All posts by Chad Smith

Chad Smith is a freelance journalist and English teacher who is originally from Queens, New York. He now lives in Hamburg, Germany. His hobbies include​ swimming, chess, ​reading and photography.

Full Report

Some guys like cars.

Some guys like comic books.

Some guys like  gardening or even theater.

Many guys, however, like sports.

Me?

I was always somewhere in between.

Growing up, I was good at sports but I was more the lonesome, artsy kind of dude. I liked graffiti and visiting art museums on weekends.

To be honest, the male fixation with sports always confounded me.

Yeah, I watched the New York Mets if they made the World Series. I
knew the positions in football and even played it in middle school.

But for the longest time, I thought sports was a waste of time.

Couldn’t one be doing better things with one’s energy, both mentally
and physically?

I never understood the obsession.

Until recently, that is. And now I must say I totally get it.

The story starts this summer, when I came across a YouTube video of
Michael Jordan playing for the Bulls.

I remembered watching Jordan in the ’90s and the clip brought back exciting memories.

I had played basketball on and off when I was younger, so I decided
maybe I’d play again.

I bought a basketball as well as a biography of Jordan and I began practicing at the park. When that went well, I began playing with guys at my sports club.

Then I hit a hitch: I wasn’t really any good.

I had an OK jump shot and a decent handle on the ball, but I was 15 or 20 years out of practice.

It was frustrating.

Oddly enough, though, that’s when the joy of getting back into
basketball really began to kick up.

I came to learn the joy of getting better.

I began practicing hard – applying the kind of effort I had
applied to becoming a better writer, let’s say.

I began watching YouTube tutorials on how to improve my
game.

I started practicing moves and learning how to position my body
properly.

I looked up definitions of dozens of basketball terms.

Getting better at basketball made me like watching it on TV more.

I began to appreciate the nuances of the game. It wasn’t just about the ball going in!

Chad practicing his game. Photo by Caro Dzedzig

The more games I watched, the more I began to realize
that sports commentators weren’t full of hot air.

There is actual sense to their discussing which player is “better,” for example.

And perhaps what I liked most about my newfound hobby is how masculine it is.

When you find out someone plays basketball, you regard him as,
like, a dude. I like that.

Also, it’s difficult to call someone talking sports a sissy. In contrast, I might hesitate before telling a group of guys that I love Anton Chekhov’s play “The Seagull.”

I had been underestimating sports – how
intricate, cerebral and fascinating it could be.

I had also devalued just how much sports could increase my confidence as a man.

But I get it now. I’m 35 and I’ve finally just gotten it.

But better late than never, right?

Making Male Friends Is Not Easy

It’s hard to make a good male friend.

When I was younger, I used to have many friends and I was able to say anything to them and laugh about everything with them.

But as I’ve gotten older, it’s been harder to make a good friend. I almost thought I never would again.

Then Selman came along.

I met Selman in an intensive German course I took last fall.

On the first day of class, both Selman and I arrived early and we began to talk after he sat down  next to me. He told me that he was from Guatemala but had recently moved to Germany because he had had a child with a German woman and he wanted to be closer to his child.

I thought that that was honorable of him and by the time the teacher
called the class to attention, I figured I had made a new acquaintance.

But then something happened.

As the class progressed, Selman and I began to bond. We both found humor in the same things and this seemed to bring us together.

For example, when another student in the class asked the teacher a mildly stupid question, Selman and I looked at each other and snickered. We also exchanged a smile after the teacher
made an off-color comment.

We continued to bond on the second day of class.

We spent the entire 45-minute break together, talking about things both important and insignificant and by the time the week was over, it had become clear: I had again made a good male friend.

It was, in fact, possible.

So I guess it’s only fair now to ask why. Why was I able to bond so
well with Selman?

Well, for one thing, Selman truly listened to me when I spoke. I got the sense that he truly cared about what I had to say and really wanted to know more.

We were also able to laugh about anything together – the smallest thing could get us going – and he wasn’t scared to discuss his vulnerabilities with me.

You know, it’s funny. The qualities that drew me to Selman were
similar to those that would draw me to a mate.

I recognize that that may sound kind of strange, but it may help explain why making a good male friend had been so difficult for me. I needed it to be like love.

And we all know love is hard to find.

Chad Smith is a freelance journalist and English teacher who is originally from Queens, New York. He now lives in Hamburg, Germany. Some of his hobbies include swimming, chess, reading and photography.

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The Words to Avoid When Fighting With Your Wife or Girlfriend

I have a very interesting relationship.

I’m an American with a German girlfriend. Not only that, but I now live in Germany.

Maya and I met in Manhattan in 2007 – she was an au pair – and I
decided to move to Germany in 2013.

Over the years, I have flown over the Atlantic Ocean more times than I can remember, spent unthinkable sums on long-distance phone cards and eaten enough bratwurst for a lifetime.

Like most couples, Maya and I have our fights.

But when I first moved to Germany, we were really fighting.

Small things, like how frequently the dishes should be done, how to
train our dog or who should run which errands, were leading to huge
blowups.

We didn’t know what to do.

The fights got so bad and so frequent that on several occasions we considered breaking up.

But then we actually found a solution, a kind of strange one, but a
solution: We decided that we would only speak in German.

I’m fluent in German, but we had always spoken English.

Our hope was that switching to German would somehow set us on a better track.

And it worked.

What we found was this: If we spoke in German, our fights would be resolved much more quickly and wouldn’t be anywhere near as intense.

Interesting, right? But why?

Personally, I found that when I didn’t have as much language at my
fingertips, it was harder to get angry.

I was forced to think more about what I wanted to say, which drew my focus away from my anger.

Also, I used fewer or no curse words.

My girlfriend thinks that speaking in German did the trick because it
forced us to communicate at a much more basic level, which eradicated the kinds of ambiguities that had led to previous fights.

Though the tack Maya and I took to try to reduce our quarreling might be unusual, its reason for having worked does make sense, according to François Grosjean, emeritus professor of linguistics at Neuchâtel University in Switzerland and author of several books on bilingualism.

Grosjean said that when Maya and I switched to German, we both,
consciously or not, began to be more careful with what we said, which probably led to our being more patient with each other.

So I guess the takeaway is this: If you’re looking to reduce the number of fights you have with the missus or if you are looking to reduce the intensity of the fights you’re having, learn German.

Kidding!

Just measure your words more and try to be more patient.

Such actions have got to be universally effective.

Editor’s Note: Or as they say in German Eine neue Sprache, um eine Beziehung zu heilen. (Finding a language to heal a relationship.)

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Chad Smith is a freelance journalist and English teacher who is originally from Queens, New York. He now lives in Hamburg, Germany. Some of his hobbies include swimming, chess, reading and photography.

Read more blog posts at www.aboutmenradio.com and at http://aboutmenradio.net

Like us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/AboutMenRadio and follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/aboutmenradio

Have a question or a comment? Write us at amr@aboutmenshow.com