Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The voice of our generation

They say Bob Dylan was the voice of a generation. That he had the unique ability to capture the sentiments that defined the '60s. He was their minstrel, cutting through the chaos with clear words, poignant questions, and honest emotion.

Our generation has its own set of sentiments. Rebelling against our parents’ petty focus on peace, love, and equality we’ve shifted to evaluating the real issues at hand: how to get into, out of, and over relationships. It seems like everything else is being handled especially considering it’s now very easy to "go green" and things are looking good for Obama. Dating it is.

With this as our focus we need a siren of song whose words cut to the core of our modern, relationship struggles. One who is able to take complex issues and break them down into focused lyrics with clever rhymes. Someone who is successful and popular but has been down that winding, pot-hole-filled road we're stuck on once or twice before. I think we can all agree that the answer is clear.

The voice of our generation is Whitney Houston.

Blessed with the pipes of an angel, she couldn’t help but rise to fame. Throughout her years reining over the pop charts she gifted us some of the most poignant lines of our time. It is this ability to sing for us what we didn’t even know we were feeling that makes Houston our Dylan. The examples are of course countless, but a few shining moments of song really speak to the power of her messages – messages that really are the battle cries of our times.

From gay-bar fave “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” comes the words that finally capture the feeling that seeps in while you’re pre-gaming in your bedroom:

  • Ive done alright up till now / Its the light of day that shows me how / And when the night falls our loneliness calls

When the night falls – our loneliness calls. Chills.

Within that same song is her no-holds-bar confession about where she’s been and what she really wants out of love:

  • Ive been in love and lost my senses / Spinning through the town / Soon or later the fever ends / And I wind up feeling down / I need a man who'll take a chance / On a love that burns hot enough to last
I need that man too Whitney. Only I wasn’t woman enough to admit it, in rhyme.

In the classic “How Will I Know?” (if only Dylan could have been so direct) she admits that sometimes it’s all beyond our control:

  • There’s a boy I know / he’s the one I dream of / Looks into my eyes / takes me to the clouds above / Ooh I lose control / cant seem to get enough
But still hones in on the question at hand with naked vulnerability:

  • How will I know if he really loves me (arguably the question of our time)
  • I say a prayer with every heart beat (not afraid to invoke the Lord)
  • I fall in love whenever we meet (Amen…)
  • I’m asking you what you know about these things (conducting research, brilliant)
  • How will I know if he’s thinking of me (she knows love is in the details)
  • I try to phone but I’m too shy, cant speak (admitting her faults)
  • Falling in love is all bitter sweet (it is Whit, it really is)
  • This love is strong why do I feel weak (because you smoke crack)
And really no song goes by without that same kind of honesty:

From “So Emotional”
  • I remember the way that we touched / I wish I didn’t like it so much / I get so emotional, baby / Every time I think of you / I get so emotional, baby / Ain’t it shocking what love can do
Shocks me every time.

Within the title track from her hit feature film (is there anything she can’t do?) Waiting to Exhale:
  • Everyone falls in love sometime / Sometimes it's wrong, and sometimes it's right / For every win, someone must fail / But there comes a point when / When we exhale (yeah, yeah, say shoop)
She does not mince words. Nor is she afraid to address the more taboo issues of the times.
On adultery:
  • A few stolen moments is all that we share / You've got your family, and they need you there / Though I've tried to resist, being last on your list / But no other man's gonna do / So I'm saving all my love for you
And cheating:

  • Friday night you and your boys went out to eat / Then they hung out, but you came home around three / Now if six of ya'll went out / Then four of you were really cheeeap / 'Cause only two of you had dinner / I found your credit card receeeipt / It's not right / But it's okay / I'm gonna make it anyway
She is as smart as she is talented.

Of course none of these hold a candle to the song that so captures the spirit of our time that it may as well be re-packaged and delivered as Obama’s inaugural address:
  • I decided long ago, never to walk in anyone's shadow / If I fail, if I succeed / At least I'll live as I believe / No matter what they take from me / They can't take away my dignity / Because the greatest love of all / Is happening to me / I found the greatest love of all / Inside of me / The greatest love of all / Is easy to achieve / Learning to love yourself / It is the greatest love of all
An anthem if there ever was one...
She may have smoked crack, screwed Clive Davis and picked Bobby Brown (still!), but the fact clearly remains: Whitney Houston is our poet laureate.

FYI, the runner up was Matchbox 20. Look into it. They’re stuff is really quite moving.

On food metaphors and first dates

People, like most produce and some dairy products, have a “best by” date. Not like, after a certain amount of time they go bad and should be discarded. Like, there’s a range of time within which they are each their best. But not “their best” like they become appropriately ripe and then that’s it. More like they each take a different amount of time to arrive at their most delicious selves – the point where they can be enjoyed as they should be and thus appropriately evaluated.

Hhmm. So.

People, like cheese, each become their best after a unique amount of time. A washed rind sheep’s milk is ready the minute you take it home from the store. Serve it up with crackers, it doesn’t need time to settle or cool or age a little more. A pecorino, on the other hand, could use some time outside the fridge to sit and soften. You could push it right away, but you’ll need a sharper knife and stronger cracker – and even then it won’t taste quite right. You might find yourself saying, “I don’t like this pecorino” or, “I never like a pecorino” or the more telling, “why don’t I ever learn my lesson about those fucking pecorinos” but maybe you’re just not understanding the unique nature of the entire pecorino family.

People can be much like that pecorino – especially when entering into a prospective relationship (you knew it was coming).

Some people perform incredibly well on a first date. They have excellent small talk skills, have crafted life details into short, episodic stories, and know what remains TMI 30 minutes into knowing someone (underarm hair preference being at the top of that list). They are goat cheese. Excellent right out of the package. Where they suffer tends to be around date 4 or 5 when most life details have been exchanged, and it’s time for real substance. Sometimes their dog and pony show doesn’t have a second act. It's not that people who perform well on a first date won’t still be great round 5, but it’s trouble if the awkward silences start to pop up after you know a lot about each other. It means they’re boring or selfish. Both are bad.

Then there are the people who take those 4 to 5 dates to warm up at all (pecorino, some swisses). Getting to know a perfect stranger is nerve-wracking. We of Facebook culture forget that sometimes the first conversation actually starts with, “so, where are you from”. They say first dates feel like an interview for a reason. They’re like an interview. And not everyone can go zero to sixty in two sessions. A warning statement (“Yeah, good to finally meet you too. Just so you know I’m really best on date three, so just take that into consideration tonight”) would be weird, but the shyer among us should be cut some slack. It really is intimidating.

Me – I’m brie. Confusing and often too soft. I do small talk well enough, but it’s not my strong suit. I can ask questions and seem interested, but if I’m not interested I ask dumb questions (“don’t you feel like you could probably be doing the whole stock market thing online now?”). And when I’m nervous my left eye squints a little (Not a wink, but a squint so it appears like I might wink at you but I haven’t quite decided). My main problem is that I apply 4th date conversation to 1st date scenarios. I feel like I’m best understood with a lot of background detail and all my stories are connected to other stories, so I start weaving these confusing webs of people and places and jobs that makes me seem really involved. And while part of it is that I am really involved (sort of) – it’s more that I feel comfortable quickly and so I come off acting like we’ve been friends for months even though we met five minutes ago. To some people it’s endearing and comforting. To most, it’s weird.

What’s tough about these cheeses situation is that you only get one chance at a first impression. And in this age of gourmet fast food we’re not inclined to wait around until the person settles into their perfect room temperature. He acts shy, you think he’s disinterested, it ends at date one. Or she seems like she talks to much, you assuming she’s way too much to handle, end scene. If only you knew going in that the first-date behavior is on account of x,y, or z factors – you’d consider the person more carefully.

