I’ve gone crazy. Just ask my friends. Most of them think I’ve lost it. First it was HurryDate, then Fight Club, followed shortly thereafter by my tattoo, and most recently the evening at a sex club. I’ll admit, it’s a somewhat strange string of activities. But, from my point of view, what's really bizarre? People who never try new things, push their own personal boundaries, or want to learn and explore.
Last August, HurryDate raised the fewest eyebrows. People shook their heads. “Does he really think he’ll find a girlfriend that way?” they’d say to each other (in their wise old we’re-all-couples-so-we-know-what-works voices.) But it was harmless, and after the fact was a funny story, so I didn’t hear too much about it. The reaction was more like a kid who dyed his hair green. No one got hurt, and he’ll learn.
If HurryDate was on one end of the disbelief scale, Fight Club rocketed to the other end of the spectrum. At best, people thought I was joking. At worst, I was called a “violent fuck” by a good friend. In the middle was the friend who in all sincerity sent me the names of several therapists in my neighborhood and begged me to go. While I truly did appreciate the sentiment and tried to assuage everyone’s fears that I hadn’t gone off the deep end, several e-mails went between friends wondering if I really was OK.
My tattoo was another head shaker for most friends, and for some, cemented the fact that I was losing my grip on reality. My evening at the Power Exchange made a few more wonder if my next move was to wear gold chains, buy a Corvette, and start dating an 18-year-old.
I guess it’s natural to categorize people. She’s the quiet one. He’s the crazy one. She’s the player. He’s the nice guy. But a long time ago I learned not to worry about what other people thought of me or what box they wanted me to fit into. I’ve also learned that people tend to get confused when I don’t do what they expect. The way I see things, what I do and who I am are only loosely related. Just because I make dinner, it doesn’t mean I’m a chef. And just because I spend a few hours checking out a sex club, it doesn’t mean I have a desire to put on a gimp mask and have sex with the first person who walks through the door.
A lot of people are shocked to find out I used to be a raver kid. When I talk about the long-gone days of clubbing until 8:00am or dancing to a DJ in some Oakland warehouse, the general consensus is “I never expected you’d be one to do that.” Then, knowing my past, they think it’s weird that I love the opera. They can’t seem to process that the guy they’d trust to babysit their kids is the same guy who will climb in a ring and fight a total stranger.
I guess I’ve just always looked at life as a collection of experiences. And how can you get the most out of life if you’re not open to trying the little things it’s made up of? I’ve never understood people who create their little world and are just content to live in it, day after day. There’s simply so much out there to try and see and do. Ten lifetimes wouldn't be enough to do it all. And how does anyone know what they’re capable of if they never push their limits on occasion? You could be the next Degas or Monet, but unless you pick up a paintbrush and see, you’ll never know.
So I’ll jump on a bike and ride 500 miles in the AIDS Ride and discover I can do it. I’ll go to the ballet and realize I enjoy it. I’ll eat a Hong Kong dessert custard made with frog sperm (true story) and find out it’s pretty tasty. And I’ll visit a sex club or fight a guy and realize it’s not something I want to do again. Each of those experiences, while admittedly a little scary at the time, taught me something about myself and about the world.
Of course I’m not advocating that everyone run out and punch someone in the name of personal enlightenment, and there are plenty of things I don’t need to try to know they’re not for me. But life’s full of chances, both big and small, to learn something new. Take a pottery class. Read the biography of Margaret Mead. Skydive. Get on stage during amateur hour and tell jokes. Tell someone you love them. Hell, even order something different at the taqueria. You’ve got nothing to lose and a whole lifetime of experiences to gain.
My father is the perfect example. For close to two decades he would go to work in the morning, come home at 6:00, sit in his Lay-Z-Boy, eat dinner, watch golf and PBS and go to bed. That was it. That’s what he did. And then something changed. (I’m not sure what – call it a mid-life crisis if you’d like, although I’m not completely sure that’s it.) He started taking yoga. Then he learned how to sea kayak. Next was rock climbing. He bought season tickets to the symphony. Bob Denver used to be his most recent album purchase. Now he listens to world music, Mozart, and Norah Jones. It’s so much fun to talk to him now and listen as he gets truly excited about mastering a new yoga pose, or climbing a tough route in Yosemite.
That’s where I’m coming from, too. It’s fun to discover something new. It’s exciting to scare myself every once in a while. And as one friend put it, “Yes, sometimes you go a little far out to see what’s there, but in the end, I know you’ll always come back.”
So the next time you think I’ve truly gone nuts, just know I’m out there trying to learn something. Or look at it this way: while what I do is constantly changing and evolving, who I am stays the same. I’ll always be the same nice, thoughtful, honest, funny guy you know and love. That will never change.
Matt would love to be George Plimpton...welll, except for the being dead part. He supplies the doing and the writing. All he asks of you is the reading.
