Is Curated Information Destroying Society?

As a behavioral expert, I am interested in how social media impacts society. My last post explored dating apps and how they have the potential to negatively change the way men and women interact with each other.  

I had no experience with dating apps and had to rely on other sources to understand how they worked. This effort led me to watch dozens of videos created by men and women describing their experiences with dating. The more videos I watched, the more similar content was provided.  Soon, the majority of my feed centered around modern dating.  When I watched female-created content, I was delivered more of that.  When I watched male-created content, that was what was emphasized.  

Female-created and male-created content dramatically differed in their messaging; both were negative toward the opposing gender.  It was almost as if I watched a sports competition between two teams, each strategizing how to “win” the game.  I thought a relationship was about working together to reach a goal.

A lot of the content created for women centered around what jerks men were or how to manipulate a man to get what was wanted.  Much of the content for men focused on how evil women were and why one should give up on dating. 

When I repeatedly watched a specific opinion, it made sense to me.  In other words, it became my reality.  This was especially true for the male-oriented content, which should be no surprise, as I’m a male. The same talking points were repeated continuously, so plausible ideas became actual truths in my mind.  An opposing opinion was never given, so there was no counterbalance.  

The content drove me to watch more videos in a process addiction fashion.  This was especially true if the presenter told dramatic stories or had salacious content.  What would break the pattern?  Watching videos that presented the opposing viewpoint or just pausing my viewing and questioning what I had watched.  Anytime you have a stream of information that purports their viewpoint is completely correct and the opposing viewpoint is absolutely wrong, it is time to pull back, pause, and think. 

I have seen this phenomenon in many other areas.  If you are an anti-vaxer, you will be fed content that confirms this belief.  The same can be said if you believe that the earth is flat or that the theory of evolution is a lie. Mistruths become truths if the presenter sounds plausible and you are not given a balanced view. 

Interested in a particular religious belief?  You are fed content that supports that opinion.  Interested in rejecting a particular religious belief?  You are given a stream that supports that.

Some of the most egregious examples of selective content are the cable news channels, which bring high-production value, professional presenters, and skilled writers into the equation.  It makes no difference to watch conservative Fox or liberal CNN; both are biased and designed to rile up the faithful with “us vs. them” rhetoric. These channels focus on politics, as this is low-hanging fruit.  The other side is always “destroying America” in a never-ending stream of drum-beating crises. Viewers become zealots blinded by half-truths weaved by skillful storytellers. 

Curated information may be useful when you have a neutral interest, such as cooking, gardening, or home repair. But it can be dangerous in areas that should be cut and dry, like medical information. The COVID pandemic was weaponized as a political tool using misinformation and curated information. However, other examples abound.

I have a mild case of eczema, and several years ago, I researched that topic by exploring websites and platforms like YouTube. I was able to find good data.  However, most of the information was poor, and some was even dangerous.  Outdated and false information was presented with the same veracity as established medical facts. Some presenters hawked dangerous diets or tried to sell their unverified cures to others.  Websites pushing nonsense products abounded. All of this false information could lead someone to a worse outcome.

Free services are not free. Cable news networks, YouTube, TicTock, Facebook, and others have only one purpose: to make money for their shareholders. Likewise, many content creators make their livelihood by the number of subscribers that they have and the number of views their videos receive. It is known that people will view longer the more dramatic the content is. Content creators understand that a simple, biased message is more engaging than a complex, balanced presentation of the same issue. This creates a feedback loop where viewers watch content and become biased, forcing the creator to become even more biased to keep their viewers engaged. 

These avenues are dumbing down America and, more importantly, creating an environment of clones, individuals with robust beliefs based on incorrect or incomplete information.  Once a person goes down a particular rabbit hole, it becomes easy to drink the Koolade completely. A disenchanted teen becomes a white supremacist. A person negates known medical treatments in favor of options that shorten their life. A man or woman refuses a healthy risk to find a new relationship. A person believes they don’t need to address climate change. An individual views a person with an opposing political view as someone to be destroyed.   

There was a time when a select few controlled the destiny of the masses.  They determined what was fact, even if there was no credible basis for their opinion.  Often, their views served their needs and benefited them by giving them wealth and power.  If you didn’t believe in their talking points, you could become an outcast, consigned to prison, or threatened with eternal damnation. We called that time the Dark Ages.  Hundreds of years ago, we moved past that blackness and entered the Renaissance, a period of significant social change and cultural, artistic, political, and economic rebirth. 

As time advanced, so did our tools, and we moved into the Age of Enlightenment, where reason superseded superstition.  We could test beliefs, proving some and disproving others. Enlightenment was followed by Romanticism, a countermovement that emphasized emotions over logic, and so it goes.  As humans, we cycle in a forward and backward pattern. We are again entering another period where facts are rejected in favor of conspiracy theories, false beliefs, and biased opinions.  

It is tempting to say that we should wait 50 years for the pendulum to swing in the other direction. After all, we have seen this pattern throughout our history.  However, the luxury of time is no longer on our side.  Our greatest strength as a species has been our ability to work together towards a common goal, and our greatest weakness has been to find differences between us that have led to conflicts and destruction. 

We are now in the information age and should be reaping the benefits that such knowledge could afford us.  Sadly, our ability to gain information has become a tool to spread poor information and false information, moving us toward conflict and destruction and away from cooperation and growth.  I’m unsure if our society has another enlightenment in us before it is game over.

Is Tinder Killing Your Soul?

Are you finding dating apps like Tinder and Bumble stressful?  Does using them make you feel worse about yourself?  Do they make you feel lonely, angry, or undesirable? Have you decided dating isn’t worth it yet wish you had that special someone?  

The following is NOT politically correct. It is not intended to be balanced. But there is truth in what I’m writing. It is your right to disregard everything in this post.  However, if it makes you mad or you need to be enraged in me, I would respectfully say that this piece is stirring you up and possibly exposing you to some realities that you would rather not think about

I will be citing “case studies” in this post.  These stories are based on real people but have been modified to protect their identities.  Some case studies are composites of several individuals.  

