Wednesday, June 30, 2010

I Promise this Won't Be a Wedding Blog

So, now that I'm engaged*, I get to plan a wedding.

Goals: Have a fun party the guests enjoy, not have crushing stage fright in a room stacked full of random strangers, while not going into debt, not putting anyone else into debt, not getting any urge to dress up like that bride there on the right, and, most importantly, to get married. Yay!

Last night, I decided to kick off the process by swinging by the going-out-of-business sale at my local Borders. I seem to recall, from weddings past, that you can buy these "wedding organizer" binders. And they have pockets. For receipts and contracts and things! And checklists! And you can walk around with your big-ass Bride Binder and watch as legions of strangers on every sidewalk stop and swoon with joy! Because it's all about me! Me! Wonderful me! (And maybe my fiance.)

As you can probably already tell, this excursion was not a raging success. First I had to ask the staff member if wedding planning books could be found under "Political Science," or, "History of Warfare," as those struck me as the most logical locations. Apparently they live in a land called, "General Reference."

Then I went to the Bride Shelf. It was hell. Arsenic-laced cotton candy with a side of dead puppies hell.
Everything was this shade of pink I can only describe as "flourescent gynecology textbook." There was the pink Budget Bride. The pink Elegant Bride. The pink I Have a Life Bride. There was even a pink "Anti-Bride's Guide." (I briefly considered stacking The Bride's Guide and the Anti-Bride's Guide on top of each other to create an explosion. But that would have only improved the aesthetic of the Bride Shelf.)

Eventually, I gave up and bought a box set of Ed Wood movies. Hey, at least the Ed Wood box was pink, right?
*As my friend Worth pointed out, Monday's post never mentioned whether or not I said "yes." I did. So there you go.

Monday, June 28, 2010

EEEEEE!!!!!!, EEEEE!!!!!, !!!!, and !!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here's the thing. I'm not what anyone would call "observant" or "prone to paying attention to anything at all." I've fallen for "gullible isn't in the dictionary." More than once.

So, Saturday, when my boyfriend said we had to get up early and go to brunch at Belga Cafe, because his parents were arriving around 1:00 and we should eat first, I didn't put two and two together. (Let's face it, I can't put one and one together before noon.) I was just grumpy that I had to drag myself out of bed at the ungodly, unreasonable hour of 10:00 a.m.

Things that did not occur to me, but probably should have:
1. It was our anniversary, after dating for a year.
2. We went to Belga Cafe on our first date.
3. There was no logical reason for us to take a walk down Pennsylvania Avenue after brunch. Especially not to "find out the schedule for the World Cup."

So, let's just say I didn't add it up until there was a bended knee, a beautiful ring, and a whole lot of shrieking and bouncing up and down. And being congratulated by the bouncer from the 18th Amendment.

But that wasn't the end of the surprises. My future in-laws came down from New York to celebrate with us, and take us out for dinner. We decided to pop over to Capitol Lounge for a quick drink after dinner.

Things that did not occur to me, but probably should have:
1. It was almost impossible to get anyone on the phone Saturday. Seriously - it was like all of Washington had vanished.
2. Capitol Lounge? In the basement? Was the basement even open yet?

It was open. Moreover, about twenty of our friends were gathered there to celebrate with us! A surprise engagement party! There was champagne! And brownies! And decorations! And people! From all over D.C. and even New York! And there was shrieking! So much shrieking it was like the Jonas Brothers were in town! EEEEEEE!!!!! And photos! Lovely photos! And lovely people! And so much love!!!

In related news, Cloud Nine is composed almost completely of exclamation points.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Etiquette for Urban Couch-Crashers

Whenever I read an article about houseguest etiquette, it always includes suggestions about "keeping the guest room neat" and "not monopolizing the washer and dryer." Of course, these laws are quite welcome in the McMansion fairyland of the outer ‘burbs. But for urban dwellers, they're pretty laughable. My "guest room" is an air mattress, tucked in a nook between the stereo and the balcony. And I drag my laundry to the basement, as our good deities of rent control intended.

But that hasn't stopped me from running a highly unprofitable friends-and-family youth hostel out of my apartment. (My current visitor/college roommate is my fourth houseguest of the month.)

So what are some etiquette rules for urban houseguests? Well, I'm glad you asked:

1. Determine arrival and departure dates well in advance. As much as it's wonderful to see friends and family, I want to know when I can go back to my usual routine of eating Popsicles on the couch, clad in nothing but Underoos and cowboy boots while watching Xanadu on an endless loop.

2. Ben Franklin apparently coined the expression, "Fish and houseguests stink after three days." I would like to update it to, "Guests who remain longer than three days get a pair of kitchen scissors to the neck, and their carcasses thrown over the side of the balcony.” A long weekend is plenty, especially in a small space.

