Friday, December 16, 2005

Oprah, Au Revoir.

This afternoon I was in the usual wasteland between coming home from the morning shift and determining that I've successfully put off working out for another afternoon, when I decided to put on Oprah.

I have always been a fan of Oprah, along with other up-by-the-bootstraps, real-fake ladies such as Madonna and Dolly Parton. People like to hate on Oprah, but I have been inclined step to her defense. Until today.

It was about halfway through the show and Oprah was gandering through some home designs by some shiny, cute guy named Nate something. I settled in: I love Oprah's Materialistic shows even more than her Celebrity shows and her Issues shows.

Oprah and Nate were looking at bedding. The first thing I noticed was, none of the bedding looked very exciting. The second thing I noticed was that Oprah was quoting prices as if it were the Home Shopping Network. The third thing I noticed was the whooping. Oprah said the dogs in the picture frame on the bed were "her babies": The audience cheered as if she'd announced she was pregnant. Oprah said the pillows were between $8 and $9: Cries of rejoicing went up through the air. Oprah pointed to some painted boxes: Did someone faint? At one point the camera cut to two jittery women wearing maniacal grins, their hands poised to commence applause. I could have sworn they were high.

All along, Oprah was outyelling them all. Oprah is a renowned exuberant-shouter. She should sit down for an installment of the Actor's Studio, where they would devote an entire segment to her vocal intonation. "Who loves a GOOD. BATHROOMMmm." she chanted, leading everyone to Nate's bathroom furnishings. "You are going to LOVE. THESE. PLATES. AND BOOOOWWWLS!!!"

Now, I'll admit that even though I pretend to be an Oprah fan, I don't actually watch her show that much. Had it changed? I thought back to the last time I saw it, which was when she had James Frey on to talk about his edgy memoir of drug addiction, A Million Little Pieces. I've never read A Million Little Pieces and am not sure if I will. But I left that show feeling embarrassed for Frey and certain that if I bought his book, it would be in spite of Oprah rather than because of her. Frey had to sit there and tolerate excruciating amounts of adulation, and he even filmed a "my home life"-type segment bathed in gauzy lighting gels and cheesy voiceovers. As Frey sat there looking strained, I began to worry that this was the sort of experience that might make him start using again. I started to feel sorry for him, but then remembered how many books he was selling.

Let's not even go into the most recent Tom Cruise appearance.

So I guess Oprah has been this way for awhile, but it always seemed to me like she was just riding happily on her success and really trying to deliver something enjoyable. She'd gone from sleazy TV to power TV and she was celebrating and giving tons of shit away. Sure, let her shout it up. I'd be shouting too.

But now, it felt much less like a show and much more like a shill -- and for third-rate Pottery Barn imitations, no less. Then she proceeded to claim that Ricky Martin, whose album was released (that's right, he has a new album) two months ago, was "back." She ceded the stage so that Martin could perform a song that I thought was "Livin' La Vida Loca" until I realized it was only a new song that happens to sounds just like "Livin' La Vida Loca." It was as if Oprah, along with the guests on her show, had all become Xerox copies of some earlier, better thing.

And so I say godspeed, dear Oprah. I bid you a fair journey, but I can no longer sail with you.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I Am Waiting While the CMS Processes My Request.

I realized today that the majority of my working life, and a disconcerting amount of my personal life, adds up to a long string of two- to 10-second computer vacuums. Thousands upon thousands of times I have sat, slack in a chair, eyes glazed over as some processor or network tried to keep up with my request. It dawned on me today that the publishing system at my job requires me to wait at least two to four seconds every single time I perform a task. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Open... edit... add... delete... enter... save... This is the life of a "web producer." And I have never, ever once in my computer life, worked on a machine where everything was up to speed. It's like a specially designated hell for someone with my temperament -- the person who, from childhood on, thrived on finishing the test, the race, the dinner, and apparently birth order, FIRST.

This adds up to a devastating loss of time and spirit, when you think about it (and maybe you've noticed: I have). In these micro-eons I imagine brain cells imploding, collagen breaking down, bones thinning and unquantifiable modules of life-force going irreparably dim. Is it better to spend most of your day waiting for computers to work? Or is it better to spend most of your day waiting for (and working for) something else to work, such as social justice or global rescue missions? This is what I thought about today as I waited for my employer's poorly-written proprietary software to accomodate a basic Web site change that perhaps three people might notice.

A bout of ennui? Perhaps.

Yeah, I've been grappling lately with the Parachute Rainbow. There's a great psychological question buried in all of this: Is more choice better, or worse? Objectively speaking, it's pretty fuckin' great to grow up being told you can be anything you want to be and have that more or less be true. Until you come up against your own personality and societal realities. Part of an e-mail to a friend today sums it up:

I can't close the other doors [in life] -- it's like, I *could* decide to be with [boyfriend] and stick with my current livelihood but... hey, what if I decide to move to a small, mountainy town and own a coffee shop as an independent single woman and then meet the rough-hewn-yet-brainy-and-hilarious man of my dreams and pen some outrageously popular book? I mean, we wouldn't want to shut off that possibility, now, would we?! So anyway... oops, I just turned 80! Time to go feed the pigeons and pick up my social security check...

