Monday, December 28, 2009

Bathroom Chemical Warfare

Other titles considered: Gassed in the Restroom, or, The Closest I'll Ever Get to Toilet Humor.

Relax! Even though I've had plenty of male roommates, this post isn't about what you think it's about. This post is about one of those things that would only ever happen to me.

The day after Christmas, my friend Justin and I decided to go have brunch at...well, for legal reasons let's call it "Smarfish Lafe." On Smarracks Grow. In Schmapitol Mill.

The food was lovely. The service was competent. After the meal, I excused myself to go use the restroom. I noticed a slightly off odor, however, as the Queen of Sinus, my sense of smell isn't that great. I also realized that by the time I walked out, my eyes were burning. A lot. I also kind of felt like I might pass out. There were annoying little itchy tingly sensations up and down my arms. And the nausea. And the headache. Oh, heavens, it was a hell of a headache.

I went home to lie down for a bit. I called the restaurant, and was informed that the janitor may have overused the bleach. By just a bit. Not by much. The person I spoke to was apologetic, but a little less freaked than I'd be if a guest called me to say they'd be poisoned by my bathroom.

After an hour passed with no improvement, I called D.C.'s poison control center. (Incidentally, Mayor Fenty? The magnet you gave me with the Important District Phone Numbers? So totally had the wrong number for the poison control center. That strikes me as a detail we'll want to get right next time. OK?)

The charming poison lady and I discussed bleach inhalation poisoning, with the probability that some ammonia had been mixed in. (Incidentally, bleach + ammonia = chlorine gas, which is apparently a chemical weapon.) Since my exposure had been less than five minutes, I was told to open the windows and that I would improve within hours.

And I did improve. I was all better by evening. But I will say my days of brunching at Smarfish Lafe are good and over.

In the comments, tell me if this is the weirdest restaurant health complaint you've ever heard.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Annual Report Card

The problem with Christmas is that it feels too much like a report card on how you've spent your life. Are you shuttling from one corner of Creation to another so nobody feels left out? It's because you can't say no, and you've lived your life too much for others. However, if your Christmas company is Wild Turkey and self-pity, you've lived too much for yourself and that's how you wound up on your own.

Or it's an exercise in wondering about the Christmases that could have been. If I'd never left Australia, it would be summer right now. If I had more money, maybe I'd be in L.A. with my sister. If I hadn't gotten divorced, I'd be on my sixth year of marriage, and maybe making myself nuts looking for windup hamsters for a litter of ungrateful brats. If I'd never learned to cook, I might have starved to death. If I'd never filled out, I'd be shopping in the boy's department. Every coulda shoulda feels more and more absurd.

The end of each year feels too much like an exercise in what could have been, and what life should be. It feels unfair, like being ambushed at your annual review with mistakes you never noticed making. Most of my wrong turns took me to wonderful places. Most of my life is being lived the way I'd want it to be. I have a lot to be grateful for.

And part of that gratitude is for y'all, my readers. May you find your peace caroling 'round the tree, at Chinese food and a movie, or alone with your maudlin absurdity.

I, for one, shall be drinking Pimms Cups with any and all who are escaping familial obligations as fast as they can manage it.

Monday, December 21, 2009

I Swear My Snow Story is Totally Interesting and Unique

Well, if there's one thing I know for sure, it's this: going to a wedding, in a blizzard, in a faux SUV (a two-wheel drive truck? the hell?) is the height of foolishness. It's also pretty awesome.

The adventure began in Woodley Park, and continued in the two different places we stalled out on the way to the service. Then we pulled up to the church to discover the lot hadn't been plowed. At all. We parked in a promising-looking snowbank and went inside.

The wedding itself was beautiful...except for the mounds of snow we could see sliding off the roof in person-sized clumps, like powdery shadows of impending doom. At that point, we determined that, short of sled dogs or stealing my ex-car (a Subaru), or hitching sled dogs to my ex-car, there was just no way we were getting across the river to the reception.

A good thing, too, as the 1.5 mile journey back to the Metro was fraught with humiliation and hilarious peril. We stalled out. We got stuck. And that was before we'd even left the church. We got a tow out of the church lot by a wedding guest with ropes and the biggest truck I have ever seen. (I'm from Woodbridge. That's saying a LOT.)

I would feel guilty about getting towed, however, my years in the South have taught me a valuable lesson: anyone with a truck that big LIVES for this sort of thing. In North Carolina, if you have car trouble, at least three large men in a pickup will come along and help you out, faster than you could get AAA or a pizza. They love it - in fact, I am convinced those same three guys gave me six separate jump starts in college, and are the state's automotive guardian angels.

We got stuck in the snow enough times that it became faintly embarrassing...but no worries, there were always friendly neighbors to help push us out. We also discovered that, in the absence of traffic and law enforcement (I saw just one cop car all day), it was simplest to just run every light we possibly could to avoid losing momentum. Once we hit Connecticut Avenue, we were home free.

Once we made it safely back to my apartment, it was time to make macaroni and cheese, mix up a few mint juleps, and enjoy the weather.

How did you spend your snowpocalypse?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Nice Day for a White Wedding

Apparently, Washington is going to be hit with the worst storm, since, ever, or, at least since the last time we had breathless forecasts of the worst storm since EVER.

I'm ready. My cupboard groans with staples such as milk, baguettes, cheese, enough booze to stop an army of horses, Triscuits, ramen and Spaghettios. (Spaghettios were a breakfast staple in my house when I was a kid...which may tell you everything you need to know about my upbringing.) I can resist the psychological pull of winter hoarding. I am ready for the snowpocalypse.

Except...short of whiteout conditions, I'm supposed to be at a non-Metro accessible wedding tomorrow morning. I have been mulling my transportation options:

1. Metro to a friends' place, carpool with them in their borrowed Urban Assault Vehicle.

2. Borrow a friend's beagle, lash it to a sled, and scoot across the wintry landscape in homage to the Grinch.

3. See if Zipcar offers Ziptruck, Zipdogsled, Zipteleport or ZipscrewitI'mofftoFlorida.

4. Develop telepathy overnight, view wedding using the powers of my mind.

5. Triangulate the location of the first commenter to annoyingly thump his chest about how "In Boston/New York/Chicago/Somewhere North and Unpleasant, we KNOW how to deal with the snow!" Force that person, if they're so darn clever and immune to snow, to be my chauffeur for the day.

In the comments, I dare you to enable my new "throatpunch" popout feature by whinging about how wimpy Washingtonians are in the snow.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

In Which You Survive an Interrogation - and Get a Recipe!

Where were you on Friday at 7:50 am? Were you riding an Orange Line train to Vienna? If so, you just might be the jerk who swiped my cellphone and SmarTrip.

To be specific, the phone was Red Samsung T39 slider-cheapie #2. Red Samsung T39 slider-cheapie #1 came to a disastrous end in San Francisco, where it was dropped, trampled, and swept into the trash. I had high hopes and wild dreams for #2, which I have now transferred to Red Samsung T39 Cheapie #3, which was delivered today. My transitory cellphone affection is similar to the way parents assume their next-youngest child won't eat paste or open a crack-flavored lemonade stand.

To be very specific, the SmarTrip was serial number 0834293597579something-or-other. It was precious to me, well, as precious as any piece of plastic that is not an IUD, counterfeit Romanian driver's license, or American Express Plutonium Card.

I'm sure I'll have many stories to tell about my fun encounters with Customer Service, WMATA, the phone insurance goons and more, but in the interest of time and waning enthusiasm, I instead share my cure for a very, very bad day:

Bourbon-Spiked Honey-Mulled Cider

(adapted from the Five Ingredient Slow Cooker Cookbook)

3 quarts apple juice
2 cinnamon sticks, broken
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp allspice
1/2 cup honey
Maker's Mark (optional for some, mandatory for me)

Pour apple juice into a slow cooker. Place spices in a cheesecloth (tied with kitchen string) or a tea infuser and add to slow cooker. Stir in honey and cinnamon. Cook on LOW for 5 hours or HIGH for 2.5 hours.

Optional Step: Stir in a splash (or three) of bourbon into each mug just before serving. Continue until all drinkers are in a relaxed and horizontal state.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Even Nosferatu Needs a Nap Sometimes

I've slept with probably 100 people. Ew, not like that.

What I mean is that when you factor in roommates, slumber parties, overnight guests and so forth, I have probably been in the vicinity of 100 sleeping people. Whenever I have a party, I usually just slide air mattresses under people as they conk out. And then I perform experiments on them.