3. Don’t scatter your crap. Keep your belongings in neat piles in one or two places in your host’s home. Bonus: Don’t unceremoniously shove/move/dump on the floor any of your host’s belongings to make room for your stuff. Need more space? Ask.

4. Respect household timing and routines. You’re on vacation, but your host might not be. Don’t stay up late cranking music, and don’t wander into the bathroom to take a shower right as your host is trying to get ready for work. (That is, unless you have a burning need to flash your host. I shower at 7:15, come hell or hot water, and I personally don’t care if you’re already in there or not.)

5. If you’re driving, make parking arrangements with your host in advance. Cities are not car-friendly, and you probably cannot just pull right up and park anywhere you want. You may have to get up at the butt crack of dawn to move your car to a metered space, you may have to pay for it to be garaged, or you may have to cruise for an hour to find a spot. None of these things are within your host’s control, so please keep your frustrations to yourself.

6. Speaking of keeping things to yourself, don’t criticize your host’s cleanliness, d├ęcor, neighborhood, food, or, really, don’t criticize anything at all. If you’re that picky, you can have things however you want at the Holiday Inn.

7. Back to cars…cities are not car-friendly. Most of your destinations will involve walking and public transit. Wear appropriate footwear and don’t insinuate that your host should be driving you everywhere. If they offer to drive you, accept their kind offer graciously. (Especially don’t insist your host drive you to Adams Morgan on a Saturday night, in fact, don’t ask them to take you to Adams Morgan at all. It’s the Howard the Duck of nightlife districts.)

8. Don’t forget to thank your hosts for their hospitality. A bottle of wine, a dinner out, or even just a nice note or email will do.

Of course, hosts have responsibilities here, too:

1. Your home doesn’t have to be immaculate, but stay away from gnarly. Give the kitchen and the bathroom a once-over, and if your guest room is an air mattress, sweep the floors. Nobody wants to wake up next to last month’s tortilla fragments. While you’re at it, try to clear a little closet or luggage space for your guests. They’ll be a lot neater if there’s a designated area for their stuff.

2. Chill. Out. Don’t program every minute, or freak if a vase gets moved two millimeters to the right.

3. Find out if your guests have any dietary issues or allergies, and make a small grocery run. You definitely don’t have to cater every meal, but do keep coffee, a few breakfast items, and maybe some snacks on hand. And if your guests are anything like mine, triple up on the booze.

4. Sometimes, tourist traps happen to good people. Be a good sport if your visitors want to go somewhere odious, like the Air and Space Museum. However, if your guests want to go to Ben’s Chili Bowl, cold sober in the harsh light of day, and wait in a ridiculous line for watery chili, you have my permission to tell them it’s an overrated tacky tourist trap that only tastes good after the bars close.

In the comments, tell me about your houseguest rules. Or, tell me about your worst houseguest ever.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Frogger Dilemma

Clearly, bus drivers in Washington are a special breed. They do things like punch out McGruff the Crime Dog* (though I have my own issues with McGruff). Then they are reinstated, with back pay for clocking a Crime Dog. Because anyone who punches a mascot is completely mentally stable and ought to be trusted with the safety of Washington's citizens.

And those are just the official drivers. In summer, the city gets flooded with all flavors of tour bus operators, most of whom have no experience with city driving and have never observed a pedestrian in its natural habitat. My daily walk home has gone from pleasant diversion to high-stakes Frogger.

The primary issue is that these tour bus troublemakers have never learned how to yield to a pedestrian. So I get stuck playing this game of chicken where I have the light, put one foot in the crosswalk, and stare down the driver until he stops the bus and lets me pass. Sometimes, instead of stopping, he'll nudge me out of the intersection. In a game of Tour Bus vs. Mighty Munchkin, there are no winners.

I'm fighting back, though. Every day, I carry a pen and a piece of paper. I also keep my cameraphone handy. I write down the bus company, vehicle number, intersection, time, and date, and call their employer as soon as I get home. I don't know how much it does, but it feels pretty good.

In the comments, tell me how you deal with homicidal tour bus drivers. Or just bitch about tourist season in general.

*Am I the only one who kind of wishes the police officer dressed as McGruff had been a woman? Because then the driver could have said, "The bitch set me up?" Just me? OK.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The ACOD Doesn't Fall Far from the Tree

Al and Tipper Gore...are no more. I do not know how I can go through life, or ever believe in love again, as my marital ideal has been irreparably shattered.

Oh, please. I was far more bummed when Buffy stabbed Angel in the gut and shipped him straight to hell.

Before anyone calls the men in the white suits and butterfly nets (who, for the record, are on the speed dial of all my nearest and dearest), I am aware of the difference between fact and fiction. However, since I do not know anyone involved, it's all the same to me.

What's even stranger to me is the media hand-wringing over what shall become of their poor children. (Who are, may I point out, competent adults.) There's even a term for it all: ACODs (Adult Children of Divorce), because anything bad that happens must be medicalized until it's completely trivial.

