Thursday, January 31, 2008

Another One Blogs the Dust

We've lost another blogger, the sweet and insightful FreckledK. This is a tweaking of some comments I left on her site.

Over the last few years, I've read a lot about the coarsening of public discourse, particularly over the Internet. If you're an angry spluttering pile of froth with a keyboard, you can convince yourself you're God.

Sometimes the result is funny, sometimes it's mean-spirited, and sometimes it just makes no sense at all. I've abandoned Wonkette because it's gotten more mean than funny (plus I get sick of them highlighting the same 5-6 local bloggers day after day). There’s a lack of civility and good sense coming from all directions. But I like to think of the Internet as a crowded bar on a Friday night. Some of us want to make trouble, but most of us just want to have a good time.

I've taken a few hits myself. One anonymous commenter told me that, "limited intelligence has a habit of flapping its gob." I was accused of being the sort of person who tells others how to operate toasters. And, in December, a local blogger linked to one of my posts, and began her response with “it seems like my good posts are all correcting other people’s shitty posts.” I don’t think it would ever occur to me to call a fellow blogger’s work “shitty,” whether or not it was meant as a joke. I thought out various responses, but in the end decided to laugh it off. I posted a link to her blog, with the tag, “No such thing as bad publicity.” You can't help what other people do, but you can control how you react. It's easier to just let things roll off my back.

It seems unfair that to write a good blog, you have to put a lot of yourself into it, and at the same time, you have to have a hide like an elephant’s. Those two requirements pull me in opposite directions. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I choose to write this thing, I choose to put my name on it, and I'll take the hits as they come.

And, yet, sometimes I think about pulling the plug. Having a blog probably doesn't help my job search, it doesn't make my life any easier, and it doesn't really make the world a better place. But I like to make people laugh, and I enjoy my little community of commenters and lurkers. What would I do without Kristen to correct my erroneous political assumptions, or my mystery reader in Berlin that stops in every day? Sometimes this place feels a bit like Cheers for Weirdos.

So I'll be flapping my unintelligent little feminist gob for as long as y'all can stand it. And once you're sick of me, I'll flap my gob in the darkness.

...And Now I'm Scared of Condoms

Holy cow.

Watch it. Watch it again.

I have never seen something so creepy. It's like men are supposed to wrap their chubbies in Teletubbies. I'm going to abandon the safe sex, pro-condom stance of years past. No longer will I rail against CVS for locking up condoms, nor will I counsel recent college grads to buy them in bulk.

Condoms are a menace. Any day now, they will burst forth from our nightstand drawers and medicine cabinets. They will tear through the wallets of teenage boys, and sing and dance their way to a new world order in which condoms rule the Earth and humanity is forced to live as Morlocks in sewers and subway systems. Or a small group of us will live in the Colorado mountains and stage guerrila attacks against the Durex Army, a sort of Purple Dawn.

I'll take the unplanned pregnancies and astronomical STD rates as fair exchange for freedom from giant pink nubby singing condoms roaming our streets, singing about their assorted fragrances and colors.

And as for the backup dancers. They're spineless collaborators in the coming Condom Revolution. When humanity reasserts its dominance, I fully expect we'll try them for treason.

So, all of you, save the planet. Destroy the condoms while we still have a chance!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Libertarians Think I'm HOT

My usual commute involves trudging, grumbling, and a form of meditation by which I pretend none of my fellow passengers exist (a necessity for me, the world’s most outgoing claustrophobic). Commuting is my rare window of introversion. Aside from basic manners, I take little notice of anyone or anything.

Today, I noticed one of my fellow Metro passengers was wearing flip-flops. I’m not a fan of "mandals" as it is, but who the heck wears flip-flops in January? I shrugged it off and started my walk to work.

When I was almost to the office, I heard a rapid thwack-thwack-thwack behind me. It was Flip Flop Guy! He was smaller than me, had floppy hair and a beard, and was wearing a blazer, jeans, and an enormous Ron Paul button. He kind of looked like that guy we all went to college with, the one who took women’s studies courses more seriously than the women themselves did. Then he complimented me on my skirt and dashed off. Only when he was down the block that I realized he had basically chased me across the street, in flip flops, just to say something nice about my outfit.

I love this town. Only in Washington can you meet fashion-conscious members of the political fringe.

Perhaps tomorrow a Mike Gravel supporter will chase me across Dupont Circle to ask where I get my hair done, or a Lyndon LaRouchie will buy me a coffee.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Blog by Google

Like many bloggers, I marvel at the Google searches that bring folks to my corner of the Internet. A quick glance at my stats tells me:

I'm the Number 3 Google destination for "non confrontational Wikipedia."