OK, but not really. But I do like to stare at people while they sleep. I consider it a matter of scientific curiousity, and not a manifestation of complete and utter creepiness. I pay attention to things like who snores, who sprawls, who mumbles and who doesn't appear to sleep at all. I have a friend who will fall asleep on her side, and wake up in the exact same position eight hours later. I have another friend I dubbed the Starfish Sleeper, who manages to splay his arms and legs in perfect starfish formation and take up an amazing amount of room.

But in the dull glow of a hungover Sunday, I saw the strangest sleeper of all. A Nosferatu Sleeper. As of 3 am, he had fallen asleep flat on his back, arms crossed over his chest. When I checked on him several hours later, he was still in the exact same position.

Naturally, I threw crucifixes at his head and doused him in holy water and garlic.

Then I felt like a bit of a it turns out, he was sleeping in that position due to the close quarters and mixed genders, and he considered it ungallant to accidentally wake up to a handful of girl-parts.

In the comments, tell me if Nosferatu Sleeping is the new vanguard of chivalry, above and beyond walking on the outside of the sidewalk. Or tell me about your weird sleeping habits.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Wacky Neighbor Update

You know my neighbor, the crazy hoarder lady? With the boxes and the five bicycles for two kids? I found out her name, and it's marvellous.

I mean, literally. It's "Marvellous," spelled with two 'l's. I cannot begin to tell you how thrilled I am to live next door to an adjective. This is beyond terrific, and hurtles toward awesome. My curiosity is running away with me. I bet whatever she does for a living, it's fantastic! And as a tenant association floor captain, I'm sure she's pretty darn superlative.

This is beyond excellent.

In the comments, tell me what sort of adjectives you would use to name your child.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Great. Now I'm Making Fun of Poor Kids Who Play Polo.

I don’t consider myself particularly charitable or saintly. I do, however, consider my smartassery to be a valuable public service. So color me thrilled when I hopped a few links to the left of the state dinner crashing Scandal of the Century, and wound up at a charity that teaches polo to at-risk youth. (Though nowadays we call them at-promise youth.)

I'm not doubting the value of equine therapy. I rode and cared for horses back in Woodbridge, spent several summers at Camp Wingaroo, and I believe there are few things more gratifying than hanging out with horses.

But, admit it. Take a deep breath, hug your inner smartass, and 'fess up: don't you get a tad giggly at the idea of rounding up a bunch of urban at-risk kids to teach them how to play polo? As in, the world's most hoity-toity rich person Biff-and-Muffy prenups-and-summering in the Hamptons sport? Like, maybe they pulled in some extra funding from the charity that teaches kids to drink tea with their pinkies sticking out? Or borrowed a business plan from the charity that teaches proper deportment at cotillion, or how to drink a G&T on a yacht? My brain is a total flood of hilarious mental images.

Though, perhaps my laughter signifies that I'm the sort of throwback reactionary who would have snorted at Carnegie's libraries. Or that I'm a raging class warrior who hates rich people. Or that I hate kids. Especially poor kids.

Nah. Most likely, I just think polo is kind of dooftastic.

In the comments, invent a charity that exposes at-promise children to the opportunity to try on their very own pair of fancypants.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Since There's No One Around to Read This Anyway...

...Let's all admit something awesome about ourselves. Or embarassing. Whichever. It's a holiday week and no one is around, so...why not? It's cleansing, and fun! (Just like soap on a rope.)

I'll go first:

1. I own a copy of Dr. Laura's Ten Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives, read it several times a year, and find it inspirational.

2. I think the biggest challenge of relationships in your twenties is not really knowing who you are or what you want.

3. I think the biggest challenge of relationships in my thirties is that I know full well who I am and what I want, and have therefore become too set in my ways. (For example, I have become almost completely unable to be sociable in the mornings, and will instead zone out in front of the newspaper. Sadly, I've found that few people can deal with being ignored for hours on end.)

4. I'm grateful to the new readers who came here via the New York Times article...but I'm also grateful that my blog traffic has gone back to semi-normal. I find readership spikes a little overwhelming.

5. I get annoyed when friends suggest I be an event planner for a living, because I don't want to turn my beloved hobby into something money-oriented and stressful.

Your turn! In the comments, entertain us by admitting something awesome.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Etiquette Question: Can I Make the Temp Pay for My Lunch?

Hi Shannon!

Just today I encountered a sticky etiquette issue here at work, and decided to wing it your way. I'd love for you to post on your site, but I'm sure you're being bombarded with real-life etiquette situations such as today's post... poor Billie!

So imagine it's lunchtime at the office, and I've got four powersuits sitting around deciding what they want for lunch. They decide, and then call me over to cater their lunches - they give me money, I run out to so-and-so's restaurant for a salad, and then I return with food and change (with nary a tip for the food delivery service!).

My question is: sometimes the guys will be flitting between meetings and will just call over their shoulder "Hey, could you grabme lunch at so-and-so's?" I say sure... but they are already headed into their office or another meeting, leaving me with a lunch order and no money.

What is the office etiquette on this? Do I just barge into the meeting and demand payment? I have already shouldered about 4 meals for individual partners - and on my scant salary it does add up - and I am the first receptionist to do this lunch-time delivery service, none of the temps before me have lasted long enough to have the privilege of retrieving their lunches. Help me, etiquette master!

Sincerely, Broke in Boston

Dear Living on Beans in Beantown,

I hope to one day achieve the sort of stardom that gets me a personal lunch delivery service. I mean, really, wow. Who stiffs a temp? I've been in your shoes on many occasions, and I totally feel your pain here.

Here's something you may not have considered: these might be company-expensed meals, and that's why the partners haven't always given you cash upfront. It's also possible that they're just absent-minded and need to be told that food doesn't grow on trees. (Well, some of it does, but I've personally never seen a chicken salad bush.) Most likely, they're just self-involved dinks, but approaching them from a sympathetic perspective makes it easier to remain courteous.

From there, you have two paths, depending on whether your strongest relationship is with your agency, or with your jobsite. It's like a Choose Your Own Etiquette Adventure!

Adventure One is if you've been at this job site for a long time (6 months or more) and are considered 'one of the gang' among your colleagues (basically, if you're a temp in name only):

Speak to a more senior member of the administrative staff, such as the office manager, or, if there isn't one, the accountant. "Suzy, as you may know, I occasionally pick up lunch for Partners X, Y, and Z. Sometimes they give me cash upfront, other times they're unable to do so because they're about to head into a meeting. I was wondering if these meals should be expensed to the company, and, if so, is there a petty cash fund or company card that I could use? I have wound up laying out personal money on occasions x, y and z, and I don't want that to happen again."

This alerts the operations folks that you have been laying out personal money, and puts the weight on them to sort out the problem.

If the partners are indeed supposed to be paying for lunch out of their own pockets, things get stickier. Unfortunately, barging into a meeting to demand your $2 is poor business etiquette. Instead, when you drop off the lunch, hand over the receipt and say, "Hi Bob! Here's your chef salad, the bill came out to $7.50." Then stand there with an expectant smile until he forks over the cash. Or, hey, be proactive: ask for lunch orders in the morning, and ask for payment or credit card numbers on the spot.

Adventure Two is if you haven't been there very long, and, honestly, it's the much safer route:

You can take this up with your handler at the temp agency. Check your temp agency contract. Many agencies require that you work through them to resolve workplace issues. They can intervene on your behalf with the employer, or, failing that, look to find you a new assignment.

And, lastly, a PSA: No temp should ever be laying out any personal money for anything. It is very inappropriate to place that sort of expectation upon a temp. A temp's position at the company is very tenuous, and placing unreasonable expectations upon them takes advantage of that fact. They're also dead-ass broke...a temp receptionist in D.C. makes about $11 an hour. I don't know what Boston is getting paid, but I doubt it's a lifetime supply of Kruggerands and cocaine. Stiffing a temp is like taking your baby brother out for a Sno-Cone...and then making him pay for the both of you. Funny, in a perverse sort of way, but totally not cool.

PS - If you're on the clock, and billing them for the time that you spend picking up lunch, no 'tip' to you is necessary. However, it would be polite for them to tell you to go ahead and pick up something for yourself while you're over there. But I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for that to happen.

Special thanks to my favorite handler, Brett, for tactical support. Got a dilemma? Send it to!

In the comments, tell me what you want for lunch.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Turkey Dinner with a Side of Awkward

Dear Shannon,

I am having Thanksgiving dinner at my boyfriend's (we'll call him Steve) house this year. He and I have been dating for over two years. About six months ago, his ex (Lila Fowler) with whom I am not friends, sent me an email alleging that she had slept with him sometime around our first anniversary. As she is not particularly credible, that blew over relatively quickly.

