Wednesday, February 28, 2018

An Open Letter to the Movies

Dear Whomever is in charge at the movies,

We need to talk. I’m not sure which of you is in charge of the movie previews, so I’m writing to all of you about all the adult content in your trailers.

Now, let’s be clear. I have no problem with movie trailers that have adult content, if the movie has adult content. That’s great. In general, I’m pro adult content, being an adult, myself (chronologically, at least).

And before we get too far into this, I’d like to thank you all for continuing to make movies with adult content. I tend to enjoy them.

What I didn’t enjoy recently was when you chose to show these movie trailers with all the adult content. You see, my wife and I took our three sons - ages 13, 11, and 9 - to see Marvel’s new movie Black Panther.  

It’s rated PG-13, so I know what you’re going to say all defensively at some point – “Hey Mr. Parent, how come you brought an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old to a PG-13 movie?” To that, I would respond, “Bite me.” We did our homework.

We always do our homework, and Black Panther is rated PG-13 for violence. It’s almost all hand-to-hand combat stuff, and frankly, on a normal Wednesday afternoon, our boys’ fights make the movie’s combat look tame. (All three of them are available for hire, by the way, if you’re ever looking for small stunt men.)

There was one bad guy in the movie who had a cannon hidden inside his fake arm, which I didn’t consider an issue. I considered it to be what it was - completely awesome.

What we are mostly concerned about as parents these days is explicit content. There was hardly any bad language and the only remotely sexual parts of the movie were a few brief kisses.

But you know what I didn’t get to do my homework on ahead of time? That’s right - which trailers you were going to show ahead of our acceptable PG-13 movie.

The first one was for a fun little rated R film called Red Sparrow starring Jennifer Lawrence. Turns out she’s a Russian hooker/spy/assassin.

That’s nice.

The trailer started with her sitting on a hotel bed in a low-cut red dress. A man puts a stack of money on the nightstand and says, “Take off your dress.”

Thanks for that.

Then she kills him with a garotte and leaves the hotel. Then we get to hear the back story, narrated by a nameless American spy - she’s part of a group of young Russian officers called the Sparrows, who are trained to seduce and manipulate.


Oh, look, you flashed over to a future Sparrow watching a training film containing two women in black leather bikinis with riding crops, fuzzy blindfolds, and choke collars.

That’s nice.

Then there’s more rapid-fire images of Jennifer Lawrence seducing people with various parts of her body, intermixed with blood-sprayed walls and dead people.

Gosh, movie people, thanks for that fun visual and auditory learning experience for my kids.

You followed that gem up with a hilarious romp of a trailer for the raunchy comedy I Feel Pretty - also rated R - starring Amy Schumer.

I assume you folks over there in the movie business know who Amy Schumer is. So I assume you know that nothing even remotely PG-13, PG-14, or even PG-28 has ever come out of her mouth. She’s the female Andrew Dice Clay without the weird New Jersey accent.

And yet, there she was on our screen, standing in her underwear in front of a full-length mirror, woman-handling her boobs.

Thanks, movies.

Apparently, her character is not happy with her body or her life in general, until she hits her head and wakes up thinking she’s a gorgeous supermodel.

It was fun when you showed the footage of her entering a bikini contest and gyrating on stage, crawling around seductively while running her fingers over a bar patron’s lips, and pouring water on herself.

What was also really great was when she was obviously totally naked, telling her boyfriend he was getting “a sneak peak of what’s to come.”

That was a special time for our family.

So, again, to be clear, a sincere thanks from me for making those movies. I want to see both of them. But you showed their trailers to my kids ahead of a Marvel comic book movie about a cool superhero guy who fights crime with a magical armored body suit and a neat accent.

That was stupid of you. Your target audience department needs to be fired.

Please do me, and the rest of the parents of America, a favor – if you don’t have any relevant and appropriate trailers to show, just play some more ads for your snack bar with that $35 tub of dancing popcorn.

Or on second thought, don’t. Just show us the damned movie.

Thanks a million,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A Thirteenth Open Letter to Lifetouch School Portraits

Dear Lifetouch School Portraits,

Gosh, fellas. Who woulda thought, only a few short years ago as I wrote you my first letter, that we’d need to get all the way up to letter number thirteen? But here we are.

I have felt, for a number of years now, that you might not be reading any of these letters that I so graciously spend my time and energy writing you. That was mostly due to the utter lack of response I have received from you. I see now how wrong I was.

Foolishly, I assumed you would respond to my helpful business advice with a civilized letter, a phone call, or maybe a nice note on your website. But it seems you are the petty, passive-aggressive type. You have chosen to take my sincere and constructive criticisms with a malice that was never present on my end. And you have chosen to take the low road; responding not to me, but instead, viciously attacking my children’s self-esteem.

