Robert J. Holland

World’s Friendliest Bars

In Defies Categorization, The Joys of Travel on September 17, 2014 at 7:45 pm

When I was a child, my paternal grandparents lived in the little town of Bedford, Va., about three hours away from our home in Richmond. My grandparents literally lived at the town’s limits. I know this because just before we would make the right turn into their driveway, a sign adorned with the insignias of the Kiwanis, Rotary, Ruritans and other civic organizations greeted us: “Welcome to Bedford — World’s Best Little Town.”

I would add “World’s Friendliest,” too, based on an experience my girlfriend M and I had while visiting Bedford recently. I wanted to show her where my grandparents lived and share some of the sights with her, including the beautiful Peaks of Otter and its twin mountains. Little did I know how many friendly people she would meet.

We arrived on a Friday night and found the most happenin’ place in town for dinner, Olde Liberty Station, which is actually in the town’s former train depot. It was so happenin’, in fact, that there was a 30-minute wait for a table, so we decided to eat dinner at the bar.

The bar brings people together.

The bar brings people together.

Now, bar folk are usually friendly to begin with, but I have never had an experience in neighborliness like I had at this bar. A middle-aged fellow sat next to me with his date on his other side. We chatted as we waited for our meals and he seemed nice enough. All our meals arrived about the same time: M got a salad, I had the shrimp fettucini and my new friend got the salt-and-pepper catfish, which was quite good. I know because he shared it with me.

“Here, you gotta try this catfish,” he said as he scooted his plate toward mine. “It’s real good.”

“I can’t take your food,” I replied, hoping to avoid a food swap with a total stranger.

“Go on, it’s the house specialty,” he insisted. “Usually I don’t like catfish ’cause they’re bottom feeders, but this is good. And here, dip it in this butter too.”

I have to say he was right. The melted butter added something special.

M and I thought we’d had quite the welcome to Bedford until two days later when once again a complete stranger sought friendship with us by offering us a sniff of soap.

We were in a gift shop perusing the souvenirs when a man who had eaten breakfast at the table next to ours suddenly stuck a scented soap wrapped in a cloth under M’s nose. “Here, smell this.”

She had no choice but to do as he suggested.

“Mmm, nice,” she said. I could tell by the look on her face that she was hoping an affirmative response would put a period on the encounter.

“Yeah, and it comes with a wash rag, so you can just rub it all over and you’re done!” he added.

Unusual as their¬†interpretations of “friendly”¬†were, M and I decided that the world would be a better place if there were more people from more places like Bedford.

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Smartphones and Sex: Reach Out and Touch Someone

In Defies Categorization, Relationships and Other Mysteries of the Universe, Wine & Other Sinful Pleasures on July 29, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I have some relationship advice that is certain to save more than a few marriages. The next time you’re making love to your wife, put down the phone. In fact, just turn it off altogether.

It seems like I could make a lot of money dispensing this advice, because apparently there’s a lot of people who need to hear it. According to a shocking new survey, nearly 3/4 of Americans have their smartphone within five feet of them a majority of the time. Even more shocking, nearly 1 in 10 say they even use their smartphones during sex. And, in a statistic that gives us old folks something to be proud of, 1 in 5 of 18- to 34-year-olds use their smartphones in the sack.

Here’s a throwaway line that only we old folks will find amusing: This study gives a whole new meaning to “Reach out and touch someone.”

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Do you think this guy used his smartphone during sex?

In the understatement of the year, the press release for the study proclaims, “So it should be no surprise that 12% believe their smartphone gets in the way of their relationships.”

Really? Ya think?

Perhaps if Anthony Weiner had used his smartphone while making love to his wife, she would have been on to him a lot sooner.

The study’s authors don’t give any details about how the smartphone is being used during sex, but here are some possibilities:

  • “I’m sorry, dear, but you’re doing it wrong. Here, I Googled it. Take a look.”
  • “Mind if I check WebMD about your rash first?”
  • “Hang on, I want to pull up Brad Pitt’s picture first. OK, you can start now.”
  • “I’m just looking up where we can go eat afterwards.”
  • “Hi Mom. No, I’m not busy.”
  • “Oh, I’ve got to get a picture of this. The girls in the office will think I’m making it up.”

I once broke up with a woman because she kept taking phone calls during our lunch dates. I can only imagine what would have happened had things worked out between us. I don’t feel too bad about breaking up with her, though. With her smartphone handy, she probably updated her Match.com profile and had another date by dinnertime.

Happy Wuss’s Day!

In Defies Categorization, Relationships and Other Mysteries of the Universe on June 15, 2013 at 3:52 pm

It turns out that being a single dad has made me a wuss.

In a shocking new study, researchers have found that dads who are deeply and emotionally involved with their kids experience hormonal changes similar to those that mothers go through after giving birth.

When moms bring babies into the world, and then breastfeed those babies, they get a big dose of oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone.” (Notice the study doesn’t say anything about women getting such an oxytocin boost through any kind of interaction with their husbands, which might explain a lot about the nature of marital relationships post-baby.)

Dads don’t give birth or breastfeed — at least, so far, but given how the world is changing, don’t count it out.¬† But dads do get a shot of oxytocin when they interact with their kids.

It's moments like these that have made me more of a woman.

It’s moments like these that have made me more of a woman.

But here’s where this whole story gets really disturbing. As dads spend more time with their kids and get more emotionally attached to them, their aggression-inducing testosterone levels go down, their lust-busting prolactin hormones go up (just as they do after making love, by the way), and their levels of bond-forming vasopressin also increase. In fact, stay-at-home dads experience hormonal changes that are very similar to what happens to moms.

Well, this explains a whole lot.

You see, I’ve been a single dad for more than 10 years. And most of those 10 years, I’ve also been a stay-at-home dad. In other words, my two sons didn’t go to daycare. They had daddy daycare from the time they were ages 10 and 6.

I used to think that raising my sons on my own made me more of a man. You know, toughened me up and made me more well-rounded. I won’t lie, it seems like women find it particularly attractive.

But all along I’ve been fooling myself. Instead of becoming more of a man, I’ve become more of a woman.

One of my friends noted that this is just one more reason why I’m no good in bar fights.

Still, given the choice between growing more macho over the years and being present for my kids, I’ll choose the latter any day.

So, to all you single dads out there, Happy Wuss’s Day. Now go pour yourself a Mojito.