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Or Maybe It's Just Me.

Laugh, and the whole world laughs with you: Except for when they just stare at you with disdain.

I had never heard of Dane Cook until this week, and I started listening to some of his routines while at work. With my headphones on, I did that sort of lean-forward-and-don't-breathe laughing that makes people think, "Man, she must be listening to something really hysterically funny." And I was! Or so I thought.

My boss pulled up the "Car Alarm" routine (clip at lower left on this page: I started laughing again involuntarily. As I laughed and laughed and the routine continued to play, I slowly realized that no one in the room was amused. They were all just looking at me, like, I can't believe you think this is that funny.

I guess it serves me right for every apathetic stare I've given to Monty Python fans.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Thanks for Sharing.

One of the worst things about the end of a relationship is the Returns. The CDs, the clothing, the things you left behind -- leaving them behind with someone is such a warm act of faith; giving them back is such a cold, bitter acknowledgement of failure. (cf. Ben Folds, "Song for the Dumped")

I have never been especially good at sharing. I'd like to blame it on having my younger siblings touching my stuff all the time without my permission, but the fact is I was selfish before then. I remember my mom, in an unfortunate early effort to teach me about sharing, took one of my Little Golden Books and tried to get me to give it to the housekeeper's daughter. She wanted me to help her write "Yolanda" on the "This Book Belongs To..." page and I freaked out. Why should I have to give this random girl one of MY books, I remember thinking. Why is this happening?

Some people are just born with certain defects in character.

Today, I retain a bank teller's awareness of what holdings lie where in the transaction of lives that is a relationship. Back in June, I was in a relationship that I knew was ending. I had occasion to be at his place when he wasn't there and I pulled out my Radiohead CD and my Secretary DVD like I was saving Private Ryan, not that he would have cared or noticed. Casualties over the last three years include two pairs of earrings and two books (a short story collection by Nathaniel Hawthorne and a hardcover copy of after the quake by Haruki Murakami). The fact that the Murakami is probably now sitting on the shelf of someone who wasn't worthy of it irks me to this day.

The Returns phase is an opportunity for some serious P/A (passive-aggression). The most jaw-dropping instance of this I have witnessed was with guy I dated for a few weeks. He invited me to see an opera for one of our dates; I was going to have to be a little late because of work, so he cutely sent me my ticket with a little penlight so I could find him when I got there.

Not long after I ended things, he called. "Hey, I was wondering if I could get that flashlight back," he said. "I'm going camping with someone this weekend and SHE doesn't have one."

Dear readers, this "flashlight" could not have illuminated more than a twig in the wilderness and our P/A hero damn well knew it. Nonetheless, he insisted that I messenger the flashlight back to him since he HAD to have it for that weekend and I was too busy at work to mail or deliver it myself.

Too stunned to react otherwise, I complied and he was thereafter known in conversation among my friends as "Flashlight Guy."

Another time, I inadvertently tried to break up with someone (see drama queen J.C. below) after we attended a party. He forced the conversation by pressing me on my doubts, I ended it by affirming them. One undesirable detail: He was driving. Riding in the silent car, I noticed that we weren't headed for my place. "Aren't you taking me home?" I asked. "I just have to make a stop first," he said stoicly.

A stop? Like, at the gun dealer? It turned out we landed back at his place. He went inside and came back out, carrying the material evidence of our relationship in his hands: cards, ticket stubs, photos. "I just can't put it in a box with the other ones," he said, breaking down into sobs as he referred to the heartbreaks behind him. Now, it's one thing to have your own shit returned to you. It's a whole other level when you get back the stuff you happily gave away.

If I think about it, the only way I could have stood to get my Radiohead CD and Secretary DVD back in June was to have "stolen" them. Nobody wants to be given their shit back when it was given, or left, in warm spirits. I did a Return this past weekend: a kitchen bowl and concert tickets in exchange for a pair of earrings (must be psychological) and some money I forgot I owed. This time I didn't care about the stuff -- I was just glad I'd never lived with anyone and broken up with them, and felt both glad and sad that my relationships thus far were no bigger than a bread basket.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Holiday Edition Part One: Blingle Bells

The holidays, for me, are a time to cherish loved ones, to appreciate one's blessings and to enjoy family traditions.

It's also a time to remember that my brother is a rich-ass motherfucker.

You see, I am a wage slave who is struggling to pay down her manageable-but-significant credit card debt. Like a yuppie version of the Little Match Girl, I huddle by my Archipelago Botanicals candle in my rented apartment and gaze into the flame, imagining such sugarplums as home ownership and cosmetic laser treatments.

My sister is strapped for cash even more than I am, only she incurred her debt with three small humans (instead of with three-margarita nights, like me). She and her husband have a house, but they also have ravenous, rapacious toddlers and a small business to run.

My parents are doing fine, but they're headed toward retirement and... well, imagining all the potential heartache and financial issues down that road, we'll just save that for another U.M.