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5.14.03 @ 1:04a
I envy you. I know I could do some of the things you've done or do, aside from the fight club, I just haven't done them yet or I've put them off for personal reasons. I admire you for being your own person.
One question. How do they get the frogs to, um, never mind.
And I didn't use the wise old we’re-all-couples-so-we-know-what-works voices. I believe I used the single-bitter-been-burned-once-too-often-so-now-I'm-jaded voice.
Nice column explaining where you're at.
5.14.03 @ 8:51a
I wonder if with your dad it's simply that his children were all grown and he decided to explore his new self?
5.14.03 @ 11:20a
Katherine, that's one possibility, although all the kids had graduated from college about 3 or 4 years previously.
I think that one day he just decided to try something new and had so much fun doing it he just kept exploring.
It seems weird to say I'm proud of my father for doing it, but I totally am.
5.14.03 @ 11:53a
I've been thinking about it all morning. I can totally see myself changing into someone my children are all agape over after they're settled into making their own lives. My life now isn't completely just about them, but it's centered on them for sure.
5.14.03 @ 12:40p
Like what? What would you do?
5.14.03 @ 2:07p
I'm not really sure. It seems really odd to think about the kids being gone, but there are definitely things I want to do "someday".
For instance, I've always wanted to see Ireland. I want to see all the things I've read about and seen.
I want to see more of the U.S. My husband and I talk about travelling in an RV after we retire all the time. Both of us have been so busy raising our kids and providing for our families (we've only been married a year and we each had 3 children of our own) that we haven't really done anything ever just for ourselves.
So, like I said, I can totally see the years after my kids move out, go to college, run off with a musician or whatever being a time of huge discoveries and new things for us.
5.14.03 @ 5:46p
Crazy would be a column that featured someone other than you.
I fear what might come next.
5.15.03 @ 10:59a
So far, because of this column I've had one completely random person ask if I wanted to go whitewater rafting next weekend, and another ask if I wanted to join a team to climb a mountain in Ecuador.
How cool is that?
5.15.03 @ 11:37a
Cool. Have you ever been whitewater rafting?
5.15.03 @ 12:29p
Yeah, I've actually been rafting a lot. Unfortunately, it's happening on my birthday, so I can't make it. The mountain climbing in Ecuador may be a possibility though. I'm looking into that one.
5.15.03 @ 12:32p
Interesting. If you do, we'll expect a full report back (of course). Have you ever been hangliding.?
5.15.03 @ 12:35p
No. Have you? I think that'd scare the crap out of me.
5.15.03 @ 12:41p
Nope. I've got this silly fear of heights. I'd love to hear about it from someone else, though. It looks fun.
5.15.03 @ 1:47p
Yeah.. that's how I feel about skydiving.
I think it'd be a lot of fun, and I might do it over water, because I think I might like landing better.. but I don't like jumping off of swingsets, going out of a plane would make me fear for my ankles and knees.
And then there's the irrational fear of heights.
5.15.03 @ 1:51p
Oh, skydiving is amazing fun though. I always thought it'd be a been-there done-that thing. But once I did it, I totally wanted to do it again.
You're up so high that you don't get the feeling of falling - the ground is coming up at you so slowly you don't really notice the change. There's just a lot of wind. And the landing (for me anyway) was literally as easy as getting out of bed.
I highly recommend skydiving.
5.15.03 @ 6:22p
I had enough heart-stopping action watching my husband bungee-jump. I am so afraid of heights that I get vertigo on stepladders. I'm glad there are brave souls out there who do these amazing things, but I am equally glad not to be one of them.
5.15.03 @ 6:40p
Who knew so many people are afraid of heights?
Bungee jumping is way different than skydiving. 1) They don't give you enough time to get scared - they basically push you out of the plane so you don't freak and not jump. And 2) like I said, you're so high up, you don't get that stomach-churning sensation of falling at all. It feels like you're floating.
5.15.03 @ 7:55p
Matt, I've always wanted to go zorbing.
Go zorbing for me, then write an article about it?
When I finally get over this initial poverty stage, then the following terrified of hurtling down a hill in an inflatable womb phase, I'm going to give it a whirl.
5.15.03 @ 7:58p
I had to look up Zorbing. That would either be really, really fun, or really, really vomit-inducing.
5.15.03 @ 8:02p
That doesn't sound like a no...
5.15.03 @ 8:04p
I certainly didn't say no.
Ok, if you and I are ever in New Zealand at the same time, we'll go Zorbing. Deal?
5.15.03 @ 8:07p
Sure. Though I'm convinced that if I was co-zorbing, someone would end up dead by the time we reached the bottom of the hill, and the other person would emerge a flat nosed, stomach content stained, bloody victor.
Which also appeals to my competitive nature.