Monday, June 28, 2010

Which Is Getting Hot: The Atmosphere, Or My Co-Workers?

Does this man look good to you? Are you wondering where you can find someone like him?

Have you been wondering lately, "Why can't I talk to a nice, handsome, wholesome, smart dude to save my life? Where are they hiding all of them? And how do I get in?"

Have you been wondering why all your co-workers are totally undateable and think that it's a miracle that there are any real-life Pam and Jim romances?

And hey, do you need a job?

A job in which you can be surrounded by hot, passionate, articulate, intelligent, college-aged students? And also make a pretty nice weekly base salary? And also make a difference in your state's political and
environmental scene? And also drive, bike, drink beer, eat pizza, throw parties, or go on camping trips with them?

Canvassing. Good, old-fashioned, door-to-door canvassing and campaigning. I recently took a job with VPIRG, doing summer canvassing about using renewable resources in Vermont. The hours are long and mean I can't eat a week-night dinner out before 11 PM, but I get mornings and weekends off and it's rewarding to talk to nearly thirty strangers every day. Today, I spent five minutes talking with a blind man who told me some of the most cuttingly hilarious jokes I have ever heard, who then donated $15 to our cause. It's the little things like that that really make it worth it to me. That, and my really attractive co-workers.

Sure, not all of them look like social activist Leo, here, but, smart men and the environment. Can I sign any of you up?


Saturday, June 26, 2010

A Potent Publican Primer: Red Square

Nora couldn’t get the name of the bar right to save her life. It was “the Red Hexagon.” “The Red Parallelogram.” “The Red Circle.” It ended up being fitting. Madison couldn't close her tab without another shot of tequila. We came full-circle from drunk to drunk.

If they have a live DJ, it is probably the best place in Burlington to dance, other than at a show at High Ground or Nectar’s. The sleeze category of Lift or Rasputin’s stays at Lift or Rasputin’s, and the place is smaller, more intimate. Dress ranges from 30-something women in their J. Crew “going out” dresses to college students who wander in in the same tank and shorts they wore to North Beach earlier in the day. The waitresses are good. Capable. Veteran. They have to be.

Bouncers are another story. The bouncer looks at my ID, then back up at me. “You just made it,” he tells me. I want to fist my hands in my hair and scream. It’s been this way for the past few days. Kind hostesses wish me a happy belated birthday; bald and beefy security men eye me up and down and offer me a gruff “Congratulations,”; and these tall and weedy pricks at the trendy bars make a huge fucking deal about the fact that 2, 4, or 14 days ago, they would have gotten to bounce me out on my size 6 ass. I want to tell him I was probably drinking before he was. (It could be true.) Instead, I smile tightly and slip into what Alli has dubbed the “heinous bitch” demeanor.

Over a week later. Same bar. Could be the same bouncer, but then again, they all look the same, as if their high school basketball starting-forward days were the best they ever had and ever will have. Same dilemma. “So how’s it feel?” he asks me as I retrieve my ID from him and start to slide in the front door. I decide this jig is up and I’m tired, like so lately in life, of being continuously run over and pretending to not care.

“Well. I just came back from 4 months in Italy, so the bar scene is not new. And I figure, I just now legally get to do everything I’ve been doing since I was 14, so, it’s no big deal, right?”

He looks confused, like he wasn’t expecting that much information, and then just nods. “Yeah.”

The problem with the Red Four-Equilateral-Sided-Shape is, it’s where everyone wants to see and be seen under the mortician’s red lighting. The seats that spill into the alley and onto Church Street are prime see-and-be-seen territory. Some of my older friends, who I used to consider helplessly cool and aloof and just slightly affected in that way that all college students hope they come off as “worldly”, become much more human to me as I watch them shell out three bucks for a can of PBR and perch on the wrought iron chairs, trying, and failing, to look like it still isn’t a big deal. They are, like me, much more at home in the darker, quieter, wood-paneled bars, but if you are over 21, and if you’re in Burlington, you still feel this inexplicable need to go to Red Square, where the drinks are overpriced, the cocktails are almost too heavy on the liquor, the lighting is atrocious, and yet, you can’t help but wanting to be a part of it all.

And at the end of the night, what are you left without, other than an impending hangover in the morning?

Intextication. It's what happens on your cell phone when you get drunk. Luckily for some of us, the quick text link to Twitter is right beneath other phone numbers in our Favorites list, and we end up sending some of those texts to Twitter instead of the intended recipient. Rendering us a little less annoying, and the Twitterverse a bit more amused.

Intoxuation. It's fleeting infatuation that only occurs while you're slurring. So, texting things like "I miss you" at 3 AM while fueled with beer and rum is not the best idea. Because you can guarantee that when you wake up the next morning, you'll still be mad, and not only still mad, but now mad and mortified.

There hasn't been a dryspell like this since Jagger sung "I can't get no SAT-IS-FAC-TION!" In the end, I even kept space between me and George.


Friday, June 25, 2010

Have Some Patience.

This is my friend Patience.

Patience can write. Listen to Patience's lyrics.

I just got internet in the new apartment and need to do about an afternoon's worth of research before my next post, so, until then, I fully encourage you to check out Paish's stuff. Because she's kind of amazing. And I'm not just saying that because she barks like a dog for my benefit and is the sort of girl friend who always will appreciate the wackiest things you do, like hanging over the back of the couch and pulling funny faces and being publicly awkward. I'm saying that because her songs get stuck in my head and make me sing or hum along and then I feel like a really awkward personal friend groupie. So if it makes me a complete fool, guaranteed you'll probably enjoy it, too.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Porn For Women

I was in Borders (aka: where I have been living lately without internet,) with a friend the other day, scoping out movies after I recalled, from some distant, vague, groggy middle-school memory, the gem of a movie "Someone Like You" and decided I could not live without it. Girls being girls, after I had my copy in hand, Trish and I lingered among the DVDs, pointing out our favorites and asking if the other had ever seen them. We agreed that "Valentine's Day" was cute and likable yet replaceable; that the "Ugly Truth" got a far worse rap than it deserved as we both really liked the truths in it; and then moved on to the slasher flicks. But as we wandered down the lane of "Shutter Island" and "Midnight Meat Train" (NOT a porno as one might expect-- as Trish said, "When I watched it, I was just waiting for some huge black dude to bust in and be like, 'You can't handle my meat!'"), one last movie caught our eye: "He's Just Not That Into You."

If you haven't been reading for so long, one of my first posts was a review of the movie. We both settled into a contented silence looking at the DVD cover before Trish said, "I really like Ben Affleck. You know that scene where he's in the kitchen...?"

EVERY woman knows that moment. That scene, as Jennifer Aniston walks into the kitchen after looking at the sedentary schmucks her sisters married, and finds Ben with kitchen towel and dish soap in hand, and seeing him for the first time since they split, her face starts to crumble into tears of sadness-cum-joy as he puts a plate in the drying rack...that is porn for women.

It's not so much the act of washing the dishes that does it. I've seen men clean before. I've been with some pretty productive men when it comes to cleaning. I've watched a man wash his dishes before, and really, that didn't do it for me. What it is-- what is IS-- is that moment where you see a woman who's floundering in life, after losing her long-time partner, after her beloved father falls into bad health, as she tries to keep her family together, walk into a room and see the last person she would ever expect be the one who's there for her when she needs it the most. Any woman who has ever been in a tight spot knows how much just knowing there's someone in your corner helps. Any woman who has ever been cynical about things working out, only to be proven wrong, knows what that moment feels like. All women relate to that. The problem is, not all woman have that "aha" moment in their kitchen, or, for that matter, anywhere else. It's like an urban dating myth. And that's why it's porn for women.

It's unexpected from men, and that's why we love it so. We're used to one thing, and seeing the reverse happen is refreshing and full of hope. A man's dick, as I realized the other day, is not Marco Polo-- it can't just go exploring every land it wants to. Nor is it Napoleon and the conquerer of all you see. You can nickname it whatever you like-- Maximus even if you're not a gladiator slaying (or laying) all the ladies-- but it just doesn't work that way. And yet, this, and not the kitchen scene ideal, is what we're used to dealing with.

This is not a call to arms for men to stampede to the nearest woman's kitchen and start soaping up. This is just a simple statement of facts: women like to be surprised by kind gestures when least expected. That, and not a man in an apron, is what really turns us on. (In fact, a man in an apron, unless you are Chef Roberto from Florence, is really a mental boner-killer.)


P.S-- The blog turned 1 yesterday! Thanks for a great year, your continued readership, your support, and your comments.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Exes Undercover

Seeing people you used to be with is always really awkward. Like Miranda once said on SATC, I'd love to be one of those very forgiving and karmically correct people who can be all "We were; you enriched me; thank you," but I'm much more along the lines of her "You were in me; now you're not; you need to not exist anymore."

It's a small town, and it's bound to happen. But when you do finally bump into them, it's not like you can prepare for that sort of thing, especially if you're still smarting. I mean, you can have a general idea of how you want it to go-- no crying, no screaming, no resorting to physical violence; act with class and good manners, be a bigger person. But as for the one ever manages to plan for the sudden shortness of breath, the shaking, or the feeling that due to the fact you are suddenly more aware of your massive heartbeats than you've ever been before, you're just going to keel over right now, into your Creme Caramel JavaKula, while an old tranny sits across the cafe in direct line-of-sight from you, meaning that he/she will be the last thing you ever see, and your headstone's epitaph will read: "Died before her time for her choice in men; but she had a glorious vagina."

No one, no one, not even decedents of Hitler or whoever invented Spam, deserves to go out that way.

So you end up reverting to some pretty (and petty) asinine behavior. Yesterday, while perfectly happy minding my New Yorker and coffee in Borders, I had one of those moments in life where something makes you look up just as someone else looks away from you. We both knew the other was there. And we both knew the other knew. But, instead of even looking up and waving through the window, I feigned massive ignorance and totally avoided doing anything altogether. It may have been a shitty move, and I realize this puts me back in the socially inept category of a 5 year old, but at the moment, I have no (civil) words, and my momma always told me if I don't have anything nice to say...

"At least," Alli pointed out, "you didn't pick up your magazine and block him with it as he walked out." Which I guess is true. It could have been worse.

But I'm glad to see I'm not alone in this. Later last night, while I was at Vermont Pub and Brewery, watching the Sox game and having dinner and a pint with Alli, she nudged me, and sotto-voice, said, "Look." I looked away from the screen, and immediately saw a wall of newspaper where the 20-something woman seated in front of us previously had been. Momentarily confused, I looked at Alli, wondering what about us the woman found so particularly offensive, then wondered if she was talking about us for some reason behind her improv screen, and then, as I was craning my head around, spotted exactly what made her go all Agent Undercover-- the waiter who was standing behind us. Despite her barricade, the waiter spotted her a few minutes later and went over, interrupting her and her new date, and through her forced, nervous, slightly-too-loud laughter and the "catch-up" chat, confirmed our suspicions. In an instant, empathetic moment, I got it. None of us-- none of us-- really know how to deal with this moment. This woman may have used the shielding technique that I maturely chose not to use in favor of the very classy "ostrich ignorance" maneuver (sarcasm is extremely heavy in that sentence, if you're not great on picking up on it), but from Burlington to Timbuktu, all of us are just freaking out alongside each other, and no one's mastered the art of acting gracefully under fire yet.

That's the problem with dating-- carnage.

So, I guess I'm sorry. Next time, I will actually acknowledge you and ask you how you are. But, if for some reason, I panic and you're met with a wall of newspaper or book cover instead, just know-- it's not just me.


The End Of Men?

This month, The Atlantic featured an eye-catching cover with a wilting men's gender symbol proclaiming the article, "The End of Men." Being in a currently man-less stint, I was intrigued. Dating makes me just want to die, so was there some miraculous way that I could just...get around it?

Let's examine how our world has changed in favor of women in the last few decades:
- For every 2 men who get a college degree, 3 women do. Women now are earning 60% of all bachelor AND master's degrees, about half of all law and medical degrees, and 42% of all M.B.A.s.
- In the 1970s, biologist Ronald Ericsson found a way to determine and customize the sex of children. Since then, when Ericsson looked into the results of his technology in the '90s, he discovered couples were requesting more girls than boys. In some clinics, the ratio was 2 to 1, and a newer sperm selection method called MicroSort is seeing a request for girls that runs about 75%. Ericsson says of his surprising findings, "Women live longer than men. They do better in this economy. More of 'em graduate from college. They go into space and do everything that men do, and sometimes they do it a whole lot better. I mean, hell, get out of the way-- these females are going to leave us males in the dust."
- In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development devised the Gender, Institutions and Development Database, which measures economic and political power of women in 162 countries and found that the greater the power of women, the greater the country's economic success.
- Women own over 40% of the private businesses in China, where a red Ferrari is their new status symbol as a successful female entrepreneur. (May we institute this fad in the U.S, please?)
- In 1950, about 1 in 20 men of prime working age wasn't working; today, the ratio is at 1 in 5, the highest ever recorded. This, in part, is due to our economic position-- the crash killed millions of man-dominated jobs, mostly of the working or blue-collar class. White collar economy values "raw intellectual horsepower," which men and women tend to have in equal amounts, while also requiring "communication skills and social intelligence," which according to many studies are areas in which women have a slight edge over their male counterparts.
- This leads to risk/benefit selection between the sexes. Leadership talents include being aggressive and competitive, which are swayed more toward men's natural dispositions. But psychological study research has painted a broader picture of what constitutes a good natural leader; in lab studies that simulate negotiations, men and women are equally assertive and competitive, but where men tend to assert themselves in a slightly controlling manner, women tend to take into account the rights of others, say psychologists Alice Eagly and Linda Carli, authors of the 2007 book "Through the Labyrinth." Researchers have also started looking into the relationship between testosterone and excessive risk, leading them to wonder if because of their biological make-up, men are more likely to make reckless decisions. The picture that emerges from this research is completely counter-intuitive to the way we've thought of the genders for ages: men on the side of irrational and over-emotional, and women as cool and level-headed. Blame it on the testosterone?

So, do I think women still need men?

Yup. Without a doubt. I'll cash my 2 cents' in as saying "absolutely." There are some things that you just cannot or should not do by yourself. I can be as pro-feminism as they come, and yet I still acknowledge there are some things than men can do better than women, hence, the need for them-- coupled with our desire for them. (However, "drive better" is not one of those things.)

Granted, there are some things about men that we could stand to do without. As Joan Rivers said, "Do remember that men are like mattress salesmen-- they'll say anything to get you into their beds." Joan Rivers knows a thing or two. I just had the unfortunate luck to be shopping for both at the same time. In the end, the mattress salesmen ended up having the safer investment, even though the mattress itself took a week in coming (longer than any man I've ever been with,) and has yet to actually be assembled and used.

From a completely selfish and stilted side, I sleep with a body pillow named George because of the fact that I am so pitifully loathe to sleep alone, and need something to throw an arm or a leg to drape over and have something at my back in the night. A nice anecdote that further cements my thinking on this matter, George got his name because there was a time in my life in which my roommates couldn't keep the Men du Jour straight and threatened to fill a whole Costco-sized "Hello, My Name Is ______" name tag roll with "George" so they would never need to learn another Tom, Dick, or Harry Dick's name again, just to be inundated with another a week later. (For awhile, men were my kinda-slightly-more grown-up Pokemon-- I believed I had to catch them all without also catching the Hep. This is why I may be a little more prone to being soft on the cads that I seem to pick up-- a feeling of sluttish camaraderie at the same time you want to pull at your hair and moan, "Why do I do this to myself?!") Men may drive you crazy, but as my reluctance to sleep alone points out, there's just something about having one there that can calm the female beast.

But that objectifying of men leads to the belief that they're disposable, which they're not. First-generation college-educated white women-- that's me, right there-- constitute a new type of middle class, where marriage is increasingly rare. What does that mean for me? True, marriage is not at the top of my list of desires and life-goals, but to see that fact there, so black and white and stark, makes me wonder about my chances, given the fact I might want to make it a chance.

Increasing numbers of women unable to find men with a similar education or income end up forgoing marriage. in 1970, 84% of women ages 30-44 were married; now only 60% are. Ashley Burress, a student body president at the University of Missouri at Kansas City, stated, "In 2012, I will be Dr. Burress. ...I would like to date, but I'm putting myself in a really small pool." One female senior in college supposedly remarked, "Guys are the new ball and chain."

It's not like men are going anywhere-- they're not. But finding ones who share your educational and emotional leanings is getting harder and harder. Think about the recent portrayals of men-- unemployed, romantically-challenged young dudes feature predominantly in Judd Apatow's films as perpetually adolescent. Noah Baumbach's charmless misanthrope of Greenberg has nearly zero chance of finding a woman who will tolerate, let alone love, him. "We call each other 'man,'" a line in Greenberg goes, "but it's a joke. It's like imitating other people." And where are we in a world when even the American male novelist has lost his mojo and can't even rely on sex as a way for his characters to assert their macho-ness?

That same macho-ness may be exactly what women still-- emotionally, if we don't need them financially or reproductively-- need men for. Though it may be terribly clichéd, there are some jars I can't open, some shelves I can reach, and some sore shoulders that are best massaged by someone else. Yes, I have a roommate who is more than capable of all of these things, and I have always been able to kill my own creepy, crawly spiders, but it's the gesture that remains. I am at my best and most charming and feminine and sweet when a man is around. I like that girl who comes out to play, because as the statistics above show, most days, I'm a power-wielding, income-earning, college-dominating, self-nurturing woman. Who, if I am entering a bracket of such low marriage expectations, is supposed to take care of me?

Women still, and will always, at least
want, if not need, a man in the picture. We keep dating and putting ourselves out there against the odds, because, at the end of the day, it's nice to go home to someone. It's nice to know that you have the ability to make a "What are you up to?" call. It's nice to have someone other than a down comforter or a body pillow keep you warm at night. At its most base, there are only so many solo-gasms you can have before it's just not fun anymore. And at its best, having a partner brings out a new side of you. The side that isn't a blossoming CEO by day, but the side of you that is still a girl who has needs and a desire for companionship and intimacy.


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sweet Is For Candy And Cavities. And, Apparently, Me.

I've been struggling lately with feeling like I failed my gender. (And no, this is not about my love of football, beer, or comics.) I've been grappling with feelings of inadequacy. Like, maybe, if I had been just a little bit sweeter, life would be different right now. Maybe, if I was a little less jaded, I wouldn't be so pissed off. Maybe, if I were more of a people-pleaser, I would have a job right now. Maybe, I need to stop feeling sorry for myself, and kick myself in the ass.

On How To Be Lovely is a-- for better lack of a word-- lovely blog that really encapsulates the essence of perfect femininity; it's a kind, caring, intelligent, easy-on-the-eyes blog. So I was thrilled when I found this post on the difference between "sweet" and "smart" women. I know I'm smart, but "sweet" is something that I struggle with. I can be sweet, and defer, and be laid-back and go with the flow, but I can't be that all the time. I would get nothing done. I would be like a chronic stoner without access to massive amounts of weed. And so, sometimes, I can be a little sharp. I can be a bit demanding. I can be rough around the edges. But it's only because I want the best to get done. I want to be my best. I want to be in the best position possible. I want you to be at your best. So sometimes, I get a little irritated when I see the exact opposite of those things happening. I can't help it-- it's genetic. If you've ever met my mother, you get it.

This paragraph really summed up my struggle with smart versus sweet. "...Because I value my independence and intelligence, I initially have a hard time when a guy says he thinks that sweetness is more important. It makes me think that he just wants someone to fawn on him and tell him how right he is about everything, and I'm not really sure how to feel about that. The word "sweet" seems to imply something saccharine and fake to me... On the other hand, I've met women who didn't want to show their intelligence because they felt like it made them hard or inaccessible, like they were somehow disgracing womanhood if they weren't all sweetness." - On How To Be Lovely.

Am I? Am I disgracing womanhood? It's hard not to feel like it when I'm pretty sure it's the whole smart/sweet debate that usurped me. But then again, like Meg asks, do you really want to be with a guy who prefers the "yes, dear," approach to life over someone who challenges them and says "I think you might be wrong-- so prove it to me?" After all, where would have Antony got without Cleopatra? Napoleon without Josephine? Macbeth without Lady Macbeth? (We'll ignore the fact for a minute that the last example were two despots.) Maybe it just boils down to the fact that for me, exercising my mind and bickering are some of the best forms of foreplay to me, and I just can't understand when other people don't feel the same way. Smart's sexy, just as surely as Victoria's Secret, fuck-me-heels, and Jessica Biel.

But then again, sweet's good, too. Sweet to me is more of a come-and-go mindset then an inherent thing, though. Sweet for me is feeling feminine and tiny and taken care of. Sweet comes included with baking brownies and little gestures. Sweet needs to happen in person, because sweet is really damn hard to be achieved over a phone line. Catch me on the off Tuesday night when I have nothing to do, and I can be real sweet with just a couch and some ordered-in wings and good company.

In the end, I guess I have to come to grips with the realization that I will never be the girl who can always say "whatever" and be fine with it. But I can be, and am, that girl who can say, "I'm down with pretty much anything, but can we agree on it together?" If I can't be "sweet" 24/7, I guess I'll have to settle for the glimpses that I get while I wait to calm the fuck down and be more accepting of it.

In the meantime, anyone know where I can find a dude who likes being verbally upbraided? I kid, I kid...

...But really. Tough love is my specialty.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

4 Times A Woman Is NOT Trying To Be A Crazy Bitch

"And it's not your fault, but mine; and it was your heart on the line. I really fucked things up this time, didn't I, my dear?" These may be the lyrics of Mumford and Sons' "Little Lion Man," but they aptly describe the feeling that women get when we realize we've made a social mis-step of some possibly Crazy Bitch proportions. And so, I give you, so we can be clearer about this in the future, the four times women are not trying to be a Crazy Bitch.

Situation 1.) When you give us disappointing news, the silence on the phone line is not a bad thing. We are not trying to make you feel any worse (...slightly). We're just trying to juggle our disappointment with the fact that we know you already feel bad and try to temper our instant bitchy and self-centered response with something that sounds more like, "Well, that's really a shame," instead of "This is all your fault!" Because we actually know what's fair and what's not, and when you've tried versus when you're actually not trying. If you're not trying, we're bound to be a little more insistent and lay on a little bit of a guilt-trip, but if you've done what you can, we're taking time out to not be a bitch about it. We really hate being a bitch to you. Really.

Situation 2.) It's only been 24 hours, and my name has popped up on your phone not twice, but 4 times. I know how this looks. This doesn't look good. In fact, I'm pretty sure that this qualifies for what is known in the vernacular as "blowin' a G's phone up." But hear me out. If you weren't quite so hard to get a hold of, and if I wasn't calling for some really, really pertinent and time-stamped information, we wouldn't be having this problem. I am not purposely trying to be annoying. I am not trying to hunt you down over Verizon's phone lines, though, it's starting to feel like it at this point, even to me. Women are warned off their entire life so being so persistent, as we're told it often comes across as "needy." But the deal is, I don't necessarily need you--although that would be nice-- I need the answers that you hold. Please accept this as an apology, and call back ASAP so I can stop looking like I'm about to boil a bunny at any moment and you can get back to being un-harassed by me and thinking, "Wow, she's actually a really cool girl. I haven't heard from her in awhile. Maybe I should call," and not "Oh god, it's this crazy bitch again-- she can't get enough of me. I'm turning my phone off NOW. Die, bitch, diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!"

Situation 3.) It's The Morning After, roughly somewhere between the hours of 8 and 10 AM. We are currently undressed, unwashed, just awake, and the remains of yesterday's make-up are smeared in 20 directions from center. From the instant our eyes open, we are aware of 4 things:
1.) You have other stuff to do today than entertain us.
2.) We were sleeping with our mouth open, which I'm sure was incredibly attractive and winning.

3.) You're probably wondering when we're going to leave so you can get on with said day.
4.) Saying goodbye is going to be awkward. There's always the Great Hug vs. Kiss debate.
We are also then aware of the next 4 following things:
1.) Certified, we will have no clue where either our bra or underwear have gotten to. (Always check under the bed!)
2.) We cannot stumbled onto the street looking like this. It's a small town, and there are children and possibly people who know us around.
3.) We're going to have to commandeer your bathroom for about 10 minutes to get presentable. We hope you don't mind or think we're taking a massive shit.
4.) It's rude to just fuck and run, so what's the most well-mannered way to execute this morning? Is this a "breakfast included" affair, or at least a lukewarm cup of coffee? We're not looking to stay for lunch, but a cigarette would be nice. A half an hour to an hour of waking up, lounging, fixing everything north of your neck and checking out the situation south of the border is in order, and some casual morning conversation is not completely out-of-line. We're aware. We're not staying forever. We know you would like us out at some reasonable point. And we'll be gone with nearly everything we came with in about an hour, as long as we can actually find the underwear that has been spirited away to the Twilight Zone.
(Side-note: If she know the roommates, she's gonna be in there a little bit longer. It's just rude otherwise.)

Situation 4.) When we tell you what we really want. Be man enough to ask rather than jumping to conclusions. Be man enough to listen. Be man enough to care. Because when you don't, that puts you in a situation in which you become a Massive Dick, and, in fact, totally null and voids us from being a Crazy Bitch when we call your ass on it. It's kind of like how a red-card throwing a player out of the game negates his personal foul.

There you have it. Realign that thinking.


A Crisis of Fidelity

My roommate and I recently decided to co-opt a cat together. It wasn’t long before we came across the ethics of responsible ownership in regards to the cat’s desire for freedom in the outside world, and our own over-protective tendencies. “Do you just open the door and hope it comes back?” I wondered aloud, a little horrified by this idea, having grown up in the sticks and my only memory of the “In versus Out” cat debate being me throwing my monstrous tom outside for my own safety as a small 10 year old when he got large enough to bring down small game.

“It’s kind of like men,” my roommate said. “You hope it remembers where it gets fed.”

“But look at my track record,” I argued. “And you expect me to have faith in a cat?”

Upon further thought, we agreed that I actually may have better luck retaining an un-run-over cat in the city than an un-committed man. Which is just sad. But I really feel, deep down, that it’s kind of like sharks and blood—if a man can smell the fact that you’re not sure if you really want to be committed or in a serious relationship, what’s to stop them from having the same proclivities, too? When I came home, I was pretty sure of what I wanted. I quickly realized, in fact, that what I thought I had wanted and what I quickly found out I really needed were two completely different things. Which resulted in what was roughly the emotional equivalent of leaning over a galvanized barrel while throwing dynamite in to kill the fish swimming around inside. Shrapnel flew, and what remained wasn’t even enough to make sushi anymore. Life picks up the little scaly pieces of the debacle and shrugs.

Watching SATC2, I spent a good deal of time wondering if I liked it or not. Ok, so the clothing, yes-- I think the overwhelming reason for making that movie had to do with that fact that there has been so much gorgeous fashion lately and the public needs to see it on SOMEONE, so hey, 4 women we spent over 6 years staring at isn't a bad choice. In fact, it's a pretty shrewd one. Speaking of shrewdness, the other predictable part of the movie was the relationship drama. But, in this case, I'm not sure it brought up the right questions or fell flat of the mark.

Maybe I sympathized with Carrie too much on this one. In one scene, like many in the movie that star her and Big together, she stands in front of the TV, their clichéd instigator, and asks, "Is this because I'm a bitch wife who nags you all the time?" To which Big replies, "No. I feel like I'm disappointing you."

As Carrie found out, with any disappointment in life, there's only so much one can take before you start to think, "Well, fuck." Exactly that-- fuck. Or kiss. Or look elsewhere for what's missing at home. While her (SPOILER ALERT AHEAD!) kiss with Aidan didn't quite warrant a massive freak-out of transcontinental proportions, though, yes, I do agree she did the right thing in telling Big about her indiscretion. I always prefer when I'm told about matters like that, as I'm sure you are, as well. No one likes being in the dark. No one likes being left fuming and guessing and jumping to horrible conclusion after horrible conclusion. Believe me. I lived it for a number of months.

Speaking of jumping to conclusions, now that I'm back from Italy, everyone is looking at my left hand and the same diamond that's been there for the past 3 years and saying, "You're engaged, I see," like I took the opportunity to run away and madly seduce some rich Italian count with a charming villa somewhere on Lake Como. How do I respond to this? Half of me-- the half that believes that childbirth is a totally unnecessary pain to go through when there are already millions of other children who need families on our already over-populated Earth, and would never, ever drop her last name for matrimonial bliss-- wants to say, "No, and hopefully never," and but the new blasted biological tick-tick-tick-bitch wants to reply with a sigh and a "I wish." I'm settling for a nervous giggle instead as of late. When I get scared, I giggle. I can't help it. Just the idea confounds and terrifies me. What man would want to put a ring on me, anyway? I feel like that's a huge investment risk. Beyonce may preach “If you like it, than you shoulda put a ring on it,” but as the authors of “The Ethical Slut” argue, "A ring around the finger does not cause a nerve block to the genitals" (15).

Hindsight being 20/20, the problem is that running away to Italy to seduce a count (or a pro soccer player) and live foodily ever after would not be so unlike me. My attention span with men has been likened to that of a crack-addled Rhesus monkey. I also have legendary "man-dar"-- if there's a good-looking one within a two-block radius, I know about it. I literally will go on point. I've got a nose for these things, and it's good because I'm like a kid in a very grown-up candy store. I figure, you can look; you may even touch-- just don't let it melt in your hands.

"We may not always know what fits without trying it on, so we tend to be curious and adventurous. When we see someone who intrigues us, we like to feel free to respond" (The Ethical Slut, 5-6). As a flirt, I agree with this sentiment. But as someone who is often a half of a relationship, I can tell you that I am not complacent with being “one of.” I am the sort of person who deserves to be “the one.” Just like you deserve to be “the one” to someone else, and not “one who sometimes comes around.”

This thinking puts me highly at odds with my actions at times. I am highly monogamous as a rule, right up until the point I’m just not anymore, which is what makes it so unexpected or dangerous. There have been times I have found myself in someone else’s bed while not quite out of a relationship with another. There’s no simple flip-switch for this kind of thing, and yet, it can be instantaneous. No one ever can prepare for the connection. Which renders us as helpless as fish in that dynamited barrel. Not flattering when you’re trying to maintain a mysterious, independent persona.

So have I been cheated on? More than twice. Have I been shattered by it? Yes. But have I also been a cheater? Yes. Have I be a co-partner in other’s infidelity? Yes. Does this make me the same wicked bitch of the North-east like I have imagined other women to be? No. It just makes me human, with questionable taste in men. The difference, to me, is that I always ask myself, what are the risks being taken for all involved? Is anyone being purposefully hurt by these actions? Empathy is a huge part in maintaining what is an honest lifestyle. If you wouldn’t want to put in the situation in a reverse role, than my feeling is, don’t do it. But my definitions of some things might be a little skewed. And the problem with my "problem" and my logic is this-- the same men I hunt out have a tendency to be just like me, too. It's one big, dangerous, flammable ball of trouble. Like Carrie found with Aidan, playing with fire can get too hot to handle sometimes. Problems at home-- be it differences in living habits; differences in desires and personalities that get in the way of the partnership; a feeling of constantly needing to "mother" or be "mothered"; miscommunication, or NO communication-- can lead to problems outside of the home.

"Hollywood tells us that 'love means never having to say you're sorry,' and we, fools that we are, believe it. The myth has it that if you're really in love with someone, you never have to argue, disagree, communicate, negotiate, or do any other kind of work" (The Ethical Slut, 18-19). But anyone who has ever partnered with another person for any period of time can tell you, it doesn’t work like that. There will be times when nothing someone is doing seems to be right. You will get annoyed, and frustrated, and brow-beaten, and more than a little convinced that the grass is greener over on that other person’s lawn. Tapping out is an option, but actually putting in the time and effort is the higher road. That’s the beauty of relationships—in the best ones, both you and your S.O should be working for the common goal not only of fulfilling desires, but also of stretching each other while trying to help the other be the best person they can possibly be. That’s what relationships are—challenging.

There’s no perfect code to this; no Rosetta’s Stone to dealing with monogamy or your partner. As Carrie said, "Can you ever expect anyone on the outside to understand what goes on between two people?" No, I don't think you can. I think that every relationship is a tiny little universe in and of itself, and that no matter how long we talk about it with our confidants; no matter how many times we play the movie reels of memory and conversations over and over and over inside our minds; no matter how much we write about it and expand on it; and no matter how enlightened or entitled we think we really are, we will never understand our own relationships, let alone those of the people around us.


Saturday, June 12, 2010


This past Thursday was my 21st birthday. It goes without saying that I had a great time-- what I remember of it, anyway. But it was landmark in more than the fact that I am now able to walk into a U.S liquor store without being run out; it showed me how far I've come in the past year and more.

21 Things I Managed to Accomplish by 21:

1.) Found, applied for, negotiated, and moved into my first "big girl" off-campus apartment.

2.) Come to terms with love and loss. Who I was in the fall changed radically with the death of someone I loved. Though the loss of a life shouldn't be taken lightly or spun in any light other than tragic, it did make me mature more quickly than I would have ever thought possible. Because of this, I've been able to maintain a much more realistic outlook on the loss of friendships, lovers, and situations than I ever was able to before. And I also realized the benefits to taking time out of every day to quietly remember someone.

3.) Spending a semester in Italy did more than expand my thinking on the world and love of clothing and shoes; it also made me more intimately aware of who I am, what I am capable of, and what I believe in and will stand for. This may have made me seem more demanding, opinionated, or quick-tempered, but it's become apparent that if people can't see past those characteristics to the driving force behind them-- can't recognize what I need; aren't willing to see things from both sides; get equally frustrated or mad instead of trying to come to a conclusion that suits both parties-- then they don't either know me or want to know me enough to know what's best for me.

4.) My mother looked at me the other day and in a tone of relief that was a little disconcerting, exclaimed, "You've finally grown into such a pretty young woman." Ok, ok, I'll be the one to say it-- I have not always been the most attractive specimen of womanhood. Most of it was elective. But I was also damn awkward for a long time. I hit 20, and BAM! I was someone new. My body shape changed. My face got leaner and more mature. My hair finally grew into acceptable submission. And this morning, when I stopped to talk to the painters as I left my apartment, I realized through their shyness that I've become to sort of girl who makes men nervous. Looks are not everything, but they mean more to the person they belong to than most of us are willing to admit to.

5.) Bought my first big-name designer item-- the vintage Louie messenger bag.

6.) Walked into a liquor store in the U.S, and belonged there.

7.) Spent the night on an Italian beach watching a meteor shower.

8.) Climbed an active volcano.

9.) Traveled extensively to places I have never been by myself, never got lost, never panicked, and never backed down from the challenges.

10.) Cried in public for the first time in my life since I was a toddler.

11.) From being a juvenile delinquent in high school, became a damn good and Dean's List college student who is involved on and off campus. (Key point: Finding out how to separate your professional and social lives.)

12.) Learned 2 other languages.

13.) Found, negotiated, bought, and learned how to drive a stick-shift.

14.) Became a runner. There will be no marathons in my life, but I'm a runner all the same.

15.) Recognized the fact that I am also an emotional runner.

16.) Learned when to say "yes," learned when to say "whatever you want," learned when to say "I'm sorry," learned how to say "I don't think so," learned how to say "Absolutely not!" and what situations to apply them all to.

17.) Though proposed to twice, was wise enough to say "no" both times.

18.) Rode one of the painted cows on Church Street. It goes without being said that this happened the night of my 21st birthday. Yes, there is photographic evidence. It will come a bit later.

19.) Among other things while nannying, taught a baby how to say "elephant," "lion," and "bear;" how to fist-bump, and how to swim. In doing so, helped shape a young life for two years.

20.) Can now pair food and wine and make some kick-ass authentic Italian meals.

21.) Started this blog. It may not be what defines me, but it's become a major part of my life, and for being a part of it, I thank all of you.

22 Things I Want To Accomplish by 22:

1.) Turn this blog into a website with advertisements from local businesses. The good news is, I have friends to build websites for a living and for fun. The bad news is, once this gets accomplished, I have a sneaking suspicion I'm going to have to start referring to myself as an "entrepreneur." And I can't spell that word, let alone live up to it.

2.) Have the sort of relationship that I want-- not the one that someone else wants.

3.) Publish something in Glamour, Cosmopolitan, ELLE; writing publications of note like the New Yorker, The Atlantic, etc.; or a well-heeled website.

4.) Get a "real job" I don't despise, and make enough to start saving for the first time in my life instead of living hand-to-mouth.

5.) Start saving for the first time in my life. Because come college graduation, it's not just me anymore-- it's me AND my horse I'm providing for. (If you don't understand the bond between women and horses, you can substitute the word "baby" for horse, and get the gist.)

6.) Compete again. I was a competitive rider from the age of 9, but with the start of college, showing fell by the way-side. I'm relaxed enough now that it's not about the ribbons and high scores anymore-- it's about seeing the changes and how far you've come as a team with your horse. (She used to try to kill me. Now she cuddles. I'd say that's an accomplishment better than any blue ribbon right there.)

7.) Pass my GREs, and start grad school.

8.) Give a hitch-hiker a ride.

9.) Get a dog again.

10.) See the desert.

11.) Get back to Disney World and let my inner child run rampant again.

12.) Read all of Edward Abbey's novels.

13.) Model for a piece of artwork. I came close for doing it for cash in Italy, and it looks like I may be in the same pose-ition (hahaha, bad puns, I can't resist them!) again this summer. My mom did it when she was in college, and I think there's something amazing about being able to look back at a portrait of you later in life and say, "That was me. That was what I looked like. Those are the same moles, the same toes, the same scars, the same birthmark. And that's art."

14.) Ride a motorcycle.

15.) Take a bar-tending class. I love talking to people, and I love alcohol, so why not combine two loves and make some money while doing it?

16.) Birthday sex. Possibly the one day out of a year when you can ask for whatever you want and make someone feel obligated to do it. Though you shouldn't take advantage of this situation...everyone does.

17.) Not over-draw my checking account ONCE.

18.) Become more comfortable with the more traditional aspects of dating. I feel like a freak of nature having to admit this, but I really feel as if my love life would improve if I did not turn paying the bill into a full-on brawl.

19.) Start having Boy's Nights like I already have Girl's Nights. Because I love my boys just as much, if not sometimes more, than I love my ladies, and it's time to start showing them that appreciation.

20.) Start painting and sketching again.

21.) Find a charity I really believe in and donate to them.

22.) Continue doing things that stretch my comfort level and make me grow and expand.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Datepocalypse Now: A History Of Disaster.

Once upon a time, there was a little girl with big blue eyes and French-braided blonde hair in a church's preschool room. There was also a little boy with a brown bowl-cut and long, long eyelashes. They were In Love. They talked about their wedding; how many kids they wanted. (Him, three boys. Her, none.) He was going to be a mechanic. She was going to be a vet, and was already resigning herself at the tender age of four to being the breadwinner of their two-to-five-person family. (She had always been a little pragmatic about life.) They played together every day, except the weekends, which always went by far slower than they should for someone who has just learned to tie their shoes, and still doesn't know how to swim or ride a bike. Monday would come again, and she would build with blocks and cuddle stuffed animals and he leaned intently over the Fisher-Price orange and yellow car's hood. It was bliss.

Until one day, when talking about their upcoming-upcoming-upcoming nuptials, the little boy uttered the words that froze the very still-warm and un-jaded blood in our little blonde practicing veterinarian's veins: "Well, I'd either marry you, or Sarah."

The cherubic child glanced across the room at the towering red-headed girl with the short and flippy hair, currently engaged in bullying another little girl for the rice table's shovel. "Ick," she said, and with that, slapped the boy right across his long-lashed face, stomped away, and vowed, "Never again! And NO MORE MECHANICS!"

I've never been great at sharing anything I particularly like, be it cardboard building blocks or a living and breathing man. It's one of my tell-tale only-child hang-ups. It was (hilariously, in hindsight,) awkward for the next 10 years of my life, as Alex, our fickle long-lashed wannabe-mechanic, and I shared the same pediatrician. Every grown woman's worst nightmare is to see an ex when they look like shit-- now imagine being aware of this sentiment at the age of 7, and hacking up a lung, stricken with bronchitis, as your spurned crush, covered in a particularly attractive and blistering rash, glares at you from across the waiting room replete with rocking horses, puzzles, and Highlights magazines. My mother would always point him out, and say, "Look, it's Alex! Why don't you go say hi? You used to play together all the time!" She just didn't get it. And I never forgot Alex, or that feeling that came over me as his statement sunk in and I looked across the room at Sarah, Carrot-Top's Miniature Preschool Bully.


Fast-forward 9 years later, and I was in a long-term relationship with what was by all accounts a highly unsuitable man. The problem was, I was 16, and bored, and really couldn't give more of a fuck that the only reason I was staying in the relationship was the fact that I honestly couldn't be bothered to work up the energy to dump him. That was, until New Years' Eve day, when I made the most influential discovery of my teen years until the one two years later in which I found same highly unsuitable man on a gay dating website. (THAT was the pinnacle of maniacal glee of my teen years.) Said boyfriend had been at my house the previous night, and had asked to use our home computer to check his Myspace page. (Ah, yes-- it was in THOSE days.) I had dutifully logged him in so he could Myspace away, remarking aloud that I didn't know he had a Myspace page. "Yeah; it helps keeping in touch with people I went to school with and don't see much anymore." (He was already a college graduate, if this clears up the meaning of the previous word "unsuitable.") I filed that piece of information away, and the next day, typed his name into Myspace's search bar to add him as--wait for it, because I was so excited-- not just my Myspace friend, but as my Myspace boyfriend.

Imagine how quickly that bubbly teenage naivety turned into a sickening feeling of betrayal when I found his public Myspace page, in which he chronicled the process of "soon ending all these girl problems", with helpful comments and a cheer-leading section from the woman of his affections. Who was decidedly not me. In fact, I was the problem. The problem he had been inside of the night before. Which didn't seem like too much of a problem to him at the time.

I got raging drunk at my best friend's New Year's party that night, in preparation to do What I Must the next day, because my very sophisticated 24 year old boyfriend was throwing a very grown-up New Year's Day party in his apartment with the missing slats in the Venetian doors and the posters taped to the walls. A party that his older brother was driving in from Rochester to attend. A party at which I was supposed to pretend to be 18 and going off to NYU in the fall, like I always told his friends I was. (He was the one who actually propagated this rumor in the first place. I played along because I was a theater geek in need of practice, and plus, I already liked the beer that his friends brought over.) A party at which I was supposed to be as sophisticated and sexy as possible. Because doesn't every college grad want to show off his six--...eighteen year old girlfriend?

So I woke up the next morning, shook a hangover off, got dressed up in something that showcased what was already some pretty phenomenal cleavage for someone so young, and picked one of my best friends up who was also invited/was my emotional support. We walked up the back stairs and into the apartment, party already in full-swing, and my boyfriend quickly spotted me (I think I was in something teal?) and waved me over to where he and a guy who sported the same red hair and could only be his brother were standing, holding bottles of Honey Brown. His brother and I shook hands as he said, "Hey, it's so nice to meet you." And then, turning his gaze to my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend, added, "I've heard so much about you."

"So nice to meet you, too," I told him, and as soon as he relinquished my hand, turned to my unsuspecting boyfriend and dropped the A-bomb with all the aplomb of a particularly trigger-happy ARA member-- "Oh, I saw your Myspace page. I know all about her. It's so over."

I swear time briefly stopped as I spun on my heel, grabbed my smirking friend's hand, and flounced out, leaving my stunned now ex-boyfriend to explain to all of his slack-jawed and still guests exactly why his trophy girlfriend had just dumped him. I will say-- it was deliciously empowering to my 16 year old self's confidence after being steam-rolled both metaphorically as well as physically by the same man for the past 6 months. I wish every woman could have a bad relationship they didn't care so much about with a shitty revelation like that, just so that they could have that One Shining Moment of Self-Redemption. He called every day for a month straight, begging to be taken back. I haven't talked to him since that New Year's morning over 5 years ago.


I've spent most of the day cooling off so I don't say anything totally off-base. But this is what I do need to say: It's not my fault, and it's not my problem. If you want to blame anyone, take a good and long look in a mirror and ask yourself why. You knew full-well. So man up and live with it. I'm not thrilled, either. Did you ever think of that? Did you ever think of the situation you were putting me in, the same situation I lived in in the reverse? And that's more than a little perverse.

It's only taken me 21 years to figure this out, but in the end, it's not, in fact, about what I want; in fact, I want remarkably little from you, if you had taken the time to actually ask me instead of jumping to conclusions. It's about what I need that you can't give me. I need someone who will be there when they say they will be. I need someone who would rather eat bull's balls in public than break a promise when they make one, because "I promise" needs to mean something more than a placation. I need someone who values me without having to look elsewhere to find what I'm missing. I need someone who accepts my flaws, quirks, sneezes, moles and all as much as I accept theirs. I need someone who isn't going to think that the red-headed terror of the sandbox is as much of a catch as I am and can't decide between the two of us. And therein lies the fundamental problem-- since I came back, I've been slowly realizing that you either can't or won't give me what I need yet. A "break" would imply that we were less than already broken, and I'll be honest and say that I've been feeling like it's been shattered beyond some major dedicated repair for awhile. So thank you for finally turning me loose. I hope that you find what you want and what you need, too.


The Tell-Tale Heart

I know Facebook has ruined us. Do you want to know how Facebook has ruined us? Because for what was probably the past three hours of my sleeping life, I grappled with a dream which started out pleasant and involved two loves of my life: men, and pie, and yet progressed into something that made my heart-- literally, I felt my heart-- plunge to somewhere in the vicinity of my toes when in my dream, I saw It. That thing that all girls secretly dread. The terror of the internet. The scourge of Facebook. "_______ is in a relationship with _______." That little pink heart has never been more ominous.

When I woke up, I promptly lunged for my laptop, just to make sure it wasn't true and I hadn't been sleep-web-surfing like how I sometimes have to wake up and grab for my phone to see if I really was sleep-texting or so-fucked-up-you-might-as-well-be-asleep-because-you're-not-gong-to-remember-doing-it-in-the-morning texting. The rest of the dream I could brush off as kinda ridiculous-- running down the road, looking in houses for someone you have no idea how to find (oh, that's telling!) and who remains, decidedly, not a character in the rest of this dream, but instead, a blue and white profile with a new pink heart on it; an 18 year old, baby-faced, cowboy hat-wearing new girlfriend who kinda looked like Bret Michaels had actually succeeded in fathering a child with one of his Rock of Love floozies, having a traumatic breakdown on my shoulder while the only decent thing to do was hold a tissue for her to blow her nose while consoling her because, "I know how he can be, sweetie." It rang so true I couldn't even get mad when she blew snot all over my toes and her parents told me how perfect they were together over what seemed to be a feast straight from Henry the VIII's table. I mean, there was a woman ladling split-pea soup straight into her mouth, for chrissake. How am I supposed to take a dream like this seriously?

The point is, I did. The point is, I woke up with a start, gasping and bolting upright, and then scrambled down to the foot of my bed and grabbed my laptop to check-- just because. Just because it felt so real. Just because I am that terrified. Just because it brought to my attention that any day, that could be a real possibility, and I am, as evidenced, nowhere near prepared for that. I guess what they say about dreams bringing out your subconscious fears and desires is true-- in which case, I am a mess. Facebook, you've finally fucked me over.


P.S-- In other news, you have 5 days to become my 48th, 49th, or 50th follower. (Which is a great birthday present to me.) And there's $1.14 that stands between me and a check from Google, which would really be appreciated as I am currently investigating the laws of prostitution for some gray area and not quite the same severity as a sentence for robbery/forgery/extortion/embezzlement, as those are my 5 options at the moment to afford summer rent.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Eat It.

There's this love/hate relationship I have. It deals mainly with me, and someone I see every time I sit down at a restaurant table or get out of the shower. It's with my body.

For the first time in over 5 months, today, I spotted my long-dormant abs. I have a body build that was best suited for when my Austrian-Hungarian ancestors toiled in fields all day and popped out kids left, right, and center, probably in those same fields without missing a step. With my manual labor years behind me, my aversion to pregnancy and desire to adopt, I'm pretty much stuck with incredibly dense bone structure, a perfect 36-27-36 hourglass shape, and a build that could be described as "as solid as a brick shithouse." As it has been.

The primary problem is this: I. Love. Food. Wait, let me expand on this: (WARNING: Food porn ahead. NSFHunger.)

I love cooking, I love eating, and I love drinking.

None of this is conducive with maintaining a weight or shape other than "round." My legs are the only thing that I know will always be there in some sort of cab-stopping appeal, because I won the genetic jackpot on that one, and I have what is now the equivalent of a lifetime of horseback riding under my breeches. And so, reluctantly, I'm a little bit of what is usually dismissively called a "gym rat." I'm dedicated to 4 or 5 days a week of some sort of cardio and weight exercise. Being a "path of least resistance" person when it comes to working out, I chose the things that I can pretty much do in about 6-by-6 feet of room, preferably, standing still. (I told you, I'm lazy.) There's lots of side-bends to work my abs (which do not want to exist in the first place), lots of oblique twists (easy as turning your upper body while focusing on isolating muscles), and lots of weight training. I can punctuate homework or commercial breaks with 50-100 lunges a night, or I can sweat off over 100 calories dancing from sheer happiness and because I just flat-out love to dance. I like it when working out does not take time or much action, which is pretty counter-intuitive to the whole concept, but hey-- it's been working for me.

