Monday, February 27, 2006

I Saw the Sign

My office building is like a Christmas present from an elderly relative; it's a boring box filled with things that are boring, or, at best, weird and confusing.

A couple of months ago, a sign was taped to the door of every stall in every restroom on my floor. This sign is a shining example of desktop publishing circa 1989. It's this photo of a toilet with text (of several fonts and shades) layered over it to communicate a very important message about proper bathroom comportment. The author of the sign even applied that snazzy shadow effect to the letters to give them the extra pow that really captures a pooper's attention.

It says:

We're all choked up...
Because of the excess toilet paper in our bowls.

Only use what is necessary


The signs are photocopied. The thing that gets me about them is that between the last two lines, the sign maker covered something up with a piece of masking tape before making the copies.

That. That is killing me.

I need to know what they blocked out, oh god OH GOD do I need to know. What is it? What did they originally think was appropriate for the toilet paper advisory sign, but then thought the better of at that crucial moment at the photocopier? I've picture it in my head (post morning coffee and again after lunch, on average) every day since the signs went up. The sign maker puts the original down on the glass of the Xerox machine, they set it to make, like, fifteen copies, their index finger is poised above the button, and then no, no, it all feels so wrong!

What does it say under the masking tape, what, oh, for the love of CHRIST I NEED TO KNOW.

There's no punctuation after "necessary," so it's totally the end of that sentence. What came after "Please use only what is necessary" that shouldn't have been on the sign? get the job done? clean your giant rear? God intended?
...or I'll lock down the bathroom and you can make do with your wastebasket?
...or I"ll box cutter you so quick you'll think I worked in the stockroom at Costco?

Friday, February 24, 2006

Group Therapy

Last night Brad got a junk e-mail advertising a website where one might see a brunette perform a certain act involving a particular bodily fluid. This isn't weird in and of itself (because Brad is always signing himself up for x-rated peemail lists).

The weird part is that the sender was a Mr. Bjorn Again.

This morning, I found an e-mail advertising "lowwwe mortgagee rates for HOUSE" in my junk folder. The sender? Christian Rock.

The evangelical right has got to be stopped. When they're Jesusing my junk mail, it's time for action.

I'm back in godless New York after a long weekend and a couple of vacation days in Ohio. Brad and I left on Friday with an obscene amount of laundry and our hamstress Tempestt Bledsoe in tow, arrived on Saturday after the best motel stay I've ever had, and returned on Wednesday for a taxing two day work week. In the middle I bought an insane necklace at the Unique Thrift Store with a jointed lion pendant, enjoyed the movie Palindromes without particularly understanding it, ate my weight in Wendy's Jr. Bacon Cheeseburgers, attended ten minutes of a party in a Masonic temple, stood by Lake Erie and was cold, caught up with the drag queens and took note that one definitely got a new butt, and visited a successful accountant in Akron whom I bet no one suspects used to allow his friends to put makeup on him and photograph him in suggestive and compromising poses.

I visited my college twice, and each trip was no more than a couple of hours long. The town still looks nearly the same. You can still buy the same incense in the same shop below the video store--whose e-mail list I still cannot get off of--but the kids walking around are so different than the ones I remember going to school with. It's possible that I've just grown crotchety, and I acknowledge this a la Step One in an AA meeting. But I don't think I'm wrong. The friends I still have there are evidence of a weirder, more interesting time (albeit a time that was also, on the whole, smellier and hairier). And so many of them seem ready to light fire to an academic building just to be able to pee on the ashes.

So, I don't know how many of them read this, but I hope they all know I'm pulling for them. Oberlin is not the end of the line for any of them, and things are definitely going to start looking up come the end of the year (or graduation). It was so easy to forget that an entire world existed beyond the poles of North and J-House, but I swear it's true--and all the humorless bullshit that happened to me between the two amounts to nothing but the psychological bruise I let it become.

My life is far from perfect, but I was happy to come home on Wednesday to my outrageously expensive apartment in my lame neighborhood. I still feel hopeful that there's a cityful of opportunity waiting for me at the brighter end of the subway tunnel, and people in it that I'm supposed to meet (or at least eavesdrop on and blog about). If even my stupid, dateless, crappy-job-having, makeover-needing life is an improvement over college, my friends' post-Oberlin lives are poised to rocket into stratospheric happiness of hippie proportions.

