Friday, December 21, 2007

The Buzzies, Rebutted!

Heckling Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the bio of film star Tiger Prabhakar:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Buzzies: D.C. Nightlife Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sliding Scale of Breakup Suckitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the comments section, tell me a breakup story.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Foodie or Finicky? An Open Letter

Dear Women Who Can’t Just Order and Eat,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



My Productive Weekend

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Tooltowns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: nobody does chivalry like a Hoodbridge redneck gangsta.

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

Friday, December 14, 2007

Here, Fishy Fishy...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 13, 2007

An Imaginary Conversation with a So-Called Dating Guru

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shoot yourself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ultimate Man

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

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

I'll talk to you soon,
David D.

Not if I talk to you first!

Standard Wear and Tear

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vehicular Nostalgia and a Very Cherokee Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Skeevy Men, Volume 2: Nightlife Edition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 07, 2007

Failure is the Fun Part

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 06, 2007

If You Keep Score, Nobody Wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

All the DateLabs Ever, Here in One Post

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

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

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

Shannon's DateLab

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

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

And, now, to the date:

Corduroy, Downtown Washington, 7:30 pm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chillin' at the College Bar

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Marshmallow Fluff Girl Seeks Imaginary Man

I spent yesterday bashing Washington men for being totally boring and predictable. But fair is fair, so I decided to have some fun with the woman-for-man ads on Craigslist. Namely, I ran searches of personal ad clichés and totaled them up.

The winner? An astounding 24 Craigslist babes are seeking a “real man.” As opposed to an imaginary one? And 24 declare that they are a “real woman,” again, as opposed to an imaginary one. The clichés roll on. Nine women are “well-traveled,” fourteen are “spontaneous” and three appreciate “good wine and food.” Craigslist offers only four women “of substance,” so I presume the others are all constructed of marshmallow fluff and Popsicle sticks. And only four of these women have “standards,” which makes me very concerned for the rest. Perhaps the ladies with no standards should all date the guy who posts every day looking for BBWs he can erotically massage. And only three women are “emotionally secure,” so I suppose the rest spend their days sobbing about how Daddy did them wrong.

And then we’ve got the women whose posts are a litany of complaints. One is “in search of a white knight,” six are sick of “players,” and a whopping 14 don’t “play games.” I’m not sure what sort of man these women are hoping to attract, I just know what they DON'T want. I think maybe the endless negativity is their way of not meeting any men at all. Then it’s easy to say that all men are players who play games, unless they’re the white knight on the chessboard. Better to curse the darkness than take the risk of getting hurt.

So, guys, I’m sorry. No wonder you’re all the same and bore me to tears. We’ve created a situation where the dullest common denominator gets the girl.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

My Love Life Has a Driver's License

My first date was over 16 years ago. Yes, my romantic life is now old enough to drive.

Dating used to be challenging and intimidating. Does he like me? Do I like him? What’s going to happen next? How do I get through the next two hours without turning into a babbling freak or a mute bundle of nerves? In high school, I never stuck with the same guy long enough to contemplate a serious relationship. In college, I never stuck with the same guy long enough to contemplate a future. Then I was married and the future was indeed contemplated – and, in fact, mapped out year by year for the next 50 years. That didn’t work out, so I’m back at the beginning.

And I’m bored out of my mind. Seriously, it’s all the same. If I meet a guy at a bar, he’s successful and thinks I’m cool because I prefer beer to pink froofy girl drinks. If I meet a guy through friends, he’s a nice guy with a great personality. If I meet a guy online, well, that’s the most cliché-ridden, soul-deadening experience of all. He’s funny, well-traveled, a good conversationalist, and appreciative of good wine and food. It’s enough to make me want to meet a guy who has no sense of humor, has never left his basement, delivers long-winded monologues about TV shows I’ve never seen and eats nothing but Doritos and Mountain Dew. Because at least that would be different.

I guess the point is this: cynicism has set in and dating gets drearier every year. It’s a grind.

Come on, men of Washington, impress me. You can even impress me in a bad way if you want. You aren’t even creepy or self-aggrandizing anymore. You’re just playful and secure and looking to start out as friends and see where it goes. Also, you like puppies and America and rainy days, and you’re equally comfortable in jeans or a tuxedo. You never have any drama or baggage, which makes me wonder if you’ve really spent the last 20 years in a fallout shelter (if you don’t have baggage, you haven’t really lived).

And please, don’t be playful. That just makes me feel like a pedophile.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Chick-O-Meter and Home Organization

Last night, I conducted an inadvertent social experiment.

But, let’s begin at the beginning. Saturday, I decided to open up the boxes labeled “Stuff” that I’d been dragging all around the world for the last five years. I think we all have a “stuff” box, what makes me special is that I have three. I found old high school diaries, elementary school report cards, maintenance records for a car that died seven years ago, a hilarious series of photos of my sister in a softball uniform, birthday cards dating back 15 years, slides, four Weebles, and, uh, both of my birth certificates (dual citizenship means double the documentation and double the fun).

So I spent the rest of the evening dividing things in categories, throwing out what I didn’t want to keep, and cringing and laughing at the various glimpses of my old self. Once I had everything sorted, I left it all in piles on the floor and went to bed. Those piles stayed in place until last night.

After work, I stopped by the Chinatown Bed Bath and Beyond to buy a three-drawer plastic chest organizer thing with wheels. I figured I had three categories, so I’d just toss everything in and be done with the project once and for all. I used one of those self-replenishing BB&B 20% off coupons (have you ever noticed that the same day you use one, a new one arrives in the mail?).

