A Guide to Unbearable Types of Stress For Men

Note: Bill Cope insists that his last name helps little in times of stressAaaaaaaaah, the holidays are (or are almost) over, but don't fool yourself, Jack. Just because Christmas has come and gone doesn't mean we're tubing anxiety-free waters. Nozzur! It doesn't take a rocket surgeon to figure out that rush hour traffic, family Thanksgivings, or being a loyal employee of a locally-owned banking institution can bring on stress like ragweed can bring on snot. But our world is also full of tiny stress barbs, treacherously disguised as daily living. We may not feel each and every effect, but these things add up. Killer bees work the same way. A sting here... a sting there... and pretty soon, you're puffed up like an aluminum can of Campbell's Chunky Chicken in a rotating microwave. Tasty, maybe, but ready to blow, for sure.Allow me to unmask a few of the more insidious of these covert stress spawning grounds. Don't thank me. Your mental health is all the thanks I need. Besides, if I don't talk to someone about this stuff real soon, I think I'm gonna... well, let's just say that if I ask to borrow a Phillips head screwdriver, make damn sure that I have a Phillips head screw in front of me. Okay?These little stress zowies come in categories, and there are men's categories and women's categories. If it seems I over-emphasize male-related stress-inducers at the exclusion of our feminine brothers, please excuse me. It's just that, as a man, I might not fully appreciate exactly where the stress points for women might lie, you see?. As a man, I have to be careful not to miss-interpret or sound patronizing. Or appear the chauvinist. Or be over-protective. Or belittling. As a man, I have to be careful not to sound too much like a... well... a man.SPORTS-RELATED STRESS ZOWIES:This is a particularly tragic area of stress-inoculation because sports were originally invented by early Greco-Roman P.E. teachers to relieve stress, rather than cause it. Were a greater number of modern men actually participating in sports, that might still be the case. But the closest that most modern men come to an actual athletic performance is a three hour drinking binge in a sports bar where they bet money with one another and assume exaggerated poses to impress the waitresses. So, in one act, they combine the Stress Big Three: competitiveness, finances, and sex. The only thing they could do to make things worse would be to fill the rest of their waking hours with teenagers. Is it any wonder that there are more heart attacks than family farms in America these days?Be alert for:* Cool people asking you if you've skied the fine powder up at Bogus while it was still "rad" before the weekend crowd "boogered" things up.The easy reply would be, "Damn straight, Dude." But lying is stressful. So is trying to be cool when you're not. You would be a lot better off to answer, "No, I've never skied in my life. In fact, the last time I did anything in snow was when I broke my leg while innertubing down a 30 foot hill outside of Idaho City on a Methodist Youth Group outing when I was 11 years old, and I haven't voluntarily gone outside during wintertime since."* After woodwind quintet rehearsal, the bassoon player and you go for a beer, end up playing a game of pool, and the bassoon player accidentally scratches by knocking the eight-ball off the table, into the drink of a biker's "old lady." You win the pool game. Wheee! But guess who's quarter is up next. The scowling biker's, of course, and he wants to play for a five-spot. You say, "Wull, Jeez... I guess. Sure. I'll play for a five-spot. That's like five dollars, right?" thereby causing yourself more stress than a lifetime of Hindemith quintets with your lip in a sling.Next time, say, "No, thanks. This is the third time I've ever played pool in 25 years and I'm not even sure what the rules are anymore. And besides, I only have four dollars to my name. And besides, if your 'old lady' is still mad, my friend would be more than happy to buy her another Long Island Ice Tea."Of course, your friend might never speak to you again, but having a bassoon player pissed off at you is a whole different thing from having a biker pissed off at you. When it comes to stress levels, pissed-off bikers are in a category to themselves.* Being a bowler in a golfer's world.If you fancy yourself a competitor in the lofty world of "Moving and Shaking," it must make you nuts to know that distinguished gents in checkered pants are arranging everything from a secure and lucrative future for their children to a hostile take-over of Microsoft as they saunter from green to green, while the biggest thing you ever lined up during the Wednesday night Gutter Gasbag League was to have your sprinklers blown in exchange for three gallons of the home-made beer you brewed in the old water-heater leaning against the garage.Solution? Well, you could buy some clubs, take some lessons, get yourself some checkered pants, but you still won't be able to afford the fees anywhere but the public course out in Meridian. So practice up on your 10-pin shot, chum, and accept your status in life. There's nothing wrong with being lower-middle class. Nothing that another pitcher won't cure.* You have been waiting all fall -- and with each passing Saturday, the pressure grows -- to suggest that Boise State University do whatever it takes - grovel, if it has to - to get back into the Big sky conference.Better to win a game now and then in a small pond, thinks you, than continue on through eternity as the Charlie Browns of college ball. But this Big West hysteria has turned otherwise reticent Boise-ites into something that can only be described as... gag... Texans , and you are afraid to bring the subject up. As the team receives its weekly humiliation, though, not only do you feel the stress rising in yourself, but you can see it raging through the Capitol City as though Vandals had breached the up-river dam on the Vince Lombardi River. What can you do?Nothing. Keep your mouth shut. Sure, it's stressful, but it's so important for some people to pretend that BSU... Boise city as a whole, actually... is hot stuff that they might get crazy if you were to even hint that the Broncos would be better off playing the piddly leagues. Better to be stressed out than strung up.MARITAL RELATIONSHIP STRESS ZOWIES:I affectionately refer to this as the "Can't live with 'em... can't find the Mr. Coffee filters without 'em" category. This will be a little like walking through a mine field wearing nothing but size-14 snowshoes, but somebody's gotta do it. * You agreed to take your wife to Jackpot, knowing full well that she does "double down" every time one of her lucky numbers comes up.And her lucky numbers are "4" and "3."Here's what I'd do. Slip her $20 dollars worth of nickels and tell her that you thought you saw... in fact, you'd swear to it... Mel Gibson going into that men's room in the corner next to the 5 machine and he hasn't come out yet. She won't believe you, but she won't be willing to take a chance.* Your wife started dropping hints during the Memorial Day Weekend that what she wants more than anything in the world for Christmas is her own personal tape of the Bridges of Madison County.No sweat, Bud. Get her the movie.And her own TV set with built-in VCR to watch it on.And add a room to the house to plug it in.And spend the rest of your life... or marriage... whichever ends first... trying to be a lean, weather-beaten, sensitive loner when you're with her and a normal, pudgy guy the rest of the time.* You've spent the last 15 years trying to behave like you think Phil Donahue does with Marlo, and then your wife's best friend turns out to be a 36-D who wears tube tops even in January. (This particular stress zowie is essentially the same as: Is the fellow who rides his mountain bike down to the cafe every morning for a double mocha latte allowed to let his gaze linger when a woman in a spandexbody suit powerwalks by his patio table?)I have no answer for you, pal. You can practice sensitivity 'til your wire-rims rust, but there are powerful forces at work here. You might try telling your wife that you don't want to be a controlling person, even if it means that you must let your eyeballs find their own space... but I doubt if it will work.Please realize that I've just scratched the surface. I haven't even mentioned "Baseball Cap Hair Ring" Stress, "2-C License Plate" Anxiety, or "Waiting For Your Neighbor's Leaves To Fall" Itch. I could write a book. But then I'd be continually worried about "Massive Power-Grid Failure Fries My Hard-Drive" Stress, so who needs it.

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