I'm the Number 8 Google destination for "wedding trends 2009."

I'm the world capital, top Google destination for "Shannon Bex boyfriend."

And my absolute favorite: I'm the Number 2 Google destination for "my boyfriend thinks I'm high maintenance."

Maybe the Google Gods are trying to tell me something. Perhaps I need to devote more energy to weddings, combative online encyclopedias, and contestants from the ill-fated revival of Fame. Or worse, maybe my boyfriend really DOES think I'm high maintenance.


The dreary weather has given me a bit of writer's block. So, you, readers, get to guide this blog until I get myself in gear. Got something you want me to write about? Want my advice? Send it in!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Restaurant Week and The Girl You Marry

Butterfield 9 graciously extended its Restaurant Week through the 27th, so Tim and I had a chance to eat there on Friday.

Wow. Both of us opened with the scallops, which, oddly, was a little short on scallops. Instead it was a sort of mixed seafood dish. But it was very good. For our second course, I had a ridiculously tender braised beef (no fork required!) and Tim had the Hawaiian escolar. And the desserts were superb: sorbet for me, and something intensely chocolatey for Tim.

Best of all, the Restaurant Week menu included optional wine pairings for $19.08. As I am completely hopeless at figuring out what wine goes with what food, I welcomed the help.

Butterfield 9's most adorable quirk is that the hostess will lead you to your table via the most circuitous route possible. I swear we reached our table via a wardrobe, a sled, and in and around every single table in the restaurant.

The eavesdropping, which is what y'all are waiting for, was spectacular. About halfway through our meal, four mid/late-twenties men sat down at the table next to us. I had male roommates in college, and, in general, I usually get along better with men than I do with women. So locker room talk doesn't faze me. But free-form idiocy does.

One conversational snippet:
Guy #1: She does this really hot thing where she grabs onto my head.
Guy #2: Yeah, that's not the girl you marry.

Then Guy #1 went on to describe his new girl, "K." (Yes, I caught her name, no, I'm not publishing it.) K is funny "for a girl," smart, attractive and "refreshing." But she's "not the girl you marry."

Since when? Let me get this straight: she's smart, funny (I'll ignore the depressing "for a girl" part), attractive, and does hot things in bed. Isn't that the exact girl you marry? Unless you're looking for a lifetime of bland conversations and tepid sex, or you have a Madonna/whore complex to rival Roissy's.

So, let's make it our mission to find K. And let's find her a better boyfriend. I bet any of my single male readers would love to meet a girl like her, and she really can't do much worse than the joker she's with now. So, if you think you're K, or you think you know her, drop me a line!

Friday, January 25, 2008

No, You May NOT Throw Sharp Objects at My Head

I am SUCH a hypocrite. Not twelve hours after I posted about just going about your day, I got in a confrontation with strangers. And I just had to be right. Not to mention, it was about darts.

The story: After work, I met Katie, Dorothee, and Steven for drinks and greasy snacks. The vibe at the bar was already a little off, because there was a flip cup competition going on. (People wore uniforms and sweats, like it was a real sport or something. Organized drinking games and booze-centric leagues depress me, it makes me think the younger generation is so hyper-scheduled they can't even binge drink in peace.)

There were no tables open, but one of the waiters was kind enough to pull a table out of a side room and set it up for us in an unused corner. We settled in, watched the flip-cuppers perform, ordered savory food and bad American beer, and told stories.

Until. A lady in a tight yellow top asked us to move our table smack into the flip-cuppers, so she and her guy could play darts. Well, on the plus side, she was nice about it. On the minus side, making four people move so two people can throw sharp objects in a crowded bar seems like a little much. And, just because you ask nicely doesn't mean you'll always get your way.

As Steven pointed out, it's not rude to ask people to not throw sharp things at your head. Even if we moved our table to the point we were on top of the flip-cuppers, we'd still be in range to get brained by darts. So we politely declined.

That should have been the end of it. They made a polite request, we politely declined. But in the world of beer logic, we were the biggest jerks in the universe. The girl approached us again, then began to dispatch her guy to harass us. The whole thing was obvious enough to be funny: girl would pout in our direction, rub herself against the guy, and a moment later he'd be in our faces to harass us.

It put a bit of a damper on the evening. Finally, we decided to settle up the bill, which we didn't do fast enough for the Couple of the Year. So the guy, I kid you not, started standing right over us, aiming darts over our heads as if he were about to throw them.

After a few rounds of this, I called him over, told him he was not seriously going to try that, and it wouldn't kill him to just chill until we settled our check. Since when did anyone have an urgent dart situation?