Extended long metaphor short, it’s best to be set up. You get a pre-first impression and, in my case, a little talking to about not using so many food metaphors. You also get a date without having to do any work at all. Win win. Work on making that happen.

And no, it’s not like a stink-eye. It’s just a very minor wink-ish squint that happens because I do this nervous smile thing only when I, conveniently, really like the person.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Raunchy questions, profound answers

You know that now famous question that popped up somewhere around freshman year of high school?

If you had to give up either blow jobs or cheese, which would you pick?

Girls used it as a weird flirtation device -- proof that they were cool enough to say blow job with a straight face. For guys I assume it was another piece of their sexual show-off routine: “Oh man, give up blow jobs. God the ones I receive daily are so amazing that I can’t imagine giving them up.”

I heard it again this weekend out at a bar. It was bundled into a conversation about who was more likely to have done it – Zach and Kelly or Slater and Jessie. Everyone’s money was on Jessie (bookish on the outside, Showgirls in the inside), but I made the case for Lisa being the dark horse. She probably did it without anyone knowing while they were all working at that weird beach club. People agreed. Crazy shit went down at that beach club.

The blow job/cheese portion of the convo went as expected. Cheese took it approx. 70/30 against the J's. People unfamiliar with the question reacted as they tend to. “Give up blow jobs??” to which someone who’s been mulling it over since freshman year of high school always says, “Dude, do you know how much stuff has cheese in it? Pretty much everything good. Think about it.” The crowd contemplates. Someone says, “You can still have sex right?” The answer is yes and so cheese pulls ahead.

As a lactose intolerant girl, I’ve never been too interested in the game. I’d probably go with cheese considering there’s really no substitute, plus I assume a bad blow job can really ruin the act for life -- though someone once told me there’s no such thing as a bad blow job.

This time though it got me thinking about how to re-write it for the female audience – and whether or not there’s even an equivalent. The obvious thought is to replace blow jobs with girl third base (I’m not cool enough to say it with a straight face), insert “or cheese” and watch everyone squirm. But it’s a well-known fact that girls don’t love their version as much as boys do. Plus in the female scenario there is such a thing as a bad one, and it can be quite scarring.

Maybe it’s orgasms or make-up? No, in the original either/or the orgasm remains – it’s just one means to that end that’s off-limits. Plus 21st century girls don’t like to admit they love make-up.

Kissing or cheese? Boring. Cuddling or Facebook? Meh. The Facebook thing is valid but too annoying to admit. Cuddling or kissing? One in the same really. Cuddling or orgasms? Hhmm. Cuddling or orgasms. Cuddling or orgasms… Now that’s something...

If we use the term broadly – cuddling serving as a catch-all term for all touch in that realm – it becomes something serious to consider.

Would women forever give up being touched to keep the sensation of an orgasm?

Is the power of those seconds of pleasure more compelling than the pleasure derived from everything before and after? Which is more significant to the gender as a whole? And can the latter occur without the former (nb: yes)? But should it? (nb: no).  It's a cheap trick hypothetical that may actually produce some pretty telling info, especially when it comes to the question of how this reflects on thought process around hooking up? (big jump - stay focused). 

If you stopped a girl just before she’s about to leave with Joe Friday Night and said, “you’re going to have a great orgasm but he won’t touch you once throughout the entire experience” do you think she’d still go? Right. But what if she were sober?

Forget the “would you rather” hypothetical – that’s the more interesting question. What are we really after out of a hook up and, if we knew we wouldn’t get it, would we still proceed? Easy orgasm, perfect cuddle, eventual boyfriend – it’s a whole other set of either / or(s). But perhaps if we can uncover which we want and why we want them we can put a permanent end to texts that read: I never learn my lesson.

What percentage of the female population could identify  what, of the many possible options, they really want out of a hook up and, if you promised they would or wouldn't get it - would they still proceed?

That question is harder than bj/cheese or cuddling/O questions combined.  And while I'm sure it's fairly unanswerable, I do think people's reactions and thought process in an attempt to figure it out would be pretty indicative of their current mindset when it comes to the opposite sex.  I think you could tell what girls most after in their hearts of hearts - be that attention or a husband - from the way they think it through.

From blow jobs and cheese to the cornerstones of modern hook up culture.

And to think, I also love make-up.

My stab at a/the "one"

I would be an asshole to criticize without a counter point, and I try never to be an asshole.

Today, my go at that Men’s Health article, re-titled for better clarity/ reality.

You Should Try Not to Fuck it Up with Her If…
Written from the perspective of a single, 20-something girl
(Hypocrite and asshole are two very different things).

You can leave her alone at a party filled with people she doesn’t know and she’ll have friends when you come back.

  • It’s not just that you don’t want someone hanging all over you. It’s that you want someone who is socially comfortable, adaptable to new situations, and has a personality that lends to making friends easily. This will also make you look very good.
She quickly learns all your friend’s names and nicknames, but knows when to use the names and when to use the nicknames.
  • Druckman is Druckman to everyone, but using the name Jamal in reference to Pete should be cleared by the boys of Alpha Theta Ward. Read: cares enough to know, but knows enough to understand your territory and hers. Fine line, but one that, when crossed, will rub the entire friend group the wrong way.
She makes it through each day without uttering one of the following, to you: Ugh I feel so fat today. Oh my god these jeans are sooo tight on me. I want to wear that dress but it makes me look pregnant.
  • Self-deprecation should be reserved for poignant, well-timed humor and, when themed around how a girl feels about her body, her girlfriends. We all have fat days and ugly days – only the strongest among us don’t whine about them to elicit response compliments. You’re not after a girl who never has a bad body day. You’re after a girl who doesn’t constantly put you in the very awkward position of having to say, “aww, you don’t look fat today, or any day, ever.”

She knows that at the bar for your buddy’s birthday or when the guys over are watching football is not the time to pick a fight, no matter how seemingly important it is at the moment.
  • This one’s two-fold. Shows she can respect you and the situation (you’re celebrating for a friend -- all your friends are in your living room) – and has advanced enough fighting skills to know that no good can come from addressing it in that moment. She can be forgiven if she is excessively drunk – we’ve all been there. But pouting in a corner does not count as “not bringing it up”.

She calls, leaves a message and then waits until you call her back.
  • In more specific words, she does not stalker call you until you pick up. Sure if she doesn’t hear from you for hours and hours she can give it another attempt, but if you’re not available at 10:00 you’re probably still not available at 10:01. Also when you say, “I have to go right now,” she understands it means you’ll still be doing whatever made you have to go five minutes later. This needs no further explanation.

She doesn’t have an entire set of friends that she secretly hates.
  • Girls are notorious for bad-mouthing friends behind their backs. But there’s a difference between sometimes judgmental and always two-faced. Watch out for those. They might secretly hate you too.

She can make a decision without calling home.
  • Obviously within reason. Should I go to Law School? probably necessitates and chat with Mom and Dad. But, whether or not to get a haircut this Saturday could likely be handled independently.

This conversation never happens: You: Last night was great.
Her: Pffft. Glad it was good for one of us (rolls eyes, returns to Us Weekly)
  • Passive aggressiveness and sex go together like Britney and her kids. She should be able to address it when it’s happening and talk about it if there’s a problem without an insulting, non-direct tone.

She loves Tina Turner.
  • Tina Turner is a very sexy woman. She is also an excellent dancer with a healthy body and strong, optimistic outlook on life. A girl who loves Tina Turner is surely great in bed, takes care of her body, is driven to succeed, and can dance. Frankly, you can disregard the rest of the list. This says it all.