Pinkie swear.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Sometimes You Really Need A Vacation

Dear New York;

I call shenanigans on talking shit about red states until you come down to the Williamsport Quality Inn on a Friday night to have a rum and coke with Lisa the Bartender and her possibly trucker possibly boyfriend. For real. No more "Hey, New York has a Republican mayor and what's next? Mandatory church on Sundays?" until you have a lengthy conversation these two about the new lead singer of INXS while a roomful of middle-agers gets its groove on in knee-length rayon dresses and Dockers to "Takin' Care of Business."

Until I can go to a bar alone in New York and strike up a conversation with the person on the next stool that does not begin with my feet being propositioned for scary, schizophrenic sex, there will be no more jokes about the rest of the country being dumb. Ditto for insinuating that every person who drops the Support the Troops! bomb is an idiot--until you talk to the Maybe Trucker about being a vet, having qualms with the administration, and still trying to find a way to believe in the government.

Also, there should be a mandatory screening process for wearing Motorhead shirts, and Lisa the Bartender gets to issue the licenses.

I'm not converted. In fact, the seriously great time I had at this motel bar didn't change a thing--I hate Bush, I say we should get the hell out of Iraq, I think people who don't believe in gay marriage are wrong, and I'm staunchly pro-choice. And there are still plenty of people, probably just a few miles away, who would want to beat me up for knowing that I vote straight down the Democratic ticket. But these people are the foil to New York's One-Half Nelsons, not the average Blue Stater, as I and a lot of other people are wont to believe when we rarely get outside the greater New York metropolitan area.

It's funny that it took a stupid, grungy motel off PA-15 to remind me that there are whole sections of this country where people will talk to you for reasons besides their uncontrollable need to inform you you need a makeover.

And they will do this over a $2.50 drink.

Squeeze that one in your $10.00 Corona, Gawker.

(For a less militant and pretentious description of these events, go read Brad's entry. I'm punchy, it's late, and he's got a much sweeter natural disposition.)

Thursday, February 16, 2006

To Eat or Not to Eat

I'm on my monthly diet kick, an out of control compulsion that pops up with all the vacant-eyed optimism of the developmentally disabled. "Hey hey," my compulsion chuckles, "This is so gonna work." This time I've decided the best idea isn't to cut out carbs entirely, because that makes me want to cut my wrists entirely, but rather to just eat less. I've been Pop-Tart free all week. The Cup O' Soup packets that constitute my lunch may be a little disappointing, but they are fundamentally less disgusting than the South Beach recommended meal of sweaty lunch meat and cheese rolled into a tube.

My diet plans conveniently coincided with Brad's well-advised moratorium on buying lunch. He's been bringing sandwiches and oatmeal and other (delicioussssss...) stuff to work. This leaves us with the hour we used to spend at the diner (eating a tuna melt with fries and sometimes an appetizer of mozzarella stickssssss....) on our hands and no other way to occupy it besides hanging out at the Starbucks around the corner.

It's proving to be a hotbed of entertainment that ranges from kind of cool to perverse. I ordered my coffee next to Cynthia Nixon's girlfriend today. She is the kind of person who insists on saying "small" instead of "tall." But, she is also the kind of person who can seduce a television star into her bed (as well as an entirely new sexuality) so maybe I shouldn't question her methods.

Yesterday some yahoo sitting at the window shouted his Claire Danes sighting to his buddy across the room. As someone who may or may not be cycling through My So-Called Life character names as her network passwords expire, I wish I had looked up in time.

Today from my table I watched a Craigslist Missed Connection in the making. A woman asked the man at the next table for the time and they ended up having an awkwardly flirty conversation about his new web business. He had this tragic croissant particle stuck to his lower lip the whole time, and I had to sit on my hands to keep from getting up and flicking it off.

"Trust me," I would mutter as they escorted me out. "You'll thank me later." I'd be a crazy lip flicker, yes, but one in the service of all mankind.

