It Don’t Mean a Thing if You Live With a Swing(er)

swinger
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I used to live with a swinger. Not the golf kind either. We’re talking the “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” kind. And by mine I mean spouse and by show I mean doin’ it (for lack of a less juvenile way to put it).

I should probably take a step back and explain.

Recently, I spent a few days on a marketing cruise as one of the speakers. And rather than getting stuck in a room by myself I decided to request a roommate in an effort to torture another human being with my snoring and inability to put my clothes away in the drawers.

Two of my more redeeming qualities.

Meet <Insert Name Here>

My roommate was one of the other speakers. His name was…well, don’t worry about his name, it’s not important. Need I remind you of the last time you guys figured out who I was talking about?

Anyway, he was a nice guy. Smart. Funny. Successful.

We had a lot in common. Marketing. Personal development. Married. Kids. Goals. He’s a swinger.

Wait…what?

I’m not sure how you work this into a conversation, but he did as good of a job as any. He and his wife are swingers.

But Here’s the Cool Part…

We were five minutes into the conversation before I realized that I genuinly didn’t care. That I wasn’t judging him. That I wasn’t creating a story about who he was. That I wasn’t giving some strange meaning to his lifestyle just because it was different than mine.

My reaction was no different than it would have been had he told me that he was gay or straight, black or white, Muslim or Jewish.

And that was pretty cool.

It would have been all too easy (and maybe even acceptable in most circles) for me to go to that place.

What a pervert. I hope he doesn’t have AIDS. How could he do that to his family. Why is he looking at me like that. (OK, I added that last one for my own personal ego)

Because this is the way we generally react when approached with something different. Something outside of our comfort zone. Something that doesn’t follow our own moral compass.

We fight it. Push it away. Convince ourselves it’s bad. And seek out other people to justify our feelings.

But I genuinely didn’t.

And because I didn’t, we got along great. I laughed harder than I have in a long time. We worked through some new strategies for my business. I helped him out with his talk (to his own detriment, but that’s a different story). And I made a friend for life.

Something I would have missed out on had I gone to that default setting of what is comfortable and what is not.

Because when something shoves you outside of your comfort zone, it’s a lot easier to make it wrong than it is to accept it. It’s a lot easier to be fearful of it than it is to be fascinated by it. It’s a lot easier to condem it than it is to understand it.

This Goes Well Beyond People

We do this with other stuff too! Not just people.

What have you crossed off your list because you already decided that it’s “impossible” even though countless others have done it?

What have you turned down because it was too “scary” forcing you to choose the safer path?

Who is missing from your life right now because you found out something about them that “just isn’t you?”

How many other experiences are you closed off to just because of how you have allowed your internal dialogue to interpret them?

I’m In the Club Too

I’m not talking about that club. I mean that I still find that I judge someone or something based on some stupid rule I created. We all do. Sometimes I catch myself. But it’s in my nature as a human to judge a book by its cover. Just like you. And when I do, 99 out of 100 times I later find out that I was wrong about it. Just like you.

So, in the end, because I didn’t judge another person, I can now say that I have a good friend that is a swinger. And that’s pretty cool I suppose. As for myself, I’m not a swinger. And I’m not planning on becoming a swinger anytime soon. Although I did send away for the brochure just in case.

Don’t judge me.

  • The Social Butterfly

    Good post; much more meaningful than simply saying “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”, which everyone has heard at least 1 too many times.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      Although I did include “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” in there.

      • The Social Butterfly

        I think there’s a difference to admitting you’re human, by judging books by their cover, than expanding on the quote itself.

  • Karen Rowe, author

    I still question the relevance of sharing the information in the first place. In this case, all it ended up doing was detracting from who he is, and from his message. If the information is firstly a) irrelevant, b) potentially inflammatory and c) distracting from his message, then doesn’t this render his communication ineffective? And if his communication was ineffective, in my eyes that makes him a bad speaker, swinger or not.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I think it was a) irrelevant to SOME, b) potentially inflammatory to SOME and c) distracting to SOME. When you push past comfort zones you will win people and lose people. It’s life. And it beats sitting in the middle and dying to please everyone. That’s how you become forgotten. If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a couple of eggs.

  • Tielman Cheaney

    You wrap this story up with a call to push through self-righteousness, but the story doesn’t illustrate the point.

    In your case, you didn’t have to overcome any judgemental thoughts or closed mindedness… you just observed that you had an open mind to begin with. I can’t say I don’t give myself a congratulatory pat on the back when I make the same observation about myself, but you’d have a better story if you began by really being bothered by his lifestyle.

    Also, as a side note: We work on the internet. Is this guy really the craziest lifestyle you’ve interacted with recently? What about Bronies, Furries, Trans-genders, Black-hat porn SEO’s? Can you be friends with democrats and republicans, creationists and evolutionists, ghetto kids with bad grammar? I’d love to read a story where you really struggled with closed-mindedness.