Boy, he got mad. He said we could have just moved our table by two feet, one foot, six inches, three inches (the amount got smaller the madder he got). He said he could have just thrown the darts over our heads without checking, and what would we do about it? My response was that it's a bit messed up to threaten a woman half your size, just so you can play a bar game. The confrontation droned on, until his friend dragged him off (the friend was the only person who came out of this with any dignity).

We finally settled up and got our coats on. And then there's the part I'm not proud of. On the way out, I poked my head into their circle, and told the guy he messed up our evening and should apologize (he didn't, but the girl, source of all the original trouble, did). Then I thanked the friend for having been raised proper.

Why did I do that? Oh, I know the answer. Because I was right, and therefore entitled to the last word. Ugh.

So, could I have handled this better? What would you have done?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Torpedoes and Mosquitos: A Tale of Fairfax County

Really, I probably can’t say anything that hasn’t already been said, but here we go:

In short, a Fairfax County high school senior calls a school administrator’s office to complain about having to go to school when there’s snow on the ground. When he doesn’t get a response within a few hours, he calls the administrator’s publicly listed home number. The administrator’s wife responds via frothful ranting voicemail, which the student posts on Facebook. Instant Internet sensation.

What amazes me is the brittleness and entitlement of both parties involved. The student felt entitled to a snow day, so he took his complaint to the top. When he didn’t get a response within a ridiculously short frame of time (several hours), he tracks down and calls the home number. The wife responded to this small intrusion by going nuclear on the student. Then the student, who is apparently entitled to everyone always being super super nice to him, posted the message on Facebook with the express purpose of humiliating her.

Most media and blog responses are focusing on social etiquette, generation gaps or the reach of technology. But that isn't the real story here. It's that both parties have highly inflated notions of how they should be treated. And both react to the smallest of slights by going nuclear. They’re aiming torpedoes at mosquitos. And I wonder how many people would do the same. Egomania and entitlement are flaws that span all generations, it’s just the execution that differs. I'm sure Og and Grog used to beat each other with sticks over who got the bigger portion of woolly mammoth. Many of us have highly inflated notions of our own value, and that's been a constant throughout human history.

Really, even if you're one in a million, there's a thousand of you in India. No one person is so important that they can demand nothing but perfect treatment. Either party could have halted the insanity train by taking a deep breath, realizing it’s not such a big deal, and going about their day. Sometimes, you just have to let it go, whether you're a snotty-nosed Gen-Yer or an old fuddy-duddy Mrs. Somebody.

P.S. But I really, really hope that kid's parents step up to the plate and ground the heck out of him. Better yet, take away his Internet access and cellphone. If I pulled a stunt like that in high school, my parents would have drop-kicked me into next week.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Why I Shouldn't Be Allowed in Nice Restaurants, Vol. 2

Restaurant Week Excursion #2 was to Firefly in Dupont Circle.

This is really one of the prettiest restaurants in Washington, and very romantic without a whole lot of pretense. Plus, their Restaurant Week menu was far more generous and varied than that of Poste, and the food was only about half as weird. No purple eggs! And they didn't even sneer at my outfit, which I had thought was urban and hip, but on second glance made me look like an Edwardian schoolboy.

For appetizers, Tim had the chicken liver pate (...great, but he's gotta motor if he's gonna make that funeral) and I had the Bibb salad. Both were good, but nothing spectacular. I had briefly considered ordering the deviled eggs, until Tim gave me such a look of disbelief that I ordered the salad. After we finished our appetizers, there was a significant lag in bringing out our entrees. I'm not usually fussy about timing, but people who were seated well after us were getting their food. Our waiter dodged our plaintive expressions for some time, until a manager came out, apologized, and comped a half-bottle of wine. I'm easily bribed, so the rest of the evening passed with a pleasant glow (which may have been the wine).

For entrees, I had the arctic char (which is salmony, but is somehow not technically salmon) and Tim had the sturgeon. Sturgeon tastes like chicken! Who knew? And for dessert, I had the Firefly Sundae with chocolate brownie, peanut butter ice cream, and whipped cream. It was rich, and the peanut butter ice cream wasn't as overwhelming as I thought it might be. Tim had the apple crisp, which was a tad too sweet but very good.

As for the eavesdropping, it wasn't quite as good as Poste. But it was still entertaining. Much like an army can only march as fast as its slowest soldier, a group of women out for dinner can only converse at the IQ level of its dumbest member. So I caught a few snatches of, really, one of the dopiest group conversations ever (the merits of popped collars, and the preponderance of said collars by neighborhood). Plus there was a woman in an absurdly tight, short red dress who had to reshuffle herself every time she even breathed.