The general premise of this post is that dating apps are not bringing people together; they are pulling them apart.  They commoditize men and women into objects accepted or rejected by arbitrary identifiers. I am basing this writing on statistics, my career as an expert in behavior, the thousands of people I have known through my psychotherapy work, and many hours of delving into social media on this topic.  Am I correct in my assumptions?  I think so; otherwise, I wouldn’t be writing this post.  Do you have to believe everything that I say?  That is up to you. 

As a species, what is our main purpose?

Like every other creature on this earth, our purpose is to make more of us; it is that simple. Making babies is more important than writing the world’s greatest novel, making the most money, or landing a spaceship on Mars. If we didn’t have babies, our species would be extinct in less than 100 years. Organisms that have problems reproducing quickly disappear.   

Why are there two different sexes?  

Have you ever noticed that banana-flavored candies don’t taste like bananas?  They once did, but something happened. Banana flavoring is based on the Gros Michel variety of bananas. Before 1950, the Gros Michel banana variety was the banana that everyone ate. Members of all banana varieties are clones; in other words, all bananas from that variety are genetically identical. Since all the banana plants were genetically identical, they had no resistance to Panama Disease, a fungus that attacked the plant’s roots. Because of this disease, all Gros Michel banana plants perished. 

The bananas we eat today are of the Cavendish variety and taste very different from Gros Michels. Are Cavendish bananas clones?  Yes.  Could a different emerging disease wipe out all of the Cavendish bananas?  Yes.  There is a reason for genetic variety.  

Biodiversity allows a species to adapt to environmental changes and to new diseases. Most organisms have a way of sharing genetic material, which increases their biodiversity. Bacteria do this by conjugation; one bacteria fuses with another, exchanging genetic material. Many plant and animal species do this by having two sexes, a male and a female, as do humans. 

Many of our cousin species, like the Neanderthal and Denisovans, have perished, so what is necessary for a species to survive?

The best way to continue our species is to ensure that infants mature into adults so they can reproduce and produce more babies.  There are a few ways to do this.  

Females are incentivized to choose the strongest, healthiest mates as this will increase their likelihood of having strong and healthy children. However, superior males will have many females competing for their genetic material, so their most productive strategy would be to impregnate as many females as possible. Many infants may perish in this case, but their larger overall numbers will mean some infants will survive.

A male and female can also form a partnership, providing greater resources for their offspring.  As medical technology has advanced, the likelihood of a child becoming an adult has increased; it now makes more sense for a couple to have only a few children so that a greater portion of their resources can be devoted to them.  

Who created the nuclear family?

In the 1990s, I formed a medical clinic with two other doctors that still thrives today. What was its secret to our success?  Partnership.  The three of us respected each other and liked each other.  We each came to the table with different skills.  Dr. R loved business and all of the intricacies of running one.  Dr. S was great at PR.  I was good at problem-solving and all aspects of technology.  Naturally, our various roles would sometimes cross into another partner’s domain.  However, by mostly sticking to our roles, our lives were easier. No one fought to gain control.  We worked as a team to ensure that our enterprise and families would thrive.  

A healthy nuclear family isn’t that different from a partnership.  But what was the gender that developed this concept? I can only guess, but I assume that females did.  Males have several avenues to reproduce. As child bearers, women are vulnerable during their pregnancy and the ensuing years needed to raise fragile infants and children. Men can have many offspring during a period; women typically have only one. Having a partner to protect and provide would dramatically increase the survival rate of a woman’s children. Naturally, such a partnership would have to offer something to the male.  A mating partnership allows less successful males to reproduce. This increases bio-diversity in the population. In addition, partners provide emotional and physical support to each other.  Together, they would be much more successful than apart.  In the right situation, a partnership of this type benefits all members. 

Just as in any partnership, some work better than others.  However, this doesn’t mean that the concept is irreparably flawed. Younger individuals sometimes assume that all traditional marriages are dictatorships where men are kings and women are slaves. There are good and bad marriages, just like most things in life.  Let’s look at some successful and unsuccessful relational partnerships.

Joanna was a 23-year-old female who came to my office severely depressed.  She was almost vegetative in the presentation.  She wore a dress reminiscent of pioneer days, and her hair was pulled back into a bun. 

Her husband, who was 12 years her senior,  wanted to attend the session, but I told him we would have more success if she came in by herself. He reluctantly agreed. She revealed that she belonged to a very conservative Christian sect where husbands were the absolute rulers of the home. She married at 18 and immediately became pregnant.  By 23, she had four small children, and her husband was demanding they have more.  He said that birth control was against God’s plan. She was completely overwhelmed with her parenting responsibilities and the many household tasks that she had to do.  He wanted me to fix her quickly so she could continue her work and pregnancies. I saw Joanna only three times. On our third meeting, I gently mentioned that it was OK for her to have her own feelings. I assume she told her husband what I said, as he terminated treatment. Her faith and the Bible were used as clubs to push her to the point where she felt she had no hope.  

Terry was a 45-year-old married male who had a kitchen remodeling business.  I was seeing him for severe ADHD, which was only partly treated with meds.  He was scattered and forgetful.  However, the meds helped with his impulsivity. Despite his limitations, he was creative and good with his hands.  In addition, he was very likable. As long as he was doing physical work, he could stay focused. However, he was terrible with all the ins and outs of running a business, including billing.  His wife was much more focused, and in addition to raising their three children, she took over the office role of their remodeling company.  She answered phone calls, made appointments, and, most importantly, did the billing. Terry sometimes felt that his wife was a nag; at other times, she thought he was irresponsible.  However, these were only blips on the radar, and together they had a successful marriage and thriving business.

Jerry was a 48-year-old attorney.  He married his wife when he was in law school, and they had a child within their first year. Times were tough as they had little money.  His mother watched their child while his wife worked.  After working outside the home, his wife returned to childcare duties. Jerry spent his time going to classes and studying. Jerry graduated from law school and got a job with a firm.  However, they still had to endure years of hardship. Their mutual sacrifices paid off when Jerry became a partner.  They now have a very comfortable and secure life.

Bruce was a high-level executive who had to travel for business frequently. His wife was very pretty, and felt she was not getting her deserved attention. This resulted in a long-standing affair with one of Bruce’s colleagues, who Bruce considered a friend.  Despite attempting marital therapy, no progress could be made, and the marriage dissolved in divorce.