As it happens, I have met his parents before and got along with them fairly well. I have not met his sister (Jessica) before - with whom he does not get along and who is still good friends with Lila (which leads me to think Jessica believes that her brother did, in fact, cheat).

So... what do I do here? Other than bring a hip flask of Patron for myself and a nice bottle of white for everyone else, I mean. I'd just like to be prepared for any eventuality, including snide remarks from the sisterly peanut gallery.


Billie Winkler

Dear Billie,

I think if someone invented the Truly Perfect Comeback that worked on every snide remark, advice columnists around the world would instantly go out of business.

Also, never mock the trusty hip flask. It has seen many a guest through many a disastrous event (proof: Foggy Dew brought one to my wedding). Finally, there is no way to be prepared for “any eventuality” – life just doesn’t work that way. All you can really do is carry yourself with dignity and hope for the best. This situation is about 60 percent under Jessica's control. Here’s the breakdown of where the rest of the control lies:

20 percent: Your boyfriend. Does he normally back you up when there’s a dispute with his family? This is important for two reasons: 1. if you’re considering marriage, this is HUGE, and, 2. if his family sees him as someone who sticks up for you, and won’t be a pushover, then his sister will feel less tempted to make snide remarks because she knows he won't put up with it.

15 percent: You. You’re going to have to hold your head high, be friendly and interested in what she has to say, and give this woman a chance. If you’re shy by nature, this is going to be a challenge. But it’s totally necessary: if you show up for dinner all defensive and ready for a fight, you’ve already lost. You’ve gift-wrapped an excuse for her to go nuclear on her brother’s bitch queen stuck-up girlfriend.

5 percent: Random chance. Maybe something will happen before dinner that puts Jessica in a good mood, making things easier, or bad news could turn her into the haranguing devil sister from hell. Or maybe she'll catch the swine flu and miss dinner. Who knows?

In the end, all you can do is show up as your best self, and hold your head high. She may make a snide remark, in which case you have two choices: the etiquette-approved subject change, or, for the truly daring, playing dumb. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Could you please explain what you meant by that?” can make even the most toxic person fumble. But in the end, this is about how well you and your boyfriend team up to deal with outside a spat with the sister may be a good thing after all, as it can help you figure out whether your guy is a keeper.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!

PS – I do hope, whether the cheating allegations turn out to be true or not, that you got yourself thoroughly checked for STDs. Never take chances with your health.
Have a sticky etiquette question? Send it to!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Ask the Etiquette Vigilante: Dinner Party Evite-iquette

Dear Scanner Jockey/Etiquette Vigilante:

I usually use Evites to organize guest lists for various functions--dinner parties, cocktail parties, chili-cookoffs, Guy Fawkes rallies. I use the program not just to get the message out to my guests, but to keep track of who's coming so I can plan accordingly. However, my guests often check the invitation regularly but don't actually respond to tell me whether they're a yes, no or maybe. And of course many who do actually respond will say "yes" but not show up, or say "no" and then show up at the last minute.

For large gatherings (like a keg party or an angry torch mob) this isn't a problem, since a few more or few fewer people won’t make a difference, but this can really screw up a dinner party. And of course this happens whether or not I stress in the invitation that it is important for me to know how many will be showing up. How do I get the message across to these unreliable guests without badgering them?

Confused Latvian in Fort Fairfield

Dear Latvian,

The breach of etiquette in your first sentence has me quite flustered. Guy Fawkes rally invitations are traditionally delivered via fireworks display or a row of severed heads on pikes.

The most chaotic place in the world is the intersection between Technology Street and Human Nature Boulevard (Bogota’s airport is a close second). Evites are great for all of the reasons that you mention, but they have their limitations.

1. Guests can blithely ignore them, answer maybe, say yes and mean no, or say no and mean yes. It’s like watching a congressional hearing on C-SPAN, only less exciting.

2. They’re troublesome for hosts. There is no way to disable guests’ ability to invite others, thereby creating the impression that it’s OK to invite a bunch of randoms, bring a date to a funeral, or bring a squawking devil baby to an adults-only event.

Again, this is fine for informal gatherings where you can easily roll with guest list fluctuations. But any invitation involving a limited number of slots (road trips, dinner parties) should never be issued via Evite. Instead, you’ll have to visit 1876 (the invention of the telephone) and somewhere around 105 B.C. (the invention of wood pulp-based paper).

Call your intended guests two or three weeks in advance and invite them to join you for dinner. Use the paper to keep a tally of who is coming.

Sure, calling a bunch of people in a row is annoying, especially if you’re not a phone person. But the benefits far outweigh the annoyance of being an unpaid telemarketer:

1. One-on-one interaction negates the Evite Bystander Effect, that curious phenomenon where guests check the Evite daily but never get around to responding. (Yes, the host can see how recently you checked their Evite. And, yes, it’s really annoying when you do that – it comes across like you’re waiting to see if the cool kids are coming before you can clear your busy calendar and commit yourself to attending.)

2. It also allows you to (graciously) explain on the spot whether significant others, friends and/or children are welcome, reducing the potential for later misunderstandings and drama.

As for your unreliable guests, my first temptation is to tell you to find a better class of friends. However, good hosts cultivate a spiritual generosity that allows them to roll with the ‘maybes.’ Sometimes people can’t know in advance: they have to arrange childcare, they might have to work that weekend, they might be out of town. In that case, politely explain that you need to know one way or the other so you can plan and shop appropriately, and ask if you can check back in a week. If you put the onus on yourself to check back, vs. expecting Flakey McBailerston to sort himself out, find your phone number, and remember how to operate a newfangled tellyphone, things will go much more smoothly.

And a final note: two weeks is the absolute most notice you should insist upon for an event. Maybe three weeks, if it’s your wedding (even then, the caterers generally ask for just 72 hours’ notice for a final headcount). Believe me, I know it's agonizing to not be sure who is coming to your party. However, insisting upon a final guest list too far in advance comes across as controlling and diminishes enthusiasm for your event.

Thanks for writing in, Latvian!

In the comments, weigh in on Latvian’s dilemma, debate the merits of Evite, or tell me why I’m just so wrong that it makes your brain boil and contract away from your skull. Or send your dilemmas to

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Ask the Etiquette Vigilante

Since I'm now a semi-famous schoolmarm, I thought I'd turn that useful-but-unsexy reputation into a public service. I'm adding a semi-regular feature called, "Ask the Etiquette Vigilante."

Want to know how to cope when your married friends start bickering at the dinner table (I mean, aside from not ever getting married yourself?). Unsure how to politely turn down a second date with Mr. I Pick My Teeth at the Table? Wondering if you can bring your newish boyfriend to the Wedding Event of the Century, names listed on inner envelope be damned?

Look no further. Well, look over here: Send your dilemmas and awkward moments, I'll post answers.

Disclaimers: All letters are mine mine mine, to publish, or not. I may not be able to publish every letter, because sometimes I like to gaze at shiny objects or run off to find Shermer, Illinois. All letters will be open to reader comments...though as real people with real feelings are involved, I will monitor comments to make sure everyone plays nice and shares toys. Names may be changed to protect the innocent...and the guilty. The People's Court may be shamelessly quoted. Readers may shamelessly read to the end of the disclaimer to see if I say anything embarassing, so, fine...when I was a kid, I thought Oil of Olay was Oil of Old Lady. Also, I accidentally put my underwear on inside out this morning. Happy now?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shannon Getting Ranty about Rachel Getting Married

Spoilers and Spoilsport Alert: If you haven’t seen this movie, and you don’t want me to ruin it for you, click away! Or if you liked this movie, you REALLY want to click away. Look, kittens!

Rachel Getting Married is about recovering addict Kym (Anne Hathaway) wreaking havoc upon her sister’s wedding weekend. However, after meeting her family, you can sort of see why Kym would hurl herself into a Percocet abyss and never come out. Personally, after two hours of the cinematic equivalent of a bearhug from Mr. Van Driessen, I wanted to climb inside a bottle of Makers’ and take some airplane bottles of Absolut along for the ride.

These people are dreadful. This is the most tedious wedding ever captured on film. It drags for hours. It drags for days. It kills your spirit. It eats babies and sells crack to orphans. It takes Rush Limbaugh as gospel, compares Obama to Hitler, and buys every copy of Going Rogue. It buys non-free trade coffee and exploits child workers. It is a force of evil upon this Earth.

