Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Dirty but Important Question

Internets! Help me out. I've sold another essay (yay) to some very nice folks and, in the editing process, a question was raised:

To what does "second base" refer?

In my essay, I reflect on an encounter in summer camp where my boyfriend continually tried and failed to get me excited about him. I should never have dated him; I wasn't attracted to him, and I couldn't make myself pretend. This meant our relationship had an antebellum quality: we held hands, we took walks, he kissed me and I allowed it. It was all very proper and chaste.

Sure, we were 13. But this was a guy whose exploits with his previous girlfriend were legendary. In fact, I think he rather fancied himself a Barney (in the "How I Met Your Mother" sense, not the "Flintstones" sense).

On the last day of camp, he made a desperate move. While his mother waited outside in the minivan, he brought me back into his empty bunk, looked into my eyes, and told me that he loved me.

I knew what he meant. I was a pretty savvy -- and somewhat cynical -- middle-schooler. His "I love you" was a grand gesture, one that was meant to sweep me off my feet and, most importantly, out of my shirt.

Thinking fast, I ran through my options. (What would Scarlet O'Hara do?) I couldn't lie and say I loved him too. All the same, I couldn't be honest and confess I didn't love him, that I didn't even like him. Not on the last day of camp!

His was, indeed, a very clever gambit. As I saw it, I had one course of action, and I followed it: I cried. Thus I was spared from having to give any answer and from having to engage in any hanky-panky.

Ah, the love lives of teenagers. Very well. In the essay, I refer to boob-related hanky-panky as "second base." My editor flagged that. Her husband, she said, recalled a different definition of the term. This stupid t-shirt seems to agree with me. Wikipedia has opinions, of course, but my editor specifically asked me to survey my friends, who are more reliable.

Friends, what say you? 2nd base = boobs? Or something else altogether?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Post 1,500!

In honor of this momentous occasion, we're having ribs.

We're also having contradictions. Perhaps this is the Walt Whitman problem ("I am large, I contain multitudes"). Perhaps it's just a 4th Cold Rainy Day in a Row problem (I am sulky, I am dissatisfied). Just for example:

I want to buy an apartment
I want to move to Taiwan

I want to lose weight
I want to love myself

I bought these shoes cuz they were cute
I bought these shoes cuz they were on sale
(These shoes give me blisters and I'm still wearing them)

This makes it all better:

{via DailyPuppy}

Monday, August 16, 2010

The More You Know ...

PSA of the week, courtesy of my having time to kill. You're welcome.

 Men more likely to cheat on women with bigger paychecks, study says - CNN.com. Like MUCH more likely: "Men who are completely economically dependent on their female partners are five times more likely to cheat than men in relationships with women who earned similar amounts."

Thanks, CNN! I needed an excuse to hop off the career ladder and focus on my writing which, in the past six months, has netted me a total of $100.00. It does seem to me, though, that a man who is completely economically dependent on his female partner is a unicorn. Could anyone really gather enough unicorns to make a statistically-significant sample?

Mythology aside, I can't resign myself to a happy, faithful, penurious marriage just yet, because, as we know from the Sopranos, Mad Men, and the entire history of EVERYTHING since we got down from the trees, "A man who makes significantly more money than his girlfriend or wife is also more likely to cheat."

Hmmm, it's wet and salty in here. Where are we again, exactly? Oh yes: we're in a pickle. By "we," of course, I mean ladies. We're damned if we support a guy and damned if we are supported by him. Is there any hope in sight, CNN-cited pseudo-scientists?

"Men in relationships with women who made about 75 percent of the men's income were the least likely to cheat."

Well! There it is. Make exactly 3/4 of whatever your resident male rakes in and you'll be set. Or go lez. I know which I think would be less of a hassle.

There are fun facts aplenty in this article about How Not to Die While Walking from the NYT. Don't cross in the crosswalk, for example. Avoid "crosstown thoroughfares like 125th Street or Canal Street," where half of all pedestrian deaths occur. (Yikes!)

You want more? Of course you do:
Do not go anywhere between 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., stick to the side streets and skip Manhattan entirely. ... cabs accounted for far fewer pedestrian accidents in Manhattan than privately owned vehicles. Jaywalkers, surely the city’s most numerous scofflaws, were involved in fewer collisions than their law-abiding counterparts who waited for the "walk" sign — although accidents involving jaywalkers are more likely to result in death.

And one discovery could permanently upend one of the uglier stereotypes of the motoring world: in 80 percent of city accidents that resulted in a pedestrian's death or serious injury, a male driver was behind the wheel. (Fifty-seven percent of New York City vehicles are registered to men.)
This edition of "the More You Know" is brought to you by my latent anti-man bias, apparently. Some of my closest friends are guys, I swear!

One last tidbit: "Pedestrians would be well advised to favor sidewalks to the right of moving traffic — left-hand turns were three times as likely to cause a deadly crash as right-hand turns." Left-hand turns: sinister & deadly. Got it.

By the way, feeling good about America these days? You shouldn't be.

