It's December. This means my house is filled with the aroma of Starbucks Christmas Blend Coffee. I don't drink this coffee myself, but my fiance The Angel does.
This made me fondly recall some earlier experiences with her Christmas Blend fascination.
So, below is an excerpt from my book, Finding the Super-Hero Within.
The events in this chapter took place a while ago, but it gives you a good idea of the tone in my book.
So here it is.... and you can buy my book by clicking the chapter heading below. Thanks!
When you start writing about the ways in which we define ourselves, you figure out quite quickly how many walls and definitions you impose upon others by your own ignorance. I never saw this more clearly than when I stumbled upon Veronica. I don’t know if the woman I was actually staring at was named Veronica, but I liked to believe she was. I’ve always had a thing for the name Veronica. It may have something to do with an early attraction to Veronica of Archie Comics fame. I also find the name Veronica to be so vivacious. Whatever that means exactly.
It was an early Sunday, and I unexpectedly had the whole morning to myself. No Chicago Bears games. No personal baseball games. As soon as Nicole left for work, there would only be me, my thoughts, and the keyboard I now bang away at. This would last until four o’clock, at which time I’d dutifully change back into my cliché costume and recite daily fish specials to all the bored, affluent citizens of La Canada, California. I was excited about this prospect. Not the fish specials, the writing in solace. Awakening, I turned over to Nicole and immediately recognized the lines of exhaustion in her face. Nicole is a wedding planner. I know, I know, an ironic profession considering my aforementioned fear of marriage. Nonetheless, she is. She often works long hours for little in return, other than the knowledge that she’s growing her business. This is common of anyone starting a new business, and wedding planning is no exception. Nevertheless, she genuinely amazes me with her energy, commitment, and ambition. Many people have said these same things about me over the years, and while I find it to be untrue, certainly there’s a plausible chance this motivation is one of the attributes that attracts us to each other.
This may all sound a bit funny considering I’m about to launch into a chapter about the beautiful features of an unknown brunette I’ve named Veronica, but hopefully it will all connect at the end.
Nicole looked tired. I felt empathy, and wanted to do something considerate to let her know I was there with her in this fight to find a path. I wanted her to know that her exhaustion wasn’t all for naught. Most of all, I wanted her to know that I loved her in that moment and every other, because I saw her completely. It made me love her all the more. I’m completely inept when it comes to conveying this to her, so I thought I could at least attempt some sort of grand gesture to showcase my feelings.
The best I could think of was offering to get her Starbucks.
I realize this is a paltry sign of affection based on what I was trying to accomplish, but it seemed like a worthy activity at the time. I don’t drink coffee myself (except for the occasional Caramel Blended Frappuchino), and thus find Starbucks both simultaneously annoying and alluring. The entire Starbucks layout screams for acceptance. Their entire aesthetic seems designed to not alienate any demographic, be they soccer Moms from Idaho or indie rock bands from Austin. The warm colors, combined with seasonal joy, tend to overwhelm the senses. How I feel about Starbucks in any given moment often coincides with the way I feel about life in that same moment. If I’m happy and feeling optimistic, than Starbucks is a beacon of what can be accomplished with a little ingenuity and persistence. If I’m angry and feeling worthless in my quest to enjoy life, I loathe Starbucks for its corporate tendencies and efforts to systematically take over every corner in America. This anger can become exacerbated when I see the likes of Josh Groban or John Mayer staring back at me from one of their cute, CD-holding kiosks at the front counter.
At the moment, all I cared about was making Nicole happy. Groban be damned.
I know I’m not the best boyfriend, often not fully appreciating the little ways in which she keeps my sanity above water. When I’m in a writing haze, she often brings me various objects in the food and beverage category. Burritos from Chipotle. Ice cold Coke Zeros. Glasses of red wine.
It’s not just the tasty treats though. She rubs my feet. She helps me find my wallet and keys when I often lose them. She doesn’t get upset when I go to movies by myself. Or take over the television in the rare 30 minutes of the day when I stop working. Basically, she’s a fucking angel. I promised I wouldn’t use the F word in the composition of this book, but those words can’t be underscored. I could have written: she’s an angel. But there’s no question, that doesn’t sound nearly as strong as: she’s a fucking angel. But just in case you're sensitive, from now on I'll refer to her in this context as a precious angel, so long as you know that this isn't exactly what I'm thinking. I'm thinking she's the fucking angel of all angels.
She is. Like most men, I probably neglect to show her the same care and consideration at times that she shows me. I don’t want it to sound like I’m one of those self-absorbed, selfish boyfriends who literally never pays her attention. I assure you, I’m not that. I actually think I’m a pretty decent boyfriend. It’s taken me many years to get there (we’ll get into that), but I have. She says I’m the best boyfriend in the world and that I sell my boyfriend skills short. I’ll settle for ‘not an asshole’. I’m okay I guess.
Looking at her, tired, and yet still somehow beautiful, I offered to retrieve whatever type of Starbucks concoction she wanted. She hemmed and hawed, citing diet and all that nonsense, but eventually caved at the thought of a Grande Christmas Blend. I have no idea what could possibly be in a Christmas Blend (to reiterate, I don’t drink coffee), but I knew that even if it involved the slight possibility that I might have to decapitate some elves, I was going to get that Christmas Blend.