I’m not sure this hypothetical “one” I’m hawking even exists. Also I left out things like, “has a legitimate savings account” and “knows the name of her congressman” for personal reasons.
In the end I don’t know if it’s what men do want or should want – but if it’s still not quite “Is She The One” it’s at least a very accurate “Can She Be My Good Friend”

Thursday, July 24, 2008

"The" One or "A" One

In the recent tradition of the advice from the opposite, disqualified sex, comes a Men’s Health article outlining all the green flags that should tell you your girl is a keeper - a deal maker vs. deal breaker guide. It’s written by two, unmarried, 30-or-so women who claim that while, “women are notoriously bad at recognizing ‘The One’… we're experts at knowing a good woman for you when we see her -- it's embedded in the female genetic code.” Hm - is it? And if it is, why aren’t we using this gift to set all the lonely people of the world up with people our magic genetic code assesses worthy? Either they're wrong or we're cruel.

Here are some of their rules, paraphrased, with my commentary, because if there’s one thing more embedded in the female genetic code, it’s hypocrisy.

She's a keeper if . . .
She has at least one non–work-related hobby she's passionate about.
“It means she knows how to have fun without a man and that she won't need you constantly by her side. And if she continues to make time for her own friends (loyalty is good), she won't freak out when you plan a poker night.”

  • First, there are many hobbies that would prove she actually does not know how to have fun without a man/at all. But more importantly, just because she’s passionate about knitting doesn’t mean she won’t want you constantly by her side. I do agree that a lack of any interests outside of work (call it a “hobby”) is a problem, but this should be clear from her ability to hold a conversation, not her 4H Club membership card. Good start – too vague.
She likes treating you sometimes.
"It means she'll approach relationships in a more egalitarian way -- and when she says she'll take you for richer or poorer, she'll mean it."
  • It could also mean she makes more money than you and is not an asshole -- or that it’s 2008. Women who are still not paying for anything should be required to wear those pointy-boobed bras so they’re easily distinguishable as relics from the 1960s. But, if she makes more money than you, she’s a keeper for that reason.

You can set your watch to her 30-minute gym visit.

“An active lifestyle means way more than having shuffled through a half-marathon 6 years ago.”
  • Harsh! Sure active girls are fun girls – and usually fit girls. But compulsive exercisers and people consumed with their image/weight/muscle mass are not. The PC version of this would read, “She cares about nutrition and takes care of her body.”
She notices that you're out of shaving cream and buys some; you arrive for a date and she's cooking, with a good bottle of red already breathing; she initiates sex.
  • Yes. Thoughtful is on the keepers list. Thoughtful with surprises, even better. But if her initiating sex is a surprise – be careful.

    This though, like her treating, seems like underachieving for the male set. She should do nice things that you need (buy shaving cream, cook dinner) – that’s called loving someone. The difference between good people and great people, daters and keepers, is in the details. She saw you totally wrapped up in an old episode of the sadly short-lived Sports Night and surprised you with the full DVD set. Or, your Mom casually mentioned that when you were sick you loved vegetable instead of chick soup, so he grabbed that the last time you had a cold. Keep her. She’s customizing kindness.
She knows how to harvest her own orgasms

"Then she can show you how to as well (ergo, no faking, and less pressure on you)."
  • Now that’s specific, and legitimately good advice – though I’ll never think of the word “harvest” the same way. I do wonder what percentage of the male population would keep this trait versus fear how it was developed so expertly, but that’s another post…

Once in a while she plays Ann Coulter to your Al Franken. Or Maureen Dowd to your Rush Limbaugh.
  • Fair point. But again, “has an opinion” should be a deal necessity, not enhancer. I’d like if this read – “In a conflict of opinion she can hold her own without resorting to the tactics of Ann Coulter or Rush Limbaugh.” She fights fair, smart, and well.
You're in bed and can't get something she said out of your head -- and it wasn't when the two of you were talking dirty.
  • Read: you think she might be smarter than you. This is a whole other issue/blog. I’m not sure I think people are to be kept simply because they are smarter, but I once heard a guy, say in reference to the girl he was planning to marry, “I’m in love with the way her mind works.” Now that’s something to keep.
Did she dare to ask you out or sleep with you on the first date?

“We can't tell you how many male friends have told us that first-date sex is a long-term deal breaker. It's time to upgrade your thinking, gentlemen. This unabashed passion probably informs her work, her play, her politics, her future kids, her future libido, and more.”
  • Okay. Asking someone out and sleeping with them on the first date are two very different things. I think we can all agree on that. Both are indicative of liberal thinking, yes, but there’s a range here, clearly. The structure of this one reads more like, “don’t rule her out just because she got drunk on the first date and gave in to her impulses.” Agreed, but not an indicator of her entire person. It is an indicator of how much she can/can’t drink, so use that as you please.
In the end I feel like this article should be called Is She An Interesting, Decent Human – not Is She The One, but maybe men aren't looking for all the crazy-specific keeper qualities I think they should be after. If that’s the case – AWESOME.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Freak and the Philosophy

Awhile back I swallowed the collective pride of my group of girlfriends (and 3 of the guys) and created a account. It was, at the time, all anyone was talking about (now it’s high-waisted pants). Everyone had a colleague or cousin or book club member who had tried Match and had a lot to say in the form of vague descriptions that all ended with “you really have to try it to find out.” It was as if they were all part of a weird marketing anti-strategy to confuse the public into joining to finally quell their curiosity.

I figured if something could prompt that much conversation, question, and fear - one of us has to join it.

I committed for a month. One stressful month in which I re-wrote my 200-word, entire-self description 24 times (is fun-loving and easy-going the same thing?), corresponded with four people (one of whom I knew before) and determined that my skin tone must make me appear Indian (40% of my total "winks" were from Indian men). Oh – and received the most horrifying email of my life, to date.

In its entirety – there’s no other way:

"Cool that you like movies. I like all kinds of movies. I would like to ask you about an interest I have and see if you are open about it. Its not a requirement or a deal breaker. I find girls that do not shave their armpits attractive. Is that something you do or is it something you would be willing to do from time to time (if we hit it off)? Don't get me wrong I like the completely shaved look too. This would only be something to do once in a while and mostly in the winter. Variety makes things more interesting. Let me know if you have any interests like this or anything in general."

I dry heaved when I read that. Full on vomit would have been a waste of time – and vomit. That was the 4th (and last) email I received from JNTM2007 – aka Jeff. Our previous two exchanges were used to establish actual first names, neighborhoods we live in, and what we like to do for fun. Then…this. I'd say it's out of left field, but left field is an actual place that things are, metaphorically, often from. This is out of a black hole.

To put you all at ease – no I will not be willing to do this from time to time. Not even once in awhile and mostly in the winter, but thanks for clarifying the seasonal element of your request, Jeff. I appreciate your attention to the potential chill under my arms. I generally wear a shirt though, so they're nice and toasty, thanks. Thanks too for reminding me of the relative importance of variety. It does make things more interesting. Some even call it the spice of life. But, freak, I don't think those people were quite imagining it applied to the versatility of experience in under-arm hair length.

Also, and even more importantly, I don't even know your last name! Or if you've ever killed a guy! Or if you went to Notre Dame! Think maybe, just MAYBE the armpit hair request was a little premature?!

I’m taking it you don’t. So, sorry to disappoint, but while I have do interests in many things, in general, I don’t have any interests like this.

But, after relaying this epic email to two of my sisters, one of my cousins, and everyone in my immediate presence, I got to thinking. Is Jeff so wrong? I mean, obviously he's wrong in timing, delivery, and for liking women with armpit hair. But is he so wrong in theory? If the kind of girl he's looking for is represented by a willingness to not shave under her arms, for him, occasionally, then why not put that out there early on?

