Doing Things – The Van Damme Way™!


Ironing a Shirt The Van Damme Way!

Any real man knows that there is no shame in helping out around the house. If you live alone then you have no choice (until someone magically creates a service wherein a person, or persons, comes to your home to take care of light housekeeping duties for an agreed upon fee, but let’s restrict ourselves to the real world, OK?). In either instance, you need to know how to perform a few rudimentary tasks to keep your place and person in presentable shape, i.e. to attract a potential partner, or keep the one you’ve already snared. These are the only reasons to keep a tidy home, so if you are single and have no intention of coupling, pull on one of your wrinkly shirts, put your feet up on your almost certainly fast food container-strewn coffee table, and watch Universal Soldier: The Return for the nineteenth goddamn time.

For everyone else, special skills are required (unless a forward-thinking entrepreneur invents a business where you take shirts and pants to a specifically designated building and leave them to be cleaned, starched and pressed but, again, this isn’t science fiction). Approaching such a task may prove daunting to those not stout of heart, but assuming those are exactly the kind of people who would buy this book, I suggest three stages to vanquish this chore The Van Damme Way!

Ironing Board

Much like eating your waxed beans before tucking into your chicken Kiev, this is the tough work before digging into the sweet, buttery center of the task at hand. Folding out an ironing board without incident takes years of practice. Like any other strenuous undertaking, I recommend stretching. Now your first impulse may be to work your hamstrings for the inevitable performance of the Van Damme splits, but I suggest that your time is better spent working the upper body. In particular, dislocating one shoulder until your fingers are numb—this way, when you pinch your fingers between the board and the legs (and this will happen), you will feel no pain. However, do be careful to note any bleeding on the ironing board: this could indicate the escape of blood from an open wound, and that is no surface upon which to iron a clean shirt.

Warming the Iron

If you have purchased your iron wisely, it has temperature settings based on material. This is very important as improper heat-to-fabric calibration may lead to:  a) under-ironing, a side-effect subtly noticed in the lack of wrinkle banishment (in this event, check that to see if you have the iron set for a multi-fabric blend, if you are in a humidity-rich environment or, failing all other options, see if the iron is plugged in); b) over-ironing, which will make the garment appear pressed only to revert to a wrinkled state by the time you put it on; or c) iron-shaped burn marks on the back of your shirt (while perfectly calibrated for comic effect, this does not suit our purposes as this is not a book called Be a Man—The Larry the Cable Guy Way).

Wait for your iron to warm up. This is an excellent time to stretch for the splits, if you are so inclined.

Many test an iron’s state of readiness by spitting on the element to see if their saliva sputters. This is grotesque and inelegant, completely unbecoming The Van Damme Way! Use the tip of your tongue.



The Garment

You are now ready to attack and don’t fool yourself—this is warfare. Do not pity your opponent, but do not underestimate him either. Bow before your collared foe, but do not take your eyes off it.

Flatten the shirt on the board so the sleeves dangle on each side like a face-plant victim carried by stretcher from the Kumite circle. Smooth the shirt and then apply steady arcs across the back with strength but also with grace. Be of the shirt but not in the shirt. (Note: do not attempt to iron a shirt while wearing it not matter how late you are.)

Flip the shirt on the left front panel: the buttons are tricky, but you must move in and around them like one dodging pools of blood in the Kumite circle. Repeat for the right front panel, which is now a breeze because, if you have purchased your shirt correctly, there should be no buttons on that side.

Iron each sleeve. Make sure that the fabric is not bunched up on the underside of the sleeve you are ironing as this will lead to your ironing wrinkles into your shirt which, you will agree, is counter-productive.

Run the iron over the collar to ensure proper rigidity, and then hang on a plastic or wooden hanger. Collapse your ironing board, suck on your pinched fingers, and rejoice! Realize that you did not unplug the iron or remove it from the board before collapsing it. Stop celebrating. Retrieve iron (handle first if you can) and unplug. Decide how you will explain burnt parquet flooring to landlord. Find comfort that, if called before a judge in small claims court, at least you have a decent shirt to wear. The Van Damme Way!

Negotiating a Raise The Van Damme Way!

