My speech to the graduates
The Atomic Dog is a weekly feature that isn't necessarily about weight training or bodybuilding. Sometimes it's about sports in general, sex, women, or male issues of some kind. At times it's inspirational, but it can also be informative, funny, and even a little weird, but hopefully, always interesting and a little controversial. We hope it reflects the nature of Testosterone magazine in that, just as no man is completely one-dimensional and only interested in one subject, neither are we. If it makes you think or laugh or even get angry it's served its purpose.
While most graduations occur in June, a decent percentage of college students graduate in December. As such, we thought it might be appropriate to dig out this old Atomic Dog column — originally posted in issue #159 — just to make sure these students start out on the right foot as they enter the real world.
Every one of you, having now graduated, faces a crossroads. One path leads to mindless conformity; a soul-sucking passivity that allows you to coast along on lifes swirls and eddies until you fall dead of prostate cancer. The other path, much less traveled, overgrown with vines and made hard to navigate by fallen trees, leads almost always to danger but occasionally to bliss, after which youll fall dead of a heart attack.
God grant you the wisdom to choose correctly.
Okay, that wasnt too cheery, was it? Let me go about it a different way. I see that most of you are sitting there with a glazed look in your eyes. You dont really know how you got here, and you sure as hell dont know where youre going. No one even told you that you were a man yet, and here you are, expected to go out into the world.
It only seems like yesterday you were riding a skateboard, wearing your caps backward, and jacking off into your moms scented toilet paper. And now youre graduating; now youre supposed to be a man. Only you still do all those things you used to do, except that now you have to use some of that cheap Costco toilet paper with wood chips in it that gives your cock splinters. So are you ready to take your place in the world? Are you a man yet?
Other cultures take 13-year-old kids, give them a knife and a spear, and throw em out in the jungle for a week. When they come back if theyre still alive theyre men and the tribe treats them as such. Here, in the Western world, the closest thing we have to a rite of passage into manhood is sneaking into an R-rated movie. Not exactly the same thing. You didnt really walk out of the theater a changed person, unless, of course, the movie you snuck into was The Crying Game, or maybe Boogie Nights.
So I dont blame you for feeling a little befuddled. You dont really know how to act or how to feel in practically any situation, but really, its best that way. By keeping you confused and keeping you in a child-like state, they were able to shape you to be a good little automaton.
Your school trained you to go with the flow, to follow rather than lead, and to never question authority. Now, youll vote with the consensus, work with the team, and adjust your fashion and music choices based on whats "in." Presto! Youve been turned into a drone.
Youll make a good mid-level employee to some son-of-a-bitch boss and a good husband to some woman who wants to take over where your mother left off. Youll live by the clock and the calendar, waiting all year long for those two weeks at the end of August when you can take that vacation to Europe youve always dreamed about, but at the last minute youll decide to stay home and paint the house instead.
You may have other dreams, too. Maybe you want to be a champion skier and marry a fashion model. Could be you have plans on being a millionaire by age thirty. And of course, youre going to leave the loser town you grew up in and live on the friggin coast and surf every morning and evening.
But, if youre like most people, youll wake up one morning and youll be, I dont know, 35 or 40 and you wont have done any of that stuff. Youll be in the same old town, waking up to the alarm clock, looking frantically for the symbol of your slave-like existence, the watch, and hurrying to your job as one of 35 vice presidents at Bingamton Savings and Loan. You didnt marry a model, but a girl that really, really, reminds you of your mother, and come to think of it, nags you the same way. Shell soon start dressing like her, too, and the transition will be complete. Youd best be a good son.
You used to work out, but you gave that up long ago. Your wife thought it was a waste of time. Besides, she lies and tells you that your potbelly "looks cute." Sure, guys with potbellies have always gotten the chicks. Besides, with the birth of Jason and Crystal, your two kids with trendy names, you dont have time to work out. Most of your time is spent ferrying them back and forth between soccer practice and horseback riding lessons.
Dont worry, though. Youll be dead soon.
Of course, you probably didnt hear any of this. Because of MTV and stupid-ass movies that are nothing but longer MTV videos, your attention span is on par with the half life of the element Fermium, which is about one-billionth of a second. Unless I had fireworks coming out of my ass or employed some other kind of special effects, your mind is bouncing around like a the ball on an epileptic soccer players head. Instead of paying attention to me, youre sitting there wondering if Becky Schlossinger, the class Valedictorian, is wearing underwear beneath that stupid robe. Well, I hate to disappoint you, but she is, and its not even nice underwear. Theyre grayish white panties, full coverage, too, and the elastic is all stretched out. Life, unfortunately, aint a Penthouse letter. Get used to it.
But, in the remote chance that you are listening, Id like to offer some advice. Id like to make a case for taking that second, less traveled road. Now, my life may not be a role model for others, but I may have learned a few good things.
First of all, I think that living our lives by the clock is the bane of our existence. I think I realized this at an early age since I stopped wearing a watch when I was ten years old. Okay, I realize that we need to know when to go to work and when to meet our workout partners at the gym, and when reruns of Star Trek: Voyager are on TV, but only by at least loosening times grip on you can you really be free.
