Saturday, April 28, 2007

Conversations with My Family

I swear the following phone conversations are true... pretty much... as far as I can remember.

Lou: Ma-ommmmm… my knee hurts… and my calf huuuurts too.

Mom: Well, I’m sorry Lou. Stop running.

Lou: Mom! I’m not going to stop running!

Mom: Then it’s your own fault.

Lou: Thanks Mom. Thanks. That’s real supportive. You're very helpful.
------------------------------------------------------------
Lou: Hi Gram.

Grandma: Hello dear. What's going on, honey?

Lou: My knee and calf hurt.

Grandma: Your knee and your hat?

Lou: No Gram. My knee and my calf.

Grandma: Your ass!?!

Lou: No Gram. My leg. My leg hurts. Just... nevermind.
---------------------------------------------
Lou: Hello Sarah.

Sarah: Hello Lou.

Lou: My knee and calf are killing me.

Sarah: That’s nice.

Lou: Whatever.

Sarah: I’ll see you in hell.

Lou: Yeah? Well, not if I see you first. Assclown.

Oopa!

We both know it's rare that I write a post after I've been out drinking. But, this is totally weird and I wanted to tell someone.

All I want is a microwavable egg roll. Unfortunately, every time I put an egg roll on a plate and in the microwave, the plate breaks in half! I have been microwaving these plates for years. They never broke before! What the hell? Did I enter some alternative reality between the bar and my apartment where my plates are no longer microwave-safe? The first time I just thought it was a coincident... but then it happened a second time.

What am I supposed to do? I'm hungry.

Friday, April 27, 2007

444-4444

I had a date last night. You heard that in your head correctly. A date. I will withhold this poor guy's name—he’s been through enough already—so to protect the innocent. But, I will tell you this, prior to the big D-A-T-E, I had actually met this man… in real life (as opposed to say, through 14 exchanged emails and a Match.com profile listing his career, salary, and eye color), and I knew he and I could have a conversation (as opposed to say, awkward silence).

That's a good start, right? I thought it was. And so, last night, at 7:30 he showed up in a cab at my apartment to take me out to dinner. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Allow me to digress…

You guys know how I operate. I am—at heart—an independent woman, bordering on burn-your-bra feminist (I wouldn’t actually burn my bra… trust me, no one wants to see me go braless), so I’ve never been a stickler for dating "rules" and chivalry. I don't expect grand gestures—overcoats tossed elegantly over mud puddles so I can daintily cross without dirtying the heel of my shoe and the hem of my pants; it’s simply not necessary. And, like most independent women bordering on burn-your-bra feminists, I don't appreciate machismo— i.e. ordering my dinner as though I am incapable of vocalizing my desire for food. I can always vocalize my desire for food.

However, there’s a gray area here. I am not a fan of having doors dropped on me, and I certainly don't think it’s appropriate for a man who requested my attendance at a meal to look up from the check and say, "You owe…" (Another aside here: I once dated a guy who never—either because he suffered from extreme social retardation or because he was simply an ass—looked at me when he took me out to dinner. Apparently, regardless of where we were, just to the left of my head something fascinating was always happening. Perhaps he was hallucinating, because at various points in the evening, while I was attempting to make the situation less awkward by telling a terribly witty and clever story, I would glance to the left to see what had captured his attention. And… nothing. It was infuriating. Needless to say, he and I did not last.)

I suppose the point is, there's a balance. I'm not helpless and I have no desire to be treated as such, but if I’m worth the time and trouble of asking out in the first place, there’s an expectation of respect and common courtesy. Otherwise, why bother? I don’t think of it as old-fashioned so much as having standards (and it’s not anti-feminist; it’s neo-feminist… we deserve equal and then some).

Back to last night… it's 7:30 and my date shows up with a cab at my apartment. I meet him outside, and like a gentleman, he opens the cab door for me.

What happened next is rather surprising. There’s a little known code of etiquette when it comes to men, women, and cabs. If you’re entering the from the same passenger door (if say, you are on a busy street), the man should get in the cab first. Seems counter-intuitive, right? Logic and history would suggest that the man should hold the door open for the woman; however, when you are dealing with a cab, the rule changes so the woman is not forced to “scoot” across the raunchy, plastic seat. Scooting is unthinkable!

I’ve taken a lot of cabs in my life and I’ve been on a few dates. I’ve never known any man who actually knew of or adhered to this rule. So last night, when this man held the cab door open for me, I didn’t think twice before I began make my way to the other side of the bench seat. But, as I looked back at the passenger door through which I had just entered… I literally did a double take. The door was closed and my date was walking around the back of the cab to the other side. I didn’t have to scoot.