I should have known. I should have turned it off five minutes into the interminable rehearsal dinner sequence, in which there are performances, and performance art, and then toasts. And more toasts…EVERY SINGLE PERSON takes the microphone, and I am there to watch it. Worst of all, nobody appears to be eating anything.
I’m getting ugly flashbacks to a wedding I attended years ago, where, thanks to a whole bunch of slideshows and toasts and being the last table called up to the buffet, dinner wasn’t until 10:00. And they ran out of potatoes, too. No wedding event should lack for potatoes. I bet the Rachel Getting Married people oppose potatoes, as potatoes are a force for good upon the world.

The wedding itself is self-consciously and self-servingly multi-culti, like a live-action We Are the World mashed up with a Pier 1 Imports. It’s got upper-class Connecticut whites co-opting Indian wedding traditions for no apparent reason other than saris are kind of pretty.

Oh, Lord, the groom is delivering his vows. In a capella Neil Young song format. I am cringing. The wedding guests are weeping. They are happy about this development. That tells you everything you need to know about these people. They think there’s no better wedding vow than a song that rhymes “diner” with “finer.” I hate everyone. I truly do. I want to die.

Plus the luncheon and the tent and the dancing and the…good heavens, this wedding is eternal. I am sick of celebrating the happiness of you insipid artsy-fartsy twerps and your narcissistic friends, all of whom have to get up on stage and be acknowledged time and again. Cut the cake and let us all go home. I wanna go home!

Oh heavens, they’ve cut the cake, but there’s hours and hours more to go.

This is like Synedoche, New York, but worse. And I thought nothing could be worse than Synedoche, New York, which attempted to elevate "Life sucks, then you die," into high art.
I hate everyone.

In the comments, tell me if you’d want to be a guest at the Rachel Getting Married wedding. Or tell me that movie was totally heartwarming and authentic, and I just don’t get it because Jonathan Demme is an auteur and resides outside the grasp of my tiny little mind.

Monday, November 16, 2009

You're Nobody 'Til You're in the New York Times

Alternate title: Good Lord, Why Didn't Anyone Tell Me I Look Like Mary Poppins?

Yes, that's me. In the Times, like somebody respectable and newsworthy. And it's all thanks to my self-styled status as an etiquette vigilante.

My Sunday was pretty thrilling, what with the well-wishers, the shiny photo (taken by Andrew Councill, who was extraordinarily lovely), and the holycowI'mintheNewYorkTIMES!!!!! that managed to leak through the haze of the world's most brutal red wine hangover.

Except that I'm captioned as "It's polite to prowl." Eeeeessssshhhhh. And there's the whole cringeworthy thing where the reporter left out the repeated assertions I made that adults should not scold other adults, that lecturing others simply compounds the rudeness, and that I don't go around telling people how to act. I simply politely and calmly ask people to stop doing whatever it is that's so annoying, because most people mean well but are just oblivious to the world around them. I don't call people at home to enact petty revenge, like another person profiled in the article. (Reading that made me cringe like you would NOT believe.)

That said, what shall we do with my newfound fame as a schoolmarmy busybody scold? Market myself as an etiquette maven? Correct the posture of strangers with a ruler? Wear a "As Seen in the New York Times" t-shirt everywhere I go? Try to get into VIP rooms by showing a clip of the article and saying, "Yeah, I'm kind of a big deal"?

Thursday, November 05, 2009

No Koalas Attended My Birth

Back in 1976, disco was king, malaise was queen, and I was off being born in Mona Vale Hospital in New South Wales, Australia. Technically, due to the International Date Line, I've been 33 for a day now, but, let's just call my birthday November 5th. It keeps things simple.

When I tell people I was born in Australia, they imagine my birth was attended by a tableau of koalas, wallabies and kangaroos, and accompanied by a soaring didgeridoo soundtrack, like a sort of antipodean Nativity play.

Sadly, the truth isn't quite so exciting. I was born in a normal hospital, among doctors and nurses, with zero marsupials in attendance. However, there's still a good story in there:

My sister's first memory is of our dad holding her up to the window of the neonatal ward, pointing out all of the babies to her, and saying, "So, which one do you want?" (Yes, all Stameys are extremely sick people.)

Skye pointed to a random baby. Probably a boy. Definitely not me.

So Dad pointed at me, and said, "What about that one?"

Skye's voice rolled into a high-pitched whine, "But she's too SMALL!!!!!!"

Luckily, despite my sister's objections, my parents still took me home. Otherwise I imagine this story would turn out quite differently.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Very Moving Recap

There is nothing quite like inviting six lovely friends to join you for pizza and beer, and perhaps a little bit of hauling furniture, here and there, you know, just a little bit. There is also nothing quite like the affable incompetence of my building's management office, which turned what should have been effortless into an exercise in annoyance.

I reserved the elevator a week in advance. However, at 10:00, I was told that no such reservation existed, and I would just have to wait because the elevator was already in use. So, we waited. Then we hung out. Then we waited. Then my CD tower disassembled itself at the slightest of touches, collapsing in a pile of suicidal plywood. Then we found a pile of broken glass behind the bed. Then we were told I could pick up the elevator key.

At 10:45, the move began. We were done by 12:00, because, well, seven people can do a same-building move in no time flat. But once the move was over, the annoyance began anew.

We started with the definitive odor of gas coming from the kitchen. We continued with three calls to the maintenance staff before any sort of response could be rallied. The clincher? When I had to say, "I would hate for my friends to explode after they were so nice about helping me move." That got a response...of sorts. Two hungover maintenance dudes popped by, turned on the pilot light, and I was done! And moved in! Victory!

Pizza was ordered, prosecco was popped open, my wedding gown was found sprawled among a pile of boxes. Our pizza party turned into an impromptu wedding as Brett donned the dress and twirled around prettily. The situation devolved when she went downstairs with me, in gown and veil, to pick up the pizzas. The pizza guy either thought Brett was having the most shotgun of shotgun weddings, or that we'd started trick-or-treating six hours early. The situation only got sillier when we took the opportunity for a bridal photo shoot/prank call to Brett's mom, and...well, it was a beautiful ceremony among the cheap beer and mishmash boxes. Never mind that Brett married a man who believes her name is "Brita."

Somewhere among all the joy, things started to go wrong. First, the power went out and I was reduced to unpacking the bathroom by candlelight. Then the hot water vanished, and after multiple calls, I was told they were "aware of the situation" and that there was "no timeframe for resolution." Then I noted that both faucets in the shower were "hot." It was like Paris Hilton's bathroom! Then I realized the dishwasher didn't have a cutlery basket, the soap dish wasn't actually any sort of dish, the oven would only open if you gave it a hard shove into the wall first, and that, really, sometimes with cheap rent you get what you pay for.

I eventually realized I wasn't angry, so much as embarrassed on their behalf.

Then I filled the nail holes of the old apartment with toothpaste.

Then I wound up with the flu.

Don't you wish you were me?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

My New Neighbors

I have a knack for memorable neighbors. Like Roy, the 72-year-old bike messenger. Or the people who kept a Post-It note message to the UPS guy on their door for months on end, the woman who rotated her wreaths with every solstice, or Extra from The Day After Man, who shuffles around the basement and leers at people.

So imagine my excitement when I pick up the keys to my new place and realize that I will be next door to an amazing hybrid between the People of Walmart and an obsessive cat lady crazy hoarder person. Wide-open front door? Check. Smelly food? Check. Debris to the ceiling? Check. Contents of balcony? Two bicycles, one dilapidated cooler, a derelict hibachi, damp cardboard boxes, various unidentifiable pieces of metal and various unidentifiable pieces of something that was quite possibly once alive.

Of course, all of these things are flagrant lease violations. However, as I tend to do things like throw all-night karaoke fests and sell black market babies out of my home, I can't really judge. Also, remember, I'm from Woodbridge. Throw in a camper top used as a kids' playhouse, and I'll be right back on Bacon Race Road where I belong.

What I can do is offer a money-back guarantee, swear on a stack of Bibles, and promise from the bottom of my heart that my new neighbors will provide a LOT of blog material.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Admittedly Very Outdated Salute to Miranda Priestly

Stub your toe, and I weep. But if your boss tears you a (justifiable) new one, I'm gonna laugh and create a Top Ten list of why your boss was right. When it comes to work stuff, I'm not the place to go for sympathy. Come to think of it, I'm an unapologetic hardass.

Want to know how harsh I am? Want to know the exact moment I knew I was all grown up? I walked out of The Devil Wears Prada and couldn't get what was so awful about Meryl Streep's character. I thought she was really about the best boss that a recent college graduate could have. And I thought Anne Hathaway's character was a self-absorbed, entitled little whiner.