Lastly, this just in: Power corrupts! No word yet on "absolute power," but I have a working hypothesis.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Offend Midwesterners in 3 Easy Steps

First, accidentally insult their taste in literature, like so:

SETTING: Airport bookstore.
PERSONAE: Two middle-aged blonde ladies, nicely blow-dried and made-up, browsing the mass-market paperbacks, and me, a compulsive know-it-all.

LADY 1: Is this any good? [holds up Girl with the Dragon Tattoo]
LADY 2: Oh, I don't know! I was wondering that too!
ME: Yes! It's great. I read all of them. They're good! And I don't even usually read that stuff!


LADY 1: Oh! ... What do you read?

Next, get really flustered, look blank, and when you finally begin speaking again, use the lord's name in vain.

ME [flailing pathetically]: Oh! ... God, everything ... books ...

Finally, exacerbate the problem by continuing to babble and then running away. 

ME: I'm sorry, that sounded so snobby! I didn't mean -- uh --  I mean -- bye! 

I am officially almost as bad as Sarah "Um, all of them" Palin

Otherwise, my first visit to the hot, beating heart of America, St. Louis, MO, went smoothly. Except for the fact that, five minutes into the first big group meeting, I dropped a pretzel down my shirt and couldn't find it. I didn't want to be caught staring into my own cleavage, but come on! A chunk of wheaty goodness covered in salt doesn't just disappear.

Being that it was 100 degrees out there in flyover country, I had to worry what kind of radioactive effect my bosom would have on that pretzel -- would it turn into Spider Man? or the delicious mutant equivalent? Worse, would it decide to stage a re-entrance by falling out of my clothes at an inopportune moment? 

Even went I ducked into a bathroom to fiddle around with my bra, I couldn't find the offender, so I had to give up and live in fear. Luckily, the pretzel and I both emerged unscathed from the experience: it showed up later, looking all innocent, on my hotel room floor, and I managed to give away every business card I'd brought with me without being overtaken by a monstrous sweaty monster bursting out of my shirt. Win-win! 

Friday, August 06, 2010

The Best American Writing of 2010

Poetry by people who hate Elena Kagan and, most likely, all recent developments since Fluoridated water:
"The first thing wrong with this appointment; it is wrong according to the bible. Second she is againist the military which would place her in an unamerician position, therefore should have been rejected. Every senator who voted yes should be impeached for lack of mental ability to ascertain right from wrong"

"This is a sad day for God fearing,Jesus loving strate people in the US.As long as obama is in office he knows he has one sure voteon the court hopefully his will be a short stay."

"Jews make up less than 3 percent of the US population. Jews now make up 33.33 percent of the US Supreme Court. Something is WRONG with this picture. Only a handful of Bolshevik Jews took control of Russia in 1917 and eventually slaughtered tens of millions of Orthodox Christians. America, BEWARE."

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Gun on the Wall

When I picked up an unabridged (though yes, translated) version of the the Canterbury Tales a couple of weeks ago, I'm not sure what I was expecting. Stories, of course. So many novels lately successfully weave together loosely-related stories: A Visit from the Goon Squad, which was so exciting it had me up at 3:00 AM thinking about narrative; The Imperfectionists, which is not quite as good as I hoped it would be, but still worth reading; Olive Kitteridge; and the Ms. Hempel Chronicles, off the top of my head. I wanted to see how the master, and perhaps originator, of the genre pulled it off.

I knew some of the stories would be a little bawdy, others would be religious, and many, if not most, would have morals. But I was not prepared for what I found. In fact I was so unprepared that, reading it on the subway one morning across from an Orthodox mother and daughter, I got so flustered I had to turn the book over on my lap.

Friends, Chaucer likes the word "cunt."

Sure, he's not the only one. Characters on the Sopranos made liberal use of the word, usually as a prelude to or an excuse for murder. Henry Miller sprinkles it on his prose like salt. But everyone knows that Henry Miller is rated R, or NC-17. I had no idea the Canterbury Tales were. They seem so staid simply by virtue of being old.

That's the real shock here. It's not just that Chaucer enjoys an edgy, monosyllabic word that perhaps carried less weight in England 700 years ago than it does in the US today. (Seems possible, according to one etymological history.) It's that these pilgrims, Chaucer's characters, have such gleefully filthy imaginations. Wives cheat on husbands with students, lodgers, cousins, monks, anyone available, really. Virgins are hardly immune from the lust that seems to overtake married women: when they are surprised by amorous fellas, they give as good as they get. And men? Men will leap on anything with two legs and a hole.

That, in short, is the venerable, aged, enduring classic the Canterbury Tales: smut, smut, more smut, some boring moralizing, a dash of out-of-the-blue Jew hate, followed by smut, smut, smut, and smut. Okay! Now the naked Chaucer from A Knight's Tale makes more sense to me.

Also shocking: I discovered this weekend, when I went home to join my family in picking out a headstone, that my father had a gun. True story. The man who, as far as I know, only ever shot off his mouth, bought a Smith & Wesson in New Mexico and brought it to DC shortly after moving there. The same Wild West instincts that were guiding him told him not to bother with a permit, apparently.

My mother bound the gun up in a kerchief inside an Anne Klein shoebox, which she taped shut and kept in her closet. And that's where it stayed. I never heard about, nor saw, the gun. Until now.