I'm torn – or maybe it's blinded – by the detail and not the general message. If Jeff had said, "hey I really love bridge diving – is that something you'd ever be up for?" I'd politely say "no, but all power to you". Even, “so I have to be honest, I refuse to date anyone who lives in Manhattan” I’d say, “That's narrow-minded Jeff, but I'm an island girl.” No harm done.

Sure dating is a process of getting to know people, but if you know you want something, why not ask for it up front?

Feeling open-minded (but still nauseous) I tried to think of my own Jeff-like requests. Not requirements or deal breakers, but prospect enhancers:

  • Appreciates my need to try out weird outfits, and talk about them
  • Does not wear weird outfits

  • Is not threatened by my many male friends who have many many crazy stories about me

  • Non-smoking, non-drugging (not even socially acceptable drugs like Aderol)

  • Loves brands with strong identity and good, consistent messaging
I looked it over and thought about it some more. No, I'd never blatantly bring these up, unprompted, in correspondence number four. There may be a sliver of sense in his approach – the "clock's ticking, why waste time if she's not right" approach. But it's not for me – to this degree.

I've got nothing but time. Time to meet new guys, get to know them slowly, and shave under my arms.

Absolute Truths: Breaking up

Today a much-needed departure from dating rules and the return of an old series (of one post).

Absolute Truths.

(Excerpt from old intro paragraph for reference):

People talk about our social world being all grey area. That nothing is ever really black or white. That all things are open for interpretation. It could mean this, but it could, if you look at it from another perspective - after a few drinks - in a completely different outfit, also mean that. There are no absolute truths.

Crock of shit.

Certain things are just true - absolutely true. They're tried, tested, and consistently either black or white. They may not be good or fair or even convenient, but they are true. Considering how much of "adult" life is legitimately blurry, I think we need to draw lines where we can. That way we'll all be on the same page when possible and can refocus our efforts on overanalyzing actually confusing matters - like how to save money.
Today, Absolute Truths: Breaking up
· You can break up in name or you can break up in action. These are two very different things. People who break up in name have an RDT (relationship defining talk) and decide that they are no longer together. Then they proceed to sleep together, call each other lots, know each other’s day-to-day plans, and regularly exchange Facebook messages (you can’t wall post directly following a break up, even a break up in name).

o Breaking up in name is like continuing to do freelance work at the company you just left. They want/need you to do it because they a. don’t have anyone else to do it or b. didn’t want you to leave and figure if they keep you around they have a chance of bringing you back. You continue to work there because it’s an easy job, it’s hard to refuse the extra dough, and if your new job doesn’t work out you have something to fall back on. At the end of the day the company suffers because you’re doing a half-assed job, and you suffer because you’re lying to your new employer about your side projects. You get fired, old company finally gets resentful. Lose, lose.

· A break up in action is when you end the relationship and all elements of the behavior associated with the relationship for an undetermined period of time. You can technically be “broken up while he’s in business school” but not if you are together every time he’s home for vacation. Not hard to understanding, but almost impossible to execute.

· There is no such thing as a mutual break up. It may feel mutual and look mutual and be hailed as mutual to everyone you have to tell, but someone wanted it to happen more than someone else. There may be an agreement that things aren’t working, but no one wants to be the person to come to that decision a day later than the other. If you need to say it was mutual to feel better as the breakup-er or breakup-ee, that’s valid-ish. But it’s the same as saying “we both really want to wait until marriage.” No. You both really don’t.

· I feel badly about this next one because extenuating circumstances often make it impossible. I’ll say - if it is possible for you to break up in person you should do so because it is the thing that caring and decent people do. If there is an issue of long-distance, you are dealing with an absolute lunatic with whom an in-person RDT may prove dangerous, or you don’t care to be a caring and decent person, okay. Also relationships lasting for less than two months in which neither party brought up the ideal of exclusivity are disqualified.

· Owing to our modern structure of non-relationships that are really relationships – you now have to break up with someone that you don’t believe you’re technically dating. These days we place strong value on the differences between seeing each other, dating, dating exclusively, and in-a-relationship (stay-tuned for an outline of the differences – it’s three years in the making and I’m still at “seeing each other”). In three out of those four instances, a formal break up is required. If you’re just seeing each other (under eight dates, little to no meeting of each other’s friends, no daily communication) you can disappear on account of a “crazy upcoming work project” or “funk I just can’t climb out of” without much fan-fare. If this person is in your life to the point that they know what upcoming work projects you have and they’ll message your friend to make sure your “funk” isn’t something serious, you need to have a talk. So what’s the point of having a casual, dating relationship if you just have to break up with the person as if you’re totally committed? I don’t know – I’m working on that too. I think it has something to do with how relatively bad you feel when it ends.

· I won’t say the clichéd “you can’t be friends with someone you once dated” because much like “girls and guys cannot actually be friends without sexual tension,” I don’t believe it. For now – you cannot be friends with someone you’ve just stopped dating. There are hard feelings, it is awkward, and as much as you think offering your friendship is the kind thing to do – it isn’t. Just say, “I think for now distance would be the best thing for us. Would you like to contact me when you’re ready or should I do so?” Or something like that but less Dr. Phil.

· And finally - a few things are required for a healthy break up. Honesty within reason, some minor rehearsal, and balls. Honesty within reason is the truth delivered in a non-painful yet direct way. That description is vague for a reason. Follow your conscience slash two closest friends. Some minor rehearsal is necessary because no matter how ready you are, you’ll be nervous and the words won’t come out right. There’s no shame in saying them a few times for practice. “Balls” is a popularized slang noun representing behavior associated with putting another person’s feelings before your own (in this form of use). Proper honing of balls in a break up scenario may leave you feeling discomfort and awkwardness (things often associated with “doing the right thing"), but it will leave the breakup-ee feeling less shitty than they would otherwise. Sack up, put yourself in their shoes, approach it from that angle. It's simple Golden Rule, good Karma, helps you sleep at night stuff. Please do it always.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Rules Set Two: First messages

Today - suggestions on what to communicate if you've decided you’re going to communicate. I’d say what to “say”, but there’s a one in never chance you’ll call and speak.