Overall, Firefly is a winner. Just leave your Edwardian schoolboy and skankwear outfits at home.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Fish Needs an Egg Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle

Thanks to extensions, creativity, and a jaunt to Baltimore, Tim and I have managed to schedule four Restaurant Week dinners.

For non-locals, Restaurant Week is when the fancy restaurants throw open their doors to the unwashed proletariat and offer three-course dinners for $30.08. The benefit is obvious: those of us who normally live on chicken buckets from Popeye’s can try out the best that Washington has to offer. The drawback is that sometimes, a bucket of chicken is the better option. Particularly when you’re as unsophisticated as I am.

We kicked off our fancy food extravaganza at Poste in the Hotel Monaco. It’s a beautiful space, with cozy booths, high ceilings, and an open kitchen. The service was impeccable, and the waitress corrected our redneck mispronunciations with grace and charm (though I did get a bit of a giggle when she mangled Tim’s last name at the end of the evening. Score one for the Rube Team!)

It’s rare that food has the capacity to surprise me. I am not picky or snobby. I will eat anything and everything, including raw ants, fried crickets, unidentifiable meats and the still-beating heart of a cobra. (Though I haven’t had a chance to try that last one.)

But Poste completely flummoxed me. My first course of potato soup included bacon and an egg. I’m sure it looked intriguing on the menu, but, frankly, in practice it was more like Fear Factor minus the prize money and public humiliation. Tim ordered the arugula salad, which, while pedestrian, looked a whole lot more appealing than what I was eating.

For our next course, both of us ordered the bass. The fish arrived with a purple, bouncing object on top. Slicing it open revealed yet another poached egg. (According to Poste’s website, the peculiar color is caused by poaching in red wine.)

Frankly, I felt a little bit persecuted by all these eggs. Was this some sort of biological clock broadside from the chef? Most likely not, as Tim received his first egg of the evening (and has no ovaries to speak of). It reminded me of living in Colombia. In Colombia, no dish is complete without a fried egg on top.

Once the egg was gently pushed aside (where it seemed to jiggle and gape at me knowingly), the fish was pretty tasty. Although a bit rich for my tastes, the mashed potatoes with capers and lightly seasoned bass were delicious.

The dessert, which was blissfully free of eggs, was definitely the best part. It was a fluffy, not-too-sweet chocolate pot de crème. Our check was accompanied by a few more small treats.

But I’ve saved the weirdest for last. The restrooms are located through the lobby and up the elevator (would it be so hard to incorporate restrooms somewhere in the general vicinity of the restaurant?). The ladies’ room had been overtaken by a trio of mid-30s blondes, who were brushing their teeth, adding the finishing touches to their hair, and debating where to go for a drink. It felt like I’d stumbled into the bad girls’ bathroom from high school. The trio was arguing over whether Blonde #2 should show a little more cleavage, who had the best cleavage, and who showed the most cleavage at the office. At which point I realized they all worked together.

So, in short, Poste, while lovely, wasn’t exactly to my taste. And the next person who gives me an egg is going to get a size 5 ½ in the sternum.

ADDENDUM: Tim would like you all to know that he cheerfully ate his purple bouncy egg, thankyouverymuch.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Calling All Metro Etiquette Vigilantes

This morning, I had the pleasure of taking my Metro ride with a young man who had his iPod set to “stun.” They aren’t called everybodyPods, so really only one person should be able to hear the music. I spent a few stops being assaulted by thudding bass, emphatic shrieking, and repeated use of the words, “bitch” and “ho.”

Normally, I glower at the everybodyPodder, change seats, and sulk. But today was different. I can’t blithely ignore misogyny before I’ve had my coffee, even if it does have a catchy beat. So I used my Brain Scrambler technique.

The Brain Scrambler is a method I use to get my way. I tell the person to knock off whatever behavior is annoying me, but am so cheerful and pleasant that the person becomes confused and instantly complies.

“Excuse me, could you turn your music down? It’s really very loud!”

He shot me a momentary look of confusion, then fiddled with a few knobs and reduced the sound to a dull roar. (“Dull roar” means that I am now officially my mother.) I spent the next few stops in blissful near-silence.

He stood up at Metro Center, and cranked the music right back up as soon as he was five feet away from me. This caused a few chuckles among nearby passengers.

I spent the next few stops chatting with a man a few seats away, who was amazed the everybodyPodder had heard me in the first place. (I had contemplated making a little sign saying, “Your music is too loud!” if he hadn’t heard my initial request.) We discussed not wanting to pay for that young man’s hearing aids in ten years, and that more people should speak up when they encounter rudeness on the Metro.

