The Retirement Plan or
Were we married then or just thinking about it? Can’t remember. But we were still fairly new to each other. And we were fighting. A big fight.
We will do this. No, we will do that. No, the other. But I want to do this. Well I want to do that. Maybe we’ll just have to go fifty-fifty and each do what we want.
That last was mine and it earned a cold, hard stare.
On the table lay a State lottery ticket. Five sets of numbers. The pot would gain the winner three million dollars, I think. And we were arguing over what “we” would do with the money.
A big argument. Probably the worst argument we’d had so far in our relationship.
We hadn’t won. We didn’t win. The argument was a real one and over money we did not have. It dawned on us finally. And later we could laugh at it but only if we promised to divide any future lottery wins three ways. Hers, mine and ours.
It was a grim laugh.
We buy lottery tickets now and again. Do you?
It’s always when the pot is large enough. Three million or more, say. And it’s always with money we can afford to throw away. Who says dreams are free?
I used to joke that the lottery was my retirement plan. An old joke and not my own. It would, however, gather a grin or two from my listeners. I was secretly about half serious about it. But that was back when we were younger and struggled more than we do now. Now I might even have half a comfortable retirement even if I won’t get that private island I once dreamed about.
Apparently, I was not alone in that particular retirement strategy. Why was I surprised? Back then most of my friends and/or coworkers struggled as well. What came to be known as Reagan’s “Trickle Down” theory was not trickling down. (It’s still not as far as I can see.) So, we scraped our pennies and, as soon as the cigarettes and pet food was taken care of, we’d grab some tickets. The hell with food in the cupboard, they wouldn’t get filled anyway and hungry dreams are the most vivid of all. Anyway, I never did find out who said dreams were free.
They’re not even cheap.
No one got the billion bills last night.
We bought numbers. So did our son. He’s old enough now and wanted his own numbers. His own billion. “So I won’t have to share,” he said. Well, I got that. There’s a deep hidden part of me that doesn’t want to share as well. Don’t tell.
When the tickets got to the house we wheeled and dealed with him. You know, because in reality we would share with him if (when) we won. No matter which family member won we’d split. Half for him. Half for us. That’s 50-25-25 if you do the math. We’re old. He’s young. We’re married. He’s single. He’d need half that billion so he wouldn’t run out. That’s our way of thinking. Are we the good parents or not?
Between the two sets of numbers, his and ours, we managed one bonus ball and maybe one line with at least two matching numbers. What’s 0.0000001% of a billion?
My wife also joined two pools at work. She thinks they got a couple of dollars. What’s $120 divided by 22?
Are you sorry you are not going to get a chance at a 2 billion dollar pot?
I hear that three people won a share of the big money last night. Hundreds of millions of dollars. Dreams come true.
Somehow I’m almost relieved that there are winners this time. Two billion is almost too much to deal with. Some talking head said that if you were a single winner last night and you put all the money in government paper the interest on it would bring you $600,000.00 a month. Six hundred thousand dollars a month! I might could make it on that.
Are you one of the three winners?
I’m your cousin if you didn’t know it. Who said dreams cost money?
Alphas, puffed up, and strutting atop the dung heap they are making of our world. A pissing match like few others in my lifetime. Campaigners, terrorists, cops, gangbangers, protesters, racists. Make your own list.
Of course, right soon after spitting their rancor, out go their Betas to blow something up, pop some caps, smear some dirt. That, I am told, is what Betas do.
I got reminded of this “branding”, this propensity of the human mind to sort and label, a few nights ago when pondering the possibility breaking last year’s resolution to not do “New Year’s Resolutions” ever again. You know, just in case I wanted to do some this year. Like being a better man, opting to do more and do things better. Those kinds of things.
Alpha. How’d that relate? I forget. Some comment in passing on the TV I guess.
Anyway, it got me to thinking about that label. It got me reassessing my branding, my label. One reassesses many things when one reaches a certain age.
Alpha, Beta, Omega, Gama, Sigma, a whole alphabet soup of labels going around these days. Which ones are we? Which one am I?