I grew up in a working-class Chicago neighborhood in the 1960s and 1970s.  Most wives stayed home, and most men worked to support their families.  Men were regarded as the “head” of the household and were expected to provide for their families.  Women were in charge of raising the kids and household duties.  However, despite the saying, “A woman’s work is never done,” wives weren’t toiling 24/7 as this was the era of automatic washing machines, frozen dinners, and television.  Every family differed, but women had a strong voice in decisions in the families I was most familiar with.  

In some families, the dad may have been more dominant; in others, it was the mom.  Most dads worked 9-5 jobs and were off on the weekends.  Yet, they were able to support their families financially.  It was common for a working-class family like mine to own a house and a car and always have food on the table. Couples stayed together during difficult times due to societal norms and religious pressures.  Sometimes this was a mistake.  In other instances, they worked through their problems and strengthened their relationship.

Despite enormous pressure to marry, some individuals remained single.  I had two single uncles and two single aunts in my extended family.  These individuals weren’t ostracized; they held a special place in our family.

Roles were restricted for both men and women.  A man that allowed his wife to support him was considered a bum, and a woman who shirked her parenting duties was a bad mother. There were always outliers, professional women and males, that could only manage part-time work. Classicly, the man provided and protected, and the woman supplied nurturing, caring, and other things. Both provided labor. Just like in a good business partnership, roles could cross.  My father made some of the meals in my family, and my mother was better at solving complicated problems. To quote “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,”  “The man is the head of the household, but the woman is the neck and the neck turns the head.” If you grew up in the 60s or 70s, you know there is truth in this sentence.

In 1960, the birth control pill became available, and women had control over pregnancies for the first time. Some conservative groups and religions opposed the pill, but the cat was out of the bag.  This was also a time of escalating efforts to improve women’s rights. A woman didn’t have to be a housewife to succeed, and roles started to change positively and negatively. Adult children moved away from their homes, and the usual ways of meeting potential partners weakened. Entrepreneurs saw this as an opportunity and eventually developed dating websites and apps. Over the last ten years, dating apps have become the de facto way to meet someone.  This has led to the commoditization of individuals and relationships. Stereotypes have emerged that allow for easy categorization of individuals.  Men and women are sorted into bins, dehumanizing them into things.  Here are some common categories of men and women.

The Man-Boy

Matt was a 61-year-old married male who had worked up to a middle management position in his company.  His wife also worked. They were both solid citizens who tried to raise their children well.

Matt’s son failed multiple attempts at the local junior college. He lived at home in his childhood bedroom and worked part-time as a waiter.  He did not contribute to the house and spent countless hours playing video games in his bedroom. He had a high position in his video game’s guild and was a man of pretend power in the cyber world. He had zero motivation to do anything else.  Matt was concerned that he would still live in Matt’s house when he turned 30.  Matt’s son was still living with them when I retired.  His son was over 40 at that time.

There have always been men who have been unable to make it in society.  However, changing roles has made this category more prevalent.  Man-Boys are men who want to live the lives of adolescents.  As long as someone else is caring for them, they are OK. A parent, girlfriend, wife, or even a friend with a couch is fine if they can play and not work. Guilt and shame are absent and are replaced by a sense of entitlement that they deserve to be taken care of. 

The Boss Babe

The definition of a boss babe varies quite a bit.  In general, it defines a very assertive/aggressive female who has to always be in control and run the show.  Females may view the category positively, while some males view it negatively, thinking these individuals are toxic.  A quote like, “I hope she likes her single life with her cats.” is one example of how some men view this subtype of woman. 

Chads and Tyrones

Susan was married with two daughters.  She had a devoted husband and a stable lifestyle. She suffered from depression, and her husband was always available to take her to her appointments. He was very supportive and understanding of her limitations. Over time she recovered and got a job.  Here, she reconnected with a man named Jim, whom she dated in high school.  He was separated from his wife, and they started to talk to each other.  Her relationship with Jim became an emotional affair and then a physical affair. Jim was fun, unreliable, and unpredictable. She felt that she had to work to get his attention. She fell head over heels for Jim and couldn’t spend enough time with him. Susan pushed for a divorce, telling her husband she never loved him. This devastated him. She took half of the family assets and bought a condo. Jim quickly moved in, and it was an exciting time, at least for a while. Jim lost his job and was unmotivated to find a new one.  He became increasingly critical of Susan and told her that it was her fault that he was unhappy and unemployed. The harder she tried to rekindle their spark, the colder he became. The honeymoon was over.  Suddenly, her former husband looked pretty good, but he had moved on. 

Chads and Tyrones are a diverse group of men who are highly desirable to many women but bring little real value to a relationship.  They include bad boys, men who are hard to get but fun and irreverent. Perhaps the cute lead guitar of the local bar band or the handsome dude at the club who asked for your phone number. A young Chad or Tyrone doesn’t have to be successful; he needs to be exciting.  These folks frequently play the field, but some may form a relationship with one female.  However, those relationships are often filled with imbalance, heartache, and infidelity. 

Older Chads and Tyrones are often successful, rich, and good-looking men. They bring everything to the table except commitment. Older Chads typically choose younger women, much to the anger of the older women. Another word for an older Chad is “Dusty.”

Women seem attracted to both groups, which may be partly due to scarcity psychology.  It is a challenge to “catch” one, making the chase exciting.  However, once the chase is over, the difficulties and pain begin.  

The Simps

A very derogatory term used by both men and women to describe men who are willing to do anything for a woman, despite being treated badly or ignored by her. Women can use Simps to get things they need, but they are never considered serious contenders for a relationship.

The Nice Guy

I knew Sara for many years.  She was a good person and had good values.  She was smart and was a student in a science field. I don’t like to categorize people, but it is necessary to do so for this example. Sara was average in looks.  She was 5’5” and had an average build.  If I was to be honest, she was probably a tick below “average” due to a prominent facial feature.

Bill was 5’10” and had a pleasant but unremarkable face.  I knew Bill for two years; he was a genuinely good guy.  Bill was in my medical school class but was a licensed pharmacist before being accepted into med school. Bill was quiet; I wouldn’t say he was shy; he was more thoughtful.  He was very bright and came from a solid Chicago family. Bill was a kind and loyal man who wanted a girlfriend.  

I played matchmaker and brought the two of them together.  I wasn’t sure how Bill would react to Sara, but I felt Sara would think that Bill was a catch. A first date was arranged.