Once I got outside, though, I was faced with a problem. Or rather, a series of problems, all related to the fact that I didn’t know how to get the stupid thing home. The first problem was that I don’t have a car, so I couldn’t drive. The second was that I didn’t have cash on me, so I couldn’t get a cab. The third was that I didn’t want to drag this thing onto the Metro in rush hour. The fourth problem was that I’m a big enough dork that I decided to just walk home and wheel the thing along myself. So I popped the wheels in place and set out on my way.

This proved fun. Really. I alternated between wheeling and carrying the thing, depending on how choppy the sidewalk was.

And this is where the social experiment began. See, I’m one of Washington’s smallest brunettes. And I was carrying a large, bulky object that looked far heavier than it actually was. I got a lot of startled looks, a few offers of assistance, and a couple of snooty guffaws. What was telling was that while absolutely everybody stared at me, mostly young men in business clothes and homeless guys would offer to help, and suburbanite families would laugh.

So youth and homelessness were the sources of chivalry and compassion, which brings up all sorts of questions. Why did families find me so funny? Is it because they’ve got their own nuclear, insular world, so they’re safe enough to mock single girls that don’t have cars with which to haul their furniture? And why were young men offering to help? And why were they so courtly with me, when most of the pregnant women I’ve known have had a bear of a time getting young guys to give up their seats on the Metro? Is it because young guys figure a pregnant woman is off the market, so their Chick-o-Meter doesn’t activate?

(Definition: The Chick-O-Meter isolates and zeroes in on potentially single women at the exclusion of all others. Example: I once asked a friend about a female friend of mine he’d met at my wedding, who was sitting about five feet away from him at the same table for a period of several hours. He did not recall her at all, but, once I clarified that she was there with her husband, he shrugged and said, “Oh. That’s why. She was already tagged.”)

I wheeled the thing down Seventh, across the Mall, and finally home. The entire trip took about 30 minutes.

And here’s what we learned:
1. I am the sort of person who keeps elementary school report cards.
2. I am the sort of person who cleans out her closet on a Saturday night.
3. I am the sort of person that parades down Seventh Street with furniture, looking people dead in the eye to see what they’ll do about it.

Monday, November 26, 2007

How Technology Spawns Rudeness

I'm a notorious planner. I like to know what's happening and when, and I don't think that's so terrible. Generally, I call when I say I'll call and I show up where I'm supposed to be. I even enjoy helping people move because it lets me plot things out and solve problems. I try to account for the personality quirks of others and be compassionate, but the truth is I can't stand flakiness. There's a control freak side of me that I try to use for good and not evil.

I'm also a complete technophobe. I don't like to talk on the phone, I don't own a computer, I don't watch television, I can't work an iPod and I think the Bluetooth is completely creepy (like you're trying to become one with your cellphone).

Mix these two things together, and we have the point: I think technology has spawned crappy manners. Why respond Yes or No when Evite hands you the option of Maybe? Why return calls promptly when you know your friends are accessible by cellphone 24 hours a day? Why send a handwritten thank you note when you can point and click an Ecard in 20 seconds? Why go to the mall and select a gift when you can email a giftcard in 30 seconds?

I've been guilty of all of these things. Sure, a cocktail party sounds fun, but will I feel the same way three days from now when the party starts? And I lost my address book ages ago, so maybe I'll just send an email thank you. I don't like that restaurant, so I'll check in later and see what's up for coffee. I don't like to talk on the phone, so I'll just send an email in the morning.

The purpose of etiquette isn't to make life more complicated. Things like multiple forks and fish knives completely flummox me, and I can't set a formal table to save my life. I don't enjoy dressing up and every maitre 'd in the world has the capacity to intimidate me. Even the ones that look like organ grinder monkeys.

The purpose of etiquette is to make life a little simpler. It gives society a bit of structure and encourages kind and thoughtful behavior. The little pleasantries, like always responding to invitations, allow other people to plan. It's comforting to others to know what they can expect. Especially for anything which requires reservations, tickets, or the purchasing of food (like dinner parties).

So, I vote we make technology a non-factor in our manners. Next time you get an Evite, respond as if it's an engraved invitation delivered by a liveried footman. Especially if it's an Evite from me.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

With Bush in Office, EVERY Day is a Turkey Day

The expression "Turkey Day" sets my teeth on edge. It's almost as bad as the people who use the abbreviation "Xmas." ("Xmas" sounds like porno to me.) I understand it's hard to come up with synonyms for "Thanksgiving", because there aren't any. But "Turkey Day" is so cutesy and pat and dorky that it makes me want to hurt people.

So let's come up with some new synonyms for Thanksgiving. How about:
  • Feel Happy About Your Inadequacies and Failures Day
  • Colonial Imperialistic Celebration Day
  • Any Excuse for a Four-Day Weekend Day
  • 5,000 Calories in a Single Sitting Day
  • Reinforcement of Gender Roles Day
  • Traffic Mayhem Day

Now, all of those are longer than "Turkey Day." But you have to admit they're more colorful and way less annoying.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving and General Holiday Malaise

If I had the option of fast-forwarding through the holidays this year, I'd take it. It's not that I hate holidays or that I'm a hopeless embittered Scrooge, it's that I just don't care. I don't want the pressure, the effort, the expense, or the false good cheer. (I'm very cheerful by nature, so I would be downright nauseating if I tried to augment that for the holidays.) I'm just not into it this year, so please hold the Santa Hats and light-up neckties until December 2008.