I always liked this paragraph from "The Last Unicorn," an experimental work of fiction by Peter S. Beagle:
But the skull was laughing again; this time making a thoughtful, almost kindly noise. "Remember what I told you about time," it said. "When I was alive, I believed as you do that time was at least as real and solid as myself, and probably more so. I said one oclock as though I could see it, and Monday as though I could find it on the map; and I let myself be hurried along from minute to minute, day to day, year to year, as though I were actually moving from one place to another. Like everyone else, I lived in a house bricked up with seconds and minutes, weekends and New Years Days, and I never went outside until I died, because there was no other door. Now I know that I could have walked through the walls."
Most people have their Honey Graham cereal at exactly 7:00 am, shave and shower exactly at 7:30 am, and do absolutely anything and everything based on the clock on the wall. Maybe they have dinner with the Frisbees on Wednesday night and maybe they nail the wife on Saturday night. Monday, however, is very special as the wife and kids are at kazoo practice, so they lie naked on the bathroom floor and slowly run an oiled-up loofah all over their quivering bodies while listening to the soundtrack of C-SPAN.
Maybe people should deliberately shake things up once in awhile. Work a different schedule, eat when they feel like it instead of by the clock. Nail the wife on Saturday afternoon, loudly, so the neighbors can hear! And most importantly, run that oiled up loofah all over thier bodies when they feel like it. Maybe by doing that can they walk through a few walls.
I also recommend waiting awhile to have a family, and if you dont want to wait, at least dont have any daughters because youve never known real heartache until youve seen your precious little girl flashing her hooters on a late night commercial for the video, "Girls Gone Wild." Likewise, I recommend that you wait awhile before you even get married, because youve never known real heartache until youve seen your darling wife flashing her hooters on a late night commercial for the video, "Wives Gone Wild."
Trust me, I know.
Actually, Ive got nothing against marriage, but I really think that most guys should wait to get married. Hell, its hard enough for one person to grow up, let alone two at the same time.
I also want to tell you that pretty much everybody, to a certain degree, is full of shit. The sooner you learn that, the better. Politicians, of course, are historically full of shit, but so are almost all of the people you admire. Reverend Jesse Jackson, while counseling Bill Clinton on his evil ways, was busy impregnating some woman who wasnt his wife. The minister at your church just got slapped with a class-action lawsuit by a group of choirboys who got tired of hitting a high C whenever he fondled them. Sports heroes, held to be heroes by some people, are often drug addicts, adulterers, or rapists. Self-help gurus, whether they be spiritual self-help gurus or body for life self-help gurus, are often the most dysfunctional, spiritually and morally bankrupt people youll ever meet.
Thats okay, though. Dont let that discourage you. Even people who are full of shit might be able to teach you something. And maybe the part thats full of shit doesnt surface that often. In any event, just develop a sensitive bullshit antenna and learn to recognize it when you see it. That way, when you run into somebody whos genuine, youll know it and youll really have something worthwhile there.
And I wouldnt for a minute work in a place that didnt thrill me. I realize thats easy to say, but damn, youll be dead before you know it and youve got to make sure that being alive is at least a little bit more fun than being dead.
Dont get conventional. Dont do stuff because its expected of you or because thats what everybody else does. If you want to be a bodybuilder and live in Venice Beach, well hell, do it. If you want to live in Katmandu and lead foolish rich people up Mt. Everest to freeze and die, well go ahead and do it. Just know when its time to move on to something else, though.
Speak out against evil, but pick your battles wisely. I know lots of bastards who get pissed over anything and everything. Need proof? Hell, read this weeks Reader Mail. Be critical, but dont get obsessive. As my father used to say, "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in his or her shoes. That way, when you start to criticize them, youre a mile away! Plus youll have some nice shoes."
Well, at least he had part of that right.
Its all right to get pissed when the local delicatessen discontinued your favorite sandwich corned beef and Gouda cheese on a Kaiser roll but organizing a march on their business, taking hostages, and demanding that they bring it back is overkill. Wouldnt your time be better served launching a letter-writing campaign against some politician who was trying to have your living room used as a repository for nuclear waste? Now thats someone to get pissed at, him, and maybe that idiot congresswoman whos trying to ban The Sopranos.
Remember that living strictly by the rules doesnt make you a man. It makes you a robot. True, children dont always live by the rules, either, but theres a difference. An actualized man knows which rules to break, which broken rules will take him by the hand and lead him out of a passive, tame, domesticated existence.
And, at the very least, try to keep an open mind. The last thing you want to end up being is some crotchety guy who screams at kids for running on his lawn, and who, for the life of him, cant figure out why those dang kids can listen to that that kind of music. Realize that 95% of your opinions were poured into you by your parents, your schools, and your friends. Realize too, that theres a good chance that they were wrong. Keep learning. Keep reading. Try to keep the "game" even.
If, by "half-time," the score of your game is Hormones 42, Logical Thinking 7, then you need to try a zone defense, and while on offense make some short passes because theres a weakness in Hormones secondary. In short, close up that score a bit so your hormones arent always trouncing your logical thinking.
If you can do some of this stuff, your life will be a friggin poem. A heroic poem, and youll take that road less traveled, skipping over the underbrush and fallen trees like a damn elf a masculine elf, mind you.
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