Well, not all of them, actually. For some reason – probably rooted deep down in your brutal, calculating business core – you have chosen to retaliate on the weakest member of our herd, the youngest – Son Number Three.

Have you no shame? Have you no decency? Or are you going to claim innocence in this matter and try to convince me that you don’t have anyone in the building who can spell common English names?

No, I’m not talking about “Schmatjen.” That’s not common, or English. I mean, I think we can all agree that Schmatjen is a ridiculous last name. I expect it to be misspelled. I can’t even spell it correctly myself half the time.

But given the last name, we purposely gave all three boys traditional, easy-to-spell first names. Not like my parents, who doubled down on the crazy with Marc instead of Mark. We decided to give our children the gift of only needing to explain the spelling of their last name.

And yet, here in my hand is the class picture you produced. And there’s my youngest son, smiling sweetly in his cowboy hat and red bandana. (You may recall from Letters Eleven and Twelve your culpability in that make-up picture day costume extravaganza, which, by the way, may have either ruined our Christmas tradition of framed school portraits for the grandparents, or made it infinitely more awesome, depending on if you ask my wife or me. Guess who won that argument? Thanks again for that, jackasses.)

Anyway, there’s his smiling face… and there’s his “name” under his photo. Yep, there’s our son, Josepm Schmatjen.

Josepm? Seriously?

Congratulations. You got “Schmatjen” right, but couldn’t seem to pull off the easy first name. If this isn’t a backhanded attempt at retribution, then please tell me what’s going on over there.

Did you guys think my son was a nocturnal Hispanic child with a cool nickname?

Who’s coming over tonight?
Jose PM. We’re going out for another late night on the town.
Oh, I thought Joseam was coming over.
Nope, that kid’s always in bed by seven.

Or did you outsource the “Kids’ Names Below the Pictures” department to India, like you probably did with your call center? The reason I ask is his classmate Abhaijeet’s name is spelled correctly. Do you have some underpaid guy in a tiny office in Mumbai still trying to grasp all these crazy American names? “Timothy” is still a mystery, but to him, “Chhailbehari” looks like “John.”

I really don’t know what you have going on over there, but since you never reply, I’m forced to speculate. Given the deterioration in our relationship, I can’t help but think this might have been personal. I sure hope it wasn’t.

Hey, I just had a thought. Maybe I’ll send Son Number Three back for retakes dressed like a lifeguard with white zinc oxide on his nose. With a slight tweak of his already misspelled name I could use your free picture services to launch his career as Joe SPF, sunscreen model.

Let’s talk.


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine's Day Part I and II - Reposts

You get a two-fer this Valentine’s Day. These words are as true today as when I wrote them oh, so many years ago. And unfortunately, I know even less about women now, so I have nothing new to add. Enjoy, and have the best Valentine’s Day you can possibly have, given the fact that it’s impossible to fully enjoy. Cheers!

“Valentine’s Day”
Originally posted February 14, 2012

I am coming up on ten years of marriage, so I thought, this Valentine’s Day, I would help all you guys out by imparting to you all of my knowledge about women. This should be pretty quick.

All you guys out there who have been married longer than ten years can refute this entire article, since marriage is an ever-changing, dynamic situation. All those of you out there who have been married less than ten years, treat this advice like the gospel itself. I know what I’m talking about!

All my vastly limited knowledge about women boils down to what I have learned about “quality time.”

In the beginnings of marriage, usually, unless you did things in the reverse order from the standard procedure, you don’t have any kids. You both work, and other than that, you have no responsibilities whatsoever. It’s awesome. You come home from work, and spend the entire evening together. You go out to dinner all the time, and you have more money than you know what to do with, even though, at the time, you think you’re poor. Boy, were you wrong.

Then the kids come and you find out the true definition of poor. When the kids are newborns, you foolishly think that you have no free time, but again, you are wrong. It is only when they grow up and start going to school and playing sports, and karate, and piano that you truly have no free time.

As your married life progresses and the kids get older and stop staying where you put them, your couple’s together time gets less and less. After almost ten years of marriage and three children, hypothetically seven, five, and three years old, you and your wife see each other for about twenty minutes a day.

As with anything in life, when you start running out of time, you invariably are forced to concentrate only on what is critical. For example, if you were only given five minutes per day to eat, you would not spend any of that five minutes chatting or doing the dishes. You would be stuffing your face with anything that was even remotely edible within arm’s reach for the entire five-minute period.