“Wow.” I actually said that. Apparently his mama taught him how to treat a woman.

I have to admit… I was kind of impressed.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Likewise... I'm Sure

Dear @,

When you’re right, you’re right. And I hate it when you’re right.

Sincerely,

Lou

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Once More, With Feeling

A few of you have been with me since the beginning when I started A View from the Park with the sole mission of documenting my half marathon training. For three or four months, I wrote almost exclusively about running and the agony of waking up on Saturdays—week after week for the duration of summer 2006—at 6am to hit the lakefront path with the lil’ CES group that could, the "4/2s" (run four minutes, walk two minutes, run four minutes, walk two minutes). It’s harder than it sounds.

I was green, a newbie, a running neophyte who didn’t know if she could make it around the corner, nevermind 13.1 miles jogging, walking, skipping, limping, crawling, or rolling. Well, maybe rolling... down a hill.

But in the end, on a perfectly cloudless summer day, the temperature reached the mid-eighties, and I—muscles cramped, nauseous, feet bleeding, drenched in sweat, and dehydrated—crossed the finish line. Run four minutes, walk two minutes, run four minutes, walk two minutes for two hours, 50 minutes, and two seconds. It’s harder than it sounds. And then I went out to brunch and ate my face off.

‘Cause that’s what you do when you run far... you eat your face off. It's like... the law.

And now it’s hard to imagine what my summer would be like without being able to smugly declare on Saturdays at 10am, “I’ve already run 12 miles today, what the hell have you done?” I’m totally kidding. I only ever said that to my ex-boyfriend. And he loved it. I can’t imagine why we aren’t still together...

Hmmm...

A final decision is imminent.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Oh The People We'll Meet


Granted, it's not the best show of camera phone photography, but that's me on Saturday sporting some stickers and posing with a paper mache animal that a few particularly ambitious patrons decided to drag to the bar with them. What the hell is that anyway? A skunk? I'm waving at the camera, as if to say, "Look at me world! I'm at making friends with locals and their life-size inanimate objects." It doesn't get better than that. And no, I don't know who that guy behind me is. And no, I don't know who took the picture. What I do know is that the skunk thing had a name. It was Sasha or Sacquash. It was kind of a weird night.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Introvert of Attraction: A Brief Study in Nerd Male/Female Courtship

Here’s what @ and I knew as we headed into Guthries for the Nerds at Heart event on Tuesday evening: There would be games; there would be beers; there would be other single people; and there would probably be a few obligatory jokes about Star Wars, or Star Trek, or both (is there a difference?).

In other words... we didn’t know much. So, we (at least I; I’ll refrain from speaking on behalf of @) were a little nervous. Did we just drop $20 each to be trapped in a room with creepy men for three hours of uncomfortable silences followed by even more uncomfortable conversations? Perhaps… but we (I mean, I) were also a little excited. Oh the possibilities of love with a social misfit (I prefer to pretend that this is a new romantic concept for me).

To my relief, the Nerds at Heart event did not draw a crowd of too-cool-for-the-school hipsters with their black-framed spectacles, corduroy blazers, and conversations peppered with $10 words. I don’t know how to communicate with them… mostly because I don’t actually understand what they are saying. However, as I learned Tuesday evening, a decent number of attractive, smart women are willing to label themselves as social outcasts in the name of potential love, romance, or even just a date. And a few attractive men are willing to do the same.

As fellow “nerds” trickled in to the room it became apparent that the event drew a good mix of people in their twenties and thirties (and maybe a few forties)—most of whom looked fairly normal—and a roughly equal ratio of men to woman. The organizers, Bathsheba and Julia, began the event with an icebreaker: How nerdy are you? Raise your hand if the following statement applies to you… Not surprisingly I lost, but I did manage to raise my hand once because “I have products that are advertised ‘As Seen On TV.’” It’s true. I do. As Seen On TV products are awesome.

After one of the male participants won the icebreaker and was crowned the King of the Nerds or something, we got down to serious business. The organizers put us into groups to begin the board game portion of the evening, which meant @ and I were separated, divided and conquering our own tables. I suppose the crux of the experience hinges on the group that is chosen for you. My table included was equal parts men and women, though the women were primarily outgoing and the men were almost excruciatingly reserved. Eventually, after a few rounds of Taboo, people began to loosen up. Unfortunately, soon after we were all officially relaxed with the situation, organizers called time on round 1 and told us to wrap it up.