So off to Starbucks I went, which is where I saw Veronica. There she stood in line, trying to look like everyone else, as if that were possible. She wore tight black pants with conservative ankle boots. The kind of boots that were subtle enough to exude sexy without being obnoxious (unlike the giant Uggs that seemed to be everywhere in 2008). She had a form-fitting black leather jacket and a grey, red checked scarf that hung there, in perfect balance, around her thin frame. Her hair was darkish brown, with just the right touch of tangles.
She was, a Veronica. Granted, brunettes have long been a weakness of mine, but this girl- this woman! She was the kind of woman any guy with half a brain feels instant attraction. She wasn’t a Maxim Magazine airbrushed boobette. She wasn’t the girl next door. She was somewhere in the middle of- ‘woman you’d like to marry’ and ‘awesome woman you’d like to have an extended weekend in Spain with’. She was the type of girl, back in the day, I would have attempted to woo. At the very least, I would have tried to make her laugh.
This brought up a multitude of emotions in me, and many of them centered on the definitions I’ve been trying to wrap my head around. For one, if I was single, I would have surely tried to pass myself off as something I’m not. Veronica made me feel insecure. Mostly because I imagined she’d be artistic and far more cultured than me. I hypothesized that Veronica had a boyfriend who sang lead in a boozy, blues-fueled rock band. That, or perhaps a pirate. Really, her imaginary boyfriend appeared in my head as someone Johnny Depp would play in a film. Someone like that.
I deducted all of this from her apparel and slightly unkempt hair.
Surely, Veronica would snicker if she knew I was an action-figure collecting, movie obsessed, theme park fanatic. Or, would she? I once had a crush on a foxy bartender named Missy. Everyone did, primarily because Missy did look like something from the pages of Maxim Magazine, and I was in my early twenties. You do the math. Every male heterosexual that walked into the McNolte’s Bar and Grill had a crush on Missy, it’s half the reason they did so much business. Sadly, I’m sure I’m not alone in that we all put her in a box when it came to who we thought she was outside of work. We imagined she was a jet-setting, partying, sexual dynamo.
We were wrong.
Missy was actually a dedicated Mother who had been with her husband since she was a teenager. More shockingly, she was an absolute dork. She loved video games, Disneyland, and anything goofy. I found this out over time, and although my sexual fantasies honestly probably never altered, my crush became one of the individual.
Which brings me to Veronica, and the fact that I had built up this entire perception of her based around what she looked like. I wondered how many people did this with me. It immediately got me angry, and made me realize how ignorant I was for thrusting these same perceptions on Veronica. Because I have always felt that for most of my life, people have misjudged me. I bet a lot of people feel the same way, that they’re often being misjudged by others for various things up to and including what musical band they choose to adorn their T-shirt with. We tend to box people in based on all of the limitations we see.
For me, I have long since dealt with the ‘frat-boy’ stereotype. There are many stereotypes you do not wish to be. Frat-boy is certainly one of the worst to be associated with. Hipster is up there too. Hipsters hate everything. And everyone. Especially frat-boys. I’ve been perceived as a frat-boy for many reasons, some of which are certainly reasonable.
I’m passionate about sports, and in some cases am fairly good at them. I’m also loud, especially on the playing field. My friends will all tell you I love competition. So much so, that I often coach the various teams I play on. Combine this with my pre-existing life of a bachelor who likes to drink and the frat-boy badge gets stapled to my chest without me even uttering a word.
This sucks. If you’re reading this, it sucks. I am not this. Just as you are not the label I probably have given you at some time, I am not simply a frat-boy. You might be thinking that being labeled something you’re not could be advantageous from the perspective that it allows for the element of surprise. It’s not. I repeat. It sucks. I know that isn’t a very elegant way of phrasing it, but those two words really do sum it up. As an example, I’ve had dozens of friends read my screenplays and comment afterward with something like this: “I was surprised, I really liked it.”
Again, you may view this as a compliment because on the surface, I provided some sort of enjoyment to the reader. But within that compliment is a backhanded insult. The fact that someone was surprised it was good can only mean they expected less. Thinking this over, I may be fixated on the negative and that might be something to explore. But back to Veronica…
I was gazing at her like a frat-boy who hadn’t been laid in a week. Looking at her beauty, I only felt inferior by contrast. I stood there awkwardly waiting for my low-fat turkey bacon sandwiches, all the while growing more and more self-conscious of my clothes. Chicago Bears sweatshirt. Outdated jeans. Star Wars hat. Christ, I was like some mongrel geek/frat-boy hybrid. Sigh…
Then, my entire fantasy of who Veronica was suddenly shattered at the site of the man walking into Starbucks mere moments later. Veronica’s boyfriend arrived. I knew this by the ways they smiled at each other. The kind of smiles lovers keep reserved for themselves. He looked different than I imagined. As far as these things go, he was pretty pedestrian. Put it this way, I don’t think Johnny Depp will be playing him in Veronica’s life story. He was just a guy in sweats on a Sunday. He looked pleasant, probably a good guy. Together they looked like a slightly hipper version of Kevin James and Leah Remini from that show The King of Queens. This of course dispelled the long held notion by men everywhere that Kevin James could never get a woman like Leah Remini in real life. Veronica was very much there, and very much taken by a guy that looked like he could pass for Kevin James’ little brother.
After witnessing this, I only felt like that much more of a fool. How many wonderful people had I failed to connect with over the years based upon my prefixed notions of who they were? It was becoming more and more apparent that I was an idiot. My instincts were all wrong, and now I was beginning to wonder if this was a problem that was entirely regulated to just me and a few other oddballs out there.
Worse, they were out of Christmas Blend, so I returned to Nicole empty-handed.