Thanksgiving is eminently skippable. My mom is from Australia, and my dad grew up on an Indian reservation. Neither one had much to say about the Pilgrims, so we usually just had a roast chicken because it was close enough. Thanksgiving meant a four-day weekend and little else. So on Thursday, Imperial Me and I will be couch-slouching and drinking beer, while enjoying a festive goulash. (I prefer to use my Crock-Pot so I don't have to try to cook after consuming drinks.) Grand Theft Auto may be involved, family dysfunction will most certainly be not.

In years past, my sister and I would couch-slouch and watch Buffy marathons, or I'd go to an Orphan Thanksgiving. As the years have gone by, many of my friends have married and the number of orphans has dwindled. Folks that used to have zero plans on the holidays now scurry up and down the East Coast trying to spend time with every little corner of both families. (Having done the holiday season in the married-endless-road-trip style, I can say it's even more stressful than it sounds.)

May you all have the Thanksgivings you want, whether you spend it with parents, someone else's parents, a restaurant, or hunkered down on the couch. And for those who know me, feel free to stop by for a beer after you've endured your family Thanksgivings. I'll even keep some goulash for ya, and you can each take a turn devastating Vice City.

Monday, November 19, 2007

CVS: The Hidden Hell of Washington

The average Washington CVS looks like the refugee camp from The Day After. First off, there’s that grayish flickery fluorescent lighting. Talking is muted, and even groups of teenagers fall into an uneasy hush. Every aisle is a mess, and nothing is where it should be. The floors are covered in peculiar stains and last year’s candy. There’s a “seasonal” aisle with depressingly generic decorations and the gifts only your least favorite maiden aunt would ever purchase. The patrons shuffle forward, with dead eyes and hopeless expressions. The employees take out their anger and frustration with prison guard flourish. I don’t think I’d ever seen someone count pennies with petulance before. Going to CVS is a deadening experience.

From there, we have the things I hate about each individual CVS. The Dupont Circle CVS expects you to fight your way through aggressive panhandlers. The FEMA CVS has an invisible register behind the Cheetos (which is usually also the only open register). The Eastern Market CVS has the longest lines, the Connecticut Avenue CVS has the strangest smells, and the Penn Quarter CVS looks like it was laid out by a bitterly divorced dyslexic with ADD and mother issues.

But the main thing that depresses me is the locked-up merchandise. For a drugstore, which by definition sells little of value, they are fanatical in their crusade against shoplifting. The discomfort of buying home pregnancy tests, lubricants or enemas is compounded by having to beg assistance from a surly 17-year-old in a smock. Many CVS’s keep condoms under lock and key (considering DC’s STD and teen pregnancy rates, this always struck me as unforgivably stupid.)

But when I saw shampoo being kept in locked cabinets, I just about lost my mind. It’s shampoo, and it’s locked up like the crown jewels. There’s just something incredibly mean-spirited about that. And I’ve never seen anyone request that a cabinet be opened, so I assume CVS would rather sell no toiletries at all than lose a bottle or two to sticky-fingered teenagers. It's the retail strategy of "I'll take my toys and go home!"

Saturday, it took almost twenty minutes to buy a bottle of Gatorade. There were French-speaking line jumpers, one open register, teenagers taking up heartfelt collections from friends to purchase candy bars and maxi pads, and one very bleary-eyed me trying to not smack any of them. It occurred to me that I don’t really need to go to CVS. I don’t take any prescriptions. I can buy candy from the grocery store and my toiletries from Bed Bath and Beyond. I go to CVS because it’s convenient, but the shoddy service and long lines make it more convenient to just do without. I would have saved 19 minutes on Saturday by purchasing Gatorade from a street vendor. So I think I’ll minimize my trips from now on.

PS – No, I am not in the habit of purchasing enemas, home pregnancy kits or lubricants. At least not all at once. But the last time I was in CVS I took a look around to see what was locked up.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Quirky Breakup Rituals

So, back to me and my fascinating problems. Today I focused on the high-tech end of the Breakup Process. I changed his name in my cellphone (To "Don't Drink and Dial"), switched back to being single/divorced in Friendster and MySpace-land, and put a bunch of zzzzz's before his email folder name so it would drop to the bottom of the list.

Is that weird? How weird? And does anyone else have a ritual they'd like to share?

Why, Yes, I AM High Maintenance

I tend to go on random self-improvement kicks. My latest project is to stop using the expression "high maintenance." There are a few reasons for this.

The first, and most obvious, is that I'm sick to death of hearing it. It's overplayed, overused, and annoying.

The second reason is a little more complex. "High maintenance" is an anti-woman broadside. In its earliest (and most accurate) incarnations, it was used to describe women who spent hours on their hair or expected men to dote on their every little problem. It came from a place of neediness and insecurity.

Nowadays, I think it's used to dismiss women who assert themselves. I've heard women described as high maintenance for expecting men to call when they say they'll call. That's basic courtesy and a reasonable expectation, not some petty demand from a pretty princess.

And I think this is a very sad thing. I've known too many women who confuse having needs with being needy, so they never speak up for themselves. They're more worried about the perception of being high maintenance than their own emotional well-being. And I've known far too many men who use the phrase "high maintenance" to weasel out of the most basic of courtesies.

I've been accused of being high maintenance myself. But I don't really mind. I deserve to be maintained.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Fourteen Hours and Counting

I have now been single for a little over 14 hours. It's for the best and I feel OK. Or this is that deceptive feeling of post-breakup goodwill, which will crash sometime over the weekend and leave me a self-pitying mess.

Either way, it's been making me think about how I deal with breakups in general. There are two main schools of thought. The first are the wallowers. They turn inward, and mark each breakup with ice cream, red wine, DVDs and sleeping in. Then there are the people who get busy, pack their calendars, and move on in a Brave Little Toaster sort of way.