Then there's my brother. My brother lives in the Ritz-Carlton, where he owns two places and rents the other one out as a corporate apartment. He drives a BMW SUV, gets his shirts custom-tailored, and buys his furniture in Georgetown. In other words, he could buy and sell my family. I mean, he really could -- he turned a dinky Web business into a small fortune, couldn't he do the same with the Nunezes, make us into a franchise or something? We don't have anything better to do.

Each year in the last decade or so, my family has been a disturbingly accurate microcosm of this country's economy: the rich get richer, the middle class gets middler, the credit debt goes rampant and the parents pick up the slack until they can't anymore. Christmas highlights this issue. It's a very businesslike affair for us: Lists are forwarded and cc'd, briefings are held as to who will handle which gifts for whom. Occasionally partnerships are formed for pricier gifts, sort of the way corporations have had to consolidate in order to survive: "This gift was brought to you by MomChris, a division of Nunez."

A couple of years ago, the family leadership had to acknowledge that the economy had fallen on hard times, and instituted a $50 cap on person-to-person gifts by Nunez siblings. None of us liked the idea of the cap, but I also heaved a sigh of relief. After all, there was no way I was going to be able to match my brother in terms of gift expense, and I was too embarrassed to say so. My sister had already issued warnings that she would be spending less than everyone. So the cap seemed like a good way of preventing anyone from going deeper into debt.

My brother, on the other hand, felt like he wanted to spend more than $50, because even though he's a RAMF, he's a generous guy too. So I got like half my Amazon wish list from him last year, and from me he got... I don't know, an umbrella?

It does make me feel weird and uneasy to know that no matter what we say, this year I will probably not spend nearly as much on my brother's gift as he will on mine. I'm older, and have always been a bit of the Jeanie to my brother's Ferris. Two years ago at the family dentist, when I was forced essentially to put my own teeth on layaway, the receptionist said with dreamy eyes, "Why don't you get your nice brother to help you? He's doing very well..." I've gotten used to it, but still.

When gift-giving time arrives, though, I manage to soldier through my guilt. Somehow it melts away -- maybe it's the warmth of that new cashmere sweater, or the massage bought with my Elizabeth Arden gift certificate.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

You've Got Hate.

The community wankfest Friendster must be getting hit hard by MySpace. I'm not talking about the "Friendster Misses You!" pleas that regularly stream through my inbox. I am talking about a very special message that arrived today.

Subject: Re: * Reminder: Christina Nunez has invited you to join Friendster

Sender: [A man with whom I ended a relationship two years ago]

Message: I assume you didn't mean to send this. If you did, I'd prefer never to hear from you.

Alrighty then.

There was no indication of what precisely had been sent to J.C., but it wasn't from me. I did invite him to join Friendster -- in 2003. He joined, and was among my friendsters. When we broke up, I took him out of my list. End of Friendstory.

Friendster earns nothing but enemies in this scenario of Internet marketing E-vil. For his part, J.C. gets a reminder of pain and bitterness. And I get my own an unsolicited "reminder" : "Don't forget! I still hate you."

My first reaction to this message was a mixture of confusion and amusement. But then something else took its place: Hurt and sadness. Though I too would check the "prefer never to hear from you" box in my J.C. account settings, it doesn't feel good to inspire such enduring hostility in anyone.

It's a common refrain at the end of relationships: "Do you hate me?" "Now you hate me." "I don't want you to hate me or anything." Some people I know, both male and female, knock themselves out to stay "friends" with people they should leave well enough alone. Nobody wants to be hated, sure -- that's just bad karma. But what's worse about ex hate is you can't control it. Once somebody decides how they feel about you in retrospect, there's nothing you can do (assuming you decide to stay broken up).

Sometimes it gives me a pit in my stomach that in anybody's version of a story, I'd be the bad guy. Still, I accept that if you hurt or disappoint someone, you don't always get the benefit of forgiveness or understanding.

Apparently, even if you do forgive, Friendster ain't never gonna let you forget.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Store Front.

I was reading about where to find pumpkin-flavored ice cream (duh, everywhere) on, and noticed that my local ice cream shop was not mentioned.

This made me glad, because I hate my local ice cream shop. I am convinced, in fact, that my local ice cream shop is a front for terrorism or drugs. I do not say this just because the guy who runs it appears to be of foreign descent. I say this because I have never seen such indifference to customer satisfaction in my life. You can walk by the Connecticut Avenue establishment on the brightest, sunniest weekend day and there will be only a 50 percent chance that it is open.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, that it's a day they've decided to open. When you get inside, you are met with middling ice cream, surly service and overpriced product. The last (and I mean last) time I was there, the cashier said to the guy I was with, "How did YOU end up with HER?" referencing the fact that I paid. It was not cute. It was mean. And we had paid like $10 for two cones.

When I lived in New York on Second Avenue at 27th Street, I used to go into this convenience store on Second all the time. I would go in there to buy Little Debbie Snack Cakes. I always thought it was weird that there seemed to be no other twentysomething girls buying snacks in the store -- indeed there were no other females at all in the store. It was almost always full of men, seemingly of Middle-Eastern origin but honestly I couldn't say. Then I saw some TV segment about how "fake storefronts" are set up to "sell heroin." You can spot them, I was informed, by the fact that the windows are always blocked by boxes of cereal and detergent, and by the fact that none of the foodstuffs for sale ever seem to get bought.