Back in the day, I could have really used a Miranda to set me straight. The first few years after college exist to tell you that you're not half so special as you thought, that you have to do the grunt work to get to the good stuff, that all honest work has dignity, and that whining is for losers. Well, ideally, you learn those things. If you didn't, godspeed and good luck in the unemployment line.

Think about it. Miranda:
  • Has clear expectations and responsibilities for her assistants

  • Rewards hard work with opportunities to grow (and a trip to Paris!)

  • Expects her staff to dress for success and uphold the corporate image

  • Teaches her staff about the industry (the infamous "cerulean rant")

  • Doesn't yell (once you've worked for a yeller, you'll never do it again)

Sure, her expectations are sort of bonkers, the hours are long, saying "that's all" instead of "thank you" is pretty obnoxious, and the stress is extreme. But...raise of hands...who thinks being a personal assistant for a famous, high-level person in a high-pressure industry is going to be a 9 to 5 cakewalk with plenty of Gawker breaks? Nobody? Ok, then. Point made.

What cracked me up about Andy (played by Anne Hathaway in the movie) is that she really expected her first job to be sunshine and ponies, that she thought it would be OK to make fun of the people issuing her paychecks, and that she was somehow better than people who had toiled for years to get where they are. Pretty standard recent-grad behavior. Of course (disclaimer alert!), not everyone behaves that way, but enough do that the stereotype of the entitled entry-level worker holds some weight.

Of course, the job turns out to be a poor fit, and Andy resigns, which is OK. We've all taken jobs that we've regretted. Of course, it's not ever OK to quit by tossing your work-issued Blackberry into a fountain, and depart without giving notice. But, by that point, I was just ready for Andy to sack up and stop whining.

In the comments, tell me who you sympathize with more: Miranda or Andrea. Or tell me this post is about three years overdue.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How Does Your Garden Grow?

I'm moving this weekend. Even though I'm just transferring into a bigger apartment in the same building, I've been talking up the event like it's my biggest life change, ever. Ever ever ever!

So far I have: attempted to develop a mutant with handtrucks for arms, Evited a request to help me move, and asked friends and coworkers to grab a pencil and floor plan printout and take a stab at arranging my furniture. Somewhere in all this carefully arranged hysteria, Brando suggested I plant 'herbs and spices' on my balcony.

Except he typed it as, 'herps and spices.'

Well. I was instantly taken with the idea of my very own urban garden of venereal disease. I picture herpes as a vivid green moss. Chlamydia would probably be a delicate white flower, like baby's breath. Syphilis would be low-maintenance and popular among basement dwellers, like a spider plant. Gonorrhea would be a little more robust and colorful, perhaps like a cyclamen plant.

HPV? Not a plant, but the High Performance Vehicle I borrow from Zipcar to pick up my social diseases from the Home Depot.

When you think about it, most STDs have pleasant-sounding names. It's a rare word that sounds like what it is. 'Flabbergasted,' for instance. That sounds exactly like what it looks like: seeing every ounce of flab on your body, quivering and aghast at what you have just witnessed.

In the comments, tell me what various STD words sound like to you. Or just tell me your favorite word.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

My Five Rules of Gracious Living

I am not an etiquette maven. I almost always reach for the wrong fork, say the wrong thing, or invite friends to soirees with titles like, "Yes, I Just Evited You to Ask You to Help Me Move." (What's more fun than moving my 83 pairs of shoes two stories and 20 feet? Nothing. That's what. Plus I offer a competitive pizza-and-beer compensation program.)

But I do believe in five rules for gracious living:

1. Offer your seat on the Metro to the elderly, the pregnant, or, hey, even someone who looks tired or like they were on their feet all day. The average Starbucks barista makes $8.55 an hour to deal with caffeine-starved self-important morons all day - why not offer her your chair?

2. Bonus round: Offer your seat by merely saying, "Would you like to sit down?" Don't add a justification, like, "You look pregnant to me." Super-special bonus - this gets you out of being thumped when you tell a non-pregnant lady that she looks pregnant.

3. Never leave someone sitting alone in a corner at a party. Middle school is over, and so is ostracizing someone because they might be uncool. Go over and introduce yourself! Unless they're rifling through the sofa for spare change. Because that's just weird. But, overall, five minutes of potentially boring chitchat with a stranger won't kill you. And you might even make a new friend.

4. When you ask a coworker to do something, don't call out 'thank you' over your shoulder as you walk away. Thank them face-to-face. Don't treat gratitude as an afterthought.

5. When you have guests coming over, and they ask what they should bring, ask if they had something particular in mind. They might have a specialty they'd love to prepare for you. Doling out assignments converts your friends into unpaid caterers. Let them do what they enjoy, even if it means a dozen artichoke dips and four tater tot-and-bean casseroles.

In the comments, tell me what etiquette rules you've invented lately. Or tell me I've tumbled off the Cliffs of Nice into the Abyss of Insufferable.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Menagerie of Decorating Pet Peeves

After last week’s love-in, I decided something: I miss the little things. By which I mean, I miss getting ticked off about the little things. Like that ridiculous wave of silliness that smacks into people when they begin feathering their nests.

Hey, a little venom makes the world go ‘round. And a lot of it knocks it off its axis, spinning us into the nether regions of the galaxy. And we all know how we feel about nether regions. So, without any further ado/lifting of the interstellar petticoats, here are my Top Home Decor Pet Peeves:

Inspirational wall decals. Whether it’s a single word, like, “Family,” or a sentiment consisting of treacle-flavored barf, such as “Family is Really Nice and Stuff,” it just comes across as a clutter of unimaginative hokum. Inspirational wall decals are for people too cheap to collect Precious Moments figurines.

Accent Walls. It just looks like the decorator got bored and moved on to something else. It's trendy, it's not all that cool...kind of like naming your child Madison and then claiming you came up with it first.

The West Elm Catalog. Who doesn’t like to flip through the West Elm catalog and imagine themselves in a world of sterile Bohemia? Who doesn’t want funny-shaped headboards and decorative octopi? Until you start reading the testimonials, which come from sanctimonious twits like the Surfer Skier who enjoys parachuting, the poor, and his girlfriend. My vision of hell is spending all eternity at a dry, no-dance Baptist wedding with the West Elm Catalog People.

Sage Green. Overdone. Annoying. I can’t decide whether it’s the Harvest Gold or Avocado Green of our generation.

Lucite Furniture. No, decorators, it does NOT make a room look airier. It makes my knees look bruisier from all the times I bang into your goofy invisible furniture.

Overly Arty Book Arrangements. Why would I cover all of my books in matching paper? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of, say, deciding which of my books I'd like to read? The people who do this are also probably the same ones who have those $300 stand mixers that never get used.

Black Leather Furniture. Why is it that virtually every man, once he starts making a little money, runs right out and buys a black leather couch? Forget, "I'll call you," the black leather sofa is the ultimate mystery of the Y chromosome.

Decorative Antlers. Unless you shot it, killed it, ate it, stuffed it, and danced on its carcass, you don't need antlers over the loveseat.

In the comments, tell me what sort of decor makes you cringe. Also, the image above is from Dictator Style, which is seriously the funniest book in the whole entire universe. It even has Saddam Hussein's collection of disturbing topless sci-fi art!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The End, My Friends

Well, it's the end of the week, the end of my awesomeness, and the last two guest posts. Enjoy!

Hammer imagines I'd watch Hee-Haw with his grandma, which not only rhymes, but might be one of the sweetest things anyone's said to me in a while:

You know, I don't let just anybody get in MAH TRUK, much less insist they do so, but Shannon settled right in like my old Ford was custom-built for her. The hound dogs took to her immediately, and the fact that she's on the petite side just means we get to haul an extra cooler of beer up front. You don't need to have dropped out of the management certificate program at NOVA Community College to know that what you got right there is a win-win, I tell you whut.

When she wasn't telling us young 'uns to simmer down so she could watch Hee-Haw in peace, my grandma was always fond of saying, "Now Hammer, you make sure you surround yourself with good people." Although she never met Shannon, I'm sure she'd approve of our association. Grandma wouldn't know a blog from a bag of Fritos, but she knows that your 500th anything is a pretty big deal. I can see it now... "Good day!" she'd exclaim, listening patiently to Shannon try to explain what the hell a blog was and why a person would write one for so long - under their real name no less - and then she'd start to drift a bit, perk back up after a while, and say, "Shannon, do you think there are any stations showing Hee Haw tonight?"

And you know what? Even though there ain't nobody showing Hee Haw anymore except The Playaz, Shannon would actually make an honest effort to scroll through the listings and check. You never know, stranger things have happened. In fact, stranger things do happen. To Shannon. All the time. And because she writes every bit as well as she improvises, we're able to share in these experiences and exploits from the comfort of our own homes and offices.

