TV, radio, advertisements, and all kinds of other realia as well as online grammars and dictionaries.  Consistency is the biggest stumbling block.  Consistent study, practice, and review are vital.  Try setting aside 30-60 minutes a day at first.  Who knows?  You might even be able to find an online penfriend, a tutor, or even an online course to assist in your linguistic endeavors.  And yes, you'll make mistakes.  We all do.  But you've got to skin you knees and wobble a few times before you keep the linguistic bike upright and then zoom down the road and back again. 

The point is, it is easier now than ever before to begin learning another language.  With time and practice, you'll develop some real ability in it beyond asking where the bathroom is and ordering a beer, as vital as those two things are from time to time.  Now, what are you waiting for?

-- Heinz-Ulrich