This is how I figured out that the Tide-adorned store where I had been buying my dusty Nutty Bars was probably a drugstore in the literal sense. I felt really dumb, just like I felt for patronizing my local ice cream store after I realized what a sham it is. Potbelly, on the other hand, sells a nice, cheap, generous cone.

Monday, October 24, 2005

New York.

A few years ago, I decided I'd had it with New York and was moving to D.C., because I could finally admit to myself that I just liked living here better.

Upon hearing this, people generally regard me with the same polite stare they would give someone who said she really enjoys needlepoint, or who perhaps has gone too long without a diagnosis of some kind. People move to D.C. because they got a job, or because they want to be involved with government, or because they are going to school. Nobody moves here because they like it better than someplace else, especially when that someplace is New York.

After all, New York is Radiohead; D.C. is Kelly Clarkson. New York is Jon Stewart; D.C. is Jay Leno. New York is Brooklyn; D.C. is Fairfax. New York is Tiffany; D.C. is Kay Jewelers.

I'm not going to sit here and type up how D.C. is "cool" or the ways in which New York sucks. D.C. is not cool, and New York doesn't suck, much as I'm tempted reflexively to say that it does. The fact is that I could not enjoy living here without having lived in Manhattan. New York was my fantasy town from about 12 years old and I love many things about it.

This year I have had five personal ties of varying significance vanish in some way, and two of those were friends who joined girlfriends in NYC (p.b., I ain't mad atcha). They're psyched. Why wouldn't they be?

Still, I reserve my right *not* to be jealous, and not to particularly care about New York anymore. Wow, I lived there for seven years of my life... do I miss it? Do I visit a lot? Well, no and no. I miss very much my friends who happen to live there. But the first time I went back, months after leaving, was surreal: Had this really been my home for so long? I felt shame mixed with a sense of unworthiness. It was like running into someone with whom you had a serious love relationship, and feeling absolutely nothing. Who was the me who lived, worked and thought there? I couldn't channel her anymore. Now, the Sunday Times (if I even read it) is like People magazine to me.

You could explain part of my allegiance to D.C. by pointing out that I am "from here," but that wouldn't quite be right. I am from Potomac, Md. -- a land of McMansions, chain stores and bar mitzvahs -- and ventured into D.C. only occasionally during my time at home. Still, I'll admit that's part of my having developed a comfort level here. This weekend included trips to the Target on Rockville Pike, a concert at the Black Cat and a corn maze in Fredericksburg, Va.: aka big-box retail, a middling rock venue and provinciality supreme. It's home. For a change I'm not ambivalent, but grateful.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Note to Self.

I am not alone in my car.

I am not alone in my car. When "Nasty" by Janet Jackson or "Somebody Else's Guy" by Jocelyn Brown comes on, it is not okay to belt it out and do an upper-body running-man. It is not okay to talk out loud about the traffic or what I have to do when I get home, when it is clear I have no ear bud attached to me and my scratched-ass minicar is not outfitted with a speaker phone. It is not okay to talk back to the radio deejays, to gyrate, or to yell at other drivers and make gestures.

It is not okay, because my windows are not tinted and I forget. People, being nosey and intrusive, are liable to look at me in my car and shame me with their judging glances so that I cannot safely commit these behaviors. It is not alright to be illegal in the car, which is a lot easier in D.C. now that one drink could mean you are rolling peril. It is not okay to talk to my friends because a police man might yell at me "THAT'S A $100 TICKET" like one did today, a comment I found startling, not to mention unnecessarily true.

When I am seen flipping someone off or talking to myself or having my own private "American Idol," that is when I become not only me in my car but also, a travesty behind glass. I must remember this in order to avoid becoming a source of entertainment or revenue on the streets of Washington.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Cheese, Pate, Whine.

I can explain my blog delinquency by saying that the last week has constituted one long uncomfortable moment, being that I was sick. It started last Thursday, when I met friends at the venerable sinkhole Fox & Hounds. Keeping it "light," I ordered a salad with blue cheese dressing and some onion rings to go with my two drinks. Then it got ugly. We convened to a back patio, where our hostess had an inspired idea: since we were drinking red wine, why not get out the cheese she had, along with some other gourmet goodies? We put all the comestibles out on a board: stinky, stinky cheeses, some truffle-oil-infused honey (as Lil' Jon would say, WHAT? Yay-yes!), pate de foie gras and apple slices.

As far as I was concerned, this was great. I thought not of the other fats commingling in my tract and dug in, thoroughly enjoying the fare. It wasn't but a half-hour before I found myself pretending to nod along with the patio conversation but only able to listen to one voice, which was coming from my stomach: It was saying, "I am in grievous distress and you are not going to get away with this."

All of a sudden I was greenly proceeding to the hosts' bathroom, where untold dollars in pricy goose liver were deposited. When I came back after too shaky an exit and too prolonged an absence, I felt like Olivia Newton-John as Sandra Dee in Grease, after she smokes her first cigarette. Everyone else, having pulled more or less the same digestive stunt, was fine and looking at me with pity and concern. I, on the other hand, was a gastronomic Urkel.