So, readers, I have deputized myself to be a Metro Etiquette Vigilante. Care to join me? Or, you could be a You Kids, Get Off My Lawn Metro Rider, or a Tsk Tsk Shame On You Metro Rider. The Metro needs more people who are obnoxious enough to correct the rudeness of others. Please practice the following phrases:

“Your music is really very loud, could you please turn it down?”
“Could you please not lean against the pole? Other people need to use it.”
“Excuse me, could you please stand up so I don’t have to climb over you to exit the train?”
“Excuse me, could you please not block the door?”
“Hi! Welcome to DC! The left side is the passing lane, it’s for people who prefer to walk up the escalators. Thanks!”

But use the Brain Scrambler technique when you do it. The idea is to be cheerful, not at all imperious, and completely polite as you tell people that the world does not in fact revolve around them. Don't argue, don't engage, simply make your request.

Metro is already unpleasant, with the hiked-up fares, endless delays, and “sick passengers.” We can’t do anything about the passengers who are sick, but we can do something about the ones who suck.

Who’s in?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Post Disapproves of My Uterus

It's been a few weeks since the media has taken me to task for my infant-free womb and husband-free apartment. I haven't heard a peep about my declining post-27 egg supply, or even read any heart-warming miscarriage statistics. So a hearty thanks to the Washington Post, who have expended some ink to tell me about the hip kids that spawn in their 20s.

I'm a big believer in living life as you see fit. I have friends with kids, and many without. I have married and single friends, and even a few fellow divorcees. Do what you want, I probably don't care. Plus, all of the people in the article seem like lovely, happy families.

But I get sick and tired of family trend articles that have no connection to reality. Acoording to today's accompanying online chat, the reason everyone delays having kids until their 30s is that we want to "climb the career ladder," and that couples have children the latest in Washington, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.

Here's the part that makes me cranky: those are four of the most expensive cities in America. Did anyone realize that maybe it's not the naked, self-absorbed Washington ambition that's causing people to delay childrearing? Could it maybe be, oh, the fact that people want to provide decent homes and good schools, and simply can't manage it yet? I can barely feed myself in this town. (Thankfully, a few posters on the online chat made the exact same point, with a little less froth.)

The "cold-hearted ambition" theory strikes me as remarkably similar to working/stay-at-home mom debates that imply that working is exclusively a matter of choice, and ignores the idea that maybe both parents have to work to put food on the table.

In conclusion, I already have parents. So if the media could knock off the babymaking guilt trips, that would be very helpful.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Suburban Navigation

I was in Arlington on Saturday. I rarely go to Virginia, for two reasons: 1. I grew up in Virginia and that's plenty, and, 2. I get hopelessly lost whenever I leave D.C.

I navigate like a guy. Don't tell me to turn left where the old church used to be, and don't offer landmarks. I require grids, alphabets, and navigational logic. I want an address, a cross street, and cardinal directions.

The nonlinearity of the suburbs often proves to be my undoing. On Saturday, I had a birthday party to attend. (January is my Cavalcade of Birthdays, I have seven to remember.) It took me almost an hour to find my friend's apartment, because I was thinking as a Grid Girl. I had the street address, which should have been plenty. OK, I'm on Army-Navy Drive, the numbers are going up, I must be in the right place! Until I climbed so far up a hill that I was fresh out of civilization. I went down the hill, and got as far as Macy's until I realized that probably wasn't right, either.

Finally, I gave in and called the hostess. As it turns out, her address is Army-Navy Drive, but the entrance to her building was on a different street entirely. Now, why in heck would any self-respecting human being set things up that way?

She even offered a landmark: across the street from Bed, Bath and Beyond. If I'd navigated like a girl, I would have gotten there in four minutes. Instead, it took me an hour.

I need to be a girly girl, if only from a time management perspective.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wedding Trends 2008: Fritter Away Your Future

I'm not anti-marriage (despite the evidence to the contrary). I do, however, find marriage mania and mega-weddings bizarre and stupid. Case in point: the gloriously over the top Top Wedding Trends 2008.

Spending gobs and gobs of money will never go out of style. Can't choose a dress? Buy two, spend twice as much! And, "Event designers and brides alike are teaming up to create showstopping floral arrangements, such as those seen during the days of Marie Antoinette." Because absurd opulence worked so well for ol' Marie. Hire a sommelier! Or have your guests mix their own champagne cocktails!

