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It has come to my attention that I now have a "thing" I do. It is one of those things you did once – a gesture, a phrase, an end-zone dance – that made its first appearance in a beautiful moment, free of self-consciousness. Then, later, this very same thing became an annoying affect, its innocence and charm perverted through smug repetition.

Things most commonly find their way to the lips of middle-aged men, who use them to establish his role within a social circle dominated by men, or as a tool to flirt with bartenders, wait staff, or any other hourly-wage employee with whom the middle-aged man needs very desperately to make a connection. You see, this middle-aged man has somehow, over time, actively (though not necessarily consciously) stripped himself of both his masculinity and desirability. He's not even sure what those things look like anymore, but he knows they don't look like a doughy, nearly bald man dressed in hemmed denim shorts, white tennis shoes, Jansport fannypack, and a Greg Norman golf shirt with a pair of Oakleys hanging over it by way of a neon-yellow "Bud Light 2003 Bluegrass Festival" lycra neck strap. No, they don't look one bit like that.

So, to distract others from this tempting buffet of lifelong compromises, Things are developed and refined. Things like beginning smalltalk with, "How's it hanging?" (Or responding to the very same question with the puzzling and unnecessarily visceral, "Down and a little to the left, my friend!") Or announcing to the room, before going off to defecate, "I just need to drop some friends off at the pool," and then, if this is met with furrowed brows, "What I'm saying is, I need to go sink the Titanic!" And finally, if met with more confused stares, "I need to make poops come out of my fudgie tube and watch them fall into a toilet machine." Or, if you're my father (whom I love very much, both in spite of and because of his Things), you'll find yourself saying the following, ad infinitum: "Yeah, people say I'm a funny guy but, you know...looks aren't everything!"

As for my thing, it's something that was born at a great bar in Manhattan, Billy Mark's Tavern (thanks, Leslie), and came out effortlessly, and has since been used over and over again with mounting self-consciousness. But that night I was movie cool. I ordered a bottle of Budweiser and, when the bartender (Mark) asked if I'd like a glass with it, I rolled the bottle's neck between by thumb and forefinger and replied, "It's already in a glass." Then I took a long gulp from the bottle, until some beer escaped from the seal I'd created with my lips, and spilled out of the bottle and down my shirt.

Still, for those three brief seconds, I was Lee Marvin and Ed Kennedy and Robert Mitchum all in one. And ever since then, I've been The Guy Who Annoys Waitresses. The Guy With The Smug Smile That Makes Your Skin Crawl. And The Guy Who Still Orders Zima Gold Every Time He Steps To The Bar, And Then Looks Slightly Wounded When He Is Told Zima Gold Was Taken Out Of Production Years Ago Because It Causes Stomach Spores. That's my Thing.

WE FIRST MET ON 08.09.2005

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