    Thanks!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I’m struggling with it right now while responding to your comment! HA! Just kidding. I couldn’t resist.

      Sure, you are probably right. It might have been a more dramatic story if I was freaked out by the guy and in the end he saved my life or something. But that’s not how it happened. And that story has been told thousands of times.

      I didn’t write this looking for a congratulatory pat on the back. I wrote it because I learned a lot about myself in that moment. And that was worth sharing. It was a cool feeling when you realize that you’re OK with something when society encourages otherwise.

      As for all of the other stuff on the Internet? I guess that lifestyle is a bit more tame than your average “Plushy” but that didn’t stop a lot of people from having a problem with it. And to watch their transition from non-acceptance to acceptance was pretty cool. Hence the post.

    • http://thedsmgroup.com/ Jason Diller

      Black hat porn SEO: This is the darkest side of the internet… (You think your keywords are tough?) ha!

      I deal with a lot of close minded people in this industry. Ya know, traditional advertising people that think their tactics drive bottom line results. #unicorns So much noise out there…

      • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

        HA! “You think your keywords are tough?” Just visualizing the guy that has to work on that stuff…too funny!

      • Tielman Cheaney

        There are a lot of closed minded people in every industry, and just life, period. I’d love to say I’m one of the open ones, but it’s really hard to tell about yourself.

        • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

          I agree! Which is why I was so surprised when I found myself listening with an open mind in that moment as opposed to judging. I don’t get it right every time but I do believe I got it right that time!

  • Tom Martin

    Great blog post, Marc. Speaking of “getting outside your comfort zone,” earlier this week I went to hear author Marc Ecko speak about his new book. (It’s about marketing & authenticity. I think you’d love it, BTW.) When I think of a mega-successful “entrepreneur,” I think of someone like Richard Branson — and not of someone (like Marc Ecko) who started out as “a graffiti artist,” and moved on to sell airbrushed t-shirts before launching an apparel line that is worth $1 billion. Hearing his story expanded my thinking a bit, and reminded me of just how empowering social media can be in building a brand. Sorry to ramble on, but this is what your story reminded me of. Like your view of “swingers,” I didn’t have a vehement “anti-graffiti-artist” bias or anything like that, but my way of viewing the world (i.e., “who qualifies as ‘a successful entrepreneur’”) had become a bit too “staid,” and I didn’t even realize it. Anyway – great blog post! (Quick question: Did the guy you went “cruising” with dress like Steve Martin & Dan Akroyd in that old SNL skit — a/k/a “a wild & crazy guy?”)

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I saw Marc speak at the Inc. 500 convention and got his book Unbranded. He and the book are both amazing! I wasn’t expecting to be knocked off my chair listening to him but I was!

  • KingdomOfGod

    Marc,

    Herein lies a conundrum that many people “feel” that they will be judging if they address or point out a particular moral sin to someone. It should be obvious that “whoring” yourselves out to expand your sexual experience (swinging is all about the sex) is not something to be proud of, nor should it be acceptable. It’s also called the sin of adultery, lust, covetousness and promiscuousness. Not least to mention, this wed couple is breaking their vows with their spouse (although under their own volition, but what does that have to say about their character?) to be faithful until death do they part.

    Proverbs 6:29 “So he that goeth in to his neighbour’s wife; whosoever toucheth her shall not be innocent.”

    The approval of such depravity is the condoning of it, whether you participate in it or not, you are sharing in their sin because you “generally don’t care”. Most likely, if you had reproved or rebuked him on this moral issue, you might not of had him as a roommate or laughed harder than you had in a long time. But there is still a possiblity that if you had, you’d still have a friend who respects you more for caring enough about the direction he was going.

    Maybe most people don’t address issues like this because they are more interested in the approval of men, or they fear rejection if they speak up. In either case, all parties lose. So much for loving your neighbor.

    These types of moral issues are heart issues. It’s far more important to look at the character of a man, then any other factor, i.e. success, fame, looks, etc. In order to correct this, we must realize that there is only one Lawgiver, who has given us a moral code, and that is God the Father.

    The path to a more higher moral standard is to repent, turn around and go the opposite direction. Then seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

    Travis G.

    • Tielman Cheaney

      I’m interested to see responses to this comment. This is a well-reasoned and well-thought-out statement, argued from an unpopular point of view, peppered with polarizing phrases like “God the Father.”

      Anybody judging it?

      • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

        Although clearly well thought out and honest, it is also extremely judgmental. To say that I share in someone else’s sin because I choose not to have a problem with it paints a very broad and dangerous stroke.

        Are you willing to assume the “sins” of everyone you have ever known throughout your life because you didn’t condemn them at the time?

        • Tielman Cheaney

          Great responses all around, Marc.