It's not as fun as hanging out with her in person, but your odds of ending up on an episode of C.O.P.S. are a hell of a lot lower.

Meanwhile, J credits me with e-pimpage:

Shannon's blog is filled with things I'd like to say, but didn't think of first. But more importantly, it's a focal point for discussion. And a segue to socialization.When you read DSJ, you come face-to-face with so many of life's absurdities and strange coincidences. And incompetent Krispy Kreme clerks.When you meet DSJ, you find that there is an amazing ball of charm who will always look out for you, throws fantastic parties, and shares stories of goulash at gas stations on the Croatian-Hungarian border. Last but not not least, she's also the finest e-pimp DC has to offer :)

Thanks everyone for participating! Come back next week for my top decorating peeves, why I get paranoid so much, and a recap of whatever weird thing happens to me over the weekend.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Grandmaster of the Self-Love Parade

Today's guest posters are [F]oxymoron and the Foggy Dew.

First up, [F] compares me to a petty criminal made of delicious fried strips of pork:

What can I say? Everybody needs a good dealer, and in this town, when I need a good blog high, I click on over to your hood. If I could snort your lines, I would.

Even more abstract and nonsensical: Your blog is a spunky enigma wrapped in bacon.

The Foggy Dew gets a little more sentimental:

Original Snark (kind of like Original Sin, but more fun)

I met the DSJ a long, long, looooong time ago. Back in the day when the Interwebs flowed over copper wires, you had to dial into the campus’ server and when a professor asking, “Does anyone know what the World Wide Web is?” was a legitimate question. In all honesty, when my Geo 15 “The Dynamic Earth” aka “Rocks for Jocks” prof asked this question, I had no idea what the hell the Web was. (Seriously, there were a large number of young men in the class who, while they could have had a glandular problem, were most likely football players.)

Anyway, getting back on topic, the DSJ and I met after a showing of The Professional at the end of our freshman year in Chapel Hill and have been friends since. Through much of the time after graduation, though, something came between us. No, really, there was: a lot of miles. Soon after she helped me move into my first post-college, roach-infested $190 a month apartment in a town I’d promised myself I’d never return to, the DSJ herself moved on from the Southern Part of Heaven.
[ed: Foggy didn't actually let me move boxes or carry anything...either from gentlemanliness or the fact that I was mostly invited along as comic relief.]

With each new job and every move we literally got further apart. Now I may not get the sequence exactly right, but it went something like this: Jacksonville, N.C. (me); Washington, D.C. (her); Indianapolis, Ind. (me); Texas (me again); Bogota, Colombia (not me); another town in Texas (sigh, me); Sarajevo (definitely not me); Washington, D.C. (FINALLY! Me); Washington, D.C. (Hey, cool! We have the same first digit in our ZIP code.
Root beer for all!)

I should point out all of those moves took place between October 1998 and April 2006. Personally, I think I was about one move away from a free U-Haul rental.

Sometime in 2002, I got an e-mail saying something along the lines of “the DSJ has posted new material.” It’s been so long I can’t even remember what this space was called way back then [
ed: The Diplomat's Wife], but I clicked over and liked what I read (she may have been making fun of the Camdens) and, from that point forward, kept an eye out for any new postings. I thought, “Hey, this is a pretty good way for DSJ to keep everyone up to date on what’s going on,” because, that being 2002 and all, we were all still limited to phone calls and email, none of them fancy schmancy do-dads you kids got today to keep in touch.

Her early posts set the tone then and her snark’s as fresh today as it was the day she started this joint. Hmmm, that sounds a bit…obscene, doesn’t it?

Neither here nor there, where were we? Oh, yes. Like Inigo said just before they stormed the castle gates, let me sum up since there’s too much to ‘splain. Seven years, 500-plus posts, I’ve read them all (including the 20 or so she’s taken down, so I don’t know if they should actually count), been mentioned in a couple and am continually impressed that no matter how stupid the people she writes about are (the baby stroller door stop anyone?), there’s always someone dumber out there to inspire another post.

We’ll just have to keep on reading to see if Darwin was right.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

31 Flavors of Narcissism

I'm in the midst of a weeklong self-love spectacular. In honor of my 500th post, I gave myself the week off and asked friends and associates to tell me how this blog changed their lives. This way I get to highlight some of my favorite bloggers, AND totally avoid having to post anything myself. I'm amazed that anyone actually took me up on this, which tells you everything you need to know about the generosity of the DC blogverse.

Lemmonex keeps it simple:

Shannon reminds me every day that you can be a complete spaz...and still maintain your charm and wit.

Brando apparently credits me with book larnin' and forcibly getting him to wear shoes by throwing him on his back:

Picture it--a broke and bedraggled immigrant from the wilds of Maine, who barely speaks the language of the Mid-Atlantic region, and had never heard of "scanner jockeys" let alone ones who were disaffected. I certainly needed bloggalicious guidance to help show me how to be "cool" and "hip" and "not a social disaster area that leads people to have parties celebrating the fact that I couldn't make it to the party".

Back in the Wild North Country, being "cool" involved knowing the Red Socks starting lineup (and spelling it "Sox", which was hard to get used to, like ordering vodka on the rox), wearing a fleece year round, and answering "ayuh" to any question involving me wanting more beer. I would have been lost if it weren't for a blog known as Disaffected Scanner Jockey. With this blog, I learned what "skeevy" men were--and how to avoid them!--as well as the perils of being petite on public transportation. I learned that there was something called "shangria" and it could lead people to drunken debauchery. I learned, in short, of what was humming in this fair city of ours.

Since that time I've become savvy to the ways of the world, and no longer ripped off by guys at airports selling colored pieces of yarn. Damn those yarn guys.

If only I'd had Disaffected Scanner Jockey years ago. Happy 500!

Meanwhile, Malnurtured Snay would like to thank me for my emotional distance, my status as the emotional taker in our friendship, and a side order of crusty trans fats:

I'm really glad that I started reading and commenting on Shannon's blog ... not so much for the actual posts themselves, but because I guess I got her to feel like she owed me something for all the reading and commenting (side note: how many times has she posted on my blog? Zero. Zip. Nada.), that one day, she brought left over doughnuts from her office to me and my coworkers at my part-time job.

Even though they were stale, the wage slaves I work with were really happy to get free food, and I was the recipient of sexual favors from the less repulsive members of the staff the whole evening. By sexual favors, I mean they didn't throw books at my crotch, which was a welcome relief, and if you've ever had some douchebag, who somehow got a job in a bookstore despite thinking that Q comes after R and before Z, slam a hardbound edition of The Lord of the Rings into your preciouses, you'd be thanking her, too.

Stay tuned for more heartfelt tributes in song, interpretive dance, and sarcasm-laden prose from Hammer, [F]oxymoron, J and more.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

(500) Posts of Shannon

Welcome to my 500th post! It only took seven years, three blog titles, one involuntary shutdown, a marriage, a divorce, several breakups, about 20 posts I took down because I thought they were too mean/not very good, six apartments, several thousand Heinekens, nearly 8,000 comments, and a LOT of narcissism and jackassery to get here.

My original plan involved a parade with a float, and maybe people throwing money and going into convulsions on the sidewalk. However, that appeared to involve permits, bribes to the Taxicab Commission (because they ALWAYS need a bribe) and a trained goat. What? A parade should ALWAYS have a goat.

Instead, I asked a few friends to send guest posts and testimonials about how this blog changed their lives. Weirdly, some of them took me seriously (because, come ON, who takes me seriously?). I'll be posting these vocabu-tastic and occasionally heartfelt accolades for the rest of the week.

First up is Brett, who credits me with a failed relationship, enabling the creepiest aspects of her character, and a free cupcake. Yet, somehow, it's kind of sweet:

Cheers to Shannon's Lack of Anonymity Which Allows People to Stalk Her (And Leads to Me Stalking Others)

Disaffected Scanner Jockey is solely responsible for my last breakup. Well, no, that's a lie. But this blog is a large part of the reason I sought out the last person I dated. Let me explain...Shannon is obviously not an anonymous blogger. Nor does she go through great pains to avoid describing herself physically. Through the blog alone one could glean that she is a tiny redhead/brunette, depending on the month.

But really, we have her full name, people. You can easily pull up her picture on Facebook or G-chat. Which is exactly what one of Shannon's regular readers/fellow bloggers did. And when he later spied her from afar at Artomatic, he sent her an email from his nom de plume letting her know she'd been recognized.