The day after the date, I talked to Sara. “Well, how did it go?” Sara said she wasn’t sure about Bill. Bill picked her up on time and brought her flowers and a little box of candy.  He took her to an expensive restaurant and treated her with respect and interest. I consider myself a nice guy, but I have never done all that on the first day. Sara wasn’t interested.  Why?  “He was just too nice, too eager, too accommodating.”  WTF?

By the way, Bill married a nice nurse, had kids, and lives happily.  Sara married a bad boy who was arrogant, meanly sarcastic, and dismissive. I lost touch with her after she married and moved to a different state.

For some reason, many women don’t like to date nice guys and consider them boring or too predictable.  There seems to be a change when they decide that it is time to settle down, and there are videos where women talk about “settling” for a reliable, nice guy.  Who wants to be a plan B?  Not most men.

The “10s”

Let’s be honest; most of us look average and have imperfect bodies. Good looks are distributed along a bell-shaped curve. True “10” level people represent only 3-5% of the population.  However, countless women on social media say with certainty that they are “10s” in appearance. Most men would likely rate them between 4-6. They also state they must be treated like a queen and deserve a 666 man (defined next).  It is a common belief that women like to date “up.” In other words, they like to date someone of greater status. When you think you are a 10, what do you look for, a 10+?  

The 666s

I was treating John for anxiety.  He had attended law school and passed the bar. He spent a year working for a law firm, but it was a place of abuse, and he left that job.  However, he was using his expertise to review legal documents and was making a reasonable living. John was practical and ambitious. He was forward-thinking. He deliberately lived at home to pay down his student loans but expected to get his own place in a year.  He continued to explore lawyer jobs, but he was also investigating getting a graduate degree that he could use with his law degree.  John was a nice man.  He had a good build and a better-than-average face. He wanted to date but could not get a single swipe on dating apps.  He felt it was because he was 5’8” in height, as many profiles said that a man had to be at least 6’ to be considered. John had all the attributes to be a good partner and a successful man, he just wasn’t there yet, and no one wanted to take a chance on him.

Many women on social media will say they will only date a 666 man.  What does that mean?  

The man has to be over 6 feet tall (85% of men are under 6 feet), make a 6 figure income, often asking for yearly salaries between $250,000 and $1,000,000 (the average man makes around $45,000), and have a six-pack or in other words; they need to be a male “10” (less than 3% of men).  These guys are also referred to as “high-value men.” 

Are those men on dating apps?  Absolutely.  However, these high-value men don’t need an app to find a date.  Many use apps as a cost-effective option for free physical connections. A connection may consist of a one-night event, or a match may be chosen to be “Tuesday” in their weekly rotation. 

The 304s

This goes back to an old calculator trick where you type these numbers and then look at the display sideways.  Like most of these categories, it is an objectification of a human into a thing. In the day, these women would be called party girls. Today they may be referred to as having a “high body count.”  This is not a complimentary term and is a red flag when men seek a serious relationship. Men refer to a 304 as “The village bicycle; everyone gets a ride.”  Some women may cite their liberation and note that they want to do the same things men do.  I’m afraid that this is a delusional belief. Chads may have a high body count, but most men don’t.

Chads claim they can secure a 304 at a moment’s notice, and with an endless selection, they often do that.  Although average men may signal approval of this behavior in locker room talk, this is pure bravado.  I have known men from all walks of life, from laborers to world-class scientists.  Overall, men view such behaviors as destructive, immature, and distasteful in a fellow man. On average, men do have more sexual partners than women in their lifetime.  However, the difference is much smaller than you think.  

If a 304 sees a 666 regularly, she will likely fall for him rather than vice versa.  Once again, our animal selves are to blame.  Both men and women release a hormone called Oxytocin during sexual activity.  However, it impacts them in different ways.  In men, it improves their ability to find competitive relationships.  In women, it facilitates kinship and connection (love).  

The Dusty (an older Chad)

This is an older man who may be good-looking and has high resources.  They often date much younger women.  Older women frown upon their actions, saying that these men are manipulative, insecure, and need to control naive younger women. There are videos of older women counseling younger women not to do this. In reality, both men and women in this scenario benefit from this relationship. However, it is more transactional in nature and usually temporary.

The Trad Wife

This is an Instagram trend of women vlogging that they like being traditional housewives.  They post videos doing things like making dinner. They sometimes dress up like an idealized 50s mom. The amount of hate thrown at these women by other women is horrific.  They are called everything from pawns of patriarchy to promoters of the neo-Nazi movement.  Liberation means everyone can do what they want, including being a Trad Wife.

The Self-Sufficient, Financially Secure, Independent Woman

Similar to a boss chick.  However, this category varies greatly.  Some very angry women shout on Instagram that men are useless and that they don’t need them for anything.  That’s fine, but why are they making a post about it?  

Other women will use the above or similar terms at the start of their dating profile, thinking it is an asset. This would be a desirable characteristic on a man’s profile but is pretty neutral for men when viewing a female’s profile. That is not to say that men don’t appreciate a woman who is smart and hard-working.  However, that can be revealed later in the dating process for most men. In the extreme, this can be a turn-off for some men noting, “I don’t want to marry a bro.”  

The Militant Single Mom

For many years I was a single dad raising a daughter.  It was tough as I navigated unknown areas, like braiding hair or buying a party dress. I can do many domestic things, but I still can’t sew on a button, and yes, I have tried many times; they just kept falling off.  Beyond tasks, there were also time restrictions and extra responsibilities. There were days when I couldn’t go to work and times when I couldn’t go on a date because I had to care for my daughter. 

A group of militant single moms on social media tout their demands for anyone who wants to date them.  They expect more than a dinner and a movie. If they take time away from their parenting, they want “an adventure.” They expect any prospective date to accept that they will never be number one and must fit into the single mom’s schedule as she deems fit. They say that it is the responsibility of the date to pay for any babysitting and pay fully for the actual date.

Remember, the average man earns $47K a year.  Does the above sound like a good deal?  Are men biting on this offer?  If so, can someone tell me why?