          I agree that Kingdomofgod there is being judgemental. He probably knows it. I bet he can’t use the phrase “To Me,” because he believes that these are universal standards imposed on all men by God. To say “to me” would be to cheapen what he believes.
          As an example, most of us believe that racism is wrong, across all cultures and codes. So we would say, “It’s wrong to murder Jews and black people because you believe they’re genetically inferior.” We wouldn’t say “In my humble opinion, it’s wrong to murder Jews and Black people because you believe they’re genetically inferior.” Racism is universally wrong… it’s not a matter of opinion. To say “To me” implies “this is what I believe, and I’d like you to believe it too, but I will not push you past a certain point.”

          I have two friends who value tolerance highly and talk about it often. Their own lives have benefited, and they actively try to seek out and understand other cultures.
          The only trait they can’t stand is intolerance. They are intolerant of intolerance. As a result, their actions sometimes don’t match their words. It’s a sneaky, funny type of hypocrisy.
          I’m not accusing anyone who’s commented of this, especially not you, Marc. You’ve gone out of your way to write fair responses. What I’m interested in is investigating this gray area of judgement/tolerance/open-mindedness, and in finding out just how far we’re all willing to go.

          So:
          Openmindedness is good, and opens our horizons and opportunities.
          Sometimes, we come across a person who, because of what they believe, is compelled to say something judgemental about us.
          At that point we have to decide if our open-mindedness extends to include someone who is not open-minded themselves.

          Apologies for length. This post really got me thinking!

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      The only thing missing from your comments are the words “to me.” For example:

      “It should be obvious that whoring yourselves out to expand your sexual experience is not something to be proud of, TO ME.”

      “The approval of such depravity is the condoning of it, whether you participate in it or not, you are sharing in their sin because you generally don’t care TO ME.”

      “In order to correct this, we must realize that there is only one Lawgiver, who has given us a moral code, and that is God the Father, TO ME.”

      This is your opinion. Where you stand morally. Your interpretation of right and wrong. And you of course have every right to live your life based on that opinion.

      Equally as much as I have the right to live my life the way I want. And the way my new found friend chooses to live his life.

      My definition of morality is much different. To me it means accepting others. For it is immoral to condemn another human being because they do not live their life the way that you choose them to.

      If accepting another human being for who they are and not expecting them to change their ways because of my beliefs makes me a sinner, than I guess I should ask for forgiveness, for I have sinned. A lot.

  • Teresa Capaldo

    Love your punchline! still giggling, No LAUGHING OUT LOUD!!!
    Points well taken and as always, enjoy your writing. Sometimes I’m not sure where your leading me, but that element of surprise and humor is worth the anticipation.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      WOW! I didn’t even get the LOL! I got the full blown spelling out. That must have been a good one :)

  • nathashaalvarez

    You’re funny and I love your articles. This one had me think a little differently. I do judge because if not, I might be lead down the wrong path. While another person’s lifestyle is not my business, it is a problem for me if they are practicing something that I don’t approve of around me or if what they do impacts my life. Being a Swinger is the least of my concerns but if they are getting high, stealing or dealing drugs or anything else that goes against my morals and values while impacting me, then I’m going judge. GUILTY OVER HERE.

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      OK, I’ll give you that. Doing something illegal or extremely harmful to society like dealing drugs or murdering people is open for a little judgement. It just gets weird if you are a swinger that murders people and deals drugs. Fine line.

      • nathashaalvarez

        You crack me up!

  • Mel

    This post is amazing! Although I am a sucker for stories. Why do you have to be so funny?

    • http://www.marcensign.com/blog Marc Ensign

      I’m a bit of an acquired taste. Not everyone thinks I’m funny. Ask my 10 year old daughter. To her, I’m just annoying. Bu thank you!!!!

  • Paula @ Vintage Kitchen

    The idea of not judging is utopic really, but there are various shades of grey that go with it. I’ve never met a swinger, but I think it would be interesting to understand how their heads/hearts work. You can guess I’m not young enough to point fingers, which I did a lot at some point in my life. But we have stories after a certain age. Don’t judge, ja!

  • http://entrepreneurialhonesty.com/ Jonathan Malkin

    Good stuff. I’ve found something similar in speaking about mental health. Depression and other “illnesses” have always been regarded as taboo in polite conversation.

    Turns out once I started talking about it openly people either
    a) Had a story to share about themselves, someone they know, or something in the news.
    b) Didn’t care because they have their own problems to worry about

    The subject really isn’t all that taboo especially after the first 200 people you tell about it.

    I thought I’d be judged and ostracized but nothing is further from the truth.

    For my own part I don’t judge anyone with a mental “illness” but I do find myself judging people on other matters. It’s mostly a gut reaction that when it arises I notice and do my best to put aside so I can get to know the person and see what kind of chemistry/rhythm is there.

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