The game was followed by group trivia… to which I knew the answers to exactly none of the questions, and then a little free time to mingle, replenish beverages, and take a much needed bathroom break. The mingling fell flat, not surprisingly, if you consider that people who have labeled themselves "nerds" probably wouldn't list working a room on their top 10 list of best ways to meet new people. At this point, @ and I reconvened to compare notes and reveal who we thought was cute. There were a few obvious choices, the teacher with the sweater vest and the guy with the shaggy ‘do that showed up late, and then there was my pick:

Lou (gesturing towards the scruffy looking man with hair down to the middle of his back): I think the guy with the ponytail is hot.

@: You’re kidding. You are joking.

Lou: No… I mean.... Not his hair, but his face. He’s got a hot face.

@: I forbid this union.

Lou (crestfallen): I know…

Before I could decide whether or not I would defy @'s wishes and talk to Mr. Ponytail, the organizers reconvened the group and assigned us to new tables for a new game with new people. This time, my table was a bit livelier out of the gate. We chose to play Apples to Apples and after a brief dispute over the rules, we managed to find the rhythm of the game. I’ll be honest, while the majority of players at this table were a bit more gregarious, I found myself feeling as though the vibe wasn’t quite as easygoing as I had hoped. Regardless, we sidestepped the awkward indecision of the first group, which allowed us more time to interact, and, if we were lucky, make a love connection (we weren't or rather, I wasn't).

When the second round of games ended, it was 10pm, late for a Tuesday and I was almost eager to leave. Bathsheba and Julie informed the group that they could facilitate one-on-one contact, and if there was a person who had sparked your interest, to please email them and they would pass along your information to the object of your affection.

@ and I left shortly thereafter. I left feeling almost frustrated... maybe a little disappointed. I sensed something was... incomplete. Having never actually attempted speed dating or really any kind of singles event before, I don’t know how the process typically works. It’s easy to understand how two minutes of face-time and a check off list of names can be nerve-racking, high-pressure, and generally not an environment in which I would thrive. But, at Nerds at Heart, I didn’t have the opportunity to meet, much less have a two-minute conversation with, even half of the men (including Mr. Ponytail). Moreover, since the men who come to this event are self-professed “nerds,” how likely is it that they will be proactive about contacting a woman?

I found out the answer to that question on Wednesday when I received an email from Bathsheba and Julia with the subject line: Secret Admirer. Someone actually wanted to get in contact with me (See... I can be nice). Bathsheba and Julie forwarded me his email and now, it is up to me if I want to get in touch with him. The boy in question was fairly attractive, super clean cut, perhaps a little too groomed... and we know how I feel personal hygiene. Point being, he was definitely not my type, but let’s just say, I didn't cringe, horrified at the prospect of this particular man being interested. I’m still deciding whether or not to contact him, but I respect that he was willing to “put it out there” and so it’s likely I will.

After a little bit of perspective and distance, I have begun to look back fondly on my Nerds at Heart experience. Like @ said to me on the drive home from Guthries, it’s not easy to meet people. And this is a way to meet semi-normal people who are looking to meet people who are semi-normal. The initial feelings of mild disappointment and frustration may simply be symptomatic of not having had the slightest idea of what to expect. Now that @ and I have completed our crash course in the potential pitfalls of nerd courtship (Lesson #1: Male nerds are a very literal species), I think another Nerds at Heart event may be in our collective future… that is if we’re still single next month.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Almost Famous

I realize that you’re waiting with bated breath to hear the outcome of the Dating for Nerds event. I am too. So is @. Unfortunately, as I was preparing my thoughts for the recap/review of last night, @ and I had a conversation—not Go Lean bar related—that derailed my entire morning.

@: Have you seen Katzwinkel’s latest post?

Lou: No, why? Did he post something?

@ (laughs): Yeah.

Lou (paranoid): What?

@ (laughs again): You need to read it.

Lou (still paranoid): Why? Is it about me or something?

@ (laughs yet again): You need to read it.

Lou (convinced @ is mocking her): OK...

So I did. And while most people may not broadcast the fact that they were featured in a blog titled, Something Something Hate Something, I decided after about four re-readings, that it was, in its own way, flattering… or something.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Glasses. No Glasses.

I love marketing. And by love, I mean that I find a certain level of amusement in companies' efforts to woo me with direct e-mail messages. Take, for instance, the one I received yesterday from Chemistry.com, the sister site of Match.com for those singles who are actually "serious" about finding a mate. The subject line read: Lou - Find Love This Tax Day.

I opened it. Not because I have any interest in joining, but I wanted to hear the punch line:
Finding Love Shouldn’t Be Taxing! Let Chemistry.com return love to your life. Complete your Free Personality Profile Today to start seeing your returns come in!
Oh. OK. That’s where they were going... like a tax return... I get it. That’s clever. I guess. Not really. In fact, the ad agency should probably be fired.