The Passport Bros

Sam is a traditional man who came to America from a European country over 15 years ago.  He has a good mastery of English but still has a heavy accent. He attends church every Sunday and partially supports his parents, who came to the US around the same time. He has outside interests, likes to cook, and raises bees for honey.  He is a naturalized American citizen. Sam is a skilled tradesman who can get dirty but makes a good living. Overall, he is average to nice looking and on the short side, around 5’ 7” tall. He wants to marry, and he wants to have children. He is looking for a traditional partner and is willing to work hard to support his family, but he needs his wife to agree to take care of the home and their children as he works long hours. He will pitch in when needed. He tried to date American women.  None of them would give him the time of day.

In desperation, he explored meeting foreign women and traveled to an Asian country. There, he met a woman, and they hit it off.  Beyond romance, she had her own motivators as she was escaping poverty and wanted a better life. After many trips back and forth, they married.  They now have three kids and are going strong.

For some reason, there is tremendous animosity toward men seeking foreign brides.  Often stating that these men are creeps and pervs who exploit defenseless women.  It seems like both Sam and his wife benefited in different ways and that they have forged a solid relationship.  What is wrong with that?

The Queens

I moved to the western suburbs in 1989. I had ended a relationship before my move, and I wasn’t ready to date again.  A woman I knew suggested I attend a social group called “Young Professional Singles.”  They met monthly and would go on fun group activities. I’m a pretty shy guy, but I thought I would give it a shot.  I knew the group’s ultimate goal was to pair up people, but I also felt it wouldn’t hurt to go on fun outings. The title “professional” was pretty loosely interpreted.  This was not a group of doctors and lawyers; just about anyone could call themselves professional.  People were professional retail clerks and professional office workers. The men and women in the group were average-looking and in the 30-40 age range. After the formal meeting and introductions, there was a social time. I was the new kid on the block, so a line of women was waiting to talk to me. I started talking to one lady, and within the first few minutes, she asked me a very odd question, “Do you own your own house?”  I was taken aback, was I being vetted?  I quickly ended that conversation and started to talk to the next person.  Like the first one, she asked me if I owned my home. What??  I wasn’t asking these women to marry me. I wasn’t asking them out on a date. Yet, I was being analyzed to see if I was acceptable. I couldn’t imagine asking something similar to one of them on a first meeting.  I slowly meandered to the door and left, never to return.  

There are many videos of women telling other women that they are queens and deserve to be treated as such.  They deserve a 666 man who buys them anything they want and worships them.  What do they bring to the table?   They are told that they only need to bring themselves. Really?

Apps like Tinder force people to become objects, characters that often have negative connotations.

In a perfect world, we all should be allowed to be who we are.  One size does not fit all, but rigid expectations do not change as social mores change.  Why are people who want more traditional relationships considered neo-Nazis or creeps?  We all should be allowed to be who we are without having to deal with the condemnation of others.  

Who has it easier, men or women? Life is hard for both. We are sold a bill of goods that tells us happiness is about stuff.  Buy more, have more, be more happy. Humans are now used to fulfilling their own needs rather than working as a team to form something greater.  Long-term studies all point to healthy relationships as the key indicator of happiness. Those relationships can be traditional or non-traditional. A healthy connection requires work and is always a two-way street.  Dialing up a 304 or plotting how to get a 666 is a sad way to live, a life where people become just one more object to possess and toss away when the next shiny penny appears.

The late Norah Vincent was an author who wanted to explore the secret lives of men.  She was tall and had a body type that allowed her to pass, and she spent months learning ways to speak, walk, and express herself as a man.  She even found a method to paste artificial stubble on her face. 

Women have preconceived notions of the privileged life that men have at the expense of women.  During her 18 months as a man, she joined a blue-collar bowling league, went to a men’s therapy retreat, tried to pick up girls, bought a new car as Norah and her alter Ned, and did other things that she thought typical men did. What would being a privileged male in a patriarchal society be like? It was bound to be fantastic.

How did the tough, blue-collar men treat their new bowling league member, who was a bit effeminate and a terrible bowler?  They welcomed him and allowed him to improve.  As they became emotionally closer to him, they kidded him in the good nature way that men show affection. As “Ned,” she formed friendships with some of them outside the bowling league, and they shared the traumas and stresses they were going through. These weren’t privileged men; they struggled to make it through life just like their female counterparts.  The struggles may have been different, but they were struggles nonetheless. Working in a blazing hot and dirty factory while your boss berates you is not a life of patriarchal privilege. Men do it because they have no other options and must support their families. 

Yes, the world is mostly run by powerful old white men; they have privilege. Who is next in line?  Powerful women. Where does the average Jane or Joe belong on the power meter?  They are not even pushing the needle. 

Norah was also aware that men respond differently to situations than women, which could be one of the reasons the two sexes can be so confusing to each other.  Are men from Mars and women from Venus?

She tried to pick up women as a man and was shocked at how stressful it was. She thought that men held all of the cards.  Many men have stopped trying to introduce themselves to women; the cost is too high.  Yes, there is the fear that they will be labeled a predator, but their reluctance is more due to potential humiliation. Chads know they will likely get a phone number if they approach a female.  Average guys must build up their courage and take deep breaths. When Nora, dressed as Ned, approached a woman and started a conversation, she became instantly aware of the disgust that that woman visibly projected onto her.  It was humiliating and soul-crushing to be judged as a creep and a perv. Best not to ask.

One area that troubled her the most was the sense of aloneness that men have to endure. Women are excellent collaborators, supporters, and communicators.  Men, not so much.  She found this aloneness particularly difficult, and her experience is not unique.  Trans men have noted similar feelings as they have transitioned from their female life to their male life. 

The bottom line is that life is hard; the limitations imposed by our roles bind us. However, our society is stronger by being inclusive and welcoming diversity. Should women be allowed to be astronauts? Of course. Should men be allowed to be hair stylists?  Yes, indeed.  Both men and women are capable of being flexible if needed. However, the idea that we can and should do it all is a fallacy, and that is just how it is. We all only have so much bandwidth. 

There was a TV commercial in the 1980s of a woman dressed in a business suit, wearing high heels, and holding a 12” skillet as she gyrated to, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never, never let you forget that you’re a man…. I am woman, W-O-M-A-N!”  The ad was so ridiculous that it became a running joke and, in many ways, hurt the woman’s movement as it suggested that women are supposed to be excellent mothers, great leaders, skilled lovers, fantastic entrepreneurs, Michelin-level chefs, and much more at the same time.  Tell that to a single mom who works at Walmart, as she tries to get her kids dressed and off to school on time.