  • Message in friend request (because I said you have to send a message with the friend request): Hey, nice meeting you at the bar/_____’s party/Whole Foods the other day/this weekend/last night.
  • Subject-line of post friend confirmation message, general: Hey
  • Subject-line of post friend confirmation message, specific: Play off a conversation that occurred when you two first met. Ex: It’s Confirmed. Body of email: You cannot buy a beer ball in Manhattan. Wanted to pass that crucial info along and see if want to grab a drink sometime. Note: this only works if you are 100% certain the person will remember that conversation and that you are 100% certain it happened, with that person…
  • General body of message rules:
  1. You don’t have to ask out in the first message, but it should in some way be clear that you like this person and didn’t just friend them to get to one of their friends. If you chose not to launch right in, be sure to leave it with a question that keeps the conversation going. As simple as “So did you say you live in the West Village?” is fine; just show interest.
  2. If you arrive at a moment in the message where it’s necessary to say “so anyway…” you’ve gone too far. This is a one-two paragraph deal, 8 sentences total, max.
  3. Do NOT sign it. Your full name and photo are featured prominently. Give it a Talk to you Soon or Later or Have a good day and you’re out. When we first got cell phones my Dad used to leave messages that went something like this:
    “Hi Jess, it’s Dad. Need to review some college admissions stuff with you later today. Can you give me a call before you go to work? Thanks. Love, Dad.” Signing a facebook message is like that.
  4. If you are on the receiving end of a message the reads “Let me know if you want to get a drink sometime” and you in fact want to get a drink sometime, respond with your number. “Sure – I’d love to. Give me a call (555-2222) and we’ll figure something out.” This helps you not them. In order to wait for a return facebook message you have to have a computer and the internet – not convenient for evening clutches or pants pockets.
Personal Email
  • Subject line: See above, same rules apply
  • Email intro: You need to qualify it. For some reason with the Facebook there’s less need for qualification because intention is known. Also your picture and name are featured. If you’re sending a personal email it’s for specific reasons: You are taking the advice of someone trying to set you up. You are getting back in touch with someone you once had email touch with for some reason. Something that isn’t, “fun meeting you last night” but likely, “Katie passed me your email address” or “Long time no see. Are you still working at blank? Can’t believe I left over 6 months ago…”
  • Body of email: Again, short. If you’ve gone for the email, you’re likely pretty sold on getting together. Bite the bullet. General: we should get a drink sometime. Specific: there’s this blank that I’ve been meaning to go to. Would you be up for that?
  • If you’re holding out to be sure the person’s response isn’t a. too delayed b. too confusing or c. riddled with typos (I’m sorry, grammar is important to me) follow the "ask a question to keep it rolling" rule. Extra points for picking up on something the person mentioned when you met.
  • This one you can sign, but not with any of the following options: Best, Fondly, Sincerely, Yours, Ciao. I still think “Talk to you soon,” is the best option. Then it’s a dash Jessie (-Jessie) and you’re done.
Work Email
  • Same as above. No cursing.
You either really like this person, are incredibly mature, or don’t have Facebook. Good for you! (but get Facebook – wave of the future).
  • With this, the shorter it is the less chance you have of fucking it up. "Hey Jessie, this is Blank from Blank (examples include Brian from The Back Fence or James from Saturday night). Hope you're having a good Saturday/Sunday/day. Give me a call when you have a chance. My number is…
  • Yes, it’s true your number will likely show up in missed calls when you leave the message, but you have no idea how many random people are calling this person you’re calling, and you don’t want your number to get confused with all the others. I know, just the confidence you need, but better safe than screwed.
  • You don’t need to ask the person out via voicemail. They know that’s why you’re calling. If that’s not why you’re calling, say so. “I think you lost an earring at the bar, and I found it.” But if you’re lying and you found a random earring at the bar or bought an earring to say you found an earring to avoid saying, “Great meeting you, are you up for grabbing a drink some time” – that's invalid. Don’t do that.
  • In any and all circumstances - run it by someone. You may think you had the greatest connection since Joey and Dawson, but you were drunk and people lie in the face of flirtation. Check first.
  • There are no rules for texting after meeting and securing a number. Any message is wrong, so do as you please slash CALL.
  • A friend once asked me what all girls want to hear when you call to ask them out. There is no right answer. If she really likes you, you can say just about anything because she'll really like it. If she doesn't really like you, it probably won't work out anyway. Sorry, tough love is true love. What she really wants is for you to call and ask her to do something. Those are the two key elements. Make the call and have a vague plan that you communicate without confusion. Role pay in the mirror if you have to, but make sure you get those two things in and you're good.
It bears mentioning that these rules apply to situations in which you actually/really like the person in communication question. If you don’t and you’re just keeping it going because you’re bored/desperate/trying to make someone jealous, do whatever you want. That said, it would be helpful if you stuck to some/most of the above in the name of normalization.

Thank you, Jessie.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Further support, but he's still in college...

Summer Friday!

Heading to my parent's house* for a 60th Birthday Celebration and a re-stock on the breakfast bars; they seem to have won some lifetime supply.

In my stead here's a recent column from The New York Time's Sunday "Modern Love" series. It's in line with my theory on dating process (or the lack there of) and even brings up the communications conumdrum. But it's written by a senior in college. We have clearly not advanced.

More rules on Monday.

"For my generation, friendship often morphs into a sexual encounter and then reverts to friendship the next day. And it’s easy as long as you don’t put yourself on the line or try too hard. Don’t have a prospect? Check Facebook. Afraid to call? Text."
*I have switched exclusively to "my parent's house" from the previous terminology "home" because it makes me sound 5-7 years older. Join me.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Rules: Set One, Initiation

Had to break it down by topic because there’s way too much to cover. Today: Rules to follow when initiating contact, delineated by communication medium.

I feel they're fairly accurate, but in fairness I once slipped my business card into a guy's back pocket when he wasn't looking as a method of initiating contact. It worked, but these remain open to discussion and criticism. Once they’re set though this is what we’re doing – nationally.

  • It is okay to friend a friend of a friend who you met once as a launching point for eventual dating. It is not okay to friend a friend of a friend who you have heard of and think is hot. It is really not okay to friend some rando you found through a friend’s friend’s friends because you think they’re hot.
  • If you meet someone, like them, but fuck it up and don’t get their number, you are permitted to friend them in an attempt to save your fate/dignity. Friending should be done within 48 hours of meeting them unless you are a. on vacation or b. it is a Friday night and you don’t have Internet at your apartment so you have to wait until Monday, but for the love of God, send a message, “Good to meet you the other night. I meant to grab your number but I lack balls. Let’s grab a drink sometime” – or something like that.
  • Once contact has been established through Facebook and you determine you’d like to proceed, transition off the Book. Budding relationships should not be conducted over Wall Posts and Messages. Emails offer greater security and a bigger box to write in. Cell phones offer tone of voice.
  • See Facebook. And stop using Myspace
Personal Email
  • Don’t do this: “So, hey, can I get your email?”
  • Or this: “Hey, it was really fun hanging out with you tonight. Here’s my email.”
  • If someone lists their personal email on their Facebook account and you are already friends with them you are free to use that email without asking for permission. It bears mentioning here that the commonality of the Facebook message has created a unique niche for the traditional email. Where the Facebook message has a tone of, “yo, what’s up, have a little message for you” the Email communicates a more serious, “hi, how are you, wanted to communicate this series of thoughts to you in a forum where you’re less likely to be focused on pictures of that guy you just broke up with.” Use accordingly.
  • If you’re setting someone up with someone, use their personal email as the communication connection. Phone isn’t always a bad idea, but we’re trying to keep things simple here, so let’s just go email and end it at that.
  • If you’ve received someone’s personal email because someone is trying to set you two up, email them promptly. The set up-er already told the set up-ee that she (guys don’t set people up) is setting you to up. Wait too long and you look like an ass.
Work Email
  • There’s an urban myth that the business card is the blow off – that it says, “sure, you can have my number” but means, “I feel too awkward saying no. Here’s this professional mechanism that people never really use, so don’t really use it.” It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: people think that people never email work accounts and so people never email work accounts (makes sense, just read it twice). If everyone started emailing work account every time they scored a business card one of two things would happen:
    A. More people would be in relationships
    B. People would stop giving out their business cards and we’d have one less thing to deal with
Cell Phones, Asker:
  • Do not pull out your phone and move toward number entry before asking the question. You could get denied and will not look cool returning that phone to your pocket.
  • Consider the following before asking: A. Do you know the person’s name or are you going to have to enter it as “Red Top, Friday”? If the name is say, Amy, she’s going to wonder why you’re spelling it with 12 letters. B. Are you physically capable of entering the numbers correctly?
  • I don’t know who invented the “wait three days rule.” It doesn’t have a Wikipedia page. Maybe it’s like that telephone game or the Bible, and the real message was confused over time from what the prophets really said which was don’t wait more than three days to place the call. Let’s go with that. It’s more polite and less completely nonsensical.
  • If you want to take it slow, play some games, and be judged, text as the first point of contact. If you’re actually serious about “getting a drink” or “grabbing a bite to eat” (why are bites to eat only ever grabbed?), call.
If you are asked for your number and want to give it, do one of the following things to save the moment from awkward:
  • Write it on a napkin with your name. This move is clichéd because it is efficient. Don’t knock it, and start carrying pens.
  • Say, “Sure, do you want me to put it in your phone?” This gives the person an out and ensures they get the number and name right.
  • Hand them a personal card if you happen to have them printed for legitimate reasons (i.e. you are a freelance writer). Be sure to say, “Here, this is my personal card that I use for freelance writing” so they’re not creeped out that you have a personal card.
  • If you exchange numbers it's fair game who calls whom. Girls defer to, "the guy calls because he's the guy," but guys are sitting around saying, "whatever, she has my number too." Avoid this and keep possession of the number in one person's hands.
  • Let's all agree to use the following line, "it was ______ (fun hanging out, good to meet you, nice bumping into you), can I give you a call sometime?" Yes it sounds dumb, but so does every single iteration of the question. If we all conform to one sentence it will be like asking for a side salad instead of fries. You'll feel like a douche but everybody does it.
Somewhere Emily Post just vomed in her mouth a little...
Tomorrow: Rules following successful first points of contact

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Well...we're gchatting...

