Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I don't want to be friends.

I'm a single guy. I don't have any problem getting a first date, and the women seem to have a good time, but after a few dates I inevitably slip into the "friend zone." I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. 

Are you boring? See here. Are you a slacker? See here. However, you probably aren't either, because the ladies keep you around as a friend. It's more likely they have forgotten you have a penis, Duckie. Don't be offended; We women have a lot on our minds. We can't keep track of who has a penis and who doesn't. You have to remind us occasionally.

Before you break out your loin cloth and wench-ing club, let me explain. Most reasonably well-adjusted women want a partner, not a boss, not a social worker, not a child. Just someone who makes life a little more exciting, a little less hard and a little more loving.  You don't want to be an arrogant psychopath (ahem, Peter Campbell), but you don't want to do what you've been doing. Try being yourself, but, you know, more interesting and more useful.

Getting past the first date requires more than being nice and mildly entertaining. You aren't writing a Saved by the Bell reunion special. Instinctively, women know that eventually we are going to slip into a relationship rut, complete with ratty sweatpants and unrepentant farting. If we start at that level, who knows what fresh hell we'll find when we relax? I don't want to date someone who makes me feel comfortable. I want to date someone who makes me feel like I've accomplished something. Challenge me. We don't have to arm wrestle, but it is impossible to believe that you agree with everything I say. I'm wrong. A lot. Pick one of my more egregious statements and call me on it, intelligently.

Once you've established that you aren't a Justin Bieber body pillow who wants to become a real boy, prove that you're useful to me. I freely admit that I would make a poor Women's Studies major. Here's more proof. I don't want to ever do anything with my car besides drive it and fill it with gas. Learn how to change a tire. Additionally, as long as women continue to make 77 cents to a male dollar, I'm not chasing away any possums that set up camp under my deck. Here's a broom. You better believe that I know how to use a band saw...but I'd rather you did it for me. Sure it's sexist and not every woman is going to agree, but at the very least, you should be able to do what your girl can do. That way you can deflect the possum frontal attacks with a trash can lid, while she goes around to hit the right flank. It's about teamwork.

And don't rant about the downfall of the American male, because I don't buy any of that misogynistic men's rights nonsense, with its Rage cartoons and tired quips about "manginas." It's not all or nothing.  

Boyfriend Fail.

The first has me googling "Protective Order" and the second has caused my retinas to detach from severe eye rolling. You want something in the middle.

I suppose it is difficult for a man to find the right balance. If it feels unfair that you have to do all this extra stuff to be attractive to potential partners, well, then now you actually do know a little about what it's like to be a woman. So I'll tell you what I tell my girlfriends: We are all horribly flawed, selfish people. You just need to find someone whose character deficiencies compliment your own, so keep trying. Everybody forgets that Duckie found somebody, too. Remember that girl with the feathered hair in the awful dress? Yeah, I know, it doesn't narrow it down...

This post is dedicated to Shiftless Husband, who suggested the topic. Happy Anniversary. I'm sorry about that time I sent you up on the roof in a thunderstorm and then you were yelling for help and I couldn't hear you because my sister and I were watching Keeping up with the Kardashians really loudly. Because of you and your humongous babies, I will never wear a bikini again, so I think we are even. I love you, but don't let it go to your head.

Linking up with Yeah Write this week. Go check out the awesome writers and vote for your favorites on Friday. Seriously, it's worth it. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hold my Tongue

I've been offered a job where I will need to be "on-call" the majority of the time. It seems like a good deal. The pay rate is way higher than I expected. What am I missing?

You are missing the fact that being on-call sucks harder than a thousand black holes; that's why the pay is so high.

Think about it: You will have all the stress of being a work, except you will also feel obligated to do chores and take care of your kids. Win-win!

Being on-call turns you into a ghost. People can see you and hear you, but you can't really do anything or go too far from your house. The sound of your phone ringing will turn your stomach in knots. If you don't get called in, you ruined your day for darn-near nothing. The pay is great, but it isn't worth the cost.

Why did your dog eat the Mr. Potato Head tongue?

Because he sucks harder than a thousand black holes.
Mr. Potato Head's Public Speaking Career is Over

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Knee-Jerk Reaction

My boyfriend of several years has started going almost every night with a group of guys from work. He says they are going out to a gay bar so they can relax. He thinks I shouldn't be worried because there aren't any women there, but I still think it is weird. We haven't really been having a lot of sex recently. Do you think he's gay?

Do you? Only he can tell you, if anyone can. He may not know. You don't mention actually talking to him about this issue, so I'm going to assume you didn't, because then I can create a post filled with elaborate conjecture, which is more fun than healthy communication.

I don't know much about your boyfriend or your relationship up to this point, but I do know this: his story makes no sense. If he is gay and not ready to tell you, he wouldn't say he's going to gay bars, because you would have to be either extraordinarily naive or willfully stupid to not immediately assume he was gay. Now you are thinking, "Maybe this is his subtle way of trying to tell me he's gay without really telling me?" This could be true, if men were subtle and/or this was a deleted scene from Cruel Intentions, which we all know doesn't exist, because that movie was so long they couldn't possibly have deleted anything.

Alternatively, if he isn't gay, he also isn't going to gay bars to "relax" because I'm sure such a fine catch spends the entirety of the evening declining well-meaning advances from confused bar patrons. If he and his friends wish to relax away from the nagging, cackling of shrill women, they need only go to just about any bar in town. The delicate gender is seldom well-represented at watering holes, hence the need to lure us there with attractive specials like $2 rails. This is particularly true on work nights (for reasons that Women's Studies majors develop into senior papers and open-mic night poetry slams).

Chances are, he's not going to gay bars with his friends. He's doing something else that he doesn't want you to know about. The list is endless: Cheating, ballroom dancing lessons, fantasy hockey league, cheating, cooking class, tutoring at-risk youth, cheating...

Why do I mention cheating? Because all women think all men are cheating scum, obviously. Or...it's because you aren't getting any lovin'. Also you didn't mention an increase in grace, perspicacity, or French cooking. You mentioned a decrease in intimacy. That's a bad sign. Whether he is actually stepping out or not, he is withdrawing from you and the relationship. He may not be physically involved with anyone else, but my guess is that he has a new "friend" that "he can really talk to and really gets him. She doesn't put any pressure on him to act a certain way. She's just chill. A good girl." This horrible succubus has her talons in your man.

This is why I would fail as a Women's Studies major. I should talk about how women should support other women, rather than view them as competition, but that's loser talk. I should also talk about how you should love yourself the way you are, but that's even more loser talk. You've been dating for a few years; you've both gotten comfortable, I'm sure. Time to bring back your A-game. He goes to the "bar" (or whatever, odds are it is a place with alcohol and food)? You go to the gym. Let him get a beer gut and pasty, bloodless skin, while you get back to your single self. Either he will notice the new, healthier, you, and stop wandering, or you will find someone better. Don't waste your time running after a man that isn't man enough to be honest.

My knee has been hurting. It is like a tightness in the joint. Sometimes when I kneel, I can't get back up. What do you think is wrong?

You probably have a gremlin living in your knee. Best to apply some leeches and drain his food source before he angers up your blood and sours your black bilious humor.

Or...you could go to a doctor. What is with people not wanting to talk to the person most likely to answer their questions?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

I'll have the garlic trout.

My co-worker has awful breath. Really. Really. Awful. I don't think I can stand it much longer.

Oh my god, is it me? I swear, I'm switching to tea.

Assuming it isn't me, you have limited options. If you are a guy talking to another guy, my understanding from observational studies is that you can say, "Dude. Your breath smells like you've been brushing your teeth with camel intestines. Get a mint before I punch you." Then you both punch each other for a while before finding some mints.

If this is a mixed company affair, at some point in the middle of small talk, say: "Ever since the seasons have changed/I started drinking coffee/My back tooth started rotting, I have been getting horrible breath. I'm hoping these extra strong, dry-ice intensity mints I've been using are doing the trick. They are really good. Do you want one?" Make sure you already have the wonder-mints out by the time you are done the sentence. Then raise your eyebrow slightly and pause. He will know what is going on and you will know that he knows and hopefully he will respect you for the elaborate social construct you employed to spare his feelings. Or, he will be clueless and you will have to keep trying.