He, however, was much more bashful about his anonymity, which in turn made Shannon very very curious about this mystery man. You can't very well send someone an email saying "I see you" and not reveal your own identity. So we (I?) made it our (my?) mission to out this guy. I enjoyed his writing anyway, and most bloggers I've met have turned out to be relatively normal people. And so began the Twitter brigade.

For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon that is tweeting, it is often the quickest and most direct way to reach someone when you don't actually know them. I reached out under the pretext of finding him a job. Soon enough, we were emailing back and forth. I had his first name and his place of employment. If you're at all familiar with Google, there's a lot you can do with that information. And I'm a pretty good detective.Still, I had to meet this guy in the flesh. I knew I'd eventually wear him down with my incessant questioning, not to mention my wit and blurred yet seductive Blogger pic.

We met for drinks, then dinner, then cupcakes, and the rest is history.It was fun while it lasted. Alas, all good things must come to an end.Yeah, I know I'm leaving out the major details that would make some smile and others cringe.

But I know that both he and our mutual friends will read this post, and that stuff is proprietary information. I will tell you this, though: if this blog is responsible for fits of frustration and making me cry, it can also take the credit for romantic picnics, coconut kisses, and the first and only time I will ever imitate a chicken in public.

And now I am seeing someone else wonderful had it not been for your lack of anonymity. So cheers to you, Ms. Scanner Jockey. You've kept my hopes high and my bed warm. And my life full of laughs and love. -Brett

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Am I a Bad Feminist?

Sometimes I wonder if I'm a bad feminist.

Don't get me wrong: if you claim that women's value can be reduced to fertility and/or boobs, then I'll be all over your ass like a bad tattoo. Moreover, if you tell me that my anger will subside along with my PMS and/or the procurement of a pretty hat, you are dead to me.

If you use the word "feminazi" in my presence, you will writhe in pain and wonder where your fingernails went. If you dismiss feminism as 'man-hating' you will only earn my pity. Personally, I love men.

Most feature articles about women drive me nuts. Most often, they're about well-off women who gave up high-flying careers to raise babies, and then this small and posh minority are presented as an amazingly relevant social trend. What about the women who can't stay home, or the men who'd like to?

I cringe every time I read about unmarried women in their 30s, who can't seem to settle down and squirt out babies. Of course, that hits a little close to home. But the real pain is the drumbeat of "urban career girl won't live up to her responsibilities," while men are let completely off the hook. Where's the accompanying article about the men who won't settle down? Why is it just women who get the mass media guilt trip?

I find it extremely annoying when women describe themselves only in context to other people. "I'm a wife and mother and daughter and sister." When was the last time you got an answer like that from a man? A man would probably answer, "I'm a sales representative and I like tacos."

Sex and the City? Don't even get me started. Boycrazy bubbleheaded materialistic nonsense presented as neo-feminism.

But I can't sing along to every battle cry. For example, I don't feel the need to be any sort of trailblazer with my career. I'm a secretary, and I was raised by a stay-at-home mom. Throw in a teacher and a nurse, and we'd probably assemble into Traditional Feminine Careers Voltron.

I don't want to be a CEO or a scientist, but admire women who are willing to put in the work that it takes to be a leader.

I don't care that brides being given away at weddings is a patriarchal tradition that reduces women to chattel, because it makes the dads really happy.

I don't want to know how to change the oil in a car, repair a stove, or operate power tools.

I believe in a woman's right to choose, but would never consider abortion an option for me.

I think most women fall somewhere in the mushy middle. All we want are choices for ourselves, a fair shake, and the opportunity to speak our minds. Isn't that what feminism is about?

Are you a feminist? How do you define feminism?

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Can I Be Completely Honest? Oh, Like Anyone Wants THAT

I come from a long line of excessively blunt people. Dinner with my family can feel sort of like going through a carwash in a top-down Mini Cooper convertible, as you are bludgeoned and buffeted by a thousand brushes and walls of soap.

Don't believe me? This is what my mother said when I asked why we had so many baby photos of Skye, and none of me: "Well, by the time the second baby comes, it's just not that exciting." She went on to point out that my sister and I looked astonishingly similar as infants, so she didn't want to waste the film.

My mother's take on childrearing might be slightly out of the ordinary.

Since every woman turns into her mother, my own honesty can be a little frightening. I must cross the line a dozen times per day, and never even notice. I've probably offended all of you without even trying. Hell, some days I offend myself.

I ought to know better. I know that if a friend says, "Can I be honest?" it means, "Can I be brutal?" I know "I'm just being honest!" means, "I'm being mean, but cloaking myself in forthrightness so I seem like a good person." And I know sometimes an indirect answer could keep me out of a whole mess of trouble.

But I also know direct questions deserve direct answers, that the truth will come out, and that nobody wants to be seen in pants that make their butt look like the hind end of the Hindenberg.

How did you decide your level of honesty? Or do you think it is predetermined, like hair and eye color?

Friday, October 02, 2009

Jet Packs and the Secrets of Optimism

I believe in all sorts of cheesy needlepoint throw pillow philosophies. "The greatest pleasure I find is in my garden," for instance. Not that I have a garden, but a metaphorical garden of sorts. OK, that was a stretch. So let's just admit that my worldview is populated mostly with Hallmark sentiments, squishy full-body hugs, and the air-raid siren that heralds my latest terrible idea.

If I had to pick a guiding philosophy, it would be, "Happiness is a choice." I'd also add, though, that happiness involves careful planning and robust organizational skills. My version of happiness is simple, but takes a lot of hard work: a well-prepared dinner, routines, the occasional surprise, people who pick me up when they hug me, long-term friendships, that look coworkers give me when they haven't yet realized that I'm kidding, a closet full of great (deeply discounted) outfits, and always having something to look forward to. I think that last one is the most important.

In the short term, I have a four-day weekend coming up, a new duvet cover, a hike with friends, my birthday, a Michelob the size of my head, Sundays slobbing on the couch while pretending to care about football, and wiping the dust off my Crock-Pot.

In the long-term, I have that point where I can finally get away with letting my hair go gray, a lifetime of love, dreams about everything from marriage and family to a trip to Buenos Aires, the chance to be a batty old lady who hands out stale cookies to the neighborhood kids.

And jetpacks. I'm astounded and kind of pissed that we don't have those yet.

In the comments, tell me what makes you happy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Pigs of Space, or, Sometimes Every Paragraph Gets a Sarcastic Parenthetical

One of the most tiresome assumptions about short people is that we don't require any personal space. (Don’t believe me? Check out some of the comments from last week’s post.)

I refer to these people as the Pigs of Space. Hey, I may be petite, but I do enjoy a dose of oxygen from time to time. Also, try being short in a crowd of people sometime – it’s unpleasant and disorienting to only be able to see butts and elbows. (Though if I had an elbow fetish, I would probably be transported into a state of bliss every time I changed trains at Metro Center.)

In most teeming-piles-of-humanity situations, I am crowded, jostled, squished, bumped into, and nudged to a degree that is simply not experienced by any of my friends. (Well, except the fellow pocket-size ones.)

One of my favorite breeds of the Pigs of Space are the Metro Seat-Sploogers. No, it’s not as gross as it sounds. (Though it’s still plenty gross.)

Women who sit down next to me on the Metro will use their purses to slowly splooge into my seat. Ladies, if you must carry fourteen bags containing commuter shoes, workout clothes for the gym you never visit, a week of lunches, and a two-liter of Coke, and you can’t tuck these items between your feet or onto your lap, you have deeper issues than I can fathom. (Incidentally, can anyone tell me WHY some women have to lug all of their belongings along for an eight-hour workday? Do they all share really, really small apartments with a night-shift roommate who makes them clear out every morning?)

Men will splay their legs to the point where I wonder if they’re trying to impregnate the poles, or if they have the sort of elephantitis junk that needs to ride shotgun. It’s gross and pervy and weird. (Quick! What’s the movie reference here?)

Overall, I am very generous with space and try to use my size to benefit others. I’m happy to ride hump when we’re five to a car, share a stool at the local dive, or climb into the furthest recesses of the storage closet to retrieve lost office supplies. Consideration and kindness are key concepts of my life. But there’s a point where folks are just taking advantage. There's a point where someone is trying to bully their way to more room than they really need, like a one-man McMansion. And that’s when it’s time to be assertive. Time to use tricks like the Amused Raised Eyebrow, the Gentle Nudge Back into Your Own Damn Seat, and the Fake Coughing Fit. (Even handier? An accidental stab to the thigh.)