Depending on whom you ask (well okay, just ask my mom), this was not a "real" reaction but a precursor of what was to follow, which was congestion, pains, sneezing and overall misery. I, the person who scoffs at the flu shot, who waves off Purell, who "never gets sick," was SICK. We're talking not just sniffly but laid-out, bring-out-the-hazmat-suit, hack-up-a-lung, NyQuil sick. The upside is, instead of working, I got to catch up on my New Yorkers and watch Collateral along with just enough director's commentary to ascertain that Michael Mann is a disappointingly earnest and self-indulgent guy (darned if he isn't talented though).

Be sure to check out the random link at right if you haven't already, it's pretty good.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Eau de Toilet.

One of the reasons that I can barely be bothered to finish reading a book these days is because my five magazine subscriptions tend to keep me busy. I was recently sprawled on the couch reading Elle magazine, which I love for several reasons. One is the way in which its articles seem scientifically calibrated to my age and station ("Single and Loving It: Is Now the Best Time to Be on Your Own?"; "Metabolism Magic: Exercise Less, Live Longer"). Another is how it reminds me of Nora Dunn's "Saturday Night Live" character Pat Stevens (a former model... "thank you") and how she occasionally likes to pick up "a big book," which would always turn out to be a fat fashion magazine. My "big book" is Elle, and it arrives each month stuffed chock-a-block with pictures of clothes I can't afford, skin products I can't afford, hilarious achievements, and perfume samples.

If the perfume samples don't totally suck, I usually rip them out of the magazine and rub the bejeezus out of them on my wrist. Here are some brands recently seen in my latest issues:

Christian Dior
Calvin Klein

I was flipping and ripping when my eyes rested on this last example. I blinked. Were they for real? Here is what I saw: On the front flap, a woman kneels in a white dress (white's big in the menstruation industry) in a placid pool of water, blue sky behind her. There's a fragrance flap and the copy reads, "Beguile your senses. Succumb to the freshness."

I am not shitting you, I swear.

When you turn the page, there's a coupon for a dollar off any Tampax Fresh product, and the words "Get fresh. The new cardboard tampon with a light, clean scent."

I was being invited to smell a tampon. I could even rub the tampon scent on my wrist if I wanted to. This made me glad I was alone in my apartment, alone with the tampon smell. It's not something you want to be caught sampling in the presence of other humans. We're talking, after all, about something you put inside yourself to keep blood from coming out. Do I really need to smell it? Does anyone really care what their tampon smells like? Am I behind in fashion trends and wearing some hopelessly outdated tampon? Shouldn't this be in a men's magazine? Is Tampax hoping this fragrance will "cross over"? Conversely, will Chanel start making its own tampons, thereby creating a whole new way to layer scent?

The sample, in case you were wondering, smelled like a teen perfume, or maybe a car deodorizer. It was very floral and sweet. I could not detect any base notes of blood, estrogen or uterus. I imagine that it would protect me quite well if I happened to have my period but also was swimming in shark-infested waters. Other than that I couldn't really see what the fuss what was about.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Shake It Like a Salt Shaker.

The setting was Margarita's, an indoor/outdoor establishment on a lonely road in Hedgesville, W.Va. The mode of arrival was a black limousine, outfitted with blue neon accents along the sides and a forbearing young driver with spiky hair. The contents of the limo were thirtysomething and amused with themselves: one bride-to-be wearing a tiara with attached veil and an airbrushed T-shirt that read "Brian and Mandi 4ever," five married and newly minted mothers, one married woman (not yet a mom) and one single woman.

Leaving empty bottles of Michelob Light and a half-eaten box of Penis Gummies in their wake, they streamed toward the outdoor bar, which featured churning frozen drinks, two deep-fryers, an Avril-friendly soundtrack, a roaming cat and gravelly stations for games of horseshoes. The female patrons: mostly plump and bottle-blond. The male patrons: mostly tattooed and not fond of razors. The limo party ordered their drinks: more Mich-Lights, a strawberry-banana daiquiri for the guest of honor, and a margarita for the single girl, who generally forgoes beer and felt very heartened by the sight of hard liquor by this point.

The limo party was almost immediately told that their first round was being paid for by a man named Hercules, who was quiet and mustachioed and older and amused. The party was then left to their discussions, which primarily involved workouts and in-laws.

Meanwhile, the bride-to-be had been so focused on her aversion to being "one of those girls" with the tiara and veil that she forgot to be concerned that someone might order her a "blow job," until someone did. This meant the b-t-b was forced to bend over the bar and attempt to dump something into her mouth without hands. Though the whipped-cream-topped shot came a bit on her airbrushed T-shirt, everyone was highly entertained by her performance. It was decided that the party should move inside at that point, because inside there was a dance floor, and because in America we are aggressive in seeking humiliations for a person who is about to be married, especially if we are female.

The indoor scene at Margarita's was considerably grimmer. The air was smoky, the floor was carpeted and country music blared across an empty dance floor. The limo party, however, was lubricated, and ready to initiate change. A conversation was held with the DJ. The music became more dance-friendly ("Joy and Pain" etc.). Hercules silently bought another round. The single girl thought of unhappy frat parties as a freshman at Wash. U., her partying senior-year housemates at Penn, with whom she never identified, and sorority rush. Then everyone, grateful for a chance to ditch their troubles, joyfully made asses of themselves on the dance floor.