In fact, I recently came across this article in the Guardian. Not only is it awesome because it features quotes by Lee Borden (my divorce lawyer! Eeeeee!), it's awesome because of all the garment-rending that occurs when competent adults have to (gasp!) deal with adult things.

OK, I'm sounding heartless here. Blame it on Au Bon Pain being out of my favorite kind of sandwich. But not only am I divorced, I'm one of those tragic ACODs. My parents split when I was 21, just a few months after I completed college.

And, you know what? I lived. It was OK. In fact, it was better than OK, as my parents seemed happier for it. They're friends now and get along just fine. There was awkwardness, and transition, and mourning, but in the end it all worked out.

Here are some things I learned, may it help the Gore children* and the other ACODs of the world:

1. In the term ACOD, the keyword is "adult." You're a grownup. You can handle it. Really.

2. Yes, you will feel guilty that your parents stayed together "for the kids." But that was their choice, as adults, to do. It's not your fault. So let go of the guilt, and thank them for their sacrifice.

3. While we're talking about "not your fault," the divorce is not your fault. In fact, it basically has nothing to do with you. Seeing the divorce as 'all about ME and MY feelings!' is an act of narcissism - whatever pain you're going through, your parents are going through far worse. They did not do this to "break up your family," destroy your perfect world, or throw a wrench into Thanksgiving plans. Marinate yourself in a little Boone's Farm, sob to your friends, then dust yourself off and get on with it.

4. Understand that your parents are undergoing a profound emotional journey. Divorce is an ugly, miserable thing that upends your life, obliterates your daily routines, and erases all your plans for the future. It's a "reset" button that usually only gets pressed after massive system failure. Getting divorced, instead of limping along in a bad marriage, is an act of courage. Sadly, for many folks who haven't been there, it is seen as an act of weakness. Your parents aren't being weak.

5. A child of divorce is generally shielded from the inner workings of the breakup. However, if you're an adult, expect your parents to lean on you a bit and maybe give you some gory details. That's a good thing - they're demonstrating faith in your ability to handle it like an adult. Because, as we've established, you're an adult.

6. One of the great lessons of adulthood is being able to see your parents as people. Assets, liabilities, strengths, weaknesses, gaping character flaws and all. What you're experiencing is simply a crash course version of that lesson.

In the comments, tell me if I'm being really harsh, or find a way to make the title of the post have anything to do with the content of the post. Or speculate about the Gore divorce.

*Am I the only person who thinks they're all named Karenna?

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Can You Hear My Body Talking?

Apparently, no matter how a woman positions her feet, it means she totally wants to jump your bones. In related news, this article purports to explain women's body language.*

Let's get the obvious bit out of the way: yes, the article is sexist and full of obnoxious stereotypes.

Apparently, like all women, I am a manipulative, hyperemotional weirdo who, "Say[s] "I'm fine" when [I] mean "I am about to start bawling -- and I'll never let you forget it." And you can tell by my posture that I'm "prepared to be obedient." (Unless I'm decked out in bondage gear, an apron, and am making you a sandwich, stay far away from that assumption.) Finishing the article felt like coughing up a hairball of shame in a windstorm of self-loathing.

But that's not the worst part. The worst part is that it's the most godawful advice about women I've ever seen. I was waiting to be told that when I take a special lady to the movies, I ought to yawn and then drape my arm across her shoulder.

Every pose means that the headless babe in the photos totally wants you:

Hand on neck: Trusts you, wants to jump your bones.
Hand on waist: Apparently a very aloof form of zombie, but still wants to jump your bones.
Crossed legs: Obedient (ed note: barf), will sit there forever for the opportunity to jump your bones.
Crossed legs, perched on chair: Wants to aggressively jump your bones.
Sitting up straight: Thinks she's at church, but would jump your bones at church.
One knee on chair: The other knee would like to be jumping your bones.

I could go on, but you get the idea. If this article catches on, every fidget, pose, shifting of feet or neck itch will be interpreted as a blatant come-on. The bars of America will be filled with shrieking women, hurling bar tables and pool cues at the relentless hordes of clueless men, who are just trying to attain the impromptu bone-jumpings promised to them by Asylum. Eventually, women will invent new postures to throw them off the scent, so that every sidewalk looks like an interpretive dance recital. Eventually, women will find a way to live as motionless fleshy mannequins, men will give up, and the human race will die out.

That's right, folks: We're not just looking at awkward and juvenile bad advice, we're staring into the abyss. If this article catches on, it'll be the END OF HUMANKIND.

*Hat tip Adrienne for finding this slice of Internet glory.

In the comments, tell me about your posture, and whether it means you think I'm sexy. Or tell me the plot of your dystopian film, set five years after the Asylum article is adopted as the new gospel.