The process used to be so straight forward.

First High School :
  • Admit you like him/her (but not to the actual person)
  • IM (from the time you finish dinner ‘til the time you go to bed)
  • Round a base, or two (pre car: in basement parties when the strobe light goes on, post car: in the car)
  • “We’re going Out” (requested and confirmed via IM, exhibited by girl wearing mall-purchased ghetto chain of boy…in New Jersey at least)
  • More base-rounding (in tandem with celebration of every single month of the relationship with gas station bought flowers and mix CDs)

    Communication tools: Phone (likely your own house line at this point), cell phone (but not really until Junior of Senior year), IM (home computer only), and Email (not widely used in friend communication)
Then College:
  • Rounding the bases (quickly, and sometimes in reverse)
  • Talking (but not about anything having to do with a relationship at all ever)
  • Going out (separately, but purposefully to the same places)
  • Fighting (via passive aggressive away messages and drunken, too-loud comments to friends at parties)
  • Repeat from top (but this time with declaration of “no attachment”)

    Note: I’m not familiar with the process people followed for entering into legitimate relationships in college. I’ve heard it involved sober conversation about like goals and relationship experience resulting in mutual appreciation and affection for one another. But this is the stuff of myths.

    Communication tools: Cell phone (including texting as of Junior/Senior year), IM + away message (on all day, every day), Email (generally reserved for fighting, not flirting), and Facebook (for a limited number of colleges, only senior year).
And now, The Rest of our Goddamn Lives: (unless you cheated and went to some form of Grad School then the above continues for 2-4 more years in which I seriously recommend locking it down via the above mystery process)

As far as I can tell there are no rules. No real process. No one thing people are most commonly doing so you can just follow that crowd (unless you’re Jewish. Then it’s JDate, so just do that). And to make matters worse (or perhaps what made matters worse) we now have at our disposal no less than a baker’s dozen communication tools over which we can play this game that has no rules:
  • GChat, Facebook (and now Facebook chat!), MySpace (for the next few months before everyone switches to Facebook),, IM, SameTime (if you work at PWC), Cell phones (used only for texting), Work phone, Personal email, Work email, Linked In (for stalking, not communicating, yet…)
And so now, in place of process, you hear the following:
  • I don’t know where it’s really going. We’ve been playing a lot of Scrabulous
  • How weird would it be if I just Gchatted her? I mean, her gmail is on her Facebook so that must mean she wants it to be known, right?
  • Yeah, we’ve been texting for a few months now.
  • I gave him my card but there’s no way he’s going to email my work email, right?!
We were more organized about dating in high school. Now you have to figure out how to
establish communication in one of the above eight forms some of which are viewed as legitimate, some of which are not by some people in some groups at some times under some circumstances. You just have to figure out which you’re functioning under and proceed as that dictates, usually.

I’m not longing for the olden days of “he pinned me” and “Pop, can you drive us to the drive-in?” but when people (parents) say, “what’s so hard about it? Just contact him” we have every right to whine, “over what medium!?!

As a liberal I’m not fond of social rules, but this shit needs to be solved. We need to write dating communication rules, post them on Facebook, and not accept behavior that is out of line with them. Then everyone’s intentions will always be clear and we’ll all be married by 32 (34 for men, 28 for Southerners).

Tomorrow – rules, draft 1.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Fake it 'til you Marry It

I read the vows section of the Sunday New York Times for the same reason every single, 25-year-old New Yorker does. It features bizarre yet seemingly possible match-making scenarios of the somewhat intellectual, always interesting, usually-over-30 Manhattan-crowd providing once-a-week faith in the fact that my serendipitous story is out there – and publishable.
Every so often you get an eye-roller – “Trapeze Instructor Makes the Catch of his Life” or, “little did they know as they hiked side-by-side up the great Kilimanjaro that they’d actually been climbing together for years – to the 5th floor of the East Village apartment building they unknowingly shared.” But for the most part they’re touching and provide solid ideas for wedding reception locations.
And then there was this:
“So last year Ms. Kraus decided to dedicate her latest novel, “Dedication”, to her husband. No, she wasn’t married. But she was hopeful. ‘I was creating a place holder,’ Ms. Kraus, 33, said. ‘He was out there. I just hadn’t crossed paths with him yet.’
She began behaving as if she was already in love. ‘You carry yourself differently when you’re not alone,’ she explained. ‘I would carry myself at a party or a supermarket or a gym as if I was loved.’
Then a month later David Wheir kissed her, and she no
longer needed to pretend.”
Interesting. So she pretended to be married to the point of dedicating her book to a non-existent husband? And this “approach” was enacted to trick the cosmos into sending her the right man?
OKAY. Couple things right off the bat.
  • WHAT?!
  • And, is her heaven-send husband aware of this fa-cockta operation? (Cannot erase the vision of him discovering that article on a cozy Sunday in the park as she, blissfully nuzzled up against him, pens the last few pages of her next novel, “Locked-In”, dedicated their unborn child.)
  • And - how exactly does one carry oneself as if they are loved? Is there a certain color one wears? Or is it all on the posture?
  • And Also, WHAAAT?!
I’m all for the power of positive thinking. From the broad: want good things to come your way? Put some good out into the universe with a cheery disposition. To the specific: looking to drop some lbs? Focus on a thinner you.
But lying about a marriage in a nationally released publication because of some “if you print it he will come” philosophy seem, I don’t know, crazy pants.
Do you change your business cards to read “Manager” to will that promotion your way? Or start having your mail sent to the gorgeous doorman building on 5th Ave. you’ve been eying in the hopes they’ll drop the rent 5K? No -- no you don’t.
Go ahead and get your mind and soul healthy so you’re ready when the right person comes along. Take an active role in finding someone by putting yourself in places where you think they’ll meet like-minded people. These approaches remain on the safe side of the sanity divide. But Krausy took it one big step over that line with a fake it ‘til you make it approach – to marriage.
So, fine. She’s crazy. I could live with that if it wasn’t for the underlying issue at the heart of her crazy: the idea that you can project a sense of being loved and therefore love will come to you. This seems…not grounded in logic.
What does knowing you’re loved look like? Do you smile at others more? Do you walk with an air of self-confidence that’s appealing to people? Anything more specific -- fake cell phone calls to your Mr.? Imaginary pictures stolen from store-bought pictures frames hung in your cubicle? -- seems sitcom worthy. Acting like you’re worthy of love so others see that in you is at least theoretically valid. Not tested, impossible to prove and even harder to describe, but not as offensive as the rest of her shtick. I’d prefer to call it “having a positive outlook and solid sense of self” versus “pretending you are not alone” but potato pototo (sp?) I guess.
Fine. Maybe Crazy’s on to something, I thought, as I came to the end of the piece. Then I read the following lines:
…”When Ms. Kraus had a birthday party for her dog…”
“On June 14, Ms. Kraus walked down the aisle to a recording of
Miss Piggy singing ‘He’ll Make Me Happy.’”
Amazing how a simple dog’s birthday party can discredit an entire person’s life. That and Muppet renditions to mark ceremonial occasions.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I've taken up West African dancing

In my defense, Beginner West African Dance Class was Carly’s idea. I did agree instantly, practice imaginary dance moves in the shower, and asked everyone I know if they had a batik print sarong. One could say I went willingly.