The ones they should escort out of Starbucks, though, are the Trumps-in-Training from yesterday. They shouldn't be allowed in any establishment where people are eating. Or breathing. Or even not breathing, really. The TITs are a species so common on commuter trains that I was nearly immune to them when I took the Metro-North twice a day. Since moving to Brooklyn I'd forgotten about them, until yesterday's four TITs came thundering into the coffee shop in a cyclone of Blackberries and annoying ringtones and hearty yet insincere guffaws.

A TIT is the type of guy who has a really peripheral, stupid job that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn't do anyone much good. A job like...lemme just pull something out of thin air and totally not at all what I overheardyesterday...mid-level management at a printing company. Or like my job. A job that, if suddenly axed from the budget, could go gently into that good night without anyone batting an eye. But the TITs present themselves as movers and shakers, as big men on their respective campuses. While the world might go right on turning without ever caring who oversees the printing of their bulk rate mail, the TITs swagger into Starbucks content in the knowledge that absolutely everything would come crashing down were it not for their expertise. And their superior people skills. And their humor. And their machismo. And their sheer animal magnetism. And their newscaster hair.

Anyway, so, the TITs in Starbucks yesterday were smarming about Valentine's day loudly enough for everyone to hear their conversation. When one got a little too romantic about the dinner he had with his wife, the others were quick to jump in with offers to take a shit in his new house and smear it all over the walls with their hands, as well as an anecdote about the crisco disco that went down in one of their pads the night before.

Seriously. Someone in an establishment serving food used the phrase "crisco disco." Without being arrested.

This is the kind of thing that drives me straight back to the loving embrace of empty calories. A trans-fat filled lunch at the diner takes place in a booth with enough square footage to guarantee I won't be rubbing elbows with a table full of TITs as they relive their glory days managing a "fro-yo" store. Mozzarella sticks don't talk about their cars as though they were women. Instead, they are delicious.

So very delicious. Sigh.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways:

-With mayo and no tomatoes.
-A bushel and a peck. A bushel and a peck and a high school production number.
-Quickly and with little eye contact.
-In the morning, and in the afternoon.
-In the evening, and underneath the moon.
-Like a hurricane.
-Enough to get that thing checked out.
-With my fists. Now HUSSHUP.
-With tiny cameras and a series of hidden mirrors.
-Via my attorney.
-Like a fat kid loves cake.
-Like 50 Cent likes ruining the self-esteem of a generation of portly children.
-7-11 Rose with Attached Tiny Fuzzy Bear much.
-Through the tears.
-'Til I run out of dollar bills.
-Under heavy sedation.
-More than wOOOOOoooooords...
-12.5 hectares worth.
-In the booty.

Monday, February 13, 2006

In Which the Protagonist Encounters Hilary, Princess of Horses

That was mean. But I can say it because I love Hilary Duff's song "Wake Up" with a fervor that has long transcended irony. Not to mention sold the negligable amount of indie cred I ever had right down the river.

Brad and I ran into Hilary Duff at MisShapes last Saturday. She's actually very pretty in person. And well dressed. And her Good Charlotte boyfriend is equally cute.

I'm beginning to think they're engineering these kids in a lab somewhere. Infusing their amniotic fluid with lip gloss. Piping Now That's What I Call Music! Volume XXIVIVIIVICILIVMMIIII into their ganglia while they're still in Pyrex wombs.

You Can't Spell "Wardrobe" Without "War"

It was recently Fashion Week in New York. I used to love, love, love Fashion Week in high school because one of our local cable channels aired runway footage with bitchy commentary nearly twenty-four hours a day. I'd park myself on the couch with an industrial size bag of Chex Mix (my Fashion Week high-class snack food of choice) and watch seven full days of haute couture wobble hungrily across my TV.

Living in New York with a roommate who doles out the plus-ones like a mama bird horks grubs to a chick, I had a more interactive Fashion Week experience than I'm used to. Until last week, the only contact I've had with a high fashion runway model was flinging pretzel rings (the weakest link in the Chex Mix chain) at the TV when Gaultier stuck one in a particularly horrendous outfit. That changed when Brad asked if I wanted to come to the Heatherette fashion show after party.

It's not to say that I am fixated on what I wear. It's just that I am the most indecisive and emotional dresser in the universe. Like, since its inception. During the Big Bang a particular bunch of particles sprang forth from the void and scattered to the far reaches of existence, where for millennia upon millennia they all wondered whether or not their jeans were too high-waisted. Statistics and the cold climes of space kept them apart for billions of fraught, half-dressed, mismatched years.

I am their reunion.

Like a schizophrenic, I have good days and I have bad days. There are those few days when I roll out of bed and pull on some pants and feel fine all day. Also a shirt. I feel fine when put on both pants and a shirt. But other days I will actually cry when it comes down to picking which pair of jeans I should wear, jeans that are identical to anyone who is not me, jeans that I don't even like anyway and I will just take off once I figure out which shirt I'm going to wear, which is impossible because I hate every single shirt I have and they all make me look like a man. From the pile of t-shirts on the floor to a complete lack of confidence in my gender identity.

This is what I am on a sub-atomic level.

Anyway, so, when Brad asked if I wanted to go to the Heatherette party I was torn. My desire to see whether models actually ingest alcohol or just sniff it to get drunk calorie free was in direct opposition to my genetic (jeanetic?) disorder. I was planning on spending a night with Neflix.

I went because I managed to pick an outfit without giving in to guttural sobs. But I wasn't totally comfortable with it. Topped off with my filthy, once-white Old Navy parka, I was a walking Tide commercial as dressed by H&M. My accessories for the evening were three very attractive gentlemen, an impeccably attired bunch who go well with everything except iffy self-esteem. After a few tense velvet rope moments we were plucked from the crowd and ushered into the party, which was wall to wall skin, bones, and fabulous eye shadow.

We did a lap around the place and spotted a couple of Queer Eye guys. And omnipresent gossip wet noodle Michael Musto. We found a spot to stand and watch the tranny gogo dancers dangling from a suspended neon cage and I began to feel like a Fashion Week party was the same as any party. Except with more protruding collarbones.

And then this French guy motioned me over.

Somewhere in the three steps it took me to get to where he was standing I saw the rest of the evening diverging; on one hand, there was a whirlwind courtship with a little known but very talented French designer and all the free clothes I could handle, and on the other, some sort of inevitable reality where he asks me for another drink or tells me my fly is down.

But what I got was even better!

"You should go to the tents. Bryant Park."

"What?" I said.

"Go to the tents. You need a makeover. They can do it there."

"Uh," I said.

"Now go about your business."

And that was that. Go about your beezniss. The whole thing was so absurd. I mean really? People really pick people out of crowds and tell them, as they flip back their long, greasy French hair, that they should get a makeover? And don't even give them free samples or the card of a similarly snooty but charitable hairdresser, from whom I might take a haircut even if it was at the expense of my dignity, because I've been cutting my own hair with scissors I stole from ResLife?

Turns out they do. Thanks, Fashion Week.

It was about that time that we hoofed it down to the basement, and I decided to dance to Michael Jackson instead of cry. My molecules wanted not only to redress, they wanted to take a blowtorch to my delicates, but I decided "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" was a better way to go. I had a good time, considering.

But seriously, from now on they're Freedom fries.

And they taste so good, you tiny French motherfucker.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

IMing the Grammys, FIN

Kai: god i wish ll cool j would not lick his lips so much
Me: it makes me feel naked.
Me: and vulnerable.
Me: not in a sexy way.
Kai: it makes me want lip balm.

Me: jessye norman has the scariest neck
Kai: she used to be a turkey
Kai: the wonders of science!
Me: and now she sings opera.
Me: and Bush says human-animal hybrids should be stopped.

Kai: where did sheryl crow's boobs go?
Me: she digested them.

IMing the Grammys, Pt. 4

Me: more country.
Me: awesome.
Kai: i cant watch this anymore
Me: what set you off about keith urban?
Me: you just went a little nuts. you sat through sugarlands or whatever...
Kai: this song makes me want to break something
Kai: the whole exchanging of the cat and sweater i hate it
Me: that's because you're selfish.

Me: chris brown makes me uncomfortable, because they clearly made this kid famous right in the middle of his awkward phase.
Kai: what does he even sing
Me: i'm not sure. but i bet it's awkward.
Kai: he looks like he is trying to hide his privates
Me: aww. first boner!