During my professional life, people called me “Doctor.”  Beyond treating patients, I trained other doctors, was an assistant professor at three medical schools, and was the chief resident of my residency program. I was the medical director of medical programs.  I have lectured to hundreds.  Along with my partners, I formed several successful businesses. I won a national award and was named an exemplary psychiatrist. I saved lives.  Sounds pretty glamorous to the uninformed.  However, I also worked at least 60 hours a week, was responsible for others I had little control over, and constantly worked in my “spare time.” I had to ensure I was doing my best work while making enough money since I was the sole support of my family. 

Have you ever had to go to the bathroom but had to hold it for several hours because you can’t free up five minutes for yourself? Have you ever gotten devastating news that made you cry, but you had to turn off your feelings because a patient was coming in the next few minutes, and they needed your full attention? Have you ever been up most of the night and still had to work a 12-hour high-pressure shift? I have and a lot more.  Observing a role from the outside makes it easy to cherry-pick the good and ignore the bad.  The grass isn’t always greener in someone else’s backyard.

So what is my role now that I’m retired?  Am I enjoying my life on my yacht?  My role has changed due to several reasons.  Who is cleaning our toilets?  Me.  Who makes meals?  Me.  Who does our grocery shopping?  Me. I also protect and support my ill wife and meet her needs as her driver and in any other way necessary. I am there for my kids. Naturally, I’m still responsible for all the “manly” household jobs I did before I retired. Life is complicated.  

Was what I was doing before more important than what I’m doing now?  I think the opposite: I’m providing the most important people, my loved ones, with what they need to live their best lives. In turn, this gives me my best life. Does doing such basic work suck sometimes?  Sure.  However, what I did before was a lot more stressful, and now I can go to the bathroom when needed.  Folks,  life is work; stop blaming others for your unhappiness.  Change what you can, accept what you can’t, and pray to know the difference.

So what is the bottom line regarding social media and dating apps?  For many, their emergence has been destructive, not liberating. A small percentage of privileged men and women do benefit from using them.  Others make money by telling followers how to live their lives on them. However, for many, these avenues lead to self-doubt, rejection, loathing, and unhappiness.   

The birth rate in the US is down 20% since 2007.  One-third of men aged 20-30 are now celibate, some involuntarily and others by choice. Men are afraid to ask a woman for their phone number.  Some are afraid to open a door for women or treat them in any way that could imply that they are a patriarchal creep. I have always been a person who compliments others.  I may tell a guy that it looked like he has been hitting the gym or a woman that her new haircut looks awesome.  I never thought much about it.  Now, I need to have second thoughts.

The marriage rate is at the lowest level in 120 years.  Almost half of marriages will end in divorce.  When examining stats on a second marriage, almost 70% will end in divorce. Divorce is initiated by women 70-80% of the time.  Many men feel that the legal system treats men unfairly in divorce. Some say that the legal system is so favorable to women that it encourages them to leave a marriage when times are tough. Others say, why bother?  Some men have retreated into the manosphere and avoid connecting with women. They no longer see women as a positive in their lives; they see them as giving little and demanding much.  Likewise, there are many videos of women shouting that they don’t need men for anything, including making babies. Men staying away from women, women avoiding men?  What is happening?

Let’s go back to the first few paragraphs of this post.  Men and women often seek different things in a relationship, but most women prefer masculine men, and most men prefer feminine women.  Is that such a shock?  If you are a woman, do you want a man who will provide for and protect you and your children, or do you want a weak man you have to support and protect?  If you are a man, do you want a wife who is here for you, supports you, and is proud of you, or are you looking for someone to make you feel like a failure, weak, and unloved? 

To claim that traditional men are Neanderthals and traditional women are Stepford Wives shows a high degree of ignorance and misunderstanding. 

We have more choices. Marriage or even committed relationships are not for everyone, but some people want them, and they shouldn’t be shamed.  It’s OK to be single.  It’s OK to live an untraditional life. However, it is impossible to cherry-pick all the positives from various lifestyles while rejecting their negatives.  Get real. 

Apps like Tinder work well for the real “10s” of the world who want to hook up.  However, 95% of people who use them are not 10s.  Women swipe right only 14% of the time.  Women have a match rate of 10%, but that low number looks pretty good compared to the match rate for men, which is less than 1%. If you are a three or perhaps a five, your match rate is likely close to zero.

It is as if we have fewer choices, not more.  A woman can’t be a Trad Wife; they must be a boss babe.  A man can’t want to be a dad and a male role model; he has to be angry and celibate. 

People should stop connecting to social media and using apps like Tinder and Bumble.  However, that won’t happen.  However, something needs to change in our society, which continues to polarize groups into black-and-white categories, objects to be purchased and discarded once they lose their novelty. 

On Being A Caregiver; On Caregiver Burnout

Julie and I were driving home from a breakfast get-together with old friends. We had a pleasant visit, but it seemed like she was miffed about something. Eventually, it came out. Our friends wanted an update on Julie’s cancer treatment, and Julie felt that she should have had talking rights on the topic. Instead, I added some facts here and there, partly because my medical background clarified the information and partly because I was trying to lessen the burden on Julie. The road to hell is paved with good intentions. How was it that my good intentions were so misunderstood?

Generally, I don’t need to prove my point, but I want the other person to know where I’m coming from. I don’t believe in mind reading in a relationship; I’m happy to tell someone why I did or said something or how I feel about their behavior. I told Julie I didn’t intend to take the spotlight off her and described my rationale. However, as the words came out of my mouth, I had an epiphany. This wasn’t Julie’s cancer; it was our cancer. I’m not implying that I had the tumor, surgery, or post-operative care. However, her illness has impacted our entire family, and it has impacted me. As her primary caregiver, I am affected on multiple levels as we go through this cancer journey.

I know some of you are squeamish when it comes to personal disclosure. You should stop reading now. For the rest of you, let’s explore this topic.

It has been almost a year since Julie developed symptoms. A year filled with appointments, procedures, pain, more procedures, and disability. It has been a year of changing future dreams and modifying present expectations. It has been a year of worry and fear. 