I think, as a general rule, guys tend to be much more pragmatic in those squeeze-play situations than women do. For instance, if a guy is on a boat and the captain suddenly starts shouting orders at him in an excited voice, most guys will tend to just grab the winch handle and start cranking it clockwise like they were told to do. It is more of a female trait to pause for a moment and wonder if the captain doesn’t think they can follow orders without being yelled at, or if they did something earlier in the day to make him angry with them.

When the couple’s together time gets squeezed down to twenty minutes per day, both parties naturally agree that they’d better make that time count, and make sure it’s all “quality time.” This is where the differences between men and women come into play. Both parties yearn for “quality time” with each other, but unfortunately, both parties have different definitions of “quality time.”

Now, like it or not, us men are pretty simple animals. Our “quality time” standard is universal, and does not involve clothing. Enough said.

Women, on the other hand, are very complex and complicated creatures. Their definition of “quality time” is a fast-moving target, based on a multitude of different factors that may or may not include the weather, the rude clerk at the department store, the temperature inside the house, their awesome boss, the cable company, their idiot boss, the smokin’ deal on spaghetti sauce in the paper, the kids’ reaction to dinner, the tone of your voice, the cost of living, the note from the teacher, the situation in the Middle-East, your cute text this afternoon, your son’s snotty attitude, the neighbor’s stupid dog, and any number of other things that you cannot possibly know about, but have a heavyweight bearing on the situation.

Nine times out of ten, your wife’s definition of quality time that day involves you doing a lot of listening, and cuddling on the couch, usually fully clothed. When that is the case, guess what you’ll be doing?

If you thought that you would be receiving some incredible nugget of wisdom or some sage-like advice at this point, you were dead wrong. I’ve got nothing. I don’t know any more about women than I did ten years ago. In fact, all told, I know a lot less.

All I really do know is that you’d better get on board with her definition of quality time if you ever hope to have her get on board with yours.

Happy Valentine’s Day, and good luck out there, men!

See you soon,


“Valentine’s Day, Part II”
Originally posted February 13, 2013

Valentine’s Day is a confounding “holiday.” The number of people around the world who actually enjoy Valentine’s Day is very, very small. Most women will probably tell you that they enjoy the day, but they’re lying. They’re only saying that because they don’t want to be seen as “anti-romance.” Truth be told, Valentine’s Day is very stressful for most people, men or women.

Let’s try to figure out who really likes Valentine’s Day. No man in the history of the world has ever liked it, so take out roughly half the population of the earth. Sure, it’s a day dedicated to romance, so if a guy plays his cards (and flowers) right, he might get rewarded for his efforts. However, this is a day where he is expected to be romantic, no matter what. If he happens to forget and go about his business as usual, he will be in deep trouble. Birthdays and anniversaries are one thing, but Valentine’s Day is the one day of the year where every guy in the world can simultaneously get into a special, life-long, still-bringing-it-up-twenty-five-years-later kind of trouble, just for doing the same thing we did the day before. By the mere act of being yourself, you can be branded for life as an uncaring idiot, if you happen to forget the 14th of February. Who needs that?

By my (incredibly limited) experience, cards and flowers have a much more positive impact on her emotions (and on your love life) if they are given when she is not expecting them. A specific day of the year when they are mandatory?  Far too much pressure. And speaking of pressure, it is entirely one-sided. There has never been a man in the history of the world who’s has had his feelings hurt when his wife or girlfriend didn’t get him a card on Valentine’s Day. The onus is all on the men. Heaven forbid you screw it up, boys. If you do, Valentine’s Night will be pretty lonely. It’ll just be you and your onus.

As I said at the beginning, no man has ever liked Valentine’s Day, but that doesn’t mean they all dislike it. Single men who are not dating have no particular feelings towards it one way or the other. They could care less about it. Single women who are not dating, however, hate Valentine’s Day. This is due to the fact that men and women are polar opposites when it comes to feelings about anything other than food and shelter being good things. Valentine’s Day for the single female is a myriad of emotions, all of them probably serving some sort of anthropological function, but none of them that you want to get anywhere within forty feet of. Most of these emotions will be doused with wine, which can either have a suppressive effect, much like throwing a bucket of gasoline on a single match, or in most cases, an accelerant effect, much like throwing a bucket of gasoline on a campfire. Either way, it is best to observe the forty-foot perimeter.

Valentine’s Day for the single male means a shorter wait at the pizza place.