For much of the dance portion of the evening they were accompanied by a sole stranger. The stranger was, like the other male patrons, tattooed and had facial hair. But he was smaller, and wirier, and he had a wife-beater on and relished dancing to hip-hop. His gyrations were targeted toward a certain ladyfriend who sat front-and-center at the dance floor, captivated. She outstripped him in weight and height by about 40 pounds and four inches.

Then two things happened that scandalized the limo party, who were by this point a little overstimulated and were gathered around a table of half-empty drinks and a ravaged basket of chicken tenders and fries from the outdoor bar fryer. The first thing that happened was that a birthday was announced, and another blow job was ordered. However, in this case the blow job was placed on the center of the dance floor and the "fellator" was a heavy, older woman with bleach-weary hair and a too-tight skirt that revealed her underwear when she bent over. She made quick, dirty, expert work of the blowjob and accepted her kudos from the crowd and the DJ ("Wow, baby, what's your name, you have to come over to my place some time!"). Then the Chippendales couple resumed their routine, even more fiercely than before. The ladyfriend was wearing a big white T-shirt, khaki pants, sneakers, and a bitten lip. It was possible to imagine that she and her private dancer had rolled out of bed at 5 p.m. and come straight to Margarita's as both afterplay and foreplay. When the ladyfriend wasn't cheering on her lover's dance moves, she was up on the floor kissing him or grinding with him. These unexpected displays of sexuality, along with a surfeit of songs featuring Lil' Jon, did most of the limo party in. They straggled toward the door, chanting Hercules' name with forced spirit.

In the car on the way back, the party finished off the Penis Gummies and deconstructed the evening. Much was made of the dance-floor couple and how they "ruined" the atmosphere with their exhibitionism. The single girl defended them as carelessly as she opened a leftover bottle of Mike's Limeade. All she had seen was a couple in love who didn't give a fuck, and she drank to that.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Romantic Dramedy.

Everybody likes to pretend that they have pop-cultural taste, but everyone has fatal blind spots threatening to expose them at all times. One guy at the gym was talking a pretty good game to me, lending me his iPod, until he handed it over loaded with Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. For me, I was embarrassed to admit that sure, I would see Must Love Dogs. It has John Cusack and Diane Lane, right? I would see Must Love Dogs, even though it's a cheesy romantic comedy, but for some unexplained reason I'm going to get snobby and say I would never see something as stupid and gay as Maid in Manhattan.

Well, I'll tell you. I saw Must Love Dogs and they should call it Must Love Crap. The film does manage to establish John Cusack as some kind of prodigy for pulling off romantic, man-boy patter at his advanced stage of puffiness, but it all still falls flatter than the EKG on Dave Chappelle's career.

Meanwhile, I just saw the end of Maid in Manhattan on cable, and I'm ashamed to admit that I enjoyed it more, with the exception of Ralph (Rafe) Fiennes' poor American accent. Maybe it was the subzero expectations. Still, I don't know anyone who would endorse Maid and I know of at least two people who would endorse Dogs. Considering I have a Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam Greatest Hits CD in my collection, I don't know why I ever thought my opinion was credible in the first place.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Please Return Overdue Humans

So, I work for this national media outlet and this story was proposed as a possible item for broadcast. This made me uncomfortable. When the idea was floated, everyone in my meeting said things like, "Hey, that's great!" and "What a great story, we should totally do that."

Am I alone in thinking that the concept of using one person to represent an entire community of people is perhaps a flawed way to combat stereotypes, as this program is alleged to do? I was certainly alone at my table of coworkers.

In other news, if you are the type of person to worry about what you haven't yet done in life or could be doing better, check out the random link of the week as a little kick in the pants for more worrying.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Hall of Literary Shame

Once, a boyfriend stood in my bedroom and perused the top of my dresser, where I had some books neatly lined up for display. "Have you actually read these?" he knew me well enough to ask. "Yes," I reflexively answered with a tone of indignance that did a poor job of masking my guilt. "Well, almost."

Most of the time, you're not going to catch me feeling too guilty about all the titles I haven't read. While I'm sure that Ulysses, for example, is a very good way to pass the time if you are an angst-filled person who doesn't get enough run-on sentences and confusion in real life, I'm currently coasting on having read my fill of disturbing and/or labyrinthine titles as an English major in school (Light in August, anyone? How about Clarissa?). I feel a little bad that I never read Dave Eggers' memoir, even though it seemed nearly all my peers between the ages of 25 and 35 living in New York City in 2000 had read it and loved it, and even though appearing in Eggers' journal McSweeney's has been a lovely thing in my life. I never read For Whom the Bell Tolls. Never read Fast Food Nation... and so on.