But what do you do with yourself, once the 80's cover band plays its last song, your all-white centerpieces are scooped up by greedy guests, and you hang up both of your luxurious eco-pricy wedding gowns? Why, you go "honeymoon hopping" so you can spend twice or three times as much as you'd spend on a regular honeymoon!

Millions of people have been getting married for untold millenia, so it's a waste of time to make it your super-duper extra special day that nobody else will ever experience. Say your vows and go out for a pizza.

My prediction for Wedding Trends 2009: Take a stack of $50 bills, and a stack of $100 bills. Throw a lighted match onto each, see which burns faster!

The Last Stamey Standing

My immediate family's quirks are well-documented. Our pets die in mysterious and bizarre ways, we gamble on Christmas Eve, and we used to have chicken on Thanksgiving because it was "close enough."

What most folks don't know is that we've been embroiled in a years-long, epic, Highlander-esque battle to be the only family member who resides in the continental United States. The winner, and there can be only one, is known as the Last Stamey Standing.

We've been exiling family members since 1998, when my mom moved back to her native Australia. Dad was launched into Costa Rica a few years later, and I went overseas in 2003. My sister, Skye, enjoyed several glorious years as the Last Stamey Standing. She solidified her grip on the United States, added a few territories, and gloated her head off.

Then, in 2006, I returned. A mighty battle ensued. Words were spoken, cities were torched, and goats were pilfered. And I, the smallest and youngest, won! Or, rather, Skye's job shipped her off to a six-month assignment in London.

But she's packing her bags and preparing to return home. Her assignment is drawing to a close. And the battle shall begin anew.

All of this is a very convoluted way of saying that if I start posting from the jungles of Peru or the mighty Mongolian steppe, it's because I'm no longer the Last Stamey Standing.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

I'm a Precious Petite Snowflake: Retail Edition

There are many perks to being petite. Flying coach isn’t too horrible. I have a built-in conversation starter, as I can ask complete strangers (and cute boys) to reach things for me. It keeps me looking young. Plus, as my clothes are small, it takes a lot longer for me to amass a full load of laundry. In summer especially, I can go at least two weeks without doing the washing.

But there are disadvantages as well. I can’t reach overhead bars on the Metro. I spend most shows crammed into strangers' armpits. I have been known to greet houseguests with, “Hi! Can I get you a drink? How tall are you? Over 5’8”? Fabulous, I just have a few small things I need from that cabinet there on the left….” Plus, I always get shoved into the front row in group photos. This just increases the creeped-out feeling I get whenever my picture is taken.

But the biggest issue is shopping. No, I have no trouble finding clothes that fit. Most women believe that their bodies are precious little snowflakes, and that no retail institution can possibly accommodate their anatomical quirks and perceived deficiencies. But I believe that with a little creativity and some light tailoring, anyone can find clothes that fit. (Hint for my fellow non-curvy petites: the teen department at Nordstrom! High fashion, dirt cheap.)

No, my issue is the stupid way that stores lay out their clothes. Most shops will lay out their smaller sizes on the top row, running sequentially until the plus-size clothes are on the bottom.

Newsflash, Gap: if a woman is under a size 6, she’s probably not very tall. So why do you put your small-size jeans where only a nine-foot Amazon can reach them? And, Vicky’s Secret, why are the small-band and small-cup bras all the way on the top row? Do you think that all of your patrons are built like a giant bamboo stick with two acorns attached? Shoe stores do this as well, meaning that my 5.5’s are usually suspended somewhere near the rafters.

But my favorite is when petite specialty shops and departments stack items far above where their customers can reach. Petite means 5’4” and under. You’ve decided to specialize in short chicks, but did you actually consult any of us? Oh, that’s nice, Macy’s, I’m guessing you’d like to just not sell any clothes today.

Retail institutions of America, swap the order. Stack the big sizes on the top, running down to the smaller sizes on the bottom. It’s not that hard.

Anybody got a retail peeve they’d like to share? In honor of National Delurking Week, I’d especially like to hear from people who haven’t commented before. And boys, speak up too. What do you hate about shopping? (Besides, “all of it.”)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Little Balls, Little Pins, Little Chance of Injury

I'm accident prone. Most of my family's stories about me focus on my more bizarre childhood injuries. That time I took out a garden gnome playing Superman on a $5 plywood skateboard (earning a fat lip), fell off a jungle gym (four stitches), or was run over by the neighbor's kid on his bicycle (oodles of stitches).

My coordination did not improve with age. By high school, I had fallen off a horse that was standing still, caught pneumonia in May, and gotten lost in my own house. As an adult, I once received a concussion from falling off a barstool. (This isn't as pathetic as it sounds. A waiter knocked into my chair, sending me sprawling onto a marble floor.)