In the meantime, consider dabbing a bit of diluted perfume under your nose.

There are days I have no idea what to feed my kids. They seem to want everything and nothing and I hate when I make something and they don't eat it.

Try "Toddler Tapas." Cut up all the leftovers you have in the fridge and let them graze. Whatever they don't eat can be thrown away because it was already leftover. I'm not spending a lot of time on food that is inevitably going to end up mashed into the rug.

Toddler Tapas
(not pictured: Fruits and Vegetables)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Written Apology

Against my better judgment, I would like to become a writer. I have an interesting life and I would like to document my escapades for the amusement of my future readers. I'm a little concerned that my friends and family may be upset to see themselves featured. Is there any way I can avoid awkwardness?

Nope. They are going to hate you and probably sue you. Sue you hard. You will be lucky if they don't sue you for the roller skate theme you wrote in the 5th grade. Your first skill as a writer should be learning to apologize, because writing is just a endless cycle of making people upset and then apologizing until you either give up or become too famous to care.

I tend not to share too many personal details about my life because it jeopardizes my natural desire to judge people without fear of reprisal. However, this is a topic that cries out for self-indulgent nostalgia, so sit tight; I don't like to be interrupted once I get going.

The first time my work was published, I was in middle school. I had written a poem about the death of my grandfather that the teacher had selected for the county literary booklet, aptly named Pencilworks, because we still wrote with pencils. As a poet, I was, and continue to be, sentimental and cloying, but, in middle school, editorial staff is just happy to find someone willing to do something as socially destructive as exert effort. My poem was adequate and its publication earned me a first-class ticket to the guidance office to explain why I was so obviously depressed. Lesson learned: Sharing emotional personal stories leads to uncomfortable conversations with strangers and parents.

The next time I was published, I was ostensibly an adult. I wrote a series (2? It seemed like a lot of work at the time) of articles for a professional newsletter that highlighted the foibles of various characters at my workplace, including my boss...who was also my dad. Unlike my little poem, the  articles were light-hearted, humorous and well-received. At first. Eventually what had been gentle humor was interpreted as disrespect. Called to the carpet, I responded with the typical righteous indignation of a tortured artist. Lesson learned: Sharing funny personal stories leads to angry conversations with co-workers and parents. Also, total writer's block and an irrational urge to become a dance therapist. It took years of silence and therapeutic sarcasm to recover.

Based on my prior experiences, you can understand both my dire warnings and my reticence to share. My kids have permanently destroyed my abdominal wall, so becoming a dance therapist is no longer an option for me (not that it ever was). Once I graduate from law school, I'll be less afraid of being sued and practically judgment-proof due to my crippling debt. At that point, I plan to publish a complete tell-all. Until then, I'm going to keep masking my true feelings with snark and hokey literary devices like fake advice solicitations.

If you really want to write your personal story, you are going to have uncomfortable conversations as some point, assuming you are writing a story that is remotely compelling. Alternatively, you can write something banal and hope the Hallmark channel options your book into a movie. If I were you, I would scrap the whole thing and write about werewolves with substance abuse problems.

Now, if you don't mind, I have to go apologize to the people I've mentioned in this post.


Linking up with yeah write on this post. Check out the other great blogs and vote for your favorites on Friday. It is a wonderful community of talented and supportive writers!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Business At-tired: Dressing for Law School

This article is not for anyone who knows what it means to be “on trend.” If you have a closet full of statement tights, platform wedges, European cut suits, or a Brooks card, just stop reading. You belong in an advanced class and you will wreck the curve for the rest of us.

Now that they are gone, let's all complain about them. Because law school isn't hard enough, we need to worry about which cuff links go with a bolero tie. (The answer is why are you wearing a bolero tie?) Don’t worry. Determining what attire is expected at a “business casual” function is only slightly harder then the Objective Theory of Contracts.

It would be so much easier to just refuse to engage in this nonsense and wear comfortable clothes to class, like other graduate students. Have you seen what the med students wear? Are those pajamas? Of course the more you dress for comfort, the greater the risk that you will be wearing yoga pants covered in peanut butter on the day your impeccably dressed professor mentions, seemingly directly to you, that your attire affects how others perceive your ideas.

Since you are a clever law student, maybe you consider dressing from the waist up. Unfortunately, there isn’t a teleportation device connecting your bedroom to your classroom. Walking around town dressed in a suit jacket and sweatpants makes people think you had an accident and had to use the "school pants" from the guidance office, which is probably not the look you had in mind.

If you are like me, you start with good intentions. You limit your clothing selection to items whose odor won’t distract your classmates. Despite your lack of options, you dismiss the idea of wearing an old Halloween costume. You choose a shirt without noticeable holes, stains or slogans asserting where the best crabs can be found. Then you arrive at school and realize you are wearing two different socks that don't "power clash." Luckily, your pant cuffs are pooling around your ankles, so you thank Perkius, the patron saint of caffeine, that you started drinking coffee early enough to stunt you growth and maintain a 5th grade inseam. On with the day!

This is no way to live, people. We deserve better. It's not that hard to create your own "Garanimals for Law Students" (look it up, it’s a funny reference).

  1. First, pick a store where you feel comfortable and where there is a wide range of styles. In order of over-priced mark-up, you could look at Banana Republic, Express, Macy’s or Kohl’s. There are plenty more. You want a store with a credit card. Open an account. You will not run a balance, ever. The purpose of the card is to get coupons, because, after your first purchase, you will never pay retail again.
  2. With your newly minted consumer relationship secured, purchase three pairs of pants in black, grey and tan. Dress pants are more versatile than khakis, and you are less likely to be mistaken for a trade show presenter. If the pants are too long, have them tailored. For $10, you can spare yourself the embarrassment of tripping in a parking lot and busting your lip. Don’t make my mistake.
  3. Next, buy three tops. You can be creative with color because your pants are neutral. However, you can’t buy three of the same style. I’ve tried it. At my first job, I was known as the “3/4 length sleeve girl.” As usual, my co-workers were more critical than creative. Pick a cotton top, a collared shirt and a light sweater.
  4. Buy comfortable shoes and thin, dark, identical socks. Do not wear your athletic socks with professional shoes. The moment you cross your legs and we see that flash of white, everything your say will be underscored in our heads by “Beat It.”  
  5. Carve out a space in your closet for the six articles of clothing. Hang them. I don’t care what you do with your jeans or your ironic t-shirts, but these pieces get hangers. If you change out of your school clothes when you come home, you don’t have to launder them as often. It’s not like you should be breaking much of  a sweat in class, assuming you have done the reading.

That’s it. You can decide when to add to your wardrobe. If you get a great coupon, you should buy a suit, if you don’t already have one, but suit shopping is a topic for next class. As you add, keep in mind that the goal is to mix and match without much thought, so purchase prints and wild colors judiciously. If you remember simple, clean and tailored, you will never experience decision paralysis and come to class in Zubaz shorts. Save them for the weekends.

Liz Clark Rinehart is a 1E who is in no way affiliated with the poorly edited and overly snarky advice column, ShiftlessMommie.com. This article was originally set to be printed in the Spring 2012 issue of The Raven, but then The Raven wasn't printed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

This is not about Baby Hiccups.

I'm a new mom and I'm thrilled...except...it has been three weeks and my baby still won't hiccup. I've talked to my pediatrician and several baby hiccuping consultants, but nothing seems to work. The moment I got pregnant I started reading about baby hiccuping because I knew it doesn't always happen stress-free. I feel like all the preparation I did was for nothing and I'm not sure what else I should be doing. It just feels so unfair, both to my baby and to me. Hiccuping is natural and I don't want us to miss out. What am I doing wrong?

So, the clever reader may have already deduced what this post is actually about and anyone who has had a uterus tenant and dared to go on a mommy board knows exactly why I've made a substitution. I don't need that bile flooding my defenseless little blog.