To recap, that’s a big N-O to Chemistry.com. Thanks, but no thanks, I have my own plan for mixing tax day with potential romance.

Oh yes, that’s correct... there is a plan. And @ is involved. Of course she is.

You may remember on Valentine’s Day I shared a story, which had been featured on the Today Show about a speed dating service in New York that connects rich men with beautiful women. In response, @, in all her cheeky glory, came up with the brilliant idea that she should plan a dating event that pairs intelligent men with women who wear glasses.

Turns out, that concept already exists. Sort of.

Through a series of random events that began with a Euchre game played at Guthries, a bar I had never been to, I found my way to a dating event that aims to play matchmaker to smart boys and vision-challenged women. As a worshipper of the almighty Internet, I prefer to gather as much information about an establishment via the Web before I actually patronize it. I am, after all, a lover of knowledge above all else.

While researching Guthries, whose gimmick is games—the bar has a shelf filled with every board game you can possibly imagine—I stumbled across Dating for Nerds, an event that is held there once a month. Intrigued, I followed the link to nerdsatheart.com.

Now granted, for people who claim to be nerds, the Web site could use some sprucing up, but the premise—meet like-minded people ("nerds") in a low-pressure environment (over board games and beverages)—seemed like sound proposition. After perusing the photo galleries from past events and reading a few reviews, I determined that the people looked normal and it generally sounded non-threatening and fun.

I presented a plan to attend Nerds at Heart to @, who had read about the event in a Time Out Chicago article several months ago. We agreed that it was worth checking out. So in the interest of research, trying new things, meeting new people, and generally moving away from comfort zones and towards the Best.Summer.Ever.© we’re going. It’s tonight.

I have laid out a few personal ground rules for the evening:
  1. Be nice to the boys.
  2. Don’t become too competitive regardless of the game and the outcome.
  3. Remember to be nice to the boys.
  4. Try not to curse excessively.
That leaves only one remaining question: Glasses or no glasses?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Confessions of a Spray Butter Addict

Sometimes, I set goals for my eating habits. Small goals... goals that seem attainable even under the most lazy and sloth-like conditions; goals like: Eat salmon and a salad for dinner at least one night this week.

Easy right? Yes, for the normal dinner-making individual, tossing a salmon fillet in the oven isn't exactly the definition of strenuous when it comes to a cooking technique. Tearing open a bag of pre-cut, pre-washed salad and transferring it to a bowl... I believe two-year-olds have the motor skills necessary to accomplish that.

For Lou though? Not so simple.

My typical evening weeknight meal:
1 paper towel
1 pita
1 bottle of spray butter

Place paper towel on coffee table; top paper towel with toasted pita bread; top toasted pita with a puddle of spray butter.

Repeat as necessary.

After several a few weeks of wasted salmon and expired bags of salad, I am happy to report that I finally beat bread and fake butter demon and accomplished my goal. Let’s check the score, shall we?

Lou: 1
Spray butter and pita: 53,492,834,702,734

I'd like to thank myself, my sheer determination, and the Abs Diet book—I never could follow your diet for more than a day, but your recipe for a salmon marinade made this all possible. I gave it a new name:

Lou’s Lonely Lil' Fillet of Salmon*
*Modified from the Abs Diet recipe Salmon Rushdie, which like all the other recipes in the book has a really stupid name. I mean… I get it. But what does the salmon recipe have to do with the writer?
Serving size: 1

Marinade
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp lemon juice
1/8 tsp ground flaxseed
salt and ground pepper

1 salmon fillet (suggest maybe 3-6 ounces)

Preheat over to 450 degrees. Put all of the ingredients for the marinade in a baggie that zips. Put the salmon in the baggie. Zip it. Shake it. Let it sit in the refrigerator for like 15-20 minutes (I have marinated it overnight too and that works well too). Take the salmon out of the baggie. Put some foil on a cookie sheet; put the salmon on the foil; put the cookie sheet in the oven for 10 minutes. Take it out. Put it on a plate (unfortunately, a paper towel will not work). Throw the foil away and the cookie sheet is still clean (in my opinion anyway).

Done and done.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Here I Go Again On My Own

Have you ever ended a relationship with the feeling that you had just been released from prison?

No?

Just me then...

Approximately seven months ago, I took my first steps beyond the barbed-wire walls I had built around my life and announced my re-entry into single society in true Lou fashion—with an alcohol-soaked evening at Stanley’s Bar complete with a declaration of independence best illustrated by an off-key rendition of Whitesnake’s Here I go Again and a boy named Karl.

