The military has them. Corporate business, too. Hell, even classroom teachers have a quasi-version thereof. In my day, we called them “tests.” But nowadays that harsh term has given way to the less threatening label “evaluation.” (FYI, heartless bitch that I apparently was, I also used *GASP* a red pen to grade papers. Thank goodness, teachers of the 21st century have seen the grievous error of those draconian 20th century ways. Now cognizant and conscious of students’ fragile feelings, they opt for less damaging-to-self-esteem colors such as mindful magenta and tender teal. Uhhh . . that would be S-A-R-C-A-S-M!) And I do digress. (Yeah. I do.) Back to the subject at hand . . .
The military uses the term “After-Action Report.” In fact (and as a useless piece of trivia), the very first AARs were developed waaaaay back by army generals, with one of the first (and supposedly best) being Julius Caesar’s “Commentaries on the Gallic Wars.” Keeping the concept (and initials), modern CEOS, workplace managers and government bureaucrats prefer the more touchy-feely nomenclature “review.” Occasionally, however, someone somewhere will strive to reinvent the wheel. In these instances, ye olde AAR is called an AAR/IP (improvement plan.) But regardless of what they are called (a rose is a rose is a rose), their purpose remains the same since Cleo’s paramour penned his on papyrus in the century before Christ.
After-Action Reports or Reviews (tomato/tomahto) are analyses of a past event whereby performance is assessed and decisions re-assessed for the purpose of considering possible alternatives to improve future endeavors. In other and shorter words, it’s a feedback tool to identify and correct what is euphemistically referred to in Businessspeak as “problematic elements.” (Oh, please! Why can’t we just call it what it is? It’s a fuck-up that needs to be fixed for the next time!) Jules explained such reasoning thus: “Experience is the teacher of all things.”
The argument of terminology aside, AARs typically have 4 components, colorfully (and grammatically inaccurately) displayed in the graphic that introduces this post. (I found it online under Goggle images and couldn’t resist . . . To bastardize Shakespeare’s Richard III . . . “A pen! A pen! My kingdom for a red pen!” Side note: People, is it so hard? The plural form of a noun DOES NOT have an apostrophe! Verb tenses do exist for a reason–use them! And I’m not even going to touch on the fact that “learnings” isn’t even a real fucking word . . . See what happens when you spare feelings and red pens?) Ok, rant over. Let’s return once again to the subject at hand. An AAR asks:
- What happened?
- What was supposed to happen?
- Why what happened happened?
- What are the learnings from what happened? (yeah, I’m just going with it. You know . . . pick your battles . . .)
Proponents tout an AAR’s value and applicability in countless situations . . . for any small or large, simple or complex project/event, operation, endeavor or incident, including, but not limited to: natural disasters, public works, sporting events, training, seminars, deployments, VIP meetings and conferences. So . . . if AARs are such a time-proven tool for effectively assessing a completed project’s/event’s/incidence’s/endeavor’s success or failure, here’s a thought . . .
Ladies, who among you wishes there was an After-Action Report for ended relationships? (I DO! I DO!) Think about it. Wouldn’t it be beneficial and actually helpful to know what went wrong? When and where the failures were? And whose? In order the avoid making the same fucking mistakes AGAIN?
Consider the possibilities of such an instrument of evaluation I am hereby naming an ARR (After-Relationship Report). Like its inspiration, an ARR will ask “What the fuck went wrong?” (yeah, I added the “fuck”–’cause sometimes you just gotta) Herein we would examine the subtopics of “What was supposed to happen?” and “What did actually happen?” Specific questions to be answered might (should) include the following:
- Were the goals held by each participant at the relationship’s onset mutual or at odds? (For example, was he merely just expecting a fuck, while she anticipated feelings?)
- Were the goals held by each party clearly defined to the other?
- Were these goals and expectations not only mutually understood, but agreed upon before any action commenced?
- If the goals were clearly outlined and mutually agreed upon prior, what subsequent actions took place to cause a deviation from the negotiated course?
- When and under what circumstances did the aforementioned digressions occur?
- And by whom? (In other words, who failed to adhere to the plan?) Was only one party at fault? Or did both parties participate in the meltdown?
- Were warning signs evident? Describe them.
- Was any attempt made to realign the misdirection after identifying it?
- What were the actions (if any) undertaken in order to “dial it back?”
- On a scale of 1 – 10 (with 10 being the highest) how would you rate the success of these attempts?
- What steps might have been taken that could have been more successful? (ie commencing re-alignment actions earlier or decreasing time spent together or lessening the number and/or scope of sexual interactions)
- Did the ending party communicate said end in a timely fashion or respectful way? If not, why not? (Please note this question will likely have but only one answer. See paragraph * after next.)