From the Alvin Ailey Dance Extensions webite:
A high-spirited, high-powered rhythmic dance experience that combine body, mind, and spirit in an energetic union of the music and dance of the people of West Africa. Accompanied by live drummers, this electrifying class loosens up the body and exposes you to a part of West African culture. Sarong recommended, but not required.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Center is a place of dance legends. It’s housed in a massive new, 8-story complex on the West Side just south of Lincoln Center. Alvin Ailey Dancers look like this:

I haven’t danced in what rounds up to a decade and am neither black nor muscular. Carly has muscle and very long legs, but is practically see-through. This is not exactly our scene even though Carly is sporting a colorful head scarf and I’m really tan right now. Luckily we’re both severely lacking in shame.

Class is held in a massive rectangle of a studio with ballet bars on three walls and a floor to ceiling mirror on the fourth. The ceilings are 20 ft. high. The lighting is jarring. In the corner is a piano and eight massive African drums. For the next hour and a half (yes, one and a half hours) we are at the mercy of a man in the below pants (but in neon green), before a group of who-knows-what kind of people doing things intended to fully loosen our bodies and connect us with the African culture all under tragic lighting in front of a giant mirror. Yes, we paid for this class.

As we stretch and talk and try to figure out how to tie my Canal Street-purchased sarong, a cross-section of Manhattan trickles in. It’s like someone picked up one entire car of the F or N or 6 train at 5pm and re-routed it to this room. There's a 50-year-old woman dressed for Halloween (long, flowy witch-like dress, black-and-white striped leggings). Three to five hippies in various combinations of earth toned, work-out clothes and actual scarves from Africa. A collection of ballerina-seeming girls (and boy) who maybe came from class on another floor. Someone’s grandmother in a a checkered top. A tattooed and be-speckled probably-Lesbian. One or two people who look like they are really from West Africa and came here to actually dance in the harvest season owing to a general lack of dirt fields and drum circles elsewhere in Manhattan. A lanky gay guy in designer sweatpants. And a single, straight, short, Jewish dude who absolutely graduated from Brandeis in 1999 with a degree in computer engineering. So we fit in because there's nothing to fit in to.

Maquette – our instructor – is from Senegal (Carly did some research). He speaks a version of English that we can vaguely understand, but most of what comes out of his mouth is scat-like drum sounds that he uses to describe the movement. “We gone to boap da ba ba and den bip bip bip da bip bip”. He is about 5’5, 100% muscle, and moves like chimpanzee in a cheetah’s body. And he’s wearing the previously described pants.

We start out with basic dance warm up moves. Rolls of the head. Stretches of the arms. Some breathing. An annoying about of crunches. He has vibrant, African drums and singing playing in the background. I am loving life. It’s all so reminiscent of my childhood of dance classes, but now I’m all cultural and into world dance and took the subway here and have boobs (sort of).
Getting a feel for the moves is the next step. Maque (that’s what I’m calling him in my head) is taking us through the basics and adding in arms and head movement. “You bap de done done and den bippity bipp bipp with de head.” I’m evaluating my styles against the actual African students and the one Jewish dude. So far, I’m on team Jew.

Exertion level: 4 Sweat level: 0

Now we put all the basic moves together into a routine. Two bip da bip bips and then a dad a dad a dad a clap. He’s running us through the steps over and over and over again and then meshing them together. It's hard, but we're working through. I now assess myself somewhere between the ballerinas and the witch.

Exertion: 6 Sweat: 2

The moves are hard to describe in writing and, no, there is no YouTube of our class. There’s the pick up the grain and push it up to heaven move. Then we have the squat and walk side-to-side while pounding chest and moving head left to right – the tribal strut. There’s also this graceful like prayer hands side-to-side thing, a lunge and thrust of the head with raised arms ditty, and finally my favorite, the flapping knees bent with arms circles that travels left and right - the African Mashed Potato. Somewhere in there there’s also a jump, but I never quite got it.

We do this routine 900 times. Exertion: 10 Sweat: 12.
Then it comes time to do it as the West Africans do. Traveling. Across the floor. In sets of three. While everyone watches.

Drums are pounding. Drum men are yipping and shouting and adding their own riffs and solos into the mix. Above the booming is the slapping sound of our now-destroyed feet pounding out every move. All members of the class have completely let go to the point of adding their own moves in and dancing the dance even after the music stops. We’re clapping for each other, cheering on the drummers, and traveling across that floor like it’s soul train after a night of tequila shots.

If the tourism board of Africa set up shop outside the door to this studio they’d have booked no less than 15 trips to Senegal. I am in a state of literally believing that crops will grow somewhere because of my 90 minutes of passion-filled movement. Carly looks three to five shades darker to me. We are hooked. “We’re coming back every week,” she says, as we prance out of the Alvin Ailey Dance Center like we just came from Advanced Jazz Theory.

“You know,” I say in the cab as we rush to shower off before Thursday night trivia, “I’m now a high-risk candidate for performing those moves in public after a few drinks.”

“Oh, you're not high risk, “Carly says, moving her now-loose hips around in the seat to Rhianna on the radio, “it’s inevitable.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Today's Reading Assignment: Reviewed

This is one of those articles that you finish reading and realize your entire body is clenched. The topic: keys to ensuring you marry the right man. Its thesis statement: it is possible if you follow a simple list of should-be deal breakers. Also, though not on the list, don’t marry a celebrity.

The article summarizes the popular lecture of a 79-year-old catholic priest who’s spent his professional life counseling troubled marriages. The irony is obvious. So should be my skepticism. Still Fr. Connor lays out a set of logical deal breakers that have no doubt been mulled over (to death) by women and gay men from age 14 on (16 in major cities, 12 in Utah). His premise is one we all know but generally refuse to acknowledge: that you can be deeply in love with someone to whom you cannot be successfully married. It’s one of those hypothetical truths that make our brains twitch. It’s bad enough that we can’t understand why we love who we love. The fact that this mysterious love force cannot and should not be trusted is bull shit. Tried, tested, and often true, but a clear example of evolution/God fucking up. Why does love exist if it has no purpose?

The priest steers clear of that minefield. Instead he presents the supposed ultimate list of red flags that should trump love and prompt us to run for the hills. In response to who he most commonly gives this lecture to high school girls he says, “It’s important to do it before they fall seriously in love, because then it will be too late. Infatuation trumps judgment.”
His List with my (Too Late) Judgement
Never Marry a Man Who Has No Friends Fine. Long-standing friendships are important to a person’s experience with emotional connection and commitment. But considering most people have at least some friends, this doesn’t really narrow the playing field. It’s like saying never marry a man who has no furniture. Shows he has no sense of basic leaving needs and is likely really cheap. No shit. What about a guy with bad friends? What’s the over under on that?