Ah yes, Karl. We made out in the rain. In a sober, we-actually-know-each-other alternative universe, it would have been romantic in cliche, black-and-white movie kind of way. But for me on that night, it was the coming out party for returning to the life I love/hate, excessive drinking and locking lips with strangers.

And no, apparently I have no shame.

But last night, when asked by a friend to partake in a few beverages celebrating another week of surviving the 9-to-5 life sentence, I hesitated. I had big plans to lie on the couch and watch my Tivo-ed Buffy the Vampire Slayer reruns and fantasize about Spike.

You can imagine the conundrum I faced.

I went. Of course I did. And I reconciled it: I’ll only be out a few hours, have a couple of drinks, be home by 10 or 11. Spike and Buffy and their illicit, violent love affair can wait a few hours.

Not surprising, my road map was disregarded and the evening veered wildly off course.

After six beers, two pool games, and a mozzarella stick at a bar, the name of which I cannot remember, we opted for a change of scenery and headed down the street to Maeve, which I had been told was where the old Stanley’s crowd was migrating.

Upon being granted entrance to Maeve, a curly-haired boy wearing a dark blazer and an aw shucks grin, noticeably stared in our direction.

As we made our way through the bar to order completely unneeded libations, the curly-haired boy with the aw shucks grin approached me.

“I like your coat,” he said referring to my red Lacoste trench. Seriously, that’s what he said to me.

I looked up at him and finally, through a Miller Lite haze, recognition sparked.

Ignoring the compliment I, somewhat demandingly, asked his name. He appeared to be a bit taken aback.

“Karl.”

Oh crap.

The memory rushed over me.

Um. How do I put this?

“We know each other. Well, not really. Sort of. Um… we made out once… at Stanley’s… in the rain… it might have been romantic in a cliche black-and-white movie kind of way, had we not been wasted and actually known each other.”

“Your hair is different. It was curly, and darker, and longer then,” he said remembering, like I was, an astounding amount of detail for a night that resulted in a killer hangover and the swearing off of all alcohol, for like, a day.

The moral of the story is that it is apparently time to move. Chicago is too small a town for me, my binge drinking, and my DWIs (Decisions While Intoxicated).

But I realized today while laying on the couch unable to motivate for the gym due to the leftover effects of a night that spun wildly out of control, there may be more than just old-fashioned humiliation to this encounter.

Earlier in the evening, pre-beers six through nine, I had declared to my friend my re-commitment to my independence. Lately I have been thinking a lot about that feeling of freedom, my release so many months ago, rather than the anger and resentment I focused on through the winter. I was ready, perhaps this time for real, to move beyond the men I had been involved with previously and, moreover, to begin to understand—and change—my defensiveness towards and suspicion of the male gender.

So maybe Karl with his curly hair and aw shucks grin, was a sign… a symbol. What are the odds that the same boy would appear on the two nights that I announced emancipation from the ghosts of relationships past. Now before you think I’ve caught the crazy train to Chicklogicville… here’s where I’m not going with this: I do not believe that Karl and I are destined to be together. At all. Period. Not even a little.

But maybe Karl is an embodiment of not only my freedom, but also the mistakes I make because of it. In two interactions with him, I used Karl as a opportunity to anonymously (read: safely) connect with someone sans repercussions and dismissed him and his intentions—if he had any, whatever they may have been—on account of his Y chromosome. It’s Karl, not Chicago, from where I need to move. One final note on Karl: He is the antithesis of the Lost Boys I typically seek out for momentary amusement, if not full-blown and inevitably doomed relationships. Karl is cute, reasonably well-dressed, an engineer, owns a condo, travels overseas frequently, and seemed to find me to be rather humorous when I wasn’t telling him that a conversation between he and I really wasn't necessary.

Don’t act surprised. I have issues. We learned that many posts, if not years, ago.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Damaged Control

I like to humor myself with the belief that I can bust out one hell of a jab-cross-hook combination, which is probably why I will—on very rare occasion, after a few too many beverages—threaten to throw down with a stranger in a bar.

However, when it comes down to stepping up, I refrain from violence primarily because even in an inebriated state, reality suggests that a cardio kickboxing aerobics class is not practice round for a bona fide bar fight. I’m still smart like that because I’ve never been knocked out by a jab-cross-hook combination.

Hold on there, Lou. Back up a minute. What about that stranger in the bar? Why threaten to fight him or her in the first place?