The second objective of the ARR tackles the topic “How to NOT make the same fucking mistake again.” Note: This segment is much briefer than the previous. Essentially it consists of answering one question and then taking appropriate actions to correct the problematic elements identified. To wit . . .
- Have you identified any personal behavior — or worse, a pattern of behavior– in the first objective that is a contributing factor? If you have answered “no,” then sorry. This concludes the exercise. You are fucked and men just suck.
However, if you were able to answer “yes” proceed to the next step.
- Whatever it is, stop doing it! Period. Possibles actions (but not all) could include the following
- Stop trusting without cause.
- Stop making excuses for the red flags you clearly see, but are choosing to ignore.
- Stop wasting time on a lost cause by thinking you can “fix” or change him. This means, stop counting on the potential you believe might be there. Let the reality of who he is add up to the zero he is now. In other words, stop hearing hoof-beats and hoping for a zebra. Speaking of stripes –or spots — trust me (voice of experience speaking now) the bastard isn’t going to change his. Which leads us to the number #1 action you can take to prevent making the same mistake . . .
- In crudest terms . . . honey, you got a pecker-picking problem! And please hold your outrage. I mean no offense. (Besides, it takes one to know one. I’ll be the first to admit I picked a prick.) So, stop picking the same fucking man who just happens to have a different face or name! You know whereof I speak. And most of us are guilty of it, so pick a different type, look, personality . . . Trust me. The characteristics that draw you are probably the ones that doom you. I know whereof I speak! Me . . . arrogance, cocksureness, swagger . . . yeah . . . drawn and doomed. EVERY TIME.
Alas, there are 2 problems in my concept of an ARR and this very tongue-in-check post.
*The first is that in order for the damn thing to work, a AAR or ARR requires the participation and input of all parties involved. Good luck with that! Most (and I’m being generous, ’cause my heart-held contention is ALL) men don’t even possess the balls and respect for us to TELL us it’s over. Much less be willing to divulge their whys and how comes by contributing an explanation and recommendation for future improvement. Correct me (please!) if your experience is different, but mine is this: They fade, Caspar, disappear, dismiss, dump and ignore. Yeah . . . real brave. And should the bastard deign to discuss the matter with you, ala his asking, “Are we really going down this road?” (“Yeah, we are, fucker. We are.”) be prepared, ladies! He is going to lay the blame at your feet! Regardless of his own words, deeds or actions, you are the one who mistook them to mean more than he intended. In fact, a majority of men today utilize the same manner of instant dismissal. It’s a handy little phrase that acts as relationship Wite-Out, conveniently and completely erasing everything THEY said or did. It’s a 2-in-one, 3-word statement of finger-pointing at you and absolution of them. (Ok, a metaphorical show of hands now if you have heard it.) “You caught feelings.”
And ta-da and voila! He’s absolved.
The second problem in the summary and recommendations phase of an AAR, that “creating a plan for improvement” for the future part, is that such presumes the desire (or need) exists for a future attempt. Some of us–a lot of us–are not interested. I’m not. I don’t care what went wrong, because I’m not risking my heart again. My faith in men in general, my instincts in particular and even my sense of self worth have been leveled. Fucker dropped a JDAM on my she-shed. So closure and answers and analyses for future endeavors don’t matter. He lied. I believed. Ergo, this bitter pecker-picker is bowing out. I’m done.
However, in the spirit of presenting both sides to an issue let me offer up Jay Shatty, a former monk turned motivational speaker/vlogger/writer/filmmaker from the UK with roots in India. You have probably seen his videos and posts on Facebook. (Seriously! The dude has over 3 million followers across the globe!) He’s good. Upbeat. Positive. Inspirational. (all the things I am not) In a recent video, he talks to relationship issues such as unrequited love. Jay maintains that just because you loved someone, believed in someone, trusted someone . . . and they betrayed that trust, belief, love . . . that doesn’t mean you stop believing and trusting in love. Love didn’t betray you. He betrayed you. The fault is not love’s. So don’t stop believing in love. It’s out there. Open yourself up to it and it will find you. Ladies, listen to him. (As I said . . . I pick my battles . . . I’m not about to argue with a guy who has whatever 3 million minus 10,000 is more viewers than I!)
It’s ironic. They say all’s fair in love and war. But it’s not fair. War gets an after-action report and a plan for improvement. And love gets . . . what? Hope? Faith? Belief? On second thought . . . maybe it’s fair after all. (And Jay is right.) ‘Cause those are a lot harder to kill . . .