A seated dinner. A conference center. I finish making a speech. I walk off stage and dodge a few airborne rotten vegetables on my way to the lobby. Which is where I meet him.

He could pass for one of my uncles. White beard, tweed jacket, big smile. He shakes my hand and holds it tight. Firm. But not ridiculously hard.

Some guys will shake your hand firm enough to crush it. There used to be a guy in our church who would shake hands so hard you could hear the bones in your knuckles break. Whenever I saw him coming I would run and hide behind a qualified church organist for protection.

But there was no escaping church handshakes. Eventually I would have to shake his hand. So I would always shake it firm and look him in the eye.

Because that’s just how guys are.

Which raises a very important point that has nothing to do with this column. Most women don’t understand how hard it is being male. Men are expected to adhere to all sorts of gender-specific behaviors that make no sense. Shaking hands with a death-grip is only one of those things. Putting the toilet seat down is another.

The toilet-seat issue is a hot-button topic for married people. Women tell their husbands to put the seat down. But men keep forgetting and leaving it up every time they’re finished (ahem) shaking the dew off the lily.

World wars have been fought over this issue. Monarchies have fallen. But I want to set the record straight.

Ladies, if your male counterpart keeps leaving the toilet seat up, you ought to be glad. Because I have good news: This means he cares.

Any man who LIFTS the seat before using the toilet is being considerate. If he didn’t love you, he would leave it down. Lifting the seat means that your male has been raised right. And more importantly, it means that he knows what would happen if he DIDN’T lift the seat.

You (the lady) would see a defiled toilet seat, then you’d be so horrified that you’d file for divorce and move in with your sister in Prattville who drives you nuts, which would cause you to feel listless and disconnected and you would take up heavy drinking, thereby spiraling downward until you started hanging out in dimly lit bars that play honky-tonk songs like, “Lookin’ For Love In All The Wrong Places.”

There, some hopeless bar fly would ask you to dance. A guy who doesn’t comb his hair; a guy who has NASCAR tattoos on his neck; a guy who has not had stable employment for forty years and still lets his mother do his laundry. You would marry this man because of alcohol, and because you sort of miss doing laundry. And after your wedding you would discover that this man DOES NOT lift the toilet seat like your ex-husband did. In fact, this man has worse toilet-bowl-aim than a sawed-off shotgun. So you will have to hitchhike to Canada to start a new life.

This is why good men leave the toilet seat up.

I’ve gotten a little off track here.

So my new friend and I shake hands. He introduces himself. I introduce myself. He eyes my belt buckle. He asks about it.

“What’s the story behind your belt?” he says.

My buckle has “Coors” engraved on it. The buckle is big—about the same size of the unabridged edition of “Gone With The Wind.” I wear it every day.

The story is: My father used to love Coors Banquet Beer. Back then, Coors was a big deal. Guys his age used to make all-night drives to buy entire crates of Coors because you couldn’t just buy it at any old place.

After my father took his own life, we scattered his ashes in Colorado on a mountain he loved. My life went on. I quit talking about him, quit thinking about him, and I didn’t visit him. Not until I was a grown man.

About thirty minutes after I visited his mountain grave, I went to a farmers market below the mountain. I found an old woman selling flea market junk beneath a tent. She had a fifty-dollar Coors buckle for sale, and I almost lost my composure.

“You’re not from around here, are ya?” said the lady.

“No,” I said. “Florida.”

“Long way from home.”


“See anything you like?”

“Yeah. How much for the buckle?”

“Make me an offer.”

“Thirty bucks.”

She smiled. “How about five?”

“Why so cheap?”

“You look like you really want it.”

I gave her the money. I attached it to my belt.

She said, “You must really like Coors, huh?”

“No,” I said. “But I knew a man who did.”

And I’ve been wearing it ever since.

I tell this story to my new friend. He nods. He says, “I just knew there was a story.”

Then, he shows me his own buckle. It has a pelican engraved on it. It’s magnificent. He has a story, too. Before he tells it, he bites his lip and says, “It was my son’s…” He pauses, then adds, “He died the same way your daddy did.”


We are two men. Two men in a lobby who understand each other. We are strangers, but not really. We both miss someone. So we shake hands again.

This time we shake so hard you can hear our bones crunch.

Because that’s just how guys are.


  1. Karen Greatrix - October 25, 2019 7:57 am

    I’ll try to remember your story the next time my husband leaves the toilet seat up. (And a cyber hug for the other story)

  2. Elizabeth - October 25, 2019 10:28 am

    Dang it Sean, you got me. Didn’t see that coming, now my coffee is getting all watery!

  3. Camille - October 25, 2019 10:46 am


  4. Camilla Stambaugh - October 25, 2019 11:22 am


  5. Camilla Stambaugh - October 25, 2019 11:26 am

    It’s difficult surely being male, as it is being female, just in different ways. Since I would hate being male, I guess it’s harder for you guys. The image of the wife taking off and marrying the barfly was exquisite, and the belt buckle piece broke all our hearts.