Well, first off, it’s never a “her.” Girl-on-girl violence is so tacky. It’s always a “him.” And obviously “he” or his maleness or his representation of his gender has in some way provoked me at that moment or in general… And yes, this suggests that I may have an anger management problem, but only when it comes to boys. So—worst-case scenario—it’s like half an anger management problem.

The black eye on my life remains my apparent predisposition to man-hating… where did it come from... why did it chose me... or why I did chose it? Perhaps it was the Mary Daly book I read in college that I wasn’t quite radical feminist or lesbian enough to actually understand and/or process. It’s likely her message of female righteousness seeped into my subconscious, but laid dormant... until, upon witnessing some random act of male douchebagery, I was activated as one of her warriors.

It’s a theory.

It’s not necessarily a good one.

Stick with me, readers. This is all headed somewhere, I promise.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

An Affair to Forget

I did the unthinkable on Monday and Tivo-ed The Bachelor. After all my ranting and raving, I really, really wanted to know what was going to happen. On Tuesday, I commanded my Tivo to summon the hour and twenty-nine minute episode for my viewing/listening pleasure (I thought if I just had The Bachelor on in the background while I was making dinner, as opposed to actually devoting precious couch time to the show, it would somehow make my lapse in judgment less deliberate and more accidental. Something along the lines of, “I tivo-ed this? Must have mistakenly hit record. Well… as long as I’ve already pressed play”).

As it turned out, pretty much the entire episode consisted of high-pitched shrieking and bikini-clad girls each vying to be the first to stick her tongue down Andy's throat. When I finally put my dinner in the oven and sat down, I fast-forwarded to the final scene, the rose ceremony. Apparently the producers believe that calling 12 names should drag on for approximately 15 minutes. Awkward small talk is the best! "Um... Stephanie, I want to give you this rose because I really think I'd like to 'f' you in an upcoming episode." Full disclosure: Andy didn't actually say that. I don't actually know what Andy said because I fast-forwarded through the, "Will you accept this rose?" bullshit, stopping only to hear the names called. And, again I renewed my hatred for the show.

I decided that my illicit affair with The Bachelor would have to end right then and there. Sorry Andy, I know that I was the one you really loved. We had a connection. I felt it.

Lucky for me, I’ll have 30 Rock to keep me occupied in times of manlessness (is that a word? No? Really? It should be). NBC officially renewed the series for another session last week! [Cheering.]

If you don’t watch this show already, you should because if it goes off the air I will get angry… The Bachelor on an endless loop angry. Tina Fey is a vision and a visionary. The show is well-cast and brilliantly written. I have fallen off the couch twice because of this show. From laughter, not drunkenness. And not really, but perhaps if my balance wasn’t as acutely developed from years and years of professional ballet training.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Homelessly in Love

I have this theory: The only men who hit on me are a) old enough to be my father; b) homeless or disheveled enough to be mistaken for being homeless; c) all of the above.

When out on the town, it’s a riot to parade this theory out, laugh about it among friends, joke that "poor Lou" has been dealt a pretty shitty hand. Oh yes, it’s all fun and games until Lou actually does get picked up by Grandpa Roof-less.

Now I know you’re thinking that I simply must be exaggerating; that the picture cannot be nearly as bleak as I have so grimly painted it.

My friends, it’s bleak. Believe me. I have witnesses.

Now, granted there have been a few outliers—the clean-cut former football player/teacher who was quite taken with me on New Year’s Eve… I imagine he was tall and good-looking, but the memory is very… fuzzy… fading… And then there’s… nope. That’s it. Everyone else has been classifiable as one or the other or—say it ain’t so—both.

I’m going to spare you and skip the "war" stories about uninvited advances from bums and geriatrics (who, as it turns out, seem to be the boldest when hitting on young women in public places—probably because they have the least to lose. Dignity? What’s that?). Instead I will skip ahead to a story I like to call: Another Saturday Night at a Neighborhood Bar. I was with @. She lives in the neighborhood too.

Nearing the end of the evening, @ and I found ourselves sitting at a table with three young gentleman. They were lovely, I’m sure. Now, I strive for honest communication with my readers... you know this. But, what I’m about to tell you... it’s a little embarrassing.

As mentioned above, we are nearing the end of the evening, beverages had been involved, I may have been slightly intoxicated... maybe a little more than "slightly." Regardless, I was drunk enough that I was unabashedly flirting with a 24-year-old Whole Foods employee who likely hadn’t combed or washed his hair in several days.

I know, I know. It’s horrifying, but I was bored... and drunk. Never a good combination. Cut a girl some slack. I’m not defending my actions, just providing facts.