Eggers aside, I don't feel bad about missing these books because I have never pretended that I'm going to read them. You can talk to me all day long about what a classic Beowulf is or how interesting The Da Vinci Code was, but I just don't care. (It took me a little longer, but I have also been able to liberate myself from the idea that I am required to hold on to an issue of The New Yorker until I have read almost every article in it.) What I do feel bad about are the books that I consciously took note of, marched myself to the bookstore for (or worse, made unsuspecting relatives march for me, because I asked for the book as a gift), put down on the counter and paid for -- sometimes even in hardcover. Now, they sit unread, testaments to my unworthiness.

The books you buy but never read are the ones that betray who you think you are, or would like to be, but really are not. That's why they cause discomfort. Here are the "dummy titles" I have accumulated:

A Good Life, Ben Bradlee. Thought I was interested in being a gritty, enterprising journalist. But then I found work, as so many others do, as a fake journalist.

John Adams, David McCullough. Somehow, a comprehensive detailing of our second president's career didn't make history exciting and new again. Did I mention it's about John Adams?

The Daniel Boorstin Reader. Who was I kidding? Another failed attempt to achieve historical literacy.

How the Mind Works, Steven Pinker. Guess I didn't really want to know.

Up in the Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell. I actually did manage to read at least 10 percent of this while I was living in New York. While it might make one feel slightly better about the state of one's "junior one-bedroom" and credit card debt to read about New Yorkers who lived significantly darker lives, it remains a depressing exercise to read about a more affordable, more colorful version of the city you are living in.

I'm sure there are more titles to list, but I'll have to vist my parents' and get back to you.

Monday, August 22, 2005


I have achieved a meta-Uncomfortable Moment, wherein I created discomfort by describing something that makes me uncomfortable.

Here's the thing: I don't like to be touched by feet, whether bare or shod. In the case of bare feet, I rarely run into a foot that meets such standards of temperature, moisture, texture and cleanliness such that I wish to have it applied anywhere on my person. To those who do not understand my problem, I might say, how would you like to have a damp chamois cloth that has been used to mop the floor resting comfortably on your knee as you watch TV? What about an alligator's claw, just removed from the freezer, wedged into your calf as you lie in bed?

As for being touched by others' shoes, I brought this up among friends one night at the Big Hunt, specifically with regard to my pet peeve, which is people who, while sitting next to me, cross their legs so that the crossing leg's foot dangles dangerously close to mine. It's like that kid in the commercial who holds his finger an inch from his sister's face and says, "I'm not touching you," only it has the added peril of shoe dirt. I relayed animatedly, for what I thought was comic effect, how nervous I get when another person's shoe is THISCLOSE to my captive leg.

No one at the table laughed or indicated any understanding. Instead I was met with silence and blank stares, perhaps stares tinged with pity. I wanted to put my foot on all of them.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Stow It in the Overhead Compartment.

This particular u.m. is brought to you by Frontier Airlines, my carrier on a recent trip to Colorado. One of the chief benefits of Frontier is that they have cable TV built into the seat-backs, so you can waste three hours sitting around on your ass flipping from one inane show to another like you would at home, only in this case your lazy ass is being transported hundreds of miles at the same time. Pretty cool.

I had secured a window seat (beautiful cumulus clouds and American vistas are no Bravo, but you've got to have something for commercials). The older woman on the aisle and I were already pleasantly ignoring each other when our middle-seater arrived. My new seatmate was a boy who looked to be about 12 years old, which I considered surprisingly fantastic news. First of all, it's rare that sheer chance delivers as a seatmate a person so demographically alien to me as to make small talk virtually impossible. Secondly, it's rare that sheer chance delivers to me the chance to observe what the hell a tweener boy might possibly do with himself when trapped between two people with whom he couldn't have less in common. I had one more channel to watch, and it was sitting right next to me.

As it turned out, the boy read a Calvin and Hobbes compilation, watched a lot of baseball and listened to Green Day, which means he could just have easily been a 35-year-old, regressive nerd. Occasionally, in our flipping, we both settled on Wimbledon and Popeye cartoons. I was happy to leave it at that until that moment came -- the moment of truth confronted by all window-seat lovers.

When nature calls and you're in a window seat, how long will you hold it? Most window-seaters, in my experience, might just as well blend in with the clouds just outside the window. I might avail myself of an opportunity to heed the call of nature if my seatmates oblige, but otherwise I'll just sit in full-bladdered silence, thank you. While lesser travellers might uproot the row at the first sign of discomfort, perseverance is my forte, and I consider it the price of admission for the isolation and rarefied status of the voluntary window-seater.

Finally, I saw that the aisle seat was empty and this kid wasn't going to be budging for the duration of the flight (a young male being like the Michael Jordan of bladders to this lady). So I indicated to him that I was headed out of the row. Now, this kid had been more polite than I expected all along -- he'd said 'hello' when he arrived and helped out with soda communication between me and the flight attendant -- but now, he wasn't going to give it up.