I'm a "get busy" kind of girl. Every breakup has pushed me forward in some way. Most of the time, they lead me to study harder, work harder, be a better person, or even just reorganize the closets. I pack my calendar with discount martini nights, dinner parties and karaoke. I'm grateful for the jerks I dated in high school, because I would have never gotten into Carolina without them. And I'm grateful for the breakups that pushed me to change my hair or take up a new hobby. And I'm grateful I'm divorced, because I go into relationships with the idea that the worst has already happened and that the risks aren't such a big deal. I figure a failed relationship isn't a failure if I learned something.

Unfortunately, one thing is blocking me from packing my calendar: I'm sick. I've had a miserable cold for the last six days. So I can't really go out, and I've had to experiment with wallowing. So far I've watched three episodes of My So-Called Life back-to-back and eaten frosting right out of the container. Tonight I might send myself flowers and order pizza.

But wallowing is dangerous for me. It's already induced two fits of ohmyGodI'm31andsingleanddivorcedanddon'thavearealjobandtheholidaysarecreepinguponme. So, does anyone have any helpful survival tips? Combination cold/breakup remedies are especially welcome.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Who's the Nuttiest of Them All?

For the last few years, I’ve been playing a little game in my head. Namely, who’s crazier, Jim Moran or Marion Barry? Both politicians have clung to relevance despite years of bizarre behavior and shameless grandstanding. Both bring heavy doses of crazy, sprinkled with egomaniacal foolishness.

Jim Moran:

Fears the Jews

Messy personal relationships, including the time both of his young chippie girlfriends showed up at his house on his birthday, and proceeded to have a catfight on the front lawn.

Assaulted an eight-year-old on the belief that said eight-year-old was attempting to steal his car.

Marion Barry:

The bitch set him up.

Busted for crack possession at two o’clock in the morning, with young woman in the car in a deserted area. Alibi: he was mentoring the young woman on her career. (Note: nobody has ever offered to mentor me at two in the morning.)

Self-serving blowhard, claims relevance on issues he has no influence over.

But this week’s news takes the cake, and settles the question once and for all:

According to the article, a Post music critic received an unsolicited Barry press release. In a private email to Barry's handler, he responded in the manner which many of us would like to respond: by calling Barry “half-witted” and accusing him of “political grandstanding.”

Barry, big fat baby that he is, went on the attack. The email was “lowlife activity”, he was hurt and offended, and blah blah so on. Hey, Barry…you’re a democratically elected official! That makes you a public figure! You need to take your lumps like a man, because, legally, as a public figure, you have them coming to you. There's this thing called the First Amendment that makes it permissible.

But here’s the part that makes me ill: According to the Post,

He (Barry) said the note amounted to "character assassination" at a time when "around the nation, it's almost open season on black people."

Can I be the first to say, “Huh?” Shameless and lingering on the edge of magical thinking. Barry, you didn’t get that email because you’re black. You got that email because you’re a worthless grandstanding blowhard that would rather thunder on about nothing than accept the tiniest shred of responsibility for your actions.

No, Marion Barry, the Post should not fire their Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic because he made you boo-hoo into your Cheerios. No, Marion Barry, the Post does not owe you a sloppy French kiss in the form of an apology editorial. You got a sincere apology, the critic is being disciplined by the Post, now accept it like a man and go back to doing your job.

Whatever that job is.

By the way, congratulations! Even in a crowded field such as this, you are the Washington Area’s Nuttiest Politician.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Maybe He Really DID Just Want to Chat About Pizza

I'm notoriously dense when it comes to flirtation. I'd say that 95 percent of the time when a guy hits on me, I don't even notice. The other five percent, I know I'm being hit on because my friends have clued me in.

Sample conversation from a few years back:
Me: That guy really liked my shoes. He spent 20 minutes asking me where to find Chuck Taylors with racing stripes.
Friend: Huh? Shannon, guys don't care about shoes.
Me: But he asked lots of questions! And then he bought me a drink because I had such cool shoes!
Friend: He was hitting on you. Guys have nothing intelligent to say about women's footwear.
Me (realization slowly dawning): Oh.

So take this natural obliviousness, and throw in the fact that I'm in a relationship. On the rare occasions that I do realize I'm being hit on, I have absolutely no idea how to react. When I was married, it was really easy. There was a Diamond-Encrusted Man Deflector on my left hand that I could flash as necessary.

Here's an example: Friday evening, I was walking to a birthday happy hour. There was a light drizzle, but nothing major. A well-dressed, seemingly nice guy offered to share his umbrella with me. I declined at first, then we walked on together for about a block and a half. We were headed to different bars, so he offered to send me a review of where he was going (Ella's Pizza). Being old and wise now, I realized he was hitting me up for my contact info. I politely declined and moved on.

Afterwards, this bothered me immensely. I hate being rude to perfectly nice guys who chivalrously share their umbrellas. That sort of behavior should be rewarded. (Now, if he'd been a hyperaggressive little troll, I would have put him in his place with much joy and merriment).

Maybe I should have said, "Well, my boyfriend would think it was odd if I started getting pizza reviews from strange men." Then he'd know it was nothing personal. Or, "Get away from me, you foul incubus!" Just so I could assert myself. But I think my "thanks, but no thanks" reaction was probably for the best.

But give me SOME credit here. Five years ago, I would have thought this guy and I merely shared a common interest in pizza-centric happy hours.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Leaves of Grass: The Resume Creative Process

My resume is my own personal Leaves of Grass. I’m going to tweak and retweak that thing until the day I die. Now that I’m job hunting, the sprucing sessions have been near-constant.