Never Marry a Man Who is Either Too Cheap, Or Spends Too Much $ Yes this too makes sense and is grounded in logic. People fight over money more than almost anything, so people’s money personalities should be compatible. But here’s where I start to freak out. If the absolutely perfect guy happens to fall a little on the cheap side, are you supposed to call it off? Radio silence from Preachy O’Connor

A Quick fire Few - Never Marry a Man Who:
is a Doormat No argument.
is Attached to His Mother Attached to, no. A fan of/close to/treats well, yes.
has no sense of humor He would hate me anyway.
is the non-emotive, strong and silent, can’t communicate type Agreed, but the opposite – aka the gayest straight man you can find – can turn out equally problematic (read: gay).

Never Marry a Problem Character Thinking You Can Change Him My gut reaction: define problem character. Fr. Logic’s likely retort: you’re better off defining change him. I believe that people can change but agree that old habits die hard. I guess it depends on how bad the “problem” is. Cocaine addition, rough. All Day Sunday Football Addiction, negotiable.

Steer Clear (he doesn’t say never…) Of a Guy With a Troubling Family What if he’s adopted and/or they live really far away? Right. It’s about how you grew up and no where is far enough. I acknowledge the likely truth here, but the guy cannot be blamed for his upbringing. Says priest: “Is there a history of divorce in the family? An atmosphere of racism, sexism or prejudice in his home? Are his goals and deepest beliefs worthy and similar to yours?” That’s too many X Factors to hypothesize. I pass until confronted with actual issues.

And finally – Never Marry a Man Who Does Not Possess the Qualities of a Good Human Being "Good Human Being" defined as: “the willingness to forgive, praise, be courteous? [Not] inclined to be a fibber, to fits of rage, to be a control freak, to be envious of you, to be secretive?” A. that’s not enough to qualify as a good human being and B. people lie about their bad human being qualities

I can’t argue with most of the above, but in the poignant words of that famous Heart ballad,"What About Love?" The word love makes three appearances, none of them positive. I want/need to believe that Connor considers it a given. Love someone, of course, but then make sure they also pass the above test.
But what if he forgot it because it really has little to do with a successful marriage? If it’s actually about compatibility on paper and not that intangible chemistry we put on a pedestal. What if a celibate priest really is far more qualified to play match maker than someone who’s memorized every line of When Harry Met Sally?

My entire body is clenched.

Today's Reading Assignment: An Ideal Husband?

Maureen Downes is never quite my flavor, but this recent column raises some interesting issues around the age old question of what makes a man marriage material.

Commentary later on.

“Hollywood says you can be deeply in love with someone and then your marriage will work,” the twinkly eyed, white-haired priest says. “But you can be deeply in love with someone to whom you cannot be successfully married.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

It's up to you, New York

I get a similar reaction every time I tell someone who’s never lived in Manhattan that I currently live in Manhattan. Something along the lines of - Wow. Good for you! I don’t think I could have done that when I was your age. You’re probably so responsible! And very good at sticking to a budget, I bet!

I nod and smile and say thank you and oh sure you could have done it when you were my age and yep, sure am.

It should be clear from past posts that I love Manhattan more than most. Wouldn’t (currently) trade it for the world. But the absolute truth of the matter, in reaction to all those reactions, is that it’s not that good for me. You could have done it better when you were my age. I’ve actually become less responsible since arriving here. And I’ve never once stuck to a budget.

In reverse order:

You can’t stick to a budget in Manhattan. It’s impossible. Daily X Factors force one to shift priorities, and then money has to be re-allocated/found. I spend money on four things per month: rent, food, alcohol, life needs (toiletries/clothes). I approach each month with the goal of making it to the end having paid my rent, eaten enough, drank reasonably, dressed well, and not run out of contact lenses/Swiffer Wet Jet pads. If I'm planning a trip home to raid my parent’s kitchen of tuna fish, peanut butter, and kashi breakfast bars, I spend a little more money on any one of the above. If that’s budgeting, then I’m doing it. Excel spread sheets and that little booklet that comes with my checks are beyond me.

Responsible is hard to define. I go to work, work hard and am accountable for my person. I wash my dishes, replace the toilet paper and keep in touch with the important people in my life. Sometimes I enhance myself by reading books or giving change to the homeless. But “indulgent” is one of my defining characteristics making the lure of this city’s 24-hour availability like cryptonite. I’m not good at saying “no” to weeknight drinks, cute shoes, and additional committees. I also walk home alone really late at night sometimes. So chances are I’d work out more, drink less, save money, and be safer in suburbia. I'm not irresponsible here, I'm just not as responsible as I could/should/would be somewhere else.

Regarding the New York of the baby boomers’ 20’s – it was cheaper, easier to get a job, and from what I’m told, a lot cooler. Apparently your chances of being mugged or killed were higher, but you could afford a way bigger apartment so you’d likely spend less time outside potentially getting mugged or killed.

I’m hesitant to declare a blanket, “it’s not that good for me.” Good is relative, vague, and likely takes more than 3 years to assess. Is it good for my life-savings, no. Is it good for my perspective on reality, whoa no. See the problem is that things that fall into the good column remain wholly intangible. Career prospects, experience potential, character development. All things that, so far, have yet to really come to fruition (read: have no promise of happening). Yes, I’m progressing, learning, meeting people, and experiencing things I couldn’t anywhere else. But whether I'm a saint or a lunatic for focusing on the promise versus the delivery remains TBD. Is there a shelf-life on "this city just feels right"? Ask me in three to five years. For now I’m holding out for what Old Blue Eyes promises. That if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.

To Do: determine meaning of “make it here.”

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Attending a wedding is like...

Attending the wedding of close friends who met while you were in college is a lot like seeing Cirque Du Soleil for the first time.

It’s expensive to go. Very expensive.

For the months/years leading up people in-the-know tell you every detail about everything that’s going to happen. You fluctuate between wildly excited and totally skeptical.

It starts and you’re completely freaked out. People are doing things you’re fairly certain no amount of training could prepare you to do. Also many people are wearing the same thing that you can’t quite decide how you feel about, and there’s thematic music.

A little while in you feel yourself falling into it -- This is beautiful and meaningful. They seem really excited up there, you think. I could probably get into this. You’re borderline entranced, but still mostly scared about everything that could go wrong.

And hour so in and you’ve settled into a comfort zone where you at least know the performers aren't going to fuck it up. No more chance of them falling from that 50 ft structure built of what appear to be Linkin Logs -- slash someone backing out. You’ve graduated from freaked, but if it comes to audience participation, you’ll be at the bar.

Intermission offers the chance to compare notes with fellow attendees (read: feel better about yourself):

....Mmm, yes those blue dresses are beautiful....Yeah, no, I wouldn’t have put that song there either....Really? Funny. I was thinking this was all perfectly normal and not at all hard to do and I’ll probably just do it next week if I can fit it in. But I could see how you might be freaked out, maybe....

Act two and you’re used to it/drunk. You’re still in that mode where with each passing trick you’re wondering if you could ever possibly do what they’re doing and, if you could, what costume you’d want to wear. You’ve stopped paying attention to all the details. You’re feeling like it was mostly worth the money. And if they asked everyone to stand up right now and join in song/dance/a congo line – you’d do it and pose for a picture.

By the last number of the evening you’re making sexy eyes at every performer on stage. You’re sold. You loved every moment of it. You don’t want it to end. When can you go again? Who took pictures of everything?! You need them for your Facebook page!!

You leave the venue 180 degrees from where you arrived. Come ‘on of course you could do that. All it takes is a little passion and commitment. Plus look how fun it is. Aaahh...well... someday, if I’m lucky, I could be up there sigh as you pass out in the front seat of the passenger van on the way back to the hotel.

Monday, back at the office:
“So, how was it?!”
“Really beautiful and a lot of fun, but god am I totally incapable of that doing that right now in my life. Also – just so expensive.”
Five minutes later at your desk: