Thursday, December 24, 2009

Adventures in Bad Dating: My Agony Becomes Your Christmas Gift

Remember Stare Hard? If that post doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this one will. I don't know what came over me, but the staring continued (or so I thought) and nothing happened. And finally I decided to pull on my big girl pants and do something about it. Something that would fix all of this: either be done or see if there is anything there.

Stare Hard loves hockey. So, I "came into" some tickets to the game last Saturday, invited him. He bit. And it all went downhill from there. My chicken-like ways prompted me to utilize the facebook emailing system to instigate this invitation. And while he promptly responded to the initial invitation, getting him to respond back regarding an actual plan, any plan, took nearly an entire week. And apparently asking if he wanted to do dinner beforehand was requesting too much because, "I can't do dinner beforehand. I am making cookies or something for my Home Teaching families." Hello, the game starts at 7:05. On a Saturday. You can't make cookies (or something) a little earlier in the day?

So there I sat in my pajamas reading this message on a Saturday morning dreaming up a bad case of stomach flu. Because if cookies (or something) for Home Teaching is more important, then clearly I was being used for hockey. And I'm pretty sure I was.

*No, I did not do this to my date at any point in the evening. Wanted to, but didn't.*

It was a bad date. Probably one of the worst in my oh-so-stellar dating career.

It isn't so much the fact that he was late picking me up, or that he talked about himself and himself only on the way to the game. And that he admitted he once tried his hand at improv comedy and proceeded to tell me about The Rules of Improv (because that topic is so very scintillating): is forgivable, in a way of speaking. It isn't even that he stopped me at the top of our portal into the arena with a, "Wait, it is bad hockey etiquette to enter while the puck's in play." Because, while he doesn't get dating etiquette--clearly--he at least understands the intricate workings of sports arena politeness. Frankly, I was even okay that the conversation during the game was minimal. After all, we were there for the game. And the conversation would have dwelt primarily on his absolutely uninteresting lameness. (And this is coming from a girl who revels in her own nerdery.)

No, all these dating faux pas are not what made this date worse than the hobbit who judged the size of my salad. What made this date hit a 10.0 on the richter scale of dating disasters was the following scenario which took place after the game...

We enter his car. 2 Points for him, he opened my door. I start up more conversation, assuming this will be the plan for our ride home, or to a restaurant where he maybe won't be quite so awkward (since the first part of the date is over, any way--and it is only a little after nine and he was making cookies (or something) beforehand so maybe he's hungry too).

"That's right, you grew up in Seattle, didn't you?" I say. Because, while I may not be perfect, I am a good date who still tries to make the conversation interesting.

"Yup," he grunts and reaches for the dash.

Suddenly the radio shifts into a much louder position. And on this radio is nothing other than the post-game commentary for a game we just attended. I listened to the post-game commentary on a date. He actually wouldn't talk to me as he drove me home unless it was to interject with, "What they're saying here is that the little refs gave (enter some hockey player's name here) a penalty because he hurt their little EGOS. They couldn't handle it."

It was bad my friends. Very bad. And as he dropped me off, car still running (and possibly not even in park), something about his Star Wars toy collection came out. And I laughed. In his face. Because he is 38 and collects Star Wars toys and doesn't realize that, when on a date, 99% of his normal, albeit clueless, behavior needs to be hidden if he ever wants to find someone non-klingon to mother his children. It all paralleled The 40-year-old Virgin a little too closely. And as I walked to my door I wondered if I should start a consulting business. I could charge men for lessons on what to do and, more importantly, what not to do. Because, if dating has taught me anything (beyond the fact that I usually do not like it), it is that men (or at least the men I date) are no good at this and clearly stand in need of help.

Instead of this business venture, however, the roommate and I laughed at the disaster over a Super Bird at Denny's, because I'm no Hitch, A. And B., she realizes that cookies (or something) can wait.

Friday, December 18, 2009


I like stumbling on images that just fit.

This so represents how I feel about language...and letters.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

To Whom It May Concern

As application deadlines approach, I've been writing my annual lot of student recommendation letters--which I usually rather enjoy (as long as I have something good to say about the budding adult). In this rush of letters about others, I wondered what I'd have to say about myself were I to write my own recommendation. I am, unsurprisingly, my own worst critic. So, as an experiment in positive self talk (and maybe a bit of self-deprecating humor), my letter of recommendation to the human race:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in regard to an individual very close to me whom I've known some 28 years: myself. This woman offers the qualities of a loyal friend, a deep thinker with an appreciation for crude potty humor, a better-than-average writer, and an understanding teacher. She is an asset, except, perhaps, on her bad days. Although she has a lengthy list of faults, her sense of ethics forces her to try and make up for them in every possible way. To boot, she is well-accessorized and generally smells good.

As a friend, this fine woman is prized. She may forget to send your birthday card on time, but she comes with a listening ear and a willingness to help. And provide chocolate. Her general sense of empathy and compassion is the foundation of each of her friendships. She prefers a deeper bond than mere acquaintance and therefore may divulge too much personal information in an attempt to form said bond. And while she listens intently, she also talks incessantly once comfortable. Her tangents will take you to wonderful ideas (but forget it if you want to come full circle).

While she loves to delve into deep and contemplative topics, a good fart joke can make this lady giggle until she cries. But don't let her affinity toward the off-color deceive you, at heart she is a fan of foreign films, intelligent conversation, poetry and art.

As a writer, she is clean and precise. She views words as her friends, her best medium of self-expression. And though some hate what she writes and others love it, she feels she can't quite make it stop. Her mind works in language. Even if she is a hack job amateur writer, what she lacks in talent, she certainly makes up for in passion. She should write more often, but that would detract from her other love: the classroom.

Adolescents are not a highly regarded segment of the populace, but this woman actually appreciates them and their growing worlds. She likes to see how they think, how they blossom in that knowledge as they grasp concepts and master skills. She also thinks them entirely entertaining. If you ask her about this job, give yourself adequate time as you can expect a lengthy conversation ranging from her concerns for adolescents to her pride in their successes (with a few humorous anecdotes about the woes of 9th graders thrown in).

All in all, though I could point out each of her blemishes and weaknesses like I can pick out a type-o, she ain't that bad of a gal. And, you can call me vain all you'd like, but I would kill for her hair if I didn't already have it myself.

The One Who Knows Her Best (hopefully)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Or Do Without

My parents, bless them, are cheap. Not about everything. (This is not entirely true. My father in all actually is cheap about everything. He has been known to bring cars back to temporary life through the use of a paper clip and gum wrapper. I ordered off the kids' menu until I was 15. "Frugal" doesn't even begin to describe the man.) But there are some modern luxuries the rest of us enjoy that my parents feel can wait. A DVD player, for instance, didn't make its way into their house until recent years. My mother was amazed by the apple cutter she used while visiting my sister's family and begged me to price one out at the store for her. Some of this behavior is a direct result of my mother's absolute repulsion to shopping. She loathes it. My dad loves a good discount grocery store; but beyond getting a steal of a deal on food stuffs he'd rather gouge out his own eyes a la Oedipus.

To an extent I admire their make-do attitude. Luxury items, after all, are not necessary. To simplify is no easy task and yet they've gone with the simple my entire life. While the rest of the country indulged in excess during the past 15 years, my parents chugged along in blissful ignorance of the iPod. Things have never been their, well, thing.

But our greatest strength can also be our greatest weakness. You see, about five years ago my parents' circa 1970's oven died entirely. I say "entirely" because my father kept it functioning (with paper clips and gum wrappers, no doubt) for several months. In the five years spent without an oven, my parents have discovered "alternatives" to what most in the mainstream culture deem a necessary major appliance. In those five years they have acquired rotisserie cookers, turkey roasters, toaster ovens, and much, much more. An industrial shelf to house these many appliances has been wedged into their already-cramped kitchen. In the past five years they have cooked entire casseroles on the outdoor grill, baked a mere 4-5 cookies at once in the toaster oven, and essentially driven those of us who understand that functioning ovens are neither luxurious nor excessive stark raving mad.

Now I ask you, dear reader, who does this? Who views this "little blip" in nearly every recipe as a slight challenge? For a woman who hates shopping, my mother has certainly grown familiar with the small appliance aisle at Sears! I've tried an intervention. I've tried sending her links of reasonable used and new ovens advertised on Craig's List. Still she insists on the oven-less path. My mother, the one most likely to see the possible value of a DVD player, is hellbent on not getting a new oven more than my painfully tight-wad-ish father (he misses cake).

So what does a girl like me do? I think I'm in over my head. I think I need to find an affordable oven and show up with it strapped to the roof of my car, unannounced. I think their entire kitchen needs a makeover. I think I better find a fierce paper clip and a heavy duty gum wrapper.