My latest revisions involve emphasizing my skill set. You know, languages, computer programs, and so forth. Unfortunately, many of my most impressive skills didn’t make the final cut. I included palm reading on my resume, because my headhunter was really amused by that. So, as a Friday treat, here are the amazing things I can do that will never ever wind up on my resume.

1. I have perfect posture. I can walk in a straight line, in heels, arms out, with a book balanced on my head. Blindfolded. After two martinis.

2. I can put on a gas mask in under 30 seconds and administer nerve agent antidotes.

3. Thanks to having lived overseas, I can prepare virtually any American comfort food without any of the original ingredients.

4. I can repair a muffler with a Chicken McNugget.

5. I can recite the introduction to The Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English.

6. I can pack for a two-week vacation in under twenty minutes.

7. I have a sixth sense for when J. Crew's website is offering an extra 20 percent off all sale items.

8. I can open beer bottles with a corkscrew, a car bumper, and a man’s size 10 dress shoe.

9. I can contort myself to fit inside virtually any cardboard box.

Now all I have to do is troll the Craigslist job postings until I find a company where I can open beer bottles while standing perfectly straight and reciting in Middle English. While wearing a gas mask and administering antidote shots to passersby. Suggestions?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

When Did Metro Become the Ford Pinto of Transit?

Seriously. I love Metro, but it has become such a royal pain over the last couple of years. And I can't figure out whether that's due to my getting older and crankier, or if they've fallen so far that even I can see it.

It's not just that Metro has significant delays and rude customers, it's that they've gotten downright surreal. This week, there was a deer wandering around the Red Line tracks for four hours, causing extensive delays. This brings many questions to mind:
  • How did the deer get down there in the first place? Paper farecard or SmarTrip?
  • How did the deer avoid electrocuting itself?
  • How come a deer has an easier time navigating the Metro's inadequate lighting, slippery tiles and punchy crowds than I do?
  • Why did it take so long to remove the deer? It's not like it could have hidden for long, it's a pretty big animal. Zap it with a tranquilizer, dump it in a wheelbarrow and haul it out.

And, let's consider the other insidious aspect of Metro: it's misogynistic. Seriously. New train cars have severely cut back on the number of floor-to-ceiling hold-on bars. Instead, we're supposed to move into the center of the car and use the overhead bars, which are useless for anyone under 5'6". As the average American woman is 5'4", I can only conclude that Metro has it in for women. Maybe they don't want us to get to our jobs, so then we won't have jobs. It's a plot!

With its cramped quarters and propensity to randomly burst into flame, Metro is virtually peerless. With one exception: The Ford Pinto. The Metro is the Pinto of Transit. You heard it here first.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Aging Before Your Very Eyes

Today is that day I love so much. My birthday. I'm 31. Technically, because I was born on the other side of the International Date Line, I really turned 31 yesterday. But as yesterday was devoted to DVDs and hangovers, I guess today will suffice.

Compared to turning 30, 31 has been kind of anticlimactic. Age 29, I got divorced, moved back to DC, and started my life over. Age 30 was a cakewalk by comparison. I expect 31 to be even easier.

But forces are conspiring to make me feel old. I tend to be mistaken for someone much younger. On a typical bar excursion, I am carded once at the door, and twice by the waitress. People ask me what college I go to. Nobody ever believes my real age. Well, until now.

Saturday, for the first time ever, I was not carded buying beer at Shopper's Food Warehouse. It's the end of life as I know it. I am no longer being carded! Next stop will be a dozen cats and a penchant for knitting.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Masculinity Quiz

I think modern men don’t really know the difference between masculine and meathead. So they either swing too far toward the meathead end of the spectrum, or they grow up into wussy silly girly-men. So, guys, have you gone too far one way or the other? Take this quiz and find out. If you are off the market, many of these questions will require you to pretend that you’re single. Go with it.

1. An attractive female friend calls and asks you to bring a drill to help her install some shelving. Do you:
a. Show up with a drill and a condom, because the “drill” thing HAS to be a double entendre.
b. Show up with a drill and the cheerful thought that handyman work might be a prelude to removing her underpants.
c. I don’t own a drill.

2. A cursory glance of your closet shows:
a. Five t-shirts and two pairs of jeans.
b. An assortment of jeans, slacks and shirts, predominately in shades of blue and green, plus one or two suits.
c. A bunch of stuff your last girlfriend picked out for you.

3. You’re at a bar. Another dude, approximately the same size as you, attempts to grab your date’s ass. Do you:
a. Ask the guy to meet you outside so you can punch him.
b. Fix him with a steely glare, tell him to back off, then walk on.
c. It’s the girl’s problem, not yours. Let her deal with it.

4. True or false: You have purchased tampons.
a. False. Hell no.
b. True, but only for a serious girlfriend.
c. True, what's the big deal?

5. You’re a college student. You’re taking a women’s studies class. Why?
a. I figure I’ll be the only guy there, and these hairy feminist chicks just need some good lovin’.
b. My GPA needs the help, and why not? I might learn something.
c. I want to understand how centuries of oppression have hurt women, who are the most amazing creatures on Earth.

6. Your girlfriend or wife makes more money than you. Your reaction?
a. Feel threatened and make sideways slams about her potentially having man-parts.
b. Feel a little weirded out sometimes, but support her ambitions.
c. Quit your job as soon as possible to stay home and learn how to make a perfect soufflé.

7. You are on a first date. Who pays the check?
a. Me. Always.
b. Whoever asks, pays. But I’d feel more comfortable paying.
c. We split the check, down to the penny. I brought a calculator.

8. I open doors for women because:
a. It’s a great way to check out her ass.
b. It’s the polite thing to do.
c. I don’t open doors, it’s chauvinistic.

9. You spot an attractive woman on the Metro. She’s wearing sweats and appears to be on her way home from the gym. What do you do?
a. Compliment her on having a great body and inquire about her workout routine.
b. Smile and say hello, but back off if she doesn’t make eye contact or seems uncomfortable.
c. Have an entire imaginary relationship with her over the course of four stops and a transfer, but don’t actually approach her.

10. In your serious relationships, who is the first to say, “I love you”?
a. Her. Almost always.
b. About 50/50 split.
c. Me. Almost always.

11. Quick! What’s the difference between a BMW 318 and a BMW 325?
a. None. Both are total chick magnets.
b. One has a four cylinder engine, the other has six.
c. Seven?

12. Your girl had a bad day at work and starts crying. Do you:
a. Suggest she look for a new job.
b. Feel a bit helpless and embarrassed, but ask her how you can help.
c. Make her some tea and try not to cry yourself.

13. You are going to a fairly upscale restaurant with a date. You hope she’ll wear:
a. A cleavage-baring top and high heels.
b. A little black dress.
c. A t-shirt and jeans.

14. You once got in a fistfight because:
a. A guy looked at me funny.
b. I was defending myself.
c. I’ve never been in a fight.

15. When you think about marriage, your biggest fear is:
a. All those hot chicks you’ll miss out on banging.
b. Marrying the wrong person.
c. That she’ll cheat on you.

Now, tally up your scores.

If you scored mostly a’s, you are a Macho Meathead:
Meatheads embrace that swaggering, ass-kicking alpha male form of masculinity. You’ll punch a guy, then buy him a Scotch. You eat nails for breakfast, and you nail chicks for dinner. You think you’re hot stuff.

Thing is, you’re not. It’s all bluster and overcompensation. True masculinity is a whole lot less showy. Plus, you treat women like dirt. Certain types of women will be attracted to you, but they will mostly be clingy, brainless and neurotic.

The remedy: dial down the testosterone. Develop listening skills, a bit of sensitivity, and don’t get in stupid barfights.

If you scored mostly b’s, you are Masculine:
You’re comfortable being a guy. You don’t itch for a fight, but will defend yourself if attacked. You treat women honorably, but don’t engage in fawning adoration and you don’t idealize them. You can do typical "guy stuff" like change a tire, unclog a drain, or operate a grill. You're a guy's guy who can also pick out a bottle of wine. In short, you are what you should be and therefore appealing to many kinds of women.

Congratulations! You require no remedy.

If you scored mostly c’s, you are a Mouse:
You spent your formative years getting your butt kicked. You pull sensitive wounded artist routines to obtain a pity screw. You’re also the guy whose chief breakup routine is a complete disappearing act. You call AAA for the most minor of problems, you can't grill a steak, and you cry during long distance phone commercials. You really and truly need to grow a pair.

The remedy: You need to go to Man School. Buy a toolkit. Get in a barfight. Toughen up. Sheesh.

DISCLAIMER: This quiz is all in good fun. If you are upset about your results, chill. Freaking because a random chick on the Internet assailed your masculinity is SO not masculine.

And I dare my male readers to post their results, and for readers of both genders to post their analyses.

Men of Style

I admit that most Washington fashion crimes are committed by women. Ugly chunky clodhopper shoes? White stockings? Sweatpants with words across the fanny? All things that only women inflict upon the landscape.

However, let's focus on straight men. Guys, if you do any of the following things, please cease and desist. Then meet me at Pentagon City and we'll sort out a new wardrobe for you. Gays, keep on doing your thing.

1. Mandals. Men in sandals, unless your feet are clean, relatively furless and extremely well taken care of. If your toenails are yellow, cover them up!
2. Ties which are too short. A tie should touch the tip of your belt. If it is shorter, it makes you look like a dork. A dork with a potbelly.
3. White sneakers anywhere except for the gym. For that matter, any workout clothes when you're not at the gym.
4. Manties. As in, man panties (thanks, Rowena). Formally known as briefs. Tighty whities among the teen set. Don't wear 'em, your girlfriends and wives hate them. Though, of course, the nadir of male undergarment is and always will be the man-thong. Seriously, guys, leave the lingerie to the girls.
5. Extremely tight shirts. I do not want to see your nipples. This category also includes tank tops.
6. Dress shoes with white socks. C'mon guys, your moms told you this one 20 years ago.
7. Those chunky nerdy hipster glasses. They were played out three years ago.
8. Jeans with pre-fading, tapers, extra zippers, whiskering, or really any sort of frippery.
9. T-shirts with brand names on them. You just paid for the privelege of being a Nike billboard, sucker.
10. Anything stained, torn, battered, or otherwise gross.
11. Last, but not least, tan suits. Khaki is not a suit fabric. If you are Southern, and have the accent and manners to prove it, you have my permission to wear seersucker from Memorial to Labor Day. Otherwise, please stick to suits in black, gray, or navy.

So, men of Washington: Look neat and clean, wear things that fit properly, and don't look like you slept in what you're wearing. A basic jeans and tee outfit is always good. And ditch the metrosexual thing, please. Let the girls be the pretty ones.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Very Trashy Halloween to You, Too

Hey Pretty said it much better than me, but...when did Halloween become a fleshfest?

Granted, I went as a dominatrix for Halloween many years ago, but at least that was funny (I'm so not the physical type for that kind of outfit). I went to a Halloween party on Saturday in which there were only two women in their 30s: me, and the friend that I went with. Everyone else was very young and perhaps a little underdressed. Why be a plain old fairy or nurse, when you can be the scantily dressed version?

In other news, go see the 3-D version of The Nightmare Before Christmas. And, in other other news, I still need a job.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Fear of Russia Film Festival

Last night I watched Red Dawn, that 80s tribute to isolationism, guerrila warfare, and the prospect of a badass C. Thomas Howell. (For another badass C. Thomas Howell film, check out my July 2003 review of him cavorting with Brian Austin Green.) And why on Earth would I watch this flick? Well, because I wasn't allowed to back to the 80s, because my mom declared it was paranoid American pro-gun silliness. As usual, Mom was right.

I'll admit a few things: I now have the wild urge to call out, "Wolverines!" as I make my way around the office. Patrick Swayze was sort of cute when he was young. And, yes, I flinched a few times during the endless killings.

But, the overall film was so ridiculous that I couldn't get into it. Since when are high schools strategic points worthy of a full-scale invasion? Why did their horses disappear for almost four months? Why couldn't I keep track of who anyone was? And, most importantly, why did Toni receive the same mortal wound twice?

But this has given me an inspiration. I would like my Netflix queue to reflect a white-knuckle fear of the Soviets. So I'm following up Red Dawn with The Day After (nuclear strikes on Lawrence, Kansas). I tried to get Amerika (the Soviets machine-gun Congress), but it's not available on DVD. Any other ideas for a Cold War Film Fest?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Adventures in Retail

Have you ever wodnered where creepy knicknacks come from? Sunday I made a stop at Marshall's to look for some throw pillows. To find the pillows, however, I had to wade through several aisles of discount dregs, mismatched pots and pans, and leopard print ottomans. Then I found the Repository of Creepy Knicknacks.

In the tchotchke aisle (between the bath mats and the photo frames), I was assaulted by the sight of dozens of eyes upon me. These eyes belonged to a veritable zoo of animal statuettes. There was a hot pink wiener dog, all dressed up in a ceramic hot dog bun. The wiener dog even had a boyfriend: a pastel blue ceramic wiener dog wearing a tie. While I didn't spot any spooky owls, I did see a few eerie little angry crystal roosters and a cow that looked like it wanted to murder my family.

Worst of all were the penguins. Menacing penguins, leering penguins, smirking penguins. An entire selection of penguins! Really, does anyone like penguins that much? Did anyone consider how bizarre it is to confront an entire shelf of emotionally disturbed penguins?

It was just too weird for words. Moral of the story: next time you're at Grandma's house, and she shows you her collection of appalling ceramics, you'll know she bought them at Marshall's.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How was YOUR Weekend?

Mine was so full it's going to take several posts to cover it all. I'll start with Friday's oddball evening.

Friday night I planned on stopping by the DC Bloggers Happy Hour at Chi-Cha. Logistical hiccup #1: due to other engagements, I could only be there right as it started at 8:00, and only for one drink. Logistical hiccup #2: I only know one of the bloggers and she wasn't expected to get there at the beginning. Therefore, I was attending an event where I had absolutely no idea what anyone looked like. My instructions were to look for a guy who is 6'4". Logistical hiccup, #3: every single person in the bar was slouched down onto sofas, meaning I had no way of figuring out anyone's height.

Hrm. Problematic, no? So, I had two options. 1. Go from group to group, ask people if they had blogs. Look like weirdo. 2. Sit at bar, get beer, eavesdrop until I could figure out which group to join. Feeling lazy and out of sorts, I chose Option 2.

Option 2 completely changed the course of my evening. The bar scene looks out for people who smile, so I made new friends within minutes. My most interesting new friend was a bipolar recovering alcoholic who was coming down off a four-day manic phase. He'd told me this in the course of attempting to pick me up. I explained that I was taken, and that he may want to reconsider his overall marketing strategy.

I tend to like people a whole lot better once they stop trying to impress me. This goes double for men who are hitting on me. So, once this guy realized I had no pickup potential, he turned out to be pretty nice, interesting and fun to chat with. Anyone who will say they're bipolar and stopped in to a bar to get out of the rain on their way to an AA meeting is someone worth getting acquainted with.

By the time I extricated myself from the conversation, I was vaguely aware that I was sitting smack in the middle of a bunch of bloggers. But unfortunately I had to leave and meet up with some folks at Velvet Lounge. I was already running a bit late, and tardiness stresses me out.

So, the moral of the story: DC bloggers, I'm really, really sorry I didn't get to meet you. If you noticed a chick at the bar in a black dress and Chuck Taylors, looking both enthusiastic yet perplexed, that was me. I'll catch you next time.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Settling for Second Best

Now that we have scientific proof, why do so many women still settle for second best?;_ylt=AoxVhc8e.go0rygK238A80UPLBIF

Feminism isn't the stereotype of burning bras, hairy armpits and seething anger. It's always easy to demonize those that try to upset the status quo. The key tenet of feminism is to have a healthy regard for your own value. Not surprisingly, people with healthy self-esteem have healthier relationships. You can't love someone else until you can love yourself. (One day I want a job where I get pots and pots of grant money to restate the obvious.)

But I still encounter women who settle for second best. Why date the guy who already has a girlfriend? You can't make a meal out of another woman's leftovers. Why are you making less money than the guy two cubicles over? Your groceries cost the same as his, you work just as hard as he does, and you don't do that annoying snorting thing all day like he does.

Of course, there are consequences. The guy with the girlfriend will almost certainly dump you. Your boss may very well turn you down for that raise. A person with low self-esteem will see themselves as single and trapped in a low-paid job. A person with healthy self-esteem will set off in search of a new boyfriend and a new job. Nothing's the end of the world.

And it's a process. It took years for me, and decades for others. Self-worth, like anything worth having, is something you achieve. It doesn't just appear because you want it.