It seems that the Alpha is all charm and swagger and trailblazing. Beta is all insecurities, self-doubt, and following. The Omega is the opposite of the Alpha,like the Alpha but self isolating. Kind of an Robinson Crusoe. Gamma is Griffin, the Invisible Man. Sigma is the Mastermind, the manipulative spider laying his traps.
I first learned the term “Alpha Male” in the sixties. The term was most used, back then, by the strutting boss men I worked for. They seemed quite proud of that application. Since I never much liked being around those hubristic types, I quietly labeled myself a “Beta Male”. There was no other choice back then. I did so because I’d had my fill of Alpha Males swaggering and trailblazing and lording it over me and everyone else.
“You’re no Beta Male,” some girl once told me as I groused about it. I’m sure I still love her though I don’t remember her name. I do remember I didn’t win her heart like I wanted to. Busy being a Beta and didn't realize that being a good guy was not necessarily an attraction to women.
According to my recent research, a Beta is an unremarkable, careful man who avoids risk and confrontation, is pessimistic, lacks the physical presence and confidence of an alpha, is often messy and poorly groomed, lacks self-confidence, and will bend over backwards to please a woman. Actually, that sounds like the perfect match at least for controlling women. Lots of things to work with.
She was right then for, except for being messy and a complete pushover for women, most of those characteristics are not in me.
So I had an “Alpha Male” period, if being a “bad boy” is also being an Alpha Male. It seemed to work a little.
There is, these days, a perfect storm of Greek letters labeling men.
Alpha: you are confident and your own man. You do your own thing and have complete confidence in everything you do. You have your self-doubts, but you don't let it cloud your judgment and logic. You are well liked by almost everyone, and you just have an easy charm and swagger about your presence. Women are drawn to your charisma and presence. You enjoy being social and having lots of people around. You are a natural leader.
Beta: you are kind of shy and introverted and not very confident in yourself. You are constantly plagued by insecurities and self-doubts and you can never commit to anything in the fear that you will fail in it. You are somewhat liked by people but they tend to look at you rather condescendingly and woman tend to friend zone you. You are nervous around other people and social situations because you're always afraid that people are judging you. You are a born follower.
Omega: you are the polar opposite of the alpha male, but in a good way. Like the alpha male you are confident, intelligent and have a sense of charisma about you, but unlike the alpha male, you are completely your own person. You do not need anyone, and you can even be emotionally distant due to your complete self-possession. You trust few people and foster even fewer intimate relationships. Omegas do not care for leadership by others as they are perfectly capable of leading themselves.
Gamma: you are sort of the "invisible" guy. There is nothing really spectacular about you. You are not a beta, but neither are you an alpha. Your personality and presence usually blends in with the rest of the room and you're just sort of...there. People like you just fine and you usually don't have too much trouble with girls, but all the same, there is nothing particularly memorable or remarkable about you. You are not a born leader nor a inherent follower, although you can take on those tasks depending on the situation.
Sigma: you are a manipulative mastermind. You are a spider waiting to lay your trap. You possess a cunning, intuitive mind and can sway people to your will. You don't have the casual swagger of the alpha or the omega but you do have a clever presence about you and people tend to be both wary and respect you for that. You can often be even more powerful than the alpha or the omega male in social situations due to your ability to persuade and manipulate them. You are neither a follower or a leader but rather a wild card.
(I’ve lost the citation for the above traits. My apologies to the originator.)
Truth told, through my many years with their many phases, I have lived in each of these labels. Often there have been both blendings and lapses of each.
Hence,I feel I must coin a sixth Greek label. How about a Theta Male. Theta for thespian.
Theta Male: The actor. The male of many parts. Not the male that varies for the sake of situational ethics depending on convenience or necessity or even profit but the rolling, revolving and evolving man responding to the stages of his life. The man trying his best to live and survive and to accept.
Let that be me. Steve the Theta. Steve the man that is all men rolled into one man.