No, this boy pivoted himself about a 30-degree angle and waited for me to traverse the millimeters-wide divide. Too stunned to know what else to do, I began the journey. It started with me grabbing a seat back with force, convulsing the poor seat-occupant in front of my tweener. Whether it was the pained look on my face or the body mass coming his way, the poor child realized too late that he had erred. "Sorry," he muttered, as I gripped seats on either side of him and edged on by, looking like some obscene game of Twister being played out for all the rows behind us to see. All I could think as I passed before him was, "My ass is in front of a 12-year-old boy." I felt like a lap dancer with an illegal client: I mean, God, I don't think my most recent boyfriend had had my ass this close to his face. Thankfully I wouldn't be able to tell you whether he got anything out of it or not, but I'm guessing he did, because despite the extreme discomfort of the whole affair, he still refused to budge when I got back from the restroom and I had to go back in just the way I came. At least chat me up a little if you're going to do that, buddy.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

My Big Mouth.

When I was in elementary school, I took part in an annual program called SAS Day. SAS stood for Sensitivity Awareness Symposium. I cannot recall precisely what the teachings of this Montgomery County Public Schools program were, nor what we talked about, nor what we did. What I do remember is the impression that it formed on my young mind, and the impression was this: that most white people are abhorrent racists, and one must take care never to be seen as a racist or "bigot," and must take care not even to appear white around people of color if one can possibly help it. This abject fear of racial impropriety came back to me today as I was speaking to my boss (who is white). "There are two things from the New York City subway that you don't see here on the D.C. Metro," I said in the course of a conversation about the difference between the two. "Asian women selling, batteries and stuff... and buskers going from car to car."

The odd pause and unnecessary detail about the batteries represent the point in my sentence at which awareness dawned that the coworker directly to my left just happens to be an Asian woman.

Now, this coworker is great and cool and we are friendly. She did not give any sign that she heard the comment, nor did she give any sign of offense if she had. I should also point out that the remark was made in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone, not meant as a joke or a slight. Still -- I had referred to someone as being ASIAN next to another ASIAN! My SAS training had taught me that most references to an ethnicity, to anyone else of that ethnicity, were likely to get me branded as a RACIST. After all, what the hell do I know about Asian ladies selling knickknacks on the train and why do I have to point out the fact that they are Asian, huh? Why don't I just go ahead and say that most Asian women can be found hawking light-up keychains on the MTA??

I quickly e-mailed my mother and my boss to ask what I should do. As I sat there pretending to work but really just staring ahead, paralyzed with fear that I had now established myself as someone who Hates Asians, and possibly damaged a budding friendship with my coworker, I considered the options. I could ignore it and hope that she either didn't hear or didn't care. Or I could confront her, and risk further being ostracized as a racial harasser for targeting my coworker over a harmless comment and asking her to address it, just because she's Asian!

In the end, both my mom and boss said it didn't seem like a big deal and I decided to drop it. Stay tuned for the next time I am in a social setting with my coworker-friend and can't help myself from bringing it up, thereby creating a new UM.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Gettin' My Swerve On.

My excessive internal cringing about this particular moment occasioned the creation of this very Web log (see Introduction). It occurs -- where else? -- in the office, a place so rife with intense, existential discomfort that they made a very successful cable TV show about it. Let me preface this by saying it involves running into a coworker that I don't know very well after having been out drinking and having fun with that person, a situation I always find vaguely scandalous and shameful (unless it was boring, which is a separate kind of shame). One night I went to a bar with a couple of people from my department and this woman, who also works at my place of business but with whom I do not work directly, was there too. Nothing happened other than drunkeness all around and staying out way too late for a weeknight.

So a few days later I'm going about my work-a-doo sillinaz and I see that this coworker is talking with another person as I walk by but she does not see me. As I make my return trip I'm in a conundrum. Am I obligated to stop and chat here, or is it better just to nod hello and move on? Does this person even remember meeting me? And so on. Every interaction, to me, is Humans 101, and I am perpetually earning a D. Once, while I was being fired from a job, the angry-geek-turned-cool-cocaine-snorting-executive who was my boss at the time berated me, "Obviously, you can't read people. And if you can't read people, I don't think we want to continue doing business with you." (This is another uncomfortable moment that I would rather relate when I can be sure everyone is stoned and will not remember.) Well, he was right. I can't read people. People mystify me, which is why I am perpetually uncomfortable.

So as I am walking by my coworker, contemplating what might be the appropriate social response, I fail to realize that the floor I am walking on has suddenly taken a downward slope -- it's a fucking ramp, a stealth ramp right there in the office, surely designed to weed out the weak links in the building. I make a very obvious dip in my gait, looking as if I am preparing to do the limbo, before I try to regain balance. The two women look at me blankly, perhaps wondering if I needed medical attention. "Did you see what I just did??" I said, before imitating myself wildly careening about. They laughed politely and I wondered why I have not been put on some sort of watch list.


For me, when it comes to the creation and/or perception of socially painful situations, there's simply one thing to do: hold on to them, burnish them, and involuntarily relive them from time to time over the next several hours, days, weeks, or years. I guess this comes naturally to someone whose earliest conscious memories involve wetting herself at points well past potty-training age.

Is there any way to exorcise it all? Probably not, but I can share the discomfort with you. Isn't that what the Internet is all about?

I'd like to promise that these are all going to be original, laugh-out-loud funny and the peak of neurotoxicity. Instead I'll promise that they will often be better than these, with the exception of the "JOY to the WORLD" entry on said page, the sexual undertones of which constitute a meta-awkward moment constituting some kind of fucking genius.