Our family’s geist is one of rational acceptance. As serious as Julie’s condition is, it is not our nature to gnash our teeth and focus on the negative. We move forward methodically as we navigate the labyrinth of doctors, hospitals, and procedures.  

Julie has worked hard and has made progress. However, there are limitations to what she can do. Her progress bar continues to move to the right, and I am proud of her efforts. However, it is not all rainbows and unicorns. 

My retired life has been constantly redefined as I have worked to discover the right balance of tasks and activities to give me a sense of purpose and pleasure. Generally, I have been successful in this pursuit. I do many of the household tasks. This hasn’t bothered me as I felt I still had control over my days and enough free time to pursue my interests. Life was good.

However, this changed with Julie’s illness, and the delta of that change has moved exponentially since her surgery and all of the limitations that it has created.  

Below is my schedule for this week. Julie can’t drive now, so most of the blocked times consist of me transporting her from point A to point B. Any additional scheduled appointments are there to meet the needs of other family members. Some of those obligations are in temporal conflict with Julie’s appointments. Additionally, this schedule does not include any of my tasks inside and outside the house. If you are a housewife or househusband, you understand the magnitude of managing a home and a family. Note there are no appointments on the schedule of my activities. There isn’t any time for them.

It would be nice to present myself as Saint Michael. All giving, forever sacrificing, never self-serving. However, my life is not an episode of “Touched by an Angel.” To be honest, I feel resentful. I’m not bitter towards Julie or the cancer. I’m resentful of the situation that I’m in, where once again my days are scheduled with little to no time for me.

My intellectual side rationally deals with this situation. My Catholic side makes me feel guilty that I have any negative feelings. But my emotional side wants to scream, “This isn’t fair.”  

Julie is coping in her own way, normalizing her situation by returning to life before cancer. Before cancer, her schedule would change constantly, as would her activities. She continues to replicate that flexible pattern now. I completely understand her position in principle but not in action, as it directly impacts me. Finding out that her schedule has changed the day before can sabotage any plans I may have made for myself.

I am a natural caregiver, but I understand that I also need to care for myself. I’m aware of the phenomena of caregiver burnout. A syndrome that includes depression, isolation, irritability, apathy, fatigue, and other symptoms. Thankfully, I’m not there. However, I need to be vigilant. A burnt-out caregiver is useless to anyone, including the identified patient.

My symptoms consist mainly of the above resentment and feeling sorry for myself. As with most things, I am facing those identifiers head-on.  

Being a guy that likes predictability, I must know where my responsibilities lie. I accept that  I need to drive Julie to her appointments. However, last-minute changes are only OK if there is no other option. This is especially true with Julie’s work schedule, which has become a moving time target. I’m approaching this issue with truthful discussion. Once Julie is driving again, she can alter her schedule as she sees fit, but I need to know when I’m doing something and what I’m doing. 

As far as self-care is concerned, I have had to modify my goals. I can’t go on a trip or even be away for a few hours. Those options are currently off the table. However, I need to explore new things and be creative. Recently, I had three hours between a drop-off and pick-up. It wasn’t practical for me to return home. Instead, I found a new path to go on a hike that turned my time into a pleasant 3.5-mile walk. I brought one of my old cameras I hadn’t used in a while. It was fun to relearn its controls as I scanned the area for interesting pictures to take. I had a little time left that allowed me to visit a family member who lives close by. A potentially soul-crushing three hours of sitting in the car became an enjoyable and creative adventure.   

This Fuji X100S is over ten years old-ancient for a digital camera. But, like me, she still has a lot of life in her. Rediscovering her as I explored her dials and wheels was great fun.

McKee Marsh is a beautiful area 15 minutes from my home. I thought I knew all the local paths but missed this one. It was like discovering a new world.

Yet, there are things that I have to let go of. My friend, Tom, has a wealth of knowledge, a treasure trove of tools, and a creative mind. I wanted him to help with a simple modification of Violet the campervan’s kitchen. Tom developed a much grander idea that I found very exciting. Cooking in Violet over four years of camping has given me insight into my current kitchen’s limitations. Tom offered to rebuild my kitchen completely. He had a break in his schedule this week, and this idea could have become a reality by week’s end. It was a fantastic idea and a generous offer, but my schedule is filled with other tasks. No new kitchen for Violet. Ouch.

I will find solutions and get through this tough time. However, I know I’m not the only person in a caregiving role; others are also being pushed to their limits. The identified patient should get the lion’s share of concern, love, and caring. But the immediate family of that person also suffers, and sans illness, they are impacted in many of the same ways. 

As caregivers, being honest with your feelings and doing a daily self-assessment is imperative. What is my mood? What is my energy level? What is my level of interest in things that I usually enjoy doing? How do I feel about the identified patient? What do I need to modify? What do I need to change? What do I need to say? Direct communication is always better than acting out resentment.

Pushing until you burn out helps no one, including the identified patient. Life can sometimes be challenging. However, there is always some way to improve almost any situation. Respectfully and honestly communicating with your loved one can differentiate between isolating angrily or working as a team. 

As Julie, the kids, and I progress in our journey, I’m sure there will be many twists and turns, ups and downs, good times and bad times. Such is life, but I am determined to make it work by clear communication, a realistic understanding of our limits, and modifications in any behaviors damaging our progress.  

Lastly, caregivers need love too. A kind word, a pat on the back, and an affirming nod can boost us when we are ready to throw in the towel.  



These thistles are everywhere, beautiful in their own spikey way.
A common milkweed on the verge of opening up its petals.
McKee Marsh is… well, it is a marsh.
This bench under a tree moved me. Not sure why.

Inflation, TipFlation, and ShrinkFlation-The Trifecta Of Doom

Julie wanted a Coke on the way home, so we decided to stop at McDonald’s. I ordered a few food items but no meals. The drive-through display flashed, “Small Vanilla Shake Surcharge.” As we pulled forward, The screen blanked for the next customer. “Did you see that?” I asked Julie. “Yes, what was that about?” She responded. I asked the attendant; they had no clue. No receipt was offered. I called McDonald’s corporate. They noted that franchise operators set their prices. I wondered if this was why that McDonald’s stopped offering receipts a few months back.

