Friday, December 21, 2007

The Buzzies, Rebutted!

Heckling Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a junior high school book report gone global. Wikipedia is the endless drone of the blind date who knows everything. Wikipedia is the source of all knowledge that is fascinating and highly suspect. I could spend years punching "random article" and reading about world-renowned basket weavers and Iranian racehorses.

But, most of all, Wikipedia is the source of sentences that absolutely crack me up. We'll start by perusing the bio of British porn star Georgette Neale, which is the funniest thing I have ever read. This sentence alone made my day:

Fans often say her physical appeal lies in her good looks, firm breasts and curvy bottom.

First off, did a survey-taker haunt the porno shops of merry olde England, asking strangers why they rented the films of Ms. Neale? And, aren't physical appeal and good looks pretty much the same thing? I like the almost clinical phrasing of "curvy bottom" to describe a porn star. We aren't exactly talking about the Queen Mum here. The entire article is priceless for its British detachment, particularly the totally non-salacious account of Ms. Neale's arrest for indecent exposure.

And for Kohllapse, an unfortunately spelled Australian "gothic-doom metal band." Wow, there's a genre I've never heard of. Let's set aside the entire existence of a gothic-doom metal band named Kohllapse and enjoy the money quote:

The band is notable for its innovative music, which was said to be ahead of its time, that combines darkwave and progressive doom metal, and the fact that they became significantly well-known in both secular and Christian metal scenes.
Innovative means "ahead of its time," meatwad. Also, darkwave sounds like something I'd do to my hair.

And the bio of film star Tiger Prabhakar:

His muscular build and good looks added to the ferocity of his roles.

Substitute "roles" for "performances" and you sort of have a coherent sentence. I also think whoever wrote this wants a slice of Tiger.

And now for my all-time favorite, from the writeup of The Day After:

During the first church services possible after the attack — in the ruins of the local church, with a makeshift cross made from scrap metal — Denise collapses and begins to menstruate uncontrollably.

Is menstruation controllable? A voluntary response? If so, I've been doing it completely wrong for nearly 20 years. I guess the other 3 billion women in the world can wake up and decide, "Y'know, today I think I'll have medium flow."

Solution: Substitute "uncontrollably" for "profusely" and it makes more sense.

And a note: Disaffected Scanner Jockey is pretty much going dark for the holidays. So happy holidays to my readers, my lovers, my haters, my hecklers, and even the commenter who thinks I'm "flapping my gob" due to my "limited intelligence." I'll see you next year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Buzzies: D.C. Nightlife Awards

I do, on occasion, spend time in places that are not bars. For example, offices, stores, friends’ apartments and sometimes even my very own home. But I like bars, because the good ones combine my three favorite things: people, music and fried food.

The Buzzy is an incredibly prestigious imaginary award I give to places where no one has ticked me off lately. Or, on occasion, to places that are so awful you can only wonder and laugh.

Best Bartender: Café Mozart, downtown. Sure, service can be a little slow, and there are never enough waitresses to go around. But Greg always notices when I change my hair (even when my friends don’t). And sometimes the cheese fries come with a delicious extra-spicy Velveeta.

Best Jukebox: Stetson’s, U Street. A nice mix of frat boy classics.

Best Discount Martini: M Street Grille, downtown. Get a girly pastel Caboodle and unicorn martini for the amazing price of $4.50.

Best Karaoke: Recessions, downtown. After a few discount vats of Michelob, what’s better than belting out “Livin’ on a Prayer” with your five new best friends? Plus, this bar has a cool James Bond vibe. You go into the basement of a hotel, past the sales and catering office, and then step into a tattered velour cavern.

Best Bar Skanks: Anywhere in Adams Morgan will do if you want to observe male and female bar skanks in their natural habitat. But for a true skank experience, go with Madam’s Organ. Gen-Y mating rituals at their finest.

Best Waitress: What’s-her-name at Red Lion. She offered to check the ladies’ room for barf before I went in. Now that’s service!

Best Patio: Beacon Bar and Grille, downtown. When it’s warm outside, there’s plenty of room for you at Beacon. I recommend the $10 Bucket ‘o Bud. Plus, the service never makes any sense, which is fun if you go in with the right attitude.

Coziest Dive: Polly’s, U Street. A good fireplace, plenty of little close-together tables for me to trip over, and beer. Though, if you go, remember that it’s cash only.

Best Irish Bar: Duffy’s, near the 930 Club. They even have halfway edible fish and chips.

Nicest Bartender: Topaz, Dupont Circle. I don’t recall her name, but she was very pleasant under very trying circumstances.

Meanest Bartender: What’s-his-name at Eighteenth Street Lounge. Seriously, could you pause the personal phone call for two seconds to take a few orders? I understand you have a personal life, but there’s a line stacking up and our booze-o-meter is running low. What’s even better is when several ESL staff people stand around gabbing and ogling women. I see that enough from Metro platform employees, I don’t need it from you.

Upscale Joint that Doesn’t Make Me Want to Puke: If I absolutely MUST dress pretty and smile nice, I’ll do it at Sonoma in Capitol Hill. A close second is Russia House in Dupont Circle.

Alright for Fighting: Asylum, Adams Morgan. Once a random dude tried to beat up my sister, the guy got hauled out and they comped our Heinekens.

Tooliest Customers: Café St.-Ex. It’s kind of beautiful, really, that all of these appalling human beings can find a place where they fit in and belong. If you want to be jostled, stomped, insulted or sneered at, St.-Ex is the place for you. Honorable Mention: The Red Room at the Black Cat. It’s like that Wooderson line about dating high school girls, “I keep getting older, but they stay exactly the same.” I keep getting older, but the Black Cat crowd is just as annoying and pushy as ever.

Coolest Customers: There are a few contenders for this, but I always make new friends at Atomic in Cleveland Park.

Best Half-Price Cheeseburger: Whitlow’s on Wilson, Arlington. Just make sure they cook it first.

Best Eavesdropping: Off the Record, in the basement of the Hay-Adams. You can learn all about the latest megabucks D.C. divorce.

Best Pool Hall: Continental, Rosslyn. It’s never crowded, which is why nobody minds if you throw darts in the exact opposite direction than the one you intended.

RIP Award: The Common Share, Adams Morgan. You were gross and skeevy and loud, but who doesn’t love a $10 pitcher of Blue Moon? Oh, Common Share, I miss you. Honorable Mention: Childe Harold, Dupont Circle. And, far too soon, Dr. Dremo’s shall follow them into dive bar Valhalla.

Sliding Scale of Breakup Suckitude

Even when a relationship doesn’t fit or isn’t for the best, breakups suck. Nobody enjoys being rejected. So, here are a variety of ways in which you can experience having your ass kicked to the curb. I’ve ranked them from least to most painful:

The Mutual Breakup: Yeah, right. Now let me hop on my purple unicorn, ride through this wardrobe over here, and spend the afternoon in Narnia. There’s no such creature – often, both parties want to break up, but there’s always one person who wants out more than the other.

The Preemptive Breakup: Your partner senses the giant cartoon anvil hovering over his head, and decides to bolt before it drops.

The So Very Mature Breakup: Both of you make a herculean effort to be happy about everything, when secretly you want to kill each other.

The Epiphany Breakup: Your partner dumps you, and you feel a (perhaps unexpected) surge of relief.

The “What Just Happened There?” Breakup: The conversation is so incredibly vague that you have no idea whether you got dumped or just bought swampland in Florida.

The Neverending Breakup: They. Just. Won’t. Stop. Calling. In an attempt to assuage his/her own guilt, your ex will call, ask for coffee, check in, and hook you in every time you’re just about to get back to normal.

The Breakup Sex Breakup: On the surface, this looks like a Neverending Breakup. The difference is that your ex is looking for a bit more than absolution: they want ex sex.

The Backdoor Breakup: Your partner acts like such a you-know-what until you finally dump him or her, thereby sparing them the pain of actually speaking up for once.

The Hypocrisy Breakup: You get dumped for having an annoying habit, not being attractive or not being ambitious enough. The funny part is that the very sort of person who does this is usually an annoying toad who lives at home.

The Double Standard Breakup: This is a particularly insidious form of the Hypocrisy Breakup, mostly conducted by men. The naked parts happen, and then you get dumped because your partner believes you are not up to his moral standards. Never mind that, uh, he was there too. Knuckle-dragging alpha males call this a “pump and dump” and beat their hairy chests in pride. Women respond by posting said male’s photo on Don’t Date Him Girl.

The Custody Battle Breakup: Before you know it, friends, hangouts and possessions are being carved up like a Thanksgiving turkey.

The Trade-Up Breakup: You’re swapped for someone younger, more attractive, richer, more successful, etc. You’ve been traded in for a newer model.

The Trade-Down Breakup: This is worse than the Trade-Up, because you’ve been replaced by someone truly dire. Cackling laugh? Stupid hair? You’ll spend hours trying to figure out what in hell this person has that you don’t. The most likely answer: they’re not as threatening and your ex has a fragile ego.

The Amelia Earhart Breakup: This is a specialty among the nonconfrontational (cowardly) type. The phone calls and emails dwindle to zero, plans become fuzzy, and, eventually, you’re single by default.

The Radio Silence Breakup: This is the most painful kind of breakup. Instead of dwindling contact, there is simply no contact at all. Eventually, you file a missing persons report and look like a total idiot for doing so. This is also the kind of breakup where your spouse goes out for a quart of orange juice…ten years ago.

In the comments section, tell me a breakup story.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Foodie or Finicky? An Open Letter

Dear Women Who Can’t Just Order and Eat,

There’s at least one of you at every restaurant I ever go to. Usually, you’re the sour-faced lady in a turtleneck, whose husband has resigned himself to a lifetime of meals that are more testy than tasty. Occasionally you’re out with friends, and you’re showing off your knowledge of food to an indifferent and twitchy audience. You’re almost always two tables away from me, but the pitch of your voice follows me wherever I go.

Please do not involve me in your wacky food issues. I do not want to be forced to overhear while you harangue the waiter about your hatred of cilantro, béchamel (whatever the heck THAT is), or farm-raised salmon.

Do not ask the waiter to recite every ingredient of every dish, unless you’d like a little DNA sample with your meal. Don’t ask for the lineage and provenance of every sauce, side, meat and salad.

No, you aren’t really allergic to parsley, parsnips or par-broiling. Claiming a raft of fictional allergies just makes life more dangerous for the people who really DO have food allergies. We all have our preferences. Pick no more than three items that you will absolutely not eat (I chose two: mayo and mushrooms). Everything else is fair game. Think of all those poor children in Africa who will never know the difference between roux and remoulade.

If you are on a diet or have special dietary needs, ask the waiter for advice. But ask in a nice way, because it's not his fault that you're diabetic or only eat grapefruit-infused cabbage dipped in parsley or can only eat beef every other Tuesday when there's a full moon.

Also, don’t swish the wine around for hours and announce that you pick up notes of wood, tomatoes, roses and elves. Either you have a miraculous nose and moonlight as a bloodhound, or you are so totally full of it.

A “foodie” is a finicky eater who likes to dress up. A gourmet is someone too old to use the term foodie, and you, my dear, are just a crazy lady with a plethora of issues stemming from the fact that nothing on this Earth is ever going to make you happy. Shut up and eat.



My Productive Weekend

I buy a Sausage McMuffin at 11:00 on a Sunday morning, while wearing a spangly cocktail dress and Saturday's makeup. I fall in love with a mediocre restaurant because the waiters behave as if they've never had a customer before in their lives. I inform a fellow partygoer that I do not judge, I merely mock. I choke with laughter when a guy my own age looks disappointed that I am not 24, and wanders off to find an actual 24-year-old. I do an interpretive dance to the techno version of Total Eclipse of the Heart. I prepare an awesome black bean and corn salsa, opt for flats, buy too many tomatoes and wash the dishes.

And I get it all done by noon on Sunday, so I can spend the rest of the weekend watching DVDs in my pajamas.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Tooltowns

Woodbridge and Washington are about 25 miles apart, but might as well be in different universes. Let me explain.

The other night, I was rolling with the hotel lounge, top shelf liquor and pinstripe segment of Washington. The men were witty, handsomely turned out, and gallant. Conversations were punctuated with flashing of handheld technotoys and the tap-tap-tap of full keyboard texting. I'm a jeans and dive bar kind of girl, but sometimes it's fun to branch out. And these guys were a blast to hang out with.

Except for one. One of the men in the group, whom I will call Toolio to protect his anonymity, was indulging in every stripe of tomtoolery. He assaulted, licked, insulted and harangued. He told me about his wife and kids, then asked if I wanted to have sex with him in the bathroom. He pawed at and proposed to the only other woman in the group (which I suppose means I'm the girl you screw in the bathroom, while she's the sort of girl you marry). He subjected everyone to verbal tirades, uncomfortable clinching, and socks in the arm. He was stupid and loud and way, way too drunk.

Much of his obnoxiousness was saved for me, because I had objected to him picking me up by the ass on our first meeting. I resisted the urge to kick him in the groin, and instead demanded that he put me down. Not wanting my ass manhandled made me a terrible person in the Toolio universe. After all, what are women for, if not to be tossed around and pawed at by total strangers? The ridiculous part was that he kept denying it, because I apparently do not know the location of my own ass. While that may be true in a figurative sense, I've had this ass for 31 years and I do in fact know when it's being grabbed. (And I think I just hit a new record for uses of the word “ass” in one paragraph, which seems fitting. Ass ass ass! Ass. Assy assy ass.)

Getting back to the story, the man was the Tooliest Tool in Tooltown. What was interesting, though, was how the other guys reacted. They spent a lot of time nervously conferring on what to do. In the meantime, Toolio was coddled and humored. My suggestion to simply have security haul him out was considered and politely overruled. Eventually a cab fare collection was taken up, and he was cajoled into going home. Just before the taxi arrived, he face-planted into the street and split his chin open, splashing blood on one of those lovely Brooks Brothers suits.

I had no problem holding my own with Toolio verbally, but there isn't much you can do about physical intimidation and manhandling when you're 5'2” like me. It may be a bit backward of me, but I do expect guys to step up to the plate and be protective. Looking out for those smaller than yourself is basic courtesy. And, on average, men are bigger than women.

Here's how the same evening would have gone down in Woodbridge: Toolio would have had his arms twisted behind his back, and he would have been bodily removed from the bar. If he resisted, he would have been drop-kicked into an gutter and told to sleep it off. Or they'd dump him into the bed of a pickup truck, and he would have woken up half-naked in the middle of one of Woodbridge's three trailer parks with “Tool” scribbled across his chest in permanent marker.

Conclusion: nobody does chivalry like a Hoodbridge redneck gangsta.

In the comments section, tell me what your hometown boys would have done to Toolio.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Here, Fishy Fishy...

...I've got a barrel and a rifle!

This week has been noteworthy for the posts I didn't write. Sometimes, it's just way too easy. Like the invitation I received from Date Lab that misspelled my last name (S-T-A-M-E-Y, people!). The obvious form letter told me they would allot $125, pick a restaurant and "wait for sparks to fly." As my friend Sudhir pointed out, this must mean they're hooking me up with a blacksmith or a welder. (No, I'm not doing Date Lab, mostly because the idea of getting paid to go on a date makes me feel like Deborah Jeane Palfrey's Employee of the Month.)

The Date Lab legal release is another fish-meet-barrel essay. It incoherently informs me that my participation may expose me to public ridicule. This would totally be my fault because the Post doesn't have to adhere to standards of ethical journalism or balanced reporting or anything silly like that. It's a hoot, but not quite as fun as the Amazing Race release. That one says that if you get decapitated or eaten by cannibals, the dog ate their homework and a temp must have been answering phones that day.

The third fish in the barrel is the guy in the bar who asked if he could "throw my cat" in the washroom. As I am no longer hip to the lingo, it took me a while to figure out that we were NOT talking about an actual feline. I could devote an entire blog to That Guy, The King of That Guys.

The fourth fish is my torrid and occasionally unfortunate love affair with bourbon. The fifth is my new haircut, the sixth is my hatred of BlackBerrys and all things beepy and shiny, and the seventh is my formula for winding up in the BlogLog.

So, instead I'm being coy. Have a great weekend, folks.

P.S. Didja get what "throw the cat" means yet? Good. If you're ready to douse yourself in bleach, the line forms to the right.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Imaginary Conversation with a So-Called Dating Guru

A prankster signed me up for David DeAngelo's dating newsletter. This is a newsletter intended for men. To be exact, for men who insult and offend women until they're so crushed that they put out (but DeAngelo calls it being "Cocky and Funny.") Every day, this guy offers "tricks," advice on how to have "an unfair advantage," and offers strategies on time management (aka, the juggling of multitudinous virtually identical bubbleheaded girly girls).

But now, there's a golden opportunity to learn from The Man himself:

Hey man, I'm going to be doing a one-of-a-kind, very advanced dating training program, probably starting in January. It's going to combine in-person training, home-study components, and intensive exercises...all over a period of several weeks.

There's way too much wrong with this. The mind boggles, then it scrabbles and monopolies. I'm going to zero in on the "intensive exercises." Beer can curls? One-handed bra unclasping? High-speed phone number jotting?

I had to cancel my "Ultimate Man" program because I wound up getting too busy with other projects...and now I've decided to expand it and make it far MORE powerful than it was...

So now you can be the Ultimately Ultimate Man! And fight crime with the Justice League!

Nothing like this has ever been done before, combining accelerated learning techniques, fast-track reprogramming, and my newest concepts (that will truly take you to the next level with women faster than anything you've ever experienced)... along with the top experts in the world... all in one place.

Reprogramming? Isn't that what you do to people after they've left a cult? So isn't this more of a re-deprogramming? And I'm glad something will take you to the next level with women faster than anything you've experienced...especially if all you've experienced in tequila-infused groping at Sigma Chi's fall semiformal.

Since I'm only going to be doing it this program one time (and since I haven't done any live dating programs in over two years), it's probably going sell out almost instantly.

Led Zeppelin, The Police, Hannah Montana...David DeAngelo. Wow. This guy sure has the Cocky part down, but so far I haven't seen the Funny.

If you'd be interested in enrolling in the program, then do me a quick favor...

Shoot yourself.

Take this quick survey that I've set up, and tell me what YOU would like to LEARN in a training like this one.

I'd like to learn why men feel compelled to go to intensive (and expensive) seminars when they could just talk to women like they're, y'know, people.

I'll put you on a special "early priority" list, and give you the first chance to enroll... when it opens up.

Oooh! I'm on the waitlist for the cool kids' table!

One thing: Be honest with me. I really want to know what's on your mind...

That you're a pathetic weirdo that overstates the importance of snaring the ladies? I can create the best possible program for you.

Oh, I must have glossed over that part. The best possible program for me would be no program at all. I live in D.C. and we already have a surplus of egomaniacs and manipulative twits.

Again, this will only be happening ONCE... and will likely be the only live dating program I'll do in 3 years... so go take this quick 5-minute survey, and add yourself to the early-notification list:

Ultimate Man

I just can't get over the name. Ultimate Man! Superhero? Aftershave? Herbal supplement?

Also, the "quick five-minute survey" kills me. Granted, some things that take only five minutes can feel like an eternity (like sex with a DeAngelo disciple, I'd imagine). Still, it's a stupid redundancy.

I'll talk to you soon,
David D.

Not if I talk to you first!

Standard Wear and Tear

If you're a regular reader of advice columns, you start to think that every problem of humanity falls into one of five categories:

1. I don't love or like this person any more. How do I make them just disappear without confrontation or feeling bad about myself in any way?
2. I love or like this person, how do I tell them without any possible negative consequences?
3. I'm related to a pack of weirdos, how do I force them to change?
4. My husband is a slob.
5. My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/partner is totally porking out, what should I do?

The answers to #1 and #2 involve speaking up and taking the consequences. Number 3, you can't control them, so control your reactions to them. And, number 4, take some of the husband's plasma TV budget and put it towards a once-a-week housekeeper.

I'll go into more detail for Number 5. Let me point out that I am not bashing anyone for their weight, declaring that everyone should be a size negative 6 Petite or declaring that people should all go on extreme fad diets. I have only nice things to say about Jennifer Love Hewitt's bottom. What I'm talking about is a particular relationship dynamic that happens when one person dramatically changes their appearance.

I believe that long-term relationships come with a wear-and-tear clause. When you rent an apartment, you promise to keep the place in a similar condition to the way you found it. Allowances are made for floor scuffs, dull paint, and a few stains on the carpet. Throwing bowling balls into the kitchen island or torching the ugly wall-to-wall will be deducted from your security deposit. Improvements are welcome and will be deducted from the rent.

Relationships work the same way. You have an obligation to keep yourself in a similar condition as to when your partner signed your lease. Both partners should allow for the wear and tear of pregnancy, illness, or just plain old not being 23 any more. Gray hairs, fine lines, and extra padding are all part of life. Your wife won't always be a hot college coed, nor is it fair to heap that sort of expectation on her. Self-esteem is cheaper than Botox.

Weight gain or loss, or really any dramatic change, introduces a new dynamic into a relationship. Very few people gain weight overnight (usually, it happens in increments until one day it's time to buy new pants). Usually, the other person bleats about health concerns. I'm sure that's part of it, but that's not all of it.

The way we look has an enormous impact upon the world. If you don't believe me, try and get into Eighteenth Street Lounge while wearing your rattiest pajamas. I wish we could all be seen as beautiful souls housed in extraneous flesh capsules, but that's not how it works. I try not to judge on appearances, but at the same time I go nuts when someone wears a baseball cap in a restaurant.

S0 when your partner does something dramatic to their appearance, things get murky. After all, you're supposed to love them for who they are and ignore the extraneous flesh capsule. On the other hand, we're all a bit shallow. On the other other hand, it's a health issue. And on the other other other hand (I'm a regular octopus today!), anything you say is going to hurt.

Here's my recommended approach: "Your appearance has changed a lot lately. I know that what's inside can be reflected on the outside, so is there anything you want to talk to me about?" Then shut up. See what they say. This isn't about you, after all. It never was.

I've had significant others approach me about weight gain, weight loss, that time I wound up with an accidental mullet, or an unfortunate slobby baggy sweater phase. Done poorly, it's a slap in the face. Done right, it can bring you closer together.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vehicular Nostalgia and a Very Cherokee Christmas

I’m having a Cherokee Christmas this year. This means many things: my dad, my uncle, assorted relatives, and an alcohol-free Indian casino with abundant video poker. It also means that I’m going to have to drive to get there.

I have a somewhat checkered history when it comes to cars. I don’t own a car. I haven’t driven since October of last year. I’ve never been in an accident, and I have not received a ticket in over ten years. It’s rare that I make anyone panic when riding with me. I am neither absurdly aggressive, nor one of those people that causes accidents by chickening out of left turns at the last possible second. My biggest drawback is spatial relations. I can’t park straight, I can’t parallel park at all, and I usually wind up at least ten feet away from the window when I use a drive-through.

In short, I’m not exactly an expert when it comes to motor vehicle operation.

My first car was a white two-door Nissan Sentra. I used to do my math homework while driving to high school, with one knee jammed under the steering wheel and my notebook across my lap. I was usually done by the time I got to the hairpin turn at the intersection of Hoadly and Spriggs. If not, I was out of luck. This may also be why I had to repeat Algebra II. (Incidentally, a major step in Woodbridge’s ascension to suburbia was taking winding old country roads, straightening them out, and then tossing in a hairpin turn at the very end.)

I got my first ticket for doing 64 in a 40, also on Hoadly Road, the center of my bad driving universe. My justification was that it was a really nice new road and the speed limit was far too low. Then I cried. (Which, by the way, doesn’t work.) The worst part was that I was supposed to be coming home from a different part of town, which totally busted me with my mom. I hadn’t been where I was supposed to be.

In college, I learned how to drive partial stick shift. As in, I would operate the wheel and the pedals while a friend operated the gear shift. I learned a valuable life lesson, and he avoided DUI. By this time, my Sentra had developed a leak that would cause green water to slosh into the back seat whenever I braked too hard. I patched a muffler hole with a McNugget, I replaced my busted taillight with yellow cellophane, and I used control top pantyhose as a tow rope.

I received a ticket for illegal right on red, but the judge forgave it because he didn’t know that right on red was illegal at that intersection. I had as many as eight bumper stickers on my car at any given time. Most had feminist slogans or punchy one-liners like, “The road to hell is paved with Republicans.” You would think this would make my car stand out like an angel in a whorehouse, but let me remind you this was Chapel Hill.

I used to love road trips. I went to DC to see friends, I drove to the beach to stick my feet in the ocean, and I went to South of the Border to buy high-octane fireworks. My uncle gave me a CB, which I used for onboard entertainment. My handle was Vixen, my sister’s was Princess. The most important thing I learned from trucker chat was that the only thing that doesn't arrive by truck is a newborn baby.

Eventually, I sold the Sentra to my sister. I bought an old, beat-up Acura Integra hatchback from a sheriff’s son out in Waynesville. I talked the price down by $1,000, paid in cash, named it Delilah, and took it home. It didn’t look like much, but, boy, was it a fun car. Its maximum speed was 110 (which my sister found out on I-95, which is why I will never again take a nap while she is driving).

The Acura eventually died. I never drove it after I moved to D.C., the plates expired, and I even locked myself out one day. I paid a gentleman $10 to break into the car with a coat hanger. He showed his young son how to do it, which made me feel proud to be part of an important family moment. My boyfriend at the time replaced the battery, but no luck. Delilah was dead.

I sold the car to a Xando barista for $600, she towed it away and handed it over to her mechanic boyfriend to fix it up. I still sometimes see the Acura parked in Old Town Alexandria. I had no car, my license eventually expired, and I just plain forgot how to drive. As I never needed to drive, it didn’t matter. I became so mass transit-centric that it felt funny to be inside or even near cars.

Then I got married and moved away. When we came back, we bought a Subaru Forester named Lance. And, suddenly, I needed to know how to drive. I took the Alabama learner’s permit exam with a group of pregnant teenagers. A week later, after a few testy driving lessons, I took the road test. I almost ran over a dog, but the tester excused it and I was once again a licensed driver.

I drove in Sarajevo, because you can’t pass up the combo of all-wheel drive and diplomatic immunity. Mostly I drove to work and back, because my ex wasn’t comfortable with me driving on Bosnia’s rural mountain roads (in all fairness, I wasn’t totally comfortable, either). I had to nudge Gypsy squeegee kids out of the way with my bumpers every time I drove down Alipasina to the embassy. Occasionally, wheeled dumpsters would break free and skitter across Sarajevo’s icy gray streets.

The day before I returned to Washington, I decided to drive myself to the NATO base in Butmir to pick up some magazines and treats for the flight. I got lost. Worse, I got lost in the Republika Srpska (Serb Republic), where road signs are rare and the ones they do have are in the Cyrillic alphabet. I got there eventually, guided by Butmir Airport’s control tower. I returned home, and left the car behind when I left Sarajevo.

I’ve been car-free ever since. My dad offered me use of his car while he’s overseas, I turned him down. Car ownership goes against my love of simple living. I don’t want the hassle or the expense. But I’m looking forward to my Christmas road trip. I’m guessing there will be traffic, I’m sure I’ll have to do at least part of the trip at night, and I’m almost positive I’ll get lost. But it’ll be worth it to crank the music and be in my own mobile world for 529 miles of mountains and Waffle Houses.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Skeevy Men, Volume 2: Nightlife Edition

Washington’s bar scene offers an amazing array of skeeviness. So, back by popular demand, we have Skeevy Men, the Sequel. And the usual disclaimer: I pretty much think that men rock. This is all meant in good fun.

Any Girl Will Do Guy: This guy will hit on your friend, realize she’s unavailable or uninterested, and move on to you. The best part is that, while he is cravenly pursuing anything with ovaries, he is utterly convinced that he is slick and that you are not even remotely on to him. Any Girl Will Do Guy, we know your shtick. We keep you around for the free drinks and to see exactly how many of us you’ll try to pick up over the course of the evening.

Nonsensical Compliment Guy: No, I am not a hand model, gymnast or standup comedian. These are my real cheekbones, I don’t do yoga, and I really, really wish you’d talk to me like I’m an actual person with feelings and ideas.

Gamester Guy: This is the guy that reads “seduction” literature and uses “techniques” to “pursue and attain” the “woman of his choice.” Now, I get that men have to hit on women, because otherwise the human race would die out. But since most of these “seduction techniques” involve creating false intimacy and the use of cheap manipulation to get women into bed, it’s skeevy.

Expert at Everything Guy: Wow, he’s smart. He knows everything you could ever possibly want to know. If you order a beer, he’ll tell you to go with a fancy specialty version instead. If you play pool, he will hover the entire time and tell you which shot to make and why. Your jukebox selections are vastly inferior, you are not wise to the ways of darts, and you don’t know enough about fine wines. Clearly, what you are supposed to do is date the Expert so some of his brilliance will rub off on you.

I’m Really Very Shy Guy: This guy pretends that he is totally out of his element, and has never been to a bar before in his life. Really, he’s hoping the wounded puppy routine will hook a few phone numbers (and perhaps unhook a few bras). He’ll also probably tell you he’s a feminist, a lesbian trapped in a man’s body, or that his last girlfriend dumped him for an alpha male meathead. After 20 minutes of I’m Really Very Shy Guy, you’ll be looking for a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal of your very own. I think I’m Really Very Shy Guy is a plant so that Gamester Guy can round up a few more conquests.

Mortgage Man: He’s not just a guy, he’s a man! And why’s that? Because he has a mortgage. And he’ll tell you about his mortgage as fast as he can, to differentiate himself from those pathetic beta male renters. After two drinks, you’ll hear about his 401(k), and if you stick around for three, you’ll learn all about his plans for early retirement. Stay until last call and he’ll rework your stock portfolio and set you up with a 529 plan for your nonexistent children.

In the comments section, tell me about the skeeviest thing you ever did in a bar. Or just pay me a really nonsensical compliment.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Failure is the Fun Part

I’m not one of those people that needs to be good at everything. I don’t think achievement is really the point.

In fact, I like being bad at stuff. My proudest academic achievement was the "D" I got in Econ 10, because it was more work than any "A" I had ever received. I can’t sing, operate lighters without hurting myself, cook anything which requires measuring, or parallel park. It takes me over an hour to eat with chopsticks. I’m also the worst bowler in the world. In fact, I once threw myself down a bowling lane. Backwards. If it’s klutzy, foolish, or weird, I’ve probably done it. Once by accident, and the second time on purpose.

This week, however, has been a high point for personal incompetence. In list form (because today I’m bad at narrative) here’s a random sampling of this week’s mistakes:

1. Went to work dressed in a discount bin roadkill/crazy homeless lady outfit. At least it’s better than the time I went to work as a naughty schoolgirl.
2. Trimmed my own bangs. Right before bed. With fingernail clippers.
3. Used a diamond earring to pay for coffee. Not on purpose, but I had put my earrings in the change compartment of my wallet because I’d lost the backing to one, and was afraid of losing it. It must have fallen out while I was digging out change. Sometimes the universe is HILARIOUS.
4. Misdirected three phone calls in a row.
5. Face-planted on a Metro escalator. On the left side, no less, so I was almost trampled by a horde of commuters in tacky white sneakers.

I don’t think failure is so bad. Perhaps it’s the years of practice. But I don’t find it to be the end of the world if I’m not good at something. I think it’s impossible to grow if you simply do the things you know you can handle.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

If You Keep Score, Nobody Wins

While the Foreign Service life is no longer mine to complain about, I do follow the events and issues. The potential of directed assignments to Iraq brought out a litany of “wussy diplomat” complaints, comparisons to “the troops” who endure much greater suffering than diplomats, and so on. If a diplomat is going to be forced to spend a year in Iraq without family or security training, well, that’s sad. But the benefits and bonus pay are good, and it’s only for a year instead of the standard fifteen month deployment. So it's better to be a diplomat than a soldier.

I’m not going to delve into foreign policy, because I don’t know or care enough. But it’s a good jumping-off point for what I do want to talk about.

I find it very tiresome when people play “Problem Poker.” In school, if I had three hours of homework, someone else would see my three hours and raise me a school play rehearsal. The game would continue until someone folded. And that dynamic continued into my adult life: someone else always has it better, and someone else always has it worse. If I’m broke, someone else is looking at foreclosure or swarms of locusts.

After all, if life looks a little rough for a friend, then why not offer a little perspective? Compare that bad day on the job to the troops, starving kids in Africa, the homeless, slavery, or even the Holocaust. Those are cruelly unethical responses: how can someone respond to an invocation of sacred suffering without being a complete and total jerk? (“My boss is meaner than a drought in Ethiopia!”)

Most people know they’re lucky. Most people know that life can turn on them in an instant, and they should appreciate what they have. The world is big and scary, and we each do what we can to make it smaller and safer. Reinforcing that point is, well, pointless.

Things can always be worse, and, yes, they can also get better. If you insist on keeping score, no one is ever going to win. If all you can offer is perspective, you aren’t offering anything at all. Next time, try compassion.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

All the DateLabs Ever, Here in One Post

I have an unholy obsession with the Washington Post's DateLab. I even applied, and then tried to get my friend John to apply to see if we’d get set up with each other (free $125 meals are best shared with friends, vs. potentially creepy strangers). Every Friday morning, when the Sunday inserts arrive, I tear into the Magazine to see what happened this week.

I don’t know why I bother. The same thing happens every week. Every. Frickin’. Week. Both daters are overgrown valedictorians who believe they have high standards, but really suffer from outrageously unreasonable expectations. Plus the guy is usually overly flirtatious and skeevy and the woman is ineptly masking her own insecurities with iciness and pickiness.

So, here’s every DateLab ever, condensed into one blog post.

Shannon's DateLab

Today’s couple is Joe and Sue. Joe is a 32-year-old World Bank lawyer and kickball team captain, and his type is Angelina Jolie. Except with blond hair, a much nicer rack, and a love of obscure 1970s football players. Joe says that he is established, successful, and limber. When asked to describe his dating life as a TV show, he says it’s like a sitcom where all of the women he dates go nuts and dump him after three months because he never calls them back, but that’s clearly the fault of the women he dates.

Sue is a 28-year-old feminist scholar and part-time auto mechanic. Her type is a 6’3” Jewish/Hindu lawyer with wavy brown hair, with a mere speckle of blond highlights. He should be financially secure, like puppies, and enjoy crochet. Sue says she is a great cook, opinionated, attractive, and looking to settle down with her totally perfect soulmate sometime in the next six months. She describes her dating history as a bodice-ripping romance novel, except without bodices, romance, or the disturbing presence of Fabio.

And, now, to the date:

Corduroy, Downtown Washington, 7:30 pm

Joe: I got to the restaurant on time, and sat down. When the hostess led Sue over, I could tell it wouldn’t work. She was far too old, my last girlfriend was 22 and had an ass you could bounce quarters off of. But Sue had a nice smile and was wearing a cool shirt.

Sue: I thought Joe was really handsome, but there was this one freckle over his left eyebrow that really bothered me. At first I thought it was a mole, but no, it was a freckle. I don’t like freckles. They're a total dealbreaker.

Joe: We ordered appetizers and talked about ourselves. I asked her a bunch of questions but she didn’t really respond.

Sue: Joe asked what sort of underwear I had on. I didn’t really know how to respond to that.

Joe: I kept trying to draw her out, but she was really icy and rude.

Sue: He would not let go of the underwear question.

Joe: We started talking about hobbies, and that went a lot better. We both like kickball, and talked about kickball right up until the desserts arrived. I was a little upset that Sue had ordered dessert, from the state of her thighs she didn’t really need it.

Sue: I wasn’t sure about the way Joe was holding his fork. Just a little too much of an angle, and if a man mishandles a fork it’s a huge red flag for me. I mean, does that mean he’d drop a baby?

Joe: We wrapped up the dinner, and I could tell there really wasn’t much chemistry.

Sue: After the date, I was really worried he’d go in for a kiss. But he kind of hugged me with one arm and then walked away. I was a little offended, I mean, why didn’t he carry me to the Metro on his shoulders? I didn’t ask him to, but he should have known.

Update: Joe drunk-dialed Sue, but no response. “There wasn’t enough chemistry for even a pity screw,” says Sue. Joe counters, “It wasn’t meant to be. Sue wasn't fun enough for me. I guess I’ll go back to cruising sorority houses.”

Chillin' at the College Bar

Friday evening, I had a girls' night out at the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington holiday concert at Lisner Auditorium. (My friend Sean was the dancer in the fur coat in the Christmas Carol segment, if any of y'all went.) Afterwards, we decided to go out for a drink. We wound up at Red Lion because 1. the other option was a TGIFriday's, and 2. the other option was a TGIFriday's.

So, there we were, a bunch of 30-somethings and almost-30-somethings, hanging out at the college bar. I was gratified to find out that the cast of characters hadn't changed in the last ten years. There was the guy in the ski hat who kept hugging people. The not-attractive couple fondling each other at the bar. The dude who ran around telling all of us that if he could get the whole bar to sing "Another One Bites the Dust," his ex-roommate would pick up his next round. (I found the "ex-roommate" distinction pretty funny - I mean, why not just refer to the guy as your friend?) And, best of all, a very articulate part-time Hooters girl and her well-mannered date, stopping in for a nightcap after a sorority semiformal. The guy called me a "cougar," a term which used to refer to women over 40 who pursue much younger men, but now apparently refers to any woman old enough to rent a car and who is occasionally in the presence of younger men.

The service was outstanding. Our waitress offered to check the ladies' room for vomit before I went in. Who cares about amuse-bouches at Citronelle when you can have a personal barf scout? And Red Lion had its touches of upscale - like the "deconstructed nachos" and the, uh...deconstructed nachos.

But, much like the time in my life where I hung out at the Red Lions of Chapel Hill, all good things must come to an end. My hint that it was time to exit? The sorority girl/Hooters waitress inflated a Magnum ribbed condom and began batting it around the room. Check, please!