A quick checklist:

  • You’ve worked there a long time
  • You are underappreciated
  • You’ve figured out the ultimate time-saving route to the office, shaving precious minutes off your commute and, as such, are reluctant to find another job
  • Boss still calls you “Skip”

That sounds like one bullshit workplace environment. You have but two choices: find another job or get yourself a raise. Otherwise you’ll resent every second you spend crunching numbers or making deals or whatever the hell it is you do. Plus, nothing dries up a vagina quite like a low annual wage (other than a cigarette habit or approaching menopause). You don’t want to spend the rest of your life in a crappy bachelor apartment. Do you?

Assuming the answer is “no” (and assuming that you are straight because, seriously, what self-respecting gay man would live in a bachelor apartment?), an increased salary not only improves your bottom-line but will do wonders for your self-worth and your value in the dating market. You’ve put in your time, and you’re hardly ever late on consecutive middle-of-the-week days. Goddammit, you deserve this!

Hold on there, pal. You don’t just kick in your boss’ office door and make demands. What, do you think you’re some guy named “Skip”? You have to consider your approach, and that is determined by many factors such as on-the-job performance, personal comfort zone and kicking ability.

The Ninja Way

You are a quiet performer, content to put your nose to the corporate grindstone and get shit done without tooting your own horn (or keeping track of your metaphors). Essentially, calling you a “ninja” is a nice way of saying you’re a wimp, a complete train wreck of masculinity. That’s OK. You’ve still got options and I’ll talk you through them, ensuring that I don’t make any sudden movements that might startle and cause you to pee in your pants. You disgust me, you pathetic, supine, wormy little wastrel.

First, you have to believe in yourself! Make a list of your accomplishments and be ready to present yourself as the hero of any anecdote. Remember that time you screwed up the courage to ask out that girl with all the piercings in the mailroom? She didn’t laugh and make you lick glue off the floor—you took her out and totally banged her.

Think tales of conquest have no place in the workforce? You need to show your boss that you’re a guy who gets results, and if that means bragging about fictional yet meaningless sex, then so be it.

Who am I kidding? You’ll just rewrite an email thirty times asking for a raise and never send it, so I’m wasting my time on you. Jesus, you make me want to puke.

The Kumite Way

This is for the employee who makes the effort to play the game: knowing the boss’ middle name, his wife’s favorite dish, what sports his kids play. You see yourself as a player, but everyone else thinks you are the world’s biggest brown noser. So what? They don’t have to pay your phone-tapping and spy camera bills.

You know asking for a raise is a battle and like any warrior stepping into the ring, you know that preparation is the key. Before you step into this corporate Circle of Death prepare by arming yourself with the ordnance of information:

  • Is the company financially healthy enough to pay for a raise? Best times to ask are after the announcement of record quarterly earnings, post cash infusion from outside investors, or when the boss is drunk
  • Stay alert to unannounced signs of liquidity, such as office renovations: use this as an ice-breaker for your request, i.e. “Who the hell chooses pastels and beads of neon—a set designer from Miami Vice? Since we’re throwing money away…”
  • Understand how you are perceived in the office: has that nasty public indecency rap from the Christmas party blown over yet? Underline the substantive difference between “moral turpitude” and “acquitted due to flood in evidence room”

One of the cornerstones of successful negotiation is possessing information that your opponent does not. Knowing your own style of underwear is not sufficient and points out a recurring flaw with this tactic. I say that more important is the possession of information that your opponent does not know you have. You’ve spent enough time hacking your boss’ email and having him shadowed by a private detective. Ask for your raise and slide a lurid snapshot of his affair with that dreadlocked white guy at the pet food store. Given enough time, you should be able to write your own cheques.

However, if your boss is stronger than all that or in an open relationship with his wife, you can always rely on persistence: if you do not receive your pay increase, refuse to leave the office. The discussion isn’t over until you get what you want or get dragged from the room like a beaten man pulled from the Kumite. In this case it will likely be in the form of a security guard and not a crooked Asian corner man. Also, instead of it happening after a bloody beating, this will probably end with one in the company parking lot. Try not to get blood on the guard’s pant leg: he makes a pitiful wage and is responsible for his own uniform.

The Van Damme Way!

Kick the door in and make demands. If you don’t get a pay raise, consider negotiating for perks such as an extra week of vacation or a company cell phone. There’s no shame in that.


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