Once a month, my siblings get together for breakfast. We meet at a local chain restaurant called “Honey Jam.” The food is average, but the location is convenient for all parties. The prices have steadily escalated, so I no longer get my usual breakfast there. Still, spending (with tip) $40-$50 for two simple meals is commonplace. Our last meeting was on a Sunday morning, typically a crowded time. We were surprised that the restaurant was half empty. Breakfast has always been an inexpensive way to go out for food. However, spending $50 for average food that can easily be cooked at home is having an impact. 

My sister went to a nicer restaurant with some of her friends. She ordered a sandwich and coffee. Her bill was almost $40, and it included a surcharge. Why a surcharge? No one knew.

My sister-in-law got her haircut at an expensive salon. She also noticed a new surcharge that no one could explain. My sister reports that many women are going more “natural” by not spending money on dying their hair. How much of this is due to costs?

Car prices have gone up dramatically in the last few years. I bought a new Ram van 2018 for $27K, and a similar 2024 van is now selling for $47K! Dodge/Ram/Chrysler vehicles have increased by around 50% since 2019, and other manufacturers’ prices have exceeded inflation. Many auto builders have stopped making sedans in favor of SUVs and Trucks, which have a higher profit margin.  

A friend bought a loaded GMC pickup that cost over $100K. He got 3-year, zero-percent financing, but his monthly payment is over $2,700! The average cost of a vehicle is now over $60K. Ford’s CEO stated that Ford would continue to focus on these expensive vehicles, leaving the average consumer in the dust. Car manufacturers and dealers have reported huge profits, but that is because of massive surcharges on vehicles (often called a “Market Adjustment”) and fleet sales. Multiple sources say dealer lots are overflowing with expensive SUVs and trucks. People can’t afford them.

Car repairs have also gone wild. I just had several repairs on my Ford, they were around or over $1000, and none involved engine work. One was to replace a single wheel bearing, and the other was to replace two pipes that were part of the exhaust system. I now see an unexplained surcharge when I take vehicles for repairs at Ram/Dodge and Ford.

Increased grocery prices are compounded by shrinkflation. A box of 8 cookies now contains 6. Two packages of a Costco meal are needed to feed a family instead of one. Loaves of bread are smaller by a third. I made a bundt cake using my mom’s 1960s pan the other day. It now takes two cake mixes instead of one to fill the pan. Essential foods like eggs, pasta, and beans have all jumped in price.

Tipping is crazy. In the past, you tipped a person who provided personal service to you, like a waitress. Then it expanded to other service industries. Now, everyone wants a significant tip for doing very little. This point was illustrated by trips to a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and a Stan’s Donuts. Both establishments charge a premium price for their products and expect a 25% tip at checkout. That is for putting a scoop of ice cream in a cup or a donut in a bag. I have heard shaming stories when clerks roll their eyes and walk away when a customer doesn’t tip enough. 

Despite being a retired professional, I have had to take significant steps to cope with these increases. My cars are older, but no new vehicles are in my future. Over the last year, I have found myself dining out only if there is a significant reason, like a celebration or a specific get-together. I now have second thoughts about fast food; when I go, I omit or downscale items. I’m not alone, as McDonald’s CEO noted that fewer people are ordering french fries, possibly in an attempt to reduce their bills.

I have deliberately tried to grocery shop wisely. I am partially or wholly supporting five adults, and food is costly. I am buying more basic foods and less convenience foods. I am making a solid effort to use our purchased foods and not let them spoil. I am cooking more from scratch and keeping my menus simple. Yet, I still spend hundreds of dollars a week on groceries. 

I am trying to drive less by planning my errands accordingly. Before I go anywhere, I think, “Do I need to do this now, or can I tag this on to another chore tomorrow? 

I need some basic yard work done. I am allergic to grass, and I’m also not tolerant of heat. In the past, I would pay someone to do this work. However, this weekend I be operating the garden clippers. 

Admittedly, my household budget strain has gone up. Julie has not been able to contribute to household expenses, and William has returned home from college. Both of these situations have had an impact on our living costs. I’m a person who loathes being in debt, so I’m more conservative than many with my fixed income. I’m able to keep my head above water. However, I worry about those earning low wages or surviving on Social Security. 

I was raised in a financially conservative culture. If we didn’t have the cash, we made due. My parents were credit card free until I was out of college. The first time I went out to a sit-down restaurant was in 8th grade when my uncle took my parents and me. My father only bought one new car, a lower-end Ford. We mainly had used cars, and if the repair was simple enough, my dad did it. My mother repaired our clothing using a sewing machine with thread tension issues (it constantly broke the thread). She didn’t buy a new sewing machine; she found ways to make the malfunction happen less often. Any vacations were a bonus and very simple. There was no such thing as a yearly family trip. 

There were some negatives to this forced frugality. When I turned 18, I went to the dentist, only to find that the lack of childhood attention left me with many cavities I had to pay to fill.

However, there were also positives. I have no brand loyalty; one catsup is as good as the next. I can do some repairs around the house. I can cook from scratch and enjoy economy foods like casseroles. I don’t feel compelled to “Keep up with the Jones.” I feel secure in myself. I don’t see things or possessions as the royal road to happiness. Instead, I see learning, connections with others, and creating as my tickets to well-being.  

Yet, all of the above financial issues do stress me. I think, “Yes, I can handle this now, but what about the future?” Others who have not adopted habits of frugality are stressed more than me. How do people survive on minimum wage or social security alone? It seems impossible. Do they run up their charge cards? Do they ignore basic needs? From my vanlife experiences, I know some have become involuntary van dwellers. To choose to live in a van is fine. To be forced to live in a car is not great.

It saddens me that we have become a two-tier society of rich and not rich. I live in an affluent suburb where it is clear that these increases have little real impact on those who live in our financial bubble. However, they are not the majority.

We have a service economy, but fewer can afford services as prices increase. The higher-paying blue-collar jobs that ranged from factory work to truck driving have evaporated with anti-union pressures and competition from abroad.  

If we stay on this trajectory, the only reasonable conclusion is that we will return to a simpler time: smaller dwellings, public transportation, simpler foods, and more DIY. In itself, that is alright. However, likely, things won’t stop there. All we have to do is to look towards Europe, where energy and food costs have risen to the point where some people have to decide on one or the other. As the separation of wealth escalates, will we become a third-world country?