In part, it works because of the other things that I do. I ride, not nearly as much as I used to, but it's still a full-body workout. I took up running because...well, I don't know. I used to be one of the fastest sprinters in elementary school, but then puberty happened, and I remember looking at a girl on the cross country team during Women's Ensemble choral practice in high school and saying, "Do I LOOK like I enjoy running? The only times I run are when someone is chasing me, or I am chasing someone." And then I went and became a runner in college. Not a runner of any great shakes-- as a genetic sprinter (mom and dad were both track kids in their high school days, and then dad liked it so much he went into the Marines to prove he was one of the best damn runners Camp Lejeune saw during the 'Nam years), I top out around a mile and a half and pretty much decide right there is where I'll lay down and die. Admittedly, smoking does not help this. Smoking other things did for awhile, as I was asthmatic as a child but fixed it by building up some greeeeat lung capacity in my late teens. Now, after four months of eating whatever I wanted and getting my only excercise in walking Florence's cobblestone streets in heels and the periodic odd hike around Italy and raising my smoking to a national past-time level, running seems like it will pretty much be the end of me. At the moment, I am one gigantic pulled, strained, sore, slowly re-building muscle. However, also being a masochist, there's something that appeals to me in a very dark and disturbing place in waking up to go kick myself in the ass.

And when I am not stuffing my face decadently and holding up both middle fingers to calorie-counting, I eat damn well. By that, I mean I eat SMART. I take a long, hard look at what I'm eating regularly, and I think about the nutritional and health values in them, or lack thereof. I've never had to detox or diet in my life, but I'm not above cribbing some ideas or eating tips from them.

It's only going to work for you if you find foods you're excited to eat. Look for foods or diet strategies that seem good and feasible to you, personally. I don't care what your friend is doing-- one of mine has calorie amounts memorized, but I could care less as long as I don't have to be rolled out of a restaurant and picked up by a fork-lift. I started eating Greek yogurt with honey after I saw an extremely appealing ad for it in Cosmopolitan, and it wasn't until about a year later that I found out that it has 4 times the protein in it for the same amount of fat that regular yogurt does. (Also, it brings me right back to a specific time in history-- 8 AM Technical Writing classes Tuesdays and Fridays Fall semester of '09, in sweatpants, unwashed, and considering using the keyboard in front of me as a pillow. I ate a lot of Greek yogurt and honey in that class.) A healthy alternative to tuna salad of tuna mixed with hummus just tasted better to me, and cut out some mayo that I don't really need in my life. I could eat salmon and avocados every day for the rest of my life, and both happen to be high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which are one of the best things you can ingest, and something that my body responds incredibly well to. A recent British study found that after eating salmon, skin across subject's faces and stomachs seemed tighter and more toned within 30 minutes. Now, that's my kind of exercise.

Substitution is key. If you're trying to cut something out of your diet, you better have a good alternative to it, or you, my friend, are just going to backslide right into a truckload of Ben & Jerry's. Instead of chips, I started eating Pirate's Booty. Then, I moved from Pirate's Booty to a handful of cashews, or small bags of popcorn with Parmesan cheese sprinkled lightly over the top. And speaking of ice cream, banana slices, powdered with cinnamon, cocoa, or cinnamon sugar and sprinkles and frozen in the freezer for about 2 hours, have the same consistency and flavor as ice cream, with nearly none of the calories, and is also 1 of your daily fruit servings.

I try not to eat much processed foods. This does not mean I won't stop in the drive-by of McDonalds-- oh, no. A McNugget Happy Meal to go, please, and I can also order it in Italian if you want. But 4 nuggets is not 6 or 10 nuggets, and is just enough to satisfy a craving. Last summer, while I was so poor processed and therefore, expensive, foods were out of my budget, I cooked and ate more fresh, local, and inexpensive foods. By the time that I had a disposable income again and was grocery shopping, the shit that goes in to microwave pizzas and flavored chips made me literally sick to my stomach. Cutting the SHIT out of your fridge and freezer is one way to get healthier, STAT. And remember-- if you don't buy it, it's not there.

NEVER, EVER deny yourself something you really crave. (This applies to nearly all things in life, except for when it applies to cheating.) If you don't eat it, you're just going to obsess about it and be unhappy, and what's the point in looking good if you're not happy and a bitch to everyone? Just limit yourself. If you want chocolate, have a square, not the whole bar. (Unless you're PMSing, and in which case, rock on with your bad and bloated self. Worry about that shit later.)

Keep track of what you eat, and you'll be amazed how much you're putting in to your body. I keep a food log periodically if I feel like I'm really getting off-track in my eating, just to see where during the day I'm caving in and snacking, and where I'm really losing it. It also helps to have a visual reminder that you just ate 2 hours ago, so if you are feeling "hungry" again (read: "bored"), you can see that you, in fact, are probably really not. ASK YOURSELF-- "Do I really need this?"

I know that short of a stretching rack and bone shaving, I am never going to be a size 2, or a real size 4 for that matter. I am a size 6. Haven't always been, but probably will now always be. I will never be a Victoria Secret's model, no matter how much of their underwear I buy, or how good my catwalk walk is. (And believe me-- it's good. Miss Jay of ANTM would be proud.) But I know what my body can do-- it can sprint a half-mile, ride a three-day event, gracefully absorb a semester of devil-may-care eating, and keep a man enthralled for a few hours or a night or few. That's the biggest lesson that you have to learn about making nice with your body: it is never going to look just like someone else's, because it's yours. It's pointless to hunger (literally) over a size 4 if where you are healthy and naturally balanced is a size 8. I have friends 5 inches taller with bird bones who weigh 12 pounds less then me, and they're the ones jealous of my body. Body perception is skewed. It just is. I am my body's harshest critic, just as I have a feeling the skin in the buff that you see in the mirror is very different from how anyone else who has the pleasure of seeing it views it. (In fact, I have it on good authority that as long as you're naked, most men are really, really pleased with your bod.) So, as long as it's healthy and does what you need it to do, be happy with your body. That's centuries of family history in there, and only the way you treat yourself is going to change anything. Exercise, smart eating, and a few minor changes in your daily routine, and you'll quickly come to terms with the body you're bringing to the beach this summer.

And a note to the men: Just as women have an obsession with being thin, you seem to have a desire to NOT be thin. I have dated it all-- beer kegs of the undrinkable kind; taut soccer bods; tall and slender men; and ripped jocks. You may call them "chicken legs" or "getaway sticks," but women are surprisingly lenient when it comes to men's bodies. Let me tell you why: because we KNOW you're not the last guy we dated. I went from over 200 pounds of bicep this, six-pack that, lats and quads and glutes, oh my! to a body nearly half the width and on whom that sort of tone-age would be impossible, and do you know what I was thinking? "Hair. Manly body hair. Where have you been; I've missed you so! Thank you, Jesus, thank you!" What we liked in one man is sure not to be what attracts us to another. So, stop hiding under the covers like a woman, or bolting for the bathroom in the middle of the night while you think we're asleep. Because we're awake, and as you slide out of bed and creep out of the room, we've got one eye peeked open and are thinking, "God, I love that ass."