Thursday, April 27, 2006

Nae, Laddie, Nae.

A first: Yesterday I encountered a man at my office who was wearing a skirt. I saw him again today, at the elevator, wearing a skirt of a different color.

There is pretty much no way to see a guy hangin' around wearing a skirt in your office and be cool about it. My approach was to glance down at his legs, realize what he was wearing, quickly yet still too-obviously avert my eyes, and proceed past him as quickly as possible.

I mean if you are male and wearing a skirt in the office, you might as well just wear a matching t-shirt that says, "Ask me about my man-skirt." Well, I do not want to ask about the man-skirt or even let on that I noticed it. That's because whenever I sense that someone is tacitly seeking attention in some way, my first reaction is to ignore that person as completely as possible.

However, I did involuntarily see the label on the skirt, which was Utilikilt. That would be a "Mens Unbifurcated Garment," in case you required clarification.

Are these items being worn by Scotsmen who are proudly guarding their heritage, if not their balls? No, according to the Utilitykilts people. "The only common denominator amongst [our customers] is self-possession and courage. Our customers dare to be comfortable."

Actually, there are several other common denominators amongst "UKers," judging by the site's photo galleries: beards, pale skin, and a fondness for computers seem to be pretty much standard. Tattoos and self-importance also appear to be popular accessories.

Just imagine if everyone "dared to be comfortable" at the office. Imagine all the napping, elastic waistbands, exposed feet and escaped gas. Unfortunately, one person's comfort-courage usually has a price, that being a palpable drop in comfort for those who are forced to witness it.

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Snacking and the Damage Done.

First you make your habits, and then your habits make you.
You become a slave to your constantly repeated acts.
What at first you choose, at last compels.

I encountered this bit of Successories-style wisdom as I was contemplating my fourth (snack-size!) bag of Party Mix today.

Party Mix has been my master for about three years now. Like many addicts, I'm not sure exactly when or how it got so bad. It all started innocently enough, with a trip to the vending machine in the cafeteria at work.

At that machine I found the pefect antidote such dire circumstances as being in an office at 4 p.m. "Can't decide between Cheetos, BBQ Fritos, Doritos, pretzel rounds or tortilla rounds? Well, why not enjoy them all in one glorious snacking power play?" That's what the Party Mix bag said to me, and I heeded the call.

It never seemed to matter that I always felt a little ill after eating it. It didn't matter that I never saw another human buying it or consuming it. All that mattered was how the crunchity saltiness seemed somehow to take away the pain for a few minutes.

The problem only worsened when I left one job for another, trading my old "dealer" (which stocked Keystone) for a new vending machine, where the Party Mix was of the Utz variety (higher quality, with a reassuring "0g Trans Fats!" label) and the bags were bigger and more expensive.

The seating arrangement at my office in D.C. lent itself to easy daily scrutiny of eating habits, and it wasn't long before it became clear to my coworkers that I was unable to get through an afternoon without eating a bag of P.M. I tried to kick by using other snacks -- Soy Nuts, Sun Chips -- but those were to Party Mix what O'Doul's is to Guinness.

One podmate was particularly good at giving me a chuckling look when I would try to return nonchalantly to my desk with the sodiumtastic combo of P.M. and D.C. (Diet Coke) in hand. It was a look that said "I see you," and "Oh, you poor thing," and "Your lack of discipline is endlessly amusing." My only consolation was that through sheer force of daily exposure to me, she too became addicted (though not as badly) and I could know I was not alone.

When I left Washington and moved into an office with a P.M.-free vending machine, I thought my long struggle was finally over. I could now feel what it was like to enjoy an afternoon without red 40 lake, disodium guanylate, "natural smoke flavor" and the other mystery ingredients with which I had been poisoning myself five days a week.

I was not to taste that freedom. Within a week of my arrival, a case of 60 bags of Party Mix arrived from Utz Quality Foods, Inc., courtesy of my former D.C. podmates (or "enablers") -- a gesture that proves what a thin line it is between love and hate. I tried to explain to my new S.F. coworkers why a huge cardboard box teeming with purple snackfood bags was at my desk, but they seemed to find it more disturbing than amusing.

Now, having failed to initiate any dependencies among my officemates here, I have been left to face my demons alone. The Utz trove mocks me daily, seemingly refilling itself from the bottom. And I am here eating away, stuck at a Party that never ends...

Monday, April 10, 2006

Veiled Threat: Part One.

I became engaged in February, and when the news was announced, my sister was among the first to step up with a token. "Here," she said with a snicker, and pushed across her kitchen counter a two-inch copy of The Knot magazine.

Having previously spent my energy on deflecting solid relationships and honing an arsenal of solitary rituals, I was as suprised as anyone to find myself in the target demographic of The Knot or any other bridal publication. But here I was, reading it with a mixture of fear, excitement and mostly confusion.

My wedding experience up to now amounts to one underwhelming performance as a bridesmaid and a handful of attendances as a thoroughly uninvolved guest. Generally, my interest in wedding details can be summed up as "Where is the bar," "Did I miss eating anything" and "How can I get out of this conversation."

Now, I am facing primers on invitation wording and guides to fine china. "I am not the kind of girl who always imagined what her wedding day would be like," I said mid-freakout to Mike, who is my fiance. (When we were going out, Mike used to complain about how engaged people cling to the word fiance. "There is no difference between being a fiance and being boyfriend and girlfriend," he declared. "You're either married, or you're not. There's no special, in-between status." Now that we're engaged, of course, he has come around to the word, but not before leaving me with a near inability to say it any other way than with faux pretension, the way we did pre-betrothal: "Fee YAWN say.")

"Well, do you want to walk down the aisle?" Mike said. "What do you mean?" I said. "Do you want a ceremony where you enter alone and walk down the aisle? Not everyone has an aisle," he informed me. "Of course I want an aisle," I said. "See? You have some ideas about what you want for your wedding," he said. And the sheer mind-blowing dimensions of decision-making chain I was about to encounter became that much clearer.

One of the weirdest parts of the magazine my sister gave me is the bridal gowns section, which takes up a considerable amount of the issue. One of the first things that struck me about bridal fashion is that unlike in other types of fashion, the models are not threatening. In many cases, they look positively suicidal and leave me hoping that whatever happens, I will not end up looking like the person pictured in the dress and have some hope of doing better for myself.

The other bizarre aspect of bridal fashion photography is the way models are often set up to appear in scenarios that, if they are lucky, most real-life brides will never find themselves in. I liked this one so much that I gave it my own caption.