For women who are dating or married, Valentine’s Day is stressful. Not as stressful as it is for their men, but some amount of the man’s stress is transferred to the woman. That’s because the women know that we won’t get it right, no matter how hard we try, so they spend the weeks before Valentine’s Day worrying about what we’ll get wrong. Will he screw it completely up like I think he will, or will he surprise me and get it almost right? Never mind perfect. That ain’t happening.

Women who are dating someone casually worry that their significant other will go overboard and try too hard, making Valentine’s Day awkward instead if nice. Women who are dating someone seriously worry about the marriage proposal. If she feels that the proposal is imminent or overdue, she will worry that he won’t ask her to marry him. If she feels like it isn’t proposal time just yet, she will worry that he will ask.

In my estimation, women who are already engaged to be married are the only ones who truly enjoy a stress-free Valentine’s Day. If a lady’s fiancé has a track record of forgetting Valentine’s Day, she probably wouldn’t be engaged to him in the first place, so there is much less of a chance that she’s worried he will forget. (Naïvely, she thinks he will always remember the day once they are married. Boy, is she wrong!) There is no proposal pressure or worry, since that already happened, and since both parties are in constant communication about romantic stuff like wedding plans, chances are the guy will have a pretty good idea of what to do for the gift. Jewelry, flowers, chocolates, just a simple card… He is about as locked in as he’s ever going to be on what she wants. He will never know for sure, however, because reading a woman’s mind is a lot like reading Sanskrit in the dark. You’re never going to get it exactly right.

So, of all the people currently on the planet, the only ones who enjoy a truly worry-free and relaxing Valentine’s Day are most of the engaged women, and a handful of female newlyweds.  That probably works out to be far less than one percent of the population.

This leads me to the question of why we still have Valentine’s Day in the first place.

I don’t buy the argument that it’s just a day created by the greeting card, flower, and chocolate industries. It goes deeper than that. We all feel like we have to participate, because the men don’t want to be seen as the Scrooge of February, and the women don’t want to be left out. Truth be told, everyone would be a lot happier and less stressed if the day just went away, but stopping Valentine’s Day is an all or nothing deal. If there is one single solitary guy left on the earth still buying flowers for his fiancé on the 14th of February, the rest of us are going to hear about it.

Until those engaged guys can stand up and say no, we’re all going to have to keep going with it. Those engaged guys are weak. They are scared to screw anything up, and rightfully so. They don’t know what they’re getting into, and they know they don’t know. They are yes men, just trying to survive. They will never help us.

So, we’re stuck with it. Do your best, and hope for the best. That’s all we can do.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to go see if they have any Valentine’s cards left at the gas station mini-mart. My wife loves those cards. I think.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

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Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

An Open Letter to Our Parents

Dear Mom & Dad,

I want to apologize for everything.

Your eldest grandson is now thirteen years old and has become a total butt. This development is probably no surprise to you, but we were caught completely off guard. He used to be so nice and now he is a moody, stubborn turd.

I mean, we still love him and all. It’s just that we don’t want to live with him half the time anymore. Come to think of it, this is probably why they invented boarding schools on the east coast, huh?

Anyway, like I said, this probably isn’t a shock to you, since you had me. Hence my apology. Looking back on it all, I remember knowing everything there was to ever know. If only I knew half as much today as I thought I knew then!

I was always right. I was convinced of everything. I had opinions that could not be argued. I didn’t want to hear it. I was not nice. I was probably mean to my sisters but thought they were really the ones being mean to me.

I had no goals or plans or skills of any kind. I had nothing to do all day but still complained about doing anything at all. My judgement was crap and my ability to plan was even worse.

My comprehension of cause and effect was nonexistent. I was impulsive and dumb and unable to come up with a good reason for anything I did, other than, “Whatever. I don’t want to talk about it.”

I understand now that this all stems from the prefrontal cortex of the brain. The prefrontal cortex – which, as any reputable brain surgeon will tell you, is probably located directly north of the post-rearward cortex – is the part of the brain in charge of not being a giant butt face. Apparently, no one’s works at thirteen.

The nice folks at the middle school sat us down at the beginning of the school year and told us all about the lame-o prefrontal cortices of thirteen-year-olds and what to look forward to. I’m not sure I totally believed their hype at the time, but now I’m thinking they might have held back some of the more disturbing information just to keep us from trying to preemptively sell our kid.

Too late for that now. Anyway, I just wanted to say sorry for my teenage years. Sorry for being such a turd, and thanks a million for never kicking me out of the house.

To return the favor, I guess we will continue to provide room and board to your intolerable butt of a grandson.

Love you both,


Copyright © 2018 Marc Schmatjen

Check out The Smidge Page on Facebook. We like you, now like us back!

Also visit Marc’s Author Page  for all his books. Enjoy!