But my most-embarrassing accident ever was in my college bowling class. What? It was for a P.E. credit. Chips and beer were not distributed, instead, we learned the art of overhand vs. underhand throws, picking up spares, the 7-10 split, and so on. Three-step, four-step, and five-step approaches were rehearsed, debated, and scrutinized. This was a serious, no-chumps-no-lumps bowling experience. There were grades.

The various approaches proved to be my undoing. One day, I mixed a three-step with a four-step, creating a nifty Riverdance effect. I'm sure it was lovely to look at, until I put my foot squarely onto the slippery part of the lane. I began to lose my footing. Then my footing was lost entirely. I slid down the lane, while the ball headed straight for my seat (a reversal of the usual procedure). Somehow, I managed to skid down the lane on my stomach, feet-first, which allowed me to watch helplessly as my 7-pound hot pink ball hurtled towards my astonished classmates.

Once the shock and riotous laughter had subsided, my classmates formed a sort of human chain to pull me to safety. I'd acquired a good bit of distance, a beautiful arc, and a couple of top-secret bruises.

Needless to say, bowling scares me to death. I can live in drug-addled or heavily mined nations, but I can't go bowling without a few breathing exercises and a pep talk.

But I've finally found a solution: duckpin bowling. Duckpin involves teeny-tiny pins and bocce-esque balls on normal-sized lanes. Tim and I went on Saturday. I finally see what I've been missing by ignoring Maryland for the last 31 years. I spent the evening trying mightily to hurt myself. I wore a long, flowy scarf to see if it would get caught in anything. Nope. I placed a tentative toe onto the lane, but no slippage. I even tried to drop a ball or two on my foot while Tim was looking the other way, but that didn't even hurt enough to faze me.

People of the world, I can duckpin bowl!

Monday, January 07, 2008

Fine, Metro, Take Your Stupid 30 Cents

Today, my Metro base fare rose 30 cents, to a whopping $1.65. I don't suppose I really mind, and I think most folks who complain about rising fares are big old whiners. Once you factor in gas, parking, auto maintenance, and plain old hassle, Metro is still a bargain. Also, as I get told so many times that I hate everyone who mentions it, it's better than some systems (Philadelphia) and worse than others (New York, all of Europe, blah blah blah I know that already).

Here's the Big However: I'm an American taxpayer. This means I have no concept of cause and effect, the reality of rising costs, or really much of anything outside of my self-centered little universe. I think my daily pittance should pay for a myriad of upgrades, service improvements and nifty doodads.

Here's how Metro should spend my abundantly generous daily 60 cents:
  • Find and arrest the busker who travels from station to station, murdering "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall." He's a real slick one, as I've been unable to find him at the same station twice.
  • Get some of those white-gloved Tokyo subway guys to shove people into cars. I don't think they'd really need to shove people, just the sight of them will get folks to move to the center of the car.
  • If Metro platform employees absolutely MUST stand around in useless clumps, ogling women, at least get them some better scriptwriters. Think of all of those out-of-work TV writers who could make them more entertaining. Or they could all recite Shakespearean sonnets.
  • Implant a volume control button on all those annoying, rowdy packs of teenagers that scream on about how horny and badass they are.
  • Create a device which scrambles iPods and makes them emit a low shriek every time their owners crank them up so loud that half the car can hear whatever crap they're listening to. Damage your hearing on your own time, buddy.
  • Walk left, stand right. Or you have to cagefight Mayor Fenty.

Oh, and one more Metro peeve: when you have the outside seat, and the inside person needs to get up for their stop, STAND UP. Do not daintily twist your legs to one side and expect them to clamber over you. Next time that happens to me, I'm plopping my bony white ass into your lap and telling you what I want for Christmas. And I may or may not give you an accidental elbowing where it hurts.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Obligatory Baby Name Mockery Post, 2008 Edition

Lately, I've been participating in baby name brainstorming sessions. (No, I am not pregnant, so don't get yourselves in a lather).

I think some names qualify as child abuse, others qualify as lofty expectations, and others are just weird. Destiny? Child abuse. Patience, Constance, Faith, or any other positive personality attribute? Lofty expectations. Pilot Inspektor? Just weird.

I hereby declare myself in charge of all future baby names. There will be no naming without my direct involvement and approval. Because I have no kids and am therefore an expert in all things child-related.

First, say these two sentences:

1. "Presenting the next President of the United States, (blank blank)!"
2. "Performing live at the main stage of the Stripper Shack, (blank blank)!"