More important than my general cowardice is that these feelings are not unique to baby hiccuping, so there is no reason to summon the hellfire and histrionics. Besides, your hiccuping consultants have told you more than I ever could. The problem is that they aren't in control of this endeavor and neither are you.

Parenting is a lifetime sentence of absolute loss of control. Some people think that you lose control when you enter into a relationship. They are wrong. (In fact, that is a whole different blog topic. If your partner becomes incensed that you have taken too long to bring his dinner and throws his bowl at you while simultaneously screaming and soiling himself, please send me an email because we need to talk in a safe place, free from my sarcastic internet persona.)

Our pre-parenting skills and all the well-intended advice work against us. We are led to believe that if we only did _______ for a little bit longer or tried ______, our baby will hiccup or whatever. Everything else has always worked that way. Clearly if it isn't working, we, as parents, are doing something wrong. The plan is foolproof. There is nothing wrong with the plan.

Children do not care for your plans. Your plans are merely an inconvenience that delays watching Bubble Guppies. The only thing you did wrong was you made plans that required performance from your child. This is easy to fix. Hiccuping is natural. So is a thunderstorm. I don't know about you, but I can't force either to occur by sheer willpower or extended study. It doesn't mean that it will never rain or that you shouldn't carry an umbrella. Just don't let it ruin your day.

Let's fast-forward. What if your child doesn't play sports? What if your child doesn't go to college? Should you force her? Have you ever seen a child forced to play softball? I think my mom may have some pictures. It's not pretty. There are many wonderful opportunities that may be beneficial to your child. Some will work out and some will not. Rather than focus on what is deviating from "the plan," focus on spending time with your child.

I'm a firm believer in staying out of a child's way, fostering a loving, structured environment and a creating self-worth miles away from anything your child does. If you really want your child to hiccup, keep trying, but if the quest to hiccup consumes your life, then stop. I'm not kidding. Your time with your child is too precious to spend in constant "achievement" mode. Relax and enjoy the moment. This is good practice for when your child comes home with green hair or plans to attend business school. (Hopefully I've covered the complete spectrum of parenting nightmares.)

You may be thinking that it should be easy to make babies do things because they have squishy, undeveloped minds. You are delusional, probably because you aren't sleeping (nor will you for the next 18 years). Don't play chicken with babies; they have nothing to lose and all the power. All they want is a hedonistic life of eating, sleeping and warm shelter. Engage them in a battle of wills and you, by contrast, will live in Dante's Eighth Circle of Hell, enduring incessant screaming, social isolation and eventual sleep-deprivation-induced psychosis. In the end, you have to give them what they want, or the state will put you in jail. Check and mate.

I'm not saying that eventually you won't need to set limits, but nature has set up a wonderful way of training parents to have a soft touch. When dealing with adults, it is perfectly acceptable and effective to say things like, "Write this report by Monday." and "Stop hiding waffles in the couch cushions." With kids, these types of phrases might work, for a while, but you are going to be spending a lot of time telling your child what you think they should be doing and less time working on your novel or eating ice cream. It is much easier (and more helpful to the child in the long run, different post...) to set general limits and let the consequences do the work for you, but that means releasing some control. Luckily, babies will break you like a wild stallion.

Think of it this way. Parenting is a lot like getting an egg shell out of an egg white. The harder you push, the faster the shell moves away from you. Let the shell come to you. If it doesn't, dump a bunch of nuts in the dough and hope for the best. This is one batch of cookies in a lifetime of cookies.

Oh, and if anybody ever says anything hateful or judgmental to you about any of your parenting decisions, keep in mind that some people have not achieved the bliss of losing control, so they try to control everyone around them. Feel bad for them, not yourself. Also, some people are jerks.

Finally, just in case you ever feel like the new mom in town, looking in vain for a seat in the Good Mommies cafeteria: You are not alone. You are not a failure. You are a wonderful, strong mother. Be proud of what you have accomplished so far and confident of what you will achieve in the future.

Again with the graphic?

Yep. I had so much fun last week with yeah write that I'm hooked. Take a look at the great blogs and vote for your favorites on Friday.