Thankfully, the night ended without any complete disruptions in judgement (i.e. taking this loser home) and so all was well... until @, with her character assessment skills and insightful nature, said this (and I very loosely quote):

"I think you actually seek out the guys who could potentially be homeless."

Oh no she didn’t.

Oh, she did. And, thank goodness, because she turned my whole world on its ear. Suddenly, day break—light where there was once only darkness—and… clarity. It's not the crazy, dirty, hippie, jobless freaks… it's me (I'm beginning to detect a theme here...).

It occurred to me then that I am one of those women who picks up strays--sort of a female Peter Pan (he was rather effeminate, don’t you think?) running around Never Neverland (the Chicago bar scene—talk about never wanting to grow up) collecting Lost Boys.

How on earth did we get here?

So, I had one of my famous talks with myself: “Self,” I said, “You are a smart, successful, Hilarious, clever, not completely unfortunate looking woman who is only belligerent on occasion and suffers from mild delusions of grandeur. You've got a lot to offer someone! Why aim so low when it comes to the fellas? If you want a stray, go down to the Humane Society and adopt a damn dog!”

Huh?

I suppose I’m telling you this because I have a new mission for myself, one which I’d like to make public so ya’ll can hold me to it: My mission is to adhere to the standards that I believe I deserve in a guy… or at least that I say I believe I deserve. You know, the basics... good personality, a job, some intelligence, maybe a sense of humor, enough money to pay for dinner, decent personal hygiene habits.

Impossible? With my history… and luck…

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Once Upon a Ratings Goldmine

Every once in a great while a show comes along that makes me consider tossing my television out the window... and following it.

Unfortunately, a great while is every year or so and the show is ABC’s The Bachelor. This season, it has a snappy subtitle so we can distinguish this group of catty, size 2, 24-year-old women from all the other seasons full of catty, size 2, 24-year-old women: An Officer and A Gentleman. Because Andy—that’s the title character’s name—is just that.

Cute.

Surprisingly, I have never been a fan of The Bachelor. On the surface, it sounds like a bandwagon me and my questionable television habits would immediately want to jump on, what with my love of The Tyra Banks Comedy Hour (aka America’s Next Top Model) and all. The premise is nothing short of genius: twenty-five "attractive and smart" women make fools of themselves in an effort capture the heart of some "attractive and accomplished" assclown who could—educated guess here—only ever love himself.

But The Bachelor, with its drunk and desperate version of the Cinderella story, has only served to be the television equivalent of nails on a chalkboard for me. Regardless, I always manage to catch an episode or two of this train wreck each season and—perhaps even more of a coincidence—it tends to either the first show (tequila-soaked) or last show (vomit-worthy). Last night it was the first show. This is the episode where all of the "smart and attractive" women get wasted and, in an attempt to stand out from the crowd and win Andy's attention, his affection, and--cross your fingers--a rose at the end of the show, "perform" various talents (one woman did a back handspring; another did the worm) on national television. Oh The Bachelor, how you make me cringe...

I’ll bottom-line it for ya’ll. Me… I don’t judge (except for the women on this show, but I’m pretty sure they signed a waiver that permits me to judge them and gives ABC rights to their first-born children). Who I don’t judge are the people who watch this show. I admittedly watch a lot of sub-par television, including shows where women happily degrade themselves in the name of money, a modeling contract, a job, or whatever the BIG prize may be.

I think my problem with this show is that I am one jaded bitch when it comes to romance and the "L" word (that's L-O-V-E my friends). And (I preface this with, “it’s likely that I need therapy”) while I’ll drunkenly argue with each and every one of you that it’s next too impossible to find love anywhere these days, and as women, we’re better off converting to lesbianism (the other "L" word) if it were just that simple... it is possible that in the harsh light of the next sober day I will admit that I was a bit hasty in my remarks.

And so, I will suggest here with nary a hint of optimism that it is also possible—though unlikely—that some of these women are actually hopeless/helpless romantics, desperately searching for the “one,” and would do ANYTHING to find him... that includes becoming a contestant on a reality show ("It's fate!") And… it is possible—though again unlikely—that one of these women will find "true love" (whatever that is) on The Bachelor. I just threw up in my mouth a little.

I realize now, it’s not really you—Andy and the crazy women of The Bachelor—it’s me.

