Friday, June 29, 2007

Tag, I'm It

Hey Pretty was good enough to tag me on this, so I have to tell all my invisible Internet friends eight facts about myself. Here we go:

1. I don’t like being photographed. This has nothing to do with vanity, though I will admit I always look pretty dorky in pictures. I find the act of being photographed weird and intrusive. Only my friends are allowed to take pictures of me, and only if they make it quick. If the person gets everyone to pose, then stands there and endlessly fiddles with the camera, I start to scowl. The scowl gets bigger and bigger the longer it takes, until I eventually look like Sean Penn being assaulted by the paparazzi.
2. My love for the underdog extends to inanimate objects. I like black licorice and Necco wafers simply because no one else likes them. When I play Monopoly, I like to be the shoe. I feel sorry for the shoe, because it’s been there since the 1930s and all anyone ever wants to be is the racing car. I even get kind of bummed out when I think about the sad, lonely shoe.
3. I didn’t know left from right until I got a driver’s license. Even now, I have to imagine myself driving a car when I give directions.
4. You know that posture improvement trick where you walk in a straight line, in heels, while balancing a book on your head? I can do that. Blindfolded.
5. I have no sense of spatial relations. Parking takes me an eternity. I bump into walls on a routine basis. I’m also enormously clumsy and accident prone. I have fallen off of, bumped into, or tripped over every curb in the Washington, D.C. area. I once fell off a horse that was standing still. I threw myself down a bowling lane…backwards. I got so many stitches as a child that my forehead looks a bit like Frankenstein’s. My mom still hasn’t forgiven me for the time I took out the neighbor’s garden gnome with a skateboard.
6. I have three passports, none of which are valid. My Australian passport is expired. My diplomatic passport? Well, I was supposed to turn that in over a year ago and I still haven’t gotten around to it. My tourist passport still has my married name on it (incidentally, long-since nonexistent Shannon Johnson still gets all sorts of junk mail).
7. I am very impulsive. Approximately 90% of my decisions in life were made based on what seemed like a good idea at the time. Of those, maybe about a third of them really were a good idea. The rest? Well, sometimes you have to learn stuff the hard way. I don’t have any regrets (aside from a few ill-advised hairstyles, and maybe that time I tried to climb a tree in a dominatrix outfit).
8. It really bugs me that I’ve never been a Missed Connection on Craigslist, nor an I Saw You in CityPaper. C’mon, D.C. , take notice of me already!

I have to pass along the tag now, so...Mike West, Nate and Victoria. Hit it.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Why I'll Never Write a Love Song

I am an enormously practical woman. This means that many of life's most romantic moments either annoy me, or miss me completely. The end of Titanic? I was rooting for the iceberg.

Nowhere is this more apparent than my dislike of sappy love songs. A few weeks ago, when I was at Katie's, we listened to a song with the lyric, "Without you, girl, I just can't live." That stopped me cold. I mean, how is that romantic? It's so clingy and desperate. Any sensible woman would run away screaming. And love songs are full of such silliness. They're usually about how life is empty and meaningless without the relationship. And that isn't love. That's a psychiatric disorder.

"Wonderful Tonight," of course, is my least favorite love song ever. It's about a guy whose girl takes forever to get ready for a party, so he retaliates by getting tanked and making her drive him home. It's an ode to passive aggressive jerkiness. "If I Fell," that Beatles classic, is basically a request to be the revenge rebound girlfriend. How sweet!

The love songs I like are odes to actual love, not to lust and desperation. Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed," for example.

If I suddenly developed musical talent, I would write songs like, "Thank You for Remembering My Birthday" or, "I Value Your Opinions." Or, how about, "We Have Many Similar Interests," or, best of all, "You Don't Complete Me, But That's OK Because I Am Already a Person in My Own Right."

Who thinks I'd get a record deal?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Double Standard, The TV Show

So, nineteen million seasons of The Apprentice just wasn't enough. Now Donald Trump has decided that what we really need is Lady and the Tramp. Here's the pertinent info:

Already Trump and crew have put out a casting call, seeking women between 18 and 30 who "love to party and are full of attitude." The premise of the show, the casting call explains, is to take these "rude and crude" party girls who don't care what others think about them and, with proper etiquette training, turn them into "modern-day princesses."

So, let's rob these women of their individuality and moxie, and turn them into cookie-cutter pretty pretty princesses! As a former party girl who still doesn't care what people think of me, uh, no thanks.

There are just so many things wrong with this. Let's begin with the title. Lady and the Tramp? What, was Madonna/Whore Complex: The TV Show already taken? Why can a woman only be one or the other? And who cares who's a tramp anymore? Can't men also be tramps? Also, I would have a total blast hanging with some "rude and crude party girls."

I wonder what they mean by "modern-day princesses." I think I got over whatever princess complex I may have had by the age of 12. I wonder why princess fantasies even persist at all. They're everywhere. High-ticket weddings stand out in particular. Every time I hear anyone wedding-affiliated refer to a wedding as "special day," I want to gag. You're alive. You live in a country with a freely elected legislature and forty flavors of Pop-Tarts. Every day is special.

And can we identify some modern-day princesses? The Girls Gone Wild? (Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton?)

Or maybe this is some sort of Girls Gone Wild backlash butterfly effect. But instead of a butterfly flapping its wings and causing a monsoon in the Amazon, Britney's immaculately groomed girl parts have flapped their wings and given us crap reality TV.

But maybe this isn't about the princess fantasy or America fastening its collective chastity belt. Maybe it's the lure of the makeover. Makeovers are a powerful thing. Fashion magazines, reality TV, and even Scientology can credit their success to the power of the makeover. Be someone completely new! Deny your past! All you need is a little eyeliner and some etiquette classes. Or to spend a bunch of money to find out that our planet is merely a repository for alien carcasses.

Ugh. This is why I never watch TV. Sometimes, in the insanity and inanity of the pop culture world, it's best to simply opt out.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Peanut Butter and Prosletyzing Cabbies

I always seem to get the prosletyzing, talk radio-obsessed, weirdest cabbies that DC has to offer. It all began about six years ago, when a cabbie told me, "Why go to Eastern Market when you can go to...heaven?" Is heaven a two-zone or three-zone trip? From there on out, every cab ride has been Iraq, CEO salaries and Jesus. Lots and lots of Jesus.

Saturday's cabbie, however, was of a special breed. Before I had even told him my address, he launched into a dissertation on marriage, divorce, and how "Jesus keeps marriages together." Block after block and neighborhood after neighborhood he explained his view. Somewhere around Shaw, I asked him if he'd ever been married. Nope. (It's always nice when someone holds forth on a subject about which they have no personal knowledge!) He picked right up with the divorce tirade.

I don't really seek validation from strangers, but by this point I was very bored. So I mentioned that I had been divorced, and that maybe we ought to change the subject. Instead, the cabbie pulled over the car and asked, "Are you Jewish? Because Jesus keeps marriages together."

If I was a better, smarter person, I would have kept quiet. Come to think of it, if I had any sense whatsoever, I would never have said a word in the first place. I would have pretended to go to sleep. But, no, I told him that I was, in fact, Jewish. (A total fabrication, unless you count the time in eighth grade that I played Laurie in a community theater production of Brighton Beach Memoirs.)

As a desperate ploy for self-amusement, I began making up my own brand of Judaism. Peanut butter isn't kosher. Legumes in general will make you unclean unto the seventh day. I spent the next ten minutes inventing a religion. Had you given me 15 minutes, I probably would have re-invented Scientology.

My fake Judaism made me think about my belief system in general. And it's as fuzzy as can be. I believe in God, but I'm not much for organized religion. I believe in marriage, but not weddings. I'm pro-life for me, but pro-choice for everyone else. I don't care about money, but I love to shop. I'll obey the rules, unless the rules strike me as unfair. Or even if the rules are somewhat inconvenient. I worry about taking moral shortcuts and intellectual dodges, and some days I count the compromises I've made and I feel slightly ill. Then I think about all the ways I've lived by my principles, and I feel better.

Welcome to the world, huh? I'll probably always fall short, screw up, and say the wrong thing. But I think from now on I'll avoid inventing religions. Even if the person asking me is really, really annoying.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Beth 2.0

It occurs to me that I may be slightly bossy and overbearing. Last night, I was helping my friend Katie get organized for her move tomorrow (hey, anyone wanna come help?). I marched right into her house, assembled boxes, issued her with a to-do list, and assaulted her with two hours of organizational tips and packing strategies. Poor Katie is going to spend today Mapquesting directions from her old place to her new one, which she will issue to all drivers at tomorrow’s move. At one point, I even said, “If you’re looking for something to do, you can bring up boxes from downstairs!” I apologized immediately afterwards, because, well, wow. That’s pretty bossy.

The highlight of the evening, however, was the Most Indecisive Man in D.C., who came to buy Katie’s vacuum cleaner. Within five minutes, I was ready to rip his throat open with a rusty can opener. He dithered over the purchase of a $25 secondhand vacuum cleaner like he was about to adopt a disadvantaged child with Angelina Jolie. Did it work? What’s up with the duct tape? Can he negotiate the price? He even test drove the stupid thing around the living room. I just about had a heart attack watching him waffle. It's a handi-vac, not a baby or a house!

On any given day, I am completely insane. I like to know what’s happening and when. Indecisiveness stresses me out. I mean, how hard is it to buy a vacuum cleaner, pick a restaurant, or order a drink? Billions of people all over the world make billions of decisions all day long. Step it up, folks. Let’s go!

I’m aware that most people are much more relaxed than I am. I’ve been trying to figure out where the insanity all came from. And now I know. Thanks, Mom!

Packing Katie up gave me distinct flashbacks to my mom helping me get ready to go away to college. We began shopping in May, when I officially decided to go to Carolina. We had lists. We had a special area of the house designated for my college dorm stuff. We packed up the station wagon the night before. We were definitely stopping for lunch in South Hill, as it was exactly two-thirds of the way to Chapel Hill.

Sometimes I’m so much like my mom that it freaks me out. Both of us wear our hair short and we usually dress in earth tones and flats. We’re both perfectionists with Christmas decorations, and we always look slightly cranky in photos. Our mannerisms are remarkably similar. The main difference is that I’m a more outgoing person than she is (though, let’s face it, I’m even more outgoing than the average golden retriever).

It’s weird. I know that all women turn into their mothers, but who knew it would happen so young?

PS - Last week was a big one for birthdays, so happy birthday Bob, Roxanne, and Mom. (No, I don't know how old my mom is, but then again, she doesn't know my age either. That's what keeps us both feeling so young!)