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Singles' Ward: An Amateur's Quasi-Field Study of a Most Curious Culture

The roommate and I tried sneaking into church rather late yesterday. Sneaking anywhere in two-inch wedges (2" = my limit; 3" seems downright cruel) with two large bags in tow (my purse is big--my church bag is ridiculous) always proves interesting. Sneaking through the entire congregation to the only seats available "up front" lends its own special form of embarrassment. Anyway, the point here is that I was late. And when I'm that late I find it difficult to focus on the messages shared. And when I'm lacking focus in a room with folks to observe (say the airport, or, in this scenario, church) I tend to people watch. More than I ought. And, as a woman of some education with a brain trained for analysis, I sometimes consider that which I notice.

In the airport I make up stories about where strangers are going, who they are meeting, what they are running away from. Church-People Watching, however, is vastly different from Airport-People Watching. Because, in theory, one already knows these people at church. Or, at the very least, one knows of them: their names (if you can keep them straight), where they work (because what else do you talk about with people you share few commonalities with?), their clique (oh yes, singles' wards are nothing if not clique-ish). And one has to be careful about being caught because, well, one knows these subjects. And staring might make them think one has some message to relay. Or, even worse, if caught staring too frequently at someone of the opposite sex, it can very easily translate into one becoming the (insert any physical characteristic here--hot, fat, skinny, sweet-spirited, tall, short, handsome, old, young, blonde, ugly, pretty) girl/guy with a crush.

You see, women in the singles' ward far outnumber the men. And this disproportionate ratio thoroughly destroys all acknowledgement of male fault or folly while simultaneously accentuating every female flaw and blemish. Likewise, this numbers game (along with attitudes to be discussed later ) has ellicited a heightened competition amongst many of the females (go here if you don't believe me).

So if one looks and looks again, it surely must mean something more than the innocent curiosity that typically motivates people watching. Here you were pondering the stained athletic socks they chose to pair with their suit (Out of clean laundry? Fashionably clueless?) and the next thing you know they're trying to awkwardly flirt in the hallway as if you're both in on some little lovers' secret. You can see the danger here. More commonly, the "victim" of innocent Church-People Watching has mysteriously dropped off the "perpetrator's" facebook friends list and if said "perpetrator" so much as shares a friendly hello the "victim's" eyes get a little shifty as they duck into the nearest restroom. The "kinder" variety will simply blather on about someone from work they are interested in taking to the lights at Temple Square as a means of hinting that you're-not-that-someone-you-thought-you-might-be-based-on-the-staring-you-were-clearly-involved-in-during-sacrament-wink-wink.

To simplify that: one's innocent people watching clearly indicates attraction. Because, beyond a shared religious belief, if there is a primary commonality amongst those in the singles' ward it is this: delusion.

The delusion is palpable. Apparently happily-ish married church leaders believe that placing all single adults with a pulse in the same building together for three hours a week, and then encouraging them to come to various "fun-filled" (read: painful) activities throughout the week will automatically result in more happily-ish married couples. And the semi-young lad with the stained athletic socks and bad haircut who is, bless him, proudly employed in the telemarketing industry thinks himself the matrimonial equal of a young Marie Osmond with hints of Stepford woven in. And well-educated, career-driven, relatively feminist women in two-inch wedges (I said "relatively" feminist) such as myself actually think they will find compatibility within their own sect. Delusion is the name of the game.

Which isn't to say that coupling in one form or another doesn't occur. Hands are held, flirtations are flaunted, backs are scratched, closed-eyed swan dances are danced. The singles' ward and adolescents (yes, some in the singles' ward are adolescents) have this in common: yack-worthy levels of physical affection instigated by an abnormal spike in unsatiated hormonal activity.

Beyond shared religious belief and delusion, there is a third phenomenon particularly intriguing: pressure. Though slightly less palpable than the aforementioned delusion to the outside observer, most members of a singles' ward congregation recognize within a fairly short amount of time that there is a subliminal message much like microscopic mold spores circulating in the air. Pressure. Communication between religious and familial leaders and the single congregation is laced with this pressure: marry and be made whole. Lessons are taught, meetings are made, activities are designed all with one purpose: to get the relatively feminist career woman in two-inch wedges and the telemarketer in athletic socks to notice one another's "potential" (read: ignore all warning signs that your fiancee is really a creeper in disguise) and eventually wed.

I suppose any issues of incompatibility after pressed nuptials take place are technically no longer the responsibility of the singles' ward religious leadership. And, after all, shared religious belief and delusion have many happy-ish marriages made.

Also, lest you think I'm entirely pessimistic on the singles' ward front, let it be known that free food that I didn't have to cook often shows up with the delusion, pressure, and general sense of awkwardness. And, might I add, I looked damn good in those two-inch wedges.