There's just one nagging problem... it’s kind of hard for me to buy into the fate/true love/fairytale/reality show proposition when the average age of these women (back of the envelope estimate) is 24. That’s too young to be desperately searching! You’ve got years of sleeping around ahead of you. Then, once you've been around the block a few times, ruined a few lives--maybe your own at some point--and you’re bitter and cynical about men, around say, the age of 28, you can decide that you won’t actually work for a man’s attention, but that he should work for yours. See how far that kind of attitude has gotten me? These 24-year-olds can't possibly be looking for love... so then what are they looking for? Hellloooo.... it's like sooooo obvious. They are looking for an opportunity to be famous... if only for 15 minutes. Because when you're 24, 15 minutes of fame gets you laid a whole lot more than 0 minutes of fame does. Not to mention that being a contestant on the Bachelor is like receiving a certificate that says you meet the society's standards of hotness... and being hot is the only thing that matters when you're 24. (Let's be honest, being hot is the only thing that ever matters.)

In essence, The Bachelor is actually mocking me mock it. It knows that I know and it's flaunting the fact that the vast majority of women on this show don't care about the fairytale, they just want their moment in the spotlight.

Now here's the real question: Is that actually more or less respectable than thinking you can compete for and win a soul mate on national television?

That may possibly be the most profound question I have ever asked. It definitely tops, "Who am I?"

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Great Battle of Our Time

April 2, 2007, 7:15am: My alarm pulled me from a particularly disturbing dream that involved my mom yelling at me to leave RIGHT NOW else I was going to be late for the test. I hadn’t showered and upon looking in the mirror I noticed that my hair was approximately six shades darker than normal on account of having not been washed. There would be no time for that now.

When I finally freed myself from sleep, I realized what day it was (it’s finally here!) and forced myself out of bed. I needed to leave early because today was the first day of unknown variables, of questions, of the public transportation nightmare that will plague the northside of Chicago for months--scratch that--years to come.

This is the day we all knew was coming. We’d been warned--countless times. Two years, three tracks, one of the busiest train interchanges in the city compromised, and a message from the Chicago Transit Authority: good luck with that. We begged for mercy and when refused, we strategized, mapped alternative routes, considered moving to the southside, prepared for the worst, and hoped for the best. And here we are.

This morning the streets were lined with uniformed security personnel and authorized vehicles ready to intervene should a disruption in service occur. The #11 crawled down Lincoln Avenue and we pressed our faces to the window as we passed eight buses parked on the side of the road, one after another, just south of the Trader Joe's at Grace... poised for battle.

So it begins.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

My Own Thunderdome

Nothing like a solid dose of disappointment to snap a girl back into reality. And regretfully, the reality is I haven't posted in a week. Do I have an excuse? Would, "It’s not you, it’s me" work? No… hmmmm… it never does, does it?

What matters now is that I’m back and I have a story—a hard-learned lesson if you will—to share.

Today, feeling mildly disappointed, I headed to the grocery store. Now, history would suggest that feelings, particularly those that are not—let’s say—desirable, lead to eating something "bad" in an attempt to feel—let’s say—better. I believe the technical term for this self-sabotaging behavior is "emotional eating." Me… I have been known to eat a pint full of feelings disguised as Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked. It tends to be a problem.

However, today I had no intention of taking my disappointment out on some poor, innocent, unsuspecting comfort food. Today, I simply needed something to eat… and paper towels (I ran out of paper towels about a week ago and have since been using regular bath towels as napkins… true story. Sometimes my inability to live like an adult even surprises me).

But then, out of the corner of my eye as I was picking through the buy one, get one free cases of strawberries, I caught a glimpse of the refrigerated case that displayed Oasis Hummus. It was one of those moments—the containers of hummus appeared to be illuminated by a halo of light and heavenly voices sang a single note, "ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."

Nothing short of magical.

And then I realized. It was the thing that had been missing from my weekend. Oasis hummus, black bean dip, and a package of pita bread would make everything better. It would make me stop wondering, stop analyzing, stop thinking. Momentarily anyway… and sometimes it’s the instant gratification that one feels she needs. Just a moment of pure, complete complacency. Then… reality (Crap. There it is again!).

I made a beeline from the strawberries to the hummus and I stood there… wondering, “Was it worth it?”

I picked up a container and scanned the nutritional information as though my desire might be strong enough to will the label to change: 0 calories, 0 fat. I put it down. And I stood there. In that minute or two, I attempted to convince myself that if I bought it, I wouldn’t actually eat all of it immediately. But, my lie to myself only thinly veiled my recent history of devouring six pitas, a container of hummus, and a container of black bean dip in one sitting.

Finally, sans hummus, I walked away.

It occurs to me that maybe now—maybe finally—I get it. It’s not worth giving up what I really want, for what I want now—or for what’s easy, what’s familiar, what’s comfortable, what’s safe.

So there it is. Lesson learned. One (wo)man left.

And that’s all I have to say about that.