If sentence 2 is more accurate than sentence 1, it's back to the drawing board. We'll never have a woman president if we keep naming our girls things like Madysonn Misty Sunshine. (Which sounds like a My Little Pony.)

On the other hand, maybe you want to be cruel. Let's say that you don't like kids. And yet, you're thumbing your nose at the Irony Gods and spawning a few. Here are a few ideas for baby names that are fun for you and hell for them:

1. Name you children for the form of birth control that failed you.

Example: "These are my kids, Patch, Ortho-Cyclen, and Trojan."

2. License your children's names to multinational corporations.

Example: "This is Nike, Adidas, and Coca-Cola."

3. The cruelest option is to name your child after where he or she was conceived. It's painful enough to think about your parents doing the funky monkey, just imagine having to imagine it every time someone says your name.

Example: "I'd like you to meet Paris, New York, and Backseat of a Chevy."

Or, you could get mesmerized by the Name Voyager and suss out names based on the prettiest patterns. Say so long to your productivity, suckers!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Another Day Older and Deeper in Debt

Dear Student Loan Industrial Complex,

I love you. With all my heart. You made my life possible.

Without you, I would have never gone away to college. I would have lived out my days in Woodbridge, managing an Auntie Anne's pretzel shop, hanging out at the Dale Boulevard Denny's, and producing a new infant of indeterminate sire every spring. I'd live on precisely .25 acres of land and send my legion of brats to the same schools that I attended.

Because you sent me to college, I am a better person. I can write in complete sentences, I can do my own laundry, and I could probably still pull off a keg stand.

But there are a few things we should talk about. First off, a college education is an investment. My investment has not been returned, as my income usually hovers somewhere slightly above that of a fry cook or medical experiment-for-hire. Now, that may be my own fault, but still. Shouldn't I receive at least a partial refund? Or you could comp me a master's degree. Or even a professional gun repairer certificate. At this point, I'd settle for free dessert.

Also, please stop sending me the same letter over and over. Yes, you are perfectly welcome to review my income for 2007. If you can do so with a straight face, even better. Have at it.

But, why do you think I'm still married? Remember that piece of paper I sent you back in 2006 with the words, "Divorce Decree" across the top? Wouldn't you take that to mean I'm no longer married?

Perhaps you're old-fashioned, and you're hoping we'll give things another try. No chance. Or perhaps you're secretly controlled by the Vatican, and I need an annulment to get my ex's name off the forms.

While we're discussing names, my maiden name was restored to me by the great state of Alabama. Other aspects of maidenhood have not been restored, despite fervent prayers and sacrificial goats. But I'm back to my birth name. So please stop sending letters and bills to a woman who no longer exists.


Not Mrs. Johnson

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Should Auld Stameys Be Forgot...

Today, I woke up and had no idea why I had set an alarm. Then I got dressed and forgot where I worked. Then I got on the Metro and couldn't remember what station I needed.

Mind you, this is what I do every morning. It's not just because I'm back at work after ten days off. But my vacation was lovely. I drove 1300 miles in four days, ate a ton of pork products and biscuits, and heard the three-syllable version of my name at least a hundred times. In the South, I'm Sha-yan-non. I also had to get re-accustomed to hearing my dad addressed as Skeeter.

I drove almost ten hours to Cherokee, where I spent Christmas Eve eating steak and playing slots with my dad and uncle. I was asked the best question ever, "So, which one are you? The divorced one or the lesbian?" I also took a side trip to see the rowdy Hartsville Stameys, where Peanut attempted to take us to breakfast at a restaurant called Carolina Lunch (that only serves breakfast). I also had the best conversation ever with my cousin Donna:

Donna: So, no husband, no kids...
Me: (silence, bracing for biological clock comment)
Donna: you must have the cleanest house! Can I come live with you?

My rental car was a bulbous red Ford Focus, which made me feel like I was driving Rudolph's nose. I eventually remembered how to drive, even though I almost wasn't allowed out of the rental agency parking lot. Apparently if you ask the security guard a bunch of questions on how to find the "clicker thingy" and the "wiper doodads," they won't open the gate.

But driving was fun. I even got back into performing my driving rants. "Who in hell painted these line markings? They're all over the place! Picasso? Am I on a Cubist highway?" Lest you think I'm odd for yelling about Cubism while alone in a car, my sister does the same thing. Except in a goofy French accent.

The only bad part of the trip was driving up I-95 the day after Christmas. I made great time. Until Richmond. Then it took more than four hours to get from Richmond to Catonsville (no, I haven't moved to Baltimore). By the time I arrived, I was a babbling hysterical wreck.

I spent the rest of the vacation lounging and spending as little time in cars as humanly possible.