Once you start taking care of yourself, life gets a whole lot easier. Trust me.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Another Bizarre Meal with Bob

Bob and I took a trip to the Eastern Shore over the weekend, and had a disappointing and thoroughly baffling restaurant experience. We had decided to have a stroll around town and have dinner wherever looked interesting. We settled on Scossa.

Once we walked in the door, though, I totally ceased to understand what was happening. Seriously, I felt like we'd wandered through some sort of restaurant world Looking Glass. I've never eaten anywhere so weird (and that includes the place with the Turkish toilet).

There seemed to be three hosts, none of whom could agree as to whether we could have a table. We asked to peruse a menu to see if we wanted to eat there (no menus were posted outside) and this simple request required two different people to fulfill it, along with a flurry of activity.

Before we had a chance to slip out unnoticed, we were emphatically ushered to a table. The food, which should have been a highlight, was a disappointment. Each entree was priced over 25 dollars, and the portions were skimpy. I'm a small person who usually only eats half of her entree, and I left the restaurant absolutely starving.

The food itself? My salmon tasted like it had been soaked for hours in margarine, and the endive was slimy in texture. Ugh.

Oh, and did I mention that we appeared to have two different waitresses, a waiter, AND a random woman who dashed off with Bob's coat without really checking with us first (and therefore swiping his wallet)?

Once my initial confusion had subsided, I noticed we were in Married Couple Date Night Hell. We were surrounded by ladies with pastel turtlenecks, big hair and sour expressions, and their embittered, desperately bored husbands.

And, last and most annoying of all, we were seated next to two very drunk couples who had brought along a small child. The child was being ignored in favor of pouring more wine, and proceeded to get cranky and howl intermittently throughout the meal. No effort was made to take him outside until he could calm down. I don't really mind kids in restaurants, I think it's good to expose children to different environments and cuisines. But proceeding to get tanked while your child howls in misery is beyond ridiculous. Especially since it was well after that kid's bedtime.

Restaurant experiences shouldn't be so hectic and confusing. And if they're going to charge $25 for mediocre food, can I at least have something that fills me up? Eesh. We went to a pub afterwards and split an order of inexpensive peel and eat shrimp. And it was about a hundred times better than the offerings of Scossa. Seriously, stay away.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


I am a complete and total coward when it comes to illness. This is most likely due to my bizarre and checkered health history. I once caught May. I had an emergency appendectomy, including a gift-with-purchase case of peritonitis. Last year was a revolving door of recurrent kidney infections. There was the Summer of Epstein-Barr. Food poisoning. And so on. I am a repository of angry, fussy, uncommon germs.

Sunday evening I found myself with a bit of the sniffles and a feeling of complete exhaustion. I decided this meant I was most likely going to die. Or, at the very least, be carted off to a hospital and experimented upon with red-hot tongs by white-fanged nurses. So I did what any sane person would do: I went to bed. And, boy howdy, did I sleep.

At 7 pm, I crawled into bed. I woke up at 8 the next morning, groggy and woozy and snuffly. I called in sick to work, crawled back into bed, and slept until after 11. I spent the rest of the day cradling glasses of ginger ale and huddled in front of DVDs, a backlog of newspapers, and this month's issue of Elle Decor. I figure the best thing to do when sick is to get better. And getting better means rest, fluids, and the films of Wes Anderson.

Amazingly, the office carried on without me, the world did not spin off its axis, and I am now back at work. Nothing like 16 hours of sleep and a 2-liter bottle of Schweppes to cure what ails you.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Cruise Director Julie?

I'm a planner. An anticipator. A logistical freak. A Type A cliche.

Those are all very handy things to be on the job. I'm a professional secretary, so those traits are my bread and butter. Are you attending a conference in Vancouver on 10 days notice, with no hotel, no rental car, a flight reimbursement cap of $750, and a meeting back in DC the following morning? I'm your girl. I can throw the whole thing togther for you in 30 minutes.

If your office is a mess, I'll fix it. I'll inflict my organizational systems on you, along with a heavy dose of Secretarial Zen philosophy. You'll love every minute of it. I truly enjoy scheduling, organizing, and coordinating.

I've noticed, however, that these traits are far less appealing in my personal life. Friends hesitate to invite me over, in case I secretly optimize their closet space while they're off answering the phone. (Of course, some friends invite me over in the secret hope that I'll reorganize their closets for them.)

I spend a lot of my free time cruise directing happy hours, home-cooked dinners, and museum outings. My calendar is booked well in advance. Not RSVPing, no-showing, and last-minute flakeouts can give me an insurmountable case of the crankies.

So I'm always left with the same dilemma. I gotta be me, but how do I avoid freaking people out? Do I have to tamp down the control freak aspects of my personality, or should I just continue my hyperscheduling and allow people to fall in line if they want to? Who knows?

Friday, October 05, 2007

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted...

I have a 5-day weekend coming up, and I couldn't be happier about it. The last time I had any sort of real break, it was Christmas. I've been getting a bit burned out, truth be told, and need a few days to recharge.

No, I'm not going anywhere. No, I'm not doing anything in particular. I'm staying in town, mostly because I'm too broke to go anywhere, and partially because going anywhere is too much of a hassle to be relaxing.

So far I'm having a friend over for dinner, going to a party, and having lunch with a former coworker. I'm also getting my hair cut, which has become a stark necessity. If I were a superhero, I'd be The Human Kudzu. My hair and nails grow at an alarming rate. My bangs have gone from cute forehead decor to bizarre growths covering most of my face.

Beyond that, I might redecorate the bathroom, sleep in, and get rid of random junk. I couldn't be more thrilled.