Kai: if its a collaboration there should be a grammy for each party
Me: and neither party should be linkin park.

During the Sly and the Family Stone Tribute:

Kai: sly is crazy
Me: and osteoporitic.
Kai: this is painful to watch
Kai: someone give him calcium

When Sly left the stage mid-song:

Me: did sly just leave....?
Kai: yeah he had enough
Me: this is awkward.
Kai: he was like well theres enough of you out here so im gonna step out
Me: ...i got some groceries in the car...the ice cream's melting...ssooooo...see ya later.
Kai: maybe he senses his mohawk was about to be unglued
Me: maybe he just realized someone had glued a mohawk to his head.
Kai: sly and the brittle bones
Me: sly and the family hunched!

IMing the Grammys, Pt. 3

Me: they have to stop giving paul mccartney awards for what he did FORTY YEARS AGO
Me: paul got two songs.
Me: kelly clarkson sold more records this year than he has in the last five, and she got two minutes.
Me: he's sounding more and more like randy newman
Me: which is, like, a fate out of a stephen king movie
Me: he looks like a muppet!
Me: behind the piano
Kai: maybe he is
Me: whoa, and his drummer looks like a professional wrestler
Me: is he trying to get the under 13 demographic?

Me: fergie looks like what would happen if gepetto made a blow-up doll.
Kai: fergie is great
Me: fergie's something
Me: ...

Me: i love that the word "faith" is stretched in glitter across mariah's rack.
Me: amen. now, i believe.
Kai: wow shes actually covered
Me: i'm a little disappointed.
Kai: maybe she got on medication
Kai: oh shit i bet she will rip part of that dress off
Me: oooh you're right.
Me: that's the drag queen law.
Me: she HAS to obey it.
Me: but maybe not...this is all jesusy
Kai: jesus ruins everything

Me: whoa! terry hatcher's a SLUT!
Me: jesus can't save her!
Kai: jesus cant cover her up

IMing the Grammys, Pt. 2

Me: hi bono.
Kai: you cant count
Me: one two three fourteen.
Me: a, b, c, d...s, t, f, u.
Kai: hello hello we are at the grammys oh no
Me: the edge is still cool.
Me: would you think less of me if i told you i thought the edge was a little bit hot?
Kai: possibly
Me: then i don't.

Me: seriously, i love kelly clarkson
Me: in good hair and in bad
Kai: and even badder dresses
Me: who's that little girl? was she a teenage mother?
Kai: kelly is keeping some kinda secret
Kai: i thought she liked her dad...shes always thanking him
Me: maybe that's because he's a good parent?
Me: not because they're sleeping together?
Me: you dirty perv?

Me: what is bono talking about?
Me: is he having a stroke?
Me: you're a nurse.
Kai: its your boyfriend the edge
Me: shut up.

IMing the Grammys

Me: chris martin looks like shit
Me: and sounds like poop!
Kai: i know
Me: and probably smells bad too.
Kai: his clothes are bad i mean he has money he can dress himselfg
Me: get a fucking haircut.
Me: it just makes his tiny head look even tinier
Kai: and get a new dance
Me: i think he's a good looking guy, but he's just making me feel stupid now

Me: when did john legend get so big?
Kai: tonight
Me: i don't think i've ever heard more than the words "ordinaaaary peeeeople" of the song "ordinary people."
Kai: i watched the video once on mute
Me: racist

Me: i think this song is what goes on in an old man's head when he thinks dirty thoughts
Kai: and he drives an old big car with red cushioned seats
Me: "hey little lady, we're just ordinary people...why dontcha get in my car? let's take a drive down by the water. make some beautiful music. mmmmmm."

Kai: not country
Me: jesus is ruining this country
Kai: her jewelry is a bunch of shiny shit tied together in clumps
Me: hey. wwjd? wear clumps and play twangy rock.
Kai: yeeehaw

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

For Tuesday, Some Thoughts.

-Spice, when attached to a food name, means "All the clove jelly beans you spit out as a kid are about to take violent revenge on whatever nice flavor came before the word spice." Vanilla spice, cinnamon apple spice; it's all a little genocide in your mouth.

-Today I heard electronic selections from the Nutcracker and electronic rooster noises coming out of the same office.

-The Times published an article about a some scientists who discovered twenty new species of frogs, four new butterflies, the largest rhododendron on record, and a new species of bird called the honeyeater. There's this accompanying picture of the new bird, which is very yellow, eating a bright blue berry. It looks like some kid got too creative with his markers.

-Leather pants don't look good on anyone. I fear the Brokeback trickle-down effect.

-The International Society of Poets, which is totally a respected academic community and definitely not a pyramid scheme trying to wrestle $49.95 away from me since I was in fifth grade and they got my address, sent me an e-mail today in which they state: Whether you write poetry for the satisfaction it gives you, or as a personal way to record your innermost feelings, or as a hobby, through your membership you and your poetry will be recognized by thousands of people from all over the world. To my untrained, un-upgraded, "associate-level free membership" eye, those first three options don't seem all that contradictory to me. Whether you write poetry in your diary for no money, write poetry in your diary for no money, or write poetry in your diary for no money, you should send us your money.

-Do you think Paris Hilton and Stavros Niarchos are sufficiently rich and famous that he could send her a bouquet of the newly discovered giant rhododendron?

-I spent a while yesterday looking at MySpace profiles of people I knew in high school. A lot of people I liked turned out so very cool. I'm glad karma works that way. I also marvel that I managed--with all the terrifying precision of Robocop--to target, hone in on, and like certain boys a full five years before they matured into cute hipsterity.

-What happens when they grow up and start dressing like middle aged men? Hipsterectomy.

-I'm a genius.

-Lentils. Once my enemy, now my friend.

-Valley of the Dolls is the dumbest, most entertaining thing I've read in a long time. I've never read a book in my life that actually used the words ....hold me...just hold me.

-I need some new music. I recently found one song by Nightmare of You that I really like, even though it's a little bit cheesy. Actually, that's probably the reason I like it. And I sort of like the the Broadcast album (Tender Buttons, a phrase that strikes me as so gross I can barely type it, let alone say it out loud), but I'm not in love with it. The new Cat Power let me down too. Anyone have anything they absolutely love? If I love it too I promise to give you a finder's footnote when I recommend it to anyone else.

-Joel "Joe Waverly" Cacace was the acting boss of the Colombo crime family until he was sentenced to twenty years in prison for overseeing what the New York Times called "one of the most nightmarishly botched mob murders in history." My relation to him is dubious. Unless I don't like you.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Fake Advice to Celebrities Who Didn't Ask For It, Vol. IV (I think)

Dear Kathy,

We would've written you individually, but someone totally stole both of our secret journals. That's why we got together--and also why our letter is on a Starbucks napkin. Sorry for the caramel goo. Minus our journals, the only paper in our purses is either wrapped around a hunk of Marlboro tobacco or has Franklin's face on it.

Anywayz, both our diaries were jacked in the last two days. Not only are we sad about losing our thoughts and dreams or whatever, we're pretty nervous about our, like, maybe not so nice pages getting into the wrong hands. You know? Like sometimes when you're dating a Carter brother you need to totally write eight or nine pages about ripping out some slut bitch's hair strand by, you just need to do it. But that, like, maybe shouldn't end up in In Touch because it might keep you from getting the Teen Vogue cover when your album drops.

You know, the kind of stuff every girl worries about.

So what do we do? Can we get our journals back? How do we keep the false tabloids from publishing our stuff, or putting it in one of those bitchy blind items that's all like Which star who had red hair and then blond hair and has those boobs and lost a lot of weight and was in a movie about a talking car wrote this about Bruce Willis's old penis? This situation is like, the opposite of hot.

You know. Not hot.

Lost Original in Hands of Asshole Newspapers?
People Are Really Insensitive. Seriously.


A short reading assignment: Harriet the Spy. There's even a movie you can rent instead of reading all one hundred and fifty, large type, fourth-grade-reading-level pages. Harriet the Spy. You do not keep a secret, steamy, venom-filled diary when everyone in the world is dying to know your business. If you do, it's bound to be stolen and revealed, and then you won't have anyone to sit with in the cafeteria. It's the ruling law of prepubescence, and therefore the law of the universe.