  6. Susie - October 25, 2019 12:39 pm

    It’s hard losing someone we love, no matter how they leave this earth, but God❤

  7. Shelton A. - October 25, 2019 1:04 pm

    Sometimes, meeting someone who says, “I know how you feel”, and they really do. It can lead to firm handshakes and a knowledge of shared sorrows. The good in this, is you find a person you can talk to who will truly understand. I hope you know how valuable that really is.

  8. Mary - October 25, 2019 1:35 pm

    Sweet story…even with the toilet humor. TIP: Buy one of those toilet seats that closes by itself –with just a touch. It is worth its weight in gold. (Ask my husband!)

  9. Donna - October 25, 2019 1:42 pm

    Good stuff here Sean. I appreciate the 180 turn: toilet humor—>heart buckle.

  10. Frieda Foresee - October 25, 2019 1:54 pm

    “(ahem) shaking the dew off the lily.” Priceless

  11. Christy Taylor - October 25, 2019 2:06 pm

    Loved this one. Oh my heart.

  12. Phil S. - October 25, 2019 2:36 pm

    Proper handshaking is somewhat of an art. Once you master it, it’s like riding a bicycle – you’ve got it! Firm, not soft (limp), but also not bone-crushing.
    Yeah, those were terrible times – when one had to go to conventions and seminars out west to enjoy a Coors. The days of Smoky and the Bandit. Now everybody drinks Coors Light, but you can still get the real stuff, too.
    Every time a young male family member or friend is about to get hitched, I give him this sage advice: “If you want to avoid that angry frown, always remember to put the seat back down.” This is especially important when the wife gets up during the night to use the bathroom and does not turn on the light to effectively see the john. Oh, baby!”
    Keep wearing and cherishing that buckle. I know you will.

  13. Michelle - October 25, 2019 3:37 pm

    Your writing moves me… every single day… thank you

  14. David S Doom - October 25, 2019 3:42 pm

    I have left the toilet seat down a thousand times for each time my wife has left it up for me.

  15. Linda Moon - October 25, 2019 4:25 pm

    I’ve just finished reading the memoir of the Prince of Wales who caused troubles for the Monarchy across the pond. It was not because he left the toilet seat up, however. Professor Irwin Corey couldn’t have described the married lady’s toilet seat issue and downward spiral better than you did. Colorado is a beautiful place…..been there several times. If I ever get back to those Rockies, travelling lesser roads with my husband, we’ll try to find your father’s resting place from which his ashes have beautifully blown. I know a kind young man who wears a large Coors belt buckle. He recently tried to find my daddy’s resting place. Good bone-crunching hugs from him make me love and think of my daddy. Because that’s just how truly kind that guy is!!

  16. Donnie - October 25, 2019 5:43 pm

    As always, beautiful post. You bring so much joy to others, hope you are comforted to feel some of it reflected back on you.

  17. Roger Brothers - October 25, 2019 6:00 pm

    Thanks cuz

  18. Sharon Lawson - October 25, 2019 9:45 pm


  19. Dewey Fleetwood - October 25, 2019 11:02 pm

    I really do enjoy your writing. Sometimes I think I’ll skip an article because I’m in a hurry, but I feel guilty when I think that, I’m afraid I’ll miss something poetic or whatever. The only other writer I felt the same way about was Harry Crews. Oh, and of course Dave Barry and Lewis Grizzard. I always get a laugh when I type Grizzard the spell check always recommends “gizzard” or “grizzled” I laugh because I am “grizzled” and I love “gizzards” when they are cooked tender in a white sauce with green peas. Keep on keeping on.

  20. Harriet - October 25, 2019 11:49 pm

    That kind of death is heart wrenchingly painful to deal with. Your words are healing.

  21. Ann - October 25, 2019 11:50 pm


  22. Jones - October 26, 2019 12:30 am

    Good one!

  23. Dawn Bratcher - October 26, 2019 4:36 am

    Souls connecting…💙💙

  24. Dereck in Demopolis - October 27, 2019 1:11 am

    Yes sir…suicide really hurts. I lost my brother 38 years ago and miss him. Seems as though, there is a difference in sharing your experience with someone who has been through it too, rather than those who have not.
    Heartache seems to feel a little better.

  25. throughmyeyesusa - November 9, 2019 5:56 pm

    Because I’m in medicine (I guess) I’m not afraid to discuss suicide when someone seems at risk. I exacted a promise from a depressed family member that he would never, ever, harm himself.

    He recently told me he was sorry he made that promise……but he has stuck to it…..for thirty years. Whew!

    No one ever suicides because someone else discussed it! If you are worried, bring it up! Get a promise – in writing, if necessary – that the person will not harm himself (at least without calling you first.) You could save a life….and a life of heartbreak.

    (But not if you were a child at the time, Sean; not if you were too small to know the signs or have a clue!)


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