So my question is this: If you read a news report about a woman who leaps on top of her male neighbor on the Metro and forcibly straps his knees together with an adorably trendy red patent-leather belt, will you know that it’s me? (And will you laugh, or will you chalk it all up to the demise of civility in modern society...or an accidental switch to decaf?)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Never Mess with a Little Sister

For claustrophobics, there are few experiences more enchanting than sealing yourself up inside a big tinfoil Tylenol and hurtling across America.

I’ve built some coping mechanisms. Being too broke to ever go anywhere, for instance. But when a flight becomes necessary, I go for headphones, mild hallucinogenics, meditation and occasional walks up and down the aisle.

Except when I’m on a cross-country nonstop with a non-reclining seat and so much turbulence my teeth were sticking out of my eyebrows. Walks became impossible and the walls closed in.

What made the experience even more completely awesome was the spiky-haired hipster in front of me. He’d reclined to the point that I was tempted to dig out some chopsticks and perform a head lice inspection. After about three hours, my chest tightening, and a panic attack rolling in, I decided to take action.

I put on my best Happy Secretary voice. *tap tap* “Excuse me, would you mind moving your seat up a bit for a little while? I’m starting to feel squashed.”

Well, the look he gave me implied I’d asked something along the lines of, “Hello good sir, I was wondering if I could have your left nut, your mother’s virtue, and perhaps a cottage in the countryside.”

“Why, yes, I would mind.”

He clamped his earbuds back in place. I politely said I was claustrophobic, and that I really needed the space and air or I might have a panic attack. He ignored me while his traveling companion looked a little embarrassed (the companion, though, was in the process of crushing my next-door neighbor, so I guess jerks of a feather really do fly together).

I briefly entertained the idea of calling over a flight attendant. After all, if I had a fit on the plane it would be unpleasant for everyone. But then I pictured myself saying, “Mo-ooom, Hipster’s on my side of the car again!” I’m more mature than that.

I swaddled myself in a shawl, took deep breaths, pictured open spaces and light, and pulled myself together. After a while, I calmed down. Crisis averted. Until I heard a squeak and a clack.
The Hipster was reclining even further.

Fine. Keep your seat the way it is. I'll live. But reclining further is just being a petty, mean-spirited, vindictive little bully. I know I seem like an easy target. I’m girly and giggly and small and my voice is so chirpy that I could probably speak the language of parakeets if I only tried.

But Hipster didn’t know something important: I'm also a little sister. And, like any little sister anywhere, I know how to turn any journey into a relentless sort of hell.

I propped myself up and proceeded to dig my knees into his back for the remaining two hours of the flight.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

I Feel as if I Ought to Say Hello

I'm not going to do that annoying blogger thing and apologize for not writing. Instead, I'm going to do that even more annoying blogger thing, and tell you WHY I haven't been writing.

For the last month-and-change, I've been in ohmygodIcan'tbreatheswampedcrisisstaylatearriveearly mode at work. This has left me with very little mental energy to spare. Just so my readers don't feel left out, here are the other slack-ass ways I've been conducting my life:

1. As I walk home from the Metro at one ungodly hour or another, I wave hello to my assortment of clothes languishing at the dry cleaners'.
2. All invitations have received the same response. "I'll come if I'm not in a darkened room somewhere, stabbing myself in the nostril with Maybelline Lash Stiletto." I've never used the "maybe" response on Evite with such heady abandon.
3. All requests for help with menus, fete planning, weekend ideas, and other Queen Bee Social Chair items that I normally dive into get the response of, "Dude. Ask me again in October."
4. Mashed potatoes from a packet for dinner? I'm nostalgic for those classy days.
5. My life is ruled by mental countdowns. Two weeks from today, my hell season will be over. I will have my feet up and my hair down and my brain in utter drool mode.

So, it's not you. It's me and everyone else. I'll be back soon, and more obnoxious than ever.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

You Can Pick Your Nose but You Can't Pick Your Readers. Unless Your Readers Are Boogers.

That may, officially, be the grodiest title I've ever chosen. Don't worry, it's not Thursday yet and I won't be writing about boogers. In fact, I promise this is the last time I'll ever use the word "booger."

Instead, I'll strike up the perennial blogger favorite (hey, did anyone ever notice how similar the words 'blogger' and 'booger' are?):

Virtually every blogger has written a post like this: "My mom/an old boyfriend/my boss/all my cousins discovered my blog and I told them to not read it! But they did it anyway. It's so disrespectful of them! It's an invasion of my privacy! Especially because I want to bitch about them at length without any consequences."

My response, now and ever, is, "Fat chance." Once you've hit that 'publish' button, you're accountable for everything you say about anyone who might stop by. That includes everyone you mock, anyone you've hurt, and the truth about any stories you tell. It's simple, really: don't write anything you wouldn't say.

And blogs are open to anyone who might stop by. You don't get to dictate your audience. Don't like it? Take it down, slap up a password, or watch what you say. I mean, really. The Internet is hardly private property.

I wish I could change my mind about these things, because it would make the second half of this post much easier to write.

Recently, I was found by someone I'd hoped could lose me forever. Someone I haven't seen in over a decade emailed with the sort of lengthy, emotion-dredging manipulative intrusiveness that made him such a negative part of my life to begin with. My response has been to not respond at all. I think that's best.

I don't know if he's changed, and I hope he has, but that's beside the point. The point is that I have changed. I've had enough love by now to know that I don't have to open up my life to anyone who stops by. I can pick and choose, something I get better at each and every year. I don't have to be that love-starved mess from long ago.

But I know I don't have the right to dictate who can and can't read this site. And I've always understood that blogging under my real name carries a price. On the whole, it's worth it, because I think anonymous blogging can make it too easy to be heartless or slippery.

Living in the open makes me remarkably easy to find. I briefly considered closing up shop or donning an alias, but we all know that wouldn't happen.

There are over six years of emotion-barfs, opinions and stories to choose from. I stand behind them all, even though I'm far from perfect and could always have further to fall. I like to think my stories are worth sharing. And I'm glad I have all of you along for the ride.

I just ask that those of you who belong in my messy past don't contact me.

In the comments, object to my repeated use of the word 'booger.' Or explain to me exactly what the hell I'm talking about. Because I have no clue.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Helpless Like a Newborn Kitten

One of my least appealing qualities is my tendency to turn into a complete and utter crybaby when I'm sick.

It's ridiculous, really. I turn as helpless as a newborn kitten, but not nearly half as cute. I loll and mewl and complain, even if there's no one around to hear me.
If I'm home alone, I refuse to do any task that might make me feel better. Why? Because most of those tasks also involve getting out of bed. Glass of water? Nah, the fridge is to far away. See a doctor? Nope, because if I can get all the way across town to the doctor, I may as well go to work. My snot-filled brain runs circuits of its own pessimism, and I get mired in self-pity.

Yesterday, however, was the lowest of the low. I refused to go to work, and instead sent a series of increasingly incoherent text messages to my colleagues. I refused to get out of bed, and instead spent my day sleeping or staring into space. Hey, this flu thing is serious business.

Worst of all, when I noticed that the fitted sheet was no longer tucked into the mattress, I didn't get up to fix it. Nope. I flopped about on the bed, like a hooked northern pike, struggling mightily to fix the fitted sheet while I was still lying on top of it. The small, not-sick portion of my brain watched the proceedings with bemused detachment. Who makes a bed while they're still IN BED? Me. That's who.

In the comments, tell me the silliest thing you do when you're sick.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mantras for an Unusually Crabby Friday

My favorite law of living is very simple:

The Problem Is You

It's right up there with, "Don't trust anyone with a misspelled tattoo." Truth is, there are a lot of bad people, bad situations, and just plain badness in the world. But YOU are the unifying factor in all that you encounter.

If you go through a dozen jobs in a dozen months, it's not because your bosses are horrible people who spurn your dreams of advancement. It's because you need to get yourself together and do an honest day's work.

If you cut ties with a dozen friends, only to alienate a dozen more, it's not because they're toxic or graceless or ungrateful. It's because you have a lot to learn about friendship.

If you go on a dozen dates in a dozen days, and all of them end with your companion of the evening crawling out of the washroom window, it's not because your city is full of undatable, unlovable crazies. It's because you are turning them off somehow. Go up to your most honest friend, and ask, "Why am I single?"*

Remember: You are the unifying factor in all that you encounter.

In the comments, bitch about anyone who lacks personal responsibility. Or, just bitch. I'll listen.

*One of these days I'm going to start a blog called "Why Am I Single?" I'll ask people to send in their romantic histories, and I'll tell them exactly why they're single. It'll be a kick. Once I sift through all the tears and death threats, that is.