Go read the book.

That said, the literary landscape may also yield your ticket out of slander lawsuits and a lifetime of people reciting that quatrain you wrote about how Jared Leto's scrotum was "cute". Take a page from the James Frey book of crisis management: claim you embellished. Then take it a step further and say it wasn't a diary, but rather notes for your hip, timely roman a clef. Look at the wonders book publishing worked for Nicole Richie.

That's right, ladies. Book publishing makes you awesome.

Which is why you write to me. You may be celebutantes and janes-of-all-trades, but I, I am bathed in the distinct perfume of book publishing. Get on board the train to Coolville. We've room for two more.

Best wishes,

Thursday, February 02, 2006

For Real?

I just read a Yahoo! News story about the new House of Representatives Majority Leader. One representative Boehner.

His main opponent was Rep. Blunt.

When did the Associated Press cede editorial control to a bunch of fourteen year old boys? Boehner versus Blunt.

Yeah. Right.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Self-Made Eh

I just finished Norah Vincent's book Self-Made Man, wherein she: learns to walk like a man, talk like a man, and make a convincing stubble out of wig hair; infiltrates all-male circles as a man; cracks up; has revelations about masculinity; and recognizes the privilege of being born female. Until its touchy-feely and, I hate to say it, utterly girly ending, this was a great, great book. Part Jane Goodall, part Sex and the City, part Martian-to-Venutian dictionary, every chapter until the end notes was a more exciting foray into secluded boys clubs I hadn't even realized I was curious about until Vincent pointed out I couldn't penetrate them. (Ha.)

She started by tackling an all-male bowling league as her alter-ego Ned. From there she worked her way through strip clubs, internet dating, a Catholic monastery, the corporate sales world, and one of those all-male wilderness retreats designed to put a man in touch with his inner grizzly bear. It was like a high-stakes version of Capture the Flag with a sociological spin; as Ned pushed further and further into each male world searching for enlightenment, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the someone to grab her flag and end the game. Less a flag in this case, though, and more a used feminine hygiene product or suspect sports bra. Did no one in the monastery notice the suspicious tenor in the choir?

But then the ending. After all the monkeying around with her identity did a number on her sanity, Vincent spent a few days in a hospital and a few months in the care of a psychiatrist trying to reorient herself in her previous (and preferred) gender. It's not the fact that she lost her shit that made the end of the book feel so chintzy in comparison to the rest, but the flowery aphorisms and lame therapy-speak that strove to make everyone sympathetic. Men have it hard too, they're crying out for affection from each other that they can't get, society expects men to be at once sensitive and as solid as a rock. Yeah. I know. You just spent two hundred and fifty pages detailing the difficulties of the American male experience in a much more nuanced way. To reduce it to the kind of stuff you would hear as the credits roll on a daytime talk show, and to put it in the language in which Carrie might speak to Miranda about a particularly obtuse date, felt cheap. And sadly inevitable.

The fact that Vincent chose to end her book with an uber-feminine (and I don't mean pink and lacy, I mean overly emotive, sympathetic, intuitive, and tender) analysis seems to me to undermine her whole experience of masculine life. If returning to an emotional way of thinking felt like a homecoming--enough so that there was no other way to write her ending--it seems like the kind of thing that is hardwired into the female way of perceiving the world. Studies have shown that the brains of men and women process information differently. Intentionally thwarting the way her brain was programmed to understand the world was enough to land her in the loony bin. Couldn't those same physiological differences be enough to make our perceptions of our gender and gendered experience unknowable to the opposite sex?

By which I mean: she was a woman inside the costume of a man. Though she was able to pass, she was still interpreting male interaction in a woman's mind. All of the emotional absence and terseness and competition that she perceived as so hostile as Ned--couldn't it be that the way a man's brain interprets those same cues differently? And, if she wrote the book from an inescapably female brain (one that, when encouraged by therapy to fully embrace its femininity made terribly sappy conclusions about the plight of modern man) couldn't all of those secrets she learned and hidden wells of pain she tapped also be just the product of female-wired experience of life as